Friday, July 31, 2009

The economy and publishing: an overview

Here's the start of a longish piece by Harold Underdown, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Publishing. He looks at the industry and how it's doing in today's economy:

For more than a year the attention of everyone working in the U.S. children's books publishing industry has been focused on the economy. And though 2009 began with some reasonably good news about retail book sales in 2008, and early information for 2009 suggested only modest declines, we still feel uncertain about the future of our industry. I've followed the news and write these comments to put what's been happening in context, to share my thoughts about what could happen in the coming months, and to suggest how we should respond.

Keep in mind that publishing generally does not move in synch with the economy as a whole, and children's book publishing does not always move in synch with publishing as a whole. One major cause of the lack of synchronicity is the impact of school and library funding, changes in which take time to take effect. I'll come back to that....

Read the rest.

The appeal of the vampire narrative

The New York Times has this fun Op-Ed piece explaining why we're suckers for blood-suckers:
TONIGHT, you or someone you love will likely be visited by a vampire — on cable television or the big screen, or in the bookstore. Our own novel describes a modern-day epidemic that spreads across New York City.

It all started nearly 200 years ago. It was the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816, when ash from volcanic eruptions lowered temperatures around the globe, giving rise to widespread famine. A few friends gathered at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva and decided to engage in a small competition to see who could come up with the most terrifying tale — and the two great monsters of the modern age were born.

Read the rest.

UPDATE: Neil Gaiman hates vampires! He wants to drive a stake through their undead hearts! OK, that's an exaggeration. But he does want them to go away for 25 years or so.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A page from the screenwriter's playbook

Writer's Digest has a really great piece on doctoring your script. The advice applies to us.

Script CPR: Cut, Polish, Revise
February 11, 2008
by Aury Wallington
You don't have to be a script doctor to know how to fix a script that isn't working. Here's some first aid for scriptwriters.

You have a great idea for a screenplay, but when you sit down to write it, something happens. The ideas in your mind don't translate to the paper. The dialogue falls flat, the main character is boring, and you feel like you've heard every joke you're writing a million times before.

Before throwing down your pencil in disgust and giving up, try giving your script a little CPR. You can breathe life into a script that's not working with a few simple exercises that help you punch up uninteresting scenes, get past writer's block, and choose the best way to handle key moments.

SYMPTOM: A scene is too predictable. Your idea is fresh, but your treatment of it isn't. As much as you'd like to write a wildly original climax to your script, when you read it over, you realize you've seen it all before.

TREATMENT: Change your point of view. Before tackling a big scene, try writing it from the antagonist's point of view. Some of the most interesting scenes in The Silence of the Lambs are when we see the world through Hannibal Lecter's eyes. Let your bad guy have a voice; let a criminal say how he feels about the bumbling detective; let the snooty cheerleader complain about the geeky protagonist who asks her to prom; let the cheating husband justify his affair with his beautiful secretary.

Read the rest.

Sundee Frazier excerpt on Hunger Mountain

The good news: You can read an excerpt of Sundee's new book at Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College journal.

The bad news: You'll have to wait till next year to read the rest of THE OTHER HALF OF MY HEART.

Meanwhile, the rest of the children's/YA lineup at Hunger Mountain is incredible: Katherine Paterson, Carrie Jones, Tim Wynne Jones, Janet S. Wong and more.

For Sale: PW and School Library Journal

From Media Bistro:

In a memo to staffers today, Reed Business Information Global CEO Keith Jones revealed a plan to divest a bulk of the company's U.S. publications. RBI will hold on to Reed Construction Data US & Canada, RS Means, Variety, Marketcast, LA411 and Buyerzone, Jones said. The rest of the U.S. titles will be sold, including Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Amazon, Archaia To Release Kindle Graphic Novel

From Publisher's Weekly:

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week July 21, 2009 Sign up now!
by Calvin Reid -- Publishers Weekly, 7/20/2009
Although has published prose works exclusively on the Kindle before, in a first the online retailer has teamed with graphic novel publisher Archaia to publish Tumor, an original graphic novel by writer Joshua Fialkov and artist Noel Tuazon, initially in a digital edition formatted specifically for the Kindle; Tumor will be released serially on the Kindle before a hardcover print edition is published three to six months later. This is the first time Amazon has published a graphic novel specifically designed for the Kindle 2, and it will be followed by three additional Archaia books released on the Kindle that will be announced during the San Diego Comic-Con International this week.

Read the rest.

Quote of the day: Hans Arp

"When a new mode of imagining erupts into literature, it dislocates the rhetoric of its time, and is of subtler stuff than that rhetoric—'the infinite arrives barefoot on this earth." --Hans Arp

Cover model smackdown

Two shirtless males, two very different types of publishing. One is Tom Thumb, by Richard Jesse Watson and modeled by his son, Benjamin James Watson, the team that brought us THE BOY WHO WENT APE.

The other is Mr. Romance, showing his burly business in a cover shoot.

Yes, then we are all agreed. Mr. Romance, button your blouse. You're in second place here.

Questions for an editor

Let's say you're unagented and the phone rings and it's an editor who wants to buy your book. What questions should you ask? Romantic reads has a good list. Among the questions: how many books, how big is the advance, and what's the royalty rate.

For the full list, visit the site.

More on cover art gone wrong

This time it's not the race of the protagonist--it's the author's name, rendered practically invisible by an interesting design choice. (Agent Kristin Nelson's blog has the full story.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quote of the Day: Stephen J. Dubner

"A book is like a child who never naps, never goes to camp, always needs care and feeding, and whose presence gnaws on you if you dare neglect it."

From a NYT column on why some people hate meetings.

Kirby Larson interviews Karen Cushman

Do NOT miss Kirby's interview with the award-winning novelist Karen Cushman.

Here's a heartening quote:

Sometimes I can feel the rightness of various bits and pieces, snippets of dialogue or characters, and I have this warm feeling of well being. But I find it hard to see and judge the whole. That's where a great editor comes in.

Read the rest here.

An interesting view on creativity

Martha Mihalick, an adorable associated editor at Greenwillow Books, had an interesting blog post. Here's an excerpt:

In one of my (long ago) college critical theory classes, we talked about the idea of all authors having an antenna that is always on, always picking up signals from the wider world. This has always stuck with me. Authors have finely tuned observational powers, which always astonish me, and sometimes they are able to observe more than what they can see/hear/smell/taste/touch. Sometimes their observations stretch into that cloud. That’s how some elements and themes can end up in a work even when the author may not consciously intend it. And how there are certain themes that a number of different authors end up writing about at the same time. The most noticed recent example is probably the Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins books. Graceling and The Hunger Games both had characters with similar names (Katsa and Katniss), who had to confront killing other characters in the course of their stories. And now, the companion/sequel to each has the word “fire” in it. It’s odd coincidences like these that make me believe in the cloud.

Read the rest.

Where the Wild Things Are

I don't know about you, but heat like this brings out my inner wild thing. Rather than eat anyone up, I'm trying to bask in the cool of the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE featurette on the making of the movie.

Create your own YA cover

From @kimberlycbaker's Twitter feed: Follow the steps to create a fake cover for your YA novel.

Class: Introduction to children's book illustration

Rollin Thomas and Doug Keith are at it again!

Do you have a children’s book you want to create? This course will guide you through visual storytelling, creating characters, drawing storyboards and dummies. Then create one finished illustration, while learning how to find your place in the children’s illustration market. The pieces you make will help begin or fill out your portfolio. This course is the first of three that will develop your skills and style.

Prerequisite: There is no prerequisite except your great desire.

At Pratt Fine Art Center
September 23, 2009 to November 11, 2009
6:00PM to 10:00PM
Register at at 2D drawing

Monday, July 27, 2009

Query lessons from Barry Goldblatt

Swiped from the Twitter feed of @barrygoldblatt, who reps some of the biggest names in our business:

Query Lessons: 208,000 words??? You're completely out of your mind. And I think that's a record. from web

Query Lessons: If the first line of your letter says you can't find any good books for teens, then you're wasting my time...and yours. from web

I hereby acknowledge that I have stolen @elanaroth's idea of twittering query reactions, but not her thunder. from web

Query Lessons: If you say you've reviewed my website, then why have you sent me a cookbook, a screenplay, or an adult celeb tell-all? from web

Query Lessons: "Word-jockey" Is an idiotic euphemism for "writer." from web

So, if I am to judge from queries, many people think genies are the next vampire/werewolves/zombies. Sigh, I give up. from web

Remember the publishometer?

Well, according to the publishometer I mentioned yesterday, Amy Winehouse's allegedly forthcoming picture book should be a smash success.

If you're not familiar with Winehouse, she's the fabulously talented, beehived English singer notorious for her drug and alcohol addiction and related bad behavior in public and on stage.

She's hoping a little image rehab via a children's literature career will then make her seem like a good candidate for adoption. Not into a family. She wants to have a baby of her own. Did anyone else just get a wicked case of heartburn?

Michael Stearns starts new literary agency

Alice Pope reports this morning that Michael Stearns, who spoke at our spring conference, has left Firebrand to start a new agency, Upstart Crow Literary. The agency opens its doors the first week of August.

Read her post here. (Chris Richman and Danielle Chiotti are going with Michael.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Interview with Bonny Becker

Bonny is author of the bestseller A VISITOR FOR BEAR. She also won a Golden Kite Award. She's interviewed on You'll need speakers, as it's a podcast. Check it out (and note the useful articles on craft, too).

The publishometer

Fascinating post from Editorial Anonymous this week: a "publishometer" that lets you know whether your manuscript scores enough points to be acquired. It all boils down to writing quality, consumer interest in the topic, and your degree of celebrity.

9 reasons an agent might reject your query

Jessica Faust has a great list on her blog. Some ways to get yourself rejected:

- send your query through an agency, spouse, or pet
- send to more than one agent at a time
- you ignore her submission guidelines

Read the rest.

Shakespeare: a picture book author's best friend?

Here's a classic Darcy Pattison post that can be really useful for picture book structuring:

Sonnets and Picture Books
I think you can compare picture book structure to the structure of poetry. For example, sonnets have 14 lines, picture books can have 14 double-page spreads. So, taking a sonnet as an example of structure, you can imitate one of these sonnet structures.

1.The Italian Sonnet consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines)

- Spreads 1-4 Set up character
- Spreads 5-8 Problem stated
- Spreads 9-11 Character tries to solve the problem.
- Spreads 12-14 The payoff

Read the rest of the post.

Kids with their small, greasy hands...

They're just waiting to become middle grade novels.

(CNN) -- On July 23, 1969, as Apollo 11 hurtled back towards Earth, there was a problem -- a problem only a kid could solve.

It sounds like something out of a movie, but that's what it came down to as Apollo 11 sped back towards Earth after landing on the moon in 1969.

It was around 10:00 at night on July 23, and 10-year-old Greg Force was at home with his mom and three brothers. His father, Charles Force, was at work. Charles Force was the director of the NASA tracking station in Guam, where the family was living.

The Guam tracking station was to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna there connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless.

To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, and there was simply no time. So Charles Force thought of a creative solution: If he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening and pack grease around the bearing. Read more...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book trailers compiled

Shelftalker has put together a list of trailers and tribute videos for several new books.

If you know of companies that make trailers for local authors, let us know and we will compile.

Friday, July 24, 2009

YA scene from the headlines

From MSNBC: We all know that walking and texting is a tough combination -- but a Staten Island teen learned the hard way when she fell into an uncovered sewer manhole while trying to send a message. Oops.

Character paradoxes by Darcy Pattison

Darcy's blog has this interesting post:

Charlotte was Blood-Thirsty: Character Paradoxes
Charlotte, from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, is remembered as a character of great warmth for her friendship with the unlikely pig, Wilbur. Poor Wilbur, once the runt of the litter and saved only by the whim of a girl, is fattened up and ready for slaughter. (This is a story set on a working farm and, as such, it’s not a story of cruelty, but of practicality.) Only the spelling abilities of Charlotte save him.

Read the rest and see how you can work paradoxes into your characters.

Retreat on the Water

Time is running out to apply to our fall retreat for writers and writer-illustrators of children's books. WEEKEND ON THE WATER takes place Friday, Nov. 6, to Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009, at the luxurious Alderboork Resort & Spa, nestled on the scenic shores of Hood Canal less than two hours west of Seattle.

In an intimate, craft-focused retreat, Cheryl Klein, senior editor with Arthur A. Levine Books at Scholastic, and Ruta Rimas, assistant editor with Balzer + Bray at HarperCollins, will bring their considerable editorial and teaching experience to bear on the challenges of “Going Deeper,” including the interactions between character development, plot development, and theme.

Application is open from July 7 – July 31, 2009. Don't put it off till the last minute, though. You must have your properly formatted manuscript pages sent to our post office box by the 31st. More information is on our registration page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

USA Today top sellers

Look! Kids' books on this list--that has to be a good thing for our industry:

Top 20 sellers for the second quarter
1. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
3. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
4. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
5. The Shack by William P. Young
6. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark. R. Levin
7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
8. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey
9. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
10. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
11. Vision in White by Nora Roberts
12. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer, Annie Barrows
13. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
14. The 8th Confession by James Patterson
15. Tribute by Nora Roberts
16.Glenn Beck's Common Sense by Glenn Beck
17. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
18. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
19.The Host by Stephenie Meyer
20.Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

See this week'sTop 150.

Eoin Colfer on Hitchhiker sequel

Media Bistro has a bit on ARTEMIS FOWL author Eoin Colfer's venture into the galaxy of the late Douglas Adams.

When Eoin Colfer was asked to write the sixth book in problematically named The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, he refused--convinced that no one could follow in the footsteps of the original author, the late, great Douglas Adams.

Nevertheless, Colfer--the author of the bestselling "Artemis Fowl" series of YA novels--decided to write the sixth book in the series. It will hit stores in October. In this exclusive GalleyCat interview, the novelist explains why he changed his mind, taking readers inside his writing process for the sequel. Read more.

Making accent marks in Microsoft Word

Here's a cheat sheet for you.

On judging a book by its cover

You might have heard the brouhaha about Justina Larbalestier's book, LIAR. Many people say the cover--of a light-skinned girl hiding behind her hair--doesn't match the protagonist, who is black.

Here's Justina's take on it, on how much say the author really has on a cover, on working with Bloomsbury, and the disturbing notion that covers with black people don't sell.

Meanwhile, here's my take on an argument a librarian made in School Library Journal that publishers should make more books with boy protagonists because boys don't want to read about girls.

What Bio Stuff Goes in My Query?

Alice Pope interviews Chuck Sambuchino on her blog, and he offers advice on whether you should mention your college degree, your kids, and any editing work you've done on other manuscripts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Different Sort of Book Review

Want a Query Critique?

Follow the instructions on the Public Query Slushpile. Blog visitors will tell you what they think. (You might want to put on your extra-thick dragon skin for protection.)

Ebook Releases: Thoughts from a Publisher

Booksquare has this post from Dominique Raccah, Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, explaining how one publisher looks at e-books and considers the timing of their release.

We are at the beginning of model building. If hot frontlist titles are to be available in e-formats, they need to be priced by the publisher, at a reasonable discount from the hardcover retail price (to take into account the devaluation of eformats). I am totally open to that. But that’s not an option currently available. I think people may be willing to pay the premium to have the new new thing, or they may want to wait until the price falls with the trade paper edition, at which point the e-book price should be adjusted and $9.99 may make perfect sense.


Alternative Ending Idea #1

How TWILIGHT should have ended (thanks, @realjohngreen). I think I would have liked it better with dinosaurs. But maybe that's just me.

Ursula LeGuin on Writing

This comes from the Book View Cafe Blog:

On Rules of Writing, or, Riffing on Rechy
Posted on July 16th, 2009 by Ursula K. Le Guin

In his terse and cogent essay, “When Rules Are Made to be Broken,” (LATBR, October 6, 2002), John Rechy attacks three “rules of writing” that, as he says, go virtually unchallenged in most fiction workshops and writing classes: Show, don’t tell — Write about what you know — Always have a sympathetic character for the reader to relate to. I read the piece cheering and arguing all the way.

The first two “rules” were developed in response to faults common in the writing of inexperienced writers — abstract exposition without concrete imagery, windy vagueness unsupported by experience. As guides for beginners, they’re useful. Expanded into laws, they are, as Rechy says, nonsense.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three More Ways to Find an Agent

Noah Lukeman (author of THE FIRST FIVE PAGES) has started a blog.

He lists a few ways you might find an agent who reps your type of work (note--he recommends a service that has a subscription fee), and just as important, invites you to ask him questions.

Check out the blog post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We're Rich! We're Rich!

Oh, wait. The average picture book advance was $4,000. We never have been good at counting those zeroes.

Get more detail about average and mean advances on Barbara Kanninen's site ("mean" here is a mathematical term, not a synonym for stingy, though you would be forgiven for thinking this).

An Interview with Author Susan Marlow

Michele Torrey sends this along:

I first met Susan Marlow at a writers' critique group, where we took turns critiquing one another’s book excerpt or short story. I immediately “took a shine” to Susan. She was down-to-earth, insightful, and funny, her writing strong and resonant. Although at the time she’d not been published in the book publishing world, I felt confident that it was only a matter of time. . . . (Read more at Michele's blog.)

A Lovely Story Behind Many Lovely Stories

How did the Carolrhoda imprint at Lerner Publishing Group get its name? The story is on their blog. (Thanks to Gail Martini-Peterson for the link.)

Seasoned Authors: Teaching Opportunity!

David Greenberg at the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop sends this along:

I am seeking well-established children's book writers to instruct at the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop 2010. If this interests you, please review our website and send a brief message describing the books you've written, genre specialty, and your teaching experience.

How to Write a Picture Book That Shines

The people at Children's Book Insider have created this helpful video.

The Children's Book Insider publishes the Children's Book Insider newsletter, and they manage a popular online community.

Committing Crimes in the Name of Rhymes?

How do you tell if you've written bad verse?
When you read it aloud are you tempted to curse?

Actually, forget that.

Just read Cynthea Liu's blog. She's posted an article from Kelly Fineman on the topic of critiquing your rhyming children's books. In a nutshell: read it to yourself, read it aloud, and count the feet accurately.

Jay Asher in Bellingham Saturday

Late breaking calendar announcement:

Jay Asher, author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, will be speaking and signing books at Village Books in Bellingham on Saturday, July 25th, at 2:00 p.m.

For more information see Village Books' website.

PW Reviews Children's Books

From PBs to YA novels, what fall books got stars from PW? Lucy Cousins, Jane Smiley, and Kristin Cashore, for starters.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

School Library Journal Book Club Call

Found this on Twitter:

sljournalLast call: YA/kids authors who do *free* 20-min bk club visits via Skype Send name/URL to slj[at]reedbusiness[dot]com. Deadline: Mon 7/20

Translation: If you are a YA or children's author willing to do free 20-minute book club visits using Skype (a free, voice-over-Internet telephone service), send your name and Web site to by Monday, July 20.

If you want to follow School Library Journal on Twitter, you can find them here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Worst. Book Signings. Ever

Chances are, you will never have a book signing as bad as the ones described on this blog. But if you do, well, think of the stories you can tell.

Creating a Villain? Give Him a Bad-Boy Name

A study of more than 15,000 names given to boys born between 1987 and 1991 revealed something interesting: a top-10 list of names that led to juvenile delinquency.

Read more about the list and learn the surprising list top-10 bad-boy names: Alec, Ernest, Garland, Ivan, Kareem, Luke, Malcolm, Preston, Tyrell and Walter.

3 Juicy Plot Tips from Bruce Hale

Bruce gave us permission to reprint this; if you like it, consider signing up for his newsletter at the link below:


Plots are like Christmas turkeys -- we're always looking for ways to fatten them up. Juicier plots feel more complex, more satisfying. They keep readers up late turning the pages, and keep editors asking for more.

How do you make sure your book's plot is a juicy one? Here are three quick tips to help.

1. Give your character a hard time.
Throw roadblocks into your character's path. Disappoint him or her. Frequently. Give your
hero bad luck.

(Bad luck is bending over to pick a four-leaf clover and being infected by poison ivy.)

Your main character is a version of yourself. Few people would knowingly put themselves in jeopardy, but you've got to cold-bloodedly throw your surrogate into the soup -- even more than you think you do.

The more danger, the better. It can be physical, emotional, or spiritual danger, or a threat to life and limb. By piling on troubles, you hook the reader into wanting to find out how the hero
gets out of it. I call it the "UH-OH factor." They read it and go, "Uh-oh, she's really gonna get it now!"

2. Raise the stakes.
You see this in movies all the time. A regular schmo is trying to solve some small problem in his life -- like a romantic breakup -- and then he stumbles into an even bigger problem.

Or something happens to make it even more urgent that he solve his small problem (like his ex decides to get married and he has to win her back before the wedding).

In movies, the stakes often become "the end of the world as we know it." No need to go that far, unless your story warrants it.

But you can always up the ante.

For example, in my book, FAREWELL, MY LUNCHBAG, Chet Gecko is hired by his friend the cafeteria lady to discover why her food is going missing. But then, while on stakeout, the real crook frames him for the thefts. Chet then has an even stronger reason for solving the case: clearing his name.

3. Make him face his flaw.
If you want to make it even harder for your hero to solve the story's central problem, give them a flaw and put them in a situation where they have to overcome it.

(Warning: This technique *can* be over-used, but when used with finesse, it adds another layer of richness to the story.)

For example, if your hero is afraid of the dark, let her come up against this fear a few times and get off fairly easy -- not investigating that dark alleyway, or finding a friend with a flashlight to help her.

But then, when it's do or die time, leave her in a cave with no light at all. She must overcome her fear in order to find the missing kid/treasure/whatever.

Simple enough? Absolutely. But employing any of these tips can add a juiciness to your story that makes a reader want to dig it with gusto. And that's the name of the writing game.



Feel free to forward this newsletter to your writing friends. Do ask me for permission if you want to reprint anything, but you can send this newsletter to whomever you think might benefit from it.

Here's the signup link.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How to Write a Novel

By Justine Larbalestier, author of five novels:

First of all you need a computer. (Yeah, yeah, I know in the olden days they made do with quill, ink and paper, and typewriters—aargh! don’t get me started on how creepy and scary typewriters are—plus, whatever, this is not the olden days.)

More secrets revealed on her blog (including the answer to the question "to outline or not to outline."

We love the spreadsheet she starts at around 20,000 words. Note to self...try Excel next time.

Get This: It's anti-plagiarism day

How Publishing Really Works has a roundup today of famous cases of plagiarism. It makes for fascinating reading--especially the parts that point out how we're most likely to be victims of other writers. Gulp!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Research Geekery from Kirby Larson

The author of HATTIE BIG SKY finds her facts in the most interesting places, including old travel guides. Read more about it here.

Quote of the Day: David McKee

"Picture books should be shared books, which can be looked at again and again by parents and child. I like to think that I'm writing for the adult that the child will be, and the child that the adult still is."

(Read an interview with the author of Elmer here.)

Countdown to 2009 SCBWI LA Conference

SCBWI countdown 1

Get This: thought-provoking articles and posts

Nikki Grimes thinks artists of African descent are getting robbed in the Caldecott Awards.

Replacing Best Books for Young Adults with a Reader's Choice Award: pros and cons.

Seven things every author's website oughtta have: a guest post on Nathan Bransford's blog.

How to read out loud: advice from Neil Gaiman.

Calendar: Upcoming Events

We have some great events featuring our members coming up. For more information, click the links on the calendar on the left side of your screen:

Joni Sensel Query Workshop: Hooks, Lines & Stinkers
Sat, Jul 18
1:00pm - 5:00pm
Richard Hugo House

Trish Harding: LETTERS ALIVE
Sun, Jul 19
4:00pm - 5:00pm
Village Books in Bellingham

Richard Jesse Watson and Benjamin (Squeal!) Watson - Ultimate Tuesday
Tue, Jul 28
7:00pm - 7:30pm
Secret Garden Books

Author Sean Beaudoin launches YA book FADE TO BLUE
Sat, Aug 1
5:00pm - 6:00pm
Secret Garden Books

Good News

Jenn Chushcoff reports news of a contract with Jumping Jack Press for her first children's book, a pop-up about snowflakes, tentatively titled, SNOWFLAKES: TINY TREASURES. Their paper engineers and artists are creating the illustrations. It's due to be released 8/2010.

Deborah Reber announces that the website for the teen-authored memoir series she created and edited for HCI Books, LOUDER THAN WORDS, just went live. She also just produced a book trailer to accompany the series, which officially comes out Aug. 3.

Announcing our 2009-2010 Professional Series Program

This year, our monthly professional series moves to the second Tuesday of the month. Meetings will be in the same room as last year--Demaray Hall Room 150, on the Seattle Pacific University campus. They start at 7 p.m. sharp and we encourage people to show up early for socializing, snacking and shopping at the book store.

Starting in August, you can sign up for a year of regional programming and other benefits. It's $35 if you're also a member of SCBWI, and $40 if you're not. Either way, you're getting a great deal.

Here's who will speak at each meeting (and don't worry, all of these will be on the calendar on the left-hand side of this page):

September 8, 2009
Elana Roth, literary agent, Caren Johnson Literary Agency

October 13, 2009
Main session: Setting Yourself Up for the Happy Accident with Greg Pincus, social media expert

November 10,2009
Program 2: MUSE ON THE RUN, FINDING THE 25TH HOUR TO WRITE with Terri Farley.

December 8, 2009
Program 1: THE ABCS OF CRAFTING A CAREER IN YA, with Lisa Schroeder, Liz Gallagher, and Jen Bradbury.
Program 2: Singing in the Rain: One Seattle Writer Talks About How to Tune Your Voice with Jolie Stekly

January 12, 2009
The Great Critique

February 9, 2010
Mini-Session: CULTURAL AUTHENTICITY IN FICTION with Margaret Nevinski.

March 9, 2010

(No PSM in April — conference instead on April 10-11)

May 11, 2010
Main session: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities with Karen Cushman

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Writer's Successful Query Process

Read how children's author Shaun David Hutchinson researched and hooked his agent, Chris Richman at Firebrand Literary. This is a great case study of how it can be done.

Quote of the Day: Ann Whitford Paul

"My adult students always want to know first of all how to get an agent and I tell them that their first question should be: How do I write a fantastic, one-of-a-kind picture book?"

Read more of an insightful interview at Teaching Authors.

Getting to Know Elana Roth

Yesterday I wrote that James Rollins had given hopeful authors bad advice. (He said to ignore certain submission guidelines when pitching agents and editors.)

I said a better approach is to get to know the agents and editors who interest you. This is so you can see whether you're a good match. The Internet makes this easier than ever before, at least in some cases. If an agent or editor blogs, you can get a nice sense of that person's working style, point of view, and taste.

You don't want to start stalking the editors and agents who are out there, of course. You don't have to comment incessantly, memorize small details, and bring those up in person. That can seem a little like the Kathy Bates character in "Misery"..."I'm your number one fan...."

Rather, it's just one more bit of information you can use to build a solid, professional foundation. Ultimately, your writing or illustration will have to be the thing. But editors and agents are people first, so approaching them with interest, understanding and respect is essential.

Elana Roth will be visiting us at our monthly meeting in September. She blogs from time to time on her agency Web site. Here's what she has to say.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Suzanne Selfors: Fortune's Magic Farm book trailer

Bad Advice from a Bestselling Author

The Seattle Times ran a profile of James Rollins that had some well-intended but terrible advice:

Rollins advises writers to ignore directions to send a one-page query to agents summarizing their work (though that's exactly what many agents say to do, for fear of their mailboxes overflowing). Submit 50 pages of your book and a synopsis of the rest: "Agents already have a bevy of authors, their cash cows, so it's hard for them to break out of their apathy to represent a new author ... your writing should be breaking through that wall."

Obviously, you want to have some way of breaking through the agent/editor barrier. Ignoring their submission guidelines isn't the way. Put yourself in the agent's shoes. Would you want to work with someone who doesn't follow guidelines?

There's a chance you could really embarrass yourself doing this, too. When you're at work and someone breaks the rules, don't you notice and cringe?

Here's a better path:

- learn how to write a great query letter (Nathan Bransford has many posts on this topic)
- go to a conference ready to meet the faculty -- in other words, read their books, get to know their tastes, and have something interesting you can talk about
- keep working on your writing. Rollins does give good advice about reading and studying manuscripts for craft. If you aren't having other trusted writers critique your work, consider signing up for a critique group (find one here)

With persistence, you will break through. You might by breaking the rules. More likely, you will regret it later.

Welcome to the Chinook Update

This is a blog for children's book writers and illustrators in Western Washington, but of course we welcome all readers.

To contact the editor, please send e-mail to chinook AT SIGN (replacing the words "AT SIGN" with the appropriate symbol, of course. These spambots are so persistent).