Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lee and Low new voices contest

Don't know how I missed this, but it's the last day to enter.

From their site:

About the Award

LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the tenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions that we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and Bird, an ALA Notable Children’s Book.

Get the rest of the details.

Time Traveler's Wife: an interview with the author

So Writer's Digest has a great interview with Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote The TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and just scored an advance in the neighborhood of $5 million for her new novel.

The best part is the last paragraph, in which she inadvertently reveals she maybe doesn't read a lot of YA:

Would you classify that as mainstream fiction, or a genre?

You know how ideas tend to morph, but at the moment if it had a genre the genre would be coming of age. It’s about a 9-year-old girl who has hypertrichosis, which basically means she’s covered with hair. She’s been home schooled and it’s about her effort to go to school and have a normal life. Originally when I started it I was thinking of trying to write a YA book, but—this happens over and over again. I get going on something, and all of a sudden it’s full of darkness and sex and swearing and, you know, so I think I might try to hold back on the swearing, but it’ll probably end of being unsuitable for children! I don’t know, we’ll see. I was thinking the other day about Linda Berry’s book Cruddy, which I think is about an 11-year-old, but you would never let your 11-year-old anywhere near it. It’s a wonderful book, but it’s just too dark.

Welcome to the club, Audrey! Make that character 16 and you're good to go.

Targeting an agent

Christina at MiG writers (a blog by mid-grade authors) has some good advice on organizing your agent search: make a spreadsheet; read the books the agent has worked on; collect tidbits on Twitter and elsewhere that give you a better picture.

To read the whole thing, click here.

Yes, you can get a book deal from a blog

Cheryl Klein, the Scholastic editor who'll be with us at our November writing retreat, writes about how one prospective author's blog really helped sell the writer and her work.

It's a good reminder about the power of new technology. If you do this stuff right, editors will get a sense of who you are, what you love, and whether they'd like working with you. Do it wrong--say by posting your rejection letters with snarky rejoinders, whining, or hoisting other red flags--and it follows that you might lose out.

Get the whole story of OPERATION YES.

Chat tonight with Janet Lee Carey!

Stop on by readergirlz tonight at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern for a special event with readergirlz co-founder and local YA fantasy author Janet Lee Carey!

Janet has been hard at work on several new fantasy novels - STEALING DEATH was on the premier launch list of new-to-the-States publisher, Egmont USA. Congratulations, Janet!

Hope to see you tonight at the chat (just click on the CoverIt Live widget to begin).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Editorial Freelancers Association classes

Our colleague Lisa Owens recently rejoined the EFA board as education chair, and she wanted to let us know about their Fall 2009 Education Program. They have an exciting season of targeted professional-development opportunities planned and hope you'll try out some of their online offerings and/or live events in Seattle and NYC.


How to Get Freelance Writing Work (starts 10/13)

Editing Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction (starts 10/15)

Dealing with Nightmare Clients (starts 10/21)

Proofreading (starts 11/2)

Turning Journal Entries into Polished Pieces (starts 11/30)

Writing from Healthy Starts (starts 12/1)


Getting Started in Editorial Freelancing (10/17)

Blogging Basics (12/5)


Supplementing Your Income with PR Work (11/14)

For full course descriptions, pricing information, and a link to EFA's online registration system, see EFA's main catalog page. Be sure to act now and SIGN UP for any classes you're eyeing, especially those starting just around the corner in October. Class size is limited, and some courses do sell out early.

Hope to see some of you in class! And please share this notice with any interested friends and colleagues.

Here's a link to the full Fall catalog.

The excellence of an Exquisite Corpse

NPR has the tale of a posse of children's writers piecing together an online serial story called EXQUISITE CORPSE ADVENTURE. It's quite the group of writers, including Jon Scieszka, Katherine Paterson, and Kate DiCamillo.

Check out the NPR story here, and the official EXQUISITE CORPSE ADVENTURE here.

New agent seeks author/illustrators

Chuck at has this lead:

Teresa Kietlinski joined Prospect Agency in 2009 after thirteen happy years of working in the publishing industry at Disney-Hyperion, Dial Books for Young Readers, Viking Children's Books, William Morrow and Company, and St. Martin's Press.

Teresa has designed and art directed hundreds of children's books of all sizes and shapes, and has worked with amazing talents including Kevin Sherry, David Sonam, LeUyen Pham, Boris Kulikov, Kadir Nelson, Brian Karas and Amy Young.

She is now very excited to be on the other side of the fence, representing illustrators and authors whose work she really admires.

As an agent, Teresa is particularly interested in artists who both write and illustrate, but she's looking for anyone who will inspire and spark great things in both children and adults. Now what can you do with a pencil or mousepad?"

Read the rest.

Get ready for the Cybils!

It's that time of year again, time for the CYBILS, Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards 2009!

An impressive crop of kidlit bloggers has come together to make this event happen, including many of the terrific folks we met at last year's kidlit blogger conference (click here for info on this year's conference, November in D.C.) as well as friend, local librarian, and rgz postergirl Jackie Parker of Interactive Reader in charge of the YA Fiction category!

Nominations for this year's Cybil awards are open October 1 - 15. Check out the Cybils site for full info on categories, judges, and the 2008 winners. Then on Thursday, go nominate your favorite kidlit books of 2009.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Word count for novels and children's books

Chuck Sambuchino has what he calls the definitive post on word counts for children's books and novels.

The most important thing here is to realize that there are always exceptions to these rules. And man, people love to point out exceptions - and they always will. However, if there is one thing I remember from when my wife dragged me kicking and screaming to He's Just Not That Into You, it's that you cannot count on being the exception; you must count on being the rule. Aiming to be the exception is setting yourself up for disappointment. What writers fail to see is that for every successful exception to the rule (e.g., a first-time 150,000-word novel), there are at least 100 failures if not 300.

Almost always, high word count means that the writer simply did not edit their work down enough. Or - it means they have two or more books combined into one.

Get the word counts.

Why is no one ever accused of promoting wizardcraft?

I found this link on the New Yorker book blog; it refers to a new memoir written by a former Bush speechwriter about why administration officials didn't want to give J.K. Rowling the Medal of Freedom.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civil award, and is given to individuals who have contributed to: 1) the security or national interests of the United States, 2) world peace, or 3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

In his new book, Speechless: Tales of a White House Survivor, former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer reveals how politicized the revered Presidential Medal of Freedom became during the Bush administration.

Latimer writes that administration officials objected to giving author J.K. Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because her writing “encouraged witchcraft” (p. 201):
This was the same sort of narrow thinking that led people in the White House to actually object to giving the author J.K. Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged withcraft.
Read the rest.

Darcy Pattison's retreat wrapup

Darcy Pattision writes: "At the AR-SCBWI fall retreat this weekend, Alexandra Penfold, Associate Editor of S&S took us through a discussion of first pages of our novel mss. She commented on the pages, then opened the discussion for other comments or questions. Here are some observations on the discussions (Note: these should in no way be construed as Penfold’s opinions, but only my observations of the discussions):

- So much from so few words. The first pages of a novel do encapsulate so much of the story and are extremely important to establish setting, character, pace, audience, tone, voice and more.

- Audience. Sometimes, the discussion centered on the intended audience. This means we didn’t even discuss much about the actual writing except what it evoked in terms of audience. Age level (picture book, early reader, early chapter, tween, middle grade, YA or teen) and trade v. education market were the main focuses. From just a few sentences, it was possible to get a handle on the authors intentions for these two crucial things.

Read the rest.

The business of publishing evolves

Business Week reports on the gradual affection the publishing industry has for the Internet. It's worrisome how slow they've taken to the biggest revolution in print since Gutenberg (the press, not the Three Men and a Baby actor). But at least revenue is up in the first half of 2009:

Book publishers are learning to love the Web. They have to. In hopes of avoiding the toll inflicted by the Internet on newspapers and the music business, the publishing industry is experimenting with a growing array of ways to distribute reading materials digitally. Some might even boost profits.

Publishers already sell digital versions of books for electronic readers such as's (AMZN) Kindle and Sony's (SNE) Reader. But other, newer methods being considered or tried out include Netflix-like online book rentals, sales of individual chapters, and placement of ads alongside digital books.

Selling lower-priced books online is likely to cut into revenue, but margins could hold up or even widen in some cases as publishers save on printing and returns—which can account for as much of 40% of the sale of a physical book, analysts say. "If they can migrate to the [digital] model and eliminate manufacturing and inventory costs, the economics could be a lot more interesting," says Peter Appert, an analyst at Piper Jaffray (PJC). "That'll drive margin upside." Today, publishers' margins hover in the high single digits, although some companies, especially those selling textbooks to college students, fare better.

Across the publishing industry, revenue rose 1.8%, to $3.71 billion, in the first half of 2009, according to the Association of American Publishers. In the first half of 2009, e-book sales reached $61.2 million, up from $24.6 million a year earlier, the AAP says.

Read the rest.

Elizabeth Blake has a new website

I snagged this fine illustration from the snazzy new website of our colleague Elizabeth Blake. Check out the rest of her work here.

Writing characters of a different race

Justine Larbalestier, author of LIAR, HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY, and other novels, posted this weekend about the issues that arise when you're white and you write about a character who isn't. She has good advice on why you might do this and how to handle the inevitable criticism.

Every single book I’ve published has displeased someone. I’ve been accused of promoting teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, and underage drinking. Every single one of my books has caused at least a few people to tell me that I stuffed various things up: my descriptions of Sydney, of NYC, of mathematics (absolutely true), my Oz characters don’t speak like proper Aussies, and my USians don’t talk like proper Yanquis. My teenagers sound too young or too old and are too smart or too stupid. I did my best, but some think that was not good enough.
That’s the risk you take when you write a book.

Read the rest.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Classes with Margaret Nevinski

Children's Book Author Margaret Nevinski will be teaching the following classes this fall:

Writing for Children

Do you have an idea for a children's book? Do you want to write for children but don't know where to start? Published children's book author Margaret Nevinski, with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, leads this class on the basics of writing for children and teens. We'll explore the elements of story (character, plot, conflict), the age of the audience and main character, and different genres (picture book, chapter book, middle-grade and young adult novel). During each class we'll write and share our work out loud to get feedback. Come join us to discover your unique voice and pursue your dream of writing for children. Thursdays, 7-9 pm. 10/1 - 11/19. Strawberry Hill Center. $85. Sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District. To register, visit or call 206-842-2306, ext. 16.

Creative Writing Workshop
Ages 8-12

If you like to create characters, invent plots, and have fun with words, this workshop is for you! Writer/teacher Margaret Nevinski helps young writers tap into their creativity and strengthen their writing. We'll share our work out loud to get feedback from our fellow authors. Discover more about the craft of writing while creating the spectacular stories and poems only YOU can write. Bring a notebook, a pen, and your imagination.

Thursdays, 4-6 pm. 10/1 - 11/19. Strawberry Hill Center. $85. Sponsored by
the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District.
To register, visit or call 206-842-2306, ext. 16.

Point of View

Choosing a point of view (POV) is one of the most important decisions a writer makes when beginning a new piece of fiction. However, confusion abounds about different POVs and which is most effective for a particular story. This hands-on class with Margaret Nevinski explores the complex world of POV and weighs the advantages and disadvantages of each. Students will submit a writing sample before the class starts. Depending on the number of students, the instructor will discuss 1-2 pieces of submitted writing from students each week from the perspective of POV. During each session, students will write POV exercises and share them aloud for discussion. Join us to discover your POV!

Wednesdays, 7-9 pm. 9/30 and Oct 7, 14, and 21. Bainbridge Commons. $160.
Sponsored by Field's End. To register, visit

Upcoming Book Events

Wendy Wahman will read "Don't Lick the Dog"
Third Place Books,
Saturday, September 26, 10:10 AM
Lake Forest Sat the 26th at 10:15

Bonny Becker (author of A Visitor for Bear):
Book Signing - Barnes & Noble
Saturday, September 26, 12:00 PM
300 Andover Park W Suite 200, Tukwila WA 98188

Janet Lee Carey (author of Dragon's Keep):
Book Signing - Barnes & Noble
Sunday, September 27, 6:00 PM
300 Andover Park W Suite 200, Tukwila WA 98188

Tom Brenner (author of And Then Comes Halloween):
Ballard Public Library Branch
Tuesday, September 29, 7:00 PM
5614 22nd Ave. N.W., Seattle , WA 98107

This week in censorship

Just in time for Banned Books Week, Ellen Hopkins was barred from visiting a middle school in Norman, OK after a parent complained that CRANK--the semiautobiographical story about her daughter's addiction to crystal meth--was inappropriate for kids.

The full account is on School Library Journal, which has a link to Ellen's blog and her perspective.

This is something we should all be concerned about. It's one thing not to want your own kids to read a book. But it's another thing entirely when you don't think other people's children should. Drug use and abuse is the bad guy, not stories about it, and particularly not stories that show the true and horrible consequences. And it's a sad fact that many middle schoolers are exposed to drugs. Why not give them a story to help them understand the importance of making better choices?

This is just my opinion, of course. If you think otherwise, feel free to comment below.

Debut authors and illustrators...

Alice Pope is looking for people to interview for the next CWIM.

Details are on her blog--don't delay, though. The deadline is coming up.

Why you shouldn't give up

Shannon Hale. Oh, how we love her. Oh, the awards she has won. Oh, her reject letters. Wha?

Yes. She has plenty of them--and you can read some of the ones she got for GOOSE GIRL on her blog.

Thanks to Molly Hall for the link.

Reminder: Craig Orback classes, blog

Craig Orback has two new illustration classes starting next month at Bellevue College. Please follow the links below if you would like to register.

Also he has started a new illustration blog. It will have all the latest info on his current illustration projects with lots of great inside details, photos and sketches. You can register on his blog to be a follower. Also there you can follow the links to up coming classes he will be teaching.

Children's Book Illustration
Discover basic illustration techniques as well as a variety of media commonly used in illustration. This class is a combination of the history of children's book illustration and the hands on practice of illustration. Through various assignments to be worked on in class and finished at home you will learn how to complete illustrations for young readers. This introductory course is a great way to learn new techniques and find out more about the business side of illustration, as well as what it takes to get your work seen by the right people

Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 8 Sessions, 10/03/09-11/21/09, 1-3:30pm, $145 Call (425) 564-2263,

Childrens Book Illustration II
Explore further your passion for Children's Book Illustration in this intermediate class. You will learn step by step how to create a children's picture book dummy from initial story board to a finished dummy ready to mail to publishers. Create sketches for your story as well as a couple of finished illustrations in color. This is the perfect course if you a friend or relative have a story that you have always longed to illustrate and potentially publish. Creating your own take on a popular story or folktale is fine if you do not have an original story.

Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 8 Sessions, 10/03/09-11/21/09, 9:30am-12:30pm. $179 Call (425) 564-2263,

Please visit his illustration website at

Another take on novel revisions

Jennifer Jensen has a sensible approach in her article on Suite 101:
- focus first on the structure
- move to the supporting elements
- hone in on details and line-editing

The full story is here.

Thanks to Gail Martini-Peterson for the link.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This just sort of seems like a scene...

...from a middle-grade novel.

Kidlitchat Twitter transcript

These happen every week; if you missed one, be sure to check out the transcript posted by Greg Pincus (our featured speaker next month).

Scholastic has a good first quarter

In news that should buoy us all, Scholastic reports a good first quarter for fiscal year 2009-2010. Here's what Publishers Weekly has to say:

Led by gains in its educational technology and trade book segments, revenue for the first quarter ended August 31 rose 14% at Scholastic, to $315.6 million. The first quarter loss from continuing operations was cut to $24.6 million from $42.9 million, while the net loss was reduced to $23 million from $49.1 million. Chairman Dick Robinson said the results keep the publisher on track to achieve “significantly higher” earnings for the full year.

In the children’s book publishing & distribution segment, total revenue rose 25%, to $76.2 million, led by a 25% increase in the trade segment which benefitted from sales of the paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the release of the fifth title in the 39 Clues series. The Hunger Games also continued to sell well. Sales through book clubs rose 46%, while book fair sales fell 7%; the first quarter represents a small portion of revenue for clubs and fairs.
Read the rest here.

What makes a great book trailer?

Darcy Pattison's blog had a post awhile back about the makings of an effective book trailer, featuring the thoughts of Lisa Gottlieb. She boiled a good trailer down into six words: Economic Focused Editing; Authentic Emotional Entertainment.

To learn more,

visit Darcy's site.

More honors for our colleagues

I posted last week that Angelina Corallo Hansen walked away with this year's SCBWI Contemporary Novel Grant for her novel WHY I TOLD. But I failed to mention another honor for our people--a Letter of Merit for Nonfiction Research that went to Sharlene P. Nelson and Ted W. Nelson, who live in Federal Way.

Great work, everyone!

To apply for a 2010 grant, head on over to the SCBWI national site.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nancy Pearl has a new blog

Do check it out. Here's a bit of what she has to say about WHEN YOU REACH ME, which Elana Roth talked up earlier this month.

Some extraordinary teen fiction has been published recently (E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, for one), and now we have an equally outstanding novel for middle grade readers: Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009). If this doesn’t win the Newbery Award, which is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, “to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” and/or end up high on every critic’s best of the year list, I’ll be shocked. It’s that good. Stead’s book is one of those all-too-few-and-far-between novels that you want to reread as soon as you finish it, because you want to be able to see how the author so successfully accomplished all that she set out to do, which is write a fantasy that feels completely real.

And here's the blog.

Gratuitous giggle

Cheryl Klein takes a spin on a Segway scooter. Is the ending comic, tragic...or both?

Good news for Ann Teplick

She gets to teach two children's writing classes at the Richard Hugh House. They're intended for kids in third through sixth grades, and you can learn more about them

Ann is a poet, playwright and prose writer who makes a big difference for student writers in our community. She works with young writers at Hugo House; in schools; through Coyote Central, an after-school arts program; and with The Pongo Publishing Teen Writing Project at the Washington State psychiatric hospital.

What's 'high concept'?

Editorial Anonymous is back with the useful definitions, this time explaining what agents editors mean when they say "high concept."

Basically, it means she wants a hook. She wants to be able to describe what will appeal to consumers about the book in just a sentence or two.

I, like many editors, wish more writers had a better grasp of what makes a hook and what doesn't. If writers were only sending us picture book manuscripts with hooks, we'd get a hell of a lot fewer pointless vignettes, heavy-handed lessons, nostalgic meanderings, and stories of any kind that no child will be interested in.

It doesn't mean everything has to be high concept, Ed Anon says. To read the rest,
check out the blog post.

Books, food and fundraising: yeehaw!

Tomorrow (Sept. 24) is Dish Up Literacy night at a variety of local restaurants, including Julie Reinhardt's Smokin Pete's BBQ, where they'll even have a band.

Restaurants are donating 20 percent of their sales to Page Ahead, the state's leading provider of books and literacy programs for children.

Get more information on Julie's blog, including a link to a list of all participating restaurants in the area.

National awards: a big, fat list

Not all the categories are up to date, but this Horn Book list of national awards for authors and illustrators is a quick way to keep tabs on the best stuff in our field. Next time you can't think of what to read next, go there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This week at Nathan Bransford University

Here's an excerpt from his post on showing vs. telling:

My interpretation is this. With the understanding that "if it works it works," and there are always exceptions, in general: universal emotions should not be "told." Instead, we should be shown how the character is reacting to their feelings.

I'm of the opinion that we read books in order to get to know our fellow humans better. We are empathetic animals and are able to put ourselves in the shoes of characters, and thus, we have a pretty keen idea how we'd be feeling in any given situation the characters find themselves in. And emotions are universal: we all feel sad, angry, happy, emotional, etc. etc. But how we react to those emotions are completely and infinitely different. That's what we find interesting.

Being told that a character is "angry" is not very interesting - we're reading the book, we know his dog just got kicked, of course he's angry! It's redundant to be told that the character is "angry."

More interesting is how the character reacts to seeing his dog kicked. Does he hold it in and tap his foot slowly? Does he explode? Does he clench his fists?

Read the rest.

Interesting piece on boys and reading

Jim Whiting sends this along--a survey of teen boys about why they read, and what they might like to read with older adults (such as their grandparents). Consider it your dose of good cheer (and endearingly awkward teen-ishness for the day).

What, pray tell, is 'merch'?

Editorial Anonymous has some words of warning on the topic of dolls and toys that accompany books:
Q. Crocodile Creek, MerryMakers, Inc., and Manhattan Toy Company design plush toys for children’s book publishers. When do publishers decide to introduce this type of product? What percentage of sales goes to the author and/or illustrator?

A. Often, those makers approach the publisher, not the other way around. If a publisher does approach a toy company about a plush add-on, it's NOT when the book is newly out. It's when the book clearly has a significant fan base. Did you sell 50,000 copies last year? Great, have a doll. The plush market is not strong right now, nor has it been for the last several years, so getting a plush to go with your book is extremely unlikely.

Lots of authors have visions of sugar plums and merch subrights dancing in their heads when their book comes out. Whether it's a doll, or apparel, or whatever. Do yourself a favor and let go of those ideas. I've known a couple authors who spent the couple of years following a book publication doggedly trying to scare up interest in merch rights, and were bitterly disappointed. Because they did not have the huge fan base that would make merchadise manufacturers interested.

Read the rest.

New agent alert: Mary Kole

She's a new associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary, and here's what she's seeking:

At this time, Mary is only considering young adult and middle grade novels and truly exceptional picturebooks. She's seeking fresh, unique voices and idiosyncratic characters who, by book's end, she knows like a friend. Her favorite stories are character-driven but well-plotted... a mix of fast pacing, emotional resonance and beautiful writing. Boy books, girl books, first person, third person, it doesn't matter... she's looking for a literary spark with commercial appeal. While she's not interested in high fantasy, science fiction, thrillers or horror, she would love to consider realistic/contemporary, urban fantasy and fantasy/adventure, historical, paranormal and mystery manuscripts. One of her favorite genres is magical realism: a story set firmly in our world, only with a twist—magic, danger or something that turns "reality" on its ear—to make things more interesting.

In all things, voice is absolutely essential to each project that she takes on... make sure yours is as strong as possible. Funny manuscripts have to be really funny to tickle her but, once they do, they rise to the top of her submissions pile. On the other end of the spectrum, Mary adores manuscripts rife with emotional honesty and raw, truthful moments... stories that make her tear up and punch her in the gut. Favorite themes include: family, home, unlikely heroes, discovering one's voice, finding one's equilibrium after a big life event. She looks forward to reading your work!

Click here for her profile (and don't forget to double-check those submission guidelines).

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to revise a novel

Holly Lisle revises 150,000 words in two weeks. Can you, following her formula? The main ingredients:

- your manuscript
- a spiral bound notebook
- four colored pens
- your character notes/background file you used creating the book

My favorite part? She instructs us to celebrate at the end.

Wordstock! All the fun, none of the mud

Here's a great opportunity for people who live in the southern part of our region--and for people who love a good road trip:

The Art of the Ending
If you missed it at our SCBWI WWA conference two years ago, Joni Sensel will reprise her endings workshop at Wordstock in Portland on Sunday, Oct. 11, at 1:30 p.m. Wordstock's writers' workshops are only $35 or $60 for two, and there are plenty of others on offer, too: check them out at Joni will also be privileged to participate in Karen Cushman's "Other Times, Other Places" panel with Mary Jane Beaufrand and others at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10.

What is this good writing of which people speak?

Cheryl Klein. Could she be any more wonderful? Doubtful. She writes, she edits, she bakes cakes...

And now, she offers the five hallmarks of great writing on her blog: prose, characterization, emotional depth, plot construction and thematic richness. Check out the post on Chavelaque for more on each, along with her selections of books that excel in all five areas.

Creating a fantasy?

Here are questions you can ask when you're in the world-building phase.

They're by Patricia C. Wrede, who wrote the terrific ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES.

Publishers Weekly spring previews

Dave Patneaude's EPITAPH ROAD gets a shoutout on this spring preview from Publishers Weekly.

If you want to see what's out right now, though, check out PW's A-Z listing.

You have to click here, though, to see the cutest fall release by a Northwest author.

How to write a nonfiction book proposal

This is primarily intended for the adult market, methinks. But Danielle Chiotti's primer on the construction of a nonfiction book proposal is right on the money (I've sold two books in the adult market with just this approach).

So, if you're wondering how to put your NF proposal together, pop on over to the Upstart Crow blog.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Okay, this is mean but...

May we all have such success with our writing that the U.K. Telegraph devotes space to dissecting our twenty worst sentences, as they've done with Dan Brown.

A teaser:

16. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move." On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly. Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.

A silhouette with white hair and pink irises stood chillingly close but 15 feet away. What’s wrong with this picture?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Submit to the printed Chinook

It’s hard to believe, but summer has come to a close. The trees are changing colors, the air is crisp, and it’s time for the next Chinook newsletter.

We want to hear from you!

  • Do you have a special talent in the children's book business?
  • Have you learned something in a class that you want to share with other members?
  • Did you read something recently that inspired you and changed your writing?
  • Are you passionate about wordplay or grammar?
  • Have you always wanted to see your work in print?

We are accepting article submissions for our November newsletter. Share your expertise on the craft of writing for children. Please send submissions to Articles Editor Liz Mills ( by Oct. 12, 2009.

Send your illustrations to Kevan Atteberry by the same date. His email is

Terry Pratchett, a Printz among us

Here's Pratchett's Printz speech (be sure to watch the part where he tells what he's making in the cauldron):

The plot thickens

Lev Grossman at the Wall Street Journal wrote a long story about the re-emergence of plot in fiction (even literary fiction), making the case that good books don't have to be hard reads. Some of our favorites--including The Hunger Games--get a shout-out.

Read the story here.

Good news for Kathleen Kemly

Her book Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story has been selected to represent the state of West Virginia at the 2009 National Book Festival.

Here is a link to the event:

Congratulations, Kathleen! (And check out her website, while you're at it.)

Books for a good cause

Seattle Education Access is looking for donations of current YA titles and/or books likely to be required college reading for their library.

The organization fights poverty and homelessness by helping marginalized youth make strong transitions to local community colleges.

You can learn more at SEA’s College Success Program provides students with scholarships and free academic advising, career counseling, tutoring, and advocacy, and the availability of books their students want to read can help.

They’re especially interested in popular, edgy, and/or LGBTQ books for readers 16 and older.

Mail donations of YA books to SEA at:
SEALibrary Donation
6920 Roosevelt Way N.E. #355
Seattle, WA 98115

Great technology for word use

Greenwillow editor Martha Mihalick, who may well be a GENIUS, recommended the use of to check the language of your work in progress.

Wordle builds collages out of the words in a document, so you can see which ones you use most of all.

I tried it on a novel and found a flabby word I used way too much. Then I did a find and replace search and saved myself about 200 words.

I tried it on a picture book and sent the image to a friend, who was able to tell me what my story was about simply by the big words that appeared. Here's what this blog post looks like:

Wordle: blog post

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Congratulations, Angelina C. Hansen

Some great news from up north:

Angelina C. Hansen, who regularly attends our Bellingham Schmoozes, has won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant for a Contemporary Novel. Her work-in-progress novel is titled WHY I TOLD.

Here's her blog--read the post on her jump-up-and-down good news.

And here's a link to the announcement on the SCBWI International website.

Way to go, Angi!

Thought-provoking stuff at The Swivet

Colleen Lindsay (quoted earlier here this week on novel length), posted a great quote from a screenwriter/director on her blog:

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

Click here to read the whole piece (and link to the essay that started it all).
Chuck at the Guide to Literary Agents blog reports a new agent on the loose at Barry Goldblatt Literary (do bookmark Chuck's blog if you're looking for an agent--so useful).

Beth Fleisher is a former editor, working for The Berkeley Publishing Group. Her passions are science fiction, fantasy and graphic novels, though she handles all kinds of kids stuff.

Fiction areas of interest: She welcomes kids work and graphic novels. She is particularly interest in finding new voices in middle grade and young adult fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historicals and action adventure.

Nonfiction areas of interest: "select children's and adult nonfiction."

How to submit: Send an e-query to Include the word "query" in the e-mail subject line. This agency accepts simultaneous submissions, but exclusive ones (designated with the word "exclusive" also in the e-mail subject line) will likely get priority. In the e-mail body, paste your query, your synopsis, and the first five pages of your book. No attachments please. Responds in four weeks to queries and eight weeks to manuscripts.

Quote of the day: Dorothea Brande

If you can come to such friendly terms with yourself that you are able and willing to say precisely what you think of any given situation or character, if you can tell a story as it can appear only to you of all the people on earth, you will inevitably have a piece of work which is original.

- Dorothea Brande, Becoming a Writer

Port Townsend artist studio tour coming

Elizabeth Blake has passed on word that the Port Townsend Artist Studio Tour has at least two SCBWI members' studios included this year, Elizabeth's and Richard Jesse Watson's.

Why not enjoy a peaceful weekend in Port Townsend and visit as many studios as you like. There are 47 on the tour this year.

The tour runs the weekend of October 10-11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check the website for more details.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seattle Bookfest still seeking authors

It's Oct. 24 and 25; to participate, get all your details here.

When writer's block hits

Need a story starter? Our charming hospitality host Annie Gage is having fun these days with FML.

The ML stands for My Life. You can probably figure out what the F stands for.

It's a website that captures anonymous stories of lives gone horribly and sometimes comically wrong (and yes, they have a book deal).

Check it out.

Thoughts on writing graphic novels

Working on a graphic novel? Check out what Mark Fearing has to say:

A graphic novel is a daunting task. Writing a story and investing another year (at least) drawing 150 maybe 200 pages is best described as ‘a long slog’. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing it. I can’t imagine a better challenge or more interesting job. But if you are going to climb Everest you have to admit it’s one big mountain. And so it is.

Creating a graphic novel is more closely related to writing a film than writing a novel. Because the script is just the starting point. The words on paper have to be good (hope they are good) but there’s a lot of work ahead. Pencils and inking then post – coloring and setting the type, printing. You spend months penciling, inking and coloring. If you decide to alter a chapter or drop a scene or change a setting, you won’t just be editing copy. You’ll be drawing, inking and coloring all over as well.

When I work on graphic novels or comics there’s always some change in the dialog and settings when I get to drawing them. This is a process where the material gets more interesting and dynamic. You find a visual joke in the written material. Or a visual way to communicate something that was in dialog or description before. But, I always want a solid story in place before I draw dozens of pages. I usually write and draw my own material so when I write the script I can use the visuals in my head to pre-visualize what will happen in art. This is different than if I was handing my script off to another artist.

Read the rest.

Attention M.T. Anderson fans

SCBWI-Oregon just let us know that the dashing and brilliant M.T. Anderson will deliver Multnomah County Library’s eighth annual Teen Author Lecture on Monday, Oct. 12.

He was just in Seattle last year, and anyone who missed him might consider the trip to Portland.

Anderson is the author of the Printz and National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, as well as Feed, Burger Wuss, The Game of Sunken Places, Whales on Stilts, and other popular and critically acclaimed titles.

In an interview with School Library Journal, Anderson said that writing his dystopian novel Feed, featuring a kind of future Internet that connects Americans via computer chips implanted in their brains, made him realize that “there were years of teen resentment waiting to burst out—anger about all the things the media demanded we become.”

Anderson has written picture books, middle-grade and young adult novels that cover a wide range of topics, genres and settings – from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first, from biography to historical to adventure to fantasy and science fiction. He explained his varied interests to Kirkus Reviews: “I tend to get fixated on subjects serially, and I often write about them to exorcise my interest. I also believe firmly in forcing yourself to do things you think you can’t do, things
you’ve never done before. The world is a dazzlingly varied place — why should we assent to limiting ourselves?”

The Teen Author Lecture will take place at The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., Portland. Doors open at 6:15 and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. Tickets ($10 adults; $5 students K–12) are on sale through Oct. 12 at Central, Gresham, Hillsdale, Hollywood, Midland and North Portland libraries; Library Administration; and A Children’s Place, Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books, Green Bean Books, Looking Glass Books and Powell’s City of Books. To order tickets by mail, call 503.988.5402.

Will Your YA Be Read in Braille?

Corey Doctorow posts here about his own YA novel, Little Brother, being published under a Creative Commons License, which allowed Patti Smith, a teacher of visually impaired kids in Detroit, to download the book version and convert it to Braille for her young readers.

As Corey points out, it's legal to convert any book to Braille or audio book for blind readers, though much easier to do with e-text.

Now Corey is encouraging other YA writers to get their books into the hands of kids hungry for great books!

To read the article and Patti's letter, and to find out how your book can become part of the library for her students, check out the link!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A big myth

The agent Colleen Lindsay has an excellent post on The Swivet about a misperception that bigger is better when it comes to books. Usually, this isn't the case--and it can sometimes be a marker that you're not yet a good enough writer to pare your story down to its essence.

This is a must-read post, especially for people revising manuscripts. And yes, it does contain some length guidelines--not rules, she says, because there are always exceptions.

Check it out.

In a slightly related topic, Michael Stearns at the Upstart Crow Literary blog wrote yesterday about Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish. Some serious paring down went on in Lish's office. It's interesting! (And Jane Yolen and Michael debate a bit in the comments section, which is worth the price of admission. Ahem.)

You'll never guess the new trend in romances

Bonnet rippers! Yes, Amish romances are whoopie pie (which is an Amish invention for those of you insufficiently steeped in trivia).

Here's a Wall Street Journal article on the topic.

And yes, this is about the adult market, but fierce, unrequited yearning has been known to do well with teens, too. Hmmm.

Does self-editing make you crazy?

Here's an interesting take by Sean D'Souza on why we self-edit and what we need to do to get over it. (Hint: write more. Lots more.)

Write. Edit. Write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Write.

Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t then you’re probably from Mars, because most of us drive ourselves crazy with self-editing when we write.

And it’s not only when writing.

We self-edit when we’re walking. When you walk on gravel, you walk differently than when you walk on grass.

We self-edit when we’re talking. We choose different words and sentence structure, create different tones, and make different sounds depending on who we’re speaking to.

So self-editing is a very natural part of human behavior. There’s one difference when we self-edit as writers, though.

Read the rest.

How to submit to Elana Roth

Elana tweeted this morning that she was receiving lots of queries without sample pages. In case that's people from our region doing that, here are the submission guidelines from the Caren Johnson Literary Agency blog.

It's smart to check submission guidelines--and recheck them--with each agent you query. There is no one-size-fits-all rule and agents create guidelines that make their jobs manageable. If you ignore the guidelines, you make their jobs harder and you make yourself look like someone who doesn't pay attention (or can't read). Not so much the impression you want to create, right? And here, people querying without sample pages are losing an opportunity to impress.

To submit to CJLA, send us a query letter describing your book and yourself. Make sure all query letters are in the body of the email and not attached to a short note indicating it as an attachment. You may include 3-5 sample pages from your manuscript or your overview/idea pages from your proposal directly in the body of your email following your query letter. Attachments will not be opened unless specifically requested. We only accept email queries; all snail mail queries will be discarded without being opened.

We do not accept re-submissions. In addition, we will only consider one manuscript at a time (no listing three or four manuscripts at a time that aren't part of a series), to one agent at a time. Simultaneous submissions to CJLA will be declined, and as we work together closely, a rejection from one agent is a rejection from the agency.

Our response time on queries is running 2-4 weeks, and on requested partials and manuscripts, you can expect to hear back from us in 4-8 weeks. If for some reason you haven’t heard back from us beyond that time frame, please feel free to follow-up by email.

Authors, Artists, and Poets: Stay Vulnerable

Have you seen this wonderful video by multi-talented author, Beth Kephart?

Beth is the inaugural Writer-in-Residence over at readergirlz, where you can check out more of her vlogs and posts on writing!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Elana Roth's book recommendations

Caren Johnson Literary agent Elana Roth made good on her promise to recommend great craft books for us. Here are some of her favorites:

  • Narrative Design by Madison Smartt Bell
  • The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante
  • Story by Robert McKee (this is a screenwriting one, but good)
  • Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell
  • On Writing by Stephen King (he is just a must-read no matter what...I prefer his essays and non-fiction actually)

Both of Don Maass's books are worth picking up:

  • Writing the Breakout Novel
  • Building the Career Novelist

And Syd Fields' screenwriting DVD is a favorite of my client, Pam. (Martha's note: I think it's this one.)

Quote of the Day: Ray Bradbury

"Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer's make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto."

-- Ray Bradbury

Tips on finding an agent

Michele Torrey, one of our dear PALs, has a great blog post on finding an agent--and specifically, how to make that list of people you'd like to query. Here's the start:

Finding That Top Agent - Part I
Face it. It’s a jungle out there. Finding a literary agent can be a confusing, agonizing, and frustrating ordeal. This ordeal is made even scarier by the fact that there are plenty of not-so-savory agents, ready to take advantage of the unwary, aspiring writer. Take Robert Fletcher at Writer’s Literary Agency, for example. In a current lawsuit, it is alleged that Fletcher made $600,000 per year on fees solicited from over 20 websites, yet sold only a few books. Fletcher admitted to having no background as a literary agent. (AG Release) (FYI — there is no “degree” or particular experience required in becoming a literary agent. Anyone can hang out his/her shingle today, and charge you a reading fee tomorrow. Downright scary, if you ask me.)

So how do you know if you’re sending your precious manuscript to a top agent (who will, of course, adore it and sell its socks off), or to a bottom-feeding pseudo-agent that sucks the life out of you (and the money out of your pocket)? After spending the last nine months hunting for a top agent (and landing one), I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade that I’m happy to share.

Click here for the rest.

Get started with a critique group

Fall is a great time to join a critique group. If you are looking for a critique group please email Lois Brandt, your critique group coordinator. Tell her your location (in Seattle specify neighborhood) and genre.

From Lois:

Why join a critique group? I am so glad you asked. Here's the quote I read at Tuesday night's SCBWI meeting:

"But even if you become the master editor, you will still need a support group of astute readers to expose your work to fresh perspectives. This is a point I will raise many times throughout this book, so it is best if you can round them up now. These readers may or may not be in line with your own sensibility -- it is good to have both -- but they should be supportive of you, honest, critical, but always encouraging. Even the most proficient writers cannot catch all of their own mistakes, and even if they could, they would still be lacking the impartial reaction. Outside readers can see things you cannot. If you change one word due to their read, it's worth it." -- Noah Lukeman, THE FIRST FIVE PAGES

Secrets and Surprises at Southcenter

There's an extravaganza of middle grade excellence coming up soon at Southcenter. Here are the details:

6 p.m., Saturday, September 19, Southcenter Barnes & Noble in Tukwila
Talk books, play a game, and maybe win prizes — including one of two audio books from Trudi Trueit’s SECRETS OF A LAB RAT series! Meet and talk with three authors of middle-grade books: Trudi Trueit, Thatcher Heldring, and Joni Sensel. They’ll share a few secrets about themselves, their work, and entertaining young readers. Whether you take home a prize or not, you can’t lose!

PNBA Nighcapper Party recap

Julie Reinhardt has a recap of the PNBA Nightcapper party on her blog (she sold 100 books! Wow!).

Bonny Becker and Doug Keith were there, too. Sounds like this is a good event to consider for people trying to get word of their work to booksellers.

Read the post here.

Good news for Nina Seven and Maribeth Stephens

Nina Seven writes:

I have something to crow about! My first illustrated picture book, Theodore the Tree, will be released on Oct. 1 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. It was written by another SCBWI Western WA member, Maribeth Stephens. She's written a couple of other books, but this is her first children's book, too. We are both so excited to be a part of SCBWI and, of course, for our book to come out!

The publisher is Big Think Media.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Illustration Classes with Craig Orback

Illustrator Craig Orback have two new illustration classes starting next month at Bellevue
College. Please follow the links below if you would like to register.

Also he has started a new illustration blog at It will have all the latest info on his current illustration projects with lots of great inside details, photos and sketches. You can register on his blog to be a follower. Also there you can follow the links to up coming classes he will be teaching.

Children's Book Illustration
Discover basic illustration techniques as well as a variety of media
commonly used in illustration. This class is a combination of the history
of children's book illustration and the hands on practice of illustration.
Through various assignments to be worked on in class and finished at home
you will learn how to complete illustrations for young readers. This
introductory course is a great way to learn new techniques and find out
more about the business side of illustration, as well as what it takes to
get your work seen by the right people

Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 8 Sessions, 10/03/09-11/21/09,
1-3:30pm, $145 Call (425) 564-2263,

Childrens Book Illustration II
Explore further your passion for Children's Book Illustration in this
intermediate class. You will learn step by step how to create a children's
picture book dummy from initial story board to a finished dummy ready to
mail to publishers. Create sketches for your story as well as a couple of
finished illustrations in color. This is the perfect course if you a
friend or relative have a story that you have always longed to illustrate
and potentially publish. Creating your own take on a popular story or
folktale is fine if you do not have an original story.

Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 8 Sessions, 10/03/09-11/21/09,
9:30am-12:30pm. $179 Call (425) 564-2263,

Please visit my illustration website at

Ongoing monthly writing contest

Call for Contest Submissions: Enter your unpublished short work (under
1,000) for a chance to win $50 and a notch in your publishing belt. The
Student Choice Contest of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (also
known as the Whidbey Writers Workshop) is open to writers of all ages and
genres. The contest begins the first day of every month and ends as soon as
that month¹s judge receives an entry that knocks her or his socks off. For
contest rules, visit:

Get ready for October with social media guru Greg Pincus

You can start getting to know our October guest speaker before his airplane even lands at SeaTac... he's definitely not hard to find online! Here are a few places to look:

In September, Greg will be offering a series of FREE webcasts with Mark Blevis that will give book publishers, publicists, authors, illustrators and enthusiasts social media savvy for outreach and promotion. If you can't wait for him to come to Seattle or just want to get a head start on the topic, check them out here.

He also co-hosts the weekly kidlitchats on Twitter (Tues 9pm EST), which you can read more about here. Transcripts of past kidlitchats can be found here.

Greg is a smart, funny, and all-around nice guy, and we can't wait to welcome him to the Pacific Northwest and introduce you in person!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Suzanne Selfors mini-tour for COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL

A message from Author Suzanne Selfors:

Just wanted SCWBI members to know about my upcoming mini-tour for COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL.

Here are the dates/times. I would love to meet up with members before or after to
talk shop. Email me at
mail @

Sept. 13, 7pm Hot Shot Java, Poulsbo WA
Sept. 25, 7pm Barnes & Noble Clackamas, Portland, OR
Oct. 3, 7pm Langley Library, Langley WA
Oct. 8, 7pm Garfield Book Co, Tacoma WA
Oct. 10, 10am Eagle Creek Winery, Leavenworth WA
Oct. 10, 1pm A Book For All Seasons, Leavenworth WA
Nov. 10, 5:30 Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park WA
Nov. 14, 3pm Marysville Library, Marysville WA
Nov. 22-24 NCTE Conference, Philadelphia
Mukilteo and Granite Falls libraries TBA, Check my website.

Upcoming event: Frank Portman at Secret Garden Books

What: Frank Portman Speaks about his upcoming book, ANDROMEDA KLEIN
Where: Secret Garden Books, Ballard
When: Sept. 14, 2009 7:00pm - 9:00pm

From The Secret Garden's website:

We are thrilled to announce the event for this, the second book from our YA hero, Frank Portman (AKA Doctor Frank of punk band the Mr. T. Experience).
We here at the Garden were the first nationally to blurb Frank's debut, King Dork before it hit in hardcover, way back in oh six. We threw him a swanky event at Cafe Verite then, in which the house was rocked by Frank's acoustic set with words and music custom made for the phenomenon that was King Dork, which went on to much universal acclaim everywhere, as we're sure you're aware.

We (and the rest of his legions of fans) have been waiting for this day for a long time. It is finally here. There will be live music. You mustn't miss it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Even as we surf and type, the BBAW folks have been hard at work gathering the best blogs for our voting pleasure - including the kidlitosphere!

Besides the category of Best Kidlit Blog and Best YA Blog, a number of kidlitosphere blogs are up for awards in other categories, including GuysLitWire, Nathan Bransford, Beth Kephart Books, and more.

Voting closes Saturday September 12 at 11:59 PM EST. See you there!

Richard Jesse Watson presenting in Spokane this weekend

Here's a great reason for a road trip.

Local author/illustrator Richard Jesse Watson presents this Saturday, September 12, at the Washington and Idaho SCBWI Regional Conference.

You can learn more about him at his blog, his website, and through the books he's created.

Other presenters include Lisa Yoskowitz, Editor at Dutton Children's Books; Terry Trueman, young adult novelist; and Judy Gregerson, middle grade novelist.

Beginnings, middles, endings: This conference offers open critique sessions to those who did not send manuscripts in advance. Illustrators will also have the opportunity to work on character sketches with Richard's guidance. If anyone is interested in heading over to Spokane for the weekend, last-minute registration is available at the door on Saturday morning. For conference details: visit their website, or contact Deby Fredericks at (509) 482-5288.

Good beginnings: two agents discuss

Chris Richman and Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary have started a series of podcasts on the craft of writing. This is what they have to say about books with strong beginnings.

Authors: an invitation to hold your horses

Editorial Anonymous gives us a nice reminder not to get too YESYESYES when an editor makes an offer.

You can, you know, ASK FOR MORE MONEY.

Read the post.

Are libraries (and books) endangered species?

Here's an interesting speech about how one headmaster wants to evolve a school library. He talks a bit about books and their history, imagining here we're still in 1439, when manuscripts were copied by hand:

I want to tell you about this wonderful scriptorium that we have at Cushing Academy in 1439. We have scribes working full time to illuminate and copy the central texts of western civilization, especially Aristotle. We now have a remarkable library collection of 200 manuscripts, of which we are justly boastful. Now, I just learned some guy named Gutenberg claims to have perfected a method of movable type, which he thinks is the next big thing. I’m skeptical. I don’t see how this is ever going to replace the beautiful illuminated scripts that we have. So much of value will be lost if we move to these ugly, nondescript, black and white, uniform looking things called printed books. It surely will never compete with the aesthetic value of illuminated vellum. Compared to the human, personal expression of handwritten texts, where’s the individualization in printed copies? Also, these books are not going to be safe for society, because we won’t be able to control information from getting into the hands of troublemakers and even well-intentioned people who can’t handle it responsibly.

Read the rest...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jolie's tweets from last night's meeting

The good news is, Jolie tweeted last night's meeting with Elana Roth, marking all her posts with the #Chinook hash tag.

The bad news is, that is also the hash tag that people use when discussing a certain type of military helicopter. Still, to get a quick recap of Elana's points about plot (and some German dude's link to a Chinook cargo copter image), read the tweets here.

Would you hand your iPhone to your kid?

You just might. And we need to start thinking about how we'll write for apps.

Publishers Weekly has a bit on ScrollMotion, an iPhone book app-developer "which will launch a new kids' e-book reader app this fall that will bring enhanced picture books from major publishers to the iPhone."

Read all about it.

Thoughts on point of view

Figuring out which point of view to use for your story? Sterling Editing has a nice piece on strengths and weaknesses of a first-person POV.

Many first-time writers choose first person to tell their story because it looks easy and natural. However, it’s not always the best choice.

A first person narrative can only tell the reader what the narrator knows. It limits the amount and type of information we as writers can deliver.

This natural limitation makes first person very useful for some kinds of fiction such as puzzle stories (e.g. police procedurals), experiential discovery fiction (young adult novels, romance, coming out tales), and stories dependent upon sudden reversals (tales of sociopathy, madness, and the supernatural). It’s a real obstacle to the kind of fiction–sweeping historical epics, say, or aftermath stories (e.g. what happens in a small town after a big accident)–which relies on a light touch with a large cast.

Read the rest...

The editorial equivalent of a propeller beanie

The blog Editorrent has a post today about moves that mark you as an amateur. Here's an excerpt:
Bling punctuation (see other posts on this) is a good example of this, and one we've blogged about in the past. Look on the sidebar for a link to posts about ellipses if you need a refresher. The bottom line? Strong conflicts don't need gimmicks and bling. They're strong enough without them. (And if they're not strong enough without them, you might want to look at strengthening them instead of adding a chain of exclamation marks.)

Other things that can make me doubt your readiness--
-- loads of present participial phrases
-- misplaced modifiers
-- dangling modifiers
-- errors in usage
-- too much exposition or "set-up"
-- comparing your work to Hemingway's*
-- telling me you're agented when you're not**
-- selling yourself short***
-- lack of respect for the genre****
-- lots of grammar or punctuation errors*****
-- query letters that read like bad ad campaigns******
To read the rest and see what all those footnotes mean, click here.

Richard Peck fans: check out his Horn Book interview

Notes from the Horn Book offers this five-question interview with the great Richard Peck. Here's a tease:

Season of Gifts is Richard Peck’s third novel about Grandma Dowdel; she appeared first in A Long Way from Chicago, a Newbery Honor Book in 1999, and again in A Year Down Yonder, which won the 2001 Newbery Medal. Peck’s numerous other honors include the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, and the National Humanities Medal. Raised in downstate Illinois but a longtime resident of Manhattan, Peck, an inveterate traveler, was packing for the Riviera when I caught up with him on a recent Monday morning.

1. Grandma Dowdel is only the most recent of your great ladies. Who was your great lady?
Grandma Dowdel is my humble homage to all my long-vanished great-aunts: Midwestern farmwomen in Lane Bryant dresses who ruled the universe from black-iron stoves in kitchens hot enough to steam the calendars off the walls. They left the small boy I was in no doubt about who ruled. And now I want to bring them back in the looming person of Grandma Dowdel for a young generation who may barely know one adult from another.

Read the rest...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Janet Lee Carey: Party in Seattle!

If you are in the Seattle area this weekend (and you should be, after all of that hardcore resting from your labors!), then why not come out to celebrate the release of Janet Lee Carey's latest YA fantasy novel, STEALING DEATH at Parkplace Books in Kirkland:

It's this Saturday at 6:30 pm. Even better: Janet supports PlayPump, Water for Thirsty Villages, with some of the proceeds from her novel. Hooray, Janet!

Launch day for STEALING DEATH by Janet Lee Carey

Today is launch day for our own Janet Lee Carey, the wonderful author of WENNY HAS WINGS, THE BEAST OF NOOR, and DRAGON'S KEEP.

I find myself saying this about every new book Janet writes, but this one is her best. STEALING DEATH tells the story of a boy named Kipp who must capture the bag Death uses to transport souls in order to save someone he loves. It's a great premise, to be sure. Even better, though, is the world-building and writing. Totally dazzling. (Read on for a chance to win an ARC of the book.)

Also worth noting: Janet is part of the launch of Egmont USA, a new publisher that's been getting a lot of attention. And, she's trying to raise $14,000 to provide clean water for children in Africa. In honor of her launch, the Chinook Update interviewed her:

Your new book, STEALING DEATH, got a starred review from School Library Journal. What did they say and how did it feel?
The review ended with ~ Carey’s wonderful language weaves family, love, wise teachers, and petty villains together in a vast landscape . . . Verdict: This is quite simply fantasy at its best–original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving. ~ The complete review is here; scroll down to Carey.

How do I describe the rush of reading that? It came at a good time. I’d been dutifully journaling about how to graciously accept negative reviews (part of any book launch prep) so this starred review sent me skyrocketing! Excitement quickly shifted to gratitude. A starred review means schools, libraries, and bookstores are more likely to scoot their books over a few inches to allow a new book on the shelves. That means potential readers will have the chance to see STEALING DEATH, snatch it up, and flip through the pages. What could be better than that?

What was it like to work with Egmont? It’s a brand-new U.S. publisher—how did you get hooked up with them?
My agent, Irene Kraas, hooked me up with Regina Griffin at Egmont USA. Irene had worked with Regina before and thought she’d like STEALING DEATH. I’d completed roughly100 pages when Egmont USA bought the book. I soon learned I had to write another 230 pages in two months if I was going to be a part of their fall 2009 launch. Yikes! I really wanted STEALING DEATH in launch, so I went for it. I’d been thinking about writing STEALING DEATH for sixteen years. Suddenly it was time to fill the pages lickety-split!

The USA d├ębut feels like a bit of sunshine during this recession. I feel so lucky to be a part of the Egmont USA fall launch. (See more about Egmont USA here.)

Your launch event includes a charitable element. What’s driving that? Is that a new thing for you?
I usually find a way to give back with each new book. STEALING DEATH is set in a drought-ridden landscape. Doing research for the book I learned more than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water and that water-related diseases take the lives of 6,000 people per day, so the give back clearly had to serve communities in need of clean water.

I was thrilled to find PlayPumps International! The nonprofit organization provides a simple, sustainable solution to the water problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Children play on a merry-go-round that pumps clean water from an underground source with every spin.

My goal is to raise $14,000.00 this school year. That’s enough for a new PlayPump. I’ll be getting the word out at schools and other author events. The tax deductible giving page on the PlayPumps website is the STEALING DEATH Water for Life challenge.

I’m lucky to live in the northwest where so many prominent authors give back. Most of us discover startling facts in our research and know we have to respond in some way. Readergirlz founding divas Justina Chen, Lori Ann Grover, and Dia Calhoun, and I were all used to linking writing and charitable work so our coming together to create readergirlz was kismet. Since the year I served divas Holly Cupala, Mitali Perkins, and Melissa Walker have added their talents to the readergirlz phenomenon. So have Sara Easterly, Martha Brockenbrough, Liz Gallagher, Beth Kephart. There are too many to name here (sigh) but people can check out the whole team including the postergirlz, readergirlz salon, and street team on this readergirlz page.

I’m happy to announce readergirlz will host an online book launch party for STEALING DEATH. Swing by to join the live chat and party with us Wednesday September 30th, beginning at 6pm Pacific Time/ 9pm Eastern. We’d love to have SCBWI people join us.

And how can your fans track where you are, both online and in the real world?
I strive to leave few footprints, but trackers might catch me in the forest, by a lake, at the local library, or at my local bookstores like Parkplace Books or Half Price Books. I MUST stop buying books. The shelves are bulging!

You might catch me web walking through website or at Lit Art Photography or tweeting on twitter. To capture a Janet bring a smooth hot cup of black tea and milk chocolate with almonds – the most irresistible trap known to humankind.

Want to win my (slightly dog-eared) ARC of this book? All you have to do is post a note about it on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter account. Let me know at and I will choose the winner out of a hat.

Word-of-mouth marketing

Darcy Pattison had such a great post on word-of-mouth marketing that I'm reprinting a good chunk of it below. Do check out her blog, FictionNotes, for the whole thing (and a lot more excellent stuff about writing and revising).

But first, a bit of my own soapbox. Word-of-mouth marketing is something we can--and should--do for each other. Go to our colleagues' signings. Read their books. Talk about them with other people. This is not only a great way to further your education in the craft and current market, it will also introduce you to people who will do the same for you when your day comes.

The brilliant editor-turned-agent Michael Stearns mentioned at the SCBWI-LA conference in '08 that a picture book could hit the bottom of NYT bestseller list by selling a few hundred copies in a week. In other words, our chapter could put members on the bestseller list if we all bought copies in the same week from reporting stores. (Secret Garden Books in Ballard is working on becoming one; Elliott Bay is--do people know others?)

Think about this for a moment. We are a large and powerful chapter--one of the largest in the world. We can make each other bestsellers. That's sort of exciting to think about, and even more exciting to bring about. It's not the only measure of success, but I don't think there's anyone who'd sneeze at it, either.

Without further ado, Darcy's post:

A great source of information about kids and reading is the Consider this Scholastic study, the 2008 Kids and Family Reading Study (Download the entire pdf or watch a video clip. )

Word of Mouth: Talk to kids!
The Scholastic study on Kids and Reading says:
  • Kids overwhelmingly (89%) say “My favorite books are the ones I picked out myself.”
  • Sixty-eight percent of kids say they love or like reading books for fun a lot (72% of girls/ 63% of boys).
  • Half of all kids say there aren’t enough really good books for boys/girls their age.
What? Not enough really good books? Surely that’s partly because no one has told them about a special book – and you’re just the one to do that.

Word of Mouth: Talk to parents!
The Scholastic study also says that, “Parents are a key source of book suggestions for their children, but nearly half of all parents say they have a hard time finding information about books their child would enjoy reading, and especially parents of teens age 15-17 (62%).”
Wow! What an opportunity!

Word of Mouth: Talk to booksellers, librarians, teachers, or other professionals!
It’s called industry buzz. The more professionals talk about a book, the more it gets talked about and has a chance to break out into the general public.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Class: Navigating the Maze of Writing for Children

Deb Lund is teaching a great class on Whidbey Island for all you natives and intrepid sorts who'd like to carpool over.

Puzzle Pieces: Navigating the Maze of Writing for Children
Monday evenings, 6:30-9:00
September 28-November 30
Site: Jim Davis House, Greenbank Farm
Fee: $180 for Whidbey Island Writers Association members, $200 for nonmembers
Contact or 360-331-6714

In this informal workshop for writers of all levels, established children’s author Deb Lund guides you through the unwritten rules and puzzle pieces of writing and publishing for children. You’ll unmask the stories you tell yourself that interfere with your goals and learn to give yourself permission to play. Come dabble with exercises that will generate ideas, weave in layers, and piece together manuscripts. Don’t look for lectures and assignments – this is a hands-on dialog and writing play date with group feedback. Transforming the maze into the amazing can be messy. Wear play clothes!

Deb Lund is the author of MONSTERS ON MACHINES and Harcourt’s celebrated dinoseries. Deb has taught writing (and how to teach it) for over twenty years. She is a frequent presenter at conferences, workshops, libraries, and schools. She supports writers, students, and teachers through her presentations, continuing education courses, online blogs and other resources. More picture books, an upper middle grade novel, and a book on teaching writing are Deb’s current projects. Learn more about Deb at her website.

Book recommendation: WRITING PICTURE BOOKS

Lois V. Harris, author of MARY CASSATT: IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER and the forthcoming CHARLIE RUSSELL: TALE-TELLING COWBOY ARTIST, has a book recommendation for us:

At the SCBWI Conference in L.A., I bought Ann Whitford Paul’s new book, WRITING PICTURE BOOKS, published by Writer’s Digest Books in 2009.

The book is a hands-on guide from story creation to publication. I just finished reading it and recommend it not only to picture book writers but to all writers of children’s literature. At the end of every chapter, Ann includes activities to make sure you understand what she covered. In easy to understand language, she provides helpful tips and advice. Some of the material is from her conference talks. The book is a GEM.

Good news for Karen Hamilton

Here's the power of persistence in action. Karen Hamilton has some good news to announce:

I’ve been a member of SCBWI for several years and I’m thrilled to announce that I just sold my debut novel! Here’s the Publisher's Marketplace blurb:

Kiki Hamilton's THE FAERIE RING, an urban fantasy set in Victorian London, in which a streetwise pickpocket steals a ring from Buckingham Palace, then has to try to return it in order to keep a peace treaty between the British and Faerie courts, to Susan Chang at Tor, in a nice deal, by Kate Schafer Testerman at kt literary (World English).

I belong to SCBWI as Karen Hamilton, but I’m publishing under Kiki Hamilton.

Promotional opportunity: KidLitCon

This one's in the other Washington, but if you find yourself on the East Coast in mid October, it might be a good promotional opportunity for your new book. From MotherReader:

Well, if you’re an author living on the East Coast, you should be signing up for the KidLitosphere Conference on October 17th in Washington, DC. With the $100 registration fee, you’ll spend the day on Saturday learning how to improve your blog — or start a blog — in ways that can help your book. You’ll bring along a few copies to show off at the Meet the Author session, where you’ll tell a bunch of Kidlit/YA book bloggers about your latest title. You’ll spend the dinner (paid for with the registration) socializing with these book bloggers and other authors. Some may call it networking. Perhaps on Sunday you can go arrange a book signing, particularly if you contact the organizer, who is looking for some committed authors to do such a thing. And maybe with a signing, your publisher might pay for some or all of your expenses.

Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

The author/illustrator team of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES will be here next week. Quoting Jaime Temairik's blog:

Lake Forest Park is the first stop on Monday, the 14th:

September 14th, at 7:00 pm

Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Seattle, WA 98155

And rocking in Redmond on Tuesday, the 15th:

September 15th, at 7:00 pm

BORDERS (Redmond Town Center)
16549 NE 74th St.
Redmond, WA 98052

How cool to have BOTH the author and illustrator on tour together!

Remember, Holly was just at the SCBWI LA Conference, see all the Holly related posts here. Tony's website has lots of wonderful hidden bits and bobs if you haven't checked it out recently.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Upcoming Event: The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook

WHAT: Dilara & Imran Hafiz discuss their book: THE AMERICAN MUSLIM TEENAGER'S HANDBOOK
WHERE: Village Books in Bellingham
WHEN: Sept. 13, 2009 at 4:00pm

From Village Books' Website:

Curious about Islam but not sure what or who to ask? Whether you’re a Muslim or non-Muslim, teenager or not, you’re sure to find plenty in this light-hearted, informative book which answers questions like “is pizza Muslim food?” and “what is prayer to Muslims?” Accessible and provocative, educational and entertaining, this book explores essentials of Islamic beliefs, and includes lively commentary from American Muslim teenagers who address issues facing teens of faith in modern America.

Co-authors—and mother and son—Dilara and Imran Hafiz, have recently moved with their family to Bellingham, and Village Books is pleased to welcome them to town with this event.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Invitation from Janet Lee Carey

Fellow writers and illustrators of SCBWI
please join me in celebrating my new fantasy STEALING DEATH.

Parkplace Books
348 Parkplace center
Kirkland, WA 98033

Saturday, September 12, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Parkplace books: 425-828-6546

Northwest writers and illustrators really know how to party!
~Live marimba band YAMBA 6:30-7pm
~Beautiful dance performance 7pm
~Inside Story on STEALING DEATH 7:10-7:30
~Enjoy festive food and drinks
~Chat with your favorite book buddies
~View PlayPumps video & join us as we donate to build a PlayPump for a thirsty village!

Come in costumes if you please or wear your favorite jeans and tees.

What they're saying about Stealing Death . . .
"This is quite simply fantasy at its best-original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply
moving" School Library Journal *starred review

Don't miss this Party!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Richard Hugo House presents Writing Class for Teachers

From The Richard Hugo House in Seattle:

Dear Teachers and other workshop participants,

We're kicking off the new school year with a two-hour presentation by Waverly Fitzgerald on learning craft moves from text models. Hope you'll join us. Remember, these classes are always free and everyone is welcome. (Please be sure to rsvp.)

Also, please note: these classes have moved from Tuesdays to Wednesdays.

WHAT: A free writing class for teachers (geared toward all levels). This is a chance to work on your own writing.
DATE: Wednesday, Sept. 23
TIME: 5-7pm
LOCATION: Richard Hugo House
1634 11th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122

DETAILS: Sound, Sentence and Form: Borrowing Moves from the Masters

In this workshop, we'll explore ways you can borrow moves from master writers and apply them to your own writing. During our two hours together, we'll undertake four writing exercises designed to help you explore qualities of language (rhythm, sound, sentence structure) and consider possible forms (story shape and genre). If you have a piece or poem you've been pondering, this is a great opportunity to put it through its paces. You can also bring a master work by a favorite author with you; Examples will be provided if you prefer. Each participant will leave with new writing and story ideas plus four exercises you can use on your own or with your students.

BIO: Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer and teacher, editor and writing coach. She is currently teaching the Master Class in Prose at Richard Hugo House and will teach her popular Non-Fiction Book Proposal class for Field's End in winter. She has written eight novels (four published) and a non-fiction book, "Slow Time." In 2009, she was a resident at Hedgebrook and a Jack Straw Fellow while working on a new book of nature essays.

Order tickets now to hear Lemony Snicket

Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, will be speaking as a part of the Seattle Arts and Lecture Series on March 15, 2009 in Seattle. Order tickets now, before they sell out.