Monday, November 30, 2009

Bridget Zinn auction open

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

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

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

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

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

More wisdom from Gail Carson Levine

I just love her blog. Check out the latest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest.

Alice Pope seeks queries from novelists

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let the holiday shopping begin!

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

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

Holiday cards and prints by Jaime Temairik

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Studio tours: Kjersten Anna Hayes

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

Like telling yarns?

A new online publication for YA lit enthusiasts seeks submissions:

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

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

Studio tours: Kate Higgins

Here's the lovely Hansville studio of Kate Higgins:

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

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

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Studio tours: Christina Wilsdon

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

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

More of Christina online:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More on narrative arcs

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

Narrative Arc in 32 pages, 98 words

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

Read the rest

Does your character have good flaws?

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

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

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

Read the rest.

Studio tours: Elizabeth Blake

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

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

Check out Elizabeth's beautiful art here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nonfiction Mondays

Nonfiction writers, forgive my lateness to this party. I didn't know about these swell nonfiction Monday roundups, called "a celebration of nonfiction children's books."

Yesterday's was at School Library Journal; to find out when they're happening going forward, click the Nonfiction Monday link.

What makes a good kids' book

Michael Stearns at Upstart Crow has shared Little, Brown's list of what makes an excellent children's book:

If you work in publishing in any capacity whatsoever, then you likely have a deep affection for Little, Brown. And not just because they are riding so high these days. Sure, they the publishers of a kind-of-sort-of-somewhat-successful series you may have heard of, but they also have one of the sharpest, most insistently singular lists around. Not just the thrill-a-minute money machines of James Patterson, but also cheerily commercial fare such as Vampirates, literary bestsellers that smart kids love such as The Mysterious Benedict Society, compelling and complex teen fiction about dark stuff in life such as The Hate List and North of Beautiful [CHINOOK UPDATE: WOOT WOOT, JUSTINA!], and more more more. It’s just a great house with great books, and the people who edit there are pretty fabulous, too.

But this isn’t a love letter to Little, Brown—honest, it’s not. (My love is much too fickle and unpleasant to be captured in a mere blog post.) Instead, it’s a reproduction of a useful handout their editors distribute at conferences and which every writer should tack to his or her wall.The list of eminent attributes below may not all be required of a good book, but I’d wager most are true of the best books. How do these strike all of you? As things that need not be said? As constraints? Or as the distilled wisdom of the soldiers in the trenches of children’s books publishing?

Read the whole list.

Studio tours: Dana Arnim

Here's where fabulous illustrator Dana Arnim works:

In my office/studio, I have an art space and a computer space. My art space is under the one basement window, but I'm surrounded by books, photos, my tools, a heater, the cat bed, and my music player, so it's a great place to work. My computer area is surrounded by clipboards with work in progress on them, computer manuals, my calendar, scanner, copiers, and my trés old-fashioned phone - not quite rotary, but just a step up. I love my mac! ( Also notice the tiny legs of my bendable model girl sitting on the shelf--she's a covert operations specialist!) In the corners you can't see are shelves & cupboards of art & office supplies -mwah ha ha!

Readergirlz in the Seattle Times

Justina Chen, Lorie Ann Grover and Dia Calhoun are in the newspaper (along with a mention of Holly Cupala).

From the Times:

Washington state authors didn't win any prizes for their books last Wednesday at the über-prestigious National Book Awards ceremony. But reps from a Seattle-based nonprofit attended the glam New York City event to pick up one of five "Innovations in Reading" prizes for their online book community readergirlz.

Check it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Studio tours: John Nez

John has kindly annotated this image of his super-cool work space:

I do most of my drawing on the left side.... and most of the rest on the right side.

Learn more about John Nez at his site!

Good cause alert

Here's a Facebook support group for Bridget Zinn, who got cancer and a book deal in the same month. The book just sold and she's doing well with cancer treatments, many of which are not covered by insurance. There's going to be another auction. To learn more, go to the Facebook page.

And, Adam Rex is growing a mustache to raise money for kids. Please help make it go away with a donation.

Does your title matter?

Editorial Anonymous had good advice on the topic:

I'm wondering if it's important to have a super great title for my manuscript when I submit it to the slush pile. Should I spend a great deal of time and energy to get it just right, or do the majority of titles get changed along the
way anyway?

Great title:
Ooo, that's catchy. Maybe the editor will take a little peek right now, instead of days or weeks from now.

OK title:
Manuscript gets in line. No special treatment.

Bad/cliched title:
Without realizing it, the editor keeps sifting manuscript to the bottom of the pile. Months go by. Eventually, editor reads it and maybe realizes it's great! It just needs a new title. No problem.

Horrifying title:
No answer because the editor didn't want to touch the manuscript long enough to reject it.

Read the rest.

(Shameless plug: On May 11, 2010, our Professional Series Meeting mini session is: HELP! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS! — HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT TITLE with Lenae Nofzinger.)

Great lineup at the WWU Children's Literature Conference

Speakers for the 2010 conference are:

Marla Frazee - Caldecott honor illustrator for A COUPLE OF BOYS HAVE THE BEST WEEK EVER, and her editor Allyn Johnston (Marla and Allyn's sons are the boys featured in A COUPLE OF BOYS ...);

John Green - YA author and Printz winner for LOOKING FOR ALASKA;

Gerald McDermott - author/illustrator/reteller and Caldecott medalist for ARROW TO THE SUN; and

Linda Sue Park - Newbery Medal recipient for A SINGLE SHARD.

More info: 2010 WWU Children's Literature Conference

Are you a winner?

Play book rejection bingo to find out!

This comes from the blog Brutal Women, which is as blunt and opinionated as its title sounds. Thanks to Joni Sensel for the link.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Studio tours: Craig Orback

Illustrator Craig Orback has a brand-new setup in Bellingham. Extra points go to people who recognize who did the Bob Marley cover on Craig's shelf.

He writes:

My studio is a new space in our house up in Bellingham. Not the best afternoon light, but it has a fake wood burning stove at my feet. Need I say more! Love working at home as well. Also love my new flat file cabinet for papers within arms length!"

See more of Craig's work at his illustration website.

You won't be-leaf this

This set of illustrations on the New York Times blog leaves me in hysterics.

Thanks to Liz Mills for the procrastination link.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Studio tours: Jaime Temairik

Ooh! Jaime's workspace, in video format. Enjoy!

See more of Jaime at her Cocoastomp blog and on Bound, her MSN Entertainment book blog.

A room of one's own

This is probably most appropriate for writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, but who knows? It might be just the work space you need at the Seattle Public Library:

The Eulalie and Carlo Scandiuzzi Writers' Room, located on Spiral 9 of the Central Library, is a program of the Washington Center for the Book. It has been established to encourage writers to make use of the collections in The Seattle Public Library and to give them a convenient place to work. Unfortunately it is not possible to offer space in the Writers' Room to all patrons, but the Center will extend the pleasure and privilege of working in the Writers' Room, on a rotating basis, to as many writers as possible.

Admission to the Writers' Room is for a period of six months, with the option of an additional six months if there is no waiting list. Admission is limited to:

  • Writers currently under book contract to a publishing company; or
  • Writers who can demonstrate a serious commitment to using the Library's collections in the writing of an article, a thesis, or another creative work.

The Writers' Room is available for use whenever the Central Library is open. Desks are available but are not assigned and should be cleared at the end of the day. Locker space may be requested. Writers may bring their own computers, store them in lockers or remove them at the end of the day.

Learn more and download the application here.

Where's your spine?

Linda Urban has some really interesting advice on her blog:

This summer I taught a revision workshop at The Pacific Northwest Children's Book Conference. I covered all the nuts and bolts stuff, but I began the workshop by asking each participant to consider her spine.

Not her backbone (except maybe metaphorically), her spine -- the thing which centers her as a writer. That which holds her up. Her "Big Why" for doing what she does.

See, conferences -- even nurturing conferences like this one -- can bring out the competitor in us. We can hear about this person's new agent or that person's three book deal or someone else's brilliant premise for a chapter book series and we can lose sight of who we are, what we want, what really motivates us to write the books that only we can write.

And so I asked people to consider that question -- what is your Big Why? What is it you really intend as a writer?

That's the place to start in revision.

And it is the place to return to over and over and over again, when you find yourself lost in market news or at conferences or even in your own manuscript.

What do you intend for yourself as a writer?

Now that you've read that, you can read a couple of excellent follow-up posts here and here, (the latter being a chat with Sara Lewis Holmes, author of OPERATION YES.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Studio tours: Jennifer K. Mann

Here's a panoramic view of Jennifer K. Mann's studio (click the image to enlarge it).

I work in a converted space at the back of my long, skinny garage. It's really pretty cozy. When I am sitting at my laptop, I look out through a nice glass door to my lovely northwest-y back yard (opposite the orange door which leads to the garage, aka storage unit). When I am drawing or painting, I sit under the desk lamps, where my fat cat likes to sit too. (sorry, no picture of Franny today) My studio space is about 12 x 15, has some daylight, some track lighting, some concrete, some drywall, some spiderwebs, and I use it for writing, illustrating, printmaking, painting, and whatever else I might be doing that involves making a mess.

And here's my favorite part: her dog.

My dog Dayo likes to hang out here with me while I work. He snores under the computer table when he is not asking to be allowed outside to bark at the wind or play ball.

See more on Jennifer Mann's blog.

Happy Friday: here's some Neil Gaiman for you

I'd call this a YA picture e-book--what about you?

Update: We're all invited to PNWA holiday party

PNWA has extended an invitation to any SCBWI members who’d like to attend the PNWA holiday party on Dec. 5 in Bellevue. The more, the merrier! It’ll be held at the historic Bellevue Winters House, 2102 Bellevue Way SE , Bellevue, WA 98004. Drop in any time between 6 and 9 p.m. for holiday cheer, authors galore, and networking with another great organization for Northwest writers.

And for published authors:

Pam Binder is looking for regional published authors to attend the PNWA members’ holiday party, where you can informally sign and sell your books, which will be supplied by Barnes & Noble.

The event will be in Bellevue on December 5, from 6 – 9 p.m. and will include chatting, eating, and drinking, of course, as well as the informal signing and sales.

Contact Pam ASAP at if you’d like to participate so they can add you to the list and place an order for your books. At least a few SCBWI members will be there — let’s have a strong showing of children’s authors at this event!

UPDATE: We're all invited to their holiday party!

Quote of the day: Thaisa Frank and Dorothy Wall

"Every writer has a natural voice, and every natural voice has its own way of telling a story. It has its own rhythm, pace, sense of detail, anecdote, and—if allowed to improvise—this natural voice can discover the story’s content and form. Natural voice is like a finger pointing at the moon, but it isn’t the moon itself. It takes time, patience, and work to refine this voice into a polished voice that can tell a story. But when your natural voice is allowed to lead the way, the result is a story with fire and spirit."

—Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall, Finding Your Writer’s Voice

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Goodies for sale?

Do you make and sell anything that our dear readers might be interested in purchasing for holiday gifts? If so, please tell us about it by e-mailing chinook AT! Include your name and a link to your home page, a brief description of the items available, as well as a link to where we may purchase your products. We'll post a roundup closer to the holidays!

Authors: sign books at the PNWA holiday party

Pam Binder is looking for regional published authors to attend the PNWA members’ holiday party, where you can informally sign and sell your books, which will be supplied by Barnes & Noble.

The event will be in Bellevue on December 5, from 6 – 9 p.m. and will include chatting, eating, and drinking, of course, as well as the informal signing and sales.

Contact Pam ASAP at if you’d like to participate so they can add you to the list and place an order for your books. At least a few SCBWI members will be there — let’s have a strong showing of children’s authors at this event!

UPDATE: We're all invited to their holiday party!

PNWA has extended an invitation to any SCBWI members who’d like to attend the PNWA holiday party on Dec. 5 in Bellevue. The more, the merrier! It’ll be held at the historic Bellevue Winters House, 2102 Bellevue Way SE , Bellevue, WA 98004. Drop in any time between 6 and 9 p.m. for holiday cheer, authors galore, and networking with another great organization for Northwest writers.

Becoming more resilient: 3 steps

Here's a bit from a blog called The Irrepressible Writer, by Carol Grannick:

I like things simple and clear. Years ago, I went to a workshop about giving workshops. One thing in particular stayed with me. The presenter believed that a ”lesson” should never have more than three main points.

I really liked that, maybe because it’s true, and maybe because my own brain likes and remembers three things easily…No coincidence that I love and write picture books?

So I have three things for you, as a guideline for becoming a more resilient writer. Often when we want to change something in our lives, we jump right in, expect near-perfection, and then find ourselves stuck.

When that happens, we turn on ourselves and think, “I just can’t do it.” We feel like we’ve failed.

I hope you won’t do that in your attempt to become a more resilient writer. I hope you’ll take your time and be patient with yourself and the process of learning.

Each of the three steps below are crucial, and they’re yours to take at your own pace, in your own way. Ask for help at any point on your journey from where you are now to where you want to be.

Read the rest.

Studio tours: Vijaya Bodach

Thanks to all of you who've sent photos of your work spaces along. I'll post one a day for the next few days and label each of them (the labels are the tiny text at the bottom; when you click on one of these, you can see other posts in the same category).

We'll start with Vijaya Bodach (love the kitty ears, Vijaya!):

I work best in my home office. Everything I need is within reach -- pens, pencils, notebooks, reference books, etc. The cats sit on the desk (though sometimes they insist on being on my lap) and the puppy is by my feet. Kids come in and out, but during the school hours, it's relatively quiet and I get both my teaching and writing done in this space. In the warmer months, I'm often outside in my backyard, but I'm not as productive, since I'm watching the birds and squirrels.

Thanks for sharing! See more of Vijaya here:

Support indie bookstores Nov. 21

This news release went out to indie bookstore fans on Facebook. Indie bookstores are really important for new and emerging authors; very often these stores have a wider selection than chains (and certainly than book discounters). These are the stores most likely to carry your books, and most likely to hand-sell them if they are beloved by staff.

I don't think there's any such thing as a bad bookseller, but if you can shop at one in your area, here are some additional benefits:


The Independent Booksellers Facebook cause is urging the citizens of Facebook to unchain themselves on November 21—to do any business they plan to do on that day only at local independent businesses. Facebook Unchained! is part of America Unchained, a national campaign of the American Business Alliance (AMIBA).

“We aim to reach every citizen to come together in support of (Community) through demonstrating that their personal spending decisions affect the whole community, both now and for the future,” said Rob, creator of the Facebook cause page.

“If every citizen does their planned business, shopping and dining out on that day with only locally-owned businesses this year, we can inject millions of dollars into our local economy. Of course, we hope that everyone will think about this not only on November 21, but every day—and particularly with holiday shopping upon us,” said Rob.

“We also want to encourage folks, while they’re taking part in Facebook Unchained, to make a point of thanking our local business owners for their contributions to the community, both in goods and services, but also to local charities and organizations. Small businesses give a greater percentage of their business income back to the community than their larger competitors. Local Business provides financial support for fire, police and emergency services. We support our schools and local non-profits. Our communities rely on our local businesses for so much more than just providing products or services,” stated Rob.

“Studies from small towns in Maine to sizeable cities like Austin, Texas found that local independent businesses create about three and a half times the local economic activity as chains do. A study released in 2004 looked at the local economic impact of 10 independent businesses and 10 chains in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago and found that the independents generate 70 percent more local economic impact per square foot than chain stores,” said American Independent Business Alliance director Jennifer Rockne. “Why? Because our independent businesses pay local employees, use the goods and services of other local independent businesses and give back to community institutions far more than chains.” said Rockne.

“Your home town stands to gain in every way by supporting our independent businesses. They provide us with essential goods and services, well-paying jobs, and continued opportunities for citizens to own their own business here. They are critical parts of the social, cultural and economic health of the place that you call home. Supporting them is good for us personally and our community.”

See the Facebook group

2009 Printz Award speech

This one's by Melina Marchetta, who won for JELLICOE ROAD. Confession (which will make sense when you watch the video): I did not make it past page 31 in this book, so maybe it's time to give it another try.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where do you work?

Every once in awhile, British newspapers (which write so much more in depth about books than the American ones) run photos of writers and artists and their offices.

Let's be British and do that here.

Send a photo of your workspace to chinook AT along with a few words about what makes the space work for you, and I will post them here.

Jolly good!

Four mistakes beginning writers make

Here's the top of a blog post that might help you refine your prose a bit:

As an editor, I know when I am reading someone's first novel. I have nicknames for the four give-away faults beginners make: (1) Walk and Chew Gum (2) Furry Dice (3) Tea, Vicar? (4) Styrofoam. I see at least one of these in every manuscript where the author has not mastered the craft of writing before submitting in his or her work. What are these four faults and, more importantly, how can you cure them?

(1) Walk and Chew Gum
The writer has not integrated action and dialogue, internal monologue and action, or internal monologue with dialogue. It is as if the characters can do only one thing at a time. An example:

"If you think you're going to town you'd better thing again," said Ralph.
He put down his can of beer.
"I'm not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy's party, and that's final!"
"Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!" JoBeth cried.
Then, hunting in her pockets for a tissue, she dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly.
"If I want to go, how can you stop me?" she demanded.
Ralph knew this would happen. She had always been independent, like her mother. He half-lurched to his feet.
"You little hussy!" he bellowed.
Running up the stairs, JoBeth turned at the landing.
"I am going, do you hear? I am."

Not integrating action and dialogue makes for jerky, lifeless prose. Combine, combine, toujours combine:

"If you think you're going to town you'd better think again," Ralph snapped, putting down his can of beer. She was too damn much like her mother. "I'm not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy's party, and that's final!"
"Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!" JoBeth hunted her pockets for a tissue, dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. "If I want to go, how can you stop me?"
Ralph half-lurched to his feet, bellowing, "You little hussy!" But JoBeth was already upstairs. "I am going, do you hear? I am."

This might not be award-winning prose, but it reflects the reality of the action and feelings better by having action, thought and dialogue knitted together.

(2) Furry Dice
Adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car's mirror. They don't do anything for the car's performance, they simply clutter the place. I once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as 'very' 'up' 'down' 'over' 'about' 'some' 'a little' 'a bit' 'somewhat' 'whole' 'just' and other modifiers. For instance:

She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, "Spread 'em out, and no funny business, you hear?" She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. "Okay, I'm convinced. You haven't got it."

This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you'll have to write to replace them:

She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, "Spread 'em, and no funny business, you hear?" She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. "Okay, I'm convinced. You don't have it."

Read the rest.

Nathan Bransford on the benefits of tv

Here's a stealth blog post: help wrapped in humor:

As longtime blog readers know, I have a bit of a reality TV habit. I still watch Survivor (I know), I was a habitual The Hills watcher before our messy breakup, and I would very much like to be friends with Phil Keoghan from the Amazing Race, who seems like the type of person who would tell great stories at a cocktail party and then somehow convince everyone to join a contest to eat the most pretzels.

You might mistake this for idle time! No no no. I wasn't frying my brain and/or wasting my time watching these shows. Not. At. All. I was learning precious writing techniques. I was studying. Learning!

Behold: The things I learned about writing while watching reality television...

Read on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bellingham Network Schmooze: Taking the dread out of the dreaded synopsis

Here's the scoop on the next Bellingham Network Schmooze:

TOPIC: Taking the dread out of the dreaded synopsis
WHEN: December 1, 2009 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
RSVP: to the schmooze host, Mattie Wheeler:
Directions: Mattie will respond to your RSVP with directions.

"Do you mean to tell me I must summarize my 50,000 word novel in 250 words? That's impossible!" No, it's not impossible, it's a synopsis. Please join us at our next Bellingham Network Schmooze as we endeavor to help each other take the dread out of the dreaded synopsis.

What's a Schmooze, you say? A Schmooze is a gathering of children's writers and illustrators designed to share knowledge, great news, and companionship. They are free activities offered by the SCBWI WWA Bellingham Network. A Schmooze is a great place to meet local authors and illustrators - people like you who share your interests and goals. At a Schmooze, you'll have the chance to network, make friends, and get connected. Occasionally guest speakers will be featured at a Schmooze, but usually they are meetings that are structured around discussions about various topics of interest to children's writers and illustrators. A Schmooze is not a fix-it, nor is it a forum for critique, though critique groups can grow out of a Schmooze.

For more information contact Bellingham Network Coordinator, Kjersten Anna Hayes at

Registration for The Great Critique is now closed

Wow, the response for The Great Critique 2010 was phenomenal! Because it is part of our SCBWI Western Washington regional programming, we launched it first to those who have already paid for the 2009-2010 season. Even with the additional Great Critique spots we added this year, the event was sold out within 36 hours. You can still add yourself to the waiting list just in case we have cancellations. If you're wondering what all the fuss was about:

Help your work evolve from good... to GREAT! SCBWI Western Washington will again present THE GREAT CRITIQUE during our first 2010 meeting on January 12, 2010. This popular event offers you valuable feedback from peers and published professionals, who this year will include: Peggy King Anderson, Donna Bergman, Molly Blaisdell, Vijaya Bodach, Jennifer Bradbury, Tom Brenner, Kevin Emerson, Kathryn Galbraith, Liz Gallagher, Meg Lippert, Ruth Maxwell, J. Elizabeth Mills, Craig Orback, David Patneaude, Karen Lee Schmidt, Trudi Trueit, Richard Jesse Watson, and Pam Withers.

As a participant, you will not only receive constructive comments on your work-in-process, you’ll also learn from the work and critiques of others. This is a terrific chance to become better acquainted with writer and/or illustrator peers.

You must pre-register using the link below to participate--NO OBSERVERS! Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and this event usually fills quickly, so please do not delay. Click here to view complete details and to register.

Darcy Pattison analyzes narrative arcs

This comes from her blog:

Very simple picture books still have a narrative arc, even though the word count is extremely small. Here’s a look at a narrative arc in 80 words (with the help of some illustrations), as it appears in My Friend, Rabbit, by Eric Rohmann, winner of the 2003 Caldecott Award for Best Illustrations in a children’s book for the year.
Narrative Arc in 32 pages, 80 words

Here’s a great example of a narrative arc in only 80 words.

rabbit1st person POV from Mouse’s POV, talking about his friend
p 1. Title page
2–3 Introduce Mouse and Rabbit
4-5 Problem establish: Rabbit always gets into trouble
6-7 Rabbit has confidence he can get out of trouble (Characterization_
8-9 Rabbit’s idea begins to unfold (pulling a large beast onto page)
10-11 Elephant is in place
12-13 Rhino pushed forward
14-15 We now see Rhino on Top of Elephant, while Rabbit brings in Hippo.
(start to understand that he’s stacking animals to reach the plane stuck in a tree)
16-17 More animals to stack up, each smaller than the previous
18-19 The stack has failed. But Rabbit is still confident and has a final idea
20-21 Rabbit gets Mouse involved in the idea.
It succeeds – mouse reaches the plane! But there’s also disaster . . .
22-23 . . . and the disaster is going to be bad because everyone is running out of the way. . .
24-25 . . . as animals –big and small–fall everywhere.
26-27 Animals are all mad at Rabbit
28-29 Mouse swoops in with the plane to rescue Rabbit (Rabbit’s friendship–because he means well–endears him to Mouse.)
30-31 Rabbit accidently covers Mouse’s eyes, so he can’t see to fly. . .
32 And they are stuck in the tree again, but this time, they are in the plane and Rabbit confidently says, I have an idea.

Now read the analysis.

Quote of the day:

Much wisdom is a hand-me-down. Like all hand-me-downs, it may be too big at the time it is given. – Rachel Naomi Remen M.D.

(Swiped from Janet Lee Carey's twitter feed. Follow her!)

What's wrong with this query letter?

Sheryl Cline (1)
Laura Geringer Books (2)
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Dear Sheryl (3),

Thanx (4) for talking with me on the phone. When Art (5) said at that conference (6) that he would love to publish my book (7), I was very pleased (8). He said "Wizard Magick High" (9) would be great for you and earn lots of money (10). It's sort of like that book, "Harry Potter", written by a woman from England. Have you heard of her? (11) I want you to know that I would very happy to make any changes to my book, if you find anything you want to change. (12) I also have lots of ideas for toys and games and posters and things, and have plans for a whole series--a "Sweet Valley High with Wands" sort of thing. I'm currently working on the screenplay. (13) I'm sending along my book as an e-mail attachment (14), and I would be happy if you could get to it quickly. (15)

Thanx again,

Missy Snodgrass

P.S. Alot of other publishers are also reading it now (16), and if we could get the book published by my birthday next April, that would be magical. ;-) (17)

Cheryl Klein explains the errors on her site
. On behalf of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, I would like to point out (16a): "a lot" is two words.

Lois Brandt talks about historical research

Come join Lois Brandt at the Washington State History Museum on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 p.m.

She’ll be starting off their evening program, “Home Front 1967,” by talking about what she learned about the Vietnam War while doing research for her WIP, Wearing Vietnam.

Thursday is a free entrance day at the museum. Come early to see the museum’s “Marking Time: Voyage to Vietnam” exhibit and then stay for the evening program.

More information here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How Scott Westerfeld imagined Leviathan

Here's a brief excerpt of his bit on John Scalzi's blog:

is often described as a steampunk series, and fair enough (walking tanks!). But it hews closer to alternate history than most steampunk, with the son of the Archduke Ferdinand a character, and the timeline for the early war matching our own history closely. But in a way, the most “alternate” thing about it for me was simply writing an illustrated novel.

For one thing, I had to become an art director. (To maintain creative control, I agreed to pay Keith with my own money rather than the publisher’s. This is not the usual way with an illustrated book.) This new role meant knowing all sorts of details that a prose novelist could ignore. Sure, before writing this series, I would often claim to have imagined every scene down to the last detail. But that was all lies! Turns out, I didn’t really know what kind of wallpaper was in this room, or what sort of boots that character had on at that moment.

Read the whole thing.

SLJ: best kid-lit blogs

Betsy Bird has a School Library Journal piece on the best blogs in our business. Here's a portion:

Although there are more wonderful children's literary blogs out there than one can shake a stick at, here is a very small selection of some that are particularly remarkable. For a more complete listing of children's and young adult literature blogs, visit Kidslitosphere Central.

bookshelves of doom

In addition to providing uniquely hilarious content, insightful reviews of YA materials, and the latest news, librarian Leila Roy has also created her own literary magazine, TBR Tallboy, for fans of the YA genre.

The Brown Bookshelf

Consistently pushing awareness of African-American writers for young people, this site covers everything from picture books to upper-end teen novels. It has also started the landmark 28 Days Later, a monthlong showcase of some of the best black authors and illustrators.

Chasing Ray

Colleen Mondor, who has reviewed for everything from Booklist to Bookslut, applies her wit and charm to the wide array of teen titles, taking time out to also organize blog tours and events that highlight too-little-lauded books.

Collecting Children's Books

This may be the best-written children's literary blog of all time. Librarian Peter Sieruta doesn't just retell the history of children's books—he brings it to life and makes it dance!

Editorial Anonymous

The only truly anonymous children's book editor out there, and don't you forget it. EA consistently provides dead-on advice to queries that range from the comprehendible to the downright insane.

Read the rest.

Thanks to Gail Martini-Peterson for sending the link.

Retreat photos on Facebook

Joni Sensel posted some photos from our Weekend on the Water retreat.

You can check them out at our chapter's Facebook site (and join, while you're at it).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nubs! It's Nubs on the NYT bestseller list!

A huge congratulations to Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery.

NUBS just debuted at No. 4 on the NYT list. Arooo!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Some advice on choosing a pen name

If your book is called The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable-Girl, you're going to want to choose a realistic-sounding pen name.

Here's advice on such matters from the Baby Name Wizard.

Note: I don't think there's a big market for a picture book about a playboy sheikh. Just saying...

Books recommended by Cheryl Klein/Ruta Rimas

Jaime Temairik has the scoop at her book blog, Bound. P.S. Don't anyone tell her about the giant chicken in GRACELING. It will give everything away.

Julie Larios on Poetry Friday

Julie Larios's blog (which you can find on the left, along with craft-related blogs by our chapter colleagues), has this fabulous poem. It's just right for Friday the 13th.
Happy howling, everyone. And be sure to check out her whole post.
Late Night Thoughts

Why not

howl at the moon?

Soon it will be sun-up --

who knows what happens after that?

This might be it, your one wolf-throated chance.

You know, the sun never rises

at night -- what kind of friend

is that? Howl now!

Why not.?

On working with publicists

An often quoted adage (that’s not actually in the Bible) with one little word change to make it apply to what I want to talk about today.

If you are a published author, one of the smartest things you can do when it comes to marketing and promotion is to be a squeaky wheel without the annoying squeak.

In other words, how can you politely keep yourself on the publicist’s radar without coming across as disappointed, demanding, or annoying?

One thing Lindsay and I have been working on with our clients is our weekly or bi-monthly reports of what the author is doing to promote their recent release.

It’s a great way to constantly be having a dialogue with the in-house publicist. All the publicists we’ve worked with have been really appreciative. It allows them to talk about the author in the next meeting, maybe even spotlight something cool the author has done, and it often helps the publicist make requests on the author’s behalf.

So take a moment to think about the last time you sent your in-house person a lovely report on all the amazing blog appearances, local signings, conference events, etc. you’ve been doing?

Never too late if you have some nice summaries to share—even if your book isn’t a new release.

This is just part of the reason that together, Mari and I were able to revive interest in her Blood Coven series and get that fourth book under contract. We constantly kept Berkley in the loop on all the things Mari was doing for those books.

Read the whole post, and a related post on why you should never give up on your books, even if publishers seem to.

Quote of the day: C.S. Lewis

Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.

~C.S. Lewis

(And I think I know which finger.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanks, SCBWI Western Washington

A number of us donated signed books to benefit the Water 1st auction, which raised a total of $500,000 to build water systems for the world's poorest communities.

Our signed books generated enough to provide clean water for four children FOR LIFE. It's sort of amazing, isn't it? Water-borne illnesses are the leading killer of children around the world, and we can feel really great about sparing fellow four human beings a great deal of suffering--and giving them a shot at a much better life.

Find more information about Water 1st here.

St. Martin's Press: new YAish imprint

Georgia McBride has news on her blog about a new imprint at St. Martin's, apparently meant to be a hybrid between YA and adult publishing.

From Publishers Marketplace November 4, 2009
Dan Weiss Joins SMP As Publisher at Large
Former SparkNotes publisher and packager Dan Weiss is the latest seasoned executive to join Macmillan, taking the new position of publisher-at-large for St. Martin’s, reporting to paperback publisher Matthew Shear. Weiss will develop and acquire both fiction and nonfiction properties targeted at the audience of “twentysomethings, Gen Yers, and older young adult readers–those emerging adults who are navigating career, love and family in a 24/7 connected world.” Those books will be published through St. Martin’s as well as other Macmillan imprints as appropriate.

Read the whole post

Ah! No need to obsess over query details

Michael Bourret, the Dystel & Goderich agent soon to set up shop in Los Angeles, has a nice post on the agency blog about queries--and how to make yours stand out without tearing your hair out.

What I’m looking for is a unique idea and good writing. I’m looking for an authentic, interesting voice--yes, voice in your query. I’m looking to get a feel for your style in just a couple of paragraphs. I’m looking for you to describe your book, whether it’s commercial or literary or in between, in a way that makes me want to keep reading. In October, I linked to a great query example, the one that Lisa McMann had written for Wake that was recently in Writer’s Digest. It was exactly I’m looking for: it was unlike any query I’d received before (or since). How so, you ask? It was entirely unique to Lisa and her book. It didn’t follow any formula or template. It gave me the information I ask for, but it did so in a way that was different. And I can promise you, all of the successful queries I’ve read have done the same thing.

Read the rest.

Betsy Bird on L,B's upcoming offerings

You do read Betsy Bird's Fuse #8 blog every day, right? Because someday, when we are all wizened and gummy, the whippersnappers will say her name and fan their faces because that is what you do in the presence of a legend.

Aaaanyway, she has a great roundup of what Little, Brown & Company will be bringing us come spring. Do check it out.

Marianna Baer on introducing characters

Here's a really helpful craft post on introducing your new characters effectively:

It's a cliche, I know, but you really do get only one chance at making a first impression -- in life and in fiction. From the moment a new character enters a book, the reader consciously and subconsciously picks up on clues about his nature and quickly forms an opinion. If details are not thoughtfully chosen, a character's first scene can be a missed opportunity or, more negatively, disruptively misleading.

Describing a character’s physical appearance is certainly one tool you -- the writer -- have at your disposal, but actions and dialogue are the keys to creating more complex, nuanced first impressions. Sarah Dessen’s enormously popular young adult novels contain excellent examples of how a great deal of information can be subtly conveyed through deceptively simple, short scenes.

Although the plots obviously vary, there are consistent themes in Dessen’s novels. One of the hallmarks of a Dessen book is that the narrator, a teenage girl, begins a relationship with a new boy during the course of the story. (If the protagonist has a boyfriend at the opening of the novel, you can rest assured that he’ll be gone in a few chapters to make way for the new guy.)

Read the rest.

Thanks to Laurie Thompson for the link.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

250-word YA novel contest from Sourcebooks--November only!

Sourcebooks (in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, the Gotham Writer’s Workshop, and some guest judges from a variety of publishing houses) is hosting a 250-word YA Novel contest to encourage would-be YA authors.

If you have a YA novel--or a YA novel idea--you can submit the FIRST 250 words for a chance to have the idea seen by editors at Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin, Harlequin and Sourcebooks, and even get feedback on a full manuscript from New York literary agent Regina Brooks, founder of Serendipity Literary Agency.

The winning submission will also get a FREE 10 week writing course, courtesy of the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. Four 2nd Place winners will also get feedback from editors, as well as a one year subscription to The Writer magazine. You can get all the details here.

YA releases: a handy tracker

Wonder what's coming out when in the world of YA? Wonder no more. This site tracks that for you.

How great novelists do it

There are lots of amusing bits in this article about the work habits of famous novelists, but here's my favorite, from Margaret Atwood:
Put your left hand on the table. Put your right hand in the air. If you stay that way long enough, you'll get a plot," Margaret Atwood says when asked where her ideas come from. When questioned about whether she's ever used that approach, she adds, "No, I don't have to.
Read the rest.

Update: I forgot I wanted to call out Edwidge Danticat's method. I think it's cool:

Before she begins a novel, Edwidge Danticat creates a collage on a bulletin board in her office, tacking up photos she's taken on trips to her native Haiti and images she clips from magazines ranging from Essence to National Geographic. Ms. Danticat, who works out of her home in Miami, says she adapted the technique from story boarding, which filmmakers use to map out scenes. "I like the tactile process. There's something old-fashioned about it, but what we do is kind of old-fashioned," she says.

Sometimes, the collage grows large enough to fill four bulletin boards. As the plot becomes clearer, she culls pictures and shrinks the visual map to a single board.

Right now, Ms. Danticat has two boards full of images depicting a seaside town in Haiti, the setting for a new novel that takes place in a village based on the one where her mother grew up.

She writes first drafts in flimsy blue exam notebooks that she orders from an online office supply store. She often uses 100 exam books for a draft. "The company I order from must think I'm a high school," she said. She types the draft on the computer and begins revising and cutting.

Finally, she makes a tape recording of herself reading the entire novel aloud—a trick she learned from Walter Mosley—and revises passages that cause her to stumble.

Tips for finding your voice

The editor Alan Rinzler has a helpful post on voice:

Voice is what gives writing energy, authenticity, it animates the narrator and characters with a unique personality. It grabs your attention and keeps you turning the page.

I remember the first time I read Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land, and Lenore Skenazy’s Free Range Kids. What knockouts! Visit the links to see my notes on working with each of these writers.

Other writers I’ve worked with didn’t always start with a fully developed voice, but were able to grow and improve greatly.

All good writers have a voice. Most writers have many voices – their narrative voice and the voices of their characters.

Here are some suggestions for finding yours.

Eight tips for finding your voice
1. Start talking

Before putting any of your story on the page, tell it to yourself, then to friends and relatives, deliver it out loud, or make a recording.
2. Listen carefully

Does it sound real? Will people understand what you’re saying?

Don’t be surprised if at first it sounds self-conscious, stiff and stuffy or halting, even incoherent. Many of us tighten up when we try to tell a story, and begin to sound rushed, sloppy, bumbling, or dry, dull, and academic.

If you don’t like what you hear, do it again, until you begin to sound authentic.

Read the rest

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting to the heart of your story

Cheryl Klein (insert sounds of worship here) has four tips that help writers find their stories' emotional hearts.

1. Conflict, Mystery, Lack.
2. What Does the Character Want?
3. Compulsion vs. Obstacles.
4. Problem, Process, Solution.

For explanations of each, visit her blog.

Is your writing group...dysfunctional?

A blog called Writer's Relief offers advice and insight into writer's groups--and how to tell if you're in one that works for you:
A writer's group is an informal gathering of writers who meet once a month or more to share their work, offer advice and criticism, and generally support each other. These groups are also a great source of writing-related news and industry leads (especially online groups). Writing is a solitary endeavor, so it's only natural that some writers are drawn to groups of like-minded souls. No one but a fellow writer can properly appreciate the pain of a terse rejection or the angst of yet another creative block. And when it comes to encouragement and constructive criticism, leave it to your fellow writers to step up. That's the concept behind writer's groups. Reality is often different, and even if you find a group that fits your criteria, you may find that you don't work well in a group dynamic. If you do work well with others, you may have to try out several groups before finding that perfect fit. Read the rest.

Contest for completed YA novels

Literary agent Anna Webman of Curtis Brown Ltd. wants to see your stuff! She has generously agreed to peruse the first five pages plus a synopsis of your YA novel. The details:
  • This contest is for completed Young Adult novels only. (All the genres that fall under the YA umbrella.)
  • The contest will open this Tuesday, November 10, at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. (That's 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.)
  • You will need to submit the following: Your first five pages AND a single-spaced one-page synopsis.
  • A free membership on the QueryTracker main site is required.
  • Submissions will be accepted through the official form on the QT main site ONLY.
  • Only one entry per person will be accepted.
  • Due to the high word count of the materials being submitted, we will be capping the number of entries at 70.
Here's the link announcing the contest. (Watch for a special post Tuesday morning with a link to the submission page, and then a post Tuesday evening announcing the contest's opening.)

Quantum of Synopses: Novel Synopsis Basics

In Short: Writing a Novel Synopsis That Rocks

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monthly meeting: Suzanne Morgan Williams and Terri Farley

Our November Professional Series Meetings is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Seattle Pacific University, in Demaray Hall, Room 150. Registration starts at 6:45 p.m. and the main program at 7:00 p.m. Rumor has it there will be gingerbread cookies.

Here's the lineup:

Program 1: OUT OF THE CHUTE — BOOK PROMOTION TIPS FOR COWPOKES AND THE REST OF US with Suzanne Morgan Williams. The author of BULL RIDER (Margaret K. McElderry, 2009) and 10 nonfiction books for children, Suzanne talks about the best ways she’s found to promote your books. Suzanne traveled to seven states and Ontario, Canada, between March and June of 2009, completing 14 events—signings, school visits, writers’ presentations, library events—in her home town and 23 out of state. She is Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Nevada and a member of the Class of 2k9.

Program 2: MUSE ON THE RUN, FINDING THE 25TH HOUR TO WRITE with Terri Farley. The author of 35 books in nine years emerges in relative sanity to help you use left/right brain techniques to make writing part of your real life. Terri’s popular workshop has been given to national writers’ conferences from New York to Los Angeles. Warning: this one is hands-on and fast-paced. Terri is the author of the PHANTOM STALLION series as well as a YA novel SEVEN TEARS INTO THE SEA, which was nominated for the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list.

Help support school libraries

Deb Lund sent along a plea and I will be coordinating replies. If you care about school libraries, read on:

I don't know if you've heard that the Bellevue School District eliminated all the middle school and high school library positions last May. This year, there is no instruction in Information Literacy Skills that occurs after the 4th grade in Bellevue. The remaining librarians are hoping to shine a light on this issue in any way possible. One of the elementary librarians, Kristine McLane, discussed this issue with the authors Brandon Mull and Michael Buckley at the WLMA conference. Each of them wrote a statement on the situation. We would like to collect more statements on the importance of libraries and librarians particularly at the secondary level from writers from our region.

I believe you are a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I'm hoping you would write a statement for us and, if it's not too much to ask, that you would ask other members of the society to write a statement too. I'm not sure what exactly we are going to do with these statements, but I do know that we will share them with the school board, superintendent, and principals.

Anyone who has time to write a statement in support of librarians for students at this grade level can send it to martha AT Please use "library support" as a subject line. I will compile these statements and send them back to the librarian. Thank you!

Meet Suzanne Selfors

She'll be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park at 5:30 on Nov. 10, and she writes, "I'll be yapping away about my latest YA, Coffeehouse Angel, giving away some coffee mugs, and hoping someone shows up. You know how these things go. Always happy to stay and chat with SCBWI members about the writing life!"

So if you haven't made it to one of her events yet, check out this one!

Friday, November 6, 2009

NYT: 10 Best Children's Books

Running in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review, the list comprises:

* Only a Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Feiwel & Friends)
* Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Richard Jackson/Atheneum)
* The Odd Egg, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster)
* A Penguin Story, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis (HarperCollins)
* The Lion & the Mouse, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown)
* The Snow Day, written and illustrated by Komako Sakai (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
* Tales from Outer Suburbia, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
* Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick)
* White Noise, by David A. Carter (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster)
* All the World, by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)

Look over there--on the left

Saturday is National Bookstore Day. If you're not at our retreat, you can celebrate by picking an event or two from our calendar (yeah, the one on the left). Support bookstores; support your colleagues. It's fun for everyone!

(P.S. If you're reading this in e-mail without clicking through, you're missing the calendar. So visit the blog every so often, mmkay?)

Top 10 Art Books for Youth

Behold that is the beauty of this cover by Jesse Joshua Watson, and then congratulate him for being on the Booklist Top 10 Art Books for Youth list. Outstanding!

Creating a hero

The Type M for Muder blog has some advice from Donald Maas:

Maass began by telling us that great novels need a compelling hero or heroine, a person who takes risks for the benefit of others, and to do so, flies in the face of social convention. He asked members of the audience to think of their own personal hero/heroine. Then he asked when we first heard of this person. What was the day, month, or year? Were we alone or with others? What was particularly inspiring about this person? And having witnessed or heard about this individual, how was our behavior affected? Did we say or do anything differently? Maass wanted us to nail down the emotion we felt, what was inspirational and why.

Maass then asked us another question. What were these characteristics and how could we demonstrate them in our protagonist them in the first five pages of our novel? Make a list of the qualities. This character has to make the journey through the novel worthwhile. And Maass repeated, do all this in the first five pages.

Read the whole post.

3 keys to a successful school visit

Veteran school visitor Darcy Pattison has good advice today on her blog: communicate, prepare the school, and prepare yourself. To get all the details, visit her blog.

Advice to aspiring poets and writers

This comes from Jacqueline Woodson and Penguin:

(E-mail subscribers, you'll need to click through to see the video.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting to know each other

Remember when we introduced ourselves a couple of weeks ago? I snipped these out of the comments area so everyone could see some of the brave folks who were willing to play along:

Martha Brockenbrough said... I'm Martha and I write picture books and YA novels.

Here's my website: And here's my grammar blog: .

Nina said...
Okay, Martha, I'll be the first to say, "Hi, 99 other people reading this blog." I'm the author of Whose Feet?, A Practical Guide to Monsters, and about a dozen books written from the educational market. I'm also a children's book editor at Mirrorstone Books (, and a writing instructor at the UW's Extension Writing for Children Certificate program.

I love the up-to-the minute kids book news you get on this blog. I read tons of children's book related news feeds every week, and our own Chinook Update is by far the best!

Angelina C. Hansen said...
Great idea, Martha, and greetings to the one hundred!

The Chinook Update is one of my daily "must read" blogs.

I write YA and was recently awarded a WIP Grant from SCBWI which I'm using to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference in January. Anyone else planning to go? Please get in touch.


A huge thank you to Martha and to everyone else who makes the Chinook Update happen.

Kjersten said... Great idea, Martha!

I'm Kjersten Anna Hayes and I update the calendar in the left sidebar (sweet!) and try to get corresponding blog posts put up here in a somewhat timely fashion.

I'm a paper collage artist/illustrator and I write picture books too.


I love the Chinook Update!

Kim Baker said... Great idea!
I'm Kim. I'm the Assistant Regional Advisor for our group (the one who talks a lot at meetings).
I'm working on a middle grade novel right now, and you can see my blog at:

Val said... I'm so thrilled to be part of such an exclusive group! (Believe me, after graduating from a high school class of 400-ish and a college class of much more, 100 seems like nothing!)

I'm Val. I write YA, more on the darker side than the puppies and daisies side (tho I do love puppies and daisies). I've taken a mess of children's writing classes at various times and places to improve my writing and I hope to take the UW's Editing Certificate program starting this winter once I get my childcare ducks in a row to improve my critiquing.

You can follow my novel progress at my blog:

Thank so much for this blog! I love it! Even when I have trouble keeping up with it! So much good stuff.

Emilie said... Fun idea! My name is Emilie Bishop and I'm currently working on a middle grade historical novel and some random articles and short stories. I blog with my two best friends from grad school, who also write historical stuff, at
Please come visit! We would love to have new readers!

HelenL said... Hi, my name is Helen Landalf. I have two picture books out and I currently write YA novels. I'm one of that vanishing breed of authors that don't yet have websites (but I hope to soon.)

This blog is a great resource. Thanks to Martha and everyone else who puts it together!

annie said... Greetings! I'm Annie and I just bid a fond farewell to a middle-grade novel that resurrected itself as YA. I have had magazine stories published.
My website is mostly about the writing activities I do with kids, but it has fun tidbits about me and writing, too.
Oh, and I'm the Hospitality Gal on the Advisory Commitee.

Kerrie T. said... How fun! I wanna play!

Hi everyone, I'm Kerrie, and I just joined SCBWI-WWA. I'm a former newspaper editor, corporate editor, and now I'm a part-time copywriter for a company that publishes DVDs and software. I've yet to write a book, but I want to. I HAVE to! I'm aiming for the YA market, and I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in...oh my gosh, about a week.

Right now, I practice writing a lot on my blogs: (a mom blog)
and (a daily blog about a mom -- me -- training for her first marathon).
I'm also on Twitter.

Can't wait to check out your sites!

Deb Cushman said... Hi! I'm Deb Cushman and I love Chinook Update -- read it every day and always learn something new. You do a terrific job.

I have two blogs:
The Adventures of Freckles and Deb, Bunny Bloggers, where my rabbit and I share our adventures from each of our points of view.

Writer Sites - a place to organize links to writing websites and blogs so I can find them. I post a screenshot a brief description of a new site every day.

Joni said... I'm Joni, co-RA and official SCBWI WWA hermit-in-the-mountains. That's all you need to know about me. :-)

If you have some kind of insomnia disorder or are trying to get fired from your day job, my website is at and the group blog I contribute to, The Spectacle (which focuses on speculative fiction for young readers and is actually fairly cool), is at

Debbie Faith Mickelson said... Thanks Martha for this great idea. This blog is amazing.

Hi, I'm Debbie. My current WIP is a Picture Book. I also work on magazine articles. I have an idea for a middle grade novel, so I think that I might try it for NaNoWriMo....

I am also one of the few writers without a blog or website. I think it might be time.

Great to meet everyone here.

Robin Gaphni said... Hi everyone!

I'm Robin and am currently working on a middle grade novel, and trying to decide if I'm ready to submit a picture book/early chapter book.

I also have a blog: The Book Nosher, which is geared for parents and teachers who are looking for great book recommendations, and corresponding activities.

Nice to virtually meet everyone!

Dana Sullivan said... Martha, great blog and spiffy idea. I'm Dana Sullivan and I'm trying to break into writing and illustrating picture books and/or graphic novels. I'm primarily an illustrator, but working on learning more words. My Sticky Love blog is at
and my web site is
Hope to see you all at BookFest today!

Laurie Thompson said... What fun reading everyone's intros! I'm co-RA of SCBWI-WWA (the one who DOESN'T talk much at the meetings) and it's really great to see you all here! I write easy readers, picture books, and middle grade fiction and nonfiction. You can follow me on Twitter at or I occasionally manage to post on my poor, neglected blog at

Paul Schmid said... Paul Schmid here, picture book author/illustrator.

My blog:

And hey! I'm on Amazon:

Kate Higgins said... I like this idea! I'm Kate, I write and illustrate picture books. My first picture book got orphaned by the publisher due to the 'economy'. I'm still trying to get over that. Reading the Chinook update and belonging to SCBWI keeps me going. I'm currently working on 3 other picture books and one middle grade novel. And I'm looking for an agent – working directly with publishers is hard work! I need an advocate. I blog whenever possible at

Michèle Griskey said... Hi Everyone,

My name is Michele.
I write middle grade and YA stuff. It's always great to see what is happening in the bigger world beyond my desk.

My blog is

Jenny said... This is Jennifer Phillips. I've been a member for a few years but a bit of a hermit in getting involved due to my work/family schedule. But I lurk and learn, constantly inspired by the other members' activities. And I need to come out of my shell more. I have a new website,, where I'll be posting some short stories for downloading, listing my other works and who knows what else. I'm still submitting to traditional publishers but decided to leap into self-publishing as well. My first middle grade biography is now available. If anyone else is on the learning curve about self-publishing, I'd love to touch base. Thanks for the great work you do with Chinook Update!

Molly H said... Hi! I love this idea! It's great to get connected with all of you. I'm Molly Hall - I've been a part of SCBWI for several years. I'm still in the "aspiring" phase of my writing career, but good things are happening. I write YA, mostly in the fantasy/romance/paranormal department. I am having a lot of fun with it. I took the Writing for Children class at UW Extension and met many of you there. : ) I don't have a website or blog yet, but I'm inspired to start on after seeing Greg Pincus! Happy Writing to all of you!

Janet Lee Carey said... Hi to fellow writers and illustrators in SCBWI. I'm Janet Lee Carey. Love this new Chinook format and the updates that pop into my email. Thanks for the innovation to set the Chinook Update up this way.

As a working writer I learn so much by staying in touch with everyone in our local chapter and worldwide.
Happy writing, illustrating and collaborating to you all.

Be well

Jennifer Mann said... Oh dear, it's Monday already...hope it's still okay to introduce myself. Great idea to do it this way!
I am Jennifer Mann, an aspiring writer and illustrator of picture books. I've been a member of SCBWI for several years. You can visit my website at
and comment on my blog at

KJ Bateman said... Hi All,
I'm Kimberly Bateman and I'm an artist and writer working on a middle grade novel and a picture book.
Martha, I love all the great links you find for us.

Debbie said... Hi everyone! I too love the new much great info!

My name is Deborah Reber and I write mostly nonfiction self-help type YA books, although my first YA novel, a romantic comedy, comes out in June. I also edit a series a teen-authored memoirs called Louder Than Words, and keep a blog for teen girls.

Erik Brooks said... A fine idea indeed!

I'm Erik Brooks, also a picturebook author & illustrator. I live on the east side o' the Cascades. I can't many very many meetings on the "coast" so these updates are a great way to stay touch. Keep up the great work all :)

holly cupala said... Hi, Everyone! This is starting to feel like a party!

I'm Holly Cupala, debut YA author of TELL ME A SECRET (June 2010), former asst RA & Chinook designer, and general huge SCBWI fan. I've been a member/regional subscriber for about 10 years now. Janet Lee Carey, right above, spoke about The Writing Life at my very first mtg years ago! I also work with readergirlz and am an occasional contributor to this here Chinook blog. ;)

Liz Mills said... Greetings, all! I'm Liz Mills, I'm a freelance children's book author and editor. I've written board books, picture books, middle-grade and YA nonfiction. I'm currently working on a book of science experiments for grade-schoolers. I am also the articles editor for the printed Chinook. Yay to Martha and Yay to the Update blog! It's awesome!
I hope to have my web site up soon. In the meantime, I'm on facebook, twitter, linkedin, and

Brian Moen, Writer of Children's Books said... Hi! My name is Brian Moen. I am an elementary school teacher and an aspiring writer. I am currently working on a middle reader manuscript, a magazine article, and my website. I also blog about kids, teaching, the trials and tribulations of writing, and more.

I'd like to invite everyone to visit my website and blog at:

Cuppa Jolie said... Hi, friends! I'm Jolie Stekly.

Ack...I'm so late to the game on this post. But for good reason. I spent the week wrapping up work and getting it off the the appropriate peeps. That felt great!

So, if Joni is the hermit-in-the-mtns then I'm the fairy-of-the-ferries, spending much time sailing across the Sound!

I *heart* this blog and this region and SCBWI. I'm a writer of young adult novels, the region's retreat director, and I'll be speaking at the December mtg (yay!).

You can find my blog at:

I'm also a member of SCBWI Team Blog. Don't miss the live conference blog here:

You can find me on twitter as cuppajolie!

Christina Wilsdon
My name is Christina Wilsdon and I mainly write nonfiction articles and books about animals, natural history, and science, primarily for the educational and library market. I've published some trade books, too, including a book about birds for grown-up readers. I used to be quite involved with SCBWI about a decade ago but haven't made it to meetings much, or the conference, in the past few years. I did finally get around to putting up a website, though: