Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writers and their blogs

You know who is the only writer who can get away with describing her ear infection, runny nose and assorted ailments? Jane Yolen.

On the book you wrote vs. the one you thought you were writing

Justine Larbalestier, author of LIAR and other YA novels, talks about her process in this interesting post:

The Book You Thought You Were Going to Write

When I first got the idea for Liar I thought it would be a comedy. I thought it would be a goofy, screwball comedy with a protag who was lying about herself out of boredom and insecurity and that as the layers of her lies were peeled away chapter by chapter—”Actually, I’m fourteen, not seventeen, but that’s only three years diff. Not that big of a lie, right?”—through a series of misunderstandings and misadventures she would learn to like herself and lose the need to lie so much. It would be heartwarming, they’d all hug it out, and everyone would learn and grow. You know only funny. Really funny.

The finished Liar turned out somewhat differently. Less with the funny.

This happens to me a lot. I suspect it’s because I don’t plan or outline my novels. Writing the first (or zero) draft is where I do the planning and figuring out and where I discover what kind of book I’m writing. Though maybe that’s what those planners are doing as they outline?

Read the rest.

Tips for writing first drafts

Natalie Whipple has a great blog post on the art of the first draft:

Oh, the first draft. Some people like them—some people hate them with the fire of a thousand vengeful ex-girlfriends. But no matter how you feel about that first draft, you have to write it! There is no getting around it, promise.

My good friend, the incredible Stephanie Perkins, did an indispensable post on self-editing (and HBMs in scarfs). Seriously, if you haven't checked it out yet—go now. My post can wait for you.

No really, did you go read it? Good.

Anyway, this got me thinking maybe I should impart whatever wisdom I might have on first drafts. Because Steph is the PRO when it comes to editing, and I kinda sorta know a few things about first drafts...what with how many I've written. Couldn't hurt to share, right?

Read the rest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

National Bookstore Day coming up

Look! An announcement from Jaime Temairik. Let's all help get our favorite stores on the map. Read on:

Are you polishing your beanies for November 7th, National Bookstore Day?

Well MSN Entertainment is. There's a bunch of new pages at the Bound blog dedicated to celebrating the best bookstores across the nation.

And we would LOVE to know what your favorite shoppe is!

Add your favorite bookstore by U.S. region, or if you are fancy, International. Signing up to add to the pages is totally free, you can even pick a super secret Username like The Secret Life of Martha Bees.

If you have any problems loading stuff you can email me at jaime at jaimetemairik dot com and I will walk you through it or do it for you!

I'm easy like that! And you can tell I set up the pages because I not only ask for the bookstore recommendation, but also a place to have a snack. Extra points if you can suggest a nearby cupcakery.

Click here to help Jaime and promote your favorite store at the same time. (On the left side of the page is a regional list of links. Click that to begin.)

Sylvan Dell submission guidelines

They've updated their submission guidelines:

The picture books that we publish are usually, but not always, fictional stories that relate to animals, nature, the environment, and science. All books should subtly convey an educational theme through a warm story that is fun to read and that will grab a child’s attention. Each book has a three to five page "For Creative Minds" section to reinforce the educational component of the book itself. This section will have a craft and/or game as well as “fun facts” to be shared by the parent, teacher, or other adult. Authors do not need to supply this information but may be actively involved in its development if they would like. We do accept simultaneous submissions.

Manuscripts must be less than 1500 words and must meet ALL of the following four criteria:

Fun to read – mostly fiction with non-fiction facts woven into the story
National or regional in scope
Must be able to tie into early elementary school curriculum in some way
Must be marketable through a niche market such as zoo, aquarium, or museum gift shop

Read the rest.

You can also get a preview of their spring titles here.

Thanks to Laurie Thompson for the alert.

826 Seattle: great class list

Want to learn to write from the woman who spun a mesmerizing vampire epic with incredible literary style? No, silly. Not *that* vampire epic. I'm talking about THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova.

She'll be teaching at 826 Seattle in January. Check out their whole (impressive) lineup here.

Thanks to Brenda Winter Hansen for sending the link.

Perspective on the price wars

This comes from Puddnhead Books:

With Walmart and Amazon racing each other to cheapen and devalue the worth of books, there are some consequences we all need to consider.

If price is your first concern when buying books, you're in for a world of hurt.
1. Low, Low prices mean the chain bookstores will fall first, and most of the indies will die second. Borders is already hanging by a thread (beacuse they discount too much), and I'm predicting a bankruptcy in early 2010. The other chains can't get their bills paid if the online discounters are selling books for less than what they bought them for. Indies will hang on with author events and knowledge and customer service and personal relationships and fierce customer loyalty, but every brick and mortar store will die in a long term price war.

2. No new authors, and no new ideas. Publishers won't be able to take a chance on them, and indie booksellers won't be there to nurture and promote debut novels. Your reading choices will, very quickly, be limited to the most mainstream and bland thriller, the most mainstream and bland chick lit, the most mainstream and bland mystery, and maybe something crappy and thoughtless for the kids. Oh, and LOTS of tv characters.

3. Walmart buyers will decide what books get published, and which don't. Already, if the buyer at B&N passes on a book, that book deal just might fall apart. I wonder how many promising young talents lost their one shot at a writing career because one person thought the book wouldn't sell. Now imagine the open-minded, creative minds at walmart picking out your books. Go on, check out the books they stock now. Now imagine that those are your only choices.

4. This applies to e-books, too. The physical cost of the book - paper, glue, printing, shipping - is only 10% of the cost of the book. The rest of the cost pays the author, the publisher, and the bookstore. $10 e-books mean either the author is getting less, the publisher is getting less, or the bookstore is getting less. And ultimately, it means the reader is getting a LOT less. Because good storytelling, good research and good ideas aren't cheap, and we shouldn't treat them that way.

Read the rest.

And this comes from me, the reasons I don't shop at Wal-Mart.

1) Wal-Mart employees are the top users of state-funded health insurance in more than a dozen U.S. states including ours. This means that Wal-Mart's low prices are also being subsidized by state taxpayers as they compete, uh, aggressively with small and locally owned businesses. So we do end up paying for those low prices in another way.

2) What's more, Wal-Mart beeps out CDs with swear words in them. If you are a YA author and your book includes any of this language, it's safe to assume that Wal-Mart won't carry it or will alter it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mentor needed for high school writer (Lynnwood/Mountlake Terrace)

We received this email today and hope someone out there in the kidlitosphere can help. Please feel free to forward if you know someone who might be interested.
Dear Reader,
My name is M.E. [Ed note: Name changed to protect the identity of a minor.] I'm a student at Mountlake Terrace High School interested in creating a children's book for my culminating (senior) project. I would very much appreciate it if somebody from your organization could send me the contact information of a writer, or writers, in the Lynnwood/Mountlake Terrace area. Thank you very much for your time.

If you're interested, please contact his teacher at efreemantle at nsd dot org. Thanks!

A couple of takes on plot

Martha Alderson, a.k.a. the Plot Whisperer, sent out a newsletter with this useful list of important scenes:

1) Set-up: The set-up you create in the Beginning makes the journey the protagonist undertakes in the Middle feel inevitable.

2) Inciting Incident: A moment, conflict, dilemma, loss, fear, etc. that forces the protagonist to take immediate action.

3) End of the Beginning: The protagonist's goal shifts or takes on greater meaning and turns the story in a new direction, launching the character into the actual story world itself.

4) Halfway Point: The moment the protagonist consciously makes a total commitment to achieving her goal and does something that signifies she has burned all bridges back and thus can only go forward.

5) Crisis: The all-is-lost moment.

6) Climax: Just as it looks as if all is permanently lost for the protagonist, she saves the day.

Meanwhile, Jenny Crusie offers a chart to help us visualize plot. It's on her blog.

Angels are the new vampires

Anne Rice talks to the Guardian U.K. about all the angels we're seeing in books these days. The most interesting bit, though, is her take on why Twilight is compelling:

"I felt that it reflected the deep desire of young women to have the mystery and protection and wisdom of older men," said Rice, whose own vampire novels have featured the cruel but sensual Lestat – a long way from Meyer's abstinent vampire family the Cullens. "I think many girls mature much earlier than boys, and they are frustrated when they approach young boys for love or protection. Hence the fantasy of a wise and protective vampire coming into the life of a young girl who, of course, appreciates him in a special way."

Read the rest.

NaNoWriMo starts Sunday

Lois Brandt sends this reminder: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins Sunday, Nov. 1!

Hemingway chose 500 words a day, Ray Bradbury chose 1000 and Mark Twain chose 3000. Every author needs a word count goal. Why not write a novel in November at 1667 words a day? Sign up (it's free) at

For SCBWI'ers participating in NaNoWriMo we have a free support group on Facebook. Come join us for advice, camaraderie, chat and (yes, it happens) a chance to gripe about novel writing.

Email Lois Brandt ( or friend her on Facebook for more information about the support group or the NaNoWriMo process.

And don't forget Molly Blaisdell's Golden Coffee Cup starts the same day. It's an alternative to NaNoWriMo for people who want to establish a clear goal, but maybe don't want to sweat out an entire novel. More info here.

Conference faculty update

Elizabeth Law from Egmont USA is now confirmed as a member of our spring conference faculty. For a good time, follow her on Twitter:

For more about the annual conference, visit our website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nina Hess on Northwest Cable News

This just in from Nina Hess: "I’m going to be appearing on a short segment tomorrow morning on Northwest Cable News, promoting A Practical Guide to Vampires. I don’t know exactly what time it will be somewhere between 8:20 and 9 a.m."

Very exciting! Tune in if you can!

SCBWI Winter Conference in New York

Registration is now open. I've never gone--how about you? I'd love it if people who've attended can weigh in on the pros and cons of attendance. Who is best served by this conference? Who should focus first on our local conference?


Pixar's secret to story

This is long, but completely worth reading. A couple of excerpts:

The process of writing a story is messy. It's something you have to play with and explore. The first draft is a kickoff and, more often than not, always bad. You have to feel safe and be willing to make mistakes -- then take the time to fix them. Good writing is rewriting. As [Andrew] Stanton says, "Be wrong as fast as you can." Get your ideas onto the page. The real gold is mined later. This advice is similar to that of Chuck Jones on drawing -- make your mistakes early and fast, so you can get them out of the way. Refine your efforts until you get to the good stuff. "Genius" looks effortless only because there are 100,000 bad drawings (so-called failures) already behind you.

. . .

  • They make movies that they would like to see. They are moviegoers first and filmmakers second. They like being able to take their whole family to the same show.
  • They shy away from story formulas. If one appears, they abandon it.
  • Animation is a medium, not a genre. Be original. Dare to be stupid. When discovering your story, you have to be in a creatively safe environment.
  • They do not pretend to be better than others in their ability. They band together to fix their mistakes. Their intent is to "just make good movies." In crafting their films, the regard is always what is best for the movie -- not the individual, not the studio.
  • They try to cultivate the cheerful reaction that Walt Disney inspired through his animated films, to appeal to the sense of wonder in people's minds, stimulated by imagination.

  • . . .
  • Empathize with your main character, even if you don't like all of his/her motivations or qualities. (For example, Woody in Toy Story initially masked his selfish desires as being selfless.)
  • Unity of opposites. Each character must have clear goals that oppose each other.
  • You should have something to say. Not a message, per se, but some perspective, some experiential truth.
  • Have a key image, almost like a visual logline, to encapsulate the essence of the story; that represents the emotional core on which everything hangs. (For example, Marlin in Finding Nemo, looking over the last remaining fish egg in the nest.)
  • Know your world and the rules of it. (Such as in Monsters, Inc.)
  • The crux of the story should be on inner, not outer, conflicts.
  • Developing the story is like an archeological dig. Pick a site where you think the story is buried, and keep digging to find it.
  • "Just say no" to flashbacks. Only tell what's vital, and tell it linearly.

Good stuff. A question, though: Where are the women and people of color at Pixar?

Quote of the day: Nathan Bransford

"The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you're actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It's found in the present. Because writing is pretty great -- otherwise why are you doing it?"

-- Nathan Bransford, author and literary agent

Do free sample chapters sell books?

The short answer? Yes.

Some other interesting nuggets from the Frankfurt Book Fair:
  • Women are spending nearly 70 percent more time browsing books online than men do.
  • The most popular genre of books browsed online is romance novels, followed by books for tweens/teens and business books.
  • The peak time for browsing romance titles is 11pm – 1am, in contrast to 4pm - 11pm for tween/teen books and 9am – 5pm for business books.
  • An average reader spends more than 15 minutes browsing a book. They also preview an average of 46 pages of each book they browse.
  • Adults are more likely to share links to content via email, while younger readers prefer to share within social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

Some takeaway for us: If we're scheduling chats or other online events with teen readers, shoot for that 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. window. And, make sure you have a Facebook presence--a fan page, perhaps--as well as a MySpace profile. It pays to be where your potential audience is.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lois Harris book signing

Lois V. Harris will be sign copies of her book, Mary Cassatt: Impressionist Painter, during the 25th Arts Alive Festival in La Conner, November 7, 2009, from 1 PM to 3 PM at Childhood Bliss, 521 Morris St. La Conner, WA

Don't forget! Inside Story is Wednesday

The Inside Story is a twice-yearly salon at which we celebrate the new books of area authors and illustrators.

It runs from 6:30 - 8:30 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Come to hear how some of your favorite authors published their latest tales!

More information is on our website.

Interview with Andrea Larson

One of our chapter colleagues has been interviewed on the Signet Studios blog.

Click here to find out more about Andrea Larson's painting style, and what her experience at Parsons School of Design was like and how it did--or didn't--prepare her for life as a professional artist (alas, no word on Tim Gunn sightings).

Legal seminar for artists on image rights and defamation

Stoel Rives LLP, 600 University St, Ste 3600, Seattle, Washington 98101
Tuesday, November 17, 2009, Noon - 1:30 pm

SEATTLE--Authors, painters, multi-media artists and others often write about others or incorporate the names and likenesses of people into their works. But when does writing about someone or using their name or likeness cross the line? All states recognize privacy rights in various forms, which protect against things such as defamation.

Additionally, many states, including Washington, have right of publicity laws protecting certain individuals from the unauthorized exploitation of their identity.
During this Brown Bag event, Seattle attorney Mel Simburg will guide you through the ins and outs of Washington's laws regarding privacy and publicity, including who is protected, what exactly the law prevents, how protection under these laws differs from that provided under copyright and trademark laws, and how privacy and publicity rights concerns are balanced against the First Amendment right of free speech. He will answer your questions, so come prepared!

Admission with advance registration is $10 for artists and students (more for lawyers and paralegals). Registration at the door is $15.

What teens want

Jill Corcoran, an agent at the Herman Agency, has a bit of analysis about a Publishers Weekly article on how teens choose the next book they're reading. Where familiarity with the author seems to be the overarching factor in adult book choices, teens are more likely to use the flap copy.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An evening with Applied Digital Imaging: A Bellingham Network Schmooze

Please join us for our next Bellingham Network Schmooze.

TOPIC: Q & A with a local printing company
WHEN: November 3, 2009 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
RSVP: to our Bellingham Network Coordinator, Kjersten Anna Hayes:
DIRECTIONS: Kjersten will respond to your RSVP with directions.

Come join us for an evening at Applied Digital Imaging! Come learn about large-format art reproduction, making self-promotional materials, self-publishing, and more. Maybe you’ve wanted to ask a printer about reproduction technicalities with your artwork. Or maybe you are still showing up at networking events without business cards you can hand out and you’ve got questions about how to get cards designed. What questions do you have for our local printing experts?

Party at Eagel Harbor Book Company to celebrate Sandra Boynton's new book

Eagle Harbor Book Company presents a special children's party based on Sandra Boynton's new book, ONE SHOE BLUES, Saturday, November 7, at 11am. The event is free and open to the public and will include a special video produced by Boynton for the Eagle Harbor audience, activities including sock puppet and shoe box guitar making, giveaways and refreshments.

Participants will also make a card and video for Boynton, who visited Eagle Harbor Books on behalf of two of her previous books, PHILADELPHIA CHICKENS and DOG TRAIN but is unable to travel at this time.

ONE SHOE BLUES features legendary guitarist B.B. King in a song, video and story that will go straight to the heart of anyone who has ever lost anything.

Eagle Harbor Book Company is located at 157 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, a short walk from the Seattle ferry. With advance notice, sign language interpretation can be arranged for this and other events at Eagle Harbor Books. For more information, please call 206 842 5332 or 360 692 2375 or visit the store's website at

Upcoming Kirby Larson events

Kirby Larson invites everyone to two upcoming book events to help launch her new book, NUBS: THE TRUE STORY OF A MUTT, A MARINE AND A MIRACLE.

Both events will be benefits for homeless pets (Homeward Pets for the 3rd Place event and the Whatcom Alternative Humane Society in B'ham).

The first one will be November 7, at 6:30 pm at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and the second one will be on December 5, 2 pm at Village Books in Bellingham.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Children's Book Festival with Sno-Isle Libraries

Sno-Isle Libraries celebrates the CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL each November with programs from local authors and illustrators. Appearing in schools and libraries throughout Snohomish and Island Counties this year are: Kathleen Kemly, Erik Brooks, Craig Orback, Trudi Trueit, Samantha Vamos, Amanda Noll, Carole Schaefer, Pierr Morgan, Molly Blaisdell and Patrick Jennings. Program details can be found on the Sno-Isle Libraries website: or by e-mailing koconnell @

Introduce yourself

Happy Friday, everyone. We have about 100 people reading the blog every day now. Not too shabby! But it would be even better if we could use this space to get to know each other a bit.

So, if you'd like to, please use the comments to introduce yourself. If you have a blog or a website, include the link. Think of it as a virtual kid-lit drink night, only during the day and without the drinks. Actually, don't, because that makes it sound lame. Just introduce yourself!

Thank you,

Sourcebooks adds teen imprint

This is from Publishers Weekly:

Chicagoland-headquartered Sourcebooks announced Tuesday that it will launch a young adult imprint in spring 2010. The imprint, called Sourcebooks Fire, will publish YA fiction “of all kinds,” including, according to Sourcebooks publicity director Heather Moore, “heart-wrenching romance, laugh-out-loud humor, haunting mystery, or thrilling fantasy.” Sourcebooks Fire, she added, “has no pre-defined categories and makes no assumptions.”

In its debut season, Sourcebooks Fire will release seven titles, including Beautiful Dead Book 1: Jonas by Eden Maquire, first in a bestselling paranormal romance series from the U.K. (March 2010); Recognized by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, a novel based on the true-life story of teenage sisters who invented the séance in 1848 (June 2010); We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni, a romantic mystery set against the backdrop of the Civil War (May 2010); and The Turning Book 1: What Curiosity Kills by Helen Ellis, a supernatural thriller set in New York City (May 2010), among others. Dan Ehrenraft, who came from Alloy Entertainment this past spring, will be responsible for acquiring and editing titles for the new imprint, which will release titles in print, digital, audio—“whatever teens are looking for, wherever they’re looking for it,” Moore said.

Read the rest.

Critiques: how to read them

I adore Jennifer Cruisie...she's funny, incredibly intelligent, and always has good advice for writers on her blog.

She has a great piece up now on how to process a critique. Here's the top:

The first thing to remember about reading critiques is don’t argue. For the first twenty-four hours, assume everybody’s point is valid. This is harder when you have people saying two directly opposite things, but keep an open mind.

The second thing, after that twenty-four hours is up, is to have a damn good reason for rejecting any criticism. Think it through, don’t just discard it out of hand. If you can’t justify it without explaining for fifteen minutes, go back and look at it again.

The third thing is to remember is that not everybody is your reader for every book. One of my best beta readers hated Wild Ride. Sometimes something you’ve written hits too close to home, something you’ve put in the book is a deal breaker for them, and sometimes they just don’t like it. Fortunately, the other betas liked Wild Ride, but if I’d only had that one critique, I’d have been seriously rattled. So never change anything based on one outlier unless it’s something you agree with.

Be sure to read the rest.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Seattle Bookfest: Sunday schedule

And here's the schedule of Sunday's events on the Secret Garden Books children's stage.

PANEL: Beyond Twilight [Sun 10:00am] Colleen Conway, Peggy Lindgrin, Deanna Meyerhoff, Chris Sutterland

Have you devoured all the Twilight books and now want a new series or author to call your new favorite? Are you not finished with Vampires and other Paranormals and their adventures and romances, and want to know what your other options are? This is your chance to look to the experts! Have no doubt, book publishers have been paying attention to the phenomenon that was and is Twilight, and they're rolling out fare for Bella and Edward's fervent fans to flock to next! Find out what else is out there for you! Join publishers' representatives from Penguin, Random House, Scholastic and MacMillan, as they introduce their newly released and near future choices for your consideration. Twilight fans will not be disappointed! Galley giveaways! FOR AGES 12+

Diverse Families, Diverse Books [Sun 11:00am] Sundee T. Frazier, Samantha R. Vamos

Join Sundee T. Frazier, award-winning author of Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It (2008 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent and a 2009 Sasquatch Award nominee), and Samantha R. Vamos, an exciting new author of bilingual children's books Before You Were Here, Mi Amor, as they talk about growing up multicultural and biracial, read from their works, and offer their recommendations for other books featuring interracial and multicultural families. Frazier's novel tells the story of a biracial boy who builds a secret friendship with his white grandpa in search of the truth about why they've never met. Vamos' picture book interweaves Spanish and English text into a seamless, lyrical description of the things that one extended family does to welcome a new child into the world. A presentation for all families! FOR ADULTS

Halloween is Coming [Sun Noon] Rebecca Dickinson, Deb Lund, Kathryn O. Galbraith

Story time with picture book author/illustrators reading their new Halloween-themed books. Your first chance to show off your new Halloween costume!!!! Come to the emcee'd costume parade with prizes! FOR AGES 2-10

The Amethyst Road [Sun 1:00pm] Louise Spiegler

The Amethyst Road is a fantasy set in an alternative Pacific Northwest, in which a mixed-race girl must fight hardship and racial hatred to find and reunite her scattered family. The book was a Junior Library Book Club selection, and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (Hugo-Nebula award scheme). Booklist says of The Amethyst Road, "This work is not only unique in its smooth and imaginative integration of genres; it offers an original blend of societal grit and compelling fantasy-based spirituality. A terrific read for teens." FOR AGES 12+

Monkey World [Sun 1:30pm] Matthew Porter

Come hear a bit about how local children's book illustrator and writer Matthew Porter got started and some poems from his most recent children's book, Monkey World: An A - Z of Occupations. Written in the style of classic nonsense verse, each poem tells the story of a delightful monkey and his occupation. FOR AGES 0-8 (and arty hipster adults)

PANEL: The Writer's Childhood [Sun 2:00pm] Bonny Becker, Kathryn O. Galbraith, Dave Patenaude, Joni Sensel

Are you destined to be a writer? Is your child? Is your writing career doomed because you come from a happy family? Just want to hear funny stories? Children's authors Bonny Becker, Kathryn Galbraith, David Patneaude and Joni Sensel discuss the writer's childhood using examples from their own checkered pasts. FOR AGES 4-ADULT

MAD LIBS PARTY [Sun 3:00pm] Master of Ceremonies: Kim Baker

Penguin celebrated the 50th birthday of Mad Libs last year...come join us as we play a few rounds, and see why the best party game has been giddily around for so long! Kim Baker is the perfect ringmaster for our fun, as she brings out the funny in kids and herself. FOR AGES 6-12

Don't Lick the Dog [Sun 3:30pm] Wendy Wahman

Meeting a new dog is exciting, but it can also be scary. This humorous how-to manual shows kids the best ways to interact with unfamiliar dogs, providing helpful tips about all sorts of dog behavior. Children often don't understand what dogs' actions mean and can misinterpret a threatening signal for a friendly one and vice versa. Kids and parents will return to Wendy Wahman's playful illustrations again and again for useful reminders: Slow Down. Stay very still. And remember, don't lick the dog! FOR AGES 4-8

PANEL: Beyond Forks: Teen and Tween Books Set in The Pacific NW [Sun 4:00pm] Heather Davis, Kevin Emerson, Liz Gallagher

Three local authors discuss how their Northwest surroundings held sway over their teen and middle-grade novels. From vampires who take over the city at night to a werewolf who thrives in the woods to a girl growing up near the Fremont Troll, meet characters inspired by our unique environment and get to know their stories and creators. FOR AGES 12-22

Winter SCBWI Conference in NYC!

The 11th Annual SCBWI International Winter Conference will take place January 29-31st at the Hyatt Grand Central in New York City. The schedule is complete and registration will go live next week!

Conference info is already on line, though. Check it out.

Gail Carson Levine on POV

She has an excellent post on the topic, going into some detail about her struggles with finding the right POV in Fairest.

I have a chapter about point of view (POV) in Writing Magic. I define it there, but, briefly, the two main POVs are first person and third. In first person, the narrator is a character in the story, usually but not always the main character, and tells the story as I. In third person, the narrator is outside the story and all the character pronouns are he and she. A third-person narrator can be omniscient (all knowing) and can reveal scenes in which the main character is not present; or the third-person narrator can stick to the main character and show only scenes he’s in. It’s also possible to write from a second-person POV (you) or first-person plural POV (we), but these are rare.

In some of my books POV was the major hurdle. I was a long time getting it right in Ever, Fairest, and the final Disney Fairies book, Fairies and the Quest for Never Land, which will be out next June.

Fairest is my best example of POV misery. It’s a retelling of Snow White. Since Snow White bites into a poison apple and is in a coma for a big chunk of the story, I thought I couldn’t tell it from her POV. Initially, I decided to tell it in first person from the POV of a gnome. (The gnomes stand in for the dwarfs in the original fairy tale.) I decided a gnome named zhamM would be madly in love with the Snow White character, Aza. His love would be doomed, however, because he’s a gnome and she’s a human. It would be a tragedy modeled on Cyrano de Bergerac. I wrote 300 pages from zhamM’s POV, while my critique buddy kept scratching her head and telling me something was wrong. Finally I had to admit my choice had been a mistake.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Seattle Bookfest: Saturday schedule

I snagged this directly from the Bookfest site. Look how many familiar names and faces you can see in this lineup, coordinated by Secret Garden Books in Ballard!

A Day at the Market [Sat 11:00] Sara Anderson

The fish mongers, buskers, farmers, and dumpster divers of the Pike Place Market are artist Sara Anderson's family and she will bring a pocketful of them to the Bookfest stage to share the taste of her daily life she has recreated in her picture book, A Day at the Market. FOR AGES 0-8

Of Fairy Wings and Horsey Things [Sat 11:30] Tara Larsen Chang, Jo Gershman

How does a girl become a magical fairy? How do you make a horse into a fairy horse? How do two artists become children's book illustrators? Tara and Jo talk about creating their Fairy Chronicles and Wind Dancer characters and then give a drawing demonstration that you can help with. And you can design your own fairy or fairy horse and make it as magical or realistic as you wish! FOR AGES 6-12

PANEL: So you wanna write a kids book? [Sat Noon] Royce Buckingham, Amanda Noll, Joni Sensel, Clete Smith, Samantha R. Vamos, Jim Whiting

A panel of six published authors, ranging from first-timers already attracting rave reviews to veterans with dozens of books to their credit, will discuss the basics of breaking into kids' book publishing. Topics include turning your idea into a professional manuscript, feeding your dream while understanding the business, how to pitch editors and agents, common myths about writing for kids and much more. There will also be plenty of time for questions. FOR ADULTS

PANEL: Art, Death & Oddness in Teen Novels [Sat 1:00pm] Sean Beaudoin, Liz Gallagher, Amber Kizer

Three local authors of young adult books discuss where they get their ideas and why writing for teens is awesome. From realistic coming-of-age fiction about a girl emerging from her cocoon, to the genre-bending story of a girl who might be going crazy (and is haunted by an ice cream truck), to the journey of a half-angel taking control of her destiny, meet exciting new characters and the writers who created them. FOR AGES 12-22

PANEL: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? [Sat 2:00pm] Mary Jane Beaufrand, Peggy King Anderson

Are you a budding writer but don't know where to start? Peggy King Anderson and Mary Jane Beaufrand, two writers of Children's and Young Adult Fiction (not to mention writing buddies from way back), will discuss this question that writers get asked most frequently. Together, we'll explore some sources of inspiration to help you jump-start your creativity! FOR AGES 8+

MAD LIBS PARTY [Sat 3:00pm] Master of Ceremonies: Kim Baker

Penguin celebrated the 50th birthday of Mad Libs last year...come join us as we play a few rounds, and see why the best party game has been giddily around for so long! Kim Baker is the perfect ringmaster for our fun, as she brings out the funny in kids and herself. FOR AGES 6-12

Zolyan Dance Performance and Reading from Stealing Death [Sat 3:30pm] Janet Lee Carey

Get into the beat! Join author Janet Lee Carey and dancer Aina Braxton as they celebrate Janet's latest YA fantasy through dancing and dramatic reading. Be the first to win a free signed copy of Stealing Death! FOR AGES 12-17

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE [Sat 4:00pm] Kevin Emerson & "The Board of Education: Literary Edition"

Let's Get SIC, Seattle & GRAMMAR BEE [Sat 5:00pm] Martha Brockenbrough

If you cry on the inside when you get spam that says, "I hear your looking for a fling," then you won't want to miss the [SIC] hour at Seattle Bookfest. Martha Brockenbrough, author of the loopy grammar guide Things That Make Us [Sic], will be your host. She'll read from her book, sympathize as you share your own grammar pet peeves, do surprising and educational things with a large chicken, and emcee a rousing grammar bee (the winner gets a handsome orange button because, sadly, there is very little money in punctuation and syntax). FOR AGES 8+

Bound with Jaime Temairik Hedquist

Don't you wish you could talk books with Jaime T. every day?

Guess what! You can!

She is far too modest to have sent along word that she's doing this, but it's high time to let everyone know that Jaime is blogging for the MSN Entertainment Superfan team. Her blog, BOUND, is all about books.

You can find author interviews, references to books on TV (it's not just Oprah, people). And on Friday, she'll be interviewing the illustrator Sue Hendra, who collaboratoed with Barbara Jean Hicks to create MONSTERS DON'T EAT BROCCOLI.

Do check it out. Leave her comments. Let's help make this blog a success so that MSN continues to include books in their pop culture mix.

Go, Jaime!

I.N.K. - Interesting nonfiction for kids

Here's a blog for the nonfiction writers among us. Called I.N.K., it offers with research techniques, fact-polishing suggestions, and writing tips that will help you connect your stories with kids. It also has suggestions for photo and illustration integration, along with market research that will help you focus your efforts in new territory.

Go to I.N.K.

Patricia Lee Gauch: a class act

Carole Estby Dagg sent along this anecdote and I had to share:

Anyone who attended last fall’s Weekend on the Water knows what an inspiring teacher Patricia Lee Gauch is. I received evidence yesterday that she is also one of the most conscientious editors on the planet. Three years after submitting a query and chapter to her, I received a two-page hand-written note and my chapter back with another half-page of her suggestions, sent from her home address. The submission had somehow gone astray and in cleaning out her office (she’s leaving Philomel next month) she ran across it. On retirement, most editors would have probably moved all their stacks to someone else’s desk or upended their drawers into a dumpster. Not Patricia Lee Gauch. I’m relieved to hear she will still be teaching.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FTC Guidlines "Not aimed at individual bloggers," reports PW

Freaked out about the new FTC guidelines for review and placement of products (i.e. book-blogging)? Sue Corbett of Publisher's Weeky reports on Mary Engle's address to the Kidlit Blogger Conference (follow that roundup over at MotherReader):

The Federal Trade Commission, which set the blogging world aflame two weeks ago with new guidelines governing truth-in-cyberspace-advertising, “never intended to patrol the blogosphere,” said Mary Engle, an FTC lawyer who addressed KidlitCon 09, a conference of kids’ book bloggers held last weekend in Alexandria, Va. “We couldn’t do it if we wanted to and we don’t want to.”

Engle, the FTC’s associate director for advertising practices, spoke to the gathering of 70 bloggers at the invitation of conference organizer Pam Coughlan, who blogs as Mother Reader. “Everybody who talked to me after she spoke said they felt so much better and that they understood the issues much better,” Coughlan said.

The guidelines set off a firestorm in the blogosphere when an Associated Press story stated that, beginning December 1, the FTC would “require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products,” including books, or face fines of up to $11,000.

Not so, Engle said. “These are guidelines which don’t have the force of law. They are intended to put meat on the bones of the ‘endorsement and testimonial’ guidelines first issued in 1980, but they are distinct from the FTC’s rules and regulations, which carry civil penalties if violated.”

Whew. Read the rest at PW.

SCARY-WEEN at Secret Garden Books

It's SCARY-WEEN at Secret Garden!

The Secret Garden Bookshop invites teens and tweens to come, if they dare, to its’ first annual eve of All Hallows Eve party with authors of new books on Paranormal Themes:

Heather Davis: NEVER CRY WEREWOLF (Harper Teen, $16.99)

Kevin Emerson: the OLIVER NOCTURNE series (Scholastic, $5.99)

Liz Gallagher: THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE (Wendy Lamb Books, $6.50)

Amber Kizer: MERIDIAN (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $16.99)

Cherie Priest: BONESHAKER (Tor Books, $15.99)

We shall have Tricks. We shall have Treats. These fine young authors will scare the wits out of you with their stories.

Costume contest with bookie prizes!

Authors will sign books available for sale! Free.

DATE: Friday, 30 October 2007
LOCATION: Secret Garden, 2214 NW Market St.

The Graveyard Book Halloween Party at Eagle Harbor Book Company

Eagle Harbor Book Company presents a Halloween party for young people middle school aged and above, Thursday, October 29, at 7:30 pm, based on THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman. The event is free and open to the public and includes trivia, costume and cupcake contests, spooky campfire stories with Lynn Brunelle and refreshments.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, which won the 2009 Newbery Award for Children's Literature, introduces Bod, the only living resident of a graveyard. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead?

Gaiman has promised to visit the book store with the best Halloween party based on his book, and Eagle Harbor intends to win!

Eagle Harbor Book Company is located at 157 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, a short walk from the Seattle ferry. With advance notice, sign language interpretation can be arranged for this and other events at Eagle Harbor Books. For more information, please call 206 842 5332 or 360 692 2375 or visit the store's website at .

A bit on the science of character

David Brooks at the New York Times has a piece on the Where the Wild Things Are movie. Don't read it if you haven't seen the movie. He gives the whole thing away (fume, fume).

In light of Cheryl Klein's brief discussion of literary depth, though, I wanted to combine these two ideas.

Here's what Cheryl says:

The writer and blogger Caleb Crain recently defined "depth" on his blog as "a sense of the complexity of reality." That's precisely what I mean when I say I'm looking for a novel with literary depth: I want fiction that presents the complexity of reality (which could be a funny or romantic reality as well as a tragic one--indeed, most realities are in more than one mode), and writers who can make those realities tangible and meaningful. (Here's a link to the Crain piece she's talking about.)

And here's what Brooks has to say about character and how it isn't necessarily the fixed element we tend to create in fiction. In other words, it could be a kind of complexity.
Op-Ed Columnist
Where the Wild Things Are
In Homer’s poetry, every hero has a trait. Achilles is angry. Odysseus is cunning. And so was born one picture of character and conduct.

In this view, what you might call the philosopher’s view, each of us has certain ingrained character traits. An honest person will be honest most of the time. A compassionate person will be compassionate.

These traits, as they say, go all the way down. They shape who we are, what we choose to do and whom we befriend. Our job is to find out what traits of character we need to become virtuous.

But, as Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Princeton philosopher, notes in his book “Experiments in Ethics,” this philosopher’s view of morality is now being challenged by a psychologist’s view. According to the psychologist’s view, individuals don’t have one thing called character.

The psychologists say this because a century’s worth of experiments suggests that people’s actual behavior is not driven by permanent traits that apply from one context to another. Students who are routinely dishonest at home are not routinely dishonest at school. People who are courageous at work can be cowardly at church. People who behave kindly on a sunny day may behave callously the next day when it is cloudy and they are feeling glum. Behavior does not exhibit what the psychologists call “cross-situational stability.”

The psychologists thus tend to gravitate toward a different view of conduct. In this view, people don’t have one permanent thing called character. We each have a multiplicity of tendencies inside, which are activated by this or that context. As Paul Bloom of Yale put it in an essay for The Atlantic last year, we are a community of competing selves. These different selves “are continually popping in and out of existence. They have different desires, and they fight for control — bargaining with, deceiving, and plotting against one another.”

The philosopher’s view is shaped like a funnel. At the bottom, there is a narrow thing called character. And at the top, the wide ways it expresses itself. The psychologist’s view is shaped like an upside-down funnel. At the bottom, there is a wide variety of unconscious tendencies that get aroused by different situations. At the top, there is the narrow story we tell about ourselves to give coherence to life.

The difference is easy to recognize on the movie screen. Most movies embrace the character version. The hero is good and conquers evil. Spike Jonze’s new movie adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are” illuminates the psychological version.

Read the rest if you've already seen the movie or don't care about the spoilers.

Michele Torrey on retreats

She has a lovely post on the value of retreats (just in time for ours next month). You can read the whole thing at her blog, but here's the start:

Writing must be the loneliest occupation on the planet. Okay, maybe working in the space station is lonelier, or captaining a sailboat after all your crew has drowned, but it’s got to rank up there somewhere. Just you and the computer . . . just you and (gulp) the blank page. . . . We writers don’t get out much. And when we do, it’s often frantic– booksignings, school visits, speaking engagements, and the like, where we blink like moles in the sun and afterwards climb back into our holes more exhausted than when we left.

Enter writers’ retreats. A place (usually somewhat remote) where writers gather together to cheer, inspire, and laugh (okay, okay — occasionally to moan, complain, and go comotose). A place where they can be with others who well know the torture of staring at a blank page for three hours straight, the quiet desperation when opening that 537th rejection slip, who are masters of procrastination, and who, most of all, can create in rich, magnificent splendor.

Read the rest.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ultimate Tuesday: George Shannon at the Secret Garden Bookshop

Get in the habit of coming to the Secret Garden for ultimate Tuesdays!

EVENT: Author and storyteller George Shannon shares age-appropriately scary Halloween stories!
DATE: Tuesday, 27 October 2009
TIME: 7 – 7:30 PM
LOCATION Secret Garden Bookshop
2214 NW Market St.
Downtown Ballard

It’s a new and special story time every last* Tuesday of the month, where the story teller is an author or illustrator reading his or her own work! With themed prizes for all listeners!

* according to, the first definition of ultimate is “last” so, ULTIMATE TUESDAY is really just a fancy way of saying LAST TUESDAY . . . and we’re setting every last one of them aside to showcase the best and brightest minds working in kid’s literature today. From Seattle authors to those on national tours.

October’s Ultimate Tuesday author, George Shannon, has written dozens of books for children, including The Secret Chicken Club, Busy in the Garden, Wise Acres, and Stories to Solve. He is a professional storyteller and is a delight to listen to.

New site for Kirby Larson

WARNING: the site you are about to visit is sweet. It could also make you cry.

So if you are on your way to the dentist, or if you are concerned about your general level of hydration, do NOT visit the site for Kirby Larson's new picture book, Nubs: the True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle.

Otherwise, enjoy!

(You can learn more about the book and Kirby, along with a bunch of our other people with new work at Inside Story on Oct. 28 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.)

Site for picture book artists

Our own Kevan Atteberry manages, a site that helps illustrators network with and support each other, and teachers and librarians find illustrators to visit their schools.

Check it out--and don't miss the new animation Kevan posted atop the page. Very adorable.

Being positive about rejection

Darcy Pattison's blog has a bit today from an ebook called Nail Your Novel (just in time for NaNoWriMo). It's about how to read the rejections you get from editors.

I loved this line:

Persistence. The publishing world is full of tales of how our biggest literary stars just plugged away until they got their break. Persistence is vital. But persist intelligently.

Editors and agents do actually read each manuscript they’re sent – although goodness knows how as every day only contains 24 hours. Rejections are not effectively a lottery ticket that shows your numbers that didn’t come up. They tell you how you can significantly improve your odds.

Be positive about rejection – but don’t be idiotically so.

Read the rest.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Does writing scare you?

Every so often I come across a blog post or essay that changes the way I think about something. This bit from Wordplay: the Writing Life is one such example. Before reading this, I used to be afraid of feeling afraid--and it was one of those things that made it really hard to start writing for the day. Now, I'm looking forward to it. Read on to find out why:

It’s my belief that writers should be scared pretty much all the time. In fact, a constant state of terror would be optimal. When you sit down at your desk and extend your hands to your keyboard, a little tremble should shake your fingers. Your heart should be pounding just hard enough that you find it a tad difficult to draw that first (or second or third) breath. A little dryness of mouth, a little dampness of face, a little quiver in the abdominal region—these are the symptoms of sheer, unadulterated panic.

These are the symptoms of a good writer.

Read the rest.

Peg Kehret at the Enumclaw Public Library

Author Peg Kehret will talk at the Enumclaw Public Library, 1700 1st St., on Sat., Oct. 24 at 11:00 a.m. Info: 360-825-2938

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Andrea Helman at Eagle Harbor Book Company

Eagle Harbor Book Company presents story time for children 3 and up with Andrea Helman, Saturday, October 24, at 11am The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by refreshments and a book signing.

Seattle author Andrea Helman will present her latest children's book, CARIBOU CROSSING which features beautiful photographs by Art Wolfe, and takes readers into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a place teeming with wildlife, where plants and animals depend on the environment and each other. Helman is the author of O IS FOR ORCA and 1-2-3- MOOSE, among others.

Eagle Harbor Book Company is located at 157 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, a short walk from the Seattle ferry. With advance notice, sign language interpretation can be arranged for this and other events at Eagle Harbor Books. For more information, please call 206 842 5332 or 360 692 2375 or visit the store's website at

Picture book writing workshop with Clare Hodgson Meeker

Clare Hodgson Meeker, award-winning children's book author and upcoming SCBWI program speaker (March 2010), is presenting a one-day writing workshop November 7 from 1-5 pm at Richard Hugo House, a writer's cooperative on Capital Hill in Seattle:
Intersections: Poetry and Picture Book.

Poetry and picture have much in common: strong imagery, rhythm, brevity, a certain musicality, and sometimes rhyme. They often include a dramatic happening and a twist or surprise ending that makes you think. Clare will explore the basic structure of both of these genres using the rhyming ballad quatrain, the form used by cowboy poets, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and folksingers like Bob Dylan. Students will then try their hand at creating narrative poetry and picture book narrative using this form as inspiration.

To register online, go to the Hugo House website or call the Hugo House at (206)322-7030.

You can view Clare's books at her website,

Weekend cuteness

Dana Sullivan has one very lucky wife. He posts sticky notes with art on them where she'll find them. Check 'em out.

(And don't you think Dana should be working on a middle-grade novel with sticky note illustrations as a device?)

Help kids read and write next month

Page Ahead is doing a "reading event" with Kent students and needs some volunteers on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 8:45 to 10 a.m. at George Daniel Elementary School, 11310 SE 248th St.

The students get to pick their own books and read them with a volunteer. Best of all, they get to keep the books.

Call 253.373.7615 to RSVP by Nov. 13.

Thurber House residency search underway

Molly Blaisdell sent this along:

Who will be the next recipient of the Thurber House Residency in Children’s Literature?

Are you passionate about sharing your love of writing with students? Do you have trouble carving out time in your busy schedule to focus on researching that new book idea or solving that plot issue? Do you tell the kids you’re running errands and duck into the spare room in order to get some quiet time? Wouldn’t it be great to have four weeks away from your daily routine with nothing standing between you and the characters that are driving you crazy?

Consider this – Thurber House is accepting applications for our Residency in Children’s Literature for 2010. This annual residency, generously sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, is awarded to a talented author of books for middle grade children. We are looking for emerging writers’ (at least one book published and one in contract) who also love to teach creative writing to kids.

The resident will spend four weeks during the summer of 2010 staying in the third floor apartment at Thurber House (where the bed famously fell on James Thurber’s father) located in Columbus, Ohio. As part of the residency, the writer will also spend up to ten hours per week teaching children the joys of writing in both a community-based agency and as part of the Thurber House Summer Writing Camp for children. If that isn’t enough, the resident receives a stipend of $4,000 and the gift of time to focus on his or her writing.

If your curiosity is piqued, then visit our web site at and print out the details on how to submit your application, which is due by Friday, December 11, 2010. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain so start putting your application together today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

NaNoWriMo support class!

Want to participate in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month,) but you're nervous you can't do it, that you won't succeed?

Consider joining Ann Gonzalez's online Nanowrimo Support Class and you're guaranteed, even if you don't write a word, to end November with a T-shirt, a copy of No Plot No Problem, and several great writer friendships. And, in addition, you may come away with a completed manuscript, or one well on its way to the end.

The class is $100 for 8 weeks and comes with the usual "money back guarantee." Write Ann at for more information.

Art Director after a conference

Anybody ever felt completely pooped after a big conference or retreat?

Those who remember Laurent Linn's acting performance in Kim Baker's tribute to SCBWI video (played during last spring's conference) may appreciate a new video Laurent made with author-illustrator, Yuyi Morales, expressing that post-retreat/conference fatigue.

To understand the video, first watch "David After The Dentist:"

The art samples featured in the below video belong to me (Kjersten Anna Hayes) and Yuyi Morales. I'm glad Laurent didn't react this way to my samples the first time he saw them!

Laurent and Yuyi made the video after the SCBWI Nevada mentor program retreat last weekend (which was fantastic! Don't let the video fool you). The male voice speaking to Laurent in the background belongs to Jim Averbeck.

Seattle Book Fest 2009

Secret Garden Bookshop, has produced a fantastic line-up of local talent in the world of children’s literature for the Kids Stage at Book Fest 2009!

The offerings include:
  • 29 authors and illustrators and 4 publishers representatives
  • including Sara Anderson, Kevin Emerson, Martha Brockenbrough, Matthew Porter, Kathryn O. Galbraith, Bonny Becker, and Wendy Wahman, among many others
  • doing 14 hours of readings, panels, games, giveaways and prizes, dancing, music, and a Halloween Parade for little ones
  • in solos, duos, and panels on topics ranging from Beyond TWILIGHT, reading suggestions for the TWILIGHT Obsessed (for those 12 and up) to Fairy Wings and Horsey Things (for readers 3-8) to Getting Your Kids’ Book Published (for adults) to Beyond Forks, authors of locally set books for young adults on paranormal themes, with
  • game breaks, including a MAD LIBS party each day, with fun and prizes, flying Pike Place Market fish, and a Grammar Bee for kids from 9-99.

DATE: Saturday and Sunday, 24-25 October 2009

TIME 10 – 6 both days

LOCATION: Columbia City Event Center
3528 S. Ferdinand
Seattle, WA 98118

Check the full weekend schedule at the Book Fest website.

*Secret Garden is a general independent bookshop, selling books for adults and everyone else, since 2000.

Submitting without an agent

This Nathan Bransford post is a few days old, but perennially useful--especially when we are permitted to submit to an editor who attends one of our conferences.

Here's the top:

So I thought I'd tackle the topic of submitting to editors without an agent. And I'll start by saying something you might not expect to hear from an agent: submitting to editors without an agent isn't always a bad thing!But first, and most importantly: there some serious perils involved that you should be aware of if you're considering submitting to editors directly.

The biggest: If you query a lot of editors simultaneously with your agent search you may be inadvertently killing the submission process if you eventually find an agent. This is because most agents I know won't resubmit to a publisher who has already considered a project, even if it was sent to the publisher unagented, and even if it subsequently undergoes a revision (unless the editor specifically asks).

Read the rest.

A blog for illustrators

Jennifer Mann posted about Drawn and I had to check it out for myself. Intriguing: it's a group blog for illustrators, and you'll find a mix of illustrations, animations, news and other good stuff every day. Excellent!

Fourth Annual Golden Coffee Cup

Join Molly Blaisdell at her blog from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30 for the Fourth Annual Golden Coffee Cup. Make a goal and keep it. Win free coffee. Earn a Golden Coffee Cup virtual badge. This is a motivational event in conjunction with NANWRIMO. To learn the rules and more check out: Seize the Day.

I know I'll be participating. NaNoWriMo isn't quite right for me, but my goal for the month is to plot my next novel, sketch out the characters, and be ready to write by December.

Would you ever create your own audiobook?

One author did--and thinks you should, too. His audiobook was broadcast 30,000 times and a PDF of the book, downloaded 80,000 times. Hmmm.

Read the blog post (rather long) at Holt Uncensored.

Egmont UK publishing on Nintendo platform

Parents of young children will tell you that the Nintendo DS is the bane of dinnertime but a boon for a long car ride: kids really get sucked into playing with this palm-sized game platform. It would be inappropriate to make a crack joke, but well...

Now, Egmont UK is publishing picture books for the DS. Interesting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The new SCBWI site

Alice Pope has a dandy tour posted at her blog.

Some highlights:

The "Find A Speaker" page: Educators and librarians can now search for SCBWI members and even see video clips from classroom presentations. PAL members can click on "Speaker Profile" on their member home page to add video and information.

The Illustrator's Gallery: Illustrator members of SCBWI no longer have to pay a separate service or web site to host an online portfolio. Just log in and click on "My Portfolio" to upload images. Once you've uploaded an image, your name will appear in the searchable index of SCBWI illustrators.
"Search Members": Our old "Member roster" search has been given a much-needed 21st-century update. Click on "Search Members" in the upper right-hand corner of any page on the site, and you can find other members by name, email address, location, even book title.

Regional Home Pages: When you log in, click on the “Regional Chapter” icon and you’ll be taken to your Regional Home Page. This is sort of like a Facebook group page where you’ll be connected with all of the other members in your region. You can see the regional events that are upcoming, details for your next regional conference, and read the latest from your Regional Advisor’s news blog. You can quickly browse members in your region and send a message or a friend request. Connecting with other SCBWI members in your area has never been easier.

Be sure to read Alice's post or hop on over to the site and play around with the new stuff.

This just seems incendiary

The New Yorker's blog had this bit recently, essentially saying it's impossible to find picture books with competent parents written after 1960:

Bad, Mommy, Bad!
“In this confrontation-averse age of parenting, in which the ‘escalation’ of emotions is considered a mark of failure, a favorite way of inculcating discipline is the reading of picture books,” Daniel Zalewski writes this week in the magazine. Alas, today’s parents, searching for a children’s book in which misbehavior has unsavory consequences and authority rests solely with adults, may find themselves disappointed with the current crop of titles. “The parents in today’s stories suffer the same diminution in authority felt by the parents reading them aloud (an hour past bedtime). The typical adult in a contemporary picture book is harried and befuddled, scurrying to fulfill a child’s wishes and then hesitantly drawing the line.” To make matters worse, the typical child in a picture book not only misbehaves, he or she does so with such panache that transgression takes on “the quality of art.”

If you are the parent of a young child, what are you to do? You could boldly draw a line, and refuse to purchase any kids’ books published after 1960, but do you really think your toddler is going to let you get away with not reading her today’s hottest titles? For an inkling of what might happen if you pull a stunt like that, consult the books in Zalewski’s piece. (Read the rest of the post, and click on to the full story, if you can stomach it.)

What do you think? Do you agree that weak parenting and bad children are the glorified norm in today's picture books? What are popular counter-examples?

Gender bias: interesting to ponder

Plenty of people have noticed how, when it comes to awards, a disproportionate number of them seem to go to men. The same can be true for annual "best of" lists.

Here's a blog entry that shows how some orchestras--once wildly dominated by men --have changed their proverbial tune by having blind auditions in carpeted rooms behind screens, so that the sound of the music is the only thing that being considered.

It would be really hard to judge a book without its cover. But it's interesting to think about. Here's the blog post.

Leslie Patricelli accepts Horn Book award

Some of us were lucky enough to know Leslie when she lived in Seattle. Here, she accepts an award for HIGHER! HIGHER!

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

National Book Award news


It's Laini Taylor and Jim DiBartolo, proud parents AND National Book Award finalists for their collaboration LIPS TOUCH (published by Arthur A. Levine Books, a Scholastic imprint).

Check it out.

Laini and Jim live in Portland, but Laini has spoken at a conference and regional meeting, and both are honorary members of our chapter.

An editor decodes her 'decline' letters

Alvina Ling, editor of such books as North of Beautiful and Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) by our own Justina Chen, explains what her rejection, er "decline" letters really mean.

Quote of the day: Sheryl St. Germain

"If you think of home as a place where you feel comfortable, where you can kick off your shoes and be yourself, then writing is my home. No matter where I am, if I have my laptop or my journal, I'm home. When I pick up the pen, I experience the most profound feeling of intimacy and acceptance and familiarity I know."

--Sheryl St. Germain, poet and creative writing professor, 2009

Book publicity: a funny take

Before we get to the funny, here's a good summary of what a first-time author can expect from a publisher's publicity department. In other words, don't expect billboards and such.

Here's the start of a Shouts & Murmurs letter to an author:

Hi, Ellis—
Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I’ve been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books. First, let me say that I absolutely love “Clancy the Doofus Beagle: A Love Story” and have some excellent ideas for promotion...

Read the rest.

Thanks to Suzanne Selfors for the link.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Great interview with Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo is author of several wonderful books. Among them: the Mercy Watson series, Because of Winn Dixie, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux. She has a new book out called The Magician's Elephant (and she was just at the Seattle Public Library).

Cynthia Leitich-Smith interviews her at her blog, Cynsations. Here's the start:

What do you love most about your creative life? Why?
What I like about the creative life is that it demands that I pay attention.

I learned to pay attention for the crass reason that I was looking for ideas, for stories.

But the longer I looked and the more carefully I listened, the more I learned that the work of paying attention is a gift in and of itself, a way to love the world, to be present in it, to celebrate it.

Read the rest.

A fun way to make your character more annoying

You know, here's a link to a poll that claims nearly half of all Americans find "whatever" to be, like, the most annoying word ever. It is what it is, you know.

Anyway, here's the link. Whatever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good news for Martha Brockenbrough

She is very happy to announce the sale of her picture book, The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, to Arthur A. Levine Books. Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary is her agent.

Martha feels sort of silly talking about herself in the third person, but she makes everyone else do it so it seems only fair. She's also grateful beyond words to everyone at the SCBWI, because this never would have happened without the support and serendipitous opportunities the organization provides.

Stories from the headlines

The New York Times has a piece on a 6-year-old facing a 45-day suspension from school because he brought a fork/spoon/knife combo from Cub Scouts to school. He wanted to use it to eat his lunch, but the school has a "zero-tolerance" weapons policy (apparently it doesn't apply to lunch ladies who need knives to prepare food).

Anyway, you'd have to adjust the age of the child, but what a great middle grade novel this could be.

Read the story.

Julia Cameron on The Artist's Way, creativity and faith

(To our e-mail subscribers, this is an embedded video and you'll need to click through to watch it.)

Another ebook distributor

Publishers Weekly has a piece about iStoryTime, a new company that brings children's books to the iPhone. Books by "new" authors are the only ones available, the company founder said, because he didn't think the big publishers would be willing to distribute their books on this platform. Now that the company is getting more publicity, though, he's having a hard time keeping up with submissions.

Read the whole thing here.

Good news for Suzanne Selfors

Scholastic Book Club has bought the non-exclusive book club rights to Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors. The paperback will appear in book club flyers in January of 2010.

Track your rank

This new site tells you how many books you've sold this month on Amazon (as opposed to just telling you your relative rank, which is sort of unhelpful):

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Good news for Trudi Trueit

Trudi is the author of a number of adorable middle grade books and she reports that Scholastic Book Clubs just bought the rights to sell Secrets of a Lab Rat #1: No Girls Allowed (Dogs Okay). The book should be featured in the take-home flyers for kids in January, 2010. She's tickled because the next book in the series (Mom, There's a Dinosaur in Beeson's Lake) is due out in February and Secrets No. 1 also goes to paperback in February, so the timing for everything is primo.

What's more, she's teaching a class for kids that sounds just great. Here's the announcement:

Do you know a kid with a natural funny bone?
Trudi Trueit, author of sixty children's books including the Secrets of a Lab Rat (Simon and Schuster) and Julep O’Toole (Penguin) series is teaching a workshop for young writers on how to write humorous fiction. There will be games, prizes and a free autographed copy of Julep O'Toole: Confessions of a Middle Child for each participant. The workshop is set for Saturday, November 7th, 2009, from 11 am to noon at the Marysville Library, 6120 Grove Street, Marysville, WA 98270. Grades 3 and up. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. Call 360-658-5000 to register.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Port Townsend Studio Tour this weekend

Port Townsend Artist Studio Tour has (at least) 2 SCBWI member's studios included this year. This year the tour is Saturday and Sunday, October 10th and 11th from 10am-4pm. Elizabeth Blake and Richard J. Watson's studios are included on the tour. Enjoy a peaceful weekend in Port Townsend and visit as many studios as you like. There are 47 on the tour this year. Check the website for details.

Upcoming Book Event: Michael Buckley

EVENT: Author Michael Buckley reads from his new series:
Nerds, Book One: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society

DATE Saturday, 10 October 2009
LOCATION Seattle Public Library – Ballard Branch
5614 22nd Ave. NW
Downtown Ballard

Combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, this exciting new series by New York Times-bestselling author of the beloved Sisters Grimm series is the story of a secret spy society made up of fifth-grade misfits who use their unique nerdiness to fight crime. Illustrated by Ethen Beavers.

Michael Buckley was born in Akron, Ohio. He tried his hand as a stand-up comic and lead singer for a punk rock back before attending Ohio University. An internship on the Late Show with David Letterman led to stints developing programming for Discovery Networks, MTV, MTV Animation, and Klasky Csupo (producers of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats). Today he lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Alison, and their son Finn.

The author will sign books available for sale at the event. Free.
Sponsored by Secret Garden Books:

Cheesy networking vs. going to events

Here's a useful post on GalleyCat about marketing:

Book Publicity Tips: Real Conversations Vs. Shameless Promotion
By Jason Boog

Most literary types are shy, solitary, and isolated--traits developed through the obsessive craft of writing. However, in this world of shrinking book reviews and disappearing publicity budgets, writers are being forced to break these habits.

Today's guest on the Morning Media Menu was former publicist and debut novelist Robert Rave. Rave introduced his new novel "Spin," an insider's look at the world of high-class publicity in New York City. Meet Rave's agent, Jason Allen Ashlock at FishbowlNY's Lunch this week.

Here is Rave's advice for aspiring writers: "I met my [literary] contacts because I was a publicist out networking and socializing with people. And when I say 'networking,' I don't mean the cheesy, going out every night to hand out business cards. I mean making real contacts, having real conversations with people--not being in their faces saying, 'Hey! I've got this new book!' I think it's really important that you do go out to mixers and events. You never know when you might meet somebody down the road."

Visit GalleyCat for more publishing news and gossip.

An interesting way of looking at the U.S.

Laurie Thompson sent along a fascinating Wired map of the seven deadly sins. It's not directly related to children's writing (except maybe the envy and sloth parts occasionally). But it got me thinking. Something this interesting could easily have stories behind it--in almost any genre.

- Imagine a dystopic future where people are sent to different regions of the country to live based on their vices. (Hey, isn't that how the English took over Australia?)

- Or let's pretend it's a map of some fascinating disease that's slowly killing off everyone over 18.

- Or what if it wasn't a national map, but instead a map of school homerooms and cliques? Cliques aligned by sinful proclivities could be fun.

- Or for middle-grade kids, what if it was a government map used to identify geniuses of all sorts for their program to populate Mars?

My point, and I do have one somewhere, is that things that make us say, "Wow, cool," can be worked into manuscripts that will make other people say, "Wow, cool."

Update: Here's that link to the map.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wondermark Genre Fiction Generator

Another brilliant entry from Cory Doctorow, behold David Malki's Wondermark Genre Fiction Generator (steampunk authors, take note!):

Betsy Lerner on bad business lunches

I read Lerner's THE FOREST FOR THE TREES years ago and enjoyed it (an editing guide). But I might like this roundup of worst-ever business lunches even more.

Here's a taste:

“Hm, oh god, worse lunch date ever, but there are so many to choose from! Probably my first one. I was a baby editor on my first expense account lunch and the agent was 20 minutes late, then proceeded to order a 3 course insanely expensive meal with wine, and spent the entire time talking about much she loved my previous boss who was a notorious sadist and the worst person I’ve ever worked for in publishing.”

Nobody puts Baby in the corner!

And here's the rest.

Magazine writers: tips on figuring out age range of readers

The ICL has a useful piece by Jan Fields on determining the age range of your magazine article reader, and how you can target your work for 2- to 5-year-olds, 6- to 9-year-olds, and 8- to 12-year-olds.

Read the whole thing here


Ann Gonzalez interview on The Book of Life blog

The Book of Life is a blog about Jewish people and the books they need; this week features a podcast interview with our own Ann Gonzalez, who wrote RUNNING FOR MY LIFE (which started out as a NaNoWriMo project).

The blog called the book, about mental illness, a mitzvah. Mazel tov, Ann!

Listen to the podcast here.

Then what? Carrie Jones essay on Hunger Mountain

Hunger Mountain is the literary journal of Vermont College, and it's a really enjoyable read for the likes of us. Check out Carrie Jones's essay on why she writes fantasy:

It’s all Bigfoot’s fault. I wanted to find him. Every day when I was a kid, I’d rush through my homework, breeze through a call to my mom at work, gobble up my snack, gulp down my apple juice, and head to the woods in my backyard.

Then I’d be incredibly quiet.

I was hunting, you see. Only I didn’t have a gun. (Not that I would have used it, anyway. I was one of those kids who read Charlotte’s Web and became a vegetarian because, well, what if all pigs were like Wilbur, and they could really talk and feel?)

Fortified by meat-free spaghetti leftovers, I’d head to the woods, glassy-eyed, breathing as inaudibly as I could. I tried to walk with quiet, rolling my feet inwards as I stepped in a straight line, moving like a fox. The wind whipped my hair. The maple leaves fell down. The cars on the highway zipped by, but I ignored them all. I was on a quest for Bigfoot.

Yes, Bigfoot, the man-beast of the Washington woods, that smelly recluse, subject of horror movies. I, Carrie Elizabeth, would find him in my backyard in Bedford, N.H. I would find him and … and … and …

Then what? I wondered.

That’s the question that still always gets me: Then what?

Read the rest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Elizabeth Law on 'oozing sores'

You can't hear Egmont USA editor Elizabeth Law speak without 1) cracking up; and 2) wanting to sit by her at the dinner table. Here's a line from her interview with Shrinking Violet Promotions:

Just write your heart out. I promise you that’s what matters. I would much, much rather find a great, unusual, distinctive book by a phobic writer covered in oozing sores who lives in a closet than a decent but not amazingly original book by the world’s best promoter. I could sell the former a lot better, too.

To read the rest of the interview, in which she explains why writers should watch Project Runway and American Idol,click here.

(And be sure to read past that--to the blog post about Theodore the Tree by Nina Seven and Maribeth Stephens. They have events in Seattle planned!)

A blog I'm loving

It's the Rejectionist. And I can't seem to stop reading. Here's a sample entry:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Topics That Are Not, In Fact, of Inherent Interest, and Do Require Some Effort On Your Part in Order to Constitute a Successful Book
Alcoholism (of self, of parents), amulet discovery, autism, being a musician, being a twenty-year-old musician with existential torments, being a twenty-year-old musician with existential torments who lives in Brooklyn (don't feel bad; even Jonathan Lethem can't make that interesting), bipolar disorder, crime spree ending in small dusty Mexican town, cubicle jobs (depression resulting from, comedies about, hijinks therein), death (of father/mother/fiancé/e/spouse/child), demons (existential), demons (romances with, escape from, pursuit by), drugs (career in sales of, use of, rescuing friends from), hedge-fund mis/management, investment banking (scandals in, exposés of, thrilling ascents and perilous crashes in the field of), meeting hot chicks, military service, mob (romances with, escape from, pursuit by), schizophrenia, synesthesia, terrorism, thinking positively in difficult times, your life.

Visit the blog.

How to get the most out of a critique session

Anita Nolan has a three-part blog post on how to make the most when critiquing the work of others:

Read all manuscripts before you arrive at a meeting.

Mark up the manuscript, commenting on what you see that you like as well as the things that didn’t work for you.

If you find your mind wandering as you read, or you’re pulled out of the story, mark where that happens. You’ll return the manuscripts, so make sure your writing is legible.

Come prepared with notes, not just handwritten comments on the pages, but one or two pages of prepared comments to refer to. The notes should include the major points you want to make. You’ll be able to quickly make your points if you don’t have to flip through the pages trying to decipher your handwriting.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time to nominate for Brown Bookshelf's 28 Days Later

Now through November 1st is the time to tell our friends over at The Brown Bookshelf who you would like to hear about during 28 Days Later: A Black History Month celebration of children's literature.

During February, the authors and illustrators of Brown Bookshelf profile twenty-eight of the best of the best African-American authors and illustrators, and they want to hear from you! (Note that due to limited resources, they only consider traditionally published books.)

Read more about 28 Days Later and nominations at The Brown Bookshelf! Spread the word!

The vook and some personal ramblings on the future of publishing

I'm a couple of days late on this, but here's Simon & Schuster's introduction of the "vook," a hybrid book/video story. You have to give them credit for trying something newish. I pray, though, that the hideous portmanteau "vook" doesn't catch on.

For what it's worth (approximately two cents), I don't think this is the wave of the future for publishing. Storytelling that needs video explanations isn't good storytelling. Maybe it works for nonfiction.

I do think digital books--text that can be read on assorted devices--are here to stay. The printing part of publishing, with distribution, storage (which is taxed), returns, and other forms of waste are huge inefficiencies.

I have a Kindle and like it a lot. But it's a crude, crude device, with images that take us all the way back into the late 1980s in terms of computer graphics. Also, any book design is tossed away in the conversion to digital format, which is a real shame for people who appreciate such things.

For writers and eventually illustrators, the target to watch is the publisher.

I used to work in the newspaper business, and got out in the mid-'90s after I realized I was making 25 percent less than the person who had my job eight years earlier. At the time, the newspaper wasn't filling open jobs to save money. This didn't strike me as a business that had any future, and I left rather than face an inevitable layoff. From what I have read about book-advance sizes, they are also declining--in part because of the economy, but probably in part because of the economics of publishing.

I left the newspaper business to work online and within a few years, had major responsibilities at one of the world's largest websites. Since then, the newspaper business has rapidly declined because new technologies and services (the Internet and specifically Craigslist) offered more efficient alternatives to what they were doing and newspapers failed to adapt.

It's not that people are necessarily reading less. Indeed, it's easier to read more newspapers than ever. It's also not true that no one is advertising online, something many newspaper publishers have told me. This is how many sites--including Google--make their money.

The parallel here is the Kindle/Sony reader/iPhone/whatever device is next. If anyone can publish to the platform, people will figure out how to make money doing this. It won't necessarily be the traditional publisher, as heartbreaking as this is to contemplate.

It doesn't mean good books and stories are going away. That aspect is here to stay. But the people who get to tell them are going to be the ones who pay attention to the opportunities--and the people who create the opportunities.

Update: Agent Kristin Nelson posts today about how many of her clients' books are selling in digital format.

Related: Disney is selling $79.95 annual subscriptions to its library of digital storybooks.

Some illustrations to get you inspired

The best moleskine art of 2009 is being featured here. What amazes me is that this is art created for its own sake--just for the joy of it. (It's not like you can easily frame a moleskine...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

10 Facebook status update suggestions

Greg Pincus, our featured October speaker, has some great suggestions for those of us getting started on Facebook. Successful status messages get people engaged--they start little discussions:

- Share your good news
- Share a friend's good news
- Ask a question

For the rest, visit his blog post:

2010 Conference Scholarship: everything you need to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sort of scientific way to name your characters

You know how it can sometimes feel like you're pulling character names out of a dark, unmentionable space (I'm talking about the kitchen junk drawer, sicko).

The Shelftalker blog at Publishers Weekly has a great find: a book and website called The Baby Name Wizard.

Check out Shelftalker to get the links and see how it all works. Or, just go straight to the Baby Name Wizard. Be prepared for a timesuck.

Thanks to Nina Hess for the suggestion.

Great tongue-in-cheek promotional video

Here's James Gurney, creator of the Dinotopia series, promoting his humor. Bet he books a lot of class visits with this.