Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wisdom from Nina Hess

Here's an excerpt from a great post she wrote for the Wizards of the Coast blog:

For as long as I’ve been working on children’s books, kids still surprise me with just how creative and sophisticated they can be. They can handle a lot more than adults give them credit for—from tough vocabulary and concepts to tough situations and the emotions that go along with them.

So what makes a children’s book different from a book for adults? It’s a question that's been posed to me many times, especially since I’ve worked at Wizards. What makes our books for young readers different from our books for adults? They’re both fantasy, and kids and fantasy go together, right?

The presumption is often that fantasy books for young readers are different because they feature a child hero and significantly less pages than an adult novel. Rub out any emotionally strong or scary scenes and translate all the hard words into simple grade-level appropriate vocabulary. Easy, right? Well, not exactly.

As E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web argued almost forty years ago:

"Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly. . . . Some writers for children deliberately avoid using words they think a child doesn’t know. This emasculates the prose and, I suspect, bores the reader. Children are game for anything. . . . provided [it’s] in a context that absorbs their attention." (Paris Review)

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sex and the single writer

The Rejectionist has a very funny send-up of the romance advice in Cosmo and how it might apply to your pursuit of an agent:

At Cosmo's Fun Fearless Males the Booker Awards, Mario Lopez Hilary Mantel confessed, "I'm not really working on trying to find Ms. Right an agent. I'm kind of working on being Mr. Right a totally amazing writer, and it will happen." It got us thinking: Not only is Mario Hilary freakin' hot, [s]he's also pretty damn insightful. And experts agree: Before you go looking for your other half the perfect agent, you may want to work on yourself book first.

Here are the qualities that make you more desirable to guys agents. Think of it as your pre-dating querying to-do list.

1. You're just that into yourself.

A chick writer may have smarts, sex appeal, and a sense of humor, but if s/he doesn't have self-confidence, most guys agents will take a pass. Womenriters with low self-esteem come across as extremely needy, explains Jim Houran, PhD, relationship psychologist and feature columnist for They have to be the center of attention and are constantly looking for reassurance and compliments. And even if you find an guy agent who at first is willing to be your personal cheerleader, before long s/he's probably going to start to agree with all the crap you say about yourself book and take a hike.

Read the whole thing.

Good news for Lida Enche

At our last meeting, Lida Enche announced a seasonally arranged, Puget Sound local foods cookbook that she designed and illustrated. (The non-profit Cascade Harvest Coalition hired her to do it as a fundraiser).

At the time of the meeting, it was unclear where it was going to get sold. Good news--they have just launched selling it on their website.

If people are interested in purchasing the book, they can go to her blog, where there's a direct link to the page where it can be purchased.

Here's what they say about the book :

"Fresh!" Seasonal Recipes with Local Ingredients - We are thrilled to offer our first full length cookbook featuring local chefs and farmers including Tom Douglas, Jeff Miller, and Seth Caswell. Local artist Lida Enche filled the 80-page layout with original woodcuts and illustrations of stunning beauty. Honey bees, salmon and ladybugs swim across the floral backdrop.

Cheryl Klein answers questions

Cheryl, a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, is all kinds of awesome.

She answers nine publishing-related questions on her blog; my favorite was No. 7, which has a great link to a Time magazine story on "stickiness"--why some things stay in the pop-culture craw and others evaporate:

7. Melissa: What, in your opinion, are some of the major differences between the run-of-the-mill published book and the stand-out-from-the-crowd published book? What do you see in books that get starred reviews, win awards, and/or become bestsellers, that you do not see in the rest?

"Get starred reviews and win awards": capacious characters with multiple dimensions; tight writing, often with a strong voice; a plot that points to a larger emotional or philosophical idea.

"Become bestsellers": plots that are "sticky," in the terms set forth by Made to Stick: a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional Story, executed with some modicum of skill.

I think people tend to buy books for their plots, but love them for their characters, writing, and ideas.

Read all of Cheryl's answers here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lois V. Harris signing

Lois wrote to let us know she has a signing coming up:

"No, this is not an April Fool’s joke...Lois V. Harris will read and sign copies of her new book, Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist, during a Special Storytime on Thursday, April 1 at 11 a.m. at the University Book Store, Mill Creek Town Center--if you’re in the neighborhood, come on by!”

See? We're warning you

This conference reminder is courtesy of Dana Sullivan. You can find all the details you need here.

Craig Orback at Secret Garden's Ultimate Tuesday

Reminder: Illustrator Craig Orback will be reading and signing copies of his new picture book "The Can Man" (written by Laura E. Williams) tomorrow night, Tuesday March 30th at Secret Garden Books in Ballard (Seattle) from 7:00-7:30pm. Here is a link for more information.

If you can't make it in person, you can visit Craig online.

Andrew Clements comes to Secret Garden Books event

On Saturday, April 17, Andrew Clements will read from his new series, Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children (Atheneum Books, $14.99).

The event starts at 10:30 a.m., and it's at the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library.

Clements wrote Frindle, and has been nominated for a multitude of state awards. He won the Christopher Award and an Edgar Award. Books will be available for sale.

Heard a publishing term that leaves you flummoxed?

You might find a definition on Harold Underdown's helpful site.

Here are a few examples:

back matter--Supplementary material in the back of a book, such as a glossary, a recommended reading list, an index, or information about the book.

binding--What holds a book together. A trade hardcover binding is usually sewn and glued. A library binding is more durable, with cloth reinforcement and often a different sewing method. Paperbacks are usually bound with glue only.

bleed--Not what publishers do to artists and writers, bleed is a technical term referring to illustrations that extend off the edges of pages.

blues or bluelines--a printing, in blue only, from the final plates for a book. Usually only editors see these as a final check. If changes are needed, they have to be made to the film, which is expensive. Some publishers no longer use blues.

Read the rest.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A new blog from Wizards of the Coast

Love fantasy? Want to write it better? Then you'll love hearing about the new blog Nina Hess is contributing to. She writes:

My cohorts and I at Wizards of the Coast Book Publishing have entered the digital world by starting a group blog on our website. I post weekly on Tuesdays about writing for kids and various other topics related to publishing fantasy books for kids. The other editors (all the rest edit adult fantasy novels) each take a different day and post on various writing/publishing topics. We also have author posts as well. If anyone is interested in writing fantasy for kids or adults (or just writing and publishing in general), they might want to check it out!

Check it out here.

Help save a moon bear

Check out this inspiring effort to save an endangered Asian bear called the Moon Bear, part of a promotional effort around Brenda Z. Guiberson's book, MOON BEAR.

See the campaign here.

Clare Meeker teaches picture book class

There are just a couple of weeks left to register for Clare Meeker's six-week picture book class starting Tuesday, April 6 at Richard Hugo House from 10am-12pm.

Take That Idea and Turn it Into a Picture Book will take you from idea to finished story with lessons and discussion on developing character, plot, dialogue, setting, and voice. Each writer will receive a personal manuscript critique from Clare and have the opportunity to share and gain valuable feedback from the rest of the class. Clare was a featured speaker at our last SCBWI monthly meeting in March.

To register, click here.

Katherine Paterson award open to entries

Hunger Mountain is the Fine Arts journal of Vermont College. They're seeking entries for the Katherine Paterson Prize for YA and Children's Writing. The details:

What is the Katherine Paterson Prize for YA and Children’s Writing?

An annual prize for writing for children. A chance for your writing for children to be read by Hunger Mountain editors and guest judges!

What will the winner receive?

One overall first place winner receives $1,000 and publication!
Three runners-up receive $100 each. We choose one runner-up from the YA (young adult) entries, one from the Middle Grade entries, and one from the Picture Book or Writing for Young Children entries.

Click here to see all their contests, and to enter.

Do you dare to suck?

Here's some liquid courage from the one and only Maureen Johnson.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Motivation from Meg Cabot

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An interview with Rebecca Stead

This comes from

An analysis of a career in kidlit

Alan Rinzler has a blog interview up featuring Kristen Tracy and how the turned her life and studies into a thriving career:

She grew up in a tiny Mormon town in Idaho (pop 841,) she writes poetry, reads kids’ books and pretty much hates the internet.

Kristen Tracy sold her first book in 2006 to Simon and Schuster. The title was Lost It, a story about a girl losing her virginity underneath a canoe. The book is in its 7th printing.

Things snowballed after that and now she’s got deals for two series, one with Hyperion for YA readers, and another with Random House for the Middle Grade bunch (tweens.) She’s had three more books published, another will be out in June, and others are coming down the pike.

So, what set Tracy apart? How did this little-known writer break out with a one-two punch and land two multi-book contracts?

Read the rest

How much do you know about intellectual property?

Whatever you know, you can learn more at one of two events put on by a law firm specializing in artists' rights.

Here are the details:

Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402
Thursday, March 25, 2010, Noon - 1:30 pm

Photographic Center Northwest, 900 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
Thursday, March 25, 2010, Noon - 1:30 pm

--See our website for details:

In advance: $35 attorneys and paralegals; $10 artists and students
At the door: $40 attorneys and paralegals; $15 artists and students

To register, click here to visit Brown Paper Tickets online, or call 800.838.3006. To pay at the door, RSVP to Washington Lawyers for the Arts at 206.328.7053. Please note that the event is subject to cancellation; visit or call 206.328.7053 for more information.

CLE Credit:
1.5 CLE credits Approved

Smells like a good review

Suzanne Selfors joins the elite ranks of people not eviscerated by Kirkus; indeed, the notoriously critical journal gives her a STAR.

It's for SMELLS LIKE DOG, out on May 1 from Little, Brown.

In other news, she's hired an animator to create fun new home page for Smells Like Dog on her website.

Here's that review. Congratulations, Suzanne!

Starred Review, Kirkus
"Selfors offers up an adventure tale that features a humorous, high-stakes mystery and a lovable hero. Twelve-year-old Homer Pudding lives on a goat farm but dreams of growing up to be a great treasure hunter like his uncle, Drake Pudding. Drake spent most of his career searching for the greatest mass of loot collected by another great treasure hunter, the late Rumpold Smeller. When Drake dies under mysterious circumstances, he bequeaths a sad-eyed basset hound named Dog to Homer. Attached to Dog’s collar is a coin etched with the letters L.O.S.T. As Homer races to decipher the meaning of L.O.S.T., find Smeller’s treasure and locate the whereabouts of Drake’s vast library, he discovers a valuable secret about Dog. Along the way, Homer encounters the devious Madame la Directeur, the pink-haired homeless girl Lorelei, Ajitabh, the inventor of the cloudcopter, and other equally memorable characters who help or hinder his quest. Peppered with funny dialogue, this joyous romp is a page-turning adventure that will appeal to enthusiastic and reluctant readers alike."

Do you have a signature cliche?

My agent looked at a manuscript recently and said, "You like the word [DELETED FOR THE SAKE OF MY PRIDE]."

There's a funny article on the about this very topic. Read it here.

Then, try pasting your document into Especially for shorter works, it can make your crutch words leap out at you swiftly and in embarrassing fashion. But better here than later. Trust me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Help bring back the Whidbey Island Writers Conference

Kirby Larson sent along this announcement:

The Whidbey Island Writers Conference is determined to rise, like a phoenix, once again. They are in the process of a huge fund-raising effort to raise the $90,000 needed to host a 2011 event. Contributions are welcome, to be sure, but writers can also help by attending the June 12 Saturday Chat Houses -- Patrick Jennings and I will be speaking at the Childrens/YA house, along with agent Andrea Brown.

Here's information about their overall fund-raising strategy.

And here's info about the Chat House on June 12 that Kirby and Patrick Jennings will star in.

Oops! Are you writing a cliched fantasy?

Take the fifty-question quiz by David Parker. A few sample questions:
  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
  2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
  3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn't know it?
  4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
  5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
  6. How about one that will destroy it?
See the whole thing.

The day jobs of famous writers

Check out this amusing chart (and why is it that the one woman is paid a puny fraction of what the men made?):

See the big version of the whole thing at Lapham's Quarterly.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Farewell, Sid Fleischman

The comic hero of children's literature has passed away; here's part of Lisa Yee's post about what he meant to her:

Sid Fleischman 1920 - 2010
The first time I met Sid Fleischman, I was an unpublished writer attending my first SCBWI Summer Conference. I had circled Sid's name on the brochure and attended his workshop, taking copious notes. Afterward, I worked up my courage to talk to him. He was kind and generous, and overlooked the fact that I was blathering.

Four years later, he announced my name at the Summer Conference and, at a grand banquet of more than 800 people, presented me with the first Sid Fleischman Humor Award. It changed my life. He changed my life.

Read the rest.

Bruce Hale's newsletter has a great piece on writing novels

The Chet Gecko author sends out a newsletter about storytelling, and I especially liked this week's featured essay by Kathi Appelt. It's about what it takes to write a novel.

To sign up for Bruce's newsletter, visit his site.

Meanwhile, here's that essay:


I have been a writer my whole life long, beginning with writing on walls as a toddler to writing professionally as an adult. In that life-long career, I have written articles, picture books, non-fiction, poetry, essays, short stories, a memoir, and even a song or two.

But for years and years the novel was a form that absolutely eluded me.

For a long time, I told myself that I didn't need to write a novel. After all, I had plenty of published work to stand on, and I had plenty of ideas for new works.

But I was kidding myself, because in my heart of hearts, it was a novel that I wanted to write. So, I took courses, I bought how-to books, I went to workshops. I did all of the required groundwork. Why couldn't I crack this genre?

In the meantime, I had drawer after drawer, boxes stacked upon boxes, of half-finished novels that were just that: half-finished.

It seemed like I could create wonderful characters, interesting landscapes, and great, colorful details. My characters, despite their goals, just didn't seem to make much progress. I'd get about half way through and then my story would lose steam and whimper into oblivion.

It wasn't until I took an on-line course with master teacher Dennis Foley that I realized that the essential element missing from my work was tension.

Now, plots are plots. I knew how to create plots. They involve a character who is moving toward a goal. And as Dennis so aptly puts it: "a goal is nothing more than whatever your character is trying to achieve, overcome or acquire." Easy peasy.

Yeah, right!

How could it be that I could have a character, in search of a goal, with all of the other elements in place, but still come up short?

As it turns out, in order for a reader to care about your story, the stakes have to be raised. You can have a character overcome incredible odds and obstacles, but if there's nothing at stake, then there's no reason to pull for that same character.

Let's consider an example. Say we have a great guy named Phillip who is a cross-country racer and whose goal is to win the regional track meet. We'll put Phillip at the starting line and pull the trigger on the starting pistol. Kapow! Off he goes.

If we use a basic plot, with three obstacles of increasing difficulty, we can first have Phillip develop an annoying blister
on his heel. But because Phillip is tough, he runs through the pain. Next, it starts to snow. Now Phillip is having trouble
seeing the track because of the snow, and his blister is getting worse, so the odds against his winning are increasing. Finally, he stumbles and turns his ankle. The entire pack is well ahead of him and Phillip is trailing badly.

We'll leave it there. Whether Phillip wins or not doesn't really matter. But what is missing from this story is the why of it. Why is it so important that Phillip win this race?

You see, there's nothing wrong with this plot, nothing wrong with the obstacles, nothing wrong with the character. But we have no idea what the stakes are and why it matters so much to Phillip to win that race. Is a college scholarship at stake? Is he racing to prove something to his family, something about honor, about perseverance, about stamina? Is he racing to win enough money to buy medicine for his little daughter?

What will be irrevocably lost if he doesn't win? Why is it so important to Phillip?

And that's the key word -- important. The stakes have to be so important to the main character that if they don't achieve, acquire or overcome their goal, we the reader will care. If not, then it's just a race.

Winning or losing doesn't matter unless the stakes are high.

Raise 'em, honey. Otherwise, nobody will care.

Kathi Appelt is a National Book Award finalist (for THE UNDERNEATH), and the author of over 20 books for kids and teens. Her tales have won numerous national and state awards, and she serves on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts' MFA in Children's Writing program. Catch up with her online at

Why agents matter--yet another reason

Michael Stearns at Upstart Crow has posted on everyone's favorite topic: subsidiary rights! You might have worn your jaw out talking about these over breakfast with your family (kidding!), but here's another reminder why having an agent is a good idea in the increasingly complicated, fast-changing publishing business:

It is springtime here in New York, and as happens every spring, young hearts turn to thoughts of the Bologna Book Fair.

Or my old heart does, anyway. Every year, children’s books publishers and agents from all over the world gather in Bologna to buy and sell the rights to published and forthcoming books, to catch up with each other about trends, and to eat some truly excellent food. It is four days of constant meetings from nine to nine (some over drinks and dinner plates, true, but meetings nonetheless). From these meetings, many sales of properties are made to far-flung territories.

This can be a great benefit for a writer, the sale of individual rights to different countries. It means that the writer receives separate advances for each territory, and that each of those advances earns out on its own schedule. So even if the publisher in the US stumbles and the book does poorly here, it may still sell well elsewhere and the writer will still earn royalties. These separate income streams make it easier for a writer to actually make a living from writing.

Which is why we hold on to foreign and other subsidiary rights when we sell a project to a publisher.

Read the rest.

Artists: show your work

Here's a nice opportunity for the illustrators among us:

Art On The Ridge is looking for 3 more motivated artists to fill spots in our collective. The Gallery is in the heart of Phinney/Greenwood with good store front and high traffic. All artists have access to space they can teach classes in, work in, meet with clients, and show their work all year. Each artist will get one solo show per year.

Artists are promoted in the Gallery, on-line, and in print. To apply, send at least 3 pics of current work, a link to your web site, and/or bio/artist statement via e-mail. Thank you!

Nicole Stremlow-Monahan
Art On The Ridge

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Take a class with Jaime Temairik

If you're an aspiring picture book author, you can sign up for a class with the one and only Jaime Temairik, who's been hired as an instructor by the University of Washington. It'll meet eight times this summer, in the evening so that people with day jobs can attend.

Here's the description:

Designed for aspiring and published illustrators and authors of children's 32-page picture books, this course explores the visual side of writing picture books through workshops, discussions, and critiques.

Working from an original story or re-told folktale, participants:

  • Develop a complete 32-page book dummy and work toward the final art.

  • Evaluate ways in which a manuscript can suggest visual scenes and how illustrations enhance the narrative qualities of a manuscript.

  • Explore character details, word choice, visual research, pacing, art styles, media, point-of-view, and manuscript revision.

  • Learn techniques for seamlessly integrating a story's words and pictures.

Illustrators and authors of children's chapter books are also welcome. This course complements the University of Washington Extension certificate program in Writing for Children.

Find out how and when to register here.

Noted local illustrators Julie Paschkis and Paul Schmid will make guest appearances.

And here's one of Jaime's illustrations. Wouldn't you love to be able to paint like that?

A nice 'show, don't tell' tip

Kathy Temean's blog has 7 tips for writers trying to show, not tell.

I particularly liked No. 6:

6. Search for “was” in your document. While “was” isn’t always used in telling situations, it is 80% of the time.

Check out the whole list.

Great news for Brenda Z. Guiberson

Many of us know Brenda from the classes she teaches at the University of Washington. She's a deserving recipient of the National Science Teachers Association award for books published in 2009. Here's the description of her book:

Life in the Boreal Forest. Brenda Z. Guiberson. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, an Imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. 32pp. Trade ISBN 9780805077186, $16.99. (P, I) The boreal ecosystem, covering one-third of Earth’s total forest area, is revealed in this sumptuous book. Fir trees send warnings to one another, triggering protection against budworms, and billions of birds converge to raise young. Websites, Author’s Note. NHM (IV) Supplemental Material: Boreal Forest Succession (Alaska FWS)

Check out the site.

Brenda also is online

Thanks to Laurie Thompson for the link.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learn to illustrate children's books with Craig Orback

Illustrator Craig Orback has three new Children's Book Illustration
classes starting soon. He is the illustrator of over 15 books for
children including the picture books "The Can Man" and "Nature's
Paintbox: A Seasonal Gallery of Art and Verse". He has been teaching
illustration and painting classes locally for 8 years. To learn about
his work visit his website and blog.

Children's Book Illustration

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

Bellevue Community College, Wednesdays, 8 Sessions, 4/10/10-6/5/10, No
Class 5/29, 10am-12:30pm, $145 Call (425) 564-2263,

Whatcom Community College, Thursdays, 8 Sessions, 4/22/10-6/10/10,
6:30-8:30pm, $159 Call (360) 383-3200,

Children's Book Illustration: Level II

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

Bellevue Community College, Saturdays, 8 Sessions, 4/10/10-6/5/10,
1:00-4pm, No Class 5/29, $149 Call (425) 564-2263,

Write a novel in a month

Still haven’t written that novel? Lois Brandt is teaching her “Write a Novel in a Month” class again this spring at Bellevue College continuing education.

Note: If you are just starting to write for children, Lois highly recommends that you take Peggy King Andersen’s “The Magic of Writing for Children,” (also taught at Bellevue College) before you take this novel-writing class.

Write Your Novel in a Month
April 14th – June 6th
Wednesday nights, 7 – 9 p.m.
Bellevue College North Campus

Is writing a novel one of your life-long dreams? Join this nine week class and write your novel. The first classes prepare you for the noveling process, with practice in characterization, setting, plot, voice, and dialogue. Then we're off and writing our 50,000 word manuscripts. During the last two classes we will plan for revision. This is a great way to write your novel in a supportive environment. Cost $195.

For more information, contact or follow this link to the Bellevue College website.

Get to know Sara Crowe

Laurie Thompson interviewed Sara Crowe, one of our conference faculty. Here's a sneak peek:

Welcome, Sara! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me! Let’s jump right in at the top of my list… with a rather tricky one. Your various bios and listings say you accept nonfiction, but I don’t see any nonfiction for kids among your titles. Am I missing it? If not, what do you suppose are the reasons? Do you just not get many nonfiction submissions, are they harder to sell, is it just harder to find one that grabs you personally, or some combination of those? Give us some insight on the juvenile nonfiction market from an agent’s perspective.

S: Hi Laurie! Thanks for having me! What my website says about what I represent is this: I am an agent with Harvey Klinger, Inc., a full service boutique literary agency in New York where I represent both adult and children’s titles. On the adult side, I represent commercial and literary fiction and a range of nonfiction. On the children’s side, my list includes YA and middle grade fiction, as well as picture books.

S: So, I am upfront about my lack of nonfiction on the children’s side. However, I am very open to queries for children’s nonfiction, and do hope to find more. Many of my favorite books as a child were nonfiction, and it is something I remain interested in reading. My client Erin Vincent’s debut YA, GRIEF GIRL (Delacorte, 2007) is a memoir, and I would love to see more YA memoir. I am also working on two nonfiction projects at the moment—one picture book and one biography for children.

Read the rest.

Wednesday funnies

Dana Sullivan, the creative genius behind Sticky Love, is going to share occasional illustrations that pertain to our craft. Hooray! And to launch this feature, we're starting off with one on editing. I think I've worked for this editor before...

When do you start promoting your book?

Not too long ago, writers promoted their books after they came out by going on publisher-funded book tours. That doesn't happen so much any more.

Savvy writers today are getting the word out--sometimes even before they have deals.

Beth Revis is one; she's been blogging about the writing process, among other things, for a while. Now that she has this book deal to announce, she's holding a celebratory contest:

High school teacher Beth Revis's debut ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, in the near-future, a reluctant teenage girl and her pioneer parents are cryogenically frozen for a 300-year trip to a new planet; she awakens 50 years early on a vast spaceship with a murderer on board, to Ben Schrank at Razorbill, in a major deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in spring 2011, by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House (world English).

Not everyone will take this approach, but if you can, it's very smart. She's racked up more than 300 followers--way more than the average bookstore appearance, although those are great, too. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Take a workshop in Point of View

“Start thinking of POV tools, not POV rules,” says writer Alicia Rasley.

In this hands-on workshop, Margaret Nevinski helps writers explore POV tools in the context of their own work. Writing exercises--shared aloud for group discussion--will focus on applying POV choices to the students’ own writing. Students will submit a three-page writing sample before the class begins. The instructor will discuss a number of these pages each week from the perspective of POV.

This workshop is for writers who have taken the Field’s End class “Point of View” (Fall 2009), or who have a finished or in-progress fiction manuscript.

Wednesday, March 24 and March 31, April 7 and 14. 7:00-9:00 pm. $160. Bainbridge Island Commons, 370 Brien Drive NE, Bainbridge Island, WA. To register, visit

Good news for Anjali Banerjee

We can all give a shout to acknowledge the release of Anjali Banerjee's third children's novel with Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, SEAGLASS SUMMER (middle grade). It's due out May 11 and she already has a great Booklist Review (see below). The book was chosen as one of six Random House Children's Books titles to be included in the May/June issue of Scholastic's Instructor Magazine (circulation 143,542).

Stay tuned for her events. And check out her website here.

From ALA Booklist, March 1, 2010

Seaglass Summer.
Banerjee, Anjali (Author)
May 2010. 176 p. Random/Wendy Lamb, hardcover, $15.99. (9780385735674).
Random/Wendy Lamb,
library edition, $18.99. (9780385905558).

Eleven-year-old Poppy wants to be a veterinarian like her uncle Sanjay. So while her parents are in India visiting relatives, she spends several weeks with him on Nisqually Island, Washington, helping out at his Furry Friends Animal Clinic. Episodic chapters focus on the people and animals that Poppy meets, her efforts to do a good job, no matter what’s thrown at her, and the difficulty she encounters in balancing dreams against some harsh realities. One terrific thing about this book is that there’s no talking down, either to Poppy or the reader. Everything’s on the table, from Sanjay’s father’s negative reaction to his son’s career choice to the limits of care a vet can provide when a pet is terminal. There are many moving events here, and only the hardest of hearts won’t soften when Poppy tries to comfort an elderly man whose beloved cat is being put down. Sometimes amusing, sometimes gross, and always true to itself, this should find a wide readership. Pencil illustrations enliven the chapter headings.
— Ilene Cooper

Now *this* is interesting

Highlights Magazine named Karen Meissner their December, 2009 Author of the Month for her story, "Now That's Interesting."

Congrats, Karen!

Other ways of showing an emotion

Next time you read a novel, see if a character "quirks an eyebrow" or shapes her mouth into an "O" to indicate surprise. Some people call these "received gestures," and they're a sort of shorthand to indicate emotion. Understandable as they are, they do get stale.

How can you avoid them? Well, you could check out this Emotion Thesaurus. Laurie Green has a post about it on the Spacefreighters Lounge.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Megan Whalen Turner

I'd embed the video if I could; alas, I couldn't figure out how.

In any case, it's worth visiting Awesome Adventure Sights & Sounds for a brief interview with Megan Whalen Turner, author of THE THIEF, THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, THE KING OF ATTOLIA, and the brand-new A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.

This is an amazing series--one you'll want to read many times to figure out how she managed to do so much. Here's the link.

Pip-pip, Cheerio!

One of our own, Laurie Isop of Renton, has won Cheerios® Spoonfuls of Stories New Author Contest with her story, HOW DO YOU HUG A PORCUPINE. She gets a cash prize and a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster.

Congratulations, Laurie!

First pages reminder

If you signed up for one or more of the First Pages sessions at the 19th Annual Writing & Illustrating for Children Conference but haven't sent in your first page(s) yet, please do it soon.

As a reminder, we must RECEIVE your page in our P.O. Box by MARCH 20th, and we don't want you to miss out!

Check your conference registration e-mail for full instructions.

If you haven't attended one of our first-pages sessions before, here's how they work:

Two of our faculty sit at the head of the room with a stack of first pages. One of them reads (or a designated reader does the honors). The faculty then give brief feedback on the work.

The authors of first pages are anonymous. Attendees sit and listen and take notes, but don't explain or defend anything. They also don't leap out of their chairs and yell, "That masterwork is mine, people, mine!"

The purpose of these sessions isn't to make a sale or impress faculty (though on rare occasions, they are impressed). Rather, it's to give you a chance to hear how many first pages at once strike our talented faculty, so you can learn how to make your own first pages shine.

Your first page might get read. It might not. The point is to learn how good first pages sound, and what you can do to improve your craft in general.

Here's an example of what one writer (in a different region) learned from a first-pages session.

Good news for Helen Landalf

Helen's agent sold her first novel, BROKEN WINGS, to Samantha McFerrin at Harcourt.

It's great news for Helen, a seasoned picture book author. It also gives me particular delight because I got to read an early draft of the book and loved it. Helen revised and revised--pouring years worth of love and talent into this book. Persistence really does matter. I can't wait to hold the finished version in my hands.

Congratulations, Helen!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Conference carpool wanted, too

Are you in Seattle and planning to attend our conference in April, but driving each day? Jason Nemeth, who's in the Queen Anne area, is looking for someone to carpool with. If you've got space in your clown car and would like a little gas money that he'll happily chip in, contact him at jdn74 (at) hotmail (dot com) or call him at 206-856-9598. Go greenies!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Conference roomie wanted

Annie Cannon plans to attend our annual conference in April and is looking for a roommate to share her two-bed, nonsmoking hotel room and its costs. (She already has the room reservation for two nights, Friday and Saturday.) If you're interested in a great price for the convenience of staying at the conference hotel, and meeting a new friend, too, contact her at cannon(underscore)annie (at) hotmail (dot com).

Friday, March 12, 2010

A query about queries

This comes from Elizabeth Mills, editor of The Chinook, our printed quarterly.

How many query letters have you written in your writing career? What helpful tips have you learned from those that were successful and those that weren’t so successful? Would you contribute those tips to an article in an upcoming issue of the Chinook? We’d love to learn
from you!

Email your tips to Elizabeth Mills at I look forward to hearing from you!

The imaginary library at Western Washington University

Gretchen Hansen came back from Bellingham with a great tip about an illustration exhibit at the Wilson Library at Western Washington University. Here's what she observed:
This exhibit consists of original art by 72 illustrators from 30 countries. The participating artists were invited by the International Library in Munich, to create an original book cover for a book that does not yet exist, but which someday the artist would love to create. Each book cover is accompanied by a short text that expresses the artist's idea.

This exhibit comes to WWU from Chicago, having been staged already in Japan, Greece, and Iran. This is its last stop and the only West Coast venue before the exhibit returns to Germany. Familiar artists like Peter Sis and David Wiesner showed covers as well as internationally appreciated author/illustrators like Komako Sakai and Jean Clevenie.

There were amusing covers like "Incognito," and gorgeous covers like "L'Oiseau Bleu." "The Composer" was ethereal and "The Night Story" was mysterious. The display began in February and will conclude sometime in April. Check it out here.

Deb Caletti book giveaway

Thanks to Val Serdy for this one:

Simon and Schuster is giving away 20 sets of Deb Caletti’s titles! If you loved THE NATURE OF JADE, cried at the end of HONEY, BABY, SWEETHEART, or just want to get ready for THE SIX RULES OF MAYBE, enter today!

Simon and Schuster Book Giveaway.

What's a Kirby Larson school visit like?

Jennifer Wolf explains on her blog:

Last week I met Kirby Larson, an author who is (in my humble opinion) a master of the art of storytelling. Kirby came to visit my kids’ school. She got down on a personal level with them by sharing experiences from her childhood as well as the experiences she had writing her books. My favorite moment came after she signed my son’s book. He said in his shy, halting, little voice, “Thank you Kirby Larson,” and she answered back “You’re welcome Zach Wolf.”

Read the rest.

Leaving it all in the ring

If you need some inspiration to dig deeper, don't miss this blog post by Brian Hodge. Here's a tease:

Tell me you haven’t been here before: You’re about to introduce a character, inject an idea, or just lay down a nice turn of phrase … and then stop. Not because it isn’t good enough, but because it seems too good for now.

You want to save it for later. Later in the same work. Later in life, for another work altogether.

Don’t. Don’t sit on it.

Introduce it, inject it, lay it down now.

Here's the rest.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Classes for teens (but we're welcome, too)

Val Serdy sent this along. Sounds like an amazing bunch of classes.

The King County Library System has several great teen writing opportunities with local authors coming up. While these events are focused on teens (rather than the adults who write for them), all are welcome to attend.

Bellevue Library
The Bellevue Library is holding a Saturday Teen Writing Workshop Series. "Learn tips and tricks from published authors." No registration necessary.

· March 20, 10:00 - 11:30. Mary Jane Beaufrand, author of THE RIVER and PRIMAVERA. "Torrrrture the Heroine"

· April 3, 10:00 - 11:30. Kevin Emerson, author of THE ETERNAL TOMB. "Finding the Writer Within"

· April 17, 10:00 - 11:30. Erik Korhel, author of MY TOOTH FELL IN MY SOUP. "The Curse of Verse a poetry workshop"

· May 1, 10:00 - 11:30. Heather Davis, author of THE CLEARING and NEVER CRY WEREWOLF, and Liz Gallagher, author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE. "It's All About the Layers--Fleshing Out Your Fiction"

Sammamish Library
The Sammamish Library is hosting Ann Gonzalez (RUNNING FOR MY LIFE) Tuesday, March 16, at 3:30 PM. Ann will offer advice to teen writers on how to begin a writing career.

For more information, visit the KCLS website.

SCBWI has a new award: the Silver Kite

I snagged this from the SCBWI website:

The Silver Kite Peer Awards will be given annually for best book as chosen by the members of each SCBWI Regional Division beginning in 2011 for books published during the 2010 calendar year. For questions or comments regarding this information, please email SCBWI Director of Communications Aaron Hartzler at

Domestic Divisions
· California/Hawaii
· Washington/Oregon/Alaska/Idaho/Montana/Wyoming/North Dakota/South Dakota
· Nevada/Arizona/Utah/Colorado/New Mexico
· Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana/Ohio
· New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island)
· New York
· Texas/Oklahoma
· Pennsylvania/Delaware/New Jersey/Wash DC/Virginia/West Virginia/Maryland
· Kansas/Louisiana/Arkansas/Mississippi/Tennessee/Missouri
· Kentucky/Florida/Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina/Alabama

Continental Divisions
· UK/Europe
· Africa
· Middle East/India/Asia
· Australia
· The Americas (Canada/Mexico/Central & South America)

Rules & Procedures
1. For purposes of voting, SCBWI Regions have been grouped into Divisions based on member count.
2. Books entered in the competition must be published within the previous calendar year (January 1st – December 31st.)
3. Deadline to submit title is January 31st.
4. Members enter the competition voluntarily by posting their books published in the current calendar year on their Manage Profile page at, choosing the publisher from the drop-down menus and clicking the opt-in button to enter their book in the Silver Kite Competition. (If multiple books are published in the competition year, each book may be entered.)
5. Voting will open the first week in February, and take place in two rounds over six (6) weeks:
a. Round 1 voting open the first weekday of February, and close the final weekday in February.
b. The five (5) books in each SCBWI Division that receive the highest number of votes in Round 1 will move on to the second round of voting as finalists.
c. Round 2 voting will take place during the first two weeks of March, beginning the first weekday in March and closing on March 15th.
d. The book with the most votes in each SCBWI Division will be named the winner of the Silver Kite Peer Award for that division.
6. One vote per SCBWI member in each round of voting. (One vote for a book in the first round, and one vote for a book in the final round.)
7. Members may vote only within their region of residence.
8. Votes should be based on personal opinion and not influenced by campaigning of any kind. No spamming, vote campaigning, or third-party marketing/campaigning for a members’ title(s) will be tolerated. Participation in such activity is grounds for disqualification.
9. Winners will be announced on April 1st press release from SCBWI Headquarters.

Award & Publicity
1. Press release from SCBWI Headquarters will go out on April 30th each year.
2. Award will be formally announced/presented at Regional Conferences.
3. Winner receives a silver/glass kite engraved with award title and year given.
4. Winners announced on web/Twitter/press release.
5. Silver kite sticker to be displayed on book?
6. Winner gets an opportunity to present at one of their regional conferences.
7. One Silver Kite winner will be chosen at SCBWI Headquarters’ discretion to deliver a speech at SCBWI LA conference.

YA covers: some interesting thoughts

A lot of people are thinking about YA book covers after the "whitewashing" controversies with LIAR and MAGIC UNDER GLASS.

These blog posts raise related questions. Why don't we ever see plus-sized cover models?

And what's with all the pretty decapitations? This one is more tongue-in-cheek, but does ask why so many heads are removed on YA book covers.

Thanks to Liz Mills for sharing the links.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

LA Times catching on to YA literature

This article won't surprise any of us, but it's still nice to see:

It used to be that the only adults who read young adult literature were those who had a vested interest -- teachers or librarians or parents who either needed or wanted to keep an eye on developing readers' tastes.

But increasingly, adults are reading YA books with no ulterior motives. Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids.

Thanks to huge crossover hits like Stephenie Meyer's bloodsucking "Twilight" saga, Suzanne Collins' fight-to-the-death "The Hunger Games" trilogy, Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief" and Markus Zusak's Nazi-era "The Book Thief," YA is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak publishing market. Where adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children's/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.

Read the rest.

Craig Orback at Secret Garden's Ultimate Tuesday

Have you seen THE CAN MAN yet? I read it to my kids and they snatched it from my hands so they could get a better look at the illustrations.

Craig Orback, the illustrator, is the Ultimate Tuesday star at Secret Garden Books this month, from 7-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30.

(If you're not familiar with Ultimate Tuesdays there, it’s a new and special story time every last Tuesday of the month, where the storyteller is an author or illustrator reading his or her own work! With themed prizes for all listeners!)

Craig is a fine artist who has illustrated many highly praised books for children, several of which focus on historical subjects. THE CAN MAN especially appealed to Craig because of its contemporary topic and setting. In addition to creating fine art and illustrations, he teaches children's book illustration and oil painting at local community colleges.

You can find him online here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Take an online writing class with Ann Gonzalez

Ann sends along an announcement about her latest class:

Are you working on a young adult or middle grade novel? Join a group of skilled writers online and workshop your work-in-progress chapter by chapter. At the same time learn aspects of craft, and commiserate and network with other writers committed to writing for children and young adults.

The class costs $125 for 8 weeks and comes with a money-back guarantee.

There's nothing to lose and a publishable ms to gain.

Contact Ann Gonzalez, author of Running for My Life at ann AT The next session starts shortly so contact her today.

Rescuing your story from cliche

This is an excerpt from 179 Ways to Save a Novel by Peter Selgin:

As the moth is attracted to flame, less-than-vigilant writers are attracted to the bright light of intrinsically dramatic situations, where the drama is preassembled, ready to use—convenient.

We’re drawn to clichés because they’re convenient. And convenience for writers—convenient plots, convenient characters, convenient coincidences, convenient settings or situations or strings of words—almost always spells doom.

A writer sets her story in an abortion clinic. What are the expectations raised by such a setting? To the extent that those expectations are met head-on, her story fails. It descends into cliché and denies the reader an authentic experience.

One expects (for instance) that a young woman will face an excruciating choice under great pressure. She may or may not be accompanied by the man or boy who put her in this position; he may be callous or callow, or he may be sensitive and confused. The drama may occur on the way to Planned Parenthood, or on the way home, but the implied setting is still the clinic itself.

What will the author do to rescue that drama from our expectations, from cliché?

Read the rest on Writer's Digest

Skype an author

Hey, authors. Here's a cool way to visit schools without leaving your office. There are some steps you need to take to get set up, but it sounds like a great way to get your work into schools.

Check it out here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Speculative fiction class at Field's End

Thanks to Margaret Nevinski for passing this along:

The field of speculative fiction allows writers to play with talking objects, spaceships, and transformations of the unlikely to the unlikelier. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the basics of story writing and how the considerations of speculative fiction do (and don’t) alter those basics. We’ll also discuss how to build convincing worlds and cultures. In-class writing exercises will focus on sparking creativity, establishing characters, and plotting.

Date: Saturday, March 13.

Time: 10 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

Tuition: $100.00

Library Meeting Room
Bainbridge Public Library
1270 Madison Avenue
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

About Cat Rambo: John Barth described Cat Rambo's writings as "works of urban mythopoeia" -- her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. Her stories have appeared in ASIMOV'S WEIRD TALES, CLARKESWORLD, and STRANGE HORIZONS in addition to her own anthology, EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a writing instructor at Bellevue Community College. She is currently co-editor of the critically acclaimed Fantasy Magazine.

Register here

Mentor a student

The following comes from a student who's looking for a mentor:

Dear Writers,

Hello, my name is Shayla Smith and I am currently a senior at Everett High School. As a graduation requirement we must complete a project that relates to something we want to pursue in the future. I personally have always loved writing and so for my project I wanted to write a children’s picture book story. I need a mentor for the project and I was wondering if any SCBWI authors would be interested in helping me. To be my mentor there are a few things you would need to do. First you would need to fill out an Everett Public Schools volunteer form, which I could e-mail to you. I have an idea for the story already so all I would really need is for you to read a couple drafts of the story and give me some comments and feedbacks that I could use to improve the story and whatnot. At the end I believe there is also a mentor feedback form you would need to fill out and I would need to interview you as a source for the project. So, thank you for reading this. It would just be awesome to have an author as my mentor. Please contact my librarian, Ms. Payne, at dpayne AT if you are interested in mentoring me. She will forward the message to me.

Hone your skills, contribute to a great cause

Katherine Grace Bond (who recently got an agent--congratulations!) has put together a terrific writing workshop to raise money for a music program.

Here are the details:

Call & Response: An All-Day Event for Writers & Dreamers
Saturday, March 27 from 9:30-4:00 in Monroe, $25!

Who: Janet Lee Carey, Margaret D. Smith, Molly Blaisdell, Katherine Grace Bond, Heidi Pettit, Dawn Knight
What: Sessions in Fiction Writing, Journaling, Songwriting, Writing for Children, Writing Your Life, and Creative Process Groups
Where: Monroe Community Chapel, 23515 Old Owen Road, Monroe, WA 98272
When: Saturday, March 27 9:30-4:00
How Much: $25 (Additional donations welcome. Checks payable to Monroe Community Chapel)
To Register: (please send the registration form below)

Here’s an article about One A-Chord in the Monroe Monitor. Scroll down to “School of Shrock”

Workshop Registration for all classes
Birthdate ________________
Parent/Guardian Names _________________________________
Phone _______________________cell______________________________
Emergency Contact____________________________Phone_________________
Medical Conditions___________________________________________
Medications needed during camp/workshop___________________________________
Other pertinent information_________________________________________
How did you hear about us?__________________________________________
Session choices (pick 3):
___Fiction Writing
___Writing for Children
___Writing Your Life
___Creative Process Groups

If under 18:
I give my permission for my child, ____________________ to attend a writing workshop with Katherine Grace Bond. Portions of the course may be held outdoors on or off the workshop site. I understand that Katherine Bond will make every reasonable effort to provide a safe environment, although I am fully aware of the special dangers and risks inherent in participating in the activity. These could include physical injury, death and other consequences arising or resulting from the activity.

In the event of an accident or illness, I understand that every reasonable effort will be made to contact me, the parent immediately. However, if I am unavailable, I authorize Katherine Bond to secure emergency medical care as needed.
(Parent signature)

For “Call & Response,” send check payable to Monroe Community Chapel to:
Robin Hilt
Monroe Community Chapel
23515 Old Owen Rd.
Monroe, WA 98272

David Patneaude launch party

We're all invited to celebrate the publication of EPITAPH ROAD at Dave's launch party.

The details: Sunday, March 28 from 4:30 - 8 p.m. at Parkplace Books in Kirkland.

Learn more about Dave and the book here.

Liz Gallagher teaching at Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop

Our own Liz Gallagher, author of THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE, has been added to teach teen enrollees at this Santa Cruz, CA workshop.

The workshop will be held Aug 20-22 at the Pajaro Dunes private beachfront facilities near Santa Cruz, CA. There are spots for 30 savvy and/or published writers, "active observers," and teen readers and writers.

Faculty includes Kate Harrison, a senior editor at Dial Books/Penguin; Ted Malawer, an agent at Upstart Crow Literary; and author-consultant Laura Backes, publisher of Children's Book Insider.

The theme is "A Novelist's Toolkit: Architecture, Archetypes, and Arcs."

There are open critique clinics, master classes and interactive pre-workshop assignments. For the most critique options and lowest fees, apply by April 10 or asap. Limited enrollment may be open through July.

For more info, or to apply to work in the teen program, contact Director Nancy Sondel through the Children's Writers Workshop site.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A writer's manifesto

Shannon Morgan, a middle-grade author, has a great blog called Daily Pie. She recently wrote a manifesto that rang true to me. Here's the start:

Yike. Manifesto. Sounds pompous, right? I agree, but manifesto is one word and declaration of intent are three. Efficiency wins.

Since I've decided to become a working fiction writer, I want to examine my goals and lay some ground rules for myself. I put them here in case they can help you, too. Feel free to add points in the comments, or link to your own writer's manifesto.

1. I'll write.
Regularly: I'll schedule time to write and honor that schedule. Freely: I'll write first drafts with the laptop screen down, using only lowercase letters and periods. Without excuses: I'll not postpone writing to feed a muse, because muses do not exist.

2. I'll keep my crap first draft to myself.
It's a three-eyed troll with dandruff and bad breath. It talks during movies. It farts in libraries. It is not ready for society.

3. I'll revise.
With flaming swords of grammatical righteousness and structural truth, I'll smite the crap. I'll add things, delete things, move things. I'll try not to overuse commas, as is my wont.
Check out the rest.

NCTE Notable books

Here are the selection criteria for this award:

Each year, a seven-member committee selected by the Children’s Literature Assembly, an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of English, identifies 30 exemplary works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. To be selected as a Notable Book in the Language Arts, books must meet one or more of the following criteria:

1) deal explicitly with language, such as plays on words, word origins, or the history of language;
2) demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style; and
3) invite child response or participation. In addition, books are to have an appealing format, be of enduring quality, and meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written.

Click to find out which books won.

South-ender looking to carpool

A Tacoma member is interested in finding carpool mates for the monthly meetings remaining in this year. If you're heading up and interested in sharing gas and that long drive, please contact Chellis Swenson at chelj (at) net-venture (dot) com.

Judy Blume, in the thick of things again

This comes from Judy's blog:
Key West - they're at it again and this time right in my backyard at the Sugarloaf School, on Sugarloaf Key, about 20 miles from Key West on US 1. That's right -- a parent has challenged Forever, charging that distributing the book to minors is a felony under Florida law and that it also constitutes sexual harassment. Huh? She doesn't believe in censorship, she says, but she wants the book removed anyway. She's holding the librarian responsible, as a student checked the book out of the school library, then read aloud passages from it on a school bus.

Read the rest here.

6 ways to make your book a page-turner

Some great tips from author/editor Nancy Lamb. Here are the first three:

1) Evoke Curiosity

Begin your chapter by provoking the reader’s interest. Reveal a secret, generate a plot line, or create a mystery—making sure these elements have consequences further into the story.

2) Never End at Endings

Avoid ending a plot line at the end of a chapter. That makes it too easy for the reader to put down the book.

3) Think Middle to Middle

Whether you have a short subplot line or an extended one, begin the story in the middle of one chapter and end it in the middle of another.

Read the rest on her site.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Apply for an arts grant

Thanks to Lois Brandt for sending this info along:

King County has a grant project for individual artists, including writers and illustrators. The grant application is due March 10. (Sorry for the late information, I just found out myself.)

This is a project-based grant. Writers are required to submit a ten page sample, illustrators are required to upload a sample from their project portfolio.

Here's the link.

Our penultimate Professional Series Meeting of the year

Hard to believe, but it's true. Here's who's on deck for the meeting, which happens Tuesday, March 9:

Program 1: PLOTTING THE PICTURE BOOK, STEPPING INTO YOUR STORY with Clare H. Meeker. The best picture books combine strong, visual plots with simple, clear language that invites readers to participate in the story. Award-winning picture book author Clare H. Meeker will share her process in plotting fiction and narrative nonfiction picture books—moving from a strong visual idea to a three-problem approach to story structure, and tips on plot devices like the darkest moment—that will make your story fun to write and read.

Program 2: EMBELLISHING THE PICTURE-BOOK MANUSCRIPT: AN ILLUSTRATOR’S STORY with Karen Schmidt. Karen, who has been illustrating picture books for over 30 years, will describe how she created and interwove her own very personal story into the poetry of Jane Yolen’s HOPTOAD, while working closely with an editor, but independent of the author. She will detail her own creative process and share favorite “back stories” of other illustrators. Writers as well as illustrators will benefit from understanding the illustration side of the process of making picture books.

Our Professional Series Meetings take place at Seattle Pacific University - Demaray Hall, Room 150. Registration is at 6:45 p.m., and the program starts at 7 p.m.

Today's inspiration: Grace Lin

Grace, who spoke at our last annual conference, really could be any day's inspiration. But here's a Blue Rose Girls post about entropy and her recent wedding:

So, I've been a bit busy lately and haven't really kept up with all the posts here at the BRG as well as I should. So I am just catching up on Meghan's posts about the "dark side" of being a children's book creator. And while I agree with what Meghan has written (bookstore signing can be completely depressing), I wanted to add a bit more encouragement to the overall picture.

At my wedding, my science genius cousin (he really is a genius, he's working to find a cure for Alzheimer's) Austin gave a little speech at my wedding. Earlier in the day, he had been untangling his guitar strap and Alex had made a comment about how the straps always seemed to get tangled, and why was that? Entropy, Austin said.

Read the rest

Thanks to Nina Hess for the link.

George Shannon, Lynn Brunelle event

Eagle Harbor Book Company presents story time for children 3 and up with Bainbridge Island authors George Shannon and Lynn Brunelle on Saturday, March 13, at 11 a.m.. The event, which is free and open to the public, will last about half an hour and will include refreshments.

Shannon and Brunelle will read from their new collaboration: Chicken Scratches: Poultry Poetry and Rooster Rhymes. This delightful volume include a flock of smile-inducing poems, introducing such characters at Hula Zelda; Henny Penny,a penny pincher; and Chickie Teriyaki, a sumo superstar.

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 us online at

Penguin plays with the iPad

This is pretty cool!

Thanks to Liz Mills for the link.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Give a shout-out to National Grammar Day!

This is Holly, here to say what our brilliant, dedicated, yet profoundly humble and loveable Martha would not say for herself:

Today is March 4th, the only day that is both a date AND an imperative - but more importantly, it is the only national holiday (seriously! look it up!) that was coined by our very own Martha Brockenbrough, the grammar genius behind THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC] (illustrated by our friend Jaime Temairik). It's National Grammar Day!

And if that isn't a reason to march forth and pick up a hilarious look at the English language (and toast fabulous friends), I don't know what is.

You can also join The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, friend them on Facebook or follow the blog.

Go on, march!

Interview with Deborah Hopkinson

This comes from Laurie Thompson's blog:

I became a fan of Deborah Hopkinson in 2007, when I started Anastasia Suen’s Easy Readers and Chapter Books course. For the first assignment, we had to read five chapter books then choose one to analyze. I chose PIONEER SUMMER because it was my favorite. Years later, when I became co-regional advisor for SCBWI Western Washington, I knew I had to bring Deborah up to talk to us. I’m thrilled that she’ll be coming to our conference this April, and that I’ll finally get to meet her in person! I’m going to try not to go all fan-girl on her, but you never know.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to ask her a few questions that have been on my mind and share them with you, so we can all get to know her a little better…

Read the interview.

Also, if you haven't signed up for the conference yet, please know that it's 90 percent sold out. If you want to go, sign up today.

Blogging workshop in Seattle

Lisa Owens sent word along about this workshop:

The Editorial Freelancers Association is pleased to invite you to its upcoming blogging workshop in Seattle:

Blogging Basics
Saturday, March 20, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave, Level 4 - PACCAR Room 6
Fees: EFA Members $99 — Nonmembers $124

Is your creative spark threatening to go out? Is your freelance business slow? A blog can help you revive them both. Blogging is a free, fun way to get your name out there to a potential audience of millions, and in this 4-hour class you’ll learn everything you need to know to start your own blog in 5 minutes or less. First we’ll look at the “big picture” of blogging, including how it fits into the context of other social networking media like Facebook and Twitter. Then we’ll proceed to the nuts and bolts of how to set one up, how to promote it, and yes — even how to make a little money from it. Laptops are welcome but not required.

Instructor Rebecca Agiewich is the author of BreakupBabe: A Novel (Ballantine Books, 2006), which sprang from her dating blog “Breakup Babe” and was a finalist for the 2007 Lulu Blooker prize — a literary prize for books based on blogs. She is also a writing coach, freelance editor, and journalist, whose travel writing can be found in places like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Alaska Airlines Magazine. You can find out more about Rebecca at

For access to EFA’s secure online registration system, please visit our course catalog page.

Feel free to share this notice with interested friends and colleagues, and please send any questions about the event to Lisa Owens at lisa AT

Kevin Henkes at Secret Garden Bookshop

The bookstore sent word that one of our all time picture book heroes is swinging through Seattle, and we're having an event with him at the shop for the first time in years. Kevin Henkes was awarded the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon. He is the creator of several picture books featuring his mouse characters, including the No. 1 New York Times bestsellers Lilly's Big Day and Wemberly Worried, the Caldecott Honor Book Owen, and the beloved Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. He also writes for older children. His novels include Bird Lake Moon, and the Newbery Honor Book Olive's Ocean.

The details:

Time: Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.
Location: Secret Garden Bookshop
2214 NW Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107

Happy National Grammar Day

I thought you writers might like some of the National Grammar Day highlights: a video by Grammar Girl and a funny bit of grammar noir by a former Baltimore Sun copy editor, John McIntyre.

You'll find these things on the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar blog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book giveaway for librarians only

You might want to alert your friendly neighborhood public or school librarians about this opportunity from The Spectacle blog to win a stack of 11 recent speculative fiction titles for their collections. The contest is being held in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, and librarians only need to provide their library name and email (either in comments or by e-mailing it privately). The drawing will be held March 25.

(Full disclosure: co-regional advisor Joni Sensel is one of The Spectacle bloggers.)

Golden Kite Awards

So exciting! Check out the winners here.

Rules for writing fiction

There's a huge list that I've been enjoying for the past several days, marveling at some good bits of wisdom and scratching my head at what seems like it's meant to be a joke.

Here's Neil Gaiman with wisdom:

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

The funny, from Will Self:

Regard yourself as a small corporation of one. Take yourself off on team-building exercises (long walks). Hold a Christmas party every year at which you stand in the corner of your writing room, shouting very loudly to yourself while drinking a bottle of white wine. Then masturbate under the desk. The following day you will feel a deep and cohering sense of embarrassment.

And the nutty, from Colm Tóibín

8 On Saturdays, you can watch an old Bergman film, preferably Persona or Autumn Sonata.

9 No going to London.

10 No going anywhere else either.
Read the whole thing.

Thanks to Laurie Thompson for the link.

Good job, NUBS

Kirby Larson and co-author Mary Nethery got a bit of good news yesterday: NUBS has received a Christopher Award, in the Literature for Young People category. These awards are given to media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit."

Says Kirby: "We are completely honored by this. . .and so proud of our 'mutt'!"

Summer Writing Camp with Annie Gage

SCBWI member Annie Gage is offering Summer Writing Camp again, with a twist!

Here's what she's offering:

Summer Writing Camp will be custom-designed this year.
Interested parents and kids will bring together 2-8 children
I will "plant" my supplies in one of their homes, where we will gather for 2-3 hours/day during a mutually agreed-upon week.
Writing and Creative Fun will ensue, complete with games, book-making, field trips, storyboxes and the ever-popular writing in a coffee house on Friday.

Campers should be entering 4th, 5th, or 6th grades

I charge $50.hour, so the fee/family will depend on the number of participants.

I am offering this to folks within the Seattle area. I am happy to drive a distance and charge
mileage for distances greater than five miles from my Greenlake home.

Questions? anniegage AT

Join Nina Hess at Skamania Lodge

Nina Hess, author of A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO MONSTERS, has been chosen to be a featured author at a Skamania Lodge event. It's on Saturday, March 27 from 2-4 p.m. The details:

Join award winning children's author, Nina Hess, for a reception of milk and cookies, at Skamania Lodge. Families and children will enjoy meeting Nina, author of the New York Times picture book best seller, A Practical Guide to Monsters. This is a fully illustrated overview of all different kinds of fantasy monsters. In addition, children can participate in a Monster Making Workshop, and design their own monster using a handout created by Ms. Hess.

Price - $15 per child for hotel guests, $20 for children not staying in the hotel. (Each child will go home with a signed copy of Ms. Hess's book.)

More information.

Hugo House offers writing class for teachers

This time around it's Organic Poetry with Paul Nelson, a free class for teachers to be held March 17 from 5-7 p.m.

Here's the description:
Is the universe a machine based on competition, or an organism based on process, interdependence and relationship? Organic Poetry, a stance toward poem making dubbed by Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov, allows the moment of composition to be an occasion of experience, an experiment in consciousness. This entertaining workshop includes discussion of poets Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure and others, sound from these poets and writing exercises designed to help you allow the act of writing to be an exhilarating revelation of content.

As always, please rsvp to

Monday, March 1, 2010

Arts funding in jeopardy

Dana Sullivan sent this along:

Friends - This is a little dense but important. I'm writing to ask you to help 4Culture out with its legislation currently being considered in both houses of the legislature in Olympia. Please write your legislators today to ask for their support of arts and culture funding in King County. Tonight will not be too late. No need to specify a bill number - simply ask for support of funding for arts and heritage in King County, and include the benefit that you see for yourself and your community.

Here is the website where you can find your legislators and email them: Here is the Advocate 4Culture blog where you can keep updated: Please share this information with your friends and colleagues by forwarding or speaking with them.

4Culture funds arts and cultural organizations throughout the count; supports local arts agencies; funds sustained support (the running of an organization) for small heritage museums and arts organizations like the Seattle Opera, Village Theater and Northwest Ballet as well as project and equipment support for those same organizations; individual artists and artist groups like Seattle Print Arts, Hugo House, Barbara Robertson, Heather Oakson, Tess Martin, Dan Corson and Dan Webb as well as writers like Nancy Rawles whose book, My Jim, was a Seattle Reads selection last year; Lucia Neare's incredible Lullaby Moon performances and the like through Site Specific programming; opportunities to exhibit at Gallery 4Culture for emerging artists like Dawn Cerny, Zack and Gala Bent. Hotel Motel funding supports overhead for Public Art, supporting artwork in public spaces and fantastic artworks by Sheila Klein, Cris Bruch, Buster Simpson, Glenn Rudolph and the beloved Poetry on Buses program.

Most of you have a relationship with 4Culture; even those of you who haven't gotten direct funding benefit from 4Culture's programming. Here is the deal: If 4Culture does not get its funding renewed by the end of this session - March 11 - then 2011 will be spent downsizing from roughly $15,000,000 to $1,500,000. This will mean closing the office, reducing to a much smaller staff and, obviously, much smaller granting capability. Organizations and individuals and the work they do will be affected. Public Art will be reduced to a few project managers and the curator. Though we will still be able to lobby the legislature next year we will not be able to count on funding, so will be downsizing.

Laptop rally from 5-7 tonight at Stellar Pizza in Georgetown. Come join us in writing to your legislators.

How to lose readers and distance people

This helpful bit comes from Kiersten White's blog (her book, PARANORMALCY, is due out this September):

I think we can learn a valuable lesson as writers (and as human beings) (okay, not really, but sometimes I like to pretend like there's really broad application so that my non-writer-readers won't click away) (or I like to distract them with SHINY THINGS) (but I am fresh out of SHINY THINGS, although I have parenthesis in abundance today, apparently) from what happened with LOST. Yes, they made the right choice in limiting the season run so that there would be a definite end date they could work toward. But it is too little too late.

As a writer, I want my readers to ask questions. I want to create curiosity, intrigue. I want to learn how to spell curiosity right on the first time around. I want them to want to know what happens. But if you raise too many questions and wait too long for payoff, your audience will get frustrated and stop caring.

That's about the worst thing I can imagine in an audience. Because even if they hate you, at least they still care. For them not to care enough to finish the book?


Read the rest.

Nail Your Novel: a free ebook

Roz Morris, a novelist, ghostwriter and freelancer, has an e-book called Nail Your Novel. You can download it free here.

Lois Harris's book launch to benefit kids

Lois writes:

I’d like to let everyone know about an update to my Charlie Russell: Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist book launch on Tues., 3/2 at 10 AM at Barnes & Noble, University Village, Seattle.

The Barnes & Noble BookFair will feature St. George School in south Seattle on 3/2 and for the following seven days.

B&N will give a percentage of their proceeds during that time to the kindergarten class of St. George School in south Seattle. Amy Pollington, the kindergarten teacher, wrote me saying many children in her classroom are second language English students and do not speak English at home. St. George’s has a tight budget with little money for items beyond textbooks. If you would like to help these children, show the attached voucher when purchasing a book during the specified time.

If you have any questions, Amy Pollington’s e-mail is a.pollington AT If you would like to donate a book to the St. George Library, the Librarian’s name is Liz Walsh-Boyd, St. George School, 5117 13th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98108.

(This is the best I could do in reproducing the voucher. -- Martha)

2675 NE U village St.

St. George School


Barnes & Noble

St. George

Tuesday, March 2nd,
Barnes & Noble
University Village

• See our school wish list for library book donations

• Get your picture taken with young reader’s author Lois Harris

• Don’t miss Storytime at 10:00AM

• Visit our school website address
or call Amy Pollington for more information

Tuesday, March 2nd