Monthly Archives: February 2014

SCBWI

Recently I became a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which turns out was a really good idea for me.  I just got back from their annual conference in New York City, and let me just say: Boy howdy!  There was a lot of good stuff there.  At this point I must note that part of my little welcome packet at the conference was a piece of paper all about what was and wasn’t okay to share on blogs.  Basically they said that sharing any pictures or videos would be a violation of copyright laws, and also that I shouldn’t write out any of the speaker’s speeches word for word.  They did say that some direct quotes with citations would be fine, and that’s great because I took down a lot of those!  And I’m going to share them here for you today.

First up is Jack Gantos, who was one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear speak.  Therefore there are a lot of quotes from him.  He is an author.  I bought two of his books after hearing him speak.  They are Dead End in Norvelt and Hole in my Life.

“I don’t know about you, but the way I think is very, very random.”

Harriet the Spy is a handbook for writing.  Spying on people.  Who doesn’t love getting in other people’s business?”

“The reason you read books is to change.”

“The book is like an infection.  It’s a virus.  It gets in ya.  It’s good for ya.”

“My dad gave me a shovel for my birthday…and a handbook.”  The handbook in question was the Fallout Shelter Handbook.

Next was a panel of speakers.  They included Paul Aiken, the executive director of The Author’s Guild; Jean Feiwel, SVP Publishing Director of Macmillan Children’s Books; Jane Friedman, Web Editor, Virginia Quarterly Review; Abbi Glines, Author; and Timothy Travaglini, Director of Children’s Acquisitions at Open Road Media.  If they weren’t all quoted, it’s because I couldn’t write fast enough, not because they didn’t say anything of interest.

“We’ve lost sixty to seventy percent of our retail shelf space for books in the last ten years…fortunately there are other physical places for books.  Public libraries…and classrooms.” – Paul Aiken

“I catch my kids watching John Green videos on the computer.” – Paul Aiken

“When I released it, I got really bad reviews because it was bad.” – Abbi Glines, on self publishing her first book, Breathe.

“Writing a book is like a muscle: It gets better with use.”  – Abbi Glines

“I don’t think you’re going to be as successful if you are reclusive…I think in this day and age that’s going to be a problem.” – Jean Feiwel, on promoting yourself.

“What’s unfortunate about the self publishing model is it doesn’t represent all genres equally.” – Paul Aiken

“I think publishers have to acknowledge that they don’t know everything.” – Jean Feiwel

Finally I have a couple from author Kate Messner, who gave a lovely speech.  She has written picture books as well as YA.  I purchased one of her books titled Wake Up Missing.

“I say ‘yes’ to most things before I’ve really had a chance to think about whether or not it’s a good idea.” – KM, on agreeing to do a TED Talk.

“My husband was so disgusted with the Super Bowl he voluntarily switched over to Downtown Abbey at nine.” – This is not related to writing in any way, but I thought it was funny.

So there are those.  I hope you find them as amusing and/or informative as I did.

Something else important happened while I was at that conference.  I was listening to the engaging and talented Nikki Grimes – author of such books as Words with Wings and Planet Middle School – when inspiration struck me.  And it struck me quite hard.  I now have 4,745 words written for my second rewrite of The Dreamcatchers.  I guess I have Nikki Grimes to thank.  Her work sounded wonderful, so I’d recommend checking it out.  I do want to talk about the strategy I’ve chosen for getting this book written, but we’ll save that for another post.

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How Aging Works

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging and immortality.  Mainly because Twilight has remained a part of my life in the best way possible – through the people who have been making fun of it.  For instance, there is a channel on YouTube that I highly recommend you check out.  It’s called CinemaSins, and they do a segment entitled Everything Wrong With_______.  In the EWW videos, they point out everything wrong with a movie (as if you couldn’t figure that out).  From consistency errors to poor writing to other stuff, all with a humorous overtone, so you know…you don’t get too offended if they say a movie you like has 73 sins.  And they just came out with a new video, which I watched yesterday.  I’ll embed it here for you:

So the first thing I noticed was that the narrator didn’t understand that Edward’s appearing to Bella in times of danger was not one of Edward’s many superpowers, but rather a new power of Bella’s – hallucinating her ex in times of danger.  This was hilarious to me.  Don’t know why.  Guess it’s just because nobody could really fathom the levels of crazy that book went to.  But what I really wanted to talk about was a thought inspired by 00:44 in the video.  “Wow.  Maybe I shouldn’t be dating such an old man,” says Bella.  To which the EWW narrator replies, “Ya think?!”

Now, I am guilty of this in my writing.  I even blogged about immortality before without bringing up this particular point, so I wanted to clear something up:  No matter how you spin it, an 109-year-old is an 109-year-old.  If your body stops aging at seventeen, your brain may stop developing in the traditional ways, but it will just find some non-traditional ways.  Eventually you’re going to stop acting like a teenager.  It’s just going to happen.  And I say I’m guilty of this because I am.  My character, Aiden, is three-hundred and um…seventy…sixty…….He’s um…

Hold on…

*looks back through own book*

Three-hundred and seventy-six!  There we go.  I forgot.

Anyway, the point is that he still acts like an eighteen-year-old and I want to be the first to say that that is bullshit, pardon my language.  It’s in my book because I wrote it at a time before I’d given this immortality stuff any proper thought, and after I’d given it proper thought it was too late to change the entire book.  Plus, I don’t know if I would have.  I think there’s a certain level of suspension of disbelief that contributes to the enjoyment of paranormal romance type novels, and I think that it is that suspended disbelief that allows us to buy that a 376-year-old could ever act like a teenager.  It’s something I rely on, in fact.  But at the same time I’m telling you it’s BS.  Because it is.  And I felt like being honest.  Speaking of honest, I’m sure I wanted to make a point somewhere in here, but I’ve honestly forgotten what it is.

Ummm…hey look at this stuff I made for my Etsy shop! [EDIT 1/12/15: My Etsy shop has been closed but I’m leaving these pictures up because I’m a showoff.]

Abstract 5

Fish4

Conch 1

Round Shell 2

Thanks for reading!

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An Open Blog Post for Editors

I had dinner with an author a few weeks ago.  I will not reveal the identity of this author, for the sake of his/her privacy, but it definitely happened.  And she/he told me stories about people who struggled for ten years before they got published.  This puts my own one-year struggle into perspective, naturally, but I can’t stop myself from having just a tiny pity party.  Lots and lots of rejection is hard to take.  As such, I decided to write a little pick-me-up blog post.  It’s a list of reasons why I think editors should pick up my book and run with it.  No editor will ever read it, but I don’t care, because I am writing this for the purpose of boosting my own morale, not actually convincing editors of anything.

1. I am my competitors’ biggest fan – Part of being a good writer is knowing what makes a good book.  And I know what makes a good book because I have read good books.  John Green, Tamora Pierce, Melissa Marr, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Ned Vizzini.  I love them.  They are the people who make publishing my book that much harder and they are the people who have inspired the very best ideas that I have put to paper.  I read the books I’m trying to write, and I write the books I’d like to read.

2. My books are both similar and different – They are similar enough to what’s already been published to guarantee a sizable market, while remaining different enough from everyone else’s stuff to stand alone and be memorable.

3. I will do whatever it takes to promote myself – If you tell me that I need to visit fifty states in fifty-two days to do book signings and readings, I will respond with, “Get me a half a jar of peanut butter and an IV drip of caffeine and we’ll be all set.”  I want to do this.  I would legitimately enjoy it.  Nothing is too much when it comes to promoting my books and myself as an author.

Sleep Deprived

4. I am in my early twenties – At the moment, I am no more than nine or ten years older than the youngest person in my target demographic.  Even better, I am the same age as many of the people who are in my target demographic.  Even better again, I wrote most of my books when I was even younger than I am now.  I think you can see where I’m going with this.  Also, not to use my competitors’ age against them, but I have a lot of life left in me.  A lot more books to pump out before my inevitable psychological breakdown at age sixty-three.

Haunting Words

ALSO…

5. I have a lot of books in me – I have written tons of books already.  Like at least six.  Two of them are even good.  A third is good enough to merit a second rewrite in as many years.  That is how much I care for that story.  I care for all my stories, but mainly just the good ones.  Some of the books I wrote or attempted to write were, let’s face it, terrible.  But isn’t that something?  That I can identify when my own writing isn’t up to snuff?

6. I do more than write – You don’t have to read my whole blog from start to finish.  In fact, please don’t (my first few posts were really dumb).  But if you just flip through the last twenty posts or so you will notice some things.  I draw, I cartoon, and I animate.  I make little glass things that don’t sell because I only have a couple dozen Facebook friends.  I also blog, which is definitely different from writing novels.  I have no idea what this means except that I’m multifaceted, I guess.  Who knows when you’ll need a blogging/cartooning/animating/flameworking author in your repertoire?  It might come in handy.

Just look at how cute Mini Bex is!

Selling Point

Alright I’m done.  Sorry about that self-serving ego-fest.

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