Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Could Be the Most Boring Post Ever...

But it could also be the most helpful to me. Has anyone out there had problems with carpal tunnel syndrome from all the damn typing we do? Mine has gone from 0-60 in two weeks and is almost unbearable. I'm going in for acupuncture tomorrow, which helped several years ago, but would love any tips from people about what they do to keep their wrists healthy. Of course, this is all a huge cosmic joke for cheating my way through high school typing class.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Perk: Toonces

When I was young my favoriet skit on SNL was Toonces the Driving Cat. I'm not really sure why, I mean it's really stupid, but it always made me laugh. So, for today's Monday Perk I bring you Toonces Mows the Lawn!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I have run away.

After two weeks of kids on spring vacation and a freelance project on the side, I’ve not been able to write anything for Book 2 in way too long. With each day that passed I was getting grumpier to kids and bitchier to adults. Without even realizing it, I’d let fear take over. This book became something I had to do, an obligation—like an annual exam or helping a friend move. I was simultaneously feeling guilty about not working on it and dreading working on it.

So the day after I came home from California, I left for the weekend. Jumped in the car with my laptop minutes after deciding to go, leaving the kids and the supportive husband to fend for themselves. (To assuage my guilt here, I must add that the kids love it when I go away so they can have “Super Dad Weekend” and Scott had just had five child-free days at home.)

But the point of this whole post, without trying to sound too Oprah-esque, is to say that I have turned my feelings about Book 2 from fear back into joy. The first night here I read a short but dense book that I needed to really understand as the basis for research for Book 2, but had been far too distracted to read at home. So I finished it and then went out and sat out under the stars, which at this high altitude are incredible. I thought about the information in the book under the clear night sky and BOOM! I figured out the key. That pesky ending? Check! Suddenly I was giddy and excited to write; for the first time, Book 2 had turned from an obligation to a privilege. Someone was going to publish this thing! How could I have been such a brat about it? Can I hire one of you to kick my a** if I start getting grumpy about this again?

Sure, I have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, but it’s doable. And, more important, it will be fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And the book deals keep coming! Interview with Angie Frazier

Angie Frazier’s book Everlasting has it all—sailing voyages, treasure maps, forbidden love, immortal stones, bushrangers! What more could you want? After reading the teaser, I pictured Angie as an avid sailor, but when I contacted her about this interview she admitted that she's not much of a sea goer. "In fact, I am extremely jealous of anyone who can get out on the open ocean without becoming paralyzed with sea sickness," Angie admits. "I definitely did not ‘write what I knew' and had to do lots of research!”

Whatever Angie is doing, it’s working; in addition to getting a two-book deal from Scholastic for Everlasting, she’s just announced on LiveJournal that she got a SECOND two-book deal for a middle grade series with Scholastic for publication in 2011! WOW!

Okay, because this is an interview for authors debuting in 2010, let’s stick to Everlasting. Here’s Angie’s deal report from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Angie Frazier’s EVERLASTING, a romantic, high-seas adventure pitched as A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY meets THE LUXE, to Jennifer Rees at Scholastic at auction, in a two-book deal, by Ted Malawer at Firebrand Literary.

So, Angie, can you please tell us how you met your agent?
I was pleasantly confused when I queried Nadia Cornier at Firebrand and received a reply from someone named Ted. No last name, no information about who he was. He just said he really wanted to read my manuscript, so of course I sent it off to him! Only later did I realize he was Ted Malawer, a new agent there and that he was building his list of clients. I was thrilled when he offered to represent me. He is amazing to work with, and I really don’t know what I’d do without him.

How did your (first!) book deal come together?
After about six months of revisions with Ted, we finally sent the manuscript out to editors on a Friday. I was floored when we had reports of interest by Monday morning. Everything happened very fast from there. After years of trying to catch an editor’s eye through queries and one-on-one critiques I was in total disbelief that I was having phone conversations with a number of editors who all loved my novel and wanted to offer on it. It was surreal! The book went to auction, which was an amazing experience for a first-time author.

What was the inspiration for Everlasting and how long did it take you to write?
The first place my husband and I lived was a small caretaker’s cottage on the property of this huge mansion in Dublin, New Hampshire. The ceilings were plastered in old travel posters from the 1920s and 1930s, and many of them were for places in Australia. I decided I wanted to write a story set in Australia. That’s how all my books seem to begin—with a setting, a place. The story and characters built themselves from there, though it did take me 7 long years to figure out the right plot! Once I had that revelation, it only took a few months to complete.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
Right now, Everlasting is slated for June 2010! I have great visions of teenagers laying out by the pool or on the beach in their bathing suits, catching rays and reading all about Camille and Oscar’s hot romance! As for where I am in the process, not much has happened since the deal back in March of 2008. My fabulous editor is just about to start in on her summer 2010 list and I think I should be seeing a revision letter soon. She’s promised light revisions (crossing fingers!).

If you could spend the day with one of the characters from your book, who would it be and why?
If I ever stepped into my book’s world, I would be very tempted to spend the day with Oscar Kildare, the hunky hero. However, being the reasonable gal I am, and knowing he’s already in total love with my protagonist, Camille, I would opt for some time with Ira Beam, the Australian card shark who guides Oscar and Camille to the legendary stone of the immortals. He’s adorable and a riot, and I would love to be his sidekick for a day.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a few different projects, including some agent-directed revisions on Everlasting's sequel, due out in summer 2011. I’ve also started work on a new YA dark fantasy loosely based on the Huntsman from the tale of Snow White. And I’m also in the final stages of selling a middle grade historical mystery set in a grand hotel in New Brunswick, Canada.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
It is a piece of advice that has been said time and again: Don’t ever give up. If you truly believe your manuscript is ready for an agent or editor, keep sending it out. You almost need to have a delusional optimistic outlook on the whole process. Rejection hurts, but each rejection is a step closer. Just don’t give up.

Thanks Angie! And congratulations on your huge success. Can't wait to read Everlasting!

Angie is all over the web. I recommend going straight to her LiveJournal blog to read about her second round of book deals. You can also check out her website, and to hear about third, fourth, and fifth round of books deals (surely imminent) keep up with Angie on Twitter and Facebook!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Break, Part Deux

Had a big day today! We spent many hours at the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, which is a marvel inside and out. It houses an aquarium, planetarium, rain forests, swamp, Africa exhibit, and a Galapagos exhibit all under one living roof (the top of the museum is a two-acre garden of native plants). The planetarium show was spectacular!

Inside looking up.

Hank as dino treat.

Checking out the living roof. Remind you of Teletubbies?

We took a leisurely drive through some of the gorgeous neighborhoods, up and down the city's steepest hills.

Then we went down to the waterfront to see some street performers and hit our favorite little donut stand. (Alcatraz awaits the children in the background.)

What's a trip to the pier without a good bungee jump? When you're this small you really fly!

We finished off the day with an excellent dinner in Chinatown. San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and I love to just wander around looking at all the cool and weird stuff.

Such a great city! Such a great trip.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Double Cappucinos, Double Writers, Double Bookstores!

We arrived late afternoon yesterday and rolled right in to a beautiful engagement party for my cousin and his gawgeous bride to be. It was superfun to see all my California family all in one place at one time. My kids worked over every adult at the party, and ended up having 19 desserts. Good times.

Today we didn’t have any big stuff planned, so I bookended the day with writers and bookstores—what could be better? I started at Café Borrone with a young adult writer named Michelle, who had just been to the Big Sur conference (where she had met the hilarious and talented Graeme Stone!). It was fun to chat about projects and process and people we knew in common. After coffee we walked next door to the 53 year old die-hard indie, Kepler’s Books. Antonia Squire, the General Manager and Children’s Buyer, was in the YA section so Barb, my aunt and biggest fan, told her that I was going to be published next year. I am THE WORST at self promotion and wanted to melt into the floor, but Antonia was totally great and gushed on about how much she loved Flux books. I ended up walking out with her card so I could send an ARC! Thanks Aunt Barb – what would we do without our family “publicists”? (By the way, Kepler's has a great teen books blog!)

Later in the day, I met Heidi Kling, author and Queen of Tenners, for a bite. I swear it was like I’d known her for years. There was none of that meeting-a-new-person weridness; we slid right into publishing talk and were even oblivious to the fact that the bakery was closing and we were the only ones in there. From there we walked to Books Inc. to cruise the YA section and talk book covers, as Heidi had just sent off her ideal mock up to her editor, who had asked for her input. Very exciting! I walked out with The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Way We Live Now, and I can’t wait to dig in to both of them. The bookseller who took our picture had never used a digital camera before and held it upside down at first, so I blame her for me looking greasy and round in this photo—in real life I’m svelte and matte. (!)

All in all a great day, but time flew by way to quickly, as it does when writing and books are the subject!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Vacation!

I'm leaving tomorrow for San Francisco,
so until I blog again, I bid you Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fun With Venn Diagrams

song chart memes

song chart memes

ADDENDUM: I'm getting comments that no one gets the humor in this. Let's try pie chart form instead of Venn diagram. Can you see the humor in this:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From Dream to Novel: A Peeve Story

Pet peeves. I’ve got lots of them. I guess I’m just a peevish person. But numero uno pet peeve relating to writing is this phrase, “I was having this amazing dream so I woke up and wrote it down and it turned into a novel!” I know of several people for whom a dream turned into a six-figure book deal.

Because this peeve usually comes from the mouths of urban fantasy/romance writers, I’d sort of chalked it up to genre thing, but then recently I read that Josh Berk’s The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, started as a dream. Because I know and respect Josh, I wasn’t immediately peeved; I was intrigued. His book is not urban fantasy and it’s being published by Knopf, most likely on high-quality deckle edged paper.

So I’ve been thinking: What is it about books that start as dreams? I always remember my dreams and have an incredibly rich dream life, but I never wake up and think, This would make a killer novel! Usually I think, Wow, trippy dream! Shouldn’t have has so many Thin Mints before bed.

I think the reason books from dreams become so popular is because for the most part we dream in archetypes—primal, inherited patterns of thought. Look how Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the perfect example of dream to novel, has become a worldwide phenomenon. That’s some straight-up anima/animus + shadow archetypes mixed with some Mormon doctrine (or at least that’s how I interpret the old man/Edward & young girl/Bella relationship, as well as Edward’s parents/The Church, who gave him everlasting life by “saving him” from dying. But that’s just me!).

Tapping into the archetypes of the collective unconscious is like hooking your pipes up to city water instead of pumping from a well; you’re tapping into a steady flow of ideas that we all share. These have nothing to do with personal experience, but rather inherited thought buried deep in the primal brain. Sadly, I think I’m a writer who continues to work a deep, drying well. I need to get hooked up to the flow. Come to me, oh six-figure archetype dream! I’m waiting with open arms…

Has anyone out there had the dream-to-novel experience?

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Fab, Fragile Bird: Interview with Author Lindsey Leavitt

Is it just me or is everyone able to spot a writer they'll like within a few words? Even in email, it will often only take a sentence or two before I can recognize whether or not I’d dig a person’s writing. For me, Lindsey Leavitt was a writer I dug right away. I think it was reading her post about New Years resolutions (ripped from her adolescent journals!) when I was struck; I just knew I’d buy whatever she wrote. I wanted to interview her because I was sure you all would love her as well.

To set the scene, here's Lindsey’s deal report:

Lindsey Leavitt's PRINCESS FOR HIRE, about a tween girl's amusing adventures when she becomes a magical substitute for princesses, to Emily Schultz at Hyperion, at auction, in a three-book deal, for publication in Winter 2010, by Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary Agency (NA).

Welcome Lindsey! Can we start with you how you met your agent?
I’d been querying for a few months when I saw a post about the new Greenhouse Literary agency on the Verla Kay boards. I’d actually quit querying that particular book to work on PRINCESS FOR HIRE, but figured… why not? What’s one more query going to hurt? A month later, I had two agents offering and an editor taking that book to acquisitions (which they didn’t buy, but we will probably start shopping it soon!). The moral, I suppose, is you never know when IT (the deal, the agent, whatever) will happen, but the only way it will is if you keep trudging along,

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
I can do one better. I’ll show you! Here is my very amateur venture into Vlogging, announcing my sale. Yes, I’m pretty spazzerific in it, but can you blame me, really? I’m still bruised from the pinch-fest.

What was the inspiration for PRINCESS FOR HIRE and how long did it take you to write?
I was at a writer’s conference, listening to one of those editor panels where people ask what they want, and they answer “good books” and everyone gets mad because they’re really hoping the editor would say a mutant bunny love story, because everyone has one of those in the drawer. At the end, an editor made an off-hand comment, “Of course, never hurts to hit a sweet spot, like dinosaurs or princesses or something.”

The comment triggered a daydream I used to have in fifth grade where I was whisked off to a castle in the dead of the night, and a whole bunch of girls would line up, and a prince would pick a dance partner/girlfriend/best friend. The catch, he had to pick based on the girl’s cool personality! Yeah, I pretty much invented the concept of reality TV dating, but I like to stay humble about it. Anyway, every night, I would switch the particulars… my spandex/tie-dyed outfit, my inhumanly-high bangs, but it never mattered. The prince always approached me, the only brunette (yeah, Barbie gave me issues), and said, “You’re the one. You are different. You seem cool.”

OK, that was a bit personal and I guess he wouldn’t really know my personality from a look. But hey, I was ten, and a rather awkward ten at that. Still, that memory hit a chord with me and I started to ask questions… Why the prince? I mean, what we want in our prince, really, is the recognition we are special for who we are, right? And if I was lined up with a bunch of princesses, how would I stick out, and how would I fit in? From that, I came up with a teen girl figuring out who she is while constantly pretending to be someone else. And there it was… a substitute princess.

Do you ever wake up in the morning, look in the mirror in awe, and think, “Dang, how did I get so fab?”
No. What a weird question, Christy. So weird you’d think I wrote it myself. Besides, I’m totally humble, remember? I DO, however, have a file of all my rejections, and when I’m feeling super philosophical, I’ll thumb through it and think how subjective this all is. I love her voice! I hate her voice! Reminds me I can not control others reactions—it’s part of the game. I really hope that perspective will help me maintain my sanity when reviews and the like start rolling in.

I also have a “You are fab” file, although I don’t call it that due to my supreme humility. That has really nice notes from writing friends, emails from editors, kudos from my agent. When I’m especially frustrated, I’m one click away from a little pat on the back to get me going. Also, I tend to eat chocolate regardless. See? I’m actually a rather fragile bird. A fab, fragile bird.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
March 2010, which is less than 400 days away so save the date now! I guess you don’t need to SAVE it, you can do other things that day. Like buy the book, go get some lunch (not soup, though. Sloppy). I don’t want to take up all your time, just the trip there and the journey between the pages. Freak, that was so cheesy. Short answer = MARCH 2010 (er, and Jan. in UK)

I just turned in my last round of revisions a few weeks ago and there was much rejoicing in the Leavitt household. Much rejoicing. I’ve been revising since September, draft after draft because we went from a stand alone to a series and that took some slashing and hashing. Right now, I’m very very patiently waiting for my copy edits AND looking forward to receiving my cover!

What are you working on now?
This interview.
Oh, you mean WORK work. I’ve just barely started the second book, now titled Book 2. It’s scary and fun because the possibilities of where it can go are endless. Endless, I say!

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Write your heart out. Write your face off. Write like whatever you wrote will win you a spot on the “I want to be a Princess!” reality show. (oh my gosh, I just Googled that. That was ACTUALLY a show. See? It’s a calling).


I know the idea of being published is a sweet seductress and I know that ache of wanting your words out THERE is fierce but…

If you can’t write, it ain’t gonna happen. Close Agent Query and finish the best book you possibly can, revise that book a million times (and I don’t mean spell check, people), THEN focus on the publishing side. Don’t let all the business stuff overtake the writing, especially that first book, which is such a raw and exhilarating experience.
Just write.

Great advice! Thanks so much for the interview, Lindsey. And best of luck with your Princess empire!

To read more from Lindsey, check out her LiveJournal blog and/or friend her on Facebook!
THIS JUST IN: Lindsey is having a big fat St. Patrick's Day contest giveaway on her blog - win great books or a critique! Click here! Go, go, go!)

A Fiction Treat?

I'm working on the sequel to the Flux book that's heavy on conspiracy, mythology, and ancient science. To get back to that world and mindset, my bedside table is stacked high with nonfiction: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Codebreaker: The History of Codes and Ciphers, and Science and The Akashic Field, to name a few.

I'm going on a trip soon and need a great book, either YA or adult fiction, to take with me. So, if you could break a nonfiction fast with one book of fiction, what would it be?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who Are These People?

And why do they keep asking me to feed them?

Today, I bring you The Offspring: An Interview

Name: Juliet Raedeke
Age: 8.5
What do you want to be when you grow up? A famous seafood chef and artist
Favorite food: Seafood with pasta, calamari
Favorite thing about your brother: When he’s quiet. And his puffball. (That’s the cowlick on the back of his head; we’ve yet to find a cut or product able to tame it.)
One wish: To go on a Mayan adventure to Chiapas with Mom
Funny memory: “When Mom told the story about getting food poisoning from Pea Salad.” (Um, yeah, not so hilarious to me.)
Favorite thing to do at home: Play scrabble and cook.
Favorite thing to do outside of home: Go skiing or travel
Website: Natch! Click here.
Blog: But of course! Click here.

Name: Hank Raedeke
Age: 5
What do you want to be when you grow up? The person who owns the restaurant where Juliet cooks. (To this, Juliet rolls her eyes and says, “No thanks. He’ll probably own something like Witham’s Truck Stop and serve all-you-can-eat nuggets and candy.”)
Favorite food: Candy
Favorite thing about your sister: When she plays spies with me.
Funny memory: “I was playing Duck, Duck, Goose at school and as I ran around the circle my pants fell down!”
One wish: That candy was healthy.
Favorite thing to do at home: Make robots with Dad and play Spider Pig (this is where Scott holds him upside-down and lets him walk on the ceiling. It’s a Homer Simpson thing.)
Favorite thing to do outside of home: Have a playdate with Grammy
Website: Why, yes! Click here.
Blog: Why not? Click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Concerns Me

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. At the same time, draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction and there's nothing you can do about it.

This bothers me far more than I want it to.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recycling Day

I started this blog a year ago, and what fun it's been. I've met so many people through the blogosphere whom I would never have met otherwise, and I've kept in touch with the amazing people I've met at conferences through our blogs. For the little work it takes to maintain, I'd say the payoff has been huge.

Today I'm slammed with work and don't have it in me to write something, so I'm recycling the very first Juvenescence post from this week last year. I think my blog stats peaked at 3 visitors that day, all blood relatives.


So here I am, making my first post and freaking out.

What do I say?
What is my stance?
What will my readers think?

Ah, what a relief. The answer to the last question helps inform the rest, because I HAVE NO READERS!

Now on to the mundane.

Like many writers, I procrastinate. Can't seem to open my manuscript until I have exhausted every excuse NOT to, including finishing such odious tasks as litter-box mining. Today as I sat down at my desk, I realized I could not possibly write without my Goldfinches.

Let me pause here and acknowledge that
admitting to birdwatching puts me in that category with your phlegmatic pipe-smoking great uncle, but hey, I want to keep it honest, this being my first post and all. So anyway, I have a finch feeder hanging just a foot away from my computer on the other side of the window and I love to watch the tiny yellow birds fight for thistle seeds as I search for the right word/phrase/idea.

It's no wonder that I was uninspired today, the feeder was empty! So I've filled it up again and now I wait; I'm not opening that manuscript until there's at least one feaking bird outside my window.

Word of the day: Feak - The action of a bird wiping its beak.
The goldfinch feaking on the willow branch inspired me to write.

FASCINATING BREAKING NEWS: I've had my first customer. A fat fluffy male who looks like he knows where to get thistle even when I've run out.

Damn, now I have to open my doc.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Blunt Arrow to the Psyche

I heard some horrible news yesterday—one of my fellow debut authors had her book contract canceled. The saddest part is that this writer has serious talent and her book premise was wholly original. In all the downsizing that’s happening, her editor was let go and the editor whose desk it landed on didn’t feel strongly enough about it to forge on in the current economy.

Somehow this news struck me like a blunt arrowhead to the psyche, and I had four separate nightmares about it last night. To think you’re achieving your dream and then to have it rescinded on the whim of someone who was not involved at the get go is just so bleak. So bleak! That's some serious Orwellian "Room 101" material.

On the upside, she has an excellent agent and she’s beautiful and marketable in addition to being a talented writer, so we’re all certain that she’ll be under contract somewhere else very soon.

I just really, really, really can’t wait until her book wins the Printz Award.

Now, how about we all go out and buy a book today so we spare more authors a trip to the Ministry of Love's Room 101?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

From Poetry to Prose: An Interview with Author Irene Latham

Irene Latham comes to YA writing from the world of poetry, where she has already published a full-length collection of poems. The book, What Came Before, won an IPPY (Independent Press) Award and was named Alabama State Poetry Society's Book of the Year. I think it’s safe to say Irene is no slouch when it comes to using language! I can’t wait to see how she applies her poetic voice to young adult fiction.

Irene will be one of the first Tenners to be published; her book, Leaving Gee’s Bend, will be released by G.P. Putnam's Sons in January of 2010. Here’s the beautiful cover and a short synopsis:

A ten year old girl in Depression-era Gee’s Bend, Alabama, sets out to save her sick mother and records her adventures in quilt pieces.

Now on to the questions!

Can you tell us how did you meet your agent?
I met Rosemary Stimola at an SCBWI Southern-Breeze (AL-GA-MS) conference in October 2006. Or rather, I sat in the back row and listened to her speak. I was too shy to introduce myself. But I really liked her straightforward approach and thought if I ever decided to pursue an agent, she was who I was going to go for. My dream at the time was to be one of those slush-pile miracles, so I had only been subbing to editors--I really hadn’t considered getting an agent until I met Rosemary.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
I sent a Gee’s Bend story I’d written in verse (poetry: my comfort zone!) to Rosemary just after the conference. She promptly declined -- said she had a novel-in-verse sitting on her desk that she couldn’t sell. So instead of feeling sorry for myself (well, AFTER feeling sorry for myself), I decided I would rewrite the story in prose. So I worked on that for several months and re-subbed to Rosemary as if we had never had the previous contact. And this time, she said YES and sent it to the editor she had in mind. That editor was Stacey Barney at Putnam, and she really liked the voice of the story but didn’t feel like it was quite fleshed-out enough. (again, I write lots of poetry, which is of course very spare: manuscript was only 17,000 words!) She requested a revision, so I got busy adding meat to those bones. Stacey liked what I did with the story, and at that point Putnam offered a contract.

You’ve had a book of poetry published, was that harder or easier to sell than fiction?
Poetry is a much more elusive animal than fiction. It is extremely difficult to sell because there is virtually no market for poetry. My experience has been with small independent presses where there are no advances and a book is considered a success if it breaks even financially. It’s definitely one of those things you do because you love it. And I do.

What was the inspiration for Leaving Gee’s Bend and how long did it take you to write?
On a trip to New York City in the fall of 2003, my husband and I visited the Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibit at the Whitney Museum. I was completely enamored of the quilts and the voices of the women from this teeny tiny isolated community that is geographically only 120 miles from my home in Birmingham, Alabama. Couple this fascination with the fact that I am the daughter of an amazing seamstress who very early on put a needle and thread in my hands, and it’s no mystery where this story comes from. The story that sold was the fourth one I had written set in Gee’s Bend. So from the point of seeing the quilt exhibit to the point of sale, it was right at four years. It took me that long to find the story I was meant to tell all along - Ludelphia’s story.

What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed the third draft of another midgrade historical fiction: ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN. It’s set in 1902 Martinique and chronicles the adventures of two girls (one native, one American) during the eruption of Mt. Pelee (an eruption that claimed 30,000 lives). So I’ve zipped that one off to my agent and now I’m working on a contemporary midgrade DON’T FEED THE ANIMALS. It’s set in an Alabama zoo and is about the son of a zoo director mom and elephant keeper dad whose terrible misfortune is that he was born human (with no particular interest in exotic animals).

Did your childhood dreams include being a writer?
According to my Dr. Seuss’ My book About Me, six year old me wanted to be a writer, a mother, a veterinarian…. and a horse trainer for the horse that my sister would ride to victory in the Kentucky Derby. So far that hasn’t happened, but I do write books, live with three sons and over the years have had all manner of pets, including horses, rabbits, goats, chickens, hamsters, parakeets, fish, ferrets, snakes, frogs, turtles, cats, dogs, ants and butterflies.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Be the Little Engine that Could. And instead of getting frantic about a manuscript that is not selling, transfer all that energy into writing the next thing. Every word you write makes you a better writer.

Thanks for the interview, Irene! For more information about Irene Latham, check out her website or blog, or become friend on Facebook. To read her award-winning book, get a copy here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Permission to Flog

For me, beginning a new manuscript is a big, big deal. While I do have several folders with new book ideas in them, I’m not one of those people (ahem, Suzanne) who can have ten partially started manuscripts on their desktops. Once I start, I become a bit obsessive; like a dog with a bone (or me with a sleeve of Thin Mints), I want to finish it all—and quickly.

I need to start Book Two of the Flux duo. I owe a super-secret draft to my editor at the end of July, which he will then help shape into the Real Draft that’s due September 1. I have a pretty detailed three-page outline, so there are really no big surprises (ha! Doesn’t every writer think that until fifty pages in, when book takes on a life of its own?) but I can’t seem to open a doc and name it. Every day something looms; today it’s the overnight trip I have with our third-grade Brownie troop. Seriously, how can I start a book with an overnight Brownie trip coming up in just hours? Starting a book is monumental! It deserves a clean house! With laundry folded and put away! And the dishwasher empty! And new chlorine tabs in the toilet tanks! And a stretch of a least 5 hours of writing time beforeme! And…and…and... This is where my monkey mind takes my rational mind hostage.

I’m rambling. I’m rambling so I won’t have to open that document and name it.

Monday morning, my friends. All housely distractions will be taken care of tomorrow, so I will have no excuse. Permission to flog me (or take me to a musical) if my new manuscript’s date-of-creation stamp in Word does not read 3-9-09.

Have a great weekend, peeps. I’ll toast you all with marshmallows roasted on unwound coat hangers!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Of Moles and Musicals

Yesterday I endured a painful mole removal and a musical. I'm still stinging from the musical.

Is the ability to enjoy musical theater something you are born with, like earlobes that dangle or a tongue that rolls? Or is it an acquired taste, like stinky cheese?

I wish someone could just club me on the head and I'd wake up loving musicals, because as I was slinking ever lower in my chair until only my spine rested in the seat, everyone around me seemed to be having the time of their lives.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flashy Fiction

Here's a fun new diversion: Flashy Fiction! Seven writers, seven days of flash fiction. Each day there's a new writing prompt, which will inspire you to write a mini "flash fiction" piece in the comments section. It's fun and gets the gears rolling...come check it out!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gotta spend money to make money...

If you're not interested in getting published and/or you are offended by the word douchebag, you should probably stop reading right about here.

Can we talk writers conferences? For anyone trying to find an agent or editor to connect with their work, I just cannot stress how important conferences are. Though the educational sessions are great, I consider paying for a conference to be more about paying for access to editors and agents. Because once you have been to a conference and met an agent or editor you like, you can send your work to them with “XX conference request” written on the envelope, which generally guarantees it will be read a) by that person, not by the assistant who manages the slush-pile and b) in a timely manner. At the rate slush is read, this can literally shave years off the process. Saying no to a nameless, faceless manuscript is much easier than saying no to the manuscript of someone you met and liked.

My grizzled face shows how many of these things I've been to. May I share some tips I’ve learned?

Think in marketing terms. If you are having a manuscript critique, do not bring your problem section so you can get advice on how to fix it, even if that is what the session is advertised as! For example, there’s one workshop I’ve been to where you read aloud in small groups with an editor or agent there for advice. The brochure encourages you to bring a section you feel needs work. I looked at that and though hell no! I brought the absolute best 20 pages of my manuscript and landed the agent I had been stalking. Really, if you are marketing yourself and your work to someone you have limited time with, why bring your worst stuff? Is that how you want to be remembered?

Enter the writing contest. There are several great conferences that do not require you to register for the conference in order to enter the writing contest. I enter as many as possible and then register for the conferences where I have placed or won. Because I am pathologically shy when it comes to tooting my own horn, wearing a badge that says “contest winner” is a great way to have editors and agents approach you.

Be fun and interesting. Talk about everything but your book. This is a refreshing change from the crush of people pressing their self-published fantasy novels on editors and agents. If you can have a light, fun conversation about something else, I’ve found they always end up asking about your book.

Choose workshops over conferences. If you have an editor or agent in mind and see that they will be at a workshop and at a conference, always choose the workshop. Working closely with an editor or agent in a workshop setting is a perfect way to really forge a relationship and to show the person that you are eager and coachable. Of course, then you have to be both eager and coachable! If they request changes, be sure you have made every single change they mentioned before you go to the follow-up session. I’ve seen writers try to argue their point, obviously thinking that they will look smarter to the agent or editor if they push back, but it just makes the writer look like a total douchebag. Push back all you want once you’ve signed a contract, but until then indulge every whim of the agent or editor.

To me, conferences fit in the “gotta spend money to make money” category. But next April, remember that conferences and their associated travel are tax deductible (and boy, have I taken advantage of that fact!). If you’re thinking about going to a conference or workshop, there’s a clunky but comprehensive website of writers conferences called Shaw Guides that allows you to search by month, state, genre, etc. Check it out!

What do you say about conferences? Love them? Hate them? Have to pop beta blockers like me to endure them? More important, will anyone admit to being that douchebag at a conference?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cool Tool

Thanks to fellow Tenner author Erin Bow, I now have a new favorite gizmo: Evernote. Evernote is a free tool you download; it syncs up with your web browser and lets you organize various things for research—web pages, notes, clippings, photos, video and audio. You put your stuff in online “notebooks” and you can review your stuff visually. I’m not a fan of bookmarks so I have a very unorthodox and, ultimately, ineffective method of flagging sites that I’ll need for research. Plus, I’m constantly using up paper and ink printing out random things that I think I’ll never be able to find again on the web. Then I lose the paper. Brilliant.

Once you download Evernote and get an account (this took two minutes) you just paste things into it. And because it is web-based, Evernote is accessible from any computer or mobile device; log on anywhere and see all the stuff in your notebooks. Even when you're offline you can access your notebooks because Evernote saves your web pages, clippings, etc. locally to the hard drive where you set up your original account.

If, like me, you’re not a linear organizer (i.e. the palm of my hand always has various notes scribbled on it) definitely check it out. It seems to work exactly how I wanted it to work, which is always a good sign. I need to find tools I can use intuitively; if I have to learn how to use something then I know at some point I will unlearn it. And I hate that.

Evernote forever! (Or until Scrivener stops being such a Mac elitist and comes out with a PC version.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Deadlines, Secret Readers, and Thin Mints

In my twenty years in the workforce I have made thousands of deadlines, but today's manuscript revision deadline—my first deadline as an author—was the most exciting. Yay! Manuscript for book one and synopsis for book two are off!

Today I also received edits back on a work in progress from a person I don't really know. It was a fascinating exercise. I'd met "writerx" (it's more fun to keep her anonymous) at the Big Sur Writers Workshop more than a year ago. We were both in formidable editor Julie Strauss-Gable's small group, where we quickly formed a mutual admiration society. Though our projects were very different, our sensibilities were similar and we laughed at the same things. So, we swapped info at the end of the conference and just recently got around to swapping manuscripts.

It's really interesting to see how someone who doesn't really know you personally will react to your work—I highly recommend it, especially if you are about to query agents or editors. I'm not being dramatic when I say that I don't know how I'd survive as a writer without my critique group, but having an outsider's fresh eyes and perspective on a whole manuscript, instead of the bits and pieces that my critique group gets, is a valuable prelude to what an editor or agent might think.

That's all for today. In my other life I must now prepare for afternoon duty as Brownie Leader of Troop 2748. Time to offload the damn cookies that I’ve been toting around for two weeks.