Friday, August 31, 2007

EFA Fall Courses Announced

Just an FYI that the Editorial Freelancers Association Fall 2007 course catalog is now available online. The print brochure is in the mail, I've written the official member email announcement, and EFA's webmaster just helped post all info to the site. Now I can take a short breather from the whole world of volunteering until, oh, probably next Tuesday, when people start registering & asking questions, new instructors need help setting up online forums, and some big thing goes haywire.

Clicky here to take a gander at the lineup. These professional development opportunities are specifically targeted to the needs of editorial freelancers, and you will not get more bang for your buck taking similar classes elsewhere. Three courses take place in a cyber classroom (so anyone, anywhere can take them!), and the others happen either at EFA's New York headquarters or in Seattle. The Seattle thing is new — I'm trying to expand the program to freelance hubs outside NYC to better serve our many non-NY members. I chose to pilot the expansion in Seattle because that's where I am!

Classes start in mid October and run through December. They include
  • Copyediting Basics (online)
  • Cultivating Your Client List (online)
  • Writing from Healthy Starts (online)
  • Substantive Editing Clinic (NYC)
  • Advanced Substantive Editing Clinic (NYC)
  • Writing Winning Book Proposals (Seattle)

All EFA events are open to members and nonmembers. Visit the EFA site for full details and to register!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

August 2007 "Hooked on Reading"

The August issue of my online book review column posted today on the Hooked on Phonics site (that little graphic to the left belongs to them). This month's great reads:
  • The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders by Jack Prelutsky
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Vera Aardema
  • Young Cam Jansen and the Pizza Shop Mystery by David A. Adler
  • Replay by Sharon Creech
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Enjoy the reviews. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for the monthly email version of the full "Hooked on Reading" newsletter!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Biz Buzz: New Indie Children's Bookstore — Online

I just read a bit of news about Through the Magic Door, an independent online bookstore that launched in June. Founder Charles Bayless wanted to create an online version of the rapidly vanishing indie store, where customers can get their hands on stacks of wonderful backlist titles, gather to discuss children's lit, find personalized recommendations based on a child's reading preferences, and generally feel good about who is getting their money.

I've done little more than click on a few of TMD's main navigational buttons, but I am intrigued. The store is still somewhat under construction, it seems, but I'll definitely check on its progress — and track whether it can make a go of it. I like the sound of its mission, and I wish the enterprise well.

Check it out and see what you think.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The King Lives

I don't know about you, but Elvis Presley's death rocked my little 12-year-old world. At least for that one day, anyway. (Lots of other stuff going on then, too!)

Wait a minute! What does this have to do with children's writing? It is a stretch, but just watch me make a connection.

August 16, 1977: I remember that hot summer day. I'd just gotten home from swimming when I heard the news on the radio. Then I watched the story — and the spectacle — unfold on the evening news. True, the story really only began to unfold that night (and it still has legs).

Thirty is a big milestone, but the import attached always strikes me as odd when the anniversary marks a death. I guess we all like to look back, reminisce, place events in context, rewrite/reframe history . . .

Anyhoo, I remember being very upset — really sad — about not just Elvis's death, but also the way he died. (Who let him do that to himself?!) The details from the loo upset me, as did the corresponding jokes that took hold. And I could not abide Dr. Nick.

Let's see, what else. Oh, I very much wanted people to stop talking about Ginger Alden as though she was Elvis's "love," when clearly Priscilla was It. Like I said, I was 12.

August 16, 1978–2006: I'm no superfan. But I am a music, film, history, and pop culture lover, and the King of Rock and Roll fits into all those areas. As such, I've always paid some attention to the annual parade of Elvis Presley tributes and remembrances.

I enjoy his music and have seen MANY of his formula flicks MANY times. (Elvis movie marathon on AMC? I am there!) I absolutely love watching him in his prime, effortlessly banging out his performances in Same Movie, Different Title time after time after time. I'm in the camp that thinks he had great potential as an actor but forces outside his control (hello, Col. Tom!) sadly, somehow, for some reason, kept Elvis in a creatively unfulfilled place. Can't help drawing a line between whatever "that" was and his apparent need to medicate and self-destruct, either.

August 16, 2007: I'm 42 now. Guess that happened during those 30 years everyone has been counting since Elvis's sad demise. When the early-morning news said EAP would have been 72 today, I gasped a little at the math that makes me the same age he was in '77. To top it off, I see on Ginger Alden's wiki that she is only 50 right this very minute. Holy cow, she was just a girl herself back then.

Time to make that connection I promised.

It's easy, really. The life of any cultural phenomenon can provide countless avenues of inspiration for my own creative work. I don't even have to consciously look to or think about said phenomenon for that to be true. Anything I've read or seen or experienced is part of my makeup and, thus, potentially inspiring and part of my process.

If I wanted to specifically look to Elvis for inspiration, well, that would be easy too. Let's list some ways:
  • Research his life, work, and impact on history to help me write a children's biography, magazine article, piece of historical fiction, or contemporary story featuring an Elvis-esque character (or a fan character, or a young girl like Priscilla Presley who gets caught up in a the world of a megastar).
  • Use research — and either focus on a narrow portion of it or expand on it — to write about the greater history of rock and roll, teen idols, gospel, the Presleys, the Ed Sullivan Show, the story behind "Blue Suede Shoes," and so on. Any of that could show up in fiction or nonfiction.
  • Study the typical story structure of the typical Elvis movie and think of ways to apply elements of it to easy-reading adventure stories. Hey, some formulas work.
  • And my favorite: Use my own emotions, perceptions, impressions, and thought-processes from the era in which this event happened to inform my writing for children, whether I apply it to a specific character's actions, a story's tone, or the actual content of whatever I might be writing.
That's it, I think. My little Elvis tribute is over and out. Gotta go TCB!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What's Going On

Thought I'd share bits and pieces about the various things I'm working on and other day-to-day business issues.

Current projects:

For pay, I'm busy writing K–12 curriculum materials and children's book reviews, and I'm about to edit a couple of books. I am comfortably busy in the short term and looking for more work to do later this fall/winter.

For free, I'm still working with EFA's Education Program. I've put together the Fall 2007 season, and we'll announce the schedule by early September. I'll post details here, too, when all is officially official.

Some good news:

That book contract issue I mentioned a few weeks back? Well, the publisher agreed to terminate our two agreements. And I'm getting what I asked for — to keep my advances on both novels and for all rights to the works to revert to me. That means I can sell them (or try to) to another publisher or two. I'm happy for the resolution and can't believe I let the situation go for as long as I did.

I'll let you know when I get the final paperwork. It's been just over a month since I sent my letter and 3 weeks since the publisher said someone would handle the request "next week." In the meantime, I've become reacquainted with both manuscripts. Read 'em, marked 'em up a little. They were designed for a very specific audience and will need reworking before I start querying appropriate publishers. I'll enjoy that, though.

The nays have it:

I made a pact with myself at the beginning of the year to say no more often. Last year, I took on too many jobs for lower pay than is typical. They were great projects, don't get me wrong. That's why I said yes — to do interesting work and get ins with new clients. But I ended up agreeing to do more and more of the same to try to keep my income at a good level. It's so easy to get caught up in the cycle because once you've said yes to several projects of one type, well, you're at the top of the list for those clients and also not available when more lucrative jobs come along. Editors really have no problem finding someone else, and if that someone else does a good job it is just as easy for an editor to keep calling her instead of digging your number out of her piles, I mean, files.

When all was said and done in '06, the return on my efforts just didn't satisfy. The money was only one source of dissatisfaction. For example, I did too many all-weekend and all-night writing sessions (these are best handled by college kids, trust) — the very type of situation I'd learned to avoid as a mature professional with good organizational skills. Yet there I was, writing more, for less, and feeling like there was no time to take a breath and get myself back on another track.

It's August '07 now, and the frenzy from last year ended in about March. Some things are still settling as I reconnect with previous clients, negotiate higher fees with some lower-paying clients, close out dead deals (see the good news above), say no to many of the people my lower paying clients referred to me (birds of a feather 'n' such), try to sell myself to new clients, and just generally recast myself as a more proactive businessperson. Which leads to . . .

Creating my own work:

For the first time ever since turning to full-time freelancing, I've started dedicating tangible time to my own pet projects. And I'm letting that effort count toward my workday. This is HUGE for me. I am lucky to have enough reliably steady work to allow me to work self-initiated pursuits into my time, but Lady Luck has nothing on hard work. And I decided that it's high time I started rewarding myself for the many years of effort that got me to this point. Now that I'm in my fabulous (early) 40s and have let go of (lots) of my driving need to sometimes do what I think other people think I should do — I can do just that without feeling the need to apologize. It feels good, and I really love the entrepreneurial buzz it gives me. Plus, the reward I'm talking about is still work. So. There.

Current personal projects that I hope to place with publishers and/or present to the positively pretty public include:
  • The two middle-grade novels I need to rework. One is a mystery, the other is an adventure story.
  • A book about writing that's half done. I'm sending out the proposal by the end of August.
  • A historical fiction book I've been preparing to write for 15 years. This is the biggest thing I've ever worked on, so it's creatively satisfying and very, very, very scary. I'm updating my research and outlining it right now.
  • Two new web concerns. I'll leave it at that — although I will say that they fit in with my professional profile — and give full details as I launch the new sites over the next year or so. I'm very excited about this path and hope I have the stuff to make these ideas work. Right now I'm in the process of determining how much help I need/can afford/can't afford to not get to realize the sites I've sketched.
  • A YA novel that incorporates two very distinct perspectives on the same year; I'm most excited about the twisty end.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bad Blogger

Does anyone else find it difficult to fit blogging into a daily schedule? I have plenty of topics to cover, but each one takes time — time away from paying work, that is. I still want to blog, though. I've started a few posts about various children's writing topics in the past couple of weeks, but because I really don't yet have an audience that seems to be hanging on my every blogword, it's difficult to get motivated enough to write decent "articles"; and I'm not really into blogging strictly personal info/journal entries.

Oh well. The fact that I have not yet settled upon a strict purpose or format for this blog is okay, I think. At least as far as I'm concerned. I have 0 (zero) blog subscribers and relatively few regular readers, assuming my FeedBurner info is solid. So I have some room to play around and continue to think about what this blog should "be."

Look for new entries soon! And let me know if there's anything you want me to write about!