Thursday, April 24, 2008

Life Creeps In to Stories

I read this PW Q&A with Kevin Henkes today. Henkes briefly talks about using life experiences in his stories, saying, "Whenever I’m writing a book, small details from my life always creep in."

I know that's true for me — and I believe that it's true for every writer, whether you write for kids or adults, focus on fiction or nonfiction, create ad copy or textbooks. I'm not talking about always literally dropping your experiences into your work (although, certainly, writers successfully do that every day), but about the myriad emotions, colors, dialogues, people, thoughts, relationships, perceptions, and mundane activities that inform the ability to describe ANYTHING. No place else to get all that but from life.

I guess my reaction hinged on the fact that people constantly ask writers the "Does your life show up in your stories?" question. Which is natural. I'm as interested as everyone else in each writer's answer. But I can't even think of a circumstance in which it wouldn't.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Children's Book Trailers

Have you seen the new(ish) practice of creating promotional trailers for children's books? Here's a great trailer for John Scieszka and Lane Smith's Cowboy and Octopus Travel the World. Hard to resist, eh?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"I know I'm not so freckled as I used to be . . ."

" . . . so I have much to be thankful for."
—Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Passed my skin check with a new dermatologist today. Whew! The doctor made an allusive comment comparing me to Anne and seemed taken aback when I understood it. I may have been more surprised that he was making it, but then again, Anne's complexion is practically a main character in the book . . . maybe he read the novel as a child and it inspired his career direction!

I see that Anne turns 100 this year. Here's an interesting tribute to the book's longevity from Margaret Atwood.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Operation Teen Book Drop Goes Down Tomorrow

Check out my earlier post about the huge April 17 literacy event Operation TBD, then grab your favorite YA book(s) and stake out a nicely populated (by teens) drop spot!

I'm eager to see how it goes tomorrow. For up-to-the-minute details from the event's organizers, click on the "Rock the Drop" button in the sidebar.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Children's Writing Workshop Starts April 18 — ONLINE

My spring Children's Writing Workshop starts next Friday, April 18, and I can't wait to get started.

I love the easy online format — the class gets its own discussion board in Yahoo! Groups, which makes it easy for participants to post writing, questions, and feedback anytime the urge strikes. This is NOT a critique group — we won't be looking at participants' previously-written material. Rather, we will use the workshop to take a closer look at the craft of writing for children, open each writer's story-idea floodgates, and fuel each writer's quest to start a new project.

What we'll do:
  • easy reflection exercises
  • fun journaling activities
  • focused writing exercises
  • informative readings
  • casual group discussions

Why we'll do it:
  • to explore personal writing motivations
  • to foster creativity
  • to facilitate the writing process (put another way: to make you START WRITING that idea you've been kicking around for months . . . or, heck, years)
  • to look at published samples and read helpful biz-related info from a variety of sources
  • to share writing insights with peers

Where and when class meets:
  • online
  • 6 Fridays in a row — at whatever time you feel like checking email or signing in to the course Web page
Group environment:
  • fun
  • friendly
  • open
  • supportive
  • productive

For a workshop description, student testimonials, and registration info, surf on over to the Editorial Freelancers Association course catalog.

If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment here on the blog.

I hope to see you in class!

Monday, April 07, 2008

When Office Assistants Bark

Just a bit of fun at the end of a very Monday-ish Monday in the home office. I kept my loyal assistant Asta waiting many hours past her regular walk time today. She found the experience excruciating. But after a couple hours of issuing melodramatic doggie sighs, human-grade harrumphs, and dagger-like stares in my specific direction, she settled down and transformed herself into a sweet little trouper. (Good thing, too, because her Time to Walk campaigns are distracting.)

When I finally gave the go-ahead, Asta was 15 kinds of excited. It's fun to see my typically bark-less pup let it out! I shot this amateurish clip last week under eerily similar circumstances.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Will You "Rock the Drop" on April 17?

The writing goddesses over at readergirlz have partnered with YALSA to organize the April 17 event Operation Teen Book Drop. The date is no accident; it was handpicked to coincide with this year's Support Teen Literature Day.

Participating YA publishers will — all at once — donate 10,000 books to some of the top pediatric hospitals in North America.

YA novelist and readergirlz co-founder Justine Chen Headley came up with the idea while touring a children's hospital as research for her book Girl Overboard.

Headley says, "I couldn’t help noticing that teen patients didn’t seem to have the comfort objects that the little ones did. As an author, I knew that YA books — books with exceptional characters and fabulous stories — could provide teen patients with some of the escape and inspiration they needed."

If you're a "readergirl" or a YA author, you can participate in Operation TBD by donating a book to the cause. Just download the appropriate bookplate from the readergirlz site, attach it to a favorite YA book you've read/written, and drop it off at a popular teen gathering site on April 17. Leave it where someone will find it!

I love that publishers are so generously giving books to teen patients that just need a break, a little time to themselves. And I absolutely ADORE the thought of readers and authors everywhere releasing great YA books into the environment for a lucky teen to find.

I plan to "Rock the Drop"! Do you?

FYI for book lovers of all ages: The individual-donation part of the event is reminiscent of the fun perpetuated since 2001 at BookCrossing. Check that out, too, if you like the idea of anonymously putting your favorite reads into the happy hands of random readers. BUT, first things first: Operation TBD.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Get the Inside Story

SCBWI Western Washington has just released details about their twice-yearly Inside Story salon celebrating works by area authors and illustrators. This spring's event is coming up Sunday, May 18, at Seattle's University Bookstore.

I'll be on hand (along with a dozen other kid-lit types) to present the "inside story" about the writing of my 2008 YA biography Benjamin Franklin. I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fooled Me!

It was absolutely gorgeous here today. Bright blue skies, cherry blossoms swaying in the breeze . . . that kind of day. As I walked the dog, my brain churned out ideas faster than I could handle them, all related to a YA novel I sketched out last fall but haven't yet started writing. The story ends in springtime — early May, to be exact — on a bittersweet note that I'm excited to try to achieve. I haven't had much time to seriously think about it since formulating the basic plot. But I guess all that Spring outside just took me there. I love it when that happens!

For at least 30 minutes (all during the walk and due, I guess, to my reaction to the weather), I was convinced that I was experiencing May 1. The actual date shouldn't matter when you're feeling inspired, but apparently I needed it to be May today for just a bit. So May it was.

Near the end of the walk, I happily trotted along, looking mostly at the birds or the grass or the trees. I wasn't watching my step at all. And that's when I took a sitcom-worthy slip on a banana peel (it was a figurative peel, I'm afraid; BLAST you people who don't pick up after your pooches!) and landed squarely on my backside.

I remembered it was April 1 mid-pratfall. So, April, congratulations — you got me!