Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deleting = Revising, Right?

I've been working on a nonfiction book revision all day. So far, all I've really done is delete text. Extra words, sentences, and paragraphs must go.

I'll know more tomorrow (and then even more over the weekend when I read the thing fresh and do another pass to make sure I've covered everything I need to cover). But I'm actually thinking that in this case, the paring of the manuscript may in fact be the revision.

I say deleting counts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thanksgiving Meme

Saw this meme today on Market My Words and decided to play.

(I know, this doesn't really count as a blog post in the traditional sense of blogging about the topic your blog supposedly features. Of course I mention this because I'm feeling a tad guilty about ignoring the blogosphere lately. Then again, as guilt is such THE timelessly classic holiday-time emotion — not to mention very common among writers — I think the meme fits right in! Besides, I will get back to blogging about children's writing and freelancing and freelancing and children's writing soon enough for my two readers.)

1. How will you spend Thanksgiving this year?
I'll be home with my (not-so-)fresh-from-a-biz-trip husband and happy-to-be-in-the-three-pack greyhound. No traveling, no guests. It will be low key and involve little else besides food prep, background jazz, a long neighborhood walk, some quiet conversation, family phone calls, and eating.

2. Will you be cooking, or are you just an eater?
Cooking, always cooking. Then eating.

3. Do you watch the parade or football?
We try to watch some of the parade.

4. What's your favorite float?
I can't think of one that I need to see, but I can do without any floats featuring singing Disney kids. (Is that Scroogey?)

5. Dark meat or white meat?

6. What is your favorite dish besides the turkey?
Everything else, and I'm not kidding.

7. Homemade cranberry sauce or sauce from the can?
Homemade. I make either a jalapeno cranberry sauce, a chipotle cranberry sauce, or a citrusy cranberry sauce.

8. Do you decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving Day?
We do celebrate Christmas at our house, and it's the only holiday for which we decorate. After Thanksgiving dinner (and during cleanup), we begin the process of trying to power through our out-of-control collection of holiday music. Sometimes we'll have enough time to start fetching decorations from the basement closet. If not, though, we'll haul them to the living room on Friday and attempt to distribute all during the coming weekend(s). We regularly fail to carry out the original plan.

9. What are some special holiday traditions?
The whole day I've described is traditional, and special, to us.

10. Pumpkin pie or pecan?
Pumpkin or sweet potato if I'm making it (although this year I'm doing a pumpkin-banana mousse tart); I'll always choose pecan if my mom's hosting.

11. What's your favorite thing to do with the leftovers?
If we've cooked for just us, we'll have two more full dinners (my favorite thing) before using the remaining fixins (my other favorite thing) in sandwiches, "bubble and squeak," soups, and so on.

12. How long do you spend eating your Thanksgiving meal?
A long time. We'll eat and then linger over the wine to stall on the cleanup. Coffee and dessert are served after everything has been put away.

13. Are you worried about putting on weight this Thanksgiving?

14. What do you normally eat at Thanksgiving?
A light, healthy, breakfast. Easy appetizers (antipasto-type stuff) and a cocktail at 2 o'clock or so. The main meal, which we serve in the early evening, includes turkey, gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, a sweet-and-savory sweet potato dish (no marshmallows here), cranberry sauce, roasted brussels sprouts w/garlic and capers, sausage stuffing, dinner rolls, ice water w/lemon, and wine. Pie and coffee a few hours later. Too much?

15. What will you be thankful for this Thanksgiving?
Health and hope.

16. What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
I fondly remember our extended family gatherings on both sides of the family. On my dad's side, we celebrated Christmas on Thanksgiving because his parents fled Iowa for their Florida digs as soon as possible after turkey sandwiches. My favorite memory — as it relates to an experience I can draw upon when creating child characters (see how I'm making this "count" just a little?) — is the Thanksgiving-Christmas gift exchange circa 1976. My dearly loved grandmother gave me a Quick Curl Barbie . . . and it took ALL my concentration to both offer a sincere-sounding thank-you during the family show-and-tell and to keep myself from bursting into tears. You see, I fancied myself All Grown Up (I was E.LEV.IN, for cryin' out loud!), and I just about couldn't bear thinking that anyone saw me as childish enough to play with Barbie. It's one of those long-ago scenes I can recall with exacting, slow-mo detail. And I love it!

17 & 18. Will you be waking up early to hit the sales?/Are you planning on going shopping the day after Thanksgiving?
No way. No shopping that day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ah, Hemingway Always Has Something to Say

"It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write.
Let them think you were born that way."
—Ernest Hemingway

I have mixed feelings about this one.

On the one hand, I think I was born to write. (Not that I was born a great writer, mind you, just that writing is something I was born needing to do.) Then again, I feel like I'm always fighting that perception that writing doesn't take practice . . . or continued study . . . or work.

Can't argue with Hemingway's sentiment, though. Makes me laugh.

Any thoughts out there?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writer, Write for Yourself. Or, Trick for Treat?

I'm never not writing, you know. Even when I breeze past this blog every day for weeks without giving it so much as a sidelong glance. Even when I let my pet-project manuscripts languish on my desktop — or worse, in the depths of my iMac's complicated e-filing system.

I'm always writing lists, notes, business emails, personal emails, personal blogs, journal entries, Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn updates, rough story ideas, and — of course — large word collections (aka articles, texts, and books) commissioned by outside entities (aka paying clients).

The whole writing various things for those outside entities is a good thing. In fact, it's THE thing, isn't it? I can say quite definitively that I do not wish to go without that.

But. I struggle with wanting to make more real time for the writing I want to do just because I want to do it. So today I did something I haven't in a very long time: I signed up for a writing class. A 12-weeker, besides! (Basically, it's an instructor-led critique group, so I'll get to really move on one of my YA novels.) I decided it's worth the investment because it sets me up to succeed in something done purely for myself. Because you'd better believe I will meet goals I've paid to declare.

And that, dear blog readers, is both trick AND treat for me.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cybils Nominations Are Open

The nomination period is under way for the 2009 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. Now through October 15, you can visit the main Cybils blog to learn about the awards and nominate your favorite titles in a number of categories (you can vote for one title per category).

As nominations keep rolling in, Round I judges are busy gathering initial selections, and they'll narrow the field over the next couple of months. This year I'm serving as a Round II judge for the Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction category — so later this year I'll help evaluate the Round I panel's "cream of the crop" short list of MG/YA nonfiction books published since October 16, 2008.

So . . . read any good kids' books lately? Of course you have. Now go add them to the list — we want to know which books you L-O-V-E LOVE!

Monday, September 28, 2009

EFA Fall Classes Start Soon!

I recently rejoined the EFA board as education chair, and I am pleased to share news of our Fall 2009 Education Program. We have an exciting season of targeted professional-development opportunities planned and hope you'll join us for some of our online offerings and/or live events in Seattle and NYC.


How to Get Freelance Writing Work (starts 10/13)

Editing Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction (starts 10/15)

Dealing with Nightmare Clients (starts 10/21)

Proofreading (starts 11/2)

Turning Journal Entries into Polished Pieces (starts 11/30)

Writing from Healthy Starts (starts 12/1)


Getting Started in Editorial Freelancing (10/17)

Blogging Basics (12/5)


Supplementing Your Income with PR Work (11/14)

For full course descriptions, pricing information, and a link to EFA's online registration system, see EFA's main catalog page. Be sure to act now and SIGN UP for any classes you're eyeing, especially those starting just around the corner in October. Class size is limited, and some courses do sell out early.

Hope to see some of you in class! And please share this notice with any interested friends and colleagues.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Can't Be Said Enough: "RIP, Reading Rainbow"

To ease the pain of losing Reading Rainbow to the ages, the Onion has published this exclusive opinion piece by LeVar Burton. Click on over for a good chuckle followed by a moment of silence for what's been removed from the cultural landscape:

"My Living Nightmare of Encouraging Kids to Read Is Over"

And, please enjoy this clip of the Reading Rainbow theme:

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Brief Tear on the "Fun" of Writing

Did you watch the Emmys telecast last night? I didn't. I did, however, click on a few Emmy-related news links early this morning and came across this E! Online quote from Mad Men creator (and statue winner for writing) Matthew Weiner:

"When you get something like this, it makes writing look fun, but it's not."

To me, winning an Emmy — or, how about a pretty, pretty Newbery?!?!? — for writing does in fact sound super fun! Yet, as a writer, I know that the work that goes into most award-winning works is, ahem, a whole lotta WORK.

Fun can and should be had while working at any job, certainly. And I doubt any writer /*slash*/ thinking human being would unfavorably compare writing work to, say, physically difficult labor or otherwise emotionally unpleasant occupations (use your own POV/imagination here). Few writers have to work under downright smelly/filthy/scary/dangerous/extreme-temperatured conditions, after all.

When you are a writer (and yes, a kids' writer, even!), you have a job to do. You figure out how you will do it. You get started and actually finish. You meet your deadlines. You collaborate with your editor and your fact-checker and your agent and whomever else you need to keep happy. You, the plumber, the surgeon, the store clerk, the sales rep, the lawyer, the teacher, the animal trainer, the photographer, the chef, the baseball coach, the park ranger, the dentist, the personal assistant, the banker, the carpet cleaner, the engineer, the pastor, and everyone you know in every job you can think of have everything in common ------- you all get it done.

So. I feel obligated to point out and echo and beat to absolute death Matthew Weiner's sentiment. Even though I very much enjoy (and I do mean very.much.enjoy) being a writer who sometimes gets to create fun works, I felt the urge to blog that I never sit down to my desk . . . and I do mean NEVER . . . thinking, "This is going to be fun."

Instead I think things like "This should be easy" or "I have no idea where to start" or "I can't wait to try my new idea" or "Yesterday's writing was crap" or "I need some new research" or "It's time to interview my expert" or "I'm going to solve that plot problem if it kills me" or "Just 1,000 words to go" or "I wish I didn't have to do ANY of today's tasks . . . but of course I will, because that's my job."

And thus concludes my brief tear on the "fun" of writing.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

September 8 Is International Literacy Day

It's International Literacy Day!

I read this morning that approximately 780 million adults worldwide cannot read or write. Notice that? I said "I read" it. Today my plan is to tap into the gratitude I feel about the life afforded me by the ability to read and write . . . and pass it on.

In that spirit, I just moved a long-standing to-do to the top of my list: It's time to (finally) load the car with the three boxes of extra books that have been hanging out waiting to be gifted, donated, and sold. I'll feel good, the basement hallway will look better, and — I hope — some of my very gently used (and some new) books will help strengthen a reader's skills or just brighten someone's day.

How will you observe the ILD? You might head to the library, buy a book, or read to/with/in front of your child. These are all things you can do any day, of course. But it's nice to get a nudge sometimes, don't you think?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Too Cool Not to Share

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

My Fall YA Release

Have I mentioned how bad I am at promoting my books? I mean, here I sit with my own blog, and I have yet to mention in this space that I have four new books out this season. All were released in August!

(To be fair to me, I did mention the books on Facebook and LinkedIn. But, really, what self-respecting author doesn't take to the blog right away!?!)

The biggest — meaning, thickest — book is part of ABDO's Strong, Beautiful Girls series. It's called Frenemies: Dealing with Friend Drama, and it features fictionalized scenarios illustrating a number of the very real friendship issues that middle-school girls face, along with research-based advice for handling them.

My author copies are currently in transit, and naturally I'm looking forward to actually seeing the finished product. Funny thing is, I've already received (positive) feedback from an adult reader. So the book is out in the world, available for consumption . . . and yet . . . because I haven't touched it, Frenemies still exists only in abstract — and Word file — for me.

I'll be talking about the book at my local SCBWI chapter's Inside Story salon October 28. Can't wait for that, and I'll be sure to share more about the event afterward.

Back soon with a post about my other three releases!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Authors Guild to Host Google Book Settlement Teleconference

As many readers know, the Authors Guild has been tracking and reporting on all things "Google book settlement" for about a year — and this Thursday, August 13, they're hosting a free teleconference on the topic for authors and agents. It takes place at 3:00 pm Eastern.

Find more information and sign up for the call here. For links to all relevant issues pertaining to the case, click here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The New CWIM Is Here!

My intrepid postwoman just plopped a fat 'n' fresh copy of Alice Pope's 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market on my doorstep!

It looks great. No, I haven't read the whole thing. (It just came, remember?) And I probably won't. (Not a reasonable goal, really.) But I did want to pop in to give this edition a big thumbs up.

It's always a great resource for market info and insightful articles from industry pros. This year, though, I'm thrilled to see the new feature of access to an online database of all the markets listed in the book. I don't buy this resource every year (last edition purchased: 2003), but that little bonus makes me very, very happy — and it will likely turn me into an annual customer. (Smart move, publisher!)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Shaking Off the Cobwebs

Last night the dog and I took a stroll, and with every few yards of progress, I batted and spit my way through yet another crop of tightly spun cobwebs. (The pooch seemed unaffected.) A heatwave had emptied our neighborhood parks and sidewalks for a good week or more, leaving the spiders with free rein. (Note that over the weekend, I also discovered webs — and the teeny little spiders that crafted them (!) — in the drying rack next to the kitchen sink. My explanation, and I'm sticking to it: Very few windows in my built-for-the-Northwest house have screens.)

It's still quite warm for our climate, but the heat is much less oppressive now, and the promise of markedly cooler temps starting tomorrow has been dangled. I'm so giddy about the downward trend that I decided to work away from my home office today. Last week, the heat and constant sleepiness were distractions, problems to overcome, heavy burdens to bear/loudly whine about. Today, though, with things looking up I worried that a livable temperature might make me too tempted to either (a) catch up on neglected-due-to-heatstroke household things that I can easily do tonight or (b) answer the siren call of a pretty summer's day, resulting in the need to work on WORK tonight, when I have firm plans to not do any of the aforementioned "household things."

So, I went for a bracing wake-up walk and then whisked myself off for a Workday Wi-Fi Crawl. Free wi-fi implied. It was a terrific change of pace and perfect for the editing work featured as today's main to-do.

At 7:30, I headed to a nearby coffee shop for emails and such over a latte. Most other patrons were headed someplace else, so I scored a comfy chair next to a handy table. Cool! Midmorning I switched to my nearest library branch to do some work-related library-ing before settling down for several hours of quiet, focused editing.

Hungry by midafternoon, I tried a never-busy dive lunch joint I knew to offer wi-fi (to which I've always said, "Who would use that here?"). Worked out fine! Then, to finish out the crawl, I grabbed a cold tea and headed to a shady, wi-fi-equipped park close to home. I sat at a picnic table facing a lake and was surprisingly productive there, too. Nobody was swimming or even stirring until around 4:30 — and by then it was time for me to get home.

Tomorrow will be business as usual, as usual. I truly do prefer to work in my office at the big-girl's computer. (That doesn't sound quite right, but neither does "adult computer." I'm comparing my large, tricked-out desktop machine to my small, just-functional-enough laptop, okay?) But today sure was lovely. The change of scenery/pace cleared my web-filled brain and renewed my weary spirit — and I look forward to tomorrow's nothing-special workday with — yes, I think it's true — happy anticipation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

E. B. White on the Meaning of It All

I picked up a remainder copy of Peter E. Neumeyer's The Annotated Charlotte's Web last weekend, and I'm so glad I did. It's a fascinating look at E. B. White's creative process, with extensive descriptions of various references from within the story, snippets of White's detailed spider research, and samples of his correspondence with famed children's editor Ursula Nordstrom.

Combine all that with the kid-lit masterpiece that is Charlotte's Web, and — as a reader — I'm in piggy heaven. I'm terribly happy as a writer, too, of course. (Fellow Smackdowners take note: Mr. White took this little piece of work through eight full drafts, with plenty of editorial input and acute bouts of writerly angst.)

Get a load of this hilarious White quote, uttered after reading a critical analysis of his novel:

"It is an extraordinary document, any way you look at it, and it makes me realize how lucky I was (when I was writing the book) that I didn't know what in hell was going on."

One of the earliest lessons I learned as a rabid-for-story English-lit major some 25 years ago was that there are as many possible interpretations of any given work as there are eager-for-As interpreters. What makes a great story great is, quite often, mere simplicity. And Charlotte's Web has that in razor-sharp farm implements. (Plus, you know, universally relatable themes, engaging action, genuinely adorable characters, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous language pulling it all together.)

As much as I love deconstructing a wonderful piece of literature . . . just to see how it ticks or try to assign "meaning" . . . I love, love, LOVE it even more when a magnificent talent like Mr. White (ever so gently) calls foul on the pretension surrounding the practice.

He wrote the story he was interested in, and he — simply — kept at it until all the parts fit to make a sparkling, cohesive whole.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Publication News: Persuasive Podcasting Lesson

My most recent contribution to the ReadWriteThink database of research-based, educator-vetted lesson plans went live today. It's a five-session Grades 6–8 lesson called "Creating a Persuasive Podcast." Students will hone specific research and writing skills while also learning the basics of working with podcasting tools.

Click here to take a peek!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does Summer Always Go This Fast?

Of course it does. Faster every year, as we all know.

When summertime was still "coming up" this year, I thought of it as this long, sunshiny stretch of found time to have more fun (in general) and get more personal writing done (in particular). Although I am as predictably shocked as everyone else that mid July is upon us — and mildly panicked that the season will slip through my fingers before I even notice — if I take a truly objective look at my activity schedule and extra, non-work-related writing output, it's clear that I've been succeeding at actually finding a little time . . . and using it, too.

The trick for me on days like this hectic wish-it-was-a-May-Sunday Monday, I think, is to take a moment to deeply appreciate that summer fun has actually happened, fully acknowledge that personal writing HAS progressed (thanks, SRS, for adding some oomph!), and remember to eagerly anticipate whatever may come from any of it.

Bloggy break over. Back to work now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Relevant Spam

Oh, I hope I don't regret using the actual phrasing here, but I got a chuckle this morning after discussing a writing problem via email (with a writer friend) and then — very shortly after my last Send — receiving a piece of spam with the subject line "Proven Remedies for Your Writing Problem." (Confused reaction to seeing the subject and unfamiliar sender's name was "Huh?! What do YOU know about MY writing problem!?!")

It made me think about how quickly I see an uptick in targeted email promotions and vaguely topical filter-outsmarting spam after visiting a couple of online merchants with whom I have accounts. Which always bugs me.

However. I really don't think my pal's email is set to send out spammy messages related to our electronic correspondence. It sure was funny timing for the note, though!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Okay, Checking In

So. Late-day yesterday, I realized I'd done nothing to further my current revision project this week. Won't do when you've signed on for the Smackdown.

Early this morning before getting down to my regular business, I read the agent's post I'd flagged and checked in on today's revision tips on the Brimstone Soup and Cuppa Jolie blogs. If nothing else revisiony happens today, at least I've got lots of helpful reminders about the process floating around in the back of my head.

I've decided that my Week 2 goals have to stay somewhat modest in order to align with my deadline-heavy workweek. It's okay, I think, to not have a grand plan at all times but instead to sometimes just do what I can. So from now till Monday, I'll be sneaking in an hour or two (or just 10 minutes if that's all there is) of focused revision time as opportunities present themselves.

As luck would have it, Opportunity is knocking right now. I'd better go!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Smackdown Week 2 (Almost) Under Way

Oh boy, it's Week 2 of the Summer Revision Smackdown.

Firstly, I'll report that I met all of my Week 1 goals. So there. Revision-related progress included choosing one first-draft manuscript to focus on (bingo!), creating a slide show of setting photos (bonus!), making a few notes/changes (bam!), and mercilessly deleting several pages of useless filler (boring!).

Secondly. Hmm. Well, dang. Deep breath. Secondly, I'll report that it's basically Week 2's Wednesday already (since my office is shut down for the night and I'm just dashing off a quick blog on the laptop while waiting for my husband to pick me up for dinner) and . . .

I. Have. No. Plan.

Yikes. I feel rushed and pulled in other directions this week, but I don't want to let the whole Smackdown challenge slide. Therefore, I vow to check in tomorrow with a doable goal or three.

Anyone have any ideas???

Meantime, here's a link to today's post about revision on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog. I haven't read it yet, but I just noticed the title in my sidebar and wanted to flag it for later.

I will hop back on the horse tomorrow!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

200th Post!

I was surprised to notice my milestone number just now, but pleasantly so. The timing seems right.

To explain: My year so far has been marked by the active pursuit of change (on several fronts, both personal and professional), and just this morning I noted that not only has time marched on — as time is wont to do — but I've marched on a bit, too, and in a good direction.

I love a good corner turning, don't you? Regardless of the context or circumstances leading up to it, I think any new perspective helps inform and add depth to your writing. And I do look forward to seeing that notion play out in mine.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Can't Resist a Good Smackdown

Earlier this year I set a goal of revising two (2!!) manuscripts over the summer. These pups are first-draft chapter books that, once upon a time, I got paid to write. But because the original publisher lost its production budget for the line of books they belonged to, they need a new home. I want to give the books a new life, too.

Last week at this time I'd made no formal plan to actually start my revisions. Oh, I'd had the printed manuscripts stashed in my bag for a while. (Er, has anyone seen that bag? Seriously. HAS ANYONE SEEN IT!?!) But "summer" still seemed a lot like "later" to me.

Well, official calendars be hanged, summer IS here, and we all know it. Now is the time to make good on my own revision threats. And lucky for me, I am not alone in needing to follow through. I get to share the experience with a fab group of like-minded writers participating in the Summer Revision Smackdown, a month-long revision event masterminded/hosted by Jolie Stekly and Holly Cupala. (Thanks, you two!)

This challenge popped up at the perfect time for me, so I decided to take it as a sign to get crackin'. No slackin'.

My goals for Smackdown Week 1:
  • get reacquainted with my manuscript (yes, that's manuscript singular; I have no business planning two revisions at a time)
  • make big-picture notes about what I think needs to happen to take the story to the next level (did I mention that I think the draft is a bit shaky?)
  • implement any super-easy-and-clearly-beneficial changes I see right off the bat
  • create a manageable revision plan for the rest of the month using either iWork or Notebook
  • report Week 1 progress to the Smackdown group on Friday
All this has to be done on breaks from my regular writing and editing work (read: project work dictated by paying clients' schedules) . . . and in addition to what I'm considering an "extra" summer writing gig (read: low-paying-but-fun project I want to do and so I'm handling it after hours in order to keep up with better-paying work during normal workdays). Oh, and don't even get me started about my real-life summer plans and how I probably can't do everything I want to . . .

But. I can do this! Hey, I figure the Smackdown goals are mine for the setting.

This is the type of thing I tend to put off and off and off because the only one benefiting from the work is me. I'm ready to break that habit!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Q&A with Author Simon Rose

My Q&A guest today is Canadian children's book author Simon Rose. I cyber-met him earlier this year when he started a popular networking group called Children's Authors and Illustrators on Facebook. His many works include The Doomsday Mask, The Heretic's Tomb, The Emerald Curse, The Clone Conspiracy, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, and The Alchemist's Portrait. He's also a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction: Volume One.

Here's what Simon has to say about his work.

Welcome to the blog, Simon! Tell us more about the types of books you write. And what’s your most recent title?
My books are in the science fiction and fantasy genre for middle grades, around ages eight to twelve. You can see full details of each of them, including excerpts and synopses (and you can even listen to recording of my readings) at the Books page at

The Alchemist's Portrait is a time-travel story, in which Matthew journeys through the centuries using magical paintings which act as doorways into the past, in order to save the world from the clutches of an evil alchemist. The Sorcerer's Letterbox, another time-travel tale, is based on the famous mystery of the Princes in the Tower about Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, who were supposedly murdered on the orders of Richard III in 1483. The Clone Conspiracy is a science fiction thriller involving clandestine laboratories and secret experiments, while The Emerald Curse, based on my own reading of comic books while growing up, concerns Sam's adventures in a bizarre, and at times deadly, superhero universe. The Heretic's Tomb is set in the medieval period once again, this time during the Black Death in 1349.

My latest novel, The Doomsday Mask, will be published this spring. It's once again for ages 8–12 and in the science fiction and fantasy genre. It's a fast-paced adventure about ancient civilizations, mysterious artifacts, and shadowy secret societies.

They all sound dark and exciting! I’d love to hear about your writer’s path. How did you get started writing for children? What drew you to creating works for the young audience?

One of the best things about writing for kids is that I can write about the kinds of things that fascinated me when I was young. Stories can be very imaginative if they are for children, which makes writing them so much fun. And, of course, in science fiction or fantasy, more or less anything you can imagine is possible, as you craft stories involving ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction, time travel, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters, and a multitude of "what if" scenarios.

Once I had children of my own, I came into contact with children's books again for the first time in many years. Picture books initially, of course, but then early chapter books and novels. When I decided to try my hand at writing novels and stories, I found myself drawn to the types of things I used to read as a child. I read lots of science fiction, as well fantasy writers and ghost stories while growing up. I also read a tremendous number of comic books, in which the stories took me across the universe, into strange dimensions, into the land of the Norse gods or had me swinging from the New York rooftops. At high school, I studied a lot of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read voraciously on ancient civilizations, mysteries, the supernatural, and the unexplained.

As a busy self-employed writer, you have to wear most (if not all) of the hats in your own company. Are you able to achieve a good balance of both the creative and business sides of the job? In other words, is there enough time to write and enough time to promote your books and services?
Not really. Like many writers in a similar position, much of my time has to be spent on marketing and promotion. It's a necessary evil, I'm afraid. I am still able to set time aside for the creative side of things and get the work done, but it would be nice to be able to concentrate more on the writing.

I see that you regularly do school author visits and conduct writing workshops for kids. How do these endeavors feed your own writing?

Yes, I offer a wide range of presentations, workshops, and author-in-residence programs for schools and libraries. I cover such topics as where ideas come from, story structure, editing and revision, character development, time-travel stories, history, and research. You can learn more about them here.

It's always good to connect with your readers and potential readers and although the primary reason for an author to visit a school is to inspire and enthuse the students, it tends to be a two-way street. Especially during more interactive presentations, workshops, and discussions, something a student comments on can set me off on my own train of thought. The same can be said of the workshops I offer for adults. Invariably, these sessions give me some new inspiration as well.

What are you working on now?

Well, The Doomsday Mask will be published very soon, but I also have another completed novel on a paranormal theme, numerous projects for future novels, and I am working on several picture books with a local illustrator. Right now, I am also preparing for a lot of summer camps locally in July and August, which are detailed on my blog. I will be running writing workshops for children. Topics include creating plays, inventing superheroes, story creation, and writing science fiction and fantasy.

In addition to novel writing, I offer copywriting services for business, such as editorial content for websites. I have a few of those types of projects, as well as upcoming articles for magazines and online publications on a wide variety of topics.

I'm also involved in a large local event set for the fall called the Calgary Children's Book Fair and Conference. A website for the event will be up and running in the early summer, but there are a few details right now here.

Do you have a “dream book project” that you think about working on in the future?

Not one particular project, or at least not at the moment, but I certainly have a number of well-developed projects that I would like to get completed and see in print. Some of these have the potential to be more than one novel, maybe trilogies or even ongoing series.

Any advice you’d like to share with aspiring children’s writers out there?

Writing is in some ways the easy part. It can be a very long process not only to write a book, but also to get it published. A book is a marathon measured in years rather than weeks or months. Don’t be afraid to revise and revise over and over again. Most authors go through many revisions before their work reaches its final format. Remember, too, that your book will never be to everyone’s taste, so don’t be discouraged. A firm belief in your own success is often what’s necessary. After all, if you don’t believe in your book, how can you expect other people to?

Read as much as you can and write as often as you can. Keep an ideas file, even if it’s only a name, title, sentence, or an entire outline for a novel. You never know when you might get another piece of the puzzle, perhaps years later. You also mustn’t forget the marketing. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn’t become known to potential readers. Be visible as an author. Do as many readings, signings, and personal appearances as you can. Get your name out there and hopefully the rest will follow. Especially for newly published authors, books don’t sell themselves and need a lot of help.

Where can readers find your books — and you?

Autographed copies of my books are always available from me directly, but they are also available at all the usual places such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other places online — and details can be found for each book here (just click on a title for more information). You can also easily order any of the novels from your local bookstore if they don't have copies on the shelf. You can stay up-to-date with me and my work by visiting my author site and blog, connecting as a friend on Facebook, or following me Twitter.

Thanks for talking with me today, Simon!

Simon and I did an interview exchange on our blogs today, so surf on over to his blog to see his Qs for me!

And, a big thank you to the Jean Little Library blog for hosting today's edition of Nonfiction Monday. Be sure to check in there throughout the day to peruse the ever-expanding list of posts dedicated to nonfiction book reviews and other posts a
bout real-life experiences from KidLitosphere bloggers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chewandswallow Goes Hollywood

The classic picture book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs imagines life in a town where food drops "like rain from the sky." (That's good, right? Or is it? Read the book, please!!) It's a fantastic concept and, as evidenced by the forthcoming movie version's official trailer, it should prove fantastical on the big screen.

Take a peek:

It certainly looks, um, animated. But (to me) it already feels very different, stylistically, from the book. What do you think?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Celebrating Children's Book Week

The beginning of Children's Book Week (that's this week, May 11–17) started with a bang, with lots of coverage all over the kid-lit/publishing blogosphere. All week long, children, schools, libraries, booksellers, parents, writers, and publishers nationwide (whew, lots o' folks!) have been participating in special reading- and books-boosting events — and we all hope this kind of focused collective effort helps create the kind of attention and momentum that inspires (reminds?) kids to choose reading as a fun leisure-time activity throughout the upcoming summer break and, of course, beyond.

I know the week is ending, but I thought it would be nice to help keep the love flowing during its last gasp. So to the blog I'm taking!

How am I observing this event? Well, for starters, I hauled myself to the bookstore last weekend to support great children's books by putting my money where my mouth is. Love, love, LOVE the library, always. Love sharing books, too. But sometimes (who am I kidding? more times than is probably prudent) I want my own copies and just go get them. I bought The Graveyard Book so I can finally catch up with the reigning Newbery winner; Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success, a character-ed picture book created for the school market (I wrote its accompanying teacher resource several years back using the manuscript's Word file!); and a classic cute-doggie novel, Ginger Pye, to pass along to an 8-year-old girl.

Next up for me is this weekend's local SCBWI conference, where I'll spend two long, intense-but-wonderful days immersed in sessions dedicated to the craft and business of creating the very works that Children's Book Week honors. Seems like the perfect capper to me, and I can't wait!

Friday, May 01, 2009

NaPiBoWriWee Starts Today!

You've heard of NaNoWriMo, right? Where thousands of masochistic writers EACH try to churn out a full-length novel in one frenzied month? Well, picture book writers, rejoice! Your event has arrived on the scene:

Today marks the launch of the first-ever National Picture Book Writing Week (that's NaPiBoWriWee to you . . . I think I'll stick to saying the words), in which participants write a complete picture book every single day for one full week.

Author Paula Yoo established the event and is hosting its various activities at her blog, May 1-7. Head over there for all the details, including how to register and participate. Looks like a lot of fun!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Brief Musing on "Busy"

I'll keep it brief because I'm — you guessed it — BUSY. I'm just wondering this morning, what is it about "busy" that always seems to attract more of the same? Why, when you have, for example, four deadlines in the first three days of the week, are you inundated with availability inquiries from clients (communications you'd rather not put off), personal calls/emails/invitations (stuff you want to focus on), and a growing list of must-suddenly-do-nows around the house?

What do you think? Do all these things always hover within your sphere but simply become more noticeable when a confluence of outside demands appears? Or does the "busy" energy you're putting out into the universe actually spark something that makes other people/forces seek you out?

Naturally, now — as my busy factor peaks — is the absolute best time to stop and try to get philosophical about . . . anything.

Before I get back to it, I want to give a quick shout out to any UW editorial certificate students checking out the blog: Hi if you're out there — fun to talk at you last night!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Finding Your Children's Writing Niche, Part 2

Hi all, just taking a few to quickly follow up on Monday's "A to the Q" post about finding your writing niche. I wanted to share these questions to ask yourself, which I think can help you further your quest to narrow your own focus:
  • What types of adult books do you tend to read for pleasure? How are they similar to and different from the works for children you enjoy?
  • Why do you want to write for children? What attracts you to the idea (or practice, if you're already doing it) of writing for children?
  • Consider the works for children you've already written. Have you found the writing experience(s) satisfying? Why or why not? If you haven't yet written anything for young readers, what has held you back?
  • If you could write just one (or one more) children's book — ever — what type of book would it be?
Thoughts? Questions? Additional tips? Feel free to comment!

Monday, April 06, 2009

A to the Q: Finding Your Children's Writing Niche, Part 1

A to the Q is an ongoing series of posts in which I answer questions I've received from blog readers, workshop students, and others about writing and navigating the waters of children's publishing. My aim is to share what I know and spark your search for even more information.

Q: I read your post about getting hired as a children's writer. You mentioned the importance of finding a "niche." Can you talk more about this? How do I do it?

A: I think I'll make this a two-parter so nobody gets too terribly b(l)ogged down. Ready? Okay!

Of course many aspiring children's writers know exactly what they want to write. There's no question, they just write what comes, whether it arrives in the form of a YA novel or a rhyming picture book. Others know only that they want to write for children but have no idea where they might begin. Nothing wrong with not knowing what you want till you find it. The key, though, is that you take action.

In my Children's Writing Workshop, I help students refine their writing-niche goals by first taking them through many of the same exercises I featured in my Finding Your Voice series. I suggest reading that as background. If you're strapped for time, just answer the three questions in that first entry. How do your responses play into your current writing interests? I'm willing to bet that they offer some strong insights . . . or at least a good jumping-off point for your thoughts.

Following are four more action items you can try as you hunt for a niche.

(1) Everything about the business, the craft, the endeavor should begin the same way: You have to do your research, and that means you have to read, read, read . . . and then read some more. Your aim is to know both your readership and your market.

Get to know your local children's librarian pronto. Ask him or her for a list of must-reads, then check them out and get to it. You can approach the task in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas:
  • Try sample readings from all age levels/genres so you can more easily compare them as you go.
  • Try reading books from one age level/genre per week.
  • Pick and choose yourself, starting with the age level/genre you think you want to write for and taking it from there.
If you have a great children's bookstore where you live, by all means go there! That's where you're most likely to find the most up-to-date selection of fantastic new children's lit and timeless classics. Sit down on a little-person's chair or in the cafe and read away.

Keep in mind that getting fully entrenched in the world of children's and YA literature takes time. You can't read it all, and you most certainly cannot read it all quickly. But you must make this a priority.

(2) It's helpful to get a feel for how children's lit has changed (and stayed the same) over the years so you can better see where — and exactly how — you might fit into today's market.

Research major award winners. Lists of books that have won awards such as the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Michael L. Printz, Edgar Allan Poe (juvenile division) are readily available online. Check out the American Library Association's site — this ALSC page lists links to several award-specific sites (be sure to check the descriptions, as some are for adult books). For awards not covered here, just use Google or any other search engine.

Also, the Children's Literature Web Guide will point you to many lists and other great information. It's no longer updated, but its archives have tons of still-relevant info for anyone interested in writing and learning about kid lit.

For additional help studying the children's market and narrowing your own focus, do make the time to visit the Children's Book Council and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators sites.

(3) Read good writers' books that include information about the distinctions between genres. These long-time favorites will get you started.

Children's Writer's Reference by Berthe Amoss & Eric Suben
This all-around reference includes a wonderful discussion of genres called "Age Levels and Formats." Request it at your library!

Children's Writer's Word Book by Alihandra Mogilner
In this resource you'll find grade-specific word lists (along with an annotated thesaurus of the same words), writing samples from each reading level, brief discussions about what kids are interested in and required to learn at each grade level, and tips for writing to given reading levels. You will absolutely need to own this book if you plan to write for the education market. Some publishers will ask you to use it, and once you have, you'll want to keep it handy.

Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children by William Zinsser, editor
This is a collection of essays by some of the best-known children's writers. The theme that ties the essays together is honesty in children's writing, as in what experiences these writers draw upon to help them create authentic stories and connect with their readers.

(4) Research publishers' sites. See what they're producing (and not producing)!

For a list of children's publishers (along with URLs and brief descriptions about each house's specialty), check out BookWire's index of children's publishers. Note that this index, while very useful, is not comprehensive. But there's no better place to start browsing and researching publishers that seem to be producing the kinds of books you'd like to write.

That's it for this post. I'll be back later this week with Part 2 to share a few more links and exercises to help you identify YOUR niche.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: An "Earworm," or a Writer's Potentially Empowering Refrain?

It's Poetry Friday in the KidLitosphere! Kind of late in the day (it's three-thirty-ish at my house) to slap together a participating post, but I just this minute decided to join the fray. About an hour ago, I languished on hold FOREVER waiting to talk to a colleague, and the song I heard — "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" — has not yet left my brain:

If you love me, let me know / If you don't, then let me go . . . ./ If you love me, let it be / If you don't, then set me free / Take the chains away / That keep me loving you.

Really, what's a writer girl to do with a rhyming lyric like that if not take to her blog with Poetry Friday–pertinent thoughts. I'm hoping the sharing will release me from the song's earwormy grips . . .

So, as I got back to business at my desk, the song's refrain having super-glued itself to my auditory cortex, I started noting the many opportunities we writers have to feel said refrain as we deal with all types of feedback loops on our various paths to publication. Examples flow from absolutely everything I'm working on right now.

(1) In my sights from writers wanting me to show their work some love, preferably ASAP: a pile of 20 manuscripts I need to critique for a literary contest that connects winners with potential agents and editors; an email from an aspiring author asking me to evaluate a piece of writing; and a manuscript I'm editing for a publisher client.

(2) Writing work of my own that I hope will lead to more yays (!) than nays (!), and sooner rather than later: new writing for an upcoming first-pages clinic; the detailed outline I just this morning emailed an editor for an already-contracted book (is it too soon to check in for a reaction?); the two (count 'em!) draft manuscripts I want to revise this year and pitch to an agent; the Grades 6–8 lesson plan I'm currently revising to satisfy a reviewer's wishes; and a broad synopsis/basic storyline chronology I submitted earlier this week to a new publisher I'm probably (though no contract yet exists) going to write for.

Hmm. You can see which list is longer. And why, perhaps, the song tapped in to my professional psyche instead of my personal one (which tends to know where it stands). My writer's head pulled a Babblefish on the hooky lyrics and heard: "If you aren't interested in . . . or you don't like . . . the writing I've sent on spec or under contract (ETC.), then please just let me know so I can move ahead/on (by either trashing, fixing, or rehoming) in a dignified way."

It's all par for the course in a writer's day, and so often produces some of the crazy-hazy dynamics of courtship. Don't you think?

Now, for your listening/viewing/poetry-sussing pleasure, enjoy this clip of Olivia Newton-John performing the song live.

The radio version I heard on the phone was a bit slower and felt kind of "lovesick" to me. But this sassier version makes the person delivering the message seem secure, in control, and ready to face the situation with confidence, regardless of what the other person thinks or does. And that's the attitude I try to embrace as a writer. If a professional relationship or partnership (or, heck, just a piece of writing) doesn't work out, ONWARD AND UPWARD is the only way to go!

For today's complete Poetry Friday roundup, head over to The Drift Record.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free, Vicarious Pass to the Bologna Children's Book Fair

I have always wanted to attend the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the world's leading event dedicated to children's book/product publishing, rights, and licensing.

A few of my titles have made publisher-booth appearances, but, sadly, nobody has ever been interested in having me (read paying for me to) tag along to do author signings or provide complimentary valet services for harried exhibit staff. Not even after I've explained that I'd studied Italian film in college (so I know several Italian words!) and thought my professor, who lives just a short high-speed train trip away in Milan, would surely make good on his 20-year-old invitation to drop in — with whomever I might be traveling — for a spot of vino and a wealth of insider tourist tips. Harrumph.

This year's Fair is in its second full day, and I'm enjoying Craig Virden's PW-sponsored blog Bologna By Day and Night. On it, Craig serves up candid impressions of the atmosphere and goings-on. Take a peek for yourself — and I'll see you at the Fair!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Celebrating 40 Years of a Classic: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar is celebrating 40 years of publishing success! Can you believe it?

Google is honoring the event (today only!) with a special tribute logo. You can read about the book's history in this interesting piece.

And, here's a short video of Mr. Carle sharing a bit about the book and its message of hope — perfect for the first day of spring, or any day at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Operation Teen Book Drop 2009 Coming Soon!

Operation Teen Book Drop is back for a second go-round this spring after a terrifically successful launch last year. An event created to encourage reading as a go-to leisure activity and help get great books into kids' hands, Operation TBD is sponsored by readergirlz, Guys Lit Wire, and YALSA.

What exactly IS a TBD, you ask? It's a fun, ceremonial dropping off of books, in which 18 book publishers first donate and deliver 8,000 YA novels, graphic novels, and audiobooks to teen patients in various U.S. pediatric hospitals. Then, on April 16, all teen readers and YA authors are invited to leave a favorite YA book in a public place where a teen might find and pick it up . . . in other words, to drop a book into the hands of a young reader and, thus, spread the gift of a great read and reinforce — or spark — a great reading habit.

If you'd like to help "rock the drop" this year, click here to download a special bookplate you can paste into the book(s) you plan to donate. Your recipient(s) will be thrilled!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hosting Nonfiction Monday on a Nonfiction Monday

It's Nonfiction Monday in the KidLitosphere, and I've volunteered to host today's weekly roundup of themed blog posts.

This little blog party dovetails nicely with my actual duties today, as I'm now knee-deep (make that neck-deep) in research for a new Abraham Lincoln biography I'm about to start writing. I wrote a chapter book about good ole Abe a decade ago and had a great time with it. He's such an enduringly fascinating figure, and from the looks of things, the reading public is far from getting over their thirst for knowledge about his young life, character, family, presidency, and death. The book I'm working on this spring will be for the YA set and written in a graphic novel format. I can't wait to dig in!

If you'd like to participate in today's edition of Nonfiction Monday, just leave a comment below with a link to your post about a nonfiction book, nonfiction author, nonfiction writing — or any other topic related to nonfiction for kids that I'm not thinking of — and I will update the roundup throughout the day. Please include your post title/topic with the link. This post is set to go live at 3:00 a.m. Pacific (in case any Eastern early birds want to submit first thing), and I'll start checking in to move links to the main list sometime (well) after that!

Breakfast Batch

The Wild About Writing Trio
reviews Scott Cohn's One Wolf Howls.

Jennifer takes a look at Traces by Paula Fox.

Just One More Book Podcast chats about Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock and Carolyn Conahan.

SimplyScience blogs about It's Electric — Wired by Anastasia Suen.

Abby (the) Librarian presents "Books for Women's History Month."

Lori Calabrese Writes! offers food for thought in the post "The United Tweets of America."

StoryForce reviews the picture book Listen to the Wind (based on Three Cups of Tea) by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth.

MotherReader checks out The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino.

A Wrung Sponge reviews After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien.

Jen Robinson highlights two new nonfiction series from Bearport Publishing: Defining Moments — Super Athletes and Little Dogs Rock!

Lunch Bunch

Fuse #8 at SLJ reviews Duke Ellington: His Life in Jazz (with 21 Activities) by Stephanie Stein Crease.

Check It Out checks out the biography Amelia Earhart: The Legends of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka.

Kids Lit uncovers Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman.

Biblio File conjures a post about Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli. discusses National Geographic's Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids.

Snack Bites

Valerie peeks at a few books about the moon.

A Patchwork of Books blogs about the Earth in Danger series.

BookMoot serves up a duo of culinary finds: Cakes for Kids by Matthew Mead and Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanne Brennan.

Suppertime Bounty

Charlotte's Library explores What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer.

Picture Book of the Day discusses voice using Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.

Kid Lit Kit recommends No Girls Allowed by Susan Hughes.

Blog from the Windowsill
describes Gone Fishing by David McLimans.

Tuesday Post-Luncheon Tag-Along Treat

Wendy's Wanderings reviews Clouds by Anne Rockwell.

I think that does it. Thanks to all who shared and/or followed the posts!

Friday, March 13, 2009

"You Don't Want to Be Flapping Your Arms Like a Crazy Madman"

Just back from vacation, catching up on everything unrelated to doing nothing.

A friend sent me a link to this video and I had to share — it's young author Alec Greven giving snippets of advice from his newish book How to Talk to Girls. Tried and true tips, straight from the mouth of a young babe magnet:

Alec gives a few solid nuggets here, don't you think? No madman-esque arm flapping. Cut down on the sugar. And, for heaven's sake, MOVE ON when a relationship (or anything, for that matter) goes south.

Disclaimer: Haven't read the book! But I did just read the reviews on Amazon. Seems people either love it or take it waaayyyyy too seriously and, thus, hate it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ultrashort Writing Challenge

Hey, readers and writers — here's a fun exercise making the social-networking rounds. The instructions are simple: Write your six-word memoir. (Ever see Hemingway's famous six-word story, which he dubbed the best work of his career?* This is like that, only you're supposed to stick to memoir.)

Many folks have offered up a word list, but a memoir is a story, dang it, and that's how I played. Here's mine:

I've succeeded in all my failures.

Share YOUR memoir in the comment section. Come on, wordsmiths! You know you want to!

*"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Blogoversary, Take Two

This blog is two years old today. It's a toddler!

Perhaps, to honor the milestone, I should have it throw a screaming tantrum or 10 right out in the middle of the blogosphere. :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Publication News: Blogging About Careers Lesson

Just dropping in to announce the publication of a Grades 6–8 lesson I recently wrote for a humongo database of research-based, educator-vetted lesson plans called ReadWriteThink.

RWT was created jointly by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association of Teachers of English (NCTE), and it has been online since 2002. As my fellow children's writers out there know, both of these organizations play important roles in getting good books into kids' hands. (Never mind the many other crucial ways they support educators and students.)

I've written eight lessons for RWT over the last couple of years, with a batch of three publishing this spring. The one that went live today is called "Exploring Careers Using the Internet." Kids research various occupations and then post their findings to a classroom blog (powered by Blogger, of course), which they then promote to a larger audience. I hope any kids that work with the project have fun with it!

On a promotional note that truly has nothing to do with my work (really, my contributions to the site are a mere droplet in the bucket): I can't recommend the RWT site itself highly enough — it contains thousands of ready-to-use lesson plans that busy reading and language arts teachers can download (for free) and adapt to their classroom needs. So, if you're an educator that has stumbled across this blog, I say "Get thee to RWT."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four Down, Two to Go

I passed the halfway point yesterday in my "Six Books in Six Weeks" marathon. That felt good. Still does today, in fact.

It helps that the books share a global theme — that makes both the research and writing processes more efficient. It is wearing, though, to finish a manuscript one day (last night in this case) and then get right down to business on the next installment at wake-up. But the switching-gears part takes a minute no matter what kind of work you do.

I spent the first half of today on administrative tasks like invoicing, filing, stacking the library books I need to return (making sure to remove ALL Post-its so I don't get another mean warning!), and tending my embarrassingly overgrown email garden. It required very little quality thinking yet yielded a bonus sense of accomplishment.

And now, with lunch out of the way and no further ado to be had, on to Book 5 I go!

Monday, February 16, 2009

BIC Monday!

Today is just one of those days it's HARD to sit at the desk and write. I like what I do and how/where I get to do it. Most mornings, I feel settled and ready to go. But I had a ridiculously fitful, freaky-nightmare-fueled Sunday night, and the effects have carried over. I'm blaming my new pillow.

I have a Tuesday deadline, so I will persist and prevail. Happily, that manuscript is on track, though, even as I struggle to kick into gear this Monday morn.

Nothing to do but keep the butt in the chair and press on.

Monday, February 09, 2009

28 Days Later in Full Swing

If you haven't yet surfed over to the Brown Bookshelf's month-long 28 Days Later — a Black History Month celebration of children's literature — go today.

Each day in February, the site is unveiling a new interview with an author or illustrator whose work you should get to know. Guests include industry vets, award winners, and up-and-comers (examples: Sharon Draper, Julius Lester, Zetta Elliott, Floyd Cooper, and London Ladd). All are offering thoughts about creative inspiration, insights into the publication process, and fascinating variations on the theme of "How I Got Started Creating Books for Kids."

Today's interviewee is Coretta Scott King Award winner Pat Cummings. She talks about the importance of childhood reading habits; inspirations for her current book Harvey Moon, Museum Boy; and the representation of people of color in children's books.

Click on over now to learn from Cummings and catch up on any 28 Days Later interviews you've missed so far. Then be sure to bookmark the site so you can click-and-read every day for the rest of the month!