Saturday, February 28, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses

I find myself with double the readership in a month...and therefore, I want to return the love and visit all y'all's blogs. To do that, I added all my follower's writing blogs onto my "writers" link list (if you don't see yours there, please let me know--that means I missed you by mistake!).

Here's the master plan: I have my blog roll set to always show the most recently posted blogs, and I've got the blog roll set to only show the top ten blogs at a time. So whenever I check my own blog (which is a lot, y'all, I can't help but obsessively check my comments!), I just scroll down and check the recently posted-to blogs. It's worked so far...

How do you all keep up with other's blogs?

(PS: Would you like me to link you? Just post the link in the comments below!)

Help a Friend Out

My crit partner, Robyn, has just started a blog. Help her out and go share some of that bloggy love.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Some things should never be made.

Those things include Twilight themed cakes.

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

ETA: Whoa.

Although, to be honest, a very small part of me thinks it would be really cool for someone to make a cake of my (not yet published) book. Also, this one rocks.

It's almost time...

Don't forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize or Eternal! The contest closes February 28th at 11:59 pm; winners will be announced March 1st.


I'm not sure if this is true of any other profession, but teaching kills names for me. What I mean by this is, let's suppose I have a student named X. X happens to be one of my favorite names ever. I have, in the past, considered naming a future child or even a character X. But the student I have named X is...well...a jerk. Now that name is ruined for me forever. Whenever I hear the name X, I no longer think of bouncing babies or cool characters--I think of that jerk.

Now, here's the problem for today.

I'm well into An Abundance of Katherines. And the writing's brilliant. And the characters are brilliant.

But the main character, Colin, is exactly like someone I know: a great big whiner who spends most of his life complaining about his lack of a girlfriend. Colin isn't exactly like that--there's more to the character here than the trait that I compare to this real life person--but there's enough of the real life person I know in Colin that the two are starting to merge in my mind like an annoying blob of whine. Which is starting to ruin the book for me.

Does that ever happen to y'all?

Observations upon Reading An Abundance of Katherines

1) It's about math. Math?!

2) Yes, it's about math...but it totally doesn't suck.

3) Actually, it's quite good.

4) John Green's writing style here reminds me of Neil Gaiman's style in The Anansi Boys.

5) I am really glad I bought the good cover (see left) of the book instead of the other cover, which skeeves me out (I think they're watching me, and the eyes follow me wherever I go).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I am SO going to this...are you?

Look, I think I might have stated before that I live in the country, by which I mean that when a tree fell across the road near my house, we all went outside to watch the fire department cut up the tree, and I served lemonade and iced tea. We're that kind of country.

So it's pretty rare that any kind of event happens any kind of where near me. Which makes this even more awesome (cause it's only what? an hour and a half away? maybe two?)

WHAT: A launch party and signing to celebrate the release of The Forest of Hands and Teeth! There will be giveaways, refreshments and a short reading.

WHERE: The Open Book, Greenville SC (click here for map)

WHEN: March 21, 2009 starting at noon but feel free to drop by any time between 12:00pm-2:00pm!

I am SO there. Anyone else?

Come on, how can you say no?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Telegens are coming!

Today must be book-giveaway-extravaganza! Christy at Christy's Creative Space is giving away a copy of PJ Hoover's excellent fantasy The Emerald Tablet.

Click on over there to read the interview and sign up for a free book!

Zombies are Coming!

OK, so I sorta don't wanna tell you about this one. Cause if I don't, then you can't enter. And if you don't enter, then I have a better chance of winning. And I really want to win!

Carrie Ryan's new book The Forest of Hands and Teeth is coming out in 2 weeks. And she's giving away a copy. Go comment on her blog for a chance to win!

Or, you know, don't, so I can get a copy!! :)

Jump on This Opportunity!

Stacy Whitman was an editor at Mirrorstone until the economic downturns eliminated her job. Now she's a freelance editor.

Her qualifications, from her blog:
Stacy Whitman specializes in fantasy and science fiction for children and young adults, and related genres. She spent three years as an editor for Mirrorstone, the children’s and young adult imprint of Wizards of the Coast in Seattle. She holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College. Before that, she edited elementary school textbooks at Houghton Mifflin and interned at the Horn Book, as well as a brief stint as a bookseller. Stacy edited such favorite fantasy titles for children and young adults as the highly acclaimed YA series Hallowmere, the middle grade fantasy adventure series that debuted with Red Dragon Codex, and The New York Times best-selling picture book A Practical Guide to Monsters.

Stacy provides all phases of editorial services to publishers, including developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Contact her at stacylwhitman AT gmail DOT com to discuss projects.

Stacy’s middle grade and young adult novel critique and editorial services for individual writers come in two sizes:

· Critique of the cover letter/query and first three chapters from your finished manuscript, giving an editor’s point of view on the strengths of the first impression. Service includes comments on her impressions of the story from the first three chapters and how the beginning hooks the editor, including suggestions for improvement. This usually takes about an hour of her time. Cost: $50.

· Developmental edit of the full manuscript, including an editorial letter to suggest improvements in plot, character, pacing, voice, audience, and any other areas in need of improvement. Comments will also be noted in the manuscript itself. The time this takes varies from manuscript to manuscript. Cost: estimated based on length of manuscript. Email to discuss particulars.

Here's why I'm telling you this.

I used Stacy's services just before Christmas. Her comments were spot on. Seriously. I revised my first three chapters and my query based on her comments, then started submitting...and got requests for partials and fulls before I could snap my fingers. Seriously, she's that good.

And she's on sale right now.

Until March 11th, Stacy's offering her services for only $30 instead of the usual $50.

Go. Take advantage of the offer. GO.

Edited to Add: If you're nervous about the quality of this service, just email me. I don't endorse people or products that I have not myself tried. Seriously, this is good stuff, guys.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wow! *sniff* Thanks guys!

When I started the book giveaway for February (btw, still not too late to enter! just click above!), I thought I might find a few more readers, maybe one or two people might stumble on my little blog. Instead, I've now got 40 followers and the highest amount of traffic on here yet. I know it's not yet time to do the drawing, but I just wanted to say...

Thanks for reading this blog!

Picture Book Course

Hey guys! One of my crit partners is involved with a new workshop for picture books. Information is below:


Picture Book Workshop:
Writing Text for Children's Picture Books (8 weeks)

This class will explore the constantly evolving art form of the picture book, in which words and images each constitute a part of the whole. You will read 5 picture books from those for the very youngest readers to some for the middle grades and up, and analyze 2 in detail each week. While studying this wide range of published picture books, we will examine the variety of ways in which text interacts with image in a picture book. You'll also get comments on your own own fiction or nonfiction picture book text from classmates and from the instructor. For intermediate through advanced writers.

This class takes place through the Internet classroom. Registered students will be sent Nicenet sign-up instructions via e-mail.

Class Outline

Common text: everyone will read some of the same books as the class progresses. If you need to reserve them at a library or purchase your own
copies please do so in advance of the week in which the book is assigned. In addition to the common texts, you will be expected to read 5 picture books and analyze 2 each week. Plan to keep your local library busy. It's not possible to write a picture book without reading a number of them.

Week 1: Introduction to picture books (PBs) What does picture book text look like? The shape of the text.

Week 2: Disassembling text and image in a PB. Page breaks and line breaks--when and why? The physical form of the PB

Week 3: Ways in which text and images work together. Plot points in picture books. Writing for art that doesn't exist yet. Imagery and word choice. A balancing act, lyricism vs. precision.

Week 4: Character in a PB: age range, roles. Audience age range, and the role of the adult reader.

Week 5: Toddler books, bedtime books, concept books, mood books.

Week 6: Outlining a PB: why, and how? Basic plots-- incident, achievement, wish fulfilment, misunderstanding.

Week 7: Emotional themes in PB fiction. Highs and lows in the story arc. Resolution. Structural aspects of the final pages.

Week 8: Submitting the PB manuscript. PB publishing process. Questions. Summary and closure

Dates: April 13 to June 7.

UMA KRISHNASWAMI is the author of numerous books for children, including picture books, retold story collections, and readers. Her middle grade novel, NAMING MAYA, is on the IRA list of Notable Books for a Global Society, and a NJ Garden State Book Awards nominee. Uma is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and is on the faculty of the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her picture books include REMEMBERING GRANDPA (Boyds Mills Press), MONSOON (FSG), and BRINGING ASHA HOME
(Lee & Low). For more on Uma's books and other projects visit

The class is offered by WRITERS ON THE NET and takes and takes place on Internet classroom.

The class costs $260. To sign up or to ask us questions please e-mail to, or find more information about us at our web site, Registered students will be sent, via e-mail, instructions for signing up on the nicenet site on the day class begins.

----------- WRITERS ON THE NET ---------------
Online classes, tutors and groups for writers.

Do you have strong chapter endings?

Miss Snark's First Victim is holding another contest, this one about whether or not you have good, strong chapter endings. This contest is more low key; there's no Secret Agent, and the only prize is shared critiques. Still, though, it looks like a good opportunity (and mine will be post 5)!

There's a Story in This...

...and I'd love to see it written. Google Earth and a team of scientists have apparently found the lost city of Atlantis! That's it in extreme close-up to the right. See how there's a perfect rectangle and grid underwater? That sort of stuff doesn't happen in nature usually. Go to the link and click through the pictures on top--you can see the coast of Africa and progressive close-ups of what scientists think might be a sunken city, just where Plato said Atlantis was.

As someone fascinated by Atlantis and ancient stories, I love it when science matches history. A lot of news articles I've read indicate that government exploration of this phenomenon is out--it'll take a private investor, such as James Cameron with the Titanic, to explore this city.

So, all you blog readers out there who are secret millionaires, get to it! I want an underwater camera and a submarine, stat!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

*growl of frustration*

So I've started writing a new novel. No moss on a rolling stone and all that. Got the first to chapters done--easy peasy! But see, in this third chapter, I've got to have the character go from one place to another, and I can't figure out how to do it! It's not a natural move, if you know what I mean. I need him to go to this place where he normally wouldn't go--and everything either sounds contrived or takes me too long to get there through explanations that would bore the reader.

My friend Robyn writes through her problems--when she gets to a chapter that's difficult, she writes what she can, then moves on with the knowledge that she'll come back to the other chapter later and fix it.

I think I've got it mostly figured out now, but this is a problem that's been holding me up for over a week. Which leads me to ask:

When you have a problem in your plot (such as getting a character from point A to point B) do you stop writing until you figure out how to solve the problem, or do you just skip it, carry on with the story, and come back to the problem later?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Almost Done!

I've been working on a website, and I'm very nearly done! Would you like to check it out?

(If you find any mistakes, please let me know! This is still kinda new to me.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bad Dog

The husband offered to take his sister's garbage to the dump, and loaded it in the back of his pickup to take it in the morning. Trust me, this is relevant later.

So I was all ready to work on my new writing website, and hopefully reveal it by tonight. (Here ends all relevance to a writing post. Sorry. Posts on writing will resume tomorrow.)

I was typing away at the website, clickety-clackety, and the husband lets the dog in.

"EW!" I screech. "What is that smell?"

We assume Dog has met a new friend, probably Mr. Dead Skunk or one of his associates. So, despite the pile of work to do, I drop my laptop (not literally) and race off to the shower to do an emergency cleansing of the dog.

Dude. It was foul. Odors emanating from that dog should not ever emanate from anything, ever. EVAR. Things that have died in sewers smelled better. This is how horrid it was: the dog jumped up on the bed before we had a chance to throw him in the shower. By merely standing in the presence of the sheets and blankets, we had to rip them all off the bed and throw them in the wash with baking soda and prayers to Jesus. That's how bad it was.

I scrubbed Dog three times. I used the entire bottle of doggie shampoo. I wished I had another bottle.

"That dog is evil," the husband says. "Satan is that dog."

"No, no. Rolling around with dead animals is just what dogs do," I say, my arms covered in dog fur and lather.

Afterwards, the husband takes the dog out on a leash to ensure all business is done before we go to bed.

And that's when we discover it.

Dog sniffed the husband's sister's garbage in the back of the pick up. Apparently diapers and rotten eggs are pleasing to the dog. So pleasing that the dog finds it necessary to leap into the back of the pickup, rip open the garbage bags, and distribute the goodies he finds within across the entire front yard, not unlike a very, very generous Santa in a Christmas Parade throws candy to children.

So no writing posts today. I must recover from the fact that my lawn appears to have thrown up baby poo, rotten eggs, and fluttering bits of plastic garbage bags.

I'm off to take another shower.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Could Someone Please Buy Me This?

Husband, take note. Purchase immediately.

Today in class...

...we started talking about Jason (of Argonaut fame) and Medea.

Me: Medea worshiped the goddess of witchcraft. And that was...

Class: *blank stares*

Me: Her name begins with "H"

Kid: Uh, Herm-Aphrodite?

Give it a good five seconds of me trying not to laugh before the entire class got it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Author Interview and BOOK GIVEAWAY with Cynthia Leitich Smith

Oh, I told you this was going to be good! After reviewing Tantalize, I was able to interview the author, Cynthia Leitich Smith! The interview is below, as well as another surprise...

For those of you who may not know, Cynthia runs one of the most successful blogs on the intarwebs, Cynsations, that has been touted by many writer's resources as one of the best blogs for writers basically ever. That's how I first came across Cynthia. But then I browsed her bio online and discovered that not only does she teach writing, but she also has an extensive list of quality entertaining books for middle graders and young adults.

Including my recent unputdownable-read, Tantalize. And my recent Amazon purchase, Eternal. And my recent addition to the must-be-purchased-as-soon-as-possible, Blessed, which, unfortunately, isn't available yet. Cause, you know, it's not done being written. Yet. But when it is...

So, without further ado, here's my interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith! And be sure to read all the way to the end for an extra special, never-before-done-on-this-blog surprise!

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
My prized possessions include a little yellow Wonder Woman lunchbox.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
I didn't have a favorite picture book, growing up, but by the middle grades, I was madly in love with Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch from Blackbird Pond. I transitioned into spookier stuff--Stephen King and more sci fi--in high school. These days, my tastes are broad. I read widely out of necessity and passion, and that grows me as a writer.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A senator-princess from a long-ago, far-away galaxy.

How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
Eternal reflects settings where I've lived--Austin, Dallas, Chicago. But beyond that, it's probably the book where I most had to use my imagination. The only exception is Miranda's longing to be in the theater and friends with teens who're in that group. I never even auditioned, but I once wished I could be among them, too.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
Eternal is a companion to Tantalize, and I'm working steadily right now with my Candlewick editor, so there was no real "shopping" from house to house.

Per usual, I wrote my first draft and then tossed and deleted it. I started completely over with a better understanding of the protagonists and story. After much revision, I sent it in about six months later.

My original concept was elf-vampire, not angel-vampire; that came at the suggestion of my editor, but I loved it and started over again.

With revisions, all told, the manuscript probably took about a year and a half to two years, which is typical for me. I'm a steady writer, but I have a lot on my plate.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I hope to continue as I am, focusing on YA fantasy and, now and again, writing a shorter piece--a short story or picture book. I'm really quite happy with my job.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
That reading is the most important skill-building exercise.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Think of it in terms of a trinity--craft, community, career. And hang onto your sense of humor.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
My strength is integrating setting to full effect. My weakness is a predisposition to letting minor character take over the show.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Dialogue that doesn't advance the story.

Thank you, Cynthia, for a great interview and sharing your story with us!

And now for a surprise...

It's about time I thanked all you readers out there in blogland, and tax returns are coming back soon. So...for the first time on Writing it Out history...


That's right! I'm giving away a copy of either Tantalize or Eternal! All you have to do is leave a comment with your choice of book and your email address. AND more love goes to those of you who link to this if you share a link to this giveaway on your blog, come back and leave another comment, and you'll be entered again for the giveaway! AND I have a special place in my heart for my "followers" over on the sidebar if you'd like another entry into the giveaway, just become a follower and post a comment here that you'd like another entry!

That's right--there're three chances for you to win!
  1. Just make a comment about this interview or the books
  2. Post a link to your blog about this interview and let me know here in the comments
  3. Become a follower and comment about it here
The contest will run until the last day of February, so you've only got ten days to enter!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh! So cool!

Something awesome is coming to the blog very soon! Stay tuned! *Fangirl squee!*

Update on Facebook Policy

That was quick. From the official Facebook blog:

People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people's information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.
So, in short:
  • Facebook won't steal your book. It's an issue with stored messages
  • The language isn't clear and Facebook knows it isn't clear
  • They do plan to clarify/maybe change the policy
  • We should all still be aware and beware what we post online

Be Careful What You Post

The husband hates it when I post anything about my book online. "They'll steal your ideas!" he says. I laugh. No, they won't. Posting my hook or query online will not mean my book is stolen. I've seen enough other people's ideas to realize that unless it's my book that I thought of, there's no way I can take someone else's ideas and write them...and that works for everyone. Read the concept/hook/query of anyone else's book and try to write ain't gonna happen. I'm even OK with posting my first chapter for the world to see--a first chapter's not a book, and no one's going to make my book based on the first chapter alone.


This information about Facebook's changing terms of service--which is applicable to everyone on Facebook, even if you agreed to prior terms of service--is a bit disturbing. Here's the deal: anything you publish on Facebook belongs to Facebook. Not to you. To them. For a more logical and clear run-down on it, I refer you here and here.

So, if I were to post my book on Facebook, then it would belong to Facebook, not to me. No, that's not fair. And no, it's not likely that Facebook would do anything about it (i.e. try to publish my book/steal my idea/sue me for publishing my own book). But it's a stupid policy of Facebook's, and one that I'm not going to play around with.

I'm not saying go out and pick up the pitchforks and torches over this one. But I think Swivet has the best advice with this:
So am I going to delete my Facebook account? Nope. Facebook is still a valuable networking and promotional tool. ... But of you're a writer/photographer/creator of any kind, I would suggest not posting any intellectual property on Facebook that you may want the right to sell later. Just in case.
If you've got any intellectual property on Facebook, you might want to consider taking it down. If that policy existed for Blogger, I'd delete my hook from the sidebar over to the left, and I'd hunt down posts about my book and delete them. It's one thing to let the world see your work--it's another thing to be at legal odds about the ownership of your work.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Perfect Day

Lying in bed, turning the pages of a new book, scratching the dog's belly every once in awhile.

Not My Perfect Day

Looking up from a glorious day of reading, realizing it's almost 9pm, and then looking over to that mile-high stack of essays to grade.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Coraline... a strange little movie, isn't it? Have you seen it?

A Map of the World

"A Map of the World"

by Ted Kooser

One of the ancient maps of the world
is heart-shaped, carefully drawn
and once washed with bright colors,
though the colors have faded
as you might expect feelings to fade
from a fragile old heart, the brown map
of a life. But feeling is indelible,
and longing infinite, a starburst compass
pointing in all the directions
two lovers might go, a fresh breeze
swelling their sails, the future uncharted,
still far from the edge
where the sea pours into the stars.

For more, including the poet reading his poem and a few other love poems, click here.


A bonus one for you (because I can't resist, and love Ted Kooser):

"The Celery Heart"

—Placard at Hinky Dinky

Surely it misses those long fly balls of light
its leaves once leapt to catch, or longs to run
its roots out into the salty darkness.

What once looked like a Roman fountain
is now a ruin of fallen columns
bedded on ice. Its only consolations are,

at regular intervals, the hiss of mist,
and at times the warm and reassuring squeeze
of passing hand. But better this, by far,

than to be the sullen heart of artichoke,
stripped of its knives and heavy armor
and mummified for eons in a jar of brine.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting Back in the Swing of Things... harder than I thought. Getting sick over the weekend meant work in the real job didn't get done, which meant I had to cram it into the afternoons, inbetween recuperating naps (read: collapses into the bed in a Halls-induced fog), which meant I had no time for Intarwebs (blogs, this one and other, as well as emails), which meant that, all in all, very little of anything other than sleep got done, even when I was on the mend.

Anyway, I'm finally starting to catch up! And I'll just say this: Bowen Press gives me hope. At one of those points where I was just mad about sleeping so much, I logged online, only to discover that fledgling imprint of HarperCollins, Bowen Press, had been murdered. (OK, maybe murder is a strong word, but I still think it apropos.) It broke my heart a bit--it certainly hit me more than any of the other "restructuring" (read: lay-offs and murders) of editors/imprints. I think it's because Bowen Press had a blog I read, and because a 2k9 author recently launched her debut novel from Bowen, and because it just seemed like a nice publisher, one I'd like my book to be from.

So I was sad. And then Bowen posted this on the blog: a lighthearted reminder of how this isn't the end of the world. And now the blog has a nice new look and a post that reads only: we're changing things up a litte, watch this space. I don't know what that means entirely...I just know that it gives me a bit more hope about all this mess. Yay for a strong spirit! Yay for hope in the publishing world! Yay for Bowen Press!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Funny Things for You

Back at work, and I was able to start my day with something funny.

My students are reading Antigone, and there was a line in there that mentioned "beasts of prey." And my kid, who was up in front of the class, reading the lines and doing his best to act for the class, accidentally said...
breasts of prey
And the class disintegrated into chaos!

If that's not enough funny for you, then just click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Has anyone heard anything about Authonomy? I mean, I know it's legit--it's backed by HarperCollins and all--but has anyone been published through it?, nevermind. Quick Google search reveals: three authors have already been published through Authonomy.

I was clicking around this afternoon and came across it. I participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award thing last year, but felt the process was a bit trite. Then I noticed that the second ranked book on the Authonomy page is by an author I met through ABNA forums. And some of those books seem to have garnered a veritably gold mine of comments and helpful suggestions... has anyone had any experience with it at all?

(PS: THANK YOU ALL for the well wishes and digital chicken soup! I am feeling much, much, much better, but still much, much, much swampped trying to catch up after my bout with the flu, so it may still take me a few days to reach full steam again. But your good wishes really made me smile! Thanks!!!)

Monday, February 9, 2009


At least I have something to look forward to.

This show starts on Friday.

And until then...I totally am cracking open some more books :)

And even if I do have the flu....

...I never turn down the opportunity for free books. Check it out here.

Spotty posting...

...I've got the flu. So I'm probably not going to be online much the next few days. The weekend was the worst, though, so here's hoping it only goes up from here!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Books!

Eternal Grand Prize Giveaway Package: in celebration of the Feb. 10 release of Eternal (Candlewick), author Cynthia Leitich Smith is giving away several prize packages, some including signed copies of the novel, tie-in T-shirts, finger puppets, stickers, guardian-angel tokens, and more! See details here.

Wanted: Author Websites

Do you know of any good author websites? Either from published or pre-published authors--I am trying to analyze them and figure out what elements work the best in an author website. Feel free to plug yourself or your friends! And even if you know that I know about your site...add it here and let everyone know about it! I may do a critique of author websites over the weekend, if Time will quit being such a bully and let me do my thing.

(Excluding, please, blog-only websites--they're nice, but that's not what this is...I'm looking for examples of websites that go beyond a blog. This doesn't mean I don't want to see a website with a blog, or that I don't like blogs--just for this time, I'm looking for beyond-blog-websites.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Sorry for the short entries...uber-busy, etc., etc.

First: Farewell, Susan...we'll miss you (and keep you in our readers for when you decide to come back!)

Argh--that is sad. So, to cheer you up: zombies on the interstate! And a free e-book by Donald Maas. The two are not connected. I promises.

Mal vs. Han: I have to pick one?! Erm...well...Mal is Captain Tightpants...

Shelli's blog post might just have inspired me to invest in my own website. Time (as in, whether I ever have it or not) will tell.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Just go read this!

A Higher Standard?

Should writers of children's books be held to a higher moral standard than other writers? On the one hand, this implies that your profession limits what you can do in your free time...on the other hand, we're talking about children's authors.

Example: if an author of adult books is a well-known alcoholic, his sales will probably not decrease--he might actually achieve some level of notoriety for it (*cough*ErnestHemingway*cough*). But if, say, Beatrix Potter had been a notorious alcoholic (she's not! this is hypothetical!) then would that affect her sales? Should that affect her sales?

Example 2: Does the same apply to celebrity? We all know what a strong moral leader Paris Hilton is (*snort!*), but if she were to write a children's book, would that/should that affect sales?

And what if it doesn't affect sales...does the publisher have an obligation to censor authors and which authors publish what? Certainly some publishers have morality clauses in their publishing contracts...but do they have an obligation to enforce them if it is at their own discretion?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Research for the New WIP...

...involves finding out about:
None of which I knew anything about before...

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

My mom's a fifth grade teacher. She offered for one of her students to read the book. Which is great! I would love to get a kid's perspective on my book--I don't feel comfortable asking my own students to read it--and it's a bit young for them anyway--so getting a high reading level fifth grader to read my book would be just brilliant.

But the father of the girl is ultra conservative and worried about the magic in the book, and thinking about keeping it from her.

I've been banned before I've been published!!

And to top it off--I'm very Christian and intended part of the message of the novel to have subtle Christian overtones!


A.S. King has a cool name (asking!), a cool book, and a cool blog. Go check it out! And while you're at it, go ahead and check out the interview with the author on the Book Muncher's blog.

Highlight from the interview (which has author Amy, main character of the book Emer, and the Book Muncher):

EMER: Agents said no to this book?

AMY: Uh – yeah. Like 100 of them on two continents.

EMER: Lily-livered fools!

AMY: I know, right?

Miss Snark's First Victim has another Secret Agent contest coming up! Sign up early--last one filled up quick. I was lucky enough to be involved, and let me tell you--totally a worth while experience.

Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee is out now. Her website has a really neat rundown of the cover selection here.

Editor Martha Mihalick has a blog! And this week's entries: cool writing quotes.

KT Literary is celebrating their first anniversary--head over and say congratulations!

Comment on this blog and recieve a free copy of Cynthia Leitiech Smith's book Tantalize.
Oh, wait...more entries = more competition for me! Don't comment! NO!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Writer's Book Review: Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games

This was probably the most talked about book of 2008. Or, at least, the most talked about book that I heard about. It seemed, there for awhile, that every time I turned around, someone was raving about this book.

And with good cause.

This is easily the best book in the 50 Books in 2009 Challenge that I've read so far, and, to be honest, I'll be surprised if another book tops it. Here's how good it is: when I finished, the husband read it. And he never reads my "kid" books. But he read this one--and liked it!

Five sentence summary: Katniss lives far into North America's future--in a world where North America has been split into different districts, all controlled by the Capital. The districts, especially those far from the Capital, tend to suffer--there is little food, little shelter, and poverty and starvation run rampant. Enter the Hunger Games, where each year 2 tributes are selected from each district and must participate in a survival game where the winner is the only one surviving. After Katniss's baby sister is selected for the Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Now Katniss must survive the Games--which means killing everyone else, including Peeta, the other boy from her village, who might be in love with her...or who might be planning to use her in the Games.

So what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

1. World Building: World building is essential in any novel, even your most pedantic chick book or simplest picture book. The reader must know where the characters are. That said, it's easier to establish a world that the reader is already aware of. The reader knows the rules of a world set on Earth, for example. And the writer sticks to those rules. With fantasy and sci fi, the writer must establish the rules of the world (i.e. how does gravity work? are dragons real?), and then stick to them. This is what Collins does brilliantly in The Hunger Games. Katniss's world is clearly drawn. The reader is entirely aware of what her world looks, feels, and even tastes like. And--and this is the most important reason for world building--because the world is so clearly drawn, the characters are clearly drawn. Katniss is not a character in a bubble--she lives and reacts to the world around her. Her motivations are clear because her world is clear. We sympathize with her because we sympathize with her situation in her world.

2. Internal and External Conflict: The best books have both internal and external conflict. Katniss's external conflict is to survive the Games. That's a serious external conflict that shows up over and over again in "mini-conflicts" (i.e. finding food, overcoming injuries, etc.). But she has a very real internal conflict running parallel to her external conflict. Ultimately, the internal conflict comes to this: does she kill others for her own survival? Is she willing to forsake her humanity in order to win? And Collins practices that best method for ramping up the stakes of the conflict: she torturs Katniss. [Highlight for more] Not only does Katniss have to choose whether or not to kill to win, but there are other issues. For example, if she wins, her family will prosper in ways they've never known, and Katniss loves her family more than anything else. But winning will mean killing, including the innocent little girl from another district who reminds her of her baby sister...and Peeta, the boy from her district who, she comes to realize, loves her.

Cheryl Klein over at Brooklyn Arden posted a quote that sums up what I mean best:
"Real suspense comes from moral dilemma and the courage to make and act upon choices. False suspense comes from the accidental and meaningless occurrence of one damn thing after another." -John Gardner
3. Realistic Detail: This is so important...and so often overlooked. Katniss lives in a world where she's very poor and nearly starving--has, in fact, almost starved to death in the past. So when she goes to the Capital and is given good food to eat, she gorges on it--and gets a bit sick on it. When she's hunting before selection, there's no squeamish feelings about killing animals, no regrets about the death of cute little squirrels and bunnies--they're food and treated as such. When a character gets injured, they stay injured until a realistic amount of time and medicine cures them. It's cold at night. They get hungry and thirsty. And it doesn't matter how it fits into the plot. Here's the key: Realistic details are not sacrificed for the sake of the plot. Sure, the story might go smoother without knowing how cold Katniss was up in the tree at night--but it wouldn't be as real.

And a bonus one! But it's a spoiler point, so highlight: Can I just say that I LOVE how Katniss, the girl, is the strong one? That Peeta, the boy, is clearly the weaker contender and the one who's blinded by love? It was so refreshing!!