Saturday, December 10, 2011

Austin SCBWI Outreach Benefits Bastrop Community and Public Libraries

It’s been one month since we kicked off the Austin SCBWI Outreach effort, an effort to help replenish the books that the families and the libraries lost in the fires that ravaged the Bastrop community. Today, representing the Austin SCBWI chapter, my husband and I delivered over 1,000 books donated by children’s authors and illustrators to the Bastrop Public Library. It was joyful and humbling being able to play Santa Claus for a day, and I hope through these pictures you feel like you were there with me.

Richard West and I unloading books at the library
Sue Lane McCulley, president of the Bastrop Friends of the Library, was there to greet me with several other friendly committee members (Janet West, Vice President Fundraising, and Richard West, Member At-Large). Together, we unloaded our jam-packed van with books of every genre. I truly felt euphoric as I handed over a check to Sue for $285.00, the additional money donated by you through our chapter’s website. The staff of the Bastrop Public Library was busy setting the stage for tomorrow’s (December 10th) annual Open House from 10am – 4pm. Families will partake in sweets, treats (think gingerbread houses, yum!) and each child will go home with two books, compliments of the Friends of the Library (and supported by our outreach).

Janet West, Sue Lane McCulley, Richard West, Sheilah Kosco and Me
Sheilah Kosco, Assistant Director of the Bastrop Public Library, was ecstatic watching the books pile into her stock room because their library lost over 10,000 titles in the Bastrop fires. Even though the library didn’t burn to the ground, many of their books perished as they were checked out to residents in the community who lost their homes. Sheilah told me that the Austin SCBWI Outreach effort is going to make a huge difference in in helping them to replenish those lost titles in not only the Bastrop Public Library but Smithville too. Both libraries were deeply affected by the tragedy. 

There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude I received on your behalf from the Bastrop Public Library and the Bastrop Friends of the Library but one thing is for sure – books will be dancing into the hearts of kids tomorrow and for years to come – all because of you! 

A deep, ernest, heart-of-Texas thank you to the schools, SCBWI chapters, and individuals who donated books and funds to this important outreach. From coast to coast, the SCBWI Kid-lit community has banded together to help a wild fire ravaged community heal through the power of literature for children. And we, here in Austin, are honored to have played an organizational role in the healing process. 

Happy Holidays! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Why We Write for Children

At this time in the season, I always find myself sitting back and reflecting about the many things I'm thankful for such as my family, air in my lungs, a roof over my head, words in my head and memories to fill my heart. I'm also thankful for the wonderful writing community I belong to in Austin and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for their support and encouragement. I wouldn't be as far along in my writer's journey without their guidance and the opportunities they provide through their organization. Every day, I become a better writer. And everyday there's a child out there who needs me to be a better writer. For it's through the stories we tell that children make connections, take journeys and discover the world beyond their back doors.

I write because of them. The children. The ones who need to feel that they, too, can tell their own stories. I mean  if I can write a story so can they. And when they see me writing, hear my voice, hear my stories, they know they can tell their story, too. Their stories are just as important to tell. They matter. And I'm eager to hear them. I write to share myself with them in the hopes that they'll make a connection, enjoy the ride and then begin their own journey of sharing their voice with the world. 

In the last month or so, several of my writer friends have been sharing and inspiring us through their essays on the blog produced by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and I want to highlight a few of those blog posts today in the hopes that you'll be inspired to keep writing for the children who need us.

Author Jeanette Larson's essay "A New Dia is Dawning" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author Bethany Hegedus's essay "Meeting Gandhi's Grandson, The Making of a Picture Book" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author Liz Garton Scanlon's essay "Author Not Illustrator: My perspective on the Caldecott Honor" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author Greg Leitich Smith's essay "It Started with a Picture Book" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author Elizabeth White's essay "Love, Your Admiring Patron" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author Lindsey Lane's essay "A Digital Revelation" can be found by clicking HERE.

Author E. Kristin Anderson's essay "Social Networking: Making the World Smaller one Tweet at a Time" can be found by clicking HERE

Author and RA Debbie Gonzales's essay "Reader Guides - Pick Your Pleasure" can be found by clicking HERE.

And here is a lovely post by Cynthia Leitich Smith "Why Picture Books are Important" at the blog PICTURE BOOK MONTH A Celebration! Click HERE to read it! Also you'll find many other wonderful essays on the blog from talented authors and illustrators celebrating everything there is to love about the picture book. 

Peace, love and joy from my house to your house. Keep writing!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Supporting Children with the Love of Books

Many of you will remember the fires that rippled through the county of Bastrop destroying acres of forests and thousands of businesses and homes. But in the aftermath of tragedy comes rebirth, rebuilding and hope. And it is our hope at the Austin Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) that you will join us in putting children's and Young Adult books back into the hands of the young readers who lost everything in the fires. Our outreach effort can be found by clicking HERE with instructions on how you can donate new or gently "used" books or a monetary donation.

Heather Vogel Frederick said, "Life is a voyage. So is a book." Let's take the young readers of Bastrop County on a journey. Let's show them with the love of books. All aboard!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Recap of the 2011 Texas Book Festival

Another Texas Book Festival (TBF) has come and gone and a heartfelt thank you goes out to all the organizers, staff, volunteers, authors and presenters who made this year's festival a success. A special thanks to TBF committee members Clay Smith, Festival's Literary Director, and Marika Flatt, Co-owner of PR by the Book, for asking me to moderate for the Books Between Us panel.

Clay Smith (photo compliements of Cynthia Leitich Smith from CYNSATIONS)
The weekend kicked off with a children's and YA social event on Friday at the home of David and Amy Roberts (Amy was on the author selection committee and has supported past Texas Book Festivals) for authors, publicists and moderators. It was an opportunity to network and talk about the wonderful children's literary world. Marika Flatt and I had the privilege of driving authors Eileen Christelow, Adam Gidwitz, James Daschner, Judy Sierra, Divya Srinivasan and Bernadette Cruz, publicist with Penguin Young Readers Group. What a fun group!!

The tables were draped in white linens with glowing Mexican pillar candles and picture books and novels created place settings and table centers. It was extraordinary! Gorgeous! I mingled throughout the evening and met Jack Gantos who is hilarious and charming. He poured me a glass of Chardonnay but first he had me sample it, making sure it wasn't too oaky. Just right! Thanks, Jack! 

me and Marika Flatt and a lovely person who I can't recall her name. Shame on me!
I saw many of my peeps including Jennifer Ziegler, Jo Whittemore, Emma Virjan, Greg Leitich Smith, Jill S. Alexander Chris Barton, Liz Garton Scanlon, Don Tate and Jeanette Larson (who took the lovely picture of Marika and I plus many more!! Thanks, Jeanette!). I was introduced to one of my panel authors Heather Vogel Frederick by New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith. Thanks, Cynthia! Without her help, I would have missed seeing Heather as there were scads of authors and illustrators milling about. I'd seen Heather's picture on her website but it does not do her justice. She's as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. The night was magical and the home exquisite. Thank you to David and Amy!

Don Tate and me (Compliments of Cynthia Leitich Smith from Cynsations )
The next morning a few of us Austin SCBWI members met for breakfast at the Hideout on Congress for breakfast delights and coffee before Saturday's Festival events got under way. Forgive me if I'm missing anyone, I think I am. (Donna Bowman Bratton, Emily Kristin Anderson, Jeff Crosby and Shelley Ann Jackson, Jenny Moss and Nikki Loftin.) We had fun discussing which panels we were going to attend first. Some of us went and caught author/actor Molly Shannon in the Paramount. She was entertaining to say the least. She tragically lost her mother and sister in car crash when she was just four years old. What a survivor! Plus, I won't forget the cleaning pill story she told. You had to be there for that one. I can't possible do it justice.

Jeff Crosby with his fans!
After breakfast, I had my panel with authors Nancy Tillman and Heather Vogel Frederick and we talked about Books Between Us. The roles books play in children's lives and how they bring families together. I couldn't have asked for a more inspiring topic.

Heather's books span several genres but some of her recent titles include the adorable picture book Hide and Squeak, illustrated by C. F. Payne and Home from the Holidays from the popular Mother-Daughter Book Club series (the last chapter is a tear-jerker and incredible. I'm inspired to start my own Mother-Daughter book club). 

Some of Nancy's books have been on the New York Times bestseller list including On the Night You Were Born, but her most recent picture book is The Crown on Your Head which is an amazing read for parents and their children. 

Thanks ladies for your wisdom and insight and inspiration! I feel honored to have met you.

After my panel, I scooted over to catch Young Adult authors Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen as they interviewed each other. Libba ended the session with a few Vanity Fair type questions. What a hoot! It was a packed house and I laughed until my sides ached. It was also very touching hearing about their writing process and knowing that they too agonize through revision and lose their way at times. 

me and Meredith Davis at YA panel featuring Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen
The day ended with a schmooze at the Driskill Hotel before heading over to the cocktail party at Eddy Safady's impressive home on Congress. The rooftop blew me away. Equipped with bar, pool and enough deck space that makes my main floor living space look teeny tiny!

Jill S. Alexander, Vanessa Lee, Debbie Gonzales, Me and Bethany Hegedus
Thanks to Austin SCBWI RA Debbie Gonzales for her company! We had fun networking with the literary crowd, didn't we? What a day!

I was planning on taking the family back down for Sunday's events but one of my wee ones came down with an awful stomach virus and needed her mom. I happily obliged but would've loved to see her meet one of her favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo. Maybe next year?

A huge thanks again to the organizers of the Texas Book Festival for bringing the love of reading and books to Texas and supporting Texas public libraries and literacy across the State with the proceeds from book sales and merchandise sold during the Festival! This was my third time attending the TBF and I can't wait for next year's 17th edition.

Below are fabulous links to event recaps that will leave you feeling like you were at the TBF if you missed it or want to relive it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Texas Book Festival 2011

White tents, lush green lawns, hot coffee and crisp new books are just some of the things you'll see, smell and feel at the 2011 Texas Book Festival. There will be families and authors and illustrators coming together to share and celebrate the joy of reading and literacy. I can't wait! Can you?

This year, I've been asked to moderate a panel titled Books Between Us with authors Heather Vogel Frederick (author of the popular Mother-Daughter Book Club series) and Nancy Tillman, her latest picture book is The Crown on Your Head. A heartfelt thank you to my good friend Marika Flatt, founder of the boutique publicity firm PR by the Book, for passing my name along to Clay Smith, literary director for the festival. I'm thrilled to be introducing these two ladies as the audience interacts with their questions. What a grand topic we have to explore and I hope if you're in the area you'll stop by and join us on Saturday, October 22nd, between 12:00 - 1:00pm in the Capitol Extension Room E2.016. 

The line up this year is impressive and you can click on the entire schedule for the two days, October 22-23, HERE. Also, author Greg Leitich Smith has put together a blog post on the children's and young adult sessions occurring at the festival. Click HERE to visit that post.

There's an in depth interview with Heidi Marquez Smith, the festival's executive director, online at Austin Women magazine reported by Julie Tereshchuk. Click HERE to read the interview.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a quote that I read in Esther Hershenhorn's picture book S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet, illustrated by Zachary Pullen. It sets the tone nicely for the upcoming weekend's festivities.

"What happens is a reciprocal gift between writer and reader: one heart in hiding reaching out to another." -Katherine Paterson

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Advice From an Agent - Revision

Things have been off the chart busy as of late. It’s all good as the saying goes. I’ve been working like a beaver on a couple of revisions that an agent suggested for two of my works-in-progress. One wasn’t really a request, more of a pondering; I wonder if this ending could have an even bigger payoff? Although, the illustrator might achieve this through the illustrations, she said. But I decided to explore the options (that’s what we writers do).

You never have anything to lose. You can always pitch the revision. You’re not forced to stay with it. Why not try a few different scenarios and see if anything shakes loose.

Could I uncover an even stronger ending? I wasn’t sure but I was eager to try. I mean, if I have an opportunity to make my book stronger, more rewarding and satisfying for my reader, then I’d be a fool not to at least test the waters. And that’s what I did.

First, I brainstormed ideas of how the ending might play out. Of course, I had to keep in mind what my character wanted. What would be an even bigger payoff for the MC based on what was important to her? Could I elevate the emotional impact? And it needed to be plausible and real and authentic. I also wanted to reward the reader with a surprise twist. Something they might not be expecting. Hmmm. So I scratched away in my notebook. And then I took my chicken scratch notes to the computer and started revising. I uncovered what I think is an even stronger ending. More emotional. Multi-layered.

“I like it. I like it a lot” as Lloyd Christmas (played by Jim Carey) said in the movie Dumb and Dumber.

So don’t ever be afraid to try. Be brave. Take a chance. You have nothing to lose. You can always recycle the revision. Trust yourself as a writer!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Talk: Reviews by Young Readers

Today, I’m excited to welcome back ten-year-old Analise Flatt, an avid reader and budding book publicist, to BookTalk: Reviews by Young Readers.  She's reviewing author/illustrator Jill Thompson's Magic Trixie. 

Review – Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson (HarperCollins, 2008)
Magic Trixie is the first book of the series. Magic Trixie is a curious, mysterious little girl. In this book, she thinks her baby sister gets all the attention. Also in this book, she had to have gross food because of Abbey Cadabra (Trixie’s baby sister). Magic Trixie was told that she could not use the big spell book, the big wand and Tansy’s (her big sister) big cool broom. But Abbey got to use all that stuff. Magic Trixie only wanted those items for show and tell! Then she finally figured out a perfect thing to do for show and tell. But I can’t tell you. You will have to read the book to find out. The next book in the series is Magic Trixie Sleeps Over. I hope you read the series!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks, Analise. I can't wait to have you back for another one of your reviews!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change

Emma Dryden, owner of the editorial consulting firm Drydenbks, said this summer at the L.A. SCBWI 2011 Summer Conference "I don't think we need fear for the survival of the book," she said. "Not in our lifetime. But the digital world is reshaping the very foundations of the book business and the book business has to adapt to survive." 

Art by Dallion McGregor

Flying on the heels of that quote, RA Debbie Gonzales was already a year into planning the Austin SCBWI chapter's first digital symposium titled Storytelling in the Digital Age: Embrace the Change. Knowing the landscape of the children's publishing industry was widening and re-envisioning, she jumped into the waves to bring children's writers and illustrators a day to embrace the change--not fear it. This past Monday, the Austin-American Statesman ran an article Storybook apps for kids a major topic among children's book writers and artists and in it they highlighted some of the incredible faculty who'll be speaking this Saturday, October 8th at the all-day event at St. Edward's University.

If you haven't registered, there's still time to snag a spot by clicking HERE. And to leave you with one final word --IMAGINE--

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guest Post: Chris Eboch on Plotting and Revising Your Novel

After a dozen books in print, I like to think I’ve learned a few things. After all, I’ve written historical fiction (The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery set in ancient Egypt, and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure), original paperback series (the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs), and various types of work for hire, including fictionalized biographies and a mystery about a certain famous girl sleuth.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the next book is always easy. Every novel has its own challenges and flaws. I tend to be analytical, and I have years of experience as a teacher through the Institute of Children’s Literature and as a freelance editor. So I’m always looking for clear, logical techniques to improve my writing, and that of my students. A couple of years ago I picked up a writing book that suggested you make an outline of your finished manuscript. My mind jumped ahead, seeing the possibilities. This could be a great tool for analyzing your work!

But the author didn’t do what I expected. She had some good points to make, but I thought she was missing an opportunity. I developed a system of my own, testing it with my manuscripts and in a class I taught, pulling in suggestions from other articles, editing and refining. And I came up with what I now call the Plot Outline Exercise.

Briefly, you make an outline of your finished manuscript, noting the main action and any subplots in each chapter, along with the level of conflict, the primary emotions, and the chapter length. Then you analyze your plot. I divide the analysis into sections for Conflict, Tension, Main Character, Subplots and Secondary Characters, Theme, and Fine Tuning, with over 40 bullet points. Here are the opening three, from Conflict, as examples:

·                      Put a check mark by the line if there is conflict in that chapter. For chapters where there is no conflict, can you cut those, interweave with other chapters, or add new conflict? The conflict can be physical danger, emotional stress, or both, so long as the main character (MC) is facing a challenge.
·                      Where do we learn what the main conflict is? Could it be sooner? Is there some form of conflict at the beginning, even if it is not the main conflict? Does it at least relate to the main conflict? The inciting incident—the problem that gets the story going—should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.
·                      Where do we learn the stakes? What are they? Do you have positive stakes (what the MC will get if he succeeds), negative stakes (what the MC will suffer if he fails), or best of all, both? Could the penalty for failure be worse? Your MC should not be able to walk away without penalty.

As you work your way through the questions, you make notes on your outline about changes you’ll need to make to the manuscript. (I think it’s important that you study the overall manuscript and make notes first, rather than starting to fiddle with problems as you find them. You don’t want to waste time editing a chapter that you later decide needs to be cut.)

As an example, here is an outline of the opening scenes of my unpublished middle grade novel, The Mountain, featuring a 12-year-old boy who runs into mysterious people while hiking in the woods.

Chapter 1, 12 pages: Jesse plans a fishing trip while dealing with family secrets. Conflict—yes, related to family. Emotions—Jesse is angry and resentful. Subplot—family secrets.

Notes: Delete opening scene and start the next day when Jesse is ready to leave. Bring his father into the scene, showing the distance between them. Trim chapter to get Jesse out of the house and into the woods quickly—move scene with Becca to later in the book.

Chapter 2, seven pages: Jesse goes hiking, follows tracks, and meets a woman in the woods. Conflict—tension, but no major conflict. Emotions—confidence, then curiosity.

Notes: Cut scenery to get to action sooner. Have Jesse briefly get annoyed at family secrets while hiking. Increase conflict by having him notice blood on the trail. 

Outlining the book this way helped me take a step back and see problems. I had conflict in the first scene, but it didn’t relate to the main problem—the mystery in the woods. I needed to get Jesse into the woods more quickly. Then I had two chapters, one of them very long, with no major conflict. Since this is a suspense novel, I needed to increase the conflict, make the strangers more mysterious early on, and pick up the pace, deleting some of the description.

I also noticed that I dropped the family secrets subplot through much of the book, because Jesse is not at home most of the time. I needed to find ways to include that, if only by having him think about it.

The Plot Outline Exercise is flexible, and you can even use it at the outlining stage. To make the system more useful for others, I combined it into a book with essays covering specific techniques that come up in the Exercise questions, such as developing strong first chapters, writing vivid scenes, and using cliffhanger chapter endings.

Some of these essays I expanded from articles I’d previously written for Children’s Writer or Writers Digest. I also invited guest authors from a variety of genres, including romance, mystery, and fantasy, to share their insights. I cross-referenced the essays with the bullet points in the Plot Outline Exercise, so once users identified the problem, they could learn more about how to solve it. All this information became my book, Advanced Plotting.

If you’d like to learn more, stop by my blog, Write Like a Pro! where I’ve been posting a series of excerpts from Advanced Plotting. You can download the complete Plot Outline Exercise HERE  (scroll down on the left), or you can buy the book in paperback or as an e-book from Amazon 

Chris teaches through the Institute of Children's Literature and is the New Mexico Regional Advisor forthe Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She has her MA degree in Professional Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, as well as a BFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design. She has worked as an editor and writer for magazines. She has taught Fiction Writing and has led dozens of workshops for children and adults.

Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at (for children’s books) or (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page at

Monday, September 5, 2011

Author Interview: A.J. Paquette

I had the privilege of meeting A. J. Paquette (Ammi-Joan) in person this past spring at the 2011 Texas Library Association Conference while she was in Austin, and she’s every bit as lovely in person as she is in her picture. Charming. Kind. Warm. Professional. Stylish. And do you see the glint of mischief and curiosity in her eyes?  It really leaps to life when you hear her talk about the things she’s passionate about:  her clients with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency (yes, she wears many hats as agent and author), her own writing projects and her two glorious girls (oh, and she likes to travel. Oui?).

I first read Joan’s work when she published The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, illustrated by Christa Unzner (Tanglewood Press, 2009) and loved her fresh picture book idea and voice.  Since then, Joan and I have kept in touch, and I’m thrilled she’s speaking to us today about her new middle grade novel, Nowhere Girl (Walker & Company, Sep 13, 2011). Welcome, Joan!

How did your writing process differ from writing a picture book? They’re both such different animals. Can you talk a little about how you handled switching and writing in a different genre?

There is definitely a big difference between writing novels and writing picture books. For me, my picture book inspiration comes in large part from my interactions with my children, so in writing those books I am, you might say, either channeling them or channeling the voice of my interaction with them. With novels, I feel something much closer to a child-voice of my own, drawing on feelings and emotions that resonate with me now, or with the person I was growing up. That aside, I think the main difference in my process is that picture book writing can more easily fit in around the cracks of my everyday work. If I’ve got a picture book in development, I can take a half-hour here or there to mull through a quandary or brainstorm a new rhyming couplet. Novel writing and revision tends to need longer chunks of time, and it also requires more of a shift in mindset to get into the right creative space.

In Nowhere Girl, we’re introduced to thirteen-year-old Luchi Ann who is living in a women’s prison in Thailand and the death of her mother forces her to leave the only home she’s ever known. Where did the inspiration come for this story?

The first inspiration came from a news article I chanced upon, describing a boy who had grown up with his incarcerated mother in a Thai prison. This was such a completely unexpected incident that it stayed in my mind and, eventually, began to weave its way into the story that would become this novel.

How important is it to choosing the “right” names for your characters? 

 I do tend to find that one certain name feels right for a given character, and with main characters especially, I almost have to find that “right” name before I can go very far into the story. Perhaps for this reason it’s very difficult for me to change a main character’s name once they have been brought to life on the page. 

Do you believe it’s important for characters to have strength and flaws? And how do you develop each of these in all your characters?

I do think that finding this balance in a character is extremely important. Characters who are all good or all bad don’t have the same ring of authenticity—maybe because such a person couldn’t exist in real life. I think the most strongly resonant characters have positive or heroic attributes which readers can look up to, and/or negative traits that readers can identify with and recognize in themselves. Flaws humanize characters—and, okay, they help advance the plot, too! But more than that, they make people so much more interesting. As far as development, I try to follow the story in all things. Dropping my characters right into the action and pushing them on their way, and then paying attention to how they would react—which they tend to do in their own quirky and unique ways—is one of the best ways to bring out well-rounded characters.

 There’s a powerful sense of hope in Nowhere Girl and that life continues even after death. Luchi Ann’s courage is breathtaking as she faces her fears and starts over by charting a new destination for herself. When does theme emerge for you in the revision process, and how do you strengthen it without beating it to a pulp?

I often don’t discover the theme in my work until after the first draft has been completed. Sometimes, determining what you “want to write about” from the get-go can encourage heavy-handed or didactic writing. But when you first follow the story, see where it takes you and what it has to say, and then look back down that path to find the common threads, it’s amazing how many things become very clear that started out as only a dull muddle. It’s in the revision stage that I tease out the themes that have begun manifesting throughout the story, and then work to strengthen and amplify them so that they have the proper development and exposure.

As I mentioned earlier, you wear many hats as a literary agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. How do you balance the two careers? What are the joys you find in each role?

It’s definitely a juggling act, and for my first few years as an agent I found myself doing very little on the writing front. Nowadays, I am more easily able to compartmentalize those different parts of my work day or week. And for me, the two really do feed from each other, each one providing its own energy and inspiration. I wouldn’t trade each of my “hats” for anything!

Can you talk about some of your latest agented deals?

Yes! There are some very exciting new titles coming out over the next few months: In November, Anna Staniszewski’s hilarious middle-grade debut MY VERY UN-FAIRYTALE LIFE (Sourcebooks, 2011) hits the shelves; in December, look for Mary Lindsey’s dark and sexy YA paranormal, SHATTERED SOULS (Philomel, 2011), and in spring 2012, get ready for Eric Pinder’s adorable picture book IF ALL THE ANIMALS CAME INSIDE, which will be illustrated by the celebrated Marc Brown. This is just a small sampling, of course—I could talk about my authors’ books all day!

What’s it like collaborating with Erin Murphy as your literary agent? And what’s around the corner for A. J. Paquette, the writer?

Erin has been absolutely wonderful to work with—the perfect blend of mentor, friend, boss, collaborator and more. I couldn’t ask for a better agency to have settled into! And next up from my author persona are two picture books: THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO CHASING MERMAIDS (Tanglewood, 2012) and GHOST IN THE HOUSE (Candlewick, 2013). Both of these are in the artwork development stage which is so very exciting!

Tell us 3 things you can’t live without.

Firstly my laptop, since it connects to just about all I do; next I’m just going to say delicious food—because eating isn’t enough, it must be truly divine; and lastly, hot showers are essential at any and all times of year.

Tell us 3 things you wish were never invented.

I’m drawing a blank! I know such things exist, but the only ones I can think of offhand (eReaders, Facebook, jeggings) have definite upsides, even to my jaundiced eye (for manuscripts, for reconnecting, for my daughter). So who am I to splinter off a universe in which these things don’t exist? I’ll pass.

Thanks, Joan! Best of luck with both your careers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Talk: Reviews by Young Readers

Today in BookTalk: Reviews by Young Readers, I’m thrilled to have Sarah Dukes with us to talk about Jessica Day George’s Middle Grade novel Dragon Slippers. Welcome, Sarah! 

Hi, my name is Sarah, and I'm 13 years old!  I'm very passionate about writing.  With writing you can escape to a place you created.  Somewhere with drama, humor, horror, romance or mythical creatures.  A dream of mine is to become a published writer.  I often day dream of seeing the reaction my book would bring to people when I write.  Secretly I wish I could vanish into a book's world. 

I discovered that I also have a love for cooking.  One afternoon when Mom told me to make lunch is when it all began.  The only part of cooking I don't like is washing all the pots and pans afterwards.  What's the fun in that? 

Family is an important part of my life.  They are always there to help me through hard struggles and rejoice with me when there is victory.  Spending time with them is a blast.  We take lots of mini vacations through-out the year and are very close to one another.  My favorite vacation place we have visited so far is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  It's a truly magical place!

Finally I believe music is words spoken through notes.  When I was going into the 6th grade I decided to play the violin.  Playing the violin is captivating.  It makes you wonder how you can create such beautiful music just by touching down on a string.  It's a wonderful feeling.  I've played once in my church for Veteran's Day and have gotten a solo in a music camp I attended. 

Review – Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

In my spare time I soared on dragon wings and lived in Derda's shop with Cleer.  My head was nestled in the book Dragon Slippers

The book is quite fascinating and is told AMAZINGLY!!! All 317 pages of it, keeps you wanting more.  You feel the emotions of the character pull you in.  At parts I wanted to strangle Larkin and Amalia for what they did.
It gets so intense that you have to hold yourself from skipping to the end.  I enjoyed reading this book and so did my sister.  It's one of the best books I've read in a long time!
It's a GREAT story about dragons and what happens when unusual shoes get in the wrong hands.   You'll love it if you like reading fantasy, action, betrayal, and a pinch of romance!

Thanks, Sarah!! And now a few Q&A. Here we go!

How do you choose a book? Is it the cover art that catches your interest? A recommendation from a friend? The jacket flap summary?
I know I shouldn't do this, but I tend to choose a book on the cover art.  Like food it must appeal to my eye before I devour it.  If the cover looks good to me then I read the back to see what it's about.  I mentally check it over, and if it seems like the book for me I start reading.  Sadly that doesn't always work out the way I plan. 

What kinds of books do you like to read?

Books that take me to far away places such as a dragon's lair or in a castle.  But I think what really wraps a book together is a bit of romance and excitement!

Where is your favorite place to read?

Somewhere where I can let my imagination run wild.  Where I can get cozy and comfortable with my mp3 quietly playing background music.  Most of the time it's curled up on my bed.  The room seems to disappear and is replaced in the book's world.

Have you always liked to read?

Surprisingly, no.  I didn't always like to read.  I think that when I didn't like to read it was because it seemed hard and took a lot of work to enjoy.  But I really enjoy reading now!  It's that first book that really sparks your interest and gets you started.

Do you have a favorite book? Favorite author?

My favorite book is: My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison.  It's well told and leaves you smiling.  I've found her to be my favorite author so far.  The way she adds a bit of humor is like the icing on the cake...amazing.  Most of her books are romantic comedies.  

If a librarian asked you what type of book you’d like to see more of, what would you tell her/him?

I would like to see more appropriate romantic comedies and fantasy books.  Ones with dragons, knights, and a damsel in distress. 

Did you connect with the main character in Dragon Slippers? Why or why not?

I connected with Creel by the way she felt.  Her feelings were similar to mine and very strongly expressed.  I loved the way she was always ready to go forth with things.  Very brave!
What part or scene from the book resonated with you the most? And why?
I would have to say the scenes of Creel looking at Theordus’ and Shardas hoards. They seemed so beautiful! When I pictured Theordus’ I thought of the Beast’s library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast except filled with shoes. A whole room filled with shoes, you have to admit it’s a girls dream come true. I imagined Shardas’ to be a huge room circling up with stain glass windows. Shardas’ took my breath away with how I longed for it to exist. I wanted to make it real! It just sounded so amazing and captivating. I would’ve stood looking at the windows for hours.
We know that dragons aren’t real so how did the author make you believe in her fictional world?
The author described the dragons as if they were still in a cave waiting to be discovered. And the brilliant idea of why people never visited them anymore. The stories townsfolk made up about the “evil beasts,m” it just seemed so real. Once you get caught up in the fairytale you live in the world as one of the townspeople too.
Sarah, thanks for the review and sharing your insights.