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--