Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium II: The Nuts and Bolts of Success

Blogs, tweets, facebook, oh my! What a tangled web the world of social media weaves! Every day, it seems more and more ebooks are sold. People twitter. Articles are written on websites and blogs. The digital universe is blossoming as people look to social media and the digital highway to reach their audiences and the children's kidlit industry is no different.

So join me at the Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium II on October 6th, 2012 and engage with us. Not registered yet? Click Here! As one of the faculty members, I'll be presenting the topic "Blogging 101: If you Build it, They Will Come!" Trust me, you can do this. And even if you don't want to maintain your own blog, there are ways to connect with readers through blogs and we'll discuss those options, too.

Tricia and I at her launch for The Navel of the World (The Forgotten Worlds)

In 2011, PJ showed attendees how easy it was to build a book trailer and we had an overwhelming response to have her return for part II of our digital symposium. If you missed her the first time, don't make the same mistake twice. Click here to see author PJ Hoover's blog post about her upcoming presentation "Book Trailers: Bringing Your Story to Life." And click HERE to hear about how she sold two books! Yay, Tricia!! So happy for you!

Kirsten Cappy, owner of Curious City

Do you have a website? You can't afford to hire somebody? Do it yourself. No, really. Marketing guru and owner of Curious City, Kirsten Cappy and author Samantha Clark will present "Website Liberation with WordPress." They'll show you how easy it is to build a professional website using this template driven tool. For more details, click HERE

Attending the digital symposium is a must whether you're pre-published or published and our Austin SCBWI chapter has assembled many presentations designed to give you the nuts and bolts you need for success! I've just highlighted a few in this post. Register today and embrace the world of technology. It's time!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Austin SCBWI Meeting and News

There's a lot going on in our Austin SCBWI community and this week is no exception.

Author/illustrator Salima Alikhan will address how to take criticism and turn it around so it motivates you as opposed to letting it depress you. Her talk "Writerly Despair: How to be Inspired Rather Than Crippled by Criticism" takes place at 10am at BookPeople on Saturday, May 12, 2012.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what she has to say. I think it's easy for us to stay in our caves especially after we've received a healthy dose of criticism and weeding through the tough love can be difficult so tomorrow's chapter meeting will no doubt be jam-packed. And I love spending time with peeps, too!

This week also brought along some sad news as we said good-bye to a literary giant in the world of children's literature, award-winning author/illustrator Maurice Sendak. Cynthia Leitich Smith put together a lovely post in his honor. Click HERE if you missed it. Also literary magazine Hunger Mountain has a submission call out, they're putting together a special edition to celebrate Sendak's life and work. Click HERE to get all the details.

As a contributor to ReaderKidz, I'm excited today for the post on author Cynthia Levinson's magnificent book We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. Click HERE to see the post. A truly inspiring story about the difference a group of children made during the Civil Rights Movement. There's also a plethora of educational materials to accompany the book on Cynthia Levinson's website. If you haven't read the book yet you owe it to yourself to read it, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Picture Book Workshop with Chris Barton

Chris reading from The Day-Glo Brothers

Whether he's wearing his Day-Glo lime-green tie or a purple polo or a more tailored suit jacket, one thing is for certain, Bestselling author Chris Barton knows how to address and engage children with his award-winning looks. I mean books!

With more awards than Jim Henson and the Muppets (okay, not yet, but very very close), Chris Barton knows a thing or two about what it takes to produce quality literature and tell a story. He's worked hard and it shows. And the Austin SCBWI chapter is thrilled that he chose to share one of his workshops "You Don't Have to Choose: Balancing Playful Picture Books with Rigorous Research" with Austinites. Click HERE for all the details for the Saturday, June 30th 2012 event.

His blog post "Building A Better Research Process" is just a glimpse at the kind of fabulous content we can expect. Informative, organized, hands-on with a shot or two of humor rolled in for good measure. Last year, Chris taught a 3-day workshop at the Southampton Children's Literature Conference and the literary circuit has been abuzz ever since.

Don't miss this opportunity. Register today (early bird cut-off is May 31). Maybe you'll be the next award-winning author and Chris will be congratulating you. Click HERE for Chris's reading list on his blog Bartography and come prepared to work!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hunger Mountain Submission Call and eBay Auction

Children's and Young Adult editor Bethany Hegedus for Hunger Mountain is reaching out for a submissions call to celebrate the life and work of author/illustrator Maurice Sendak. Not surprising that Hunger Mountain, a literary magazine, is leading the way in the kidlit community to herald the man who brought children's literature to a whole other level. We'll miss you, Mr. Sendak. Rest in peace. And thank goodness for the brilliance of publisher and editor-in-chief of Harper and Row (1940 - 1973), Ursula Nordstrom, who knew how to spot rare and real talent. 

Submission call details below:

Celebrating Sendak

One of children’s literatures finest and most outspoken figures, Maurice Sendak, has died at the age of 83. To celebrate his life and his life’s work, Hunger Mountain is asking illustrators, authors, editors, agents, parents, young readers, teachers and librarians to contribute to a round-up Celebrating Sendak. Please submit anywhere between 50-300 words on any of the topics listed below to be considered for this special round-up. Submissions must be received by May 20th, with the piece to be published in our upcoming Landscape of Literature issue. As there will be many contributors chosen, in lieu of payment links to contributor websites/blogs will be included in the byline. Thank you for helping to celebrate the man who created such classics as In the Night Kitchen, Where the Wild Things Are, Outside Over There, and many more. 

• Impact of Maurice Sendak's work on your own

• How Maurice Sendak changed your childhood

• Why Maurice Sendak's work is still read

• Favorite Maurice Sendak book and why

• Favorite child reaction to a Maurice Sendak work

Submissions may be sent to Bethany Hegedus, CYA Editor of Hunger Mountain, at bahegedus at gmail.com. Please title the submissions email: Celebrating Sendak.

The Hunger Mountain/VCFA e-bay auction is ON! The clock is ticking—bid between now and Monday, May 14th! Below is some of the wonderment up for auction—writing retreats, marketing consultants, agent critiques—much more valuable than merely submitting to an agency (and some of these agents are closed)—and author critiques.
Writing Retreat
Hunger Mountain children's & young adult editor, Bethany Hegedus, author and owner of The Writing Barn is thrilled to donate this 5-day stay, worth over $1000. The 5-day stay may be booked Monday through Friday (at an agreed upon time) for 2 guests. If a writing group would like to come, additional guests may book The Cabin and if the winning bidder would like to extend their retreat, they may book weekends on either end of the 5-day stay for an additional cost. For more information and/or to view more pictures visit www.thewritingbarn.com, https://www.facebook.com/WritingBarn, or follow us on twitter @WritingBarn.
Spend 5 glorious days and nights at The Writing Barn, a writing workshop and retreat center, in Austin, Texas. The Writing Barn, once a working horse barn, sits at the back of 7.5 wooded acres and has everything a writer needs: cozy writing spaces—both indoors and out, modern appliances, a bedroom with a comfy queen-sized bed, a reading/sleeping loft and free wifi. The screened-in porch is the perfect place to have meals, be inspired and make huge leaps on that work-in-progress you wish you had more time to devote to. When not writing, enjoy downtown Austin which is only a twenty minute drive away. Explore the fabulous Austin food scene, the music-venues, the museums, and make sure to spend some time at BookPeople, Austin’s eclectic indie bookstore.

To bid on The Writing Barn stay, go here.
Agents Critiques for Auction
Holly McGhee was an Executive Editor at HarperCollins Publishers for seven years before opening the doors of Pippin Properties, a boutique literary agency located in New York City. As good luck would have it, the first person Holly edited was William Steig, and their first book together was ZEKE PIPPIN, from which sprung the name of her company. Since 1998, Pippin has been devoted to representing the finest work of authors and artists writing and painting today, from Kate DiCamillo to Doreen Cronin to Jandy Nelson, Kathi Appelt, Peter H. Reynolds, and Harry Bliss.
Holly McGhee is offering a manuscript critique by e-mail. Manuscript Guidelines: Picture book with less than 2,000 words. This critique by e-mail will be scheduled to take place within eight weeks of her receipt of the manuscript. The winning bidder must contact Ms. McGhee immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder within one week of confirmed payment.

                To bid on the critique offered my Holly McGhee go here.
Elena Mechlin is offering a manuscript critique by mail. Manuscript Guidelines: hard copy of a young adult novel of 100 pages, double-spaced. This critique will be scheduled to take place within eight weeks of receiving the hard copy manuscript. The winning bidder must contact Ms. Mechlin immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder.
Elena Mechlin joined Pippin Properties, Inc. in 2009. Having begun her publishing career in subsidiary rights, moving on to children's book marketing with a stint in audio, she realized that a position in agenting would enable her to continue to be involved in the many aspects of publishing about which she is so passionate from one place. She is thrilled to be pursuing her love of children's literature and the industry from her seat at Pippin and especially enjoys the treasure hunt that is sorting through the daily query emails.
To bid on the FULL NOVEL critique offered by Elena Mechlin, go here.
Joan Slattery is offering a manuscript critique by e-mail. Manuscript Guidelines: A portion of a young adult novel of 25 pages, double spaced. This critique by e-mail will be scheduled to take place within eight weeks of her receipt of the manuscript. The winning bidder must contact Ms. Slattery immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder within one week of confirmed payment.
Joan Slattery, Agency Consultant and Scout, joined Pippin Properties in 2010. After nearly twenty years in children's book publishing (many of those editing fiction at Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House), she is thrilled to be working with Pippin authors and artists--and prospective clients--to develop and polish their projects. She's particularly fond of middle grade and young adult fiction, which harkens back to one of her most voracious and memorable years of reading: sixth grade.
To bid on the critique offered by Joan Slattery, go here.

Ammi-Joan Paquette is offering a manuscript critique by e-mail. Manuscript Guidelines: one-page synopsis and the first three chapters of either a Middle Grade or a Young Adult novel. This critique by e-mail will be scheduled to take place as soon as possible after her receipt of the manuscript. The winning bidder must contact Ms. Paquette immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder within one week of confirmed payment. Though the Erin Murphy Literary agency is closed to slush submissions, Ammi-Joan Paquette will accept queries from any authors who place a bid on this auction item.
Ammi-Joan Paquette is an agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency, representing all types of children’s and YA literature. Recent client releases include Jennifer Nielsen’s swashbuckling epic The False Prince (Scholastic, 2012), J. Anderson Coats’ sweeping historical The Wicked and the Just (Houghton, 2012), and Eric Pinder’s hilarious rhyming picture book If All the Animals Came Inside (Little Brown, 2012). Joan is also the author of the recent picture book The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids (Tanglewood, 2012) and the middle-grade novel Nowhere Girl (Walker, 2011). She is particularly drawn to richly-rendered, unforgettable characters, and tightly-paced, well-plotted stories with twists and turns that keep you guessing right until the end. 
To bid on TWO critiques offered by Ammi-Joan Paquette, do here and here.

Tricia Lawrence is offering a manuscript critique by e-mail. Manuscript Guidelines: A 50-page portion of a Young Adult novel, double spaced. This critique by e-mail will be scheduled to take place within two weeks of her receipt of the manuscript. The winning bidder must contact Ms. Lawrence immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder within one week of confirmed payment.
Tricia is the "Pacific Northwest branch" of Erin Murphy Literary Agency—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 16 years of working as a developmental and production-based copyeditor (from kids book to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist hoping to learn from Erin and Joan about agenting. As associate agent, Tricia represents middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction. She's looking for strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won't let go.
To bid on the critique offered by Trica Lawrence, please do so here.

Marketing Consultation
Kirsten Cappy of Curious City will read your fine book and offer one hour of marketing campaign brainstorming followed by two hours committed to the creation of materials and outreach for said campaign. Curious City has built creative marketing projects and outreach for children's book authors, illustrators, and publishers including Phillip Hoose, Grace Lin, Melissa Sweet, and countless other grand creators and books. Read more about Curious City at http://visitcuriouscity.wordpress.com/about/.

To bid on this marketing consultation offered by Kirsten Cappy, please do so here.

Author Critiques
Liz Garton Scanlon is offering a manuscript critique by e-mail. Manuscript Guidelines: Picture book of less than 1,000 words. This critique by e-mail will be scheduled to take place July-October of 2012. The winning bidder must contact Ms. Scanlon immediately to schedule the critique. Contact information will be provided to the winning bidder within one week of confirmed payment.
Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as Noodle & Lou, illustrated by Arthur Howard, and A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, by Robin Preiss Glasser. Her next book will be out later this spring: Think Big is illustrated by Vanessa Newton and it celebrates the many varied forms of art. Future books include Happy Birthday, Bunny, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, due next year, and The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Katy McDonald Denton, due in 2014. Ms. Scanlon is assistant professor of creative writing at Austin Community College is a frequent & popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. To learn more, visit her web site at http://lizgartonscanlon.com/
To bid on the critique offered by Liz Garton Scanlon, please do so here.

About Hunger Mountain and the auction
Hunger Mountain is both a print publication and online destination for readers, writers, artists and art lovers. We create engagement with the arts by publishing high-quality, innovative literary and visual art by both established and emerging artists, and by offering opportunities for conversation.
Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) is a national center for graduate education in the fine arts located in Montpelier. Renowned for its prestigious MFA programs, VCFA’s mission is to shape the future of the arts by fostering the excellence of emerging and established artists worldwide.
Your support is important to us, thank you for participating in the Hunger Mountain/VCFA annual fundraising auction!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Common Thread - More Thoughts

A couple of days ago I wrote the post A Common Thread in the Stories We Write (Click HERE to re-read it.) and then yesterday I was reading The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson, founder of PlotWrMo (Adams Media, 2011) in which Alderson talked about finding the truth to your story.  And I just wanted to highlight a couple of key quotes that tie into my blog post.

"Themes underlie surface attitudes and actions of the characters in your story," Alderson stated. She then said, "To identify the deeper meaning of your story, you must know yourself and your story very well."

So how do we do this?

  1. This may seem silly to say but first WRITE YOUR STORY. All to often, myself included, we hem and haw about what we WANT to write instead of DOING the writing. Make sure you get a first draft down on the page in any shape or form. Some writers' first draft is actually a very-detail oriented outline. Sometimes it's a combination of synopsis and chapters strung together. Others sit down at their computers and don't come up for air until they've got the entire story written from beginning to end. Or written from ending to beginning. If you must pause in the writing process to figure out a few details then do so. BUT make sure you return and finish what you've started!!
  2. After you've completed your first draft give yourself some breathing room. This might be a good time to go back through what you've written and summarize each chapter. A single sentence that summarizes the meaning for each chapter and the emotion. And what are the themes that are emerging  from each chapter? Do you see common themes surfacing in each chapter?
  3. Alderson said, "Ask yourself what those themes mean to you?"
  4. Be patient. Alderson said, "When you first plan your plot, your themes are likely sketchy with gaps and dead ends. These gaps will smooth over and fill in as you better understand what your story is about and you know your characters better." So this means you need to keep revising and rewriting. Asking yourself what it is you're trying to say? How do you feel about the themes emerging? And do you need to adapt what you're saying so it resembles what you TRULY want to say?
  5. Don't give up. Even when I'm writing picture books it takes many, many revisions to uncover the truth. To figure out what my characters are trying to say? What I'm trying to say? The good thing is that the clues are there. You just need to give yourself time to find them and recognize them for what they are. 

I highly recommend reading The Plot Whisperer because Alderson's advice pertains to any type of story you're trying to tell. I'm using her tips for my picture books as well as the plot planner for chapter books and novels. Understanding the universal story and using the plot planner will help you find the truth to your story faster. It's like putting on a pair of reading glasses when the world looks blurry -- everything becomes sharper and more focused.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Common Thread In the Stories We Write

Have you ever noticed a common thread emerging in the stories you write for children? Take a look at what you're writing. Is there a pattern surfacing? A common theme?

Well, several months ago, I was looking at the body of my works-in-progress and I said, "Holy cow!" The majority of the stories I write revolve around the themes of family and relationships. Wow! I hadn't stopped to think about this before. But the more and more I thought about it, I realized, why, of course. Family and relationships have been the fabric of my life.

The backbone to who I am.
Where I come from.
And what's important to me.

So it only makes sense that it should appear in the stories I write for children -- from picture books to middle grade novels.

I Can Swing and I Can Run are two of the newest picture/board books I've written for young readers about two friends who share their escalating imagination whether they're swinging high or running fast.

In Grandpa's Girl, it's the story about a girl and her grandpa and their unconditional love and memories that transcend long after his life ends. He lives on in her. And my grandmother lives on in me.

My brother  and I in 2008
Geraldine June Acts Out spilled out of me in relation to my brother and sister relationship and yet it's entirely different from my childhood. There are pieces of me and my brother woven into the fabric of that story, but it's the characters Geraldine June and her brother Bo who tell the real story. Their story.

The above are just a few examples in my work. What are some of yours? Have you stopped and studied your works-in-progress or published books? Do you know what you like to write about? The stories you want to tell? And are there common threads floating to the surface? It doesn't necessarily mean you'll continue in this pattern, but it might give you a clue to uncovering the "real" story when you vomit up that first draft or re-envision the story. What is it that you're trying to say? What's inside of you? I know it's helped me to know what kinds of stories I gravitate toward.

Something to think about on a lazy, cloudy day. On a day where you're in between drafts.