Friday, August 24, 2012

Blogging Basics and The Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium II

Welcome back! As promised, today I'm going to talk today about my presentation in the upcoming Digital II Symposium: The Nuts and Bolts of Success.

Have you been shying away from entering the realm of the Blogosphere? Not sure what all this talk about Social Media is about? It's really quite simple.

Social Media is about people. Blogging is about people. Sharing information. Communicating and networking. And in essence giving back, too!

When I first started my blog, I wasn't really sure what I was doing. I fumbled and bumbled along. I studied industry professionals like New York Times best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations (a MUST read) and I asked lots of questions at SCBWI Austin meetings. I read free information I found on the Internet and it's gotten me here. But I've consumed a lot of time in the process. If a "Blogging Basics" class had been available, I would have jumped at the chance. A quick download of information with a few warning and cautionary signs thrown in for good measure would have saved me spoonfuls of time. So that's what I'm going to be doing on October 6th at St. Edward's University. Saving you some time and equipping you with knowledge to get you started in the Blogosphere.

In the morning we'll talk about things like:

  • What a blog is and its purpose
  • Blog software
  • Naming your blog
  • Blog content and content structure
  • Copyright issues and pictures
  • Pre-blogging and planning
  • Guest blogs and tours

In the afternoon, you'll get your feet wet so to speak as we create a blog post highlighting the presentations from the Digital II Symposium: The Nuts and Bolts of Success. We'll use links, write content, insert photos and publish the post. It'll be a collaborative process with lots of time to ask questions.

If you blog, people will come! So join me and the other talented ten experts for a day of digital dynamics and break down the barrier and mystique that has held you back from embracing technology. Just click HERE and we'll take good care of you.


Watch the Austin Digital Symposium II trailer below:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

When Do You Write For Children?

Are you a morning writer? Afternoon or night owl? Can you write only on weekends? What is your writing schedule like? Send me a comment. I'd love to know!

I personally love writing in the mornings when the house is dark and the only sound I hear is the humming of the air conditioner. But that peaceful zone doesn't last for long with a busy family so I have to find other hours in the day to write, too. I'm lucky to have the opportunity to write throughout the day around my family's schedule. But I'll admit evenings are the hardest for me, what about you?

Switching topics. I'm also working on my presentation "Blogging Basics" and uncovering a host of interesting facts surrounding blogging and social media. Here's one for you:

True or False?

Bloggers are morning people?

What if I told you nearly eighty percent of bloggers read in the morning and that it peaks around ten o'clock. So if you're a morning writer does that mean you should be writing your blog posts in the morning and posting them around that time frame? Yes and No.

Post your blog posts in the morning, yes. But if you're a morning person like I am, use your mornings to work on your manuscripts. When your mind is the freshest and for me the most creative. If ideas for blog posts come to you while you're working on your projects. Jot them down on a scrap of paper and get back into that manuscript. Come back to those blog ideas later and expand and write.

Oooops. Look at the time. Time to get back to my writing! But come back and visit me. I'm going to be posting about what I'll be covering in my presentation on October 6th at the Digital Symposium II: The Nuts and Bolts of Success hosted by our SCBWI Austin chapter. A sneak peek shall we say.

In closing, I'm leaving you with an interesting quote to ponder by author Erik Qualman and founder of Socialnomics, "We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it."

Food for thought.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Things to Consider Before Dismantling a Blog

Think blogging is taking up too much of your time?

Worried no one reads your blog?

What happens if you haven't updated your blog in months? Do you feel like you may as well take it down?

Does this sound familiar? 

If it does, you're not alone. But before you make any drastic decisions, rethink your intention.

I recently spoke with an author friend, who shall remain nameless, who decided to resume blogging after she’d taken the blog down. A decision (dismantling the blog) that she felt had been a HUGE mistake.  

So with my upcoming presentation on Blogging Basics drawing near on October 6th at the Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium II, I wanted to give you a prelude of some of the things I’ll be discussing and leave you with five things to consider before dismantling a blog.

  1. Loss of TRAFFIC. Blogs more often than not drive traffic to your website. My author friend found this out first hand. With the blog gone, the traffic to the website ground to a screeching halt.
  2. Loss of RELATIONSHIPS. No doubt you have many links to authors, illustrators, industry professionals included in your blogroll and they have links to your blog. When you dismantle your blog the links are broken. That means when people click on those links, they will receive an error message because your blog no longer exists. Those links are ties to people. To information. And it’s like shredding a HUGE address book.  People can still find you, but why make it harder for them to do so. An extra click. An extra search. Extra time that they’ll have to spend to find you. Plus, you need to recreate all those Web addresses that were stored on your blog. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?
  3. Loss of MARKETING. An ability to communicate, connect and network with like-minded people and reach your audience. When your book is published your blog serves as a tool to create virtual buzz and publishers rely heavily on authors’ skills to market themselves. Publishing marketing budgets are shrinking and authors need to be their own advocate and publicist. Your blog is an inexpensive way to reach people and market your book.
  4. Loss of REVENUE. Pretty self-explanatory, right? You never know who is going to find your blog and purchase your book based on the content you're writing. Many times, I’ve bought a book after reading an emotional and moving blog post or an articulated and informative post on craft. Don’t limit yourself. Keep doors open to opportunities. Paid speaking gigs can also materialize through contact with people through your blog. As well as publishing contracts for that next book. Or debut!
  5. And lastly, loss of AUTHORITY. When you want to guest blog for other writers or industry blogs, they'll peruse what you've written on your blog. Your blog serves as a resume. A resource and sample of your skills and voice. But if your blog isn't there, you'll lose credibility and authority within your niche and/or market place. It'll make it 5x harder to get those guest post gigs.
In closing, I’d like to encourage you:
  • Don't give up.
  • Don't walk away.
  • Do write 3 - 4 blog posts.
  • Make time in your busy schedule to craft posts on topics you're passionate about and whenever possible tie it to what you're writing and creating.
  • Consider pitching ideas to guest blog for other writers or industry professionals on their blogs. Good content is always welcome. Be professional and courteous. 
  • Join me at the Digital Symposium II, where you’ll find support for your blogging woes and eleven experts will be on hand to equip you with skills as it relates to book trailers, tweeting, photoshopping, websites, YouTube, social media and so much more. Register  HERE.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Author Interview: Darrin Lunde

Darrin Lunde is a museum mammalogist with the National Museum of Natural History which is part of the Smithsonian Institute. He divides his time between his full-time duties at the museum and creating books for young readers. I reviewed his latest book Monkey Colors, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (Charlesbridge, 2012) yesterday, (Click HERE to read the review) and I was fascinated to know more. So I’m thrilled that Darrin has taken time out of his busy life to speak with us today.

Welcome, Darrin!

Darrin Lunde and his son in NY State
What you were like as a child? Were you an avid reader? Writer? Adventurer?

I was a loner and an explorer.  I much preferred being away from people and exploring nature in solitude. I liked not having to worry about what other people might think if I wanted to do something strange like digging up worms or studying the invertebrates scurrying around under an upturned stone.   I did not grow up in the country, and so finding nature (and solitude) was always a challenge, but somehow I managed. I think the fact that nature was not something I could take for granted played a big part in my endless fascination with the subject.  Had I grown up in the country, nature might have lost its allure.

Strangely, I was not an avid reader, at least not the stereotypical kind sneaking a flashlight under the covers to read through the night. That was not me. I never really read books so much as I ‘mined’ them for information, flipping through at random, and switching between two or three books at a time until I had gleaned a satisfying mixture of information.  To this day I can’t really read anything straight through; I just get restless and start flipping around. I may eventually read all the words, but not in the order that they are presented.  

Then as now, I have always spent inordinate amounts of time organizing my books, and like some rogue librarian I am always regrouping them in different ways on my shelves. I remember there was a medical doctor in our neighborhood who had piled up his old medical books on the curb for the garbage truck, and although I can’t remember exactly who, someone in my family knew how much I loved books—any books—and scooped them all up for me.  What a windfall that was! There must have been twenty or thirty books altogether, and although I was never tempted to become a doctor, I had a great time reading about Giardia and intramuscular injections—what fun!

What do you like the most about being a mammalogist?

A mammalogist is anyone who studies mammals, but I like to distinguish myself as a museum mammalogist. Straight out of college, I started working for the American Museum of Natural History, and was there for twenty years before recently making a move to the National Museum of Natural History, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution. A lot of people still don’t realize it, but there is a lot of science that goes on behind the scenes in a natural history museum and most of that science is based on the enormous collections of specimens these institutions house. 

There are literally hundreds of thousands of mammal (bird, lizard, snake, and so on…) specimens all organized taxonomically and lined up neatly in drawers.  These specimens are a scientific resource in that they are very often at the base of the long stings of knowledge we have accumulated about animals. Like tracing all sources of energy back to the sun I like to say that we can trace all sources of knowledge about animals back to the specimens in a museum. 

If you don’t believe me, or if you don’t think the person out there studying animal behavior with a pair of binoculars has a museum collection to thank, think about the field guide the observer depends on to identify animals. Every living creature on Earth is named and described from museum specimens, and it has always been my enormous responsibility to take care of these very important collections. Really, it is my privilege and honor to have spent my entire adult life in two of the greatest natural history museums in the world, but then again as a child I was always obsessed with building up my own little boyhood natural history museums. 

I have never forgotten how horrible a feeling it is to be away from the wealth of information inherent in nature and somehow collections of animal specimens have always served me as a kind of strange insurance policy against my ever being bored. You can walk through the back rooms of my museum and open drawers containing the skulls of galagos from central Africa or pickled bats form Sri Lanka. I just love having all that kind of tangible matter from the real world of nature at my fingertips.

What led you to write for children?

At the time I was being asked to fact-check a lot of books about mammals that were written by other people (that's what happens when you are a mammal expert) and one day I just said to myself, "I can do this." And I did. The woman that illustrates many of my books was a resident scientific illustrator at the American Museum of Natural History (where I was working at the time) and she played a big role in introducing me to a few good editors. I owe Pat a great deal for helping me break into the field, and was thrilled when my editor chose Pat to illustrate my first few books.

What was the inspiration behind Monkey Colors?  

Monkey Colors is a book about the process of distinguishing different kinds of species. Since monkeys are diurnal, they use color to help distinguish themselves from other closely related species.  Nocturnal mammals like shrews are not so easy to tell apart.  They are mostly different shades of gray and not so easy for a primate like Homo sapiens to tell apart.   Shrews happen to distinguish themselves by smell, but scents are not easily stored in a museum drawer and so museum mammalogists like me have to use proxies like details in the morphology of molar teeth to tell apart different species of shrews.  Monkeys and color just seemed the most natural way to open up the subject of how we go about distinguishing species.

You’ve also written books for children on bumblebee bats and meerkats. How do you choose which subject to write about? Or does the subject find you?

Titles are very important to me, and all of my books come to me with a title that just seems to click with whatever theme I am thinking about.  In the case of Meet the Meerkat, I wanted to write a book about a small mammal that was very interesting but not necessarily well-known.  

There are more than five thousand different kinds of living mammals on planet Earth, and I felt as though the selection of books out there on mammals was way too limited. I wanted my readers to meet a very different kind of mammal, not just lions, elephants and pandas.  Meet the ??? ... Meet the ???... Meet the Meerkat!  Perfect!  This happened to be just before meerkats became popular on TV, but you get the idea, and I followed it up with similarly inspired books on bumblebee bats, baby belugas and mama wallaroos, and the list will go on for as long as someone will publish them.

Can you talk about your writing process? What comes first, the research or the writing?

The ideas are rooted in a bank of knowledge that is already in my head, and after jotting down a few lead-in sentences to set the tone, I usually move pretty quickly to a stage where I am trying to map out the overall “shape” of my book.  Picture books are great because they are typically only 32 pages, and so I can put a big piece of paper in front of me and literally map out how I want the book to unfold. At this stage I’m not so concerned with actual words and sentences so much as rhythm and overall structure.  After my first few sentences I sometimes try to hum out where the book is going before trying to match actual words to those sounds.  Sooner or later I’m humming less and writing more, and then I know it’s time to hit the library so that I can add a little more depth to my writing. There is always something to learn, even for a mammal expert. 

At this stage I’m not necessarily trying to load up my book with facts; rather I’m usually looking for bits of information that I might use to carry my story along. A good example from Hello, Bumblebee Bat would be where the text shifts to what the little bat fears, and that forest fire illustrated in the background came directly from my reading about how wild fires in Thailand are a major threat to this species.  

I don’t ever try to think about the specific subject of my next book, but there is always some hazy theme weighing on my mind.  There is just this nagging feeling I have about having something to say. I don’t try to force things; rather I just let it simmer for weeks or sometimes months at a time until something hits me. Sometimes nothing ever happens and the feeling just fades away over the years.  

My book After the Kill is a good example of something that simmered for a long time. I’m interested in the reality of nature, and I kept thinking about the anxious feeling you might get when people are afraid to tell you something.  It was a feeling like “knowing the dirty secret is far less painful than the angst of being aware but unknowing”. That anxious feeling kept coming to me in relation to the sometimes sanitized views of nature we present to our children (I hate when people do that).  I kept feeling like I wanted to tell some secret truth about the way nature really worked, and yet at the same time I didn’t want to seem ghoulishly honest.  

After the Kill does not dwell on death, rather it tells the story of the life-giving process that comes after the death of an animal. Children naturally sense this basic truth about nature, but in shielding them from it we make matters worse by creating angst.  After the Kill was meant to be that sigh of relief.   

Can you describe what an typical day looks like for Darrin Lunde, mammalogist/children’s author? Do you write early in the morning or late at night? Weekends only?

On a typical day I am behind the scenes at the Smithsonian Institution and VERY busy with the day-to-day business of running a mammal collection. I am working to keep hundreds of thousands of mammal specimens properly identified and organized so that visiting scientists can conduct their research. I also spend a great deal of time answering questions from various scientific agencies, students, and the general public. Over the course of my career I travelled to many remote parts of the world to study and collect mammal specimens, and I am often involved with helping young mammalogists get their start in the field.  

The only time I have to work on my books is after work, and usually very late at night. I usually try to devote at least one full weekend day to writing. It is very hard work but enjoyable when you look back.

Darrin and his daughter hiking in Maryland
What’s the best part about being a children’s author and writing for children?

I can write a lot of them. I have a lot of ideas and unlike with a longer-length book, I can juggle writing several children’s books at a time. I know I write better when I am working up several different book ideas all at once.  Ideas keep coming.  Most of them never end up published, but I no longer worry so much about what my next book is going to be. I just do what all writers everywhere do. I just keep writing.

What are you working on now?

The next book of mine that will come out is called Hello Mama Wallaroo. It’s the next in my “Hello somewhat unusually animal” series; however, what I really want to alert you to is the book that will come out just after that. The title is known to me and my editor but is otherwise still secret…but it’s a good one, perhaps my best and I just can’t wait to share it with you!

Thanks, Darrin!

You are most certainly welcome!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Monkey Colors

Monkey Colors by Darrin Lunde, illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne (Charlesbridge, July 2012).

This 32-page picture book is perfect for the child learning to read with its simple language and use of many sight words. Lunde introduces children to twelve kinds of monkeys and the many colors they come in. And at the end of the book, he invites them to choose their favorite.

There's so much to love about this book: the primary colors, the repeating word pattern, the beautiful watercolor illustrations by Wynne, and the facts and map in the back matter that allow educators and parents to share more. Lunde also points out that the monkeys in the book would never be seen together in the wild as they come from all over the world. Monkey Colors is a rare find just like some of the endangered species in the book. And it'll have kids itching to explore the natural world and undoubtedly monkeying around! Ook. Ook. Ook.

 A page from Monkey Colors.

Join me tomorrow as I interview Darrin Lunde and learn more about his job as museum mammologist and how he's sharing his love of mammals with children. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Co-Author Interview: Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook

Kathryn Heling has been a school psychologist for over 20 years and is a former special education teacher. She loves working with children and figuring out how each child learns best. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author and lives in the beautiful State of Wisconsin. She also loves to travel by train.

Deborah Hembrook is a kindergarten teacher and author and her students inspire her everyday with their curiosity. Many of the stories she co-authors with Kate originate from her classroom. She and her husband also live in Wisconsin and love exploring the country on their motorcycle.

Kate Heling & Debbie Hembrook
They are the co-authors of more than ten children's books and after I reviewed their latest book Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies (Charlesbridge, July 2012), (see the review HERE) I was eager to speak to them about their writing and collaboration process.

Welcome Kate and Debbie!

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you came to be children’s authors? What were you like as children? How did your childhoods influence the books you write today?

Kate:  I grew up in a family of voracious readers and people who wrote just for the sheer joy of it.  As a kid, I tried to write a novel (in 2nd grade) and I contributed poems and articles to my school newspaper.  I loved writing my grandparents and cousins in California and to my pen pal in England.  In high school, I had a fabulous teacher for my Honors English class and she greatly encouraged my writing, giving me the confidence to submit a story that won 3rd place in an NCTE contest.  My undergraduate studies were in elementary and special education and I took a course in children’s literature.  The class requirement  was to read and review 100 books -- I read and reviewed 300 and the seeds were sown.....although I knew I wanted to be a teacher, I started to dream about someday writing books for young children.

Debbie:  Growing up, I kept journals that I numbered and decorated.  One of my journals was a collection of quotes that I liked.  I also collected bookmarks and made some of my own with the quotes that I treasured.  I enjoyed reading postcards, both to learn about places people had been but also to appreciate people’s handwriting and their way of communicating a lot of information in a small space.  I loved to write letters to my cousins; and my friends and I made birthday cards for one another.  My favorite books growing up were the Nancy Drew mysteries and between my twin sister and I, we had them all.  I loved the smell, feel, and sound of cracking open a brand new Nancy Drew mystery.  While I was preparing to become a teacher, I also loved my class in children’s literature -- that, and the joy of reading aloud to my young students made me appreciate the power of books!  I love sharing books that were favorites of mine as a child with the children in my classroom.

When did the two of you start writing books together? Can you tell us how that happened? 

Kate & Debbie: We have both spent much of our careers working for the school district in Waukesha, a city just west of Milwaukee.  We got to know each other and became friends while working on district-wide committees.  In January, 1997, we were having a conversation about New Year’s resolutions and discovered that we both shared a dream of writing books for children.  We’d both written stories on our own but hadn’t done anything too seriously with them.  We decided to get together to learn more about the industry and just kept working together.  We shared the stories we’d written; we worked together on revising them; and we started attending writer’s conferences together.  

Our first published story appeared in a collection of stories -- Say Goodnight to Illiteracy, 1998 -- published annually by Half Price Books.  Our first book, an early reader titled MOUSE MAKES WORDS, was published by Random House in 2001, and we are enormously gratified that the book is still in print today. 

Can you share your writing process with us? 

Kate & Debbie: In general, our writing process proceeds like this:  Debbie is a creative genius and seems to have no end of great ideas, many taken from her classroom experiences and/or her perception of a gap in stories dealing with a certain topic.  Our stories TEN GROUCHY GROUNDHOGS and TENLUCKY LEPRECHAUNS are examples of this.  Debbie had long been frustrated by the lack of stories for young children surrounding Groundhog’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.  

Typically, Debbie will write a rough draft of the story she has in mind.  If the story lends itself to a rhyming text, as many of our stories do, Kate taps into the rhyming genes she seems to have inherited from her father and does a preliminary rewrite.  After that, it is pure collaboration all the way to a finished product!  

We analyze the text for consistent meter and rhythm, we look for opportunities to add alliteration or assonance or other ‘devices’ that will help young children hear the similarities and differences in our language, we consider whether it makes sense to add repetitive phrases that would encourage young children to ‘read’ along, and we carefully consider our vocabulary selection in an effort to help children grow in this area but not to become overwhelmed by too many new words.  We read our drafts aloud, over and over again, listening for where the text flows and where it doesn’t.  When we are quite happy with our story, we fire it off to our critique group and very carefully consider the thoughtful and helpful suggestions they offer -- often leading to a little more revision.  Once we’re confident that we’ve done all we can do with a story, we research various publishers and/or editors we know and we send our story out into the world, hopefully to become a published book!

Can you give us a glimpse into a typical writing day?

Kate & Debbie: We are in regular contact via e-mail or phone, but we are also very disciplined about having an in-person writing session every week.  We work at Kate’s house, in a large office of our own, and we often prevail upon Kate’s husband to do a ‘cold read’ so we can get a sense of how the story will sound when read by others.  

What do you like most about the collaboration process? And what if any are the challenges?

Kate & Debbie: For us, the collaborative process has been incredible!  We have so much FUN, writing  together, attending conferences together, and planning author visits.  When feedback from a submission is discouraging, we can share that disappointment and, conversely, celebrating the successes is all the sweeter when shared with a co-author.  We are totally in sync regarding the kinds of stories we want to write and the purpose we want them to serve.  As educators, it’s very difficult for us to write anything that doesn’t include educational aspects of one sort or another.  We want young readers (or listeners) to hear the patterns in our language, to build their vocabulary, to build on academic skills, and mostly to develop a LOVE of books!
We have not encountered any challenges associated with our collaborative process.  We don’t always agree 100% with each others’ ideas or suggested revisions, but we always respectfully consider all of the possibilities.  We will type out a paragraph or verse in multiple draft formats and then read the manuscript with each of the possibilities.  Usually, it soon becomes obvious which version is going to fit best in our finished piece.  One thing we’ve learned from having had several books published is that the editor will suggest multiple revisions, that the more ideas we consider the better, and that we all are striving for the finished product to be the best it can possibly be.

Do you have writing projects where you don’t work as a team?

Kate & Debbie: Not so far....  Even if one of us independently takes an idea fairly far along to a finished product, we tend to ultimately resort to the collaborative process that we know works for us. 

Where did the inspiration for Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do come from?

Kate & Debbie: As with many of our books, Debbie had the original idea for CLOTHESLINE CLUES TO JOBS PEOPLE DO.  Actually, it was one of the earlier stories that we wrote and over the years we worked on it, tucked it away, brought it out and revised it, and submitted it now and then in various forms.  

Altogether, we probably wrote verses depicting about 20 jobs people do.  We wanted to get young children thinking about jobs in general, specific jobs that people (male and female!) could do, and to introduce or build on vocabulary associated with those jobs.  We liked the idea of a riddle format, with both the text and the items on the clothesline providing clues -- helping children to build powers of observation and reasoning. 

We were thrilled when Charlesbridge offered a contract to publish it. We love the trade-to-educational crossover dimension of Charlesbridge publications because it's consistent with our personal mission for our work.  And then.....the frosting on the cake ---- having a wonderful editor at Charlesbridge and a gifted illustrator, both of whom helped raise our story to a new level.  There are multiple aspects to what appears on the surface to be a very simple concept.  But, especially upon repeated readings, children will notice the stories within the story depicted by the creative illustrations.

What can readers look forward to next?

Kate & Debbie: We are working on revisions for another book through Scholastic/Cartwheel -- a FUN story that is a little different from the others we have done with Cartwheel.  We have lots of ideas (and finished manuscripts) for more rhyming/counting books.  We’re also working on some stories for very young children, those in the 1-3 year age range.  We sincerely hope to continue making books that appeal to young children for a long time to come.

For access to all their books and the extended activities for parents and educators, visit their website HERE.

Thanks, Kate and Debbie!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do

August is officially here and many educators and parents are adding to their library shelves and gearing up for the 2012/13 school year. If you've got a preschooler or kindergartner at home or in the classroom, you'll enjoy the books I'll be reviewing over the next few weeks.

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies (Charlesbridge, July 2012)

Co-authors Heling and Hembrook challenge young readers to guess the job of seven people found in the community from the clothes that hang on their clotheslines. It’s cleverly written in rhyme with a question and answer format. There’s also another story that delightfully unfolds through Davies’ illustrations as the child turns the pages and ends in celebration. A shining example of how artfully and skillfully a concept book can work when it’s done to perfection. A must have for any preschool or kindergarten classroom. 

Extension activities for parents/educators can be found HERE at the authors' website.

With over ten books penned in their names, I was eager to talk to these co-authors about their collaboration process. Join me tomorrow for that interview and discover the secret to the duo's success.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Literary News in and Around Austin

There's so much happening in and around the Greater Austin area and I'm looking forward to filling you in on all things literary!

Screened-in porch at The Writing Barn

This past Wednesday, I spent the day at Bethany Hegedus' The Writing Barn with writing buddies Donna Bowman Bratton, Samantha Clark, Nikki Loftin and Vanessa Lee who joined us later in the day. Bethany rents out the space at The Writing Barn for all kinds of events, workshops, retreats. It's the ideal place to write, relax, celebrate or study. Check out this Saturday's event Yoga for Fertility with Liz Belile HERE. Bethany, thanks for a fun-filled day of camaraderie and writing!

Gene Brenek and Donna Bowman Bratton at a  Carol Lynch William's workshop

This weekend I'm hopping in the car with author and good friend Donna Bowman Bratton for a writing weekend at her beautiful lake house in the Texas Hill Country. Not only will be working and writing, we'll be celebrating and toasting Donna's recent successes; she was a Letter of Merit honoree for SCBWI 2012 Work-In-Progress Grant and her article "The Do's and Don't's of Conference Etiquette" appeared in this year's SCBWI Summer Conference (LA) materials. Go Donna! So proud of you!

Catch up on what you've missed this week by reading Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog post "Cynsational News & Giveaways" HERE. A great round-up post of what is happening in and around the children's literary world. Plus a heartfelt congrats on Cynthia's release of Diabolical in the U.K. Hip. Hip. Hooray!

So much good news to share coming from my agency Hen & ink Literary. Click HERE to celebrate with me.


Next Saturday, August 11th, I hope you'll join us (Austin SCBWI) to hear Meridith Taylor, one of the founders of Great Hills Publishing, speak about Digital Complexities at BookPeople. It will get you fired up for our second Austin SCBWI Digital Symposium.

It's approaching quickly and filling up. Don't miss out on your opportunity to sharpen your techie skills whether it be blogging or tweeting or building book trailers or a website. This is an event for anyone who needs a little help acquiring technical skills to market themselves or their business. It's not just for writers or illustrators. You can register online HERE or in person at the 10am Saturday, August 11th Austin SCBWI meeting.

I'm looking forward to my presentation "Blogging 101: If You Blog, They Will Come." We'll talk about blog basics, content on your blog, how to blog, why you blog and so much more! And there's way more exciting people to hear than me.

The Girllustrators will be talking about Photoshop basics and Erik Kuntz, owner of Square Bear Studio will lead an advanced Photoshop class. Kirsten Cappy, owner of Curious City (Children's Book Marketing Firm), and writer and editor Samantha Clark will show you how easy it is to build a website with WordPress and well, you'll just have to come and see for yourself the plethora of talent that will be under the Fleck Hall roof at St. Edward's University on Saturday, October 6, 2012.

On Sunday, August 12th join author and Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels Jo Whittemore at her D is for Drama release party at 4pm at BookPeople. And then on Saturday, August 18th study from her as she leads a workshop on "Finding the Story" with the SCBWI Brazos Valley chapter. Click HERE to register.

On Saturday, August 25 join author Nikki Loftin for her Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy release party at 4pm at BookPeople. There'll be sweets and books and treats. Oh my!


Fellow agency sister Sarah Towles' Time Traveler Tours app is in the World Youth and Student 2012 App Yap Contest. Click HERE to vote. Good Luck, Sarah! Everyone at Hen & ink Literary is pulling for you!

Good friend Marika Flatt, owner of PR by the Book, has launched a contest to celebrate its 10th Anniversary. One literary lover will win a trip to the home of storytellers O. Henry and Willie Nelson: Austin Texas, VIP passes to the Texas Book Festival in 2012, two night accomodation, round-trip airfare and so much more!

To enter "Escape to Austin," contest hopefuls must simply "like" PR by the Book on Facebook and fill out the entry form. The contest runs August 1 – August 31, 2012, and a winner will be selected by September 7 (open to U.S. residents only.)

Happy writing everyone!