Monday

Knowing when to stop

Many times it's hard to know when to stop a story. You think you've reached the end only to have your editor demand more. Of course the opposite can be true. The fact is a story is done when it's done. It's just hard to tell when that is.

The same is true with editing and revising. You can always find something wrong with your writing, but sometimes you have to say that enough is enough. After working with a group or an editor, you will have a working manuscript. I don't mean that it's perfect. But nothing is. Allow yourself to move on and write other things. Don't get bogged down with the details. Remember to see the big picture.

Saturday

Tip of the Week November 10

Tip of the Week: Learn standard copy edit marks.

If you go here to the Chicago Manual of Style, you will find a page of standard copy edit marks. They're useful little beasts that will make it easier for you and your critique group (or editor) communicate. Nothing is more confusing than trying to explain to someone what you think a work needs without using standard marks. So learn them. Love them. Make them your own.

Thursday

The Story of Oedipus, in 8 Minutes, Performed by Vegetables

Tomorrow Monte Montgomery, author of Hubert Invents the Wheel will be visiting our store tomorrow. Like a good little girl, I went to his website to research what else he and his wife have written, etc. Instead I found this link. I don't really recommend it for kids. There's vegetable sex. It's one of the funniest/strangest versions of Oedipus I've ever seen, so I felt the need to share.

The Chain Gang

When other blogs make posts like the one I'm about to make, I normally find them kind of self-congratulatory in a "Look how awesome I am" kind of way. However, I don't know of any other way to say it, but look how freaking awesome we are. Blooming Tree Press has finally hit the big time. You will be able to find Blooming Tree books in any Barnes & Noble you happen to drop into.

Yes, that's right. Septina: Penguins of Doom and Bad Girls Club will soon be available at any Barnes & Noble in the whole country. Need a copy in Des Moines? You're local B&N will have one. And if you happen to live in a market with one of the top 20 B&Ns, you'll be able to find Jessica McBean there too.

Breaking into the chains is a huge leap for a small press. It can make the difference between a profitable book and a dud. A majority of people still purchase their books in person from the available stock at their local bookstore. And whether we like it or not, the chains have a huge portion of the market. So, congratulations to Greg, Judy, and Carole. And keep a look out for their books on your local chain's shelves.

Wednesday

The Growth

I couldn't go to the editorial meeting at Blooming Tree Press for the past 2 weeks because of other stuff. I knew about my personal new intern, but the company seems to have blown up in the last few weeks. I met 5 new people today. Five! We barely all fit in the marketing area. It's insane. I have an actual department now with people under me. I feel the power. Ha ha ha ha. (Evil maniacal laugh.) Things are about to become very efficient. I'm so excited I can scream. A good scream. And it's just in time for our submission period, which will be online only this time. We'll be looking at stuff from Nov. 1-25 with a special email address to send to and everything. You can find it on the Blooming Tree Press.

Sunday

Proper Punishment

It never pays to disappear into the great big off-web world for months on end. As a result, I managed to miss presenting at an internet conference this year. "How did this happen?" you might ask. "Madeline is generally a responsible individual." And that is normally true. However, I wrote down the last day of the conference as the first day, and then didn't catch the email that would have told me otherwise. You see, a robot (or twenty) found the email link on the side of this page and has been sending spam to others using my address. I get inundated with return to sender emails for emails I didn't send. These are not caught by the spam blocker, and there's no good way to search them out. I have to manually delete them, and I accidentally lose other content in the process. My solution is to change email addresses, and only occasionally check the one I have listed on the side. If you need to chat with me, still use that email, and I'll respond to you using the new good one. It's the best idea I could come up with. I am open to others.

As for what conference I missed, yes it was the Muse 2007 one. I got on the board today, and it looked like it had been very well organized and well run. I'm very sad I missed it. I encourage everyone to attend next years. The folks there do an excellent job. I have posted my lesson up there today, but I fear it may be to late. If anyone is dying to see my lecture on what to look for when critiquing, and the board has already gone down, then email me at the bad address, and I'll send you the lecture from the good one.

I can't believe I did that. Shame. Shame.

In other news, I changed bookstores, got promoted at both jobs, and no longer seem to be able to sleep for the 8-12 hours a night I need. I spend a lot of time staring at the ceiling trying to sleep instead of being more productive. It has made me grumpy, and apparently forgetful. Ah, life.

Friday

Happy Harry Potter Day

There are so many holidays in July: Independence Day, Buried Editor Birthday, Harry Potter Day. Harry Potter Day is special though because you have to dress in costume and go wait in long lines at midnight. I'm dressed in my Gryfindor uniform about to leave for work. We will (optimistically) be closing at 2 AM. My sister was apparently sorted into Slytherin, and my husband, after dying his hair, will be metamorphosing into Snape. Even my mother-in-law is getting in on the act and dressing like a witch. No muggles in my household.

Happy Potter Day all. See you next week. (Tomorrow I have to work again, and Sunday is dedicated to reading the book.)

Monday

Contest Winner

Well, you folks weren't exactly banging down the door to enter the contest. Apparently 500 words is a little longer then most people want to do. I had a bit more response when I just wanted 50 word stuff. However, despite my fear that no one would enter, I had not only entries, but a winner. (Drum roll, please.) And here it is:

THE THANKSGIVING PARADE

By James Danielson

Sirens blared in the distance. I looked down the street. “The first fire truck is still a couple of blocks away, Poppi.”

My great-grandfather shifted in his wheelchair as I returned to his side. “There weren’t fire trucks leading the parade they had for me when I came to America.”

“They had a parade for you?”

He chuckled. “Well, that’s what my mother told me. In a way, she was right. It was for me and the quarter of a million New Yorkers who came.”

“Why did they really have it?”

“They called it a Christmas Parade, but it celebrated Thanksgiving. A lot of Americans are home watching this year’s version on television right now.”

I looked down the street. “It’s so much more fun to be at our parade, even though we have to wear coats and gloves. Still over a block away. Looks like there’s a convertible in front of the fire engines.”

Poppi leaned toward me. “I was about your age when I saw that first parade. Talk about excitement. It was late November, 1924. I had just traveled to this country on a ship called the Stoockholm.”

The speakers on the judging stand squawked behind us.

I turned back and bent down to hear Poppi over the blaring sirens.

“I’d never seen anything like it! Bands and floats and elephants and bears passed right in front of us.”

“Elephant and bear balloons?” I asked.

“No, real animals from the zoo. The first giant helium balloons came a couple of years later.”

I looked up as the convertible stopped in front of us. The sirens fell silent, replaced by Mayor Johnson’s voice on the loudspeaker.

“Fifty years ago Sven Nelson, better known in our town as ‘Poppi’, suggested that Greenville should have a Thanksgiving Parade. We’ve had one every year since. This year, we would like to name his great-grandson Dan Nelson the Grand Marshal, in his honor. “

The mayor worked his way down to me, pinned a badge on my coat and handed me a scepter. I felt ten feet tall.

“Congratulations, Dan,” said the Mayor. “Now if you could hop into the Grand Marshal’s car, we can officially begin.”

My chest pounded as I glanced over at Poppi.

A huge grin crossed his face. “Go!” he said.

The crowd cheered as I jogged to the car, climbed in and sat on the ledge behind the back seat. I held the scepter high in one hand and waved with the other. By the end of the parade, I had smiled so much my face ached, but I would have gladly gone further.

When my family sat down for dinner, the smell of turkey and dressing made my mouth water. I reached for a roll.

“Dan,” said Poppi, “it’s tradition for us all to say what we’re thankful for before we can eat. I think you should go first this year.”

“That’s easy, Poppi! I’m thankful for parades and that you stayed in America.”

I liked that the story went somewhere, even in only 500 words, and that the child both gets to feel lucky (like the prompt said) and that he shows growth in the from of appreciation. Great work, Jim!

Saturday

Plotting your Pacing

I am always up for time-killing activities on the web, and Becky over at Book Reports has found one that is actually useful. This little site, Xtimeline.com lets you create a timeline for a project. You could use this for scheduling your baby’s developmental milestones, or as Becky points out, you could use it to timeline your story’s plot. I know that in my thesis, there are instances where time doesn’t match up because I’ve forgotten how long I’ve said things have happened. I plan to use this nifty system to chart my thesis. You could use it for your books too. If you want to see how others have used the site for fictional works, look at the Star Trek History or the Harry Potter one.

Friday

Superstitions

Today, for those of you who haven't noticed, is Friday, the thirteenth of July. For the superstitious, this is a day of ill omen and bad luck. Those of us with black cats should scrupulously avoid them, and ladders are a no-no. I can't think of any movies opening today, and I bet it's not coincidence that Harry Potter doesn't release this week.

I think that we should take back the thirteenth. For a writing prompt this weekend, think of the luckiest thing that could happen to a kid, and then write a 500 word story. And I mean a complete story with beginning, middle, and end, plot and a little character development. It's hard to write a story this short, but it's fun in that "It's a Challenge!" kind of way. Email your stories to me by the end of Sunday, and I'll pick my favorite and post it sometime Monday and send that person a free copy of Summer Shorts.

Write on, man. Write on.

Thursday

Happy Buried Editor's Birthday

Well, that time of year has roled around again. Yes, that's right, it's that national holiday, the Buried Editor's Birthday. The schools have nicely given children the day off, and although there were no parades or fireworks like on my cousin's birthday (July 4), I'm sure that will be remedied in the future.

So, I hope you had a wonderful day.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 7/11/07

Tip of the Week: Find inspiration from the world around you.

Now every writer in the world already knows this. You can get ideas fom someone's passing comment, from the shape a cloud makes in the sky, or from the latest documentary on the History Channel. (Personally, I favor the Discovery Science Channel for ideas.) And these are great ways to get the story started. But you don't have to stop there. Once the book is written, see how others went about getting published. Be inspired by their tales. Now, approaching agents and editors is not the time to get all creative. There's established protocols for that. After your book is being published, though, it's a great time to think of all sorts of new promotional activities. Look and see what others are doing and be inspired by their ideas. Try it a new way. Like you did with your writing, use new and inventive takes on old conventions. And your new creations, both in writing and in your promotions, will then inspire us all.

Tuesday

Write, read, write, read some more

Good writers are good readers. I don't mean you should read three books a day. I understand that is not normal behavior. What I do mean is that you should be reading books in your genre and even some books outside of it.

"Why?" you ask.

Because reading others people's work is how we learn to write. Oh, yes, we have to do some of that pesky writing ourselves or we get out of practice. I am a case in point. But reading is how we learn the conventions of our genres. When we read we see what people are doing right. We learn about pacing, liking unlikeable characters, character development, plot structure. And what's best is that we learn it in an enjoyable manner. It's a lot more fun to read a book with excellent pacing like Twilight than it is to have someone explain how pacing works. And even reading bad books can be useful. We see how NOT to do things. (And bad published books give us hope. If that piece of **** can get published, then there's no way my epic won't someday be picked up.)

And that, dear friends, is why folks like me and all the other well-meaning people in the blogshpere keep urging bookslists on you. These are the books we think you should read -- some for fun, some for their art, and some because they'll help your writing.

And in this spirit, I thought we could start making a booklist of great books that exemplify some writing skill. In the comments section, nominate a book and tell what writing skill it shows off. It can be something as simple as excellent humor or lyrical language to something more complex like plot twists. I'll compile a list from the nominations.

I'll start with my above example:

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers - pacing

Summer Shorts is Branching Out

So, it turns out there are now places where a book can have its own page on a social networking site. I got Summer Shorts one on bebo.com for Summer Shorts. My only complaint is that right now you can't list it as a children's book. I had to put it in general fiction. The cool thing is that now your books can have their own blogs, pictures, fans, everything. I like the fact that I can add all the authors once they've become one of my friends. It's all very exciting.

To see the Official Summer Shorts Page click here.

Monday

Reemerging at Last

I am finally rejoining the blog world again after my long absence. I can't say that I got just a whole lot done during my month of self-imposed exile -- I mostly just slept. But I have reemerged into the daylight and am ready to start discussing kids' books and writing with you again.

And in an effort to alleviate my guilt (or bribe my way back into your hearts, you can pick), I come bearing gifts. Specifically free screensavers. I'm learning to work with flash animation, and I felt one of the easiest things to do would be to put together some free screensavers. Since Greg Fishbone's book From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom came out this weekend, I thought I'd make some screensavers to commemorate the occassion. Unfortunately, of the 5 I made, only 3 work. So, you will not be able to download the one where Septina bounces off the walls in a straight jacket. It looked like this:







I was particularly proud of it. Alas. However, go to this here page to get Septina screensavers of your very own. Oh, and as a bonus, I included a screensaver for Judy Gregerson's book, Bad Girls Club.

Coming soon: screensavers for Book of Nonsense, Emerald Tablet, and everyone's favorite ferret, Fergus

Oh, and as always, I do love feedback. Let me know which one is your favorite. Around my house (meaning me and my husband), we favor the raining penguins on white. The actual screensaver is much less chaotic than the thumbnail.

Thursday

BEA and back again

So, I haven't gotten to put up that video I've promised everyone yet. I have been, no don't die of shock, writing. I have actually looked at my thesis, and I'm trying to write a one-page film treatment of Fergus. In the process, I've come up with the stories for Fergus 2 and 3 (out of what are supposed to be 7), so it's been a productive day or two. I've also found that I'm sleeping a lot to catch up from BEA and the weeks leading up to BEA, and I'm having a hard time keeping myself from devouring all the free books I got. So far I've read:
  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter - sequel to I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You and just as funny

  • Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale - as beautifully written as always

  • Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke - fun and clever

  • Remembering Raquel by Vivian Vance Velde - sad and poignant and very well-written. The main character is dead and we learn about her from the mourners at her funeral.

I have liked them all so far. That doesn't mean I won't find something I don't like, but I'm glad that the freebies were so far good. There's nothing worse than a bad free book - except maybe a bad book you paid for.
After I get the Book of Nonsense's cover uploaded for Amazon, it's off to jotting down first drafts on the new Fergus books and hopefully a little video editing before bed.

Tuesday

Home, sweet home

I'm back home safe and sound although there was lots of turbulence and storms the whole way. I am very glad to be home. BEA was educational, but I admit to being in no hurry to go back.

I hope to have the video up for it by Thursday. It will be a pure work of genius. Of course.

Friday

BEA Commences, Film at 11

I have survived my first day of BEA by the skin of my teeth. Overwhelming does not even begin to cover it. Mercifully, I had only one appointment for today, and it went well. I also met some wonderful people at the Children's Dinner tonight including a film producer who is interested in Fergus the Ferret for a kids feature film. Now he had been drinking (but not drunk), but I am still optimistic.

The show itself is huge, Huge, HUGE!!! Multi-levels, booths upon booths of book goodness. Having that many book passionate people was a little bit like heaven. Having that many people bumping into you and hitting you with backpacks and then accidentally hitting people with totebags full of books, well, that's a little bit of hell. All that sugar and spice and snakes and snails and puppy dog tails are what BEA is made of.

Wednesday

BEA today

Today I left for BEA. Husband and I went to the airport at 7AM. We checked in, made it through security, and boarded our plane. We sat on the plane at the gate for over an hour. The flight was cancelled (bad weather in Dallas). We spent over an hour and a half standing in line to rebook. We're now on an evening flight. So, I'm now back home waiting to start the adventure all over again.

I do not consider this a promising start to my BEA experience.

But I have film footage of some of it.

Saturday

New Languages



Wonder what that says? It's in Lemurian, a people from The Emerald Tablet. Click here to write messages in Lemurian.

Thursday

Tip of the Week May 17

Tip of the Week: Do not make your submission impossible to open.

Yesterday while I worked, I watched some of the others sort slush. Most of the submissions were in envelopes or boxes and you could get into them with a paper opener. Buuuuut, there were a couple with special arrangements. One was wrapped like a present. I was surprised since I thought that the post office only shipped things wrapped in brown paper. Another box had every inch covered with tape. Scissors wouldn't even go into it. We had to go hunt up a box cutter. Now, these are little things that don't affect the quality of the submission. However, it did affect our mood. And you never want to start getting the people handling your manuscript in a bad mood.

Tuesday

Critiquing vs. Editing - They aren't the same.

I have joined an excellent online critique group led by the kidlitoshpere's very own Kelly Herold. The group's closed, so no one go bothering her to let you join. We've already hit the maximum number of 10. This morning I sat down to type up a coherent version of the scattered notes I'd written over the manuscripts. I confess that I felt a little pressure as I wrote them. Since over half these people are already familiar with this blog, they know that I'm an editor. Yet, I've never worked with any but one of these people before. What kind of expectations would they have? What kind of miracles was I expected to work? And then I came to my senses and decided to write a normal critique just like I would for any writing class I've ever been in. And as I wrote, I realized that there are some subtle differences between editing and critiquing.

In the ideal critique, you write a large number of margin comments and then a detailed critique in a note to the author. Now since we are limited by email and the difficulties of making coherent comments even with Word's note function, I decided to forego margin comments. I don't how old-fashioned it makes me sound, there just is no substituting actual handwritten comments on the side of a manuscript. Instead I wrote a detailed note critique. Now the equivalent in editing would be an editorial letter. These are letters that comment on very early drafts that are going to require extensive revision. There's not a lot of point in making line edits if the whole thing needs to be rewritten. The letter details the problems and gives an idea, sometimes general, sometimes specific, of the changes that need to be made. And the equivalent of margin comments in editing would be line-edits. However, these are much more specific, often so detailed as to change the wording of a sentence.

That's when I realized that the main difference between critiques and editing is the visibility of the editor. When you critique, you just make suggestions. You don't do anything that stamps your own style on the writing. You don't drastically change the actual words. But in editing you do. You leave you own individual impression on the work. Things that are suggestions in a critique are really demands in editing. Not that editors are despots that cancel contracts at the first sign of dissent. However, I need justification for why you're going to ignore my suggestions. When I do a critique I don't care if you take my advice or not. You don't have to reword a sentence my way. But with editing you kind of do. The result is that you can tell what books I've edited - like I left a fingerprint on it. If you read all the Blooming Tree books, I bet that in the end you could guess which ones were primarily edited by me as oppossed to Kay or Judy or Meghan.

So, which do I like better? It's hard to say. In some ways editing is easier since I don't have to worry about the results. I also don't tend to have to worry about insulting or crushing someone's dream when I edit. On the other hand, there's something very satisfying on being in on a story's very beginning, and that only happens with critiques.

Saturday

Wedded Bliss

I had a million and one things to do today, so of course spending hours messing with my wedding pictures was the most productive use of my time. In my defense, I was trying to get albums together for my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-laws for mother's day. However, it has occurred to me that despite all the talking I've done about it here on this blog, I have yet to actually show any material proof that said wedding ever took place. So, I have compiled a small photo retrospective of the momentous event.



Enjoy at your leisure. I am the one dressed as a bride.

Thursday

A Mind-Boggling New Way to Kill Time and Not Work

I have discovered a lovely new way to kill time: Shelfari. It's like Library Thing, but more community oriented like MySpace. Go on over, look around, and then join my group, Children's Writers who Read. I thought that this was a great opportunity to start a book group. I've been wanting to do something that lets us all reccomend really well-written book, and I decided that this was a great opportunity. And if you do join Shelfari, be sure to add me as a friend. I'm buriededitor, of course.

Wednesday

BEA my way

In exactly 3 weeks I leave for New York and that mammoth convention known as BEA. I'll be taking husband and books to give out and boxes to get books in and flyers and handouts and so much stuff I might scream. I am, however, wildly excited. And now for the important part: who will be at BEA (or NYC) too? I have this wonderful opportunity to get to meet all sorts of blog buddies in person, and I want to make the most of it. I'm going to try to swing by the Donnell and meet fuse#8. And author Greg should be there, so I'll meet him in person for the first time too. Are you going to BEA? Want to meet-up and discuss the kidlit-o-sphere, kids' books, and publishing in general? Email me or comment below. I think it would be great fun to get a whole big group together - perhaps over drinks, ja? (I've started learning German.)

Tuesday

Dreaming of Books

I may be a little to submerged in children's books these days. It the past 2 days, I've had two dreams about children's books. In all honesty, I don't dream about children's books all that often, and never on nights consecutively. But the night before last I dreamed about Harry Potter 7. This isn't all that shocking since we're inundated with references to it all the time these days. I mean there's even a knitting book on how to make Harry Potteresque stuff. And I don't know about you, but I never felt the need to knit anyone a wand holder. But back to my dream. I don't remember the beginning all that well because I was more asleep at the time, but Voldemort was chasing HP in the big showdown and it was making me anxious and stressing me out. So anxious, that I was starting to wake up. Since by this point I was only about 40% asleep, I decided that this dream was not working. I decided to change it. In my not quite conscious mind, I decided that all of Dumbledore's comments on love being Harry's greatest weapon meant that at some point when Harry miraculously gets the upperhand, he refuses to kill Voldemort and instead uses his powers of love to win V over. I believe there may have been some corny talk about "father he never had" etc. Very cliche. But wait, you say, there's that whole prophecy of one not being able to live while the other survives thing. Yes, that occurred to me during my dream too. Voldemort casts off his evil persona and becomes Tom Riddle again, thus killing Lord Voldemort. Despite the fact that this would wrap up the series in a tidy if unsatisfying and anticlimactic way. I seriously doubt this is the way Rowling decided to go with the series.

In my dream last night, I was the main character from Patricia Wrede's Mairelon the Magician. I don't remember as much about this except that for some reason a fair amount was taking place at SMU (in Dallas and not in the book), and that like the main character, I was determined to stay out of the stews. What I find odd about this dream, I mean beside the dream itself, was that this is a book I haven't read in about 5 years, and haven't thought about in many months. I'm not sure where my subconscious drug it up.

I fear this post has left me sounding insane, especially if it turns out that I'm the only person that dreams about other people's novels. It's one thing to dream about your own characters since they take up so much of your life. But other people's? I fear I may have a lack of imagination.

Monday

Write like you mean it.

I have never understood the various "_____________ like you mean it" slogans. I have always thought that regardless of whether you are dancing, singing, or walking vigorously you probably meant to be doing it. Granted sometimes when I'm trying to regain my balance after slipping on a particularly slippery piece of concrete, my antics might be construed as dancing. But since it was an accident, I certainly would not have meant it.

However, when it comes to writing, you do have to mean it, or at least have meaning. I'm not implying that all writing should be imbued with didactic undertones. It doesn't have to have a message or lesson or moral at the end. What it does need to have, especially in children's fiction, is a point. The story should be going somewhere. It needs a beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending. This can't happen without character development or plot development -- and I think you'll find, writing development. For as you write, your own style develops. Now in later drafts, you'll fix the beginning so that your writing is as focused and tight as it has become in the end. But for that first draft, enjoy seeing the story unfold; learn all the quirks about your characters. And then read back through it to make sure you've given them some meaning, some reason for being in the story, or for even having the story to begin with. Without that development in the characters and the plot, without the meaning so to speak, you don't have a story. You have an anecdote or a scene or just a collection of words. You have the heart without the soul.

Now I haven't said anything new about writing tonight. In fact, I think I've discussed these topics nearly every week since my blog started. But it all bears repeating. I see too many stories, especially picture book manuscripts, that seem to have forgotten the meaning. Just because you only have 500-1500 words to do it, doesn't mean it can't be done.

If you're one of those people who like motivational messages, I hope you'll remember this time-honored cliche. And even if you're not one of those people, remember the substance of my message, if not the actual wording. Next time:

Write Like You Mean It.

Sunday

Blech.

I feel blech. I have about a thousand and one things on my to-do list and no energy or motivation to do any of them. Partly it's because I'm overwhelmed, and mostly it's because I'm underwhelmed with what these tasks are. There are only so many times you want to layout books in one day or read short stories or write up marketing plans, etc.

So, I shall open this up to discussion. What do you do to procrastinate from writing? Do you suddenly feel a need to rearrange your closet, unsnare the mess of cords behind your desk, dig up the front yard, or just little things like redecorate your entire home - from scratch - with hand embroidered linens - with completely original designs inspired by European cathedral windows. (I just read Dragon Slippers where, yes, the heroine embroiders designs inspired by stain glass windows.) And when you finally accept that you are procrastinating, what do you do to remotivate yourself? Share your idiosyncricies in the comments.

And of course, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't share mine. I procrastinate here on this blog, but mostly by reading published books. If I was reading unpublished books, it might be argued that I'm working. So, published (or advanced readers) it is. And I tend to find that looking at my expenditures tends to remotivate me. There's nothing like 1100 brand-new ARCs to motivate you to get that marketing plan drawn up. (or in this case revised).

Saturday

Showing support

Last week, the local SCBWI had a small event to celebrate local authors. Those members who wanted to participate were given the opportunity to have a group book signing at the B&N where I worked. There were about 10-15 authors who were signing books, and public participation was fairly high. I know from looking at the store's data that we sold over 50 of the authors' books. The event was a success.

What surprised me about all of it was that almost no one from the SCBWI chapter came to support the authors. The people who organized the event and the officers were there, but other than that it seemed to be just a few other people and me. We're a fairly large chapter that routinely pulls 25-50-more people to events. Why weren't they at this one?

I think the answer to my question was that they didn't have any books to sign, so they didn't feel there was a point in going. And this is wrong. On an altruistic level, this was a good time to support and congratulate other authors and illustrators. Writing is inherently a solitary activity, and this kind of thing gives authors a chance to socialize. And larger crowds bring more casual shoppers over. Sales might even have been higher if we'd had larger mingling crowds. And on a selfish level, it was an excellent time to network with other authors. We chatted about agents and publicists. The authors were swapping tips about school visits and who prints up the cheapest bookmarks. It was an information bonanza having so many skilled authors in one place at one time. It was so practical and useful, that I ended up spending over 2 hours there instead of the half-hour I had planned.

If you get a chance to go to an event like this, I strongly urge you to go. At the very worst, you get to look at some good books. I never once felt any pressure to actually buy any. And the best that will happen is that you'll help your writing career.

Friday

They're here! THEY'RE HERE!!!!



Is that not the prettiest site or what? That's the first of 25 boxes of Book of Nonsense ARCs. And the books look lovely. I'm so happy I could cry tears of joy. I'm sending the author and his agent copies on Monday. I hope they're as excited as me.

Do you want a copy? If you'd like to sign-up to potentially review CBAY books, use the form on the Sneaky Peeks page. I know that it addresses kids and teens, but I'm happy to let adults review too. Otherwise, I'll have some contests starting soon, with copies up for grab then.

Now, I have to spend some quality time with my ARCs. I was thinking of taking them to the movies, and then reading them a story before bed. Maybe Little Bunny Kung Fu or There's a Yak in My Bed . . .

Thursday

Spinning Webs

I've been working on the CBAY Books site today. I've got new pages up, specifically the kids and teens pages. Now if only I could get some more content up . . .

Wednesday

Tip of the Week May 2

I've been reading lots, working lots, and not on my computer lots. Still I thought of a tip for everyone.

Tip of the Week: You can never plan to much.

Well, I suppose you can overstress yourself with planning. But, in general it's always better to plan things out in advance. If you're the type of writer that outlines, then your story's plan starts there. If you prefer the more write-as-you-go method, then you need to start planning as soon as your first draft is done. Regardless of when you start your plan, you'll have to make sure your story has a plot arc, character arc, and if it's fantasy, that your world follows all of it's rules. Even after you've finished your revisions, you have to plan who to send the manuscript. Once your book is purchased, you have to plan the marketing and publicity. And then you start all over with your next book. It never ends.

Tip of the Week April 25

I can't think of one, so I pooled the editorial staff. They seem to be obsessed with pedophiles, and they aren't being helpful. Here's what I've decided to glean from the random discussion that seems to have developed.

Tip of the Week: The more unpleasant the main character, the more he/she has to grow during the course of the book.

There's nothing wrong with a character that is unlikable, unreliable, and just plain unpleasant. Even a character the reader doesn't really like can be okay. The thing is, you have to make the character grow. He/she has to learn something or at least make some progress. Now, this is true of all characters, but especially true of the unlikeable ones. And they have to grow gradually throughout the book, not just in a great leap at the end. Basically, you have to give the reader a reason to root for the character, hopefully through their growth.

Tuesday

Everyone needs an editor.

Thank you to all the folks who have looked through the site. I've had people making all sorts of helpful catches from misspelled words to David pointing out that I'd forgotten a link to the Books page on every page except the first. I love how this illustrates that we all need someone to look over our work. I don't see my own misspelled words, but I often find others. I was to close to the project to see the mistakes. And I'm very obliged to all of you for helping me find these glitches. Publishing, whether it's a book, a website, or a blog is very much a cooperative project - a lot like life. I'm appreciative to everyone that helps make these projects a success.

And now, like an Academy Award winning actress I will now ennumerate each and every one of these people.

I'm kidding. You folks know who you are, and if you don't, you should. You all already have my eternal thanks. :)

Monday

A Little Marketing on my Mind

I have marketing and promotions on the brain, so I'll be talking a little bit about them now. I'm starting to promote the books that my press will be putting out next year, and it recently occurred to me that in less than 365 days the book that I wrote will be released. So, I decided as an interesting case study to use myself to talk about promoting your book.

Now, since I'm aproximately a year out from release, there's not as much this moment that I need to do. I don't have cover art, so I can't make bookmarks or postcards or the like. What I can do though is go ahead and buy my book's domain name. I must take this opportunity to admit that I'm a bit of a domain name junkie. I think I'm up to 10 at this moment, but it is absolutely imperative that you have at least one domain name, possibly 2. The one you must have is your name or whatever domain you choose for your author site. If your name is something like, say Madeline Smoot, you won't have much trouble picking up www.madelinesmoot.com. However, if your name is Matt Smith (I know 3) or you happen to share the same name as Howard Stern (there are 2 of those), then you'll probably have some trouble. At that point, you'll need to just come up with an interesting domain name. Shannon Hale's Squeetus comes to mind. Now, I long ago bought www.madelinesmoot.com. You can see that it's shamefully our of date and that it serves as a sort of interactive brochure. Although kid-friendly, it's geared to adults and teachers.

The other site you might need to buy is your book's site. Now sometimes, the publisher does this for you. If so, be glad, and let them and their webmasters deal with it and do all the work. But if they don't, or if your publisher just devotes a page of their own website to the book, then you'll need to get your book it's own site. This is what I did last night. I had lots of options. I could have gone with the book's title. Since Fergus doesn't have a finalized title yet, this seemed like a bad plan. But for many books this is the way to go. I used wordsofpowertrilogy.com when I picked a domain for David's Book of Nonsense, Book 1 of the Words of Power Trilogy. If my book had some interesting location or slogan, I could have chosen that. In the book Evil Genius the main character goes to a school called the Axis Institute. That book's site is axisinstitute.org. Clever. Or you can go with the character's name. That's what I did. I'm now the proud owner of www.fergusferret.com. There' nothing to see there yet, but it's a start.

Sunday

What are you writing?

For the first time in forever, I sat down and wrote something today. It's 400 words of . . . well, I'm not sure what. Maybe a picture book. It was nice to be creating something, to write something that wasn't comments on someone else's work. I like editing, but some days it gets depressing to read other people's ingenious writing and then have your cleverest thought of the day be, "does this sentence really need that adverb?" That's what it felt like yesterday when I spent 5, yes 5, hours plugging in copyedit changes into a layout. It took so long because it was a 300 page novel that had been reformatted so that the hardcopy that had been CEed didn't match the electronic copy I was trying to fix. I had to visually locate every sentence that needed changing. And there was one on nearly every page.

But writing today helped bring back my creative equilibrium. Still, even as I was typing away, I couldn't help but wonder to myself, what are you writing? I have that thesis I need to finish. I'm supposed to write a second Fergus picture book. I'm trying to develop a rhyming picture book about llamas for Regan. And instead I spend 45 minutes creating this quiet little 400 word picture book thing about a girl's search for the definition of a word and whether or not she wants to accept this word as a definition of herself. And I don't know what to do with it now. I couldn't even think of a title. If it were someone else, I would reccommend they take it to their critique group and then consider submitting to appropriate houses and/or agents. Perhaps someday I'll take my own advice.

Friday

Breaking Away

I took a nice break from all things editing, including this blog this week. It was nice and relaxing. I read some of the ARCs I got, I read the new Holly Black book, I enjoyed myself. But now I'm back and shall address the issue of editor stalking.

Editor stalking like author stalking or actor stalking is somehow contacting an editor at an inappropriate time or place. I will use for instance, the editor's other place of employment. I got back from TLA to discover that someone had gotten one of the other Barnes & Noble employees to leave me a note in my locker asking how their manuscript was. Now, I know this wasn't a free-lance job because I keep contracts on those. If it was someone's work I agreed to look at as a favor then I feel bad, but I didn't recognize the person's name. And if it was something through one of the presses, that wasn't the way to contact me. Sending me mail or email would be more appropriate.

Even though this person meant well, and the note was polite with no hostility, it was still just a little bit creepy.

Sunday

TLA Day 4

The end is near. I present the last day of TLA. As I look over the 4 days that I just spent in San Antonio, I realize that there are several people who managed to not make it on my camera. They include Rick Riordan, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Avi, Stephenie Meyer, and my own friend Topher from Bookpeople. I don't know how I managed to miss them. Hmmm. I'll just have to catch them some other time. Until then, enjoy the last of the TLA series.



This also makes my 200th post. I have to say that I've thoroughly enjoyed blogging with all of you out here.

TLA Day 3

More exhibit wackiness.

TLA Day 2

The much awaited TLA Day 2. If it seems long and boring, then I have accurately portrayed the experience.

And Speaking of Picture Books

Kay's There's a Yak in My Bed reached #22 on Amazon's top selling children's books last weekend. Congratulations Kay!

I'm working on the video right now. But until then . . .

Did I ever mention I wrote a picture book that's coming out in 2008? Well, now, I have. And today I got the character sketch of the main character. It is so amazingly wonderful that I just had to post. Regan Johnson of Little Bunny Kung Fu and soon to be released graphic novels Letters from Camp Lizard fame is doing the illustrations. Boss originally commissioned this from me as a work for hire (she provided the character and plot, I wrote) but in the end I turned out to be such a brilliant writer in my own way, or really terrible at sticking to a provided plot (I suspect the latter) that it ended up being her character (a scottish ferret) and my completely new and original plot. So, my name will be on the book. So (drum roll please), introducing Fergus MacDougal Ferrettee:

Saturday

I know you're still dying to see more of TLA.

But, I'm shirking my blogging duties to go to a small social gathering. I plan to partake of their beverages (even if all they have is beer) and celebrate surviving TLA by getting rip-roaring drunk. Since I've had almost nothing to eat today and I'm dead tired, I'm thinking this won't be much of an acomplishment. I have not shared this plan with Husband. I think I'll make it a surprise. Perhaps I'll drunk-blog later this evening.

Friday

TLA

I'm tired. Yesterday, I came home, showered, and got in bed. Today, I came home tried to take a nap, showered, and now I'm going to bed. What I'm trying to say is that Day 2 & 3 will have to wait. And let me tell you, days 2&3 are JUST as exciting. And Alan will be pleased. I talk more about food. Considering that I don't even like food that much, I seem to be rather obssessed with it at the conference. Huh. I never noticed before.

Wednesday

TLA Day 1

Here's my video from the first day of TLA. I warn you; it's rough. I couldn't get the effects I wanted, and I couldn't get the music work. It looks like I'll have to invest in real movie editing software (cheap software that is). Still, here it is.



And I did NOT think my shirt was that see-through when I left the house. I'm bummed. It's my official Blooming Tree 2007 TLA shirt.

Tuesday

TLA Here We Come . . .

I've been running frazzled all over the place trying to get all my last minute TLA stuff together. You know, badges, business cards, etc. But at the same time, I've been busy. Here's what I did this weekend. Neat isn't it? I'm especially proud of the buttons. But I need everyone's help. I've only had the chance to look at the site on one browser, so if while you're popping on through you notice the page doing something weird, please let me know what it's doing and what browser you use.

And thank you, guinea pigs, for being willing to help test market the site.

Sunday

Holiday Humbug

Holidays seem to play havoc with my ability to post. You would think I'd have more time, but I don't have any less work, and then I have to add family obligations on top. I'm at my in-laws watching my 15 month-old nephew destroy the house. My 5 year-old nephew relunctantly went to church with his Nana. I'm enjoying adult conversation with my sister-in-law, and I'm attempting to get this post up. I have much to say, and I'm worried that this week I won't have time to say it all. You see we go to TLA this week. For those not up on industry conferences, TLA is the Texas Library Association. It's the only conference that Blooming Tree exhibits at. I'll also go to BEA and Frankfurt this year, but not as an exhibitor - more a lurker.

But I plan to try to post and even take some video from our booth. Also, if anyone is going to be attending, come by and say hi. We like to have folks to talk to. We'll be at booth 1940. And if you come by you'll get a free reader of Bad Girls Club, our debut YA novel. And that right there, should be incentive enough to visit.

Thursday

Tip of the Week April 5, 2007

I was working under a deadline yesterday and missed posting my tip. Here goes. And it's a doozy.

Tip of the Week: If you're going to talk badly about someone behind their back, you'd better make sure they aren't a member of the list you are posting on.

I love when my tips are relevant in all sorts of facets of life. Flaming people online (posting hateful things) isn't anything new, but when you do it about people in your professional life you're just asking for trouble.

Here's the situation. An author with a story accepted in an upcoming anthology showed some concerns over a portion of his/her contract, specifically the handling of subrights. Author asked if his/her attorney could call Boss to discuss the contract. Boss said yes and waited for the call. Since the attorney was apparently out of town, Boss figured it would be a few days before this issue arose again. She was wrong. Author had taken the liberty on a writing group board of posting part of the contract with various negative comments and then solicited opinions of the (I think it was 2 sentences) quoted out of context. Now, I dare anyone to take any two sentences in any legal document and have them still sound flattering. I tried this with a CBAY contract. It couldn't be done. Even simple sentences like "The work shall be tentatively titled _____" sounds awful when put in legalese. Needless to say, the excerpt elicited negative comments some of which called into question the publisher's integrity.

Boss, who is a member of this list, got to read every single one of these posts. She got to see exactly what Author thought, in a way I'm sure Author never intended boss to know. Boss also got to see a very interesting side of Author. So did I.

There are so many problems with what Author did. He/She
  1. Posted parts of a confidential contract in a public forum. Never publish part of your contract online.
  2. Acted unprofessional. Having your lawyer talk to the publisher's representative is professional. Venting you spleen to close friends is professional. Venting your spleen to relative strangers in a public forum is not.
  3. Acted prematurely. The contract was still up for negotiation. Boss had already offered to make some concessions. However, posting that kind of thing during the negotiation phase will only sour the whole process.
  4. Was just plain stupid. I mean, really. Not even bothering to check the public member list to see who's going to be getting this? Even if Boss hadn't been a member, I could have been, or any of our staff, or any of our authors. How exactly did Author think this was going to be kept a secret?

So I beg all of you to keep this in mind when you get upset. We all do, and some times we do rash things. However, always try to keep things professional.

And if someone does tell Author about it, or if it Author stumbles upon it, good. I will happily discuss this with him/her over the privacy of email. I won't discuss the contract itself because that is best left to lawyers. I will happily discuss "the incident."

Oh, and for those of you who were in Mistletoe Madness or Summer Shorts, yes it was the exact same contract.

The Squeaky Wheel

I love how the books that need the least promotion get the most. I will use as an example, say Harry Potter 7. The book is eagerly awaited. There are fan sites, "what will happen next" books, and all sorts of private parties. The book is getting tons of hype from the amateurs. And still Scholastic and the big chains are spending a ton of money. There are all kinds of prizes being given out. Most stores are planning huge release parties. (My favorite so far is Bookpeople, here in Austin, that's going to have the entire Austin Symphony Orchestra out doing something.) Admittedly release parties happen for other books, my store's having one for Riordian's Titan's Curse in May, but they aren't at midnight (overtime hours) and they don't require most of the staff to attend as crowd control. And Amazon is now sponsoring a contest for the Harryest city in the country. Basically Amazon will donate $5000 to a charity of Amazon's choice in the city with more than 500 people that preorders the most books. When will the madness stop? I plan to read HP7 because book 6 ended in such a nice unresolved way. Would I have done it without the publicity blitz? Yes. And if the book ends up being awful (which I doubt) then won't all that money look like a waste. Preorders are great, but nothing can save a book if word-of-mouth says it's awful.

Still, if I was a midlist author watching all this money being spent on a book that's doomed to be a success, I think I would be, at the very least, depressed.

Tuesday

I'm Back

I'm not taking another 4 month leave of absence. I've been a little under the weather and then out of town with no internet. So, I apologize for being a little late posting these.

Winner for Yak Drawing Contest:
Zach H.

Winners of the Librarian/Bookseller Contest:
Diane Schrecker
Carole Brooks

I have learned something from these last 2 contests:
1. My demographic ain't librarians and booksellers
2. It ain't children
3. 4 contests is a little bit much even for me. I'm going to go for 2 in the future.

I'll be emailing the winners tomorrow to get their addresses. I have to run to the bookstore now. If I get a chance when I get home tonight, I'll tell you a little bit about some of the books I've been reading at the store. All I can say is Skulldugery Pleasant? Funny.

Friday

Question of the Week March 30

Does MG fantasy require a significant male character? If no males appear until half way through the story, is the author hurting his/her chances at publication, even if the story is aimed at girls?

I had to think about this for a while, but in the end I concluded that, no, a book does not have to have major male characters. Lots of successful books do not have any major male characters and vice versa. One of the ones that springs instantly to mind is Lord of the Rings and its complete lack of major female characters. There are also fairy-centric midgrade girls books that don't have boys. I can't think of their titles, but one of them had a little fairy that wore jeans. I can't remember much else about it, but I don't think there were any boys in it.

My advice is to write your story the way you see it. If that means that at this point it has no major male figures, then it has no major male figures. You might find in rewrites that this changes, but then again, it might not. A good book will find its market. The sex of the characters is usually a secondary factor.

That being said, I'm a little leery of the whole "no males in the first half of the story." Even if they are not major characters, most girls have interaction with males in someway. So, unless the book is set in a nunnery with no priests, a harem with no eunuchs, a boarding school with no male students or teachers, or in an Amazon-type world where males are not permitted, or some other similar circumstance, I would think twice about having a novel with no males, or mention of males for half a book. It's unrealistic in a way that's hard to suspend disbelief.

Thursday

Bearer of Good News

I always like to be the bearer of good news. It seems that the famous Markus Zusak will be the author in residence for the insideadog.com.au website. This great Australian group concentrates on YA literature. Zusak, for those of you who aren't up on YA authors, wrote The Messenger and The Book Thief, which won a Printz Honor. Hop on over and take a look.

Also, I want to remind you that tomorrow is the last day to enter the 2 last Yak contests. I don't have that many entries. I'd like to have more to make the drawings more of a competition.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week March 28

It's been a while since I've had some slush that merited mention. In fact, this one we just listened to (yes listened to) inspired my tip of the week.

Tip of the Week: When you submit to a press that publishes books, submit a written manuscript.

Now, before today, I thought this went without saying. I sort of assumed everyone sent a written version of their submission. They might send illustrations or dummy books or some strange printed out thing, but somewhere, the words are written down. Today we got a picture book read on an audio CD. It didn't have a single manuscript with this. Not only does it make it hard to evaluate this submission, but the reading of the manuscript itself was hard to listen to. This wasn't a professional recording, but a homemade, occassionally strangely paused rendition. It was distracting. It was unusual. It's now officially the oddest submission I've recieved yet.

Covering Potter

I'm sure every kid lit blog on the planet has already posted this, but Scholastic released the cover art for Harry 7. Publisher's Weekly has the article, as well as the art here. Apparently PW is excited because this is the first wrap around cover. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but don't all the American HPs have art that wraps the whole cover? Maybe they mean this is the first one where the action and central characters are on the whole cover. But then again, I seem to recall Ron and Hermione on the back of HP1. But what do I know.

Tuesday

Interview Tuesday

I've decided to make today interview Tuesday. I've already put up Kay's interview, and now I'm going to add one done by . . . me.

Yes, I know it seems vain, but I received this questionnaire from a well-meaning high school student, and I thought the answers my interest all. I also felt it would be a good jumping off point for discussions. So, here it is. It's slightly abrideged since I left out the gory details of just how poorly paid I am.

  1. Are you ever on call?
    Yes. Anytime I have access to email I can be reached about the books I'm working on.

  2. What are your typical work hours?
    Since I don't work at a traditional press, I don't have traditional work hours. However, I attend one editorial meeting a week for 2 hours on Weds. nights.

  3. What can a starting editor expect to make? After 20 years?
    At a traditional press, $18000 the first year, maybe $50-60k in 20. However, you don't start as an editor. You start as an unpaid intern, then editorial assistant, then assistant editor, then editor. It can take up to 7 years to make editor.
    As senior editor at the press I work for, I do not make anywhere near starting salary for an editorial assistant.

  4. What are some of the benefits offered?
    Where I work, none except free books.

  5. What kind of extra curricular activities would help someone who wants a career in editing?
    Writing clubs and reading clubs. To be a great editor you have to be a decent writer and an excellent reader. Writing classes are useful because they teach you how to really critique other people's writing.

  6. What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
    Seeing a book go from a rough draft to its finsished form. There's a huge amount of satisfaction to know that you helped bring that writing out.

  7. What are some of your dislikes about being an editor?
    Having to do a book's marketing because our house is so small that everyone has to help the marketing department.

  8. What would you say is the stress level of this career on a scale of 1-10?
    It varies. At the moment, 9. We're trying to get the catalog out, the fall books, ready for the printer, and get ready for a conference. After next month it'll go back down to a 7.

I know that from my answers I don't make editing sound very appealing. In truth, I do love my job. I love that I get paid (sort of) to read and read and read. And there is nothing like walking into a bookstore and seeing the books you worked on the shelf. I suspect that the only thing that tops that feeling is to have actually written the book yourself. I would reccomend editing as a career for any creative individual, especially shy ones. I just want to caution that editing is not the fast track to big money. JK Rowlings might have bust out with her book and made a fortune, but her editor is still salaried. (Although her editor got to start his own imprint and I would assume is now enjoying a much larger salary. I'm thinking of the Chicken House guy.)


And that's it. In a perfect world, I would have put Kay's interview on top, but unfortunately, I had already posted it.

An Interview with K. Pluta

Most people would think that only a very twisted person would think to put a yak in some guy’s bed. Still Kay Pluta is a nice, normal(?) person. Here’s the little chat I had with her about her new book.

What inspired you to write There’s a Yak in my Bed?
I’ve been dreading this question, because I honestly don’t remember. I was just playing with words and it happened.

In your book Ted wakes up to find a yak in his bed. Whatever gave you the idea of a yak?
I was looking for an animal with a three or four letter name that wasn’t overused in children’s literature. It’s really not about my name “Kay” spelled backwards like a lot of people think.

Your book is leveled so that a first or second grader could independently read the text. Was that hard to write?
No, it was fun and challenging like solving a puzzle.

How did you learn to write easy readers?
I had been writing testing material for an educational company, and also had just completed Anastasia Suen’s Easy Reader class. Plus, I was teaching my five year old to read and one of my close friends is a kindergarten teacher. She loaned me a lot of books to study.
.

What advice do you have for someone trying to write their own easy reader?
Take a class and/or read articles and books about the specifics of writing easy readers. Read, read, read a hundred or more easy readers before you try to write one. And if you know someone who teaches reading, that helps.

What route did you take to get published?
I started out writing for magazines and online sites. Only recently has there been enough of a lull in my personal life to write full time. But I kept networking, reading, and writing until that day came.

Who are your favorite authors?
Beverly Cleary, Louis Sachar, Dav Pilkey, Polly Horvath, Kate DiCamillo, Gail Carson Levine, David Lubar

What inspires you to write?
It’s my only chance for greatness because I’m too chicken to be an astronaut.

Will there be anymore Yak books?
Yes, I’m working on the sequel now, which picks up on the story from the minor character’s point of view, There’s a Fox in My Lunch.

There’s a Yak in My Bed releases on April 1, 2007. ISBN: 0-9769417-4-0

Monday

Final Contests for Yak

Today we enter our final week of Yaktastic fun. I have two final drawings left to do.
  1. Librarians/Booksellers
    This one is for librarians and booksellers only. All you need to do is use the email link to email me your name and whether or not you are a librarian or bookseller. The four names drawn from the hat will receive a free copy of There's a Yak in My Bed along with a free event kit.
    (If you don't win the drawing, but still want a free event kit, just let me know.)

  2. Children 8 and Under
    This is a drawing contest for kids 8 and under. Go download the activity sheet here. Have your kid draw what they think is hiding under the covers. Then, scan and email me back the sheet. I'll then enter your kid's name in the drawing and post a gallery of artwork. Be sure to fill out and sign the release on the bottom. I will crop the picture so that that won't appear on the web.

Good luck to everyone. I expect to see lots of entries in both contests!

Saturday

Over at the Blue Rose Girls, they're discussing how books don't give credit like movies do. For fun, I thought I'd weigh in on the discussion.

For a while the small press I'm with credited all the production members on the copyright page. Since there are so few of us, it wasn't a very extensive list. The other editor and I convinced the publisher to change this. I can't speak for Meghan's reasoning, but I wanted the anonymity. But I didn't want it because of credit or blame. I wanted to make it harder for submitters to find my name. I know this sounds a little crazy (not to mention paranoid), but here was my reasoning:

We get very little agented submissions, and very few requested submissions. That leaves one mountain of slush. Now there are all sorts of ways to sort slush. One of the things we do is sort by whether or not the person has managed to come up with an editor's name. This is not as hard as it sounds. My name is in our CWIM listing. I have this blog. It's on the copyright page of some of our books. It doesn't take much, but it does take a little work to find it. And you would be surprised how many people don't bother to do that work. These are the same people that either don't know about or don't bother with critique groups, proofreading, and proper manuscript formatting. I am of course talking in gross generalizations, but the slush in the specific editor piles tends to be better than in the generic editor pile.

So, that was why I wanted my name left out of books. I prefer for people to have to go somewhere like CWIM or this blog to find my name. If they're looking for it in one of those places, they're more likely to also read our submission guidelines. And then we wouldn't get as many picture book manuscripts.

And the Winner Is . . .

I had a hard time choosing a winner. Everyone did such creative and interesting things with their entries. I had poems and stories. I had things for adults and things for kids. In the end, though, I had to pick a winner. I chose this one by Kristin:

I feel the warm, yellow sun. It is the start of a new day.
First, I count each leg. Good, there are still eight.
Now, I can eat. I run up to an old fly and take a long drink.
Look! A rip is in the web. I stop. I think. I know what to do.
I jump over the open part. Over and over, I jump.
"I did it!" I say. “Time to play!”


I liked the little twist when she says she has eight legs. And I love how she's talking about a spider, but never uses the word. All in all, this was my favorite.

I do however, have a special Honorary Winner prize that I would like to give to A. She's a six-year-old who submitted with the help of her mom's typing. I have a sneaky suspicion this challenge wasn't as hard for her since these are the words that make up a majority of her normal written vocabulary.

I want to milk my cow when I get up.
I don't want to herd sheep.
I will bring my pet cat to the fair today.
She is pretty and black.
I hope she will get a prize.
She did (first one)!


Both winners will be receiving a copy of Yak.

But wait, there's more . . . This last week leading up to the debut of Kay's new book will have 2 more contests and an interview with the author.

Friday

What's Coming Up

In my attempts to make my blog more interactive and to let you know what's happening (and to play with neat internet widgets), I tried to put a calendar thing on my sidebar. But for some reason, the events don't show up. Anyone know why? Until then you can just click on the link and see what contests and author interviews I've got scheduled for now.

And thank you to the folks who wrote Easy Readers. I've had several comments about how there's nothing easy about it. I know K is snickering to herself. She's known that for a while. You still have until 10 tonight to enter.

Thursday

A Little Reminder

One last post before I skedaddle for the day.

This is your reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter the easy reader writing contest. Don't remember the rules? Click here to see them. The winner will receive an all expenses paid copy of K. Pluta's There's a Yak in my Bed. I know most of you are either procrastinating or polishing your entries, but don't take to much longer. I'm judging them when I get home from the bookstore tomorrow night.

Blocked Up Writers

Are you a writer with nothing to say? Has your idea well gone dry? Well, then, have I got the sites for you.

Over here at Write on Right Now you'll find a huge selection of writing prompts. These are always a great way to practice your craft, and sometimes the most amazing ideas will come from them. Always try to write at least a page from a prompt. Even if nothing seems to be coming at first, some little gem will eventually arrive. Thanks to Miss Erin for the link.

And for the braver souls, come try your hand at the first collective children's novel. Run by Kelly from Big A, little a, you can contribute your own plot twists and turns. It's like that game where you sit in a circle and everyone adds a sentence. Except this is infinitely cooler.

Write on.

Have they considered having employees in the stores?

PW has an an article on Borders today that discusses how the company is trying to save itself from oblivion. As a low-ranking, part-time/full-time (depends on the week) bookseller at the other major chain, I feel more than qualified to lend my BBA-educated two cents.

But all joking aside, I do have a major pet peeve with Borders that generally sends me to B&N or Bookpeople when I need to buy a book: I can never find a freaking human to help me. There is always someone in the cafe and someone else behind the register, but as far as I can tell, there's never anyone else working the store. I actually assume that they must be there somewhere, but Borders employees must be masters of camouflage and handily avoid my searching. This is very ironic because I don't normally like asking employees for help. One thing I like about Borders is that they have computers I, as a customer, can use to see if things are in the store. The problem occurs when the computer says something is there, but I can't find it on the shelf. Now, this happens all the time at B&N, but since I work there, I have sneaky suspicion of where the book might be, and I can then go walk around past all the suspects. Is it in the front window? In backstock? On a cart in receiving, etc. The list goes on. When I'm in a Borders I need a similarly privileged person to do the same thing. And I can never find one. And then Borders loses my sale. This can't only be happening to me.

Tip of the Week 3/22/07

I feel like such a dolt. Not only did I forget to do a tip yesterday, I forgot to do one last week. So here's my belated advice.

Tip of the Week: Never admit it's your first time.

Now this can be taken to mean so many things, but I'm referring here to cover letters. In the submissions for the now defunct ghost story anthology I had a fair number of people tell me that this was there first submission ever. Now other than being slightly flattered that they chose my humble little press to make their first foray into the publishing world, I was confused by these people's choice. Why on an otherwise professional letter would they chose to admit that they were new at this? It won't change my opinion of their actual story, and I've worked with new and established authors. I haven't got a preference. And except for that sentence telling me, I would never have known that these folks weren't experienced submitters. I could tell that they'd never been published because of the lack of publishing credits. However they were professional and properly written submissions that didn't send up any red flags. So, my advice is to never tell an editor or agent that you've never submitted to anyone before. We don't care if it's your first or thirtieth submission. We care about the manuscript attached. You are a professional writer regardless of whether or not you've happened to be published. Act professional. Volunteering your newness to the profession isn't professional.

Wednesday

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell into My Heart

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
By Lauren Tarshis

I loved this book. I loved this book. It's quirky and fun, and I think everyone should read it just for the sake of reading. I will not tell you another word about it in this little review here, because I think you should read it for yourself. On the Buried Editor's rating scale, I give it 5 out of 5 wax seals of approval.


However, I am going to talk more about this book from a writing/editing perspective. The rest of my discussion will be full of spoilers unfortunately. So, what I suggest you do is run out and get this book today. Read it (it's short, you can read it in a day), and then come back here to read the rest of the post. That way, you get the joy of an unprejudiced reading of the book, but you still get to read my thoughts regarding it. It's the best of both worlds.

This is one of those books that I think every serious children's Midgrade and YA author should read. There is so much about this book that is done right. Obviously it has a good plot and compelling characters. Every good book that makes it to market has those. This book has writing that goes above the standard book; writing that makes it outstanding. Let's pick it apart:
  • Voice
    This book has not only one, but two distinct voices. The book is told from the two (very close) Point of Views of Emma-Jean and Colleen. The POVs alternate between chapters so there is never any confusion as to whose thoughts we are having insight too. However, this is one of the few books, that had the author chosen, she could have gotten away with midchapter POV shifts. I never recommend an author doing this. It requires great skill to seamlessly move between characters' thoughts. David does this in his Words of Power Trilogy (his book was the one I was asking for opinions on the ARC cover), but he is the only author I have so far let do this. And he does it seamlessly. David does this by having such distinct voices for each of his characters that there is never any confusion.

    Tarshis does the same thing in her book. Emma-Jean is analytical, rational, and doesn't understand her fellow classmates. She tries to use logic at all times. As a great character quirk that helps with Emma-Jean's voice, she never seems to speak in contractions. Colleen, on the other hand, is your "average 7th grade wannabe girl" who tries to please everyone and manages to please no one, including herself. Her chapters have the feel of stream of consciousness, without actually being stream of consciousness. Tarshis weaves in Colleen's obsessions and worries while still keeping the flow of the story. It's impressive and well done.

  • Plotting
    Tarshis makes extensive use of subplots. Although the characters develop in a normal arc, the plot isn't quite that simple. The main plot involves Emma-Jean helping Colleen solve a problem. But this plot wouldn't fill the pages of what is already a small book, so there are several other small plots along the way. All of them involve Emma-Jean trying to help solve problems so that they dovetail nicely into the main plot. Of course a bulk of the chapters deal with the main plot, but the subplots flesh out Emma-Jean's character. At the time, the subplots seem a bit random, but the last chapter brings all the different plot strands together and ties them up nicely. You realize every word in the book was necessary for it to work. And that brings me to:

  • Style
    I've mentioned before that this book is short. It has no unnecessary words, no tangents, no authorial interruptions. Every scene, every paragraph even, does double and triple duty. You are always learning about the characters, and every scene also moves along the plot or sets the scene or provides necessary information. No detail is wasted. It turns out to be important later on. I admire such concise, focused writing. Even if this doesn't happen to be your traditional writing style, there can still be much that can be learned from it.

And of course the most important thing about the book is that it was a good read. I enjoyed it, and I hope you will too. Fuse #8 has it as one of her longshots for the next Newberry. Her article is A Fuse #8 Production: And Speaking of the Newbery: Newbery 2008 Predictions. I got to say I'm rooting for it to get at least an Honor Medal.

Tuesday

No Ghosts for Me

After much consultation with my calendar, I have decided that I'm going to have to scrap the ghost story anthology I was going to do. I just don't have the time. I've been assigned 3 other anthologies (2 optimistically for this year, 1 for next), and I just can't fit this one in as well. Since I don't have the power to get rid of any of the others, I had to cut the ghost stories. I'm disappointed since that was the one I was most interested in. Everyone should have gotten their stories back by now. If you haven't that's disturbing. It means that I still have it somewhere. Not good.

I would like to reiterate that this decision was not based on the quality of the submissions. Quite a number of them I think would do well in the magazine market. I recommend Cricket over Highlights since they allow longer word lengths.

Thanks again for everyone's interest. Hopefully when life has calmed down I'll be able to resurrect the project.

Oh This is so Me

Well, this isn't strictly about writing, but it was just so darn funny I had to share.

Last night when I was trying to upload that sad little 5 second clip onto my website, I felt like this:

Clip Here. I don't know how to embed the file, so you'll have to click.

That little 5 second clip last night, took me an hour and a half to make because I didn't know how to use my new little camera. I then had to get it up on YouTube (not as hard) and embed on this site (still not to bad).

And if you were wondering what clip I'm talking about, I already took it down. I've proven my point. When I want to do exciting video for the blog, I now know how.

I have to thank Daphne over at The Longstockings for the great video link. I feel it completely sums up all of us technologically challenged people.

Monday

Yak Party Week 2

We've now entered our second week of celebrating Yak. And I have another book to give away. This contest is going to be for the writers. However, I consider every person who blogs to be a writer, so this is really for everyone. This contest is a little more challenging. Here goes:

Write a 75 word anecdote set in the morning in Easy Reader format. I think everyone should appreciate what Kay had to go through to write this book. All but 10 of your words must come from the Dolce Word List, which are the most common words kids learn. Those remaining optional ten words must be a single syllable. Now your anecdote doesn't have to be for kids, and other than following the wording rule and being set in the morning, it can be in any other format or genre. Just to make sure I was starting a contest that could be done, I wrote a sample piece:

I jump from bed.
My skirt is red
Under the yellow light.

I must eat.
I am beat.
I do not look so right.

I go to work.
I look a dork.
I walk in, but then I stop.

What is so bad?
Why am I sad?
I wish I had worn a top!

This has 54 words only 7 of which are not on the Dolce list. For some reason, it just kept coming to me in rhyme. Yours does not have to.

To enter the contest, use the email link on the sidebar to send me your submission by 11:00 PM CST on Friday. Be sure to title your email YAK CONTEST. I'll post the winner and their winning entry on Saturday.

Good luck and good writing!

Sunday

The Winners are Announced

This evening I did the drawing for the people who will win the first three There's a Yak in My Bed books.

The winners are Brenda Sturgis, Wendy from the Help... I Can't Shut Up blog, and jademetaphor. I'll be contacting each of you to get an address to send the book.
Congratulations!

Last chance for this Yak Drawing

This is your 9 hour reminder. Entries for this first Yak drawing will officially close at 8PM CST. Enter now. I mean it.

Mac vs. PC

I am suffering from catastrophic laptop failure. Not only is this slowing me down when I try to work because I have to keep switching to my desktop, it also means that I have to sit at a desk instead of on a couch. I know. Poor me. But the laptop dying is a bit of a problem. And it's more than just the problem with the screen and top. I can't close it anymore since I knocked it off my desk the day before yesterday. That turned it into the world's smallest desktop, but didn't affect functionality. No, it's had a longstanding problem with files mysteriously disappearing, and this has picked up this last week. I'm having to back up daily and stuff is still coming off the laptop (but not off the backup). I would think it was a virus except that it's a Mac. Really, my computer has never been the same since the great hard drive wipe of June 2006.

But now I need to replace it. Should I get another Mac or go PC? My desktop is PC, and I've become enamored with an HP tablet, but I could go out and buy a Mac from the store tomorrow. It's a tough call. I've been putting off deciding, but I have to choose tomorrow. Another week of not being able to take a computer to work will not be good or fun. This is not about books or writing, but, hey, it needed to be said.

A New Blog

Publisher's Weekly's Kid Folks have joined us bloggers here in the blog-o-sphere. They picked a great and witty bookseller, Allison Morris, to blog for them. It doesn't have quite the same industry news and details that the daily Publisher Weekly bulletins have, but it's a whole lot more fun. She's looking for some book obits for those books you loved but are now out of print. Click here to enjoy this blog for yourself.

Saturday

Yakking about Yak

I would like to thank everyone for making this my most successful drawing ever. Well, okay, it's the first drawing ever, but I still had a great turnout. However, it's not over yet. I'm not drawing until tomorrow night, so there's still time to get your name in. Leave your name and weirdest thing that you could find in your bed in the comments section.

Next week we'll have a contest geared towards writers.

Friday

Just when I think I've got it down

Just when I think I've got this whole publishing thing down, another little kink gets thrown in my pipe. What was it yesterday? Copyright infringement. And whose copyright were we going to possible infringe? Oh, yes. Disney. That gentle giant just known for their leniency when defending their copyright. (I am positively dripping sarcasm right now. It's oozing out of my pores and is starting to coat my computer keys.)

Fortunately the infringement in question is one paragraph in a 250 page book where the character compares, by name, other characters to a certain set of 7 dwarves. You know, Angry, Wretchy, Bumbly, Stuttery, Wrinkly, Bitterly, and Joe. I ran the paragraph in question past Lawyer, and he said that it could be construed as infringement. So to be safe it needed to be changed. And for the ARC it has been although we may try to get permission to use the original paragraph in the final book.

When I told my author that we needed to change, he understandably was upset and proceeded to regale me with countless pop-culture references some of which appeared to infringe on someone's copyright much more than his but didn't have permission notices. And I agree with him that there's some line out there that makes it okay to use pop-culture references that infringe. I just don't know where that line is.

So, I shall ask all of you: when do you think a reference crosses the line? I don't mean give me a legal opinion. This is just an open dialog.

And finally, how do I feel about pop-culture reference? Normally I try to have my authors avoid them. I feel they date a work, and I generally only accept very common, older references. Hence characters can drink Coke or refer to Snow White's dwarves because they are such an intrinsic part of our culture that everyone knows who they are. More obscure things like band names or movie names I tend to leave out. I don't want kids to have to read an annotated version in 20 years in order to understand all the wit in the story.

Thursday

Rewards for Reading Programs

Jen Robinson clued me into the James Patterson Page Turner Awards. Lots of great organizations and individuals receive large monetary awards for encouraging reading. One of the smaller prize winners was the Second Chance reading program here in Austin. It tries to get books to incarcerated teens. What a neat program, and I'd never even heard of it before. There are lots of other really great programs that won something including Kathy Patrick's Beauty and the Book. I was there once during a writer's retreat in Jefferson, TX. Such a crazy place.
I have not been reading a lot of slush lately thanks to the Interns, so I don't have any words of wisdom that I've garnered from my pile. However, I took home a tidy little pile of slush today, so I hope to have more soon. But, never fear. I'm not the only editor out there bemoaning the writing issues we find in slush. Brooklyn Arden, best known as the American editor of the Harry Potters, and generally known as all around excellent editor, has a very instructive post here. I endorse and agree with every one of her points. Take them to heart. She knows what she's talking about.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the heads up on the link.

Wednesday

New Kid on the Block

The newest Blooming Tree book will be coming out on April 1. April Fools seems like the perfect date to introduce the world to a kid who finds a yak in his bed. So, I would like to introduce you to Kay Pluta's There's a Yak in My Bed, our newest independent reader picture book.



Now, what would be a book release party without presents? I've been given 10 books by the boss, and I've decided to have a few contests to give them away. We have 17 days until April 1, so I'm going to have 4 contests. Two are for everyone, one contest is for librarians and booksellers, and 1 is for kids.

I thought I'd start with a drawing for everyone. But, you can't just submit your name. Here's the challenge:
In the book, Ted wakes up one morning to find a yak in his bed. To enter this contest, you have to think of the strangest thing you could wake up and find in bed with you. (And my site is PG-13/R. No X-rated stuff. It's too easy.) This contest will actually be determined by a drawing on Sunday, so you have a couple of days. To enter, use the comment section to post your idea of the strangest thing you could find in bed. If you post anonymously or your profile has no way to contact you, then you'll need to leave your name or email so I can contact you. I'll also post the winners. There are 3 books up for grab this round.

Tuesday

My Authors have been busy.

Okay, Judy just trumped Lila on the book exposure meter. Check her and her book Knowing Joseph out on TV here. I couldn't watch it because my poor little mac doesn't have the right player, but I'm sure it's brilliant.

Way to go Judy.

Out and About

I love seeing my authors out with their books. Here's Lila at the UT Pan Am's Festival of International Books and Arts.

Oh, and what's that in her hand? Wait, yes, it's her book from Blooming Tree Press edited by none other than moi. Look at that product placement. Ah, moments like these make my day.

Do you have a book moment like this? Feel free to share.

To Blog or Not to Blog. There's really no question.

I always encourage my authors to blog. I've started encouraging my authors' characters to blog although to give her credit, Septina has been blogging even longer than me. Blogs are a great way to talk with the kiddie lit community at large, to talk to fans, and to generally have a springboard for discussing the stuff that doesn't make it into the books.

And it turns out that I'm not alone in my thinking. PW did an article on it last week, but I can't find the link now. Search their site. And if you're wanting to learn how to blog, Mother Reader does a great and entertaining job discussing how to Be a B-List Blogger. I'm to scared to try the scorer myself. I'm afraid I'd end up a Z-lister. My blog's self esteem bucket wouldn't be able to take it.

And my internet at home is still down, so I haven't been able to check email for three day. I was so anxious about not having seen it, that I actually got up this morning and threw up. If that isn't internet withdrawl, I don't know what is. And yes, I realized just how sad it sounds.

Thursday

Cut Off From the World

Time Warner is doing "scheduled maintence" to the broadband out here, so I haven't had internet for nearly 24 hours. I haven't seen anyone's blog. I'm at Schlotzsky's enjoing their free wi-fi and scarfing breakfast (although since I've been up 6 hours now and I'm eating a sandwich the term might be off) before I scamper off to the bookstore for the rest of the night. If I have internet when I get home tonight, I'll rejoin all your bright sites then. Otherwise I'll just have to hope for more luck tomorrow.

Salut.

Wednesday

Producing production

I have just finished redoing from scratch, again, the rest of the 2007 prodction schedule for Blooming Tree's books. It's a very full fall for us. We're putting out 9 books in kids this year (not counting the picture book/easy reader that releases this month). Here's the breakdown:
  • Number of Books Releasing by Month
    • July: 2
    • October: 2
    • November: 3
    • December: 2

  • Number of Books by Genre
    • Picture Book: 1
    • Chapter Book: 1 (first in a graphic novel series for this age)
    • Midgrade: 4 (1 is an anthology)
    • YA: 3 (1 is an anthology)

It's going to be a busy next few months. For every book we ideally need to have it read for the printer around 6 months in advance (hence our traditional fall heavy releases). I can already feel the stress starting to collect, pool even.

And of course none of these dates are final. I've built in cushions, but still printers sit on books. Proofs don't return to authors. Someone at BTP has a crisis and proofs don't get made at all. There are so many variables, and so many of them are out of my control. It's very frustrating. It's moments like these I wish that I could just say poof, and the books would magically appear on store shelves.

Got any questions for me about production scheduling? Just stick them in the comments. I'll answer them as I see them.

Tuesday

Follow up to interview

I forgot to mention yesterday that Judy and I are happy to make this interview more interactive. Do you have a specific question for her? Wondering what that first book she wrote was? Post your questions in the comments section, and I'll relay them on. All my authors are warm, friendly folk who are just as curious about you the reader (and fellow authors) as you are about them. We welcome your thoughts and questions.

Good Day Young Sunshine

I haven't read anything in book form recently, so I haven't had any books to tell ya'll about. I'm talking Texan in honor of this book set in my current stomping grounds, Austin. It was nice to read a book with lots of place names, and to not only recognize them, have them be somewhere other than New York. Read on now, y'hear?

Tantalize
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Yesterday our store got in local author's Cynthia Leitick Smith's book. I checked it out, and last night I read it instead of the fascinating marketing book I had planned on reading instead. It was a tough decision. Before I go much farther, I must warn you that (Twilight and Undead and Unwed aside) I don't generally like vampire novels. However, I did enjoy this one. It reminded me a lot of Sunshine(NOT a kid book) by Robin McKinley, an author I adore. In both books the characters live in a world populated with werecreatures and vampires. And that's about where the similarities end. Smith's main character Quince, named meta-textually after the Texan in Dracula — a nice touch I must say — lives for her family's Italian restaurant. The place is more than just an income stream; it's a link to Quince's dead parents and a bond between her and her guardian, Uncle D. After the book opens with a brief passage where we learn that Quince's psuedo-boyfriend is part werewolf, Quince and Uncle D are struggling to redefine their restaurant in a changing market place. They've decided to go campy and have a vampire theme. Then only 5 weeks before opening, the head cook is murdered in something resembling an animal savaging. Who done it? Quince's werewolf? A human trying to make it look were related? Someone else? I won't tell you anymore so that you can enjoy the suspense of the book itself. Although some of the plot and character developments are obvious (I spotted one of the vamps the moment it entered the page), others came out of nowhere. There were a couple of times, especially near the end, that I was just as shocked as Quince at the revelations. And let me tell you, these days it's pretty darn hard to actually surprise me with a plot twist. Bravo! All in all, I would reccommend reading this book. I give it 4 out of 5 wax seals of approval.

Monday

Interview of the Week 3/5/07

For my first interview, I chose Judy Gregerson, author of Blooming Tree’s debut YA, Bad Girls Club.

What inspired you to write Bad Girls Club?

It’s a mix of things. But the biggest influence was a man I met some years back who told me a story about him and his little brother. When they were about five and three, their mother set the house on fire and locked them inside. Then she left them there to die. I was horrified by the story and it cut into me so deep that I couldn’t get it out of me. For two years it kept calling to me and I really didn’t want to write it. But then I realized that there are kids out there whose mothers are lethal to varying degrees. Actually, a toxic personality of any kind is very damaging to kids and childhood trauma is so prevalent in our society. So, I decided to write the book. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had watched my own mother unravel and go into a mental hospital when I was thirteen. So, I combined my story with the story I’d heard and came up with Bad Girls Club.

In your book Destiny and her sister must face their mother’s mental illness. What kind of research did you undertake to write your book?

I think that my life experience was really enough. I watched my family disintegrate over a period of about five years and I watched my mother become sicker and sicker. I did research on schizophrenia and dissociative disorder. I also did a lot of research on borderline personalities, which I felt was the core of the mom’s personality in Bad Girls Club. But it’s hard to read about these things when you’ve suffered it in your own family. In the end, I had to go with my gut.

I have since talked to a lot of experts on child trauma, abuse, abandonment, parentification, and attachment disorders.

Why did you decide to tackle the delicate subjects of attachment disorders and general mental illness?

More than those issues, I wanted to show what it was like in the mind of a sixteen-year-old who is holding on for dear life and how damaged her soul had become as a result of the family problems. But I also wanted to show her letting go of who she thinks she has to be in the family and find a way to discover her true self. Children who live with mentally ill parents or children who are traumatized and abandoned often act out their parents problems or believe that they are just like their parents. I wanted Destiny to discover that she wasn’t like her mother and she wasn’t what her mother said. I wanted her to find her own soul. Amidst the problems she deals with, that’s pretty hard.

Another thing is this. I don’t know how aware people are of attachment and abandonment issues or what it does to a child. Early on, I had an agent tell me how much he hated my main character because she didn’t stand up and do something. Well, kids in that position can’t just stand up and do something. They do not have the emotional wherewithal to do that. It’s easy to tell a kid to just “stop it”. Stop being depressed. Stop obsessing on their problems. When you don’t have the emotional equipment to “just stop”, you are in a very precarious place, as is Destiny and her sister. It’s like telling a person with a broken leg to just get up and walk.

But, it is possible to find healing and find your true self when you’ve been in circumstances like Destiny. I wanted the reader to see how she did come to the realization that she was walking a slippery slope and had to change her life.

Recently there have been discussions about people writing material simply for its shock value. Many shocking things caused by the mother’s mental illness happen in Bad Girls Club. How do you integrate these difficult scenes into your book without making them seem as though they are there purely to surprise the reader?

A lot of what happens in the book is a natural consequence of where Destiny’s mother is at mentally and emotionally, it could not have happened in any other way. That aside, I didn’t write this to shock. In many cases, I put the horror of parts of the story in the background. There is no visible abuse, just the signs of it.

And let’s face it. Abandonment, abuse, mothers who kill their children – all those things ARE shocking. There’s no way around it. But if you’ve lived it, as I lived it when I was a teen, it seems so normal because it’s all you know. I didn’t realize until I was about thirty that everyone wasn’t as damaged as I was as a teen. Now that’s shocking!

Now for the general questions every author gets asked. What advice do you have for someone trying to write their own YA novel?

Write from your heart and write what’s important to you.

What route did you take to get published?

I’ve published one other book, but this one had a very circuitous route. I had two very nice editors along the way who helped me. One helped me get the first draft together. The other helped me find my voice. They were very generous with their time and comments and I am thankful for having them in my life.

This book wasn’t sent around to a lot of editors. I wasn’t looking for just any editor or any publisher. I wanted the right person for this book, someone who really “got” the story and understood what it was about. I was actually quite shocked that BTP wanted to buy it because they were not looking for edgy YA’s at the time.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a few. Janet Fitch. Kathryn Harrison. Sylvia Plath.

What inspires you to write?

Having something to say.

As a former marketing person for books, what advice do you have for other authors trying to publicize their books?

Oh, wow, that’s really hard. There are so many layers to marketing and publicity. And you have to get the word out on so many levels. I’d say to get the word out to librarians and booksellers. Make yourself available for conferences and school visits.

Do you have any future books that you are working on?

I have a humorous YA that I’ve finished. I haven’t worked on it in a while because I’ve been busy with pre-launch publicity for Bad Girls Club. I also have a few MG’s that I should polish.

Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson releases in hardcover on June 15, 2007. ISBN (13): 978-1933831015