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.


New Languages

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.



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).


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.


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 . . .


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 . . .


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.