Monday, July 25, 2011

Busy, busy, busy...

No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I didn't break my arm or have a major computer crash, either. In all honesty, I have been so busy with non-writing related activity that I just haven't even had time to think about the blog. I have been writing, but not children's literature. But I have continued my research for the middle grade novel - which will by virtue of my research now have a new title - TBD!

I have also experienced a discouragement slump as the new landscape of the publishing world leaves this writer wondering where to turn next. Do I keep on, keeping on? I have received wonderful feedback from teachers about several of my new math pieces - unfortunately, they don't work for the publishers, who could care less at this point. Wow, that sounded like sour grapes....

Do I try my hand at writing for the new market - apps and all ? Do I really want to scroll over Cowboy Billy's head and see HAT appear? Do I? I don't know the answer to this one. And where is the new mom or grandparent going to go to browse and happen to pick up A Isn't for Fox, see the beautiful illustrations and laugh at the silly verse and say, this is perfect. Not at Borders, not online. Please support your local independent book store - if you have one...

The ideas haven't dried up, the love of writing hasn't died; but right now I need a new compass because I can't find my true north.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Where to go from here?

Thought I would give you a quick list update of some highlights from this past weekend at the NESCBWI conference. If you write for children, you may find some of the web addresses useful. If you read children's books you might find something new to read! As for me - my mind is spinning, trying to separate gems from clutter and figuring out which manuscript do I concentrate on now!!!!

Marketing - Susan Raab Associates, THE name in children's book marketing,

Research techniques - Loree Griffin Burns - great ideas and organizing tips, her book - Hive Detectives

Middle Grade Plotting - Whoa, slow down, can't write that fast - Whew! - Janet Fox - a goldmine of information, albeit at light speed. Her book - Faithful

Picture Book or Magazine? - Harold Underdown - good comparison list of characteristics - Did you know Cowboy Billy is really an illustrated storybook, not a picture book?

World Building -Stacy Whitman - two hour intensive with wonderful discussion and specifics for building a believable world in fantasy or science fiction. Much to do in this area!

Books to consider : for little ones - Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea
fantasy - Matched by Allie Condie
TankBorn by Karen Dandler
adult - The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

Monday, May 9, 2011

New England Writer's Conference

This weekend I will be attending the annual conference of the New England chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.) This is the most well known and respected professional organization for children's writers. I became a professional member with the publication of A Campfire for Cowboy Billy. If you write for children, you really should belong to this organization - it provides huge support to writers and illustrators and some publishers will only accept submissions from members of this group.

This is the 25th anniversary of the New England chapter and I am very excited to attend, both for the workshops and the keynote speakers. The first keynote speaker is award winning Jane Yolen who has written over 300 books, Owl Moon being my favorite. The second keynote speaker is Tomie dePaola, award winning author of over 250 books - check out The Art Lesson. The third keynoter is Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI, a former VP of Universal Studios and now co-author of 15 books with Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz.) Their series about Hank Zipzer is hailed as a break through for students with different learning styles. Very exciting!

Although I am published in the picture book genre, I am focusing my workshops on marketing and writing for middle grade, including research techniques, world building for fantasy writing and how to develop minor characters. I hope to come home re-energized and with enough information to create a plan of action to move forward in this crazy occupation of writing. A de-briefing to follow in the next blog. Enjoy Spring!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Art Linkletter was right!

When I was a kid, Art Linkletter had a show on TV about the sayings of kids. I guess I thought it was funny then, but it means so much more now as I listen to my grandsons explain situations to me. Their utter delight in saying something funny is totally refreshing. From talking to an imaginary friend in a pocket who, by the way, has a ladder that will reach to heaven so they really could visit Great Grandma, to deciding to have the name Tiger and declare to be 100 years old, their fun with words never stops. Even more rewarding, is the fact that most of the time they are purposefully using language to have fun! What a great lesson to learn from ones so small - using language to entertain, not bully; using language to be creative, not destructive; using language to share feelings, not hurt them. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not blinded by my love for these little ones - they use language in other ways, too. Poopy-head being a favorite. And they are quick to correct us grownups when we say something inappropriate, also. What I am trying to figure out is how to keep them having fun with words and how I can use what they teach me to write better books for them. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy our witty and insightful conversations. So I will leave you with a recent exchange: Me: "I love you to the moon. " Grandson: "I love you to the back of the moon. " It doesn't get any better!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thunder Thoughts...

I thoroughly enjoyed the thunderstorm this morning. When we first moved to Maine from Pennsylvania in the mid-80s, there never seemed to be any thunderstorms. Coming from south central PA, we were used to some pretty hefty thunderstorms during the summer months. I missed them . The last several years, however, there seem to be more thunderstorms occurring. Perhaps global warming, or cyclical pattern changes or I am just more aware? I was born during a thunderstorm which may explain my affection for this particular meteorological event. (I actually spell checked that weather word because it didn't look right!) Spelling aside, thunder boomers rate high on my warm weather rain events. Of course, there is nothing better than the surprise of thunder snow in the middle of winter! Being a lover of books, I still like to think that they are bowling away in the Hudson River Valley as Rip Van Winkle snores on. What or where is your favorite thunder? Thunder Hole? Thunder Bay? Catching thunder?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Test Groups

I am finding that I am asking adults less often to give me feedback on my work and, taking a deep breath, having students be my critique group. My first adventure in this method was having 5th, 7th and 9th grade students edit my middle grade novel. I must admit I was more than a bit nervous when I returned to gather their feedback. But after pushing down that defensive dragon in me, I listened ,fascinated, as they told me what they thought would make the book better and what they liked. But even more gratifying to me, was the way they told me their thoughts. There was no sarcasm or derision in their voices - and, yes, these were typical tweens and teens. They wanted to be part of the process and appreciated the opportunity to have an author listen to their ideas and actually take notes on what they said. And they want to know when I will have copies for them published! That was the hard part - telling them I didn't know if it would ever be published. So now I am bravely trying out a new counting manuscript with second graders. This piece can be read as a book or done as a type of square dance. After five classes of second graders worked with me last week, I received a thumbs up from students and teachers to keep working on it. So off I go to Winslow this week to try it with some more second graders. Their feedback comes in giggles, sparkling eyes and hugs! Book signing for Cowboy Billy on Saturday, April 30th, at 11am at Mariner's Compass Quilt Shop in Bath. New research notes for the middle grade novel at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three Month Hiatus

After three months of re-evaluating and pondering the best use of my time, I 'm back! There have been so many fast and furious changes in the publishing world that one doesn't know what to think. Picture book publishers are moving to middle grade books and YA novels. EReaders have taken the market by storm and many authors are wondering what they will find when the dust settles. And through it all, there is more and more use of social media. I, too, have a personal Facebook page and an author page. I began to find myself spending time keeping up with Facebook, when I should have been creating in one form or another. I began to resent the time it was taking to find out who replied to what ,when that little voice in my head was whispering about research and new math markets. So for the last three months I refrained from Facebook except for a "like" here or there, did some research on marketing and time management for authors and designed a website. I have no problem with Facebook and those who use it, it just isn't something I can spend too much time using. So I will still visit Facebook and add a post occasionally, but try to be more diligent in my writing and blogging. I am very excited to have received the advance copies of A Campfire for Cowboy Billy and to report that it will be available in April for purchase. This is a fun book for little cowboy lovers as well as a gentle way to help children deal with the loss of a loved one. I hope you can take a ride with Biily soon. Please check out my website at to follow my research for The Boat Builder's Secret.