Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just Read...

Catching Fire.

And if you haven't read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, put your computer down right now and go buy it.

I won't say much about the sequel, other than I was really anxious about it because of how amazing the first book was. But it definitely lived up to expectations. Don't know that it exceeded Hunger Games in my mind (not many, if any, books do), but it was still outstanding.

Just wish the third installment of the trilogy wasn't so far away.

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Puzzle Building Without a Box Cover

As I start to put (yet again, hopefully for the last time) the finishing touches on my manuscript, I picked up a book I bought recently that is essentially a reference to all things fantasy.

In the introduction, hugely famous fantasy writer Terry Brooks writes about the importance of outlining, so that you can make sure you get your story right. He deemed this pre-writing part as "Puzzle-building without a box cover," and I really loved that phrase.

Because it's true. In all of our stories, we are pulling characters and plot points--the puzzle pieces--out of nowhere and trying to fit them together in a way that makes sense. When it's all said and done, we want to be able to glue those pieces together permanently and frame up that puzzle (or, preferably, to see it on a shelf in Barnes and Noble or Borders). The reason I love the box cover-less puzzle analogy is because it expresses how truly unique and challenging it is to write a good book. Imagine dumping a 10,000-piece puzzle of an ocean full of colorful fish on a table and trying to solve it with no point of reference. Daunting, huh?

You set out to completing it, though, because you've bought the puzzle (thought up a story you can't ignore) and feel it inside that this puzzle will not go away until it's finished. You start the puzzle and it's going great! You get all the outside pieces with the straight edges put together. Then comes the heart of the puzzle, and boy is it tough now.

Don't give up, though, because it's going to be a beautiful thing to see when it's all put together. Sure, there may be times when it seems like there's no way you'll get it done, and that the puzzlemaker must have forgotten to put several pieces in the box. And just when you're at your lowest and ready to tear the puzzle apart, your puzzle-friends will stop by on the weekends and solve a couple of pieces and remind you how awesome that puzzle will be when you get it done.

Kinda like writing. Everyone wants to give up at some point. Heck, J.K. Rowling almost committed suicide at one point. (Literally.) But then your family and other writer friends sympathize and encourage you, and maybe even solve a piece or two of that puzzle, and you keep plodding forward. So stick with it, because that puzzle will be something to behold.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Books I Officially and Publicly Recommend: The Mysterious Benedict Society

I have been on fire recently when it has come to selecting books to read, and have a couple really fantastic books going right now. I believe my streak started when I purchased The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.

This book is a smart, fun story about four extraordinarily gifted kids who must stop an evil man from taking over the world through hidden messages in the television--basically, television is rotting people's minds.

It takes place in a very Roald Dahl-esque Real-But-Not-Real world (and if you've read any Roald Dahl, you know his thoughts on the television), and the characters are wonderfully memorable. The four kids have such fun character quirks and real emotions that you can't help but be endeared and cheer out loud for them. Along the way, the kids must solve several puzzles and clues to achieve their goal, and you find yourself working out the problems right along with the kids as you read it. The back jacket flap asks in bold, "Are you a gifted child?" From the very beginning of the book, you think hey, I believe I am, thank you very much. It's full of heart, and just a gem of a book. I can't wait to read the sequel, and then the third one coming out in October.

Having said that, I now Officially and Publicly Recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Nice (People) Story

Note: when moving a open trailer full of house stuff, make sure it's all tied down properly. Okay, on with the story.

This last weekend my parents and I helped my sisters move back to school. Per the normal routine, we loaded the trailer we had borrowed with beds, dressers, and the boxes-O-stuff that had been cluttering the garage for the last three months. We cinched everything down (or so we thought) with some tie-downs, and hit the road for the three hour drive. I should mention that my mom drives the car in our family.

Not twenty minutes later, breaking through the road-trip silence, my mom: Ohh shnow-tractors! (Okay, maybe snow tractors wasn't the exact word. But you get the idea.). My dad starts freaking out, "WHAT? WHAT DID YOU DO???" I look out the window and there goes one of the boxes zip-spinning off the trailer and crashing into the center divider.

We're going too fast to turn around, and my dad is bordering clinical insanity in his rantings about our liability, and what if it causes a pile-up? and oh no, they're going to helicopter onto the hood of our car and fly us to jail! He's yelling at my mom to "Keep going! Keep going! We can't stop now!" 

So I guess we had no choice but to press forward and hope that nothing valuable was in those boxes. Maybe we could've gone back, but we didn't. A couple exits down the road, we pulled off and bought more tie-downs so we wouldn't lose any more stuff, and proceeded the rest of the journey rather uneventfully.

Enter Rob and Ria Cross. 

Driving home Sunday evening we were planning on going by the spot we lost the boxes, just to see if they were still there. About five minutes before we got to the spot, though, my sister got a call from United States Swimming. The woman on the line said a guy had apparently found some bins of ours and was trying to get ahold of us (!). Tiffany (my sister) says thanks, and immediately calls the guy. Rob told us to pull off the freeway and wait right there, he'd meet us with the boxes. Let me tell you, we were thrilled (except for my dad, who honestly thought the guy was pulling a sting operation and would be arriving with the SWAT team and handcuffs.)

He pulled up, and was just the nicest guy. Apparently my sister's homework and US Swimming card had survived the box blunder; he told us how he and his wife had sent a Facebook message to every McBroom they could find, but no one responded. They had searched high and low, and all around to try to connect with us. I mean, they spent their entire weekend trying to find us, so that we wouldn't have to go without our two boxes (it turned out to be kitchen supplies, if you were wondering). Eventually, he took the Swim card and called up US Swimming, and that's when the magic happened.

So a big cheers for Rob and Ria Cross, who reaffirmed for me that you still can come across really, really nice people at random.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Name, Same Look

As you may have noticed, my name has been a rather drab "...Under Construction..." the last few days.

Since my days as a singer in the world of children's books have (for now, at least) come to an end, I deemed it appropriate to evolve my blog as well. So I came up with a new name. I was going to change my temple to a fancy, fantasy-filled design, but it didn't come out looking right. I'm not all that good with that kind of stuff. So the look is the same, but I present to you....

(see title above).

My Personality Test Results

Prior to my business school orientation this Saturday, I was required to take a personality test. Apparently Chapman (my school) will use these results to better craft a program for each of us as students, which I think is really awesome.

Personally, I love taking personality tests/quizzes. I think it's really fun to reflect on the results and whether or not they are accurate, or completely out in left field. This particular test was called the StrengthsQuest evaluation; the results were divided into 34 "themes," that represent you as a person, and you receive your top 5 themes after the test.

My Top Five Themes:

5. Significance: People who are especially talented in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

4. Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

3. Futuristic: People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

2. Activator: People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

And Number 1.......

1. Ideation: People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Overall, I was pretty happy with my results (especially my number one, considering I'm trying to publish a book).

How about you? Do you like personality tests, or do you think they're just a bunch of fluff?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Query Process: Damaging to the IQ?

According to an article in The Bottom Line magazine: Constantly checking your email--as opposed to checking it once or twice a day at a set time--lowers your IQ by up to 10 points!

I don't know about you, but this does not bode well for me when I've got a query or manuscript out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jammin' Out to Ideas

I'm reading a book right now called, "The Imagineering Workout." In it, a bunch of imagineers offer exercises to bolster your creativity, or different ways to brainstorm.

One piece of advice that I thought was really neat (and really well-phrased) was this: "When in the car, don't jam out to tunes. Jam out to ideas!"

Our right-brains love driving. It involves so many meticulous details: check your speed, look in your mirrors, make sure you're not wandering from your line into the car next to you, check your speed again, switch lanes, etc. and so forth. And when our right-brains get so engaged in driving, it allows our left-brain (our creative brain) to drift.

On my drive home from the conference I decided to decompress with a 5 hour Idea Jam-Out, and drove almost the whole way home in silence. And it was awesome! I set my thoughts first on my novel, and my mind drifted all over my plot and the details of my world that I need to get straight before I query again. And then I let my mind just wander wherever it decided to take me. I reflected on the weekend, and where I would go next with all the motivation I absorbed from it. I thought about business school coming up (just found out I'm officially accepted...woo!), and my plan of action for becoming an imagineer.

It really was one of the best drives home from Southern California I've had (and I've made that drive a lot), and was kind of cathartic...who knew silence could be so much fun!

Does anyone else drive in silence, or have any other creative-idea tricks they'd care to share?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PCPD has returned!

I ran this after last year's conference, but after seeing all the mentions of "conference withdrawal" on the twitter feed of #scbwi09, it seems that PCPD is sweeping the nation once again! So, the "article," updated for this year:


A new disease has spread across the continental United States, and looks to potentially capture the world as well. Post Conference Partum Depression, or PCPD, as it becoming more conveniently known, is a severe form of delusional depression. When asked how such a paralyzing disease could have entered our land, doctors indicated that the bacteria the disease grows from was likely born from a small mass of fun that gathered in the lobby every night at the 2009 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Symptoms include spending countless hours cycling through everyone else's blogs to read different spins on the exact same event, refusing to wear anything but blue, making pillows with everyone's faces on them and sitting around in a circle to talk with them, aimlessly wandering lobbies of local hotels looking for fun people to talk to, and culminating in a series of creative bursts of energy. If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, I am very sorry, but there does not seem to be a cure for this tragic disease arriving on the horizon of the foreseeable future. The only therapy suggested for PCPD is to continue to keep in touch with other sufferers of the disease. May fortune shine upon you and let the disease avoid your residential area.

SCBWI 2009: An Outsider's Perspective

This year's conference was an interesting one for me. Because of certain extenuating circumstances (interviews to take, houses to look for, upcoming school to pay for) I was not actually able to attend the conference this year. I had to be in the area that weekend, though, so I decided to stay at the hotel and enjoy the social side.

I am happy to say that I had a wonderful time--and kept surprisingly busy!

From what I saw, there was this really cool vibe of openness throughout the weekend. I was only around during the end-of-the-day lobby festivities, but I saw lots of editors and agents interacting with writers, making themselves available. Everyone was so approachable, and genuinely seemed interested in talking to the attendees.

And as Paul mentioned in his recap, who said anything about the book business declining? Everyone really did seem hungry, on both sides. It seemed like every other person I met had either won an award or had an agent/editor pleading them to send a manuscript immediately. You could almost hear the doors opening everywhere you turned.

I must say that I, too, had my own bit of excitement. On Friday I had my interview for business school; not only did it go well, but one of the staff members at the school has a brother who is a Walt Disney Imagineer! For those of you who don't know, it is my ultimate dream to design rides for the Disney parks. The imagineer's sister gave me his card, and let him know I'd be in touch. Talk about an amazing opportunity!

Of course, back to the conference, I can't forget to mention the ever-expanding bank of memories and friends that seems to grow exponentially as each year passes. And this year, between wacked-out Dr. Seuss character look-a-likes, an angry astronaut (Did they remember the theme???), an improvised limbo breakout, some renegade socializing (it was kool-aid, I swear), a KEYNOTE with a twist, several discussions of urinal edicate, Face Up Uno, and the best new YA picture book that needs to be written ("You think you like me in economics class..."), this year was certainly no exception.

I would have loved to soak up all the knowledge that you gain in all those breakout sessions, because it did seem to be quite the year for speeches, too. But considering the circumstances, I was pretty happy just being able to spend the weekend with so many wonderful people--again. So thank you to everyone who was part of the magic that happened at SCBWI 2009. And I'll see you next year.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Year, Another Awesome Weekend

And I'm home....and blogging again!

It was great seeing all the old group, and awesome meeting all the new people, too! The best conference I never attended!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Have a Great Memorial Day Weekend (and wish me luck)!

Anyone have any awesome plans for Memorial Day weekend?

For my "holiday" weekend, I'll be working about 12 hours a day. Of course, it's really cool work because I am going to be a referee for the Men's Junior National water polo tournament. This will be by far the biggest event I have ever reffed, and if I do well this weekend, I could potentially get on the fast track to start reffing internationally! Am I justified in being just a little bit nervous?

Anywho, I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My First Blog Award(s)!

Yesterday, Casey McCormick announced a couple of awards over on her blog Literary Rambles.  The first was the Lemonade Stand Award ("for great gratitude and/or attitude"), and the second the One Lovely Blog Award ("For loveliness, I'm assuming").  Turns out I was one of the lucky recipients of this double award! So thanks a bunch Casey! These will forever be the first blog accolades I ever received.

So it's time for me to share the love! In the spirit of how I received them, I'm also going to combine the awards.

The Lemonade Stand Rules:

Lemonadeaward1) Post the award on your blog with the name of the person who gave it to you and link them.

2) Nominate ten other blogs and link to them .

3) Let your nominees know that they've received the award.

 The Lovely RulesOne_Lovely_Blog_Award:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to 5 or more other bloggers that you've newly discovered.

3) Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Your award winners, without further ado (and in no particular order):

1. Paul Aertker

2. Nidal Bukhari, Tyler Kelly, and Jeremy Olson - Twigdiculous

3. Corey Schwartz - Thing 1 and Thing 2

4. Heather Hansen

5. Purple Clover (She won't reveal her true identity. ;) So I can't put her real name here)

I limited it to five, just because I don't have an extensive blog roll, and I want the award to mean something.  All these people are either newish to the blogosphere or newish to me! So check 'em out! (And sorry for the weird spacing, it got all messed up when I added the pictures)

Friday, May 15, 2009

SCBWI L.A. '09: The Conference Breakdown

Last night I had the strangest dream. It was the beginning of this year's SCBWI Writer's Conference. Instead of being in the usual beautiful hotel, however, it was in some cheap Super 8-type Motel, in their run down continental breakfast room.  We were all there, everyone who was part of our awesome group last year. Lin Oliver introduced me as SCBWI's Sanjaya to the small room. Then, instead of opening with a glorious keynote, we chowed down on some dry breakfast.

And guess who showed up? My family. My sister snuck into the table and informed me of her recent aspirations to write a picture book (she has none of the sort), and my Dad--and this is the part that made me laugh hardest when I woke up--ran to the head of the table and led us all in a Scottish jig.  How I knew the jig was Scottish, I couldn't tell ya. Do Scots even do jigs?

We all marched out in orderly fashion, jigging along the way. Paul was dressed in this overly long green and white sweater, and was skipping--yes, literally skipping--in and around our orderly ranks and chanting in fluent Gaelic, making sure we got really into the jig. Paul, I knew you spoke lots of languages, but Gaelic, wow!

That's all I remember, but it provided some great inward entertainment this morning, and is a great segue into the blog post I was planning (at Paul's request, oddly enough).

As I think is pretty obvious, I've been started to look forward to this year's conference (understatement, maybe?). On top of seeing everyone again, there seem to be some absolutely wonderful keynotes and breakout sessions this year.  On the website they're touting it as the largest faculty ever; bigger doesn't always mean better, but it seems so in this case. I'm just glad we have such a big group, so that in some cases we can split up and share notes.

Everyone comes to the conference with different goals and aspirations, and we all base our decisions for our breakout sessions on those goals. Because of where I'm at in my writing process, my main focus this year is agents. It's my first conference with a completed manuscript--a manuscript that is yet to have representation--and I'm really hoping to hit it off with one of the agents that are attending this year.

Of course, I still want to learn about craft, social networking, and the editorial process. In order to achieve a balance, I decided to break down the keynotes by type, so that I could achieve a balance that favored agents but let me experience everything.

Here's what I came up with:

Novelists (and the like): 7 speakers, 3 of which are Fantasy, 1 Historical Fiction, 1 Contemporary, 1 chapter book-age, and 1 is Ellen Hopkins (poetry, but fiction too; not exactly sure how to classify her. The Awesome category might cover it).

Picture Book-ers: 2 speakers, 1 panel.

Editors: 3 speakers, 1 panel.

Agents: 1 panel.

The editors attending, with either keynotes or breakout sessions, are: Dinah Stevenson (Clarion), Jordan Brown (Walden Pond Press, a new HarperCollins imprint), Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books), Wendy Loggia (Delacorte), Krista Marino (Delacorte), Anica Rissi (Simon Pulse), Arianne Lewin (Disney-Hyperion), Andrea Welch (Beach Lane Books), Courtney Bongiolatti (Simon and Schuster), Elizabeth Law (Egmont), Bonnie Bader (Grosset & Dunlap, Price Stern Sloan, both imprints of Penguin), 

The agents attending, who have breakout sessions, are: Daniel Lazar (writer's house), Steven Malk (writer's house), Jen Rofe (Andrea Brown), Marietta Zacker (Nancy Gallt Lit), Sarah Davies (greenhouse lit), Jamie Weiss (Andrea Brown), Kelly Sonnack (Andrea Brown), and Stephen Fraser (Jennifer De Chiara Lit). 

I'm surprised (but personally, pleased) at the plethora of fantasy author keynotes.

Sherman Alexie is the opener; he spoke at my school and was HILARIOUS, so look for another incredible opening keynote this year (the two I've seen, Bruce Coville and Walter Dean Myers, were both phenominal).  The closer is Kathleen Duey, who is a pretty big name too.

Whew! I think that's it.  Who's all going to the conference this year? And what are you going to focus on when there (other than Beer:30 and fun, of course)? Any personal highlights for you? I'll leave a comment later about my personal highlights, as I think this post has gone on long enough.  See you on the Avenue of the Stars!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Your Blog on Kindle?

I opened up Publisher's Lunch this morning and found something very interesting.  Apparently, you can publish your blog posts to Kindle and make them available for purchase for a couple of bucks.  Amazon keeps most of the profit, but I don't really think it's about the profit.

To me, this opens of worlds of opportunity for the power of the web presence.  Maybe not as a pre-published author with a few followers, but as a published author with fans who want to get the latest scoop on their favorite writer, a quick download from Kindle is all they need.  It's just another step in this new development of ebook technology.

What does everyone else think of this? Do you think it has the potential to significantly impact an author's publicity? Or is it an experiment that won't achieve success, and be out of mind in a few short months?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You Tell Me: First Draft or Polishing?

I've been diving back into my manuscript in the last couple days as I start a massive rewrite that I want to complete by SCBWI L.A. in August.

The last couple months have mostly been dedicated to querying and all that, so I haven't even looked at my manuscript since probably February.  While I have definitely made some pretty significant changes already, it has been such a joy to reread my manuscript and remember what I wrote.  And thank goodness, I still really really like my story.

As I've said before, I love the spontaneity and excitement that comes with writing a first draft.  There's nothing like spinning a new story and falling in love with new characters.

Another thing that has no parallel is the revision/rewrite process.  Both are really hard work, but also awesomely rewarding.  I love taking that hefty draft I just wrote and getting down all nitty-gritty-like on a sentence level and turning all those cliches and boring sentences into words that have pizazz and jump off the page.

Of course, whether I do this successfully has yet to be determined.  But it's still fun to try.

So which do YOU like better, the blitz of a first draft, or the fine-tuning of the rewrite?  Discuss!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

To all you mothers out there, I hope your day is filled with awesomeness!

And now, since I just got a new camera (yay!), the best mom in the world! (no offense to everyone else):

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Reject via Tweet

A month or so ago I received my first rejection via twitter.  Anyone else received one of these yet?

I suppose this may require a bit of explanation.  This wasn't a cold query that I sent to an agent, who proceeded to seek me out on twitter just to get my hopes up and then blast me down with an @tmcbroom reject.

I had met this agent at SCBWI LA last summer, and through a series of exchanges I won't go into detail about here, he ended up passing on my partial by sending me a direct message on twitter.  Obviously I was disappointed, but at the same time I felt like I was pioneering a new form of rejection.  So that was cool.

What also came in the direct tweet was the promise of a detailed response (yes!).  That response came in yesterday, and oh man was it enlightening.  He told me I was being overly respectful of both my character and the world I created.  I was describing the world as I had created it rather than how my character saw it, and this was creating distance between my voice as the narrator and the voice of my MC.  Another brilliant little tidbit he bestowed on me was the idea that too many descriptors of a scene don't help connect the reader to the story, but actually do the opposite.  It only takes one quick detail to ground a reader in the scene, and anything beyond that just jumbles the reader's mind and confuses him or her.

I had been debating a rewrite lately, and I'm so grateful to have finally been pointed in a proper direction.  Now it's time to take the guidance to heart, and churn out a drastically improved manuscript!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Final Percy Jackson Book

Just came out today!

And I had no idea that it was actually the last book in the series.  When I read the inside flap on my way to the register and learned that I held in my hands the conclusion to my favorite book series out right now, a swirl of responses mixed inside of me--excited to read the end, but sad that these were the final pages.  I don't know how this piece of information escaped me, but I usually like to anticipate and mentally prepare for a final installment in an epic series.  Like Harry Potter.  I knew it was going to be the end, and I was ready for it.

But now I really can't wait to read it.  I thought I'd have to wait at least another two or three years to learn how the series would end, but now it's sitting in the back seat of my car.  I actually (no joke, this is how big of a dork I am) jumped in the air and pumped my fist as I walked out of Target, book in hand.

Does anyone else read these books?  They're really fun; kind of a similar plot line to Harry Potter, but one of the best examples of a unique, kid-friendly voice out there.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Update: Disregard Anything You Read

Turns out I had no idea what I was talking about when I reflected upon being an agent for a day:  I didn't get any of the three.  Not a one!  I really thought I had some good ones, but ohh well.

To me, this means one of two things: 

Either, 1. I am really terrible at being agent, and can effectively eliminate that as a career choice, OR
2. This completely reinforces the idea that you need to query widely.  Based on the widespread number of queries that had quite a few requests, it seems that it really all does depend on the taste agent, and even more so on your actual manuscript.

How did everyone else who participated fare?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going Dark (With a Capital D)

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I won't be posting for a couple days...going to Disneyland! It's my first time since October!  They may not sound like very long, but for someone who used to get park withdrawals after two or three weeks of not going when I lived in Socal, it's a looong time.  So Medieval Times tonight, and Disneyland tomorrow!  AND, the person I'm going with has never been to either before, so I really can't wait to show her around!  Have a good weekend everybody!  And enjoy making fun of my cheesy picture!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Things I Learned From Playing Agent Today

Today I finally got around to shuffling through the queries over on Nathan Bransford's blog for his "Be an Agent for a Day" event.  Let me tell you, it was a lot of fun!  I highly recommend you give it a try if you can squeeze out some free time out of your day.  It is a great learning experience to give you some insight into the other side of the business, and to help you with your own query.  Casey gave a great sum of what she learned here, but I'll add a few of my own tidbits.

Some highlights of what I learned:
  • Sloppy writing will get you thrown out immediately.  I found myself not even finishing a query if it opened up with an awkward sentence, or some other mistake that fragrantly caught my eye.
  • Voice is more important than a catchy premise.  While a good tag line up front helps, the style of the writing and whether or not it pulled me in was infinitely more important than the one-liner hook, or overarcing premise.  If it was a great hook with lackluster writing, I found myself thinking the hook felt gimmicky.
  • Get to the story right away.  Whenever there was a paragraph of praise toward the agent/writer's accolades at the beginning, I skipped it.  If you're going to include this, put it at the end once you've already got the agent loving your voice and story idea.
  • Accolades help, but not as much as I thought.  If I liked a query, the mention of some publishing credits confirmed my decision to request, but their presence did not sway me into requesting if I didn't much like it to begin with.  Also, a lack of publishing credentials didn't prevent me from requesting if I liked the idea and query.
  • When an agent says it's not right for them, they're telling the truth.  Now more than ever, I realize that that intangible "it's gotta click with me" is one of the most important decisions that an agent makes in deciding to represent someone.  This is the biggest reason to query widely; you never know who it might click with.
Interestly, I only ended up requesting three manuscripts out of the fifty--instead of the alloted five--and none of them were in the genre I typically read.  I found that the most difficult part was deciding in one paragraph whether or not the story idea and writing merited another look.  And most of the time, they just didn't wow me enough to request, especially if I had tons of other agenting things to work on.  Of course, I'd imagine that's how it is in real life, too, which means your query really has to have pizazz to make it out of that slush pile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Books I Officially and Publicly Recommend: The Last Lecture

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture for the third time, and thought I should Officially and Publicly recommend it to everyone.

For those of you who have never heard of the book, and the story behind it, I'll give you some background. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, and given just months to live.  In September of 2007 he gave a lecture called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," so that his kids (ages one, five, and six) could have something to be proud of their dad and reference when they grew up with no memories of him. It immediately became a Youtube sensation--with good reason--and a reporter who had attended the lecture contacted him about doing a book.

The book is packed full of really great life advice, and is also an inspirational story of one man's battle with one of the deadliest cancers there is.  I just loaned my copy to a friend, and she sped through it in two days and asked if she could keep it to listen through again.  If you have any childhood dreams (considering most people reading this write for children, you probably do), then this book will remind you of what it takes to make those dreams a reality.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Blogcation; Yeah, let's go with that (Or, I'm delurking once again)

Hello all! Casey recently announced that she just returned from a blogcation.  Well, hers wasn't as long as mine, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that's what I was on, too.  A nice, relaxing three-week blogcation where I merely lurked around all your blogs.

So I'm returning by offering up some quotes by one of our great presidents of the past: Teddy Roosevelt.  I happened to stumble across these and thought some of them were just too good not to share.  Enjoy!

"Every reform movement has a lunatic fringe."  (so stay true to your writing, no matter how crazy it is!)

"Character, in the long run,  is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit softly."

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure....than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

"Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been effort stored up in the past."

"I am a part of everything that I have read."

"I am only an average man but, by George, I work harder at it than the average man."

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.  In this life we get nothing save by effort."

"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering."

"The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people."

"The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency."

"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything."

"With self-discipline most anything is possible."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Cool Contest Put on by Nathan Bransford

To follow my post on first drafts and their relation to a certain looming sports event, I thought it'd be appropriate to post a link to a neat little contest that Nathan Bransford is putting on here.  Basically, you make your picks for the upcoming tournament and whoever does the best wins their choice of a query critique by Mr. Bransford or a book by one of his clients.  Even if you're not a sports fan its worth entering because with the NCAA basketball tournaments, the people who pick by their favorite color or mascot tend to be the ones who win.  And I think it's a pretty awesome prize!

So go check it out, and feel free to post your picks/trash talk here.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Is everyone wearing their green??

Friday, March 13, 2009

First Drafts: The March Madness of Writing

I love March Madness.  It's the only time of the year I watch basketball, but I just love it.  So many upsets and buzzer-beater victories, and ultimately, a crowned champion.

And with MarPrilWriMo just beginning, it got me thinking: First drafts are, in a way, like March Madness.  You're embarking on this potentially life-changing quest with an end that you (usually) know and want to reach, yet you know there will be massive obstacles along the way if you're characters are to achieve their desired ending.

There are also upsets along the way--the unpredictability factor.  Just as you never know who is going to win any given game in the tournament, in first drafts we're still getting to know the characters.  Dramatic changes can occur at the drop of a hat, upsetting your whole intended plotline.  Sometimes these changes in character or story are unexpected underdogs (figuratively speaking), and you end up rooting for them and figuring out a way to make them work.

This is one of the reasons I have always loved first drafts, and I'm falling in love with them all over again as I start my latest project for MarPrilWriMo.  So many things have happened already that I never could have expected, and it's like I'm meeting new friends.  It's magical and wonderful, and I can't wait to see what happens next (or to see how all these basketball games play out, for that matter!).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Tell Me: Thoughts on Queryfail

I was catching up on Nathan Bransford's blog yesterday, and one of his posts turned into quite a debate about the recent Queryfail Day that some agents were involved in on Twitter.  I honestly had no idea so many people were so upset about it.

For those of you who don't know, Queryfail Day was a little event on twitter where agents who felt like participating could post tweets with snippets from queries that they rejected. The idea was to educate writers on what types of things you shouldn't include in a query, so that we wouldn't make the mistakes of trillions of others.  They also (when it happened, which wasn't often, if you followed it in real time) posted Querywins, which were queries that got partials or fulls requested, and were written well.  The agents used no personal identifiers or book titles or anything in their queryfail tweets.

It turns out that a lot of people got really insulted by queryfail, because some of the queryfail posts were pretty snarky.  They said it disrespected those people who worked hard, done everything they could to succeed in publishing, and sent in something they put their hearts into. Some people even went so far as to say that they will never query an agent who participated in queryfail day.

Since it's going to potentially be a monthly event, I'd like to know what everyone else thinks about this.

Personally, I loved it.  I was not insulted at all.  I maybe didn't learn a whole bunch, but there were a couple tidbits of knowledge I gleaned from it.  But my thing is this: the queryfails that were accompanied by snark had not done everything they could to get published.  If you didn't follow it, there were some pretty ridiculous queries.  The vast majority of those people probably hadn't even written the book, and were just blasting out mass, unpersonalized queries.  Or they obviously didn't take the 30 seconds it takes to look up the agent/editor's submission guidelines.  They are not treating the agent with the respect they deserve, and most of them probably won't even have a clue about the queryfail that they've been a part of.  So I don't really think it hurts anyone.  The queryfails that were generally helpful were posted earnestly, and absent of any snark.  That's make take on it; of course, I'm not an easily-insulted person, so maybe my take is a little less than sensitive. I don't know.

But that's why I want your opinion. :) SO, what do you think about all this madness?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random Childhood Memories #2: Second Grade, Stupid Grappling

Remember my post a little while back about my first grade childhood memory? My first girlfriend?  Well, I've decided to make it a series, working all the way up through high school.  

Remember my buddy from my first story, the one who ended up in rehab by his freshman year?  Well, in second grade, I was still good friends with little old Fred.  One recess on a beautiful spring day, Fred and a whole group of us thought it would be fun if we organized a big old wrestling match out on the school lawn. Naturally, we knew fighting was against the rules, so we did the responsible thing and cleared it with the yard duty.  

"It'll just be a fun thing," we told Sue. "No one will get hurt, we just wanna wrestle." Famous last words.

Sue assented and we proceeded to have a blast. Grass was staining our clothes and dirt was getting in our eyes, and it was awesome.  

Until one kid--Josh, let's say--got a little angry.  I didn't even know what was going on, I was on the outskirts of the skirmish.  All of a sudden I look up and Josh is actually punching the new kid at school, who couldn't speak english and probably didn't understand what the whole point of our fun was. 

When everyone realized what Josh was doing, they yanked him off the new kid, and a new cluster formed--a violent-looking cluster, probably.   The second Sue saw this new cluster, she blew her whistle and broke it up, and proceeded to make us all sit on the bench for the remainder of recess.  As I see it in my mind's eye, it was actually a pretty comical sight: Ten kids squeezed on a little bench, all trying to get a piece of seat.  So recess ended, and I figured that would be the end of it.

No, siree.

No adults saw Josh do the punching, so it was all on the word of the kids.  Naturally, no one said anything.  Not, that is, until the period after recess, when the new kid came in from the other class with Sue.  Everyone looked up from their reading as Sue walked to my desk and asked to see me outside.  What could this be about? I wondered.  Sue answered my question very quickly, and proceeded to tell me that the kid said I was the one punching him!

I ended up getting a citation and having to write 100 sentences saying "I will not punch anyone," and got in trouble with my parents, too.  I was a perfectly innocent kid, and this new guy spoiled my clean record.  It still makes me mad every time I think about it, because I was completely dumbfounded when he told on me. I never did find out why he picked me.  But it sure made me a whole lot less sorry that he got beat up.

Of course, there is justice.  Ol' Josh, the kid who did the punching, ended up getting expelled for possession of Marijuana in the SIXTH grade.  Yep, great elementary school I went to, huh? ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Story in Six Words: Yet Another Challenge

I'm apparently into challenges recently.  Hey, they're fun.  At least, I think so.

Today's challenge: Can you write me a story in just six words?

Here's mine:

"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Sad, huh?  Well, I have a confession: I didn't write that. It's Hemingway's six-word story.

But you get the idea.  What will your six-word story tell?

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Over at her blog, Casey recently stated that she was starting a new novel. Well, I also happen to be on the fringes of a budding project, and have been wanting to crank out one of those really fun awful first drafts.

So what did we do, you ask? To which I wittily answer: MarPrilWriMo.

I'm sure most of you have heard of NaNoWriMo before. You know, write a novel (or at least 50k of one) in a month. We're not going to be quite as intense (shooting for 30k, which averages out to a grand a day), but it still will be a fun, commiserating, one-person-pushes-the-other-until-everyone's-achieving-more-than-they-would-have-on-their-own kinda way to pound out those pages.

If anyone ELSE cares to join in on the fun (not to mention, it'd be almost a third of that 100k we're all shooting for by year's end knocked out), we're starting tomorrow, March 9th and running through April 9th. Midnight to Midnight, I suppose, if you want to be all official about it. We could even potentially schedule some word wars and think up some dares such to make it really feel like nanowrimo. Join us. It'll be fun, I promise.

And see you on the MarPrilWriMo front!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

1,000,000 Words: A Challenge

I was reading my parents' Bottom Line Personal magazine yesterday, and there was a small article about how mastering most anything takes about 10,000 hours of practice and doing before the brain cognitively assimilates the task. This article made me remember something I've read in a couple places in the past few years regarding this topic and writing: Some universal wisdom in the fiction writing world apparently got together and decided that the one million word mark is the point at which one finally masters his or her craft. Now, one million words is an awful lot. It's a little less than the entire Harry Potter series, which took Ms. Rowling a decade to write (granted she probably wrote a lot more than a million words in the process).

But you've got to start in pieces. So I'm posing two things: a question and a challenge.

First, how many words of fiction do you think you've written so far, in your lifetime? Just a rough estimate. I'd guess I'm probably right around 110,000.

Second, I challenge you to add at least 100,000 words to your total before the year is out. Counting today, there are exactly 300 days left in 2009, which leaves only a little over 300 words a day on average. That's only a page in Times New Roman font. That would put me personally over 200k, and I'd be pretty stoked with that. One fifth of the way towards mastery.

Anyone up for the challenge?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Want some great laughs? Queryfail day.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Breaking News: SCBWI 2009's Performance

Assuming they let me back up on the stage at the Golden Kite Luncheon (which I'm thinking they will, since I talked with Lin Oliver about it), I have officially decided what I will be singing at the 2009 SCBWI Nationals in L.A.

And no, I'm not revealing it.

All I can say is that it will be the most excruciatingly epic yet.  Book your flights now.

Homemade Enchiladas!!

Family traditions are wonderful things. Except for when the cousin's new boyfriend comes in and breaks your record.

For probably fifty years now, our family has made homemade enchiladas on my grandma's birthday.  My great-grandma used to be the one to make them, then when she got too old she passed the recipe on to my mom.  Making these enchiladas is a two day process, between making the crepes from scratch, to marinating and grinding up the beef, to finally baking the whole enchilada (literally, and the figure of speech, I suppose).  They are delicious.

Now, my family is full of big eaters, and we pride ourselves on the ability to consume mass quantities of food.  So obviously, there is a family record for most enchiladas eaten.  It is something I have coveted since childhood, and I finally broke it last year.  How many did I eat, you ask? Twenty.  The old record was fifteen, set in the 80s.  I was so proud of myself; that's an epic amount, right? A number that would last generations.

Well, my cousin's boyfriend comes in this year and manages to squeeze down twenty-one.  Darn him.  I was a good sport about it, but I secretly boiled inside, and took solace in the fact that at least he was miserably full.

Next year, though, I'm going for twenty-five.  I keep telling myself that if I had had to last year, I could have put down more, but didn't need to. The record had already been shattered.  I can do it. Right?

Does anyone else have any family traditions that involve gorging one's self with disgusting amounts of food? Or any other tradition you care to share?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Books That Just Stick With You

I'm sick today, so instead of coming up with something to write about, I'm gonna let you all do the work!  Brilliant, right?

So, if you could indulge me, please recommend me ONE must-read book that has stuck with you far after you've come to the last page and put the book down.

My choice at the moment would be THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins, here's an example of the kind of book I'm looking for, and a little insight into how this book gets into your mind and gives you a sense that what's going on in the story is so palpably real: I just finished the book and my parents are watching some special about this guy murdering people on the Appalachian trail. When they started describing to me what the guy was doing, a thought flashed in my mind that "that's not even close to as awful as what the people in the Capitol are doing to all the citizens in the Districts." Then I remembered it was just a book. 

Curious now? Yeah, go get it.  And tell me of a book that made you feel the same way.

(Look at that, I ended up writing something after all.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's Your Favorite?

Ya know how most painters tend to prefer painting one specific type of landscape, or person, or whatever else it is? Well, I'm convinced that writers are the same way. What do I like to "paint" in my writing?

Sunsets. I love figuring out different ways to write that the sun is finishing it's long day of hard work lighting up the world. I've tried to tone them down in my actual manuscript at the risk of sounding redundant, but I still really enjoy writing them. Here are a few samples (One of which is actually the opening line to my novel...can you guess which?):

“The setting sun sprinkled flitters of gold across the crashing waves.”

"The sun’s last rays clung to the city skyline, splashing milky gold across its towering sand structures."

"The sparse trees stood like velvet cutouts as the sun sunk behind the mountain."

Is there one specific thing that YOU really like to write about?

My Very Own Debut Album

Christy alerted me to a really fun little thing, that Suzanne also posted about, so I figured I'd continue the trend by putting up a debut album of my own.  My band is named METACROCEA, and our first album is entitled, "Powerless to Vex Your Mind."

Do your own!

1 -Click here: The first random Wikipedia article you get is t he name of your band.

2 - Click here: The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Click here: 
ht tp:// third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Assemble it in Word, Photoshop or and post a link to it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random Childhood Memories #1: First Grade, First Girlfriend

Bruce Coville said that if you took one memory from each grade of school, you'd have as many book ideas.  I'll begin with first grade, and what else but a little love story.  Have you used any childhood memories in your writing?

I've been in the popular crowd a relatively small percentage of my life, but first grade was one of my years.  My best friend was the coolest kid in the class (who, btw, ended up in rehab by his freshman year in high school), the teacher loved me, and I nabbed my first "girlfriend"--a short-lived experience that has stuck with me still.

It all started while waiting for the bus ride home one day.  There was this big tree that hung over our line; it was a special tree, because it grew two things (don't worry, one of them isn't "Looove").  First, it had those seed things that have a little wing attached so when you threw them in the air they floated down like helicopters. They're like a free parachute-army-man toy.  Second--and more important--they had these brownish clusters of some sort of flaky substance that bore a passing resemblance to baby corn when they were whole.  These flakes were not meant to be eaten.

But I couldn't help it, I loved de-flaking and eating these gifts from above; they were like little golden snacks before the bumpy and boring bus ride home.  On this particular day, Shannon--that's her name--happened to be waiting in line behind me, and we discovered that we both liked to eat those flaky things! Match made in heaven, right? So for a couple days we would sit in line waiting for the bus, and eat the Flakes.

Then I made The Move.  I proceeded to the back of the bus, next to my buddy Daniel, and she sat in the row just ahead of me.  On this particular day we hadn't been doing any sharing of flakes, so conversation hadn't been flowing yet--which makes this next part even awesomer, I think.  I was sitting there crouched low in my bus seat, wondering if I should say hello or make some small talk, when suddenly her hand appears on the top of her seat in front of me.  In a flash of instinct, before I could even think to stop myself, and leaped up and kissed her hand!  She blushed and pulled it away, and I think from then we were official.

A week or so later I got invited to her birthday party, and my mom proceeded to buy (of all things!) a lip-gloss kit.  Come on, mom, what are you doing to me?

Shannon opened up the gift from hell in front of the ENTIRE party, and her mom says, "Ooh, Shannon, now you can kiss all kinds of boys!"

Without hesitation, Shannon shouts out, "I know who to kiss!"  Who might she mean, do you think?

This is not something a first-grade boy wants to hear in front of a huge crowd.  I immediately started scanning the room for something I could crawl into to prevent the shame of a potential public display of affection.  A bean bag chair reveals itself, and I launched into it head first.  I think I blacked out for the next five minutes or so, until finally her mom pulls me from the bean bag chair and hands me a slice of cake.  

I left the party shortly after, and hung up the towel on the whole romance thing.  I would not have another girlfriend for the next twelve years.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Coming Soon: My Website!

So it turns out super bowl commercials really do work.  

After seeing godaddy being advertised, I decided it's high time I started my own author website, and proceeded to buy  Well, it's been since then and I've had wayy too many troubles with trying to get the stupid thing up and running.  Either godaddy's hosting programs aren't that compatible with macs, or I'm just REALLY bad with this kinda stuff.

Now I'm going the easy route.  I cancelled my hosting service with godaddy, and purchased a mobileme account through mac, which (in addition to some other nice features) does it's own hosting.  It's taking a couple hours to activate through my real domain name, BUT I can offer you a little sneak peek here.

I hope you like it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is my local Target the exception, or the rule?

Might there be hope for the future of (children's) books?

I was in Target today, looking to spend my recently acquired gift card, and headed straight for the books section. Let me tell you something, friends, it was practically empty. There were at least five or six different books that were completely sold out, and several others that had maybe one copy left on the rack.

Has anyone else noticed this, in stores like Target? And does it mean book sales are up, or that Target just isn't buying as many books? It seems to me that if these books are selling out at Target, then they should be doing at least fairly well in other actual, well, bookstores.

At Big Sur Andrea Brown did say that history has always shown children's books survive through hard times in the publishing world, so I'm hoping this is an indication of things to come. Maybe parents are finally realizing that if you calculate the number of hours of entertainment you get with reading a book and compare it to how long it takes to watch a movie, books are actually VERY cheap entertainment.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope everyone has a good one! Me, I'm heading to the local semi-pro hockey game, where 103 couples will be getting married in between periods! Should be some high-quality entertainment!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Age of Overwhelming Stalking (aka Social Networking)

They say this is the digital age, the age where anyone can become an overnight success by just adding a couple of the right friends on their favorite social networking site.

I say it's the writer's equivalent of the lone, nerdy new kid trying to date the entire cheerleading squad and become best friends with the entire roster of the football and basketball teams at once (and who knows how many of us were that kid).  It's too much!  What do I use?  Facebook? Myspace? Twitter? My blog? The list never ends!

When I do finally sit down to try to make some "connections," my intent to research (read: stalk) one or two people ends up being an aimless wander around the web.  Of course, in an age where you can become best "friends" through one click of a button, I guess that's a good thing.  The one time that A.D.D. tendencies come in handy.

Maybe all this wandering and discovery means I'm getting better at it.  Goodness knows I'm trying.  You'd think having grown up with the internet, I'd be a pro at it.  Too much time spent in the pool I guess.  I'm discovering that, like everything else in life, it's mostly about developing the proper bum-gluing habits of sitting down at your desk and not only writing, but seeing what everyone else in your realm of potential social connection is doing as well.

And making posts like these so that people will actually come check you out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My First Rejection Letter!

As some of you may know, I sent a partial to an agent mid-November.  Well, after sending an update email about my experience at Big Sur and more waiting, I still have not heard a word.  Since this partial was not an exclusive request, I recently decided to get back in the query game.  And I must say, it's pretty fun and exciting!

I sent off a couple queries, one yesterday afternoon and one last night.  The one from last night responded by 9:30 this morning!  He said no (as you observant types may already have figured out based on the title of this post), but it was polite and personalized.

Now, why, you ask, do I seem so darned excited about getting a rejection letter?  Shouldn't I want to go crawl in a hole and weep miserably? Didn't I print out my manuscript, just so I could tear it to pieces, curse at it, and use it for kindling in the fireplace?  To which I say, heck no!  

Here's why:  First, the agent I sent to mostly works with older YA and adult, so it was kind of a long shot anyway; I just really like his blog and he seems like a great agent and person.  Second, after over two months of agony and eventual numbness in the waiting I've already done, the 14 hour turnaround was absolutely fabulous!  Quick and painless!  It felt awesome just to be affirmed that a great agent had at least read my query and written ME an email.  The process seems a lot more palpable now, too, like my quest to publication has truly begun and is actually happening.

Best "no" I've ever got....Forward!

Monday, February 9, 2009

TWO Fantastic Movies this Weekend!

Before this weekend, I hadn't been to the movies in a while.  I love movies, just never get around to going to the theater; books are a lot cheaper entertainment.  This weekend, though, I managed to get myself into a seat with a huge soda and a bucket full of popcorn TWICE. 

First was Coraline on Friday night.  Perhaps the best animated film I've ever seen based sheerly on its artistic merits.  The colors were so vibrant and the 3D added so much depth and layers to the scenes that it just sucked you right into the story--which was pretty darn good, too.  Just enough creepiness to make it fun, but not overdone.  While I intended to read The Graveyard Book before I saw the movie, it's shot to the top of my list after witnessing the power of Neil Gaiman's imagination.

The other movie I saw was Gran Torino.  Wow, what a film.  This was the first Clint Eastwood movie I've ever seen, and he was fantastic.  It was certainly colored with some potentially offensive language, but I think it was handled so well that it fit with the tone of everything else and didn't bother me one bit.  Of course, I'm not one to be easily offended.  Lots of laughs and drama throughout; great, great movie.

I think maybe I need to get to the theaters more often.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dusting Off Dreams

So, in doing some research and general steeping myself into the culture of my next book series (which takes place in a fictitious theme park), I've been reading Walt Disney's relatively new 800 page biography--and getting REALLY motivated. Like, really.

Alas, this motivation has very little to do with writing books. I'm starting to hearken back to my original dream that brought me down the path to being a writer in the first place: animation/theme park design. A couple years into my college career I got really into the notion that I wanted to start my own animation studio, which would eventually lead me to opening my very own theme park. I bought a bunch of books on animation and imagineering, and designed several rides and a cartoon character for each land in the park, six in all. I was very into it. Only problem is, I can't draw. At all. Seriously.

But then another idea for a story popped into my head that I liked a lot, too, and that idea transformed itself into my first novel, which I just finished. Writing was great because I didn't have to find some awesome artist to animate my ideas and bring them to life; I just needed a notebook and a computer, and my ambition.

But in reading about Walt and all his struggles and successes, and the fabulous story that is his life, I'm wanting to get going on that almost-forgotten dream of mine. I love teamwork, and all the comraderie and group effort that goes into something like an animated film or designing a ride is what I'm really looking for in my creative outlets. I'm seriously ready to pack up right now, move back to LA and start my own animation studio.

Too bad I have a car payment weighing me down (although Walt did sell his car to pay for the second take of recording the audio for the first Mickey cartoon...history repeating itself, perhaps? Or so I'd like to tell myself.) and the general concern for eating food and surviving. What's an ambitious young man to do?

I'm thinkin' I need to find me a good animator, that's what. Or maybe publish a book or two first, get some clout in the creative field. Who knows, but my hope is that some of this pent-up motivational energy will at least spread to all of you who read this, and you'll each go crank out like five novels in four hours. Because that's how excited I get when I start talking about this stuff.

Now get crankin'!

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year, New Start (Old Cliche)

I've been bad about writing lately.  After furiously writing to finish my book by Big Sur and to submit my partial, I got kinda burnt out.  I don't think I've written anything since the beginning of December, actually.  I could blame it on the fact that I'm still waiting to hear back from my partial, and I don't want to make any major changes until I hear something.  I could, but the truth is that I've just been lazy.  Ski season started, and I began to enjoy relaxing in my free time (who does that?), and I've hardly even thought of my book lately.  And I must admit, it's been kinda nice.  But it's not me.

Time to kick it back into gear.  Nine was always my number in sports, so '09 is gonna be my year, right?  I've never been one for new years' resolutions, but this fresh year is staring me in the face, and there's this new project I'm starting to get excited about and do some research for, and I'm getting motivated again!  Plus, this new project is a little simpler (for now) and light-hearted (and shorter), so it should be lots of fun to work on.  And I guess I could get a couple other queries ready, just in case, yeah?

Anyone else using the new year to start something exciting?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Big Sur Rollercoaster Ride (Part Two)

First off, Happy New Year everyone! Hope it's been a great one so far. Everyone get a chance to read Part One? Good.

So, where was I? Ah yes, dinner on Saturday night. Well, I ended up sitting at the same table as the aforementioned Editor again (I swear I wasn't stalking him; on Saturday night he actually approached ME as we were walking into the banquet room). We had another great dinner, and when I started talking with the people next to me about what I write, The Editor piped in from a couple seats down and said, "and he writes it very well." Well how about that? That little comment from him gave me the confidence to eventually ask the ultimate question. I'll get to that in a bit.

As dinner wore on, the subject of Agent MS, who I've submitted a partial to, came up, and The Editor mentioned that he was good friends with him. More good news, right? After hearing that, a little seed planted itself in my mind about how I might maximize the potential of the weekend. But it was a seed that would only blossom if watered with some courage.

After dinner, there was a fantastic Q & A with all of the editors that were in attendance. They talked about publishing/submitting in general, the absolute necessity of an agent, and the state of the children's book industry in this economy. Good news, folks: while every other division of the publishing industry might be hurting horribly, the children's sector is perfectly fine. They said that history has shown that children's books have never suffered too harshly, even in a recession/depression, because children always need to read. So the editors are all absolutely still acquiring, and the agents are all absolutely still looking for new authors.

Okay, back to my little seed. Let me preface this with why I was slightly nervous: When we were in our second critique group with The Editor, one of the members asked that if we worked REALLY hard and revised our work, could we maybe submit to him? He answered with a flat, "Absolutely not," that was sorta joking-but-serious, then said bye and walked out of the room without another word. I talked to him later about that and he felt kinda bad about it, but I actually thought it was quite hilarious. But you can see that he's not afraid to say no, and how that might make me nervous. Now, while sitting at dinner, I thought what better way to give my book a little nudge towards success than a couple approving words from a major editor. So after a couple quick self-pep talks, I approached The Editor and said, "I was wondering, and feel free to say absolutely not, but if I could maybe get your stamp of approval to send a quick update email to Agent MS saying that you enjoyed my material."

He replied instantly with an, "Absolutely! Tell him I enjoyed it and am interested in it, and you can tell him that I told you to say it."

So there you have it; I obviously got on the computer right away and emailed Agent MS with the update. I still haven't heard back from him, but I know he's very busy and I've gotten used to waiting. But NOW, even if I do get a rejection this time, I'll be able to include in my query that The Editor has expressed interest in my manuscript. Talk about your Ace in the Hole for getting something read.

The next day we had our final critique group. At that point my weekend had been made and I didn't really care how this one went, but it actually went really well, and added a very nice little extra positive spin to coast into that final section of the insane rollercoaster that was my Big Sur Weekend. It sure made the next week in Disney World a lot sweeter.

(P.S., Sorry it took so long for Part Two; I've been in Colorado since the day after Christmas without access to a computer. Sheesh, I feel like I'm always apologizing for taking too long to post things; maybe I need to be more disciplined.)