Thursday, April 29, 2010

Prolific Blogger Awards!

I was pleased as punch to receive the Prolific Blogger Award from Catherine Winn of The Writing Room. I would like to pass it along to the following bloggers whose writing I enjoy:

  • Susan Kaye Quinn at Ink Spells, whose intelligent & well-written blog focuses on books for a sometimes-overlooked group: advanced middle-grade readers.
  • Nelsa Roberto at out of the wordwork, who just launched her debut YA novel, Illegally Blonde--isn't that an awesome title?
  • Lori Degman at Habitual Rhymer, whose book you may find when you pour your morning bowl of cereal--she was this year's winner of the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories contest--and who had the guts to post a hilarious video of her first negative review on YouTube!
Check out these ladies' blogs--I think you'll enjoy them as much as I do!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Insights from the Conference

Here are just a few notes from Angie Fox's wonderful class. If you have a chance to take a class with Angie or hear her speak, grab it--it will be very valuable!
  • To sell a paranormal in a crowded market, you must find your twist--the thing that makes your world unique.
  • Characters must be in conflict with the world and themselves
  • Pinpoint the conflict between a character's personality and their situation
  • Readers (including agents and publishers) won't care about plot until you make them care about the characters.
  • To build sexual tension, give the characters a big conflict--a reason why they can't get together. When they do get together, don't let it be smooth sailing--give them more problems to overcome.
  • The weather, people brooding about their families, people brooding about being lonely--these are NOT good openers.
  • Open with interesting conflict, not back story.
  • The opening action must pay off.
  • Write strong threads into your opening to give yourself something to build on.
  • Figure out what your character dreads--and do it to them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Teaser Tuesday Twofer

I got this from Aubrey (AKA Stacey) at My Pile of Books:

"Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading."

Here's how to play:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    DO NOT INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.
Here are my teaser sentences--first, the opening sentences from The Accidental Demon Slayer, a paranormal novel by Angie Fox (who taught an awesome master class at the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference last weekend), in which Lizzie meets her grandma for the first time:

"I know I hadn't envisioned an apple-shaped woman in a Kiss My Asphalt T-shirt, with wind-burned cheeks and a sagging tattoo of a phoenix on her arm. But what I really didn't bargain for was a brief hug, followed by a forceful shove that had me landing firmly on my butt on the cold, black-and-white checked floor of my hall bathroom."

And from 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein:

"The world shifted, catching lots of smart people off guard, churning up issues you had thought had settled forever beneath the earth's crust. The more sophisticated you are, the more annotated your mental life, the more taken aback you're likely to feel, seeing what the world's lurch has brought to light, thrusting up beliefs and desires you had assumed belonged to an earlier stage of human development."

You can put your teasers in the comments section--or you can post them on your own blog and put a link in the comments.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Fantastic Writers' Conference!

Just got home from the Missouri Writers Guild Conference held in Chesterfield, MO this weekend. I'm so glad I went! I had a great time, learned a lot, and met a whole bunch of talented people who are serious about writing--and, at the same time, friendly and approachable. Here were some of the highlights of the conference for me:
  • Master Class--"Lining Up the Bones: Crafting the Paranormal Novel" (taught by Angie Fox, NYT Bestselling Author of The Accidental Demon Slayer)
  • Pitch sessions with Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, Suzie Townsend, and Kristin Nelson
  • Breakout session--"Writing for Young Adults" (led by Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List)
  • Panel Discussion--"Elements of Mystery Fiction" with Jo Hiestand, Judy Moresi, and Esther Luttrell
  • Keynote Address by Harper Barnes
  • Breakout session--"Pitching an Agent" (led by Dakota Banks, author of the Mortal Path series)
  • Breakout session--"The Magic of the Short Story" (led by Rebecca Carron)
  • Breakout session--"Writing the Middle Grade Novel" (led by Suzanne Lieurance)
  • Breakout session--"Platform for Posting" (led by Fedora Amis and Kim Killion)
I'll post more about the conference, but it will have to wait a bit. After Angie Fox's amazing class, I have a new direction for one of my middle grade novels, and revision is on the front burner. I also have a request for a full (for my chapter book) and two requests for partials!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Win A Critique!

Marcia Hoehne, an Institute of Children's Literature instructor, is hosting an April Critique Giveaway. Go to Marcia's blog for a chance to win a critique of the first 1000 words of your children's story, chapter book, middle grade novel, or YA novel. But do it fast-- the contest is open for submissions for just three days (April 15, 16, and 17).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

School Library Journal has an interview with Beverly Cleary on her 94th birthday! I've been a huge fan of Beverly Cleary since I was very young. Her wonderful, character-driven stories about Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, Ellen Tebbits, and that bad boy, Otis Spofford, made a lasting impression on me. I clearly remember seeing Otis Spofford up on the reserve shelf in the bookmobile that came to my school each month, and longing desperately to read it--but it was being held for someone else. Eventually, of course, I got my hands on it! Ms. Cleary says she started out as an elementary school librarian. A little boy changed her life when he came into the library and asked, "Where are the books about kids like us?" There really weren't any, so Ms. Cleary took it upon herself to write them--and we're so lucky she did! All of her amazing books are still in print. The birthday card above was made for Beverly Cleary by Caldecott Award-winning Paul Zelinsky--it features Ralph S. Mouse.

The photo above is by Kate Wade.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Missouri Writers' Guild Conference

The Missouri Writers' Guild Conference is next weekend--it really crept up on me! I just sent in my registration. Three well-known agents will be there:

  • Joanna Stampfel-Volpe  (Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation), who says in her bio information that she reps "children's chapter books to upper YA", as well as some adult genres. Joanna wrote a query critique for GLA here, and a guest blog post on Susan Adrian's blog here.
  • Kristin Nelson  (Nelson Literary Agency), who represents middle grade, YA, and adult fiction, and who writes the wonderful blog PubRants. An interview with Kristin on the GLA blog can be found here.
  • Suzie Townsend (FinePrint Literary Management), who seems to represent primarily YA and adult fantasy, as well as adult non-fiction--but in her blog, Confessions of a Wandering Heart, she says she is interested in middle grade, too. An interview with Suzie on The Blog Realm can be found here, and more information is posted here
There's a hilarious video here posted on April Fools Day-- it features Joanna and Suzie both simultaneously finding the BEST MANUSCRIPT EVER ... and literally coming to blows over it!

I've signed up for my first pitch session ever, which means I've got less than a week to work up an "elevator pitch". I still haven't even decided which manuscript to pitch ... it's between my chapter book and one of my middle grade novels. Kristin Nelson has already seen my middle grade in its earlier incarnation; in fact, she requested a partial, but then sent a polite rejection. Even though it's been through extensive revisions since then, I'd rather try her with something new. I have not yet queried either of the others, although they are both on my list of "agents to try".

There's an Agent/Editor panel discussion scheduled for Friday night. The agent appointments will be held on Saturday, running concurrently with a variety of Breakout Sessions. On Sunday, there are several Master Class options, including one by Angie Fox called "Lining Up the Bones: Crafting the Paranormal Novel".

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another Awesome Contest...

Anna Staniszewski is having a contest to celebrate her hundredth follower on her blog. She's awarding two soon-to-be-released YA novels as prizes--Mockingjay  (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. Visit Anna's blog and find out how to enter!

New "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest on GLA

The fabulous Guide to Literary Agents blog is having another "Dear Lucky Agent" contest--and this one is for middle grade and YA fiction. Regina Brooks (pictured here), founder of Serendipity Literary Agency, will judge the entries. Head on over to GLA to find out how to enter!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Story Pages

I've added links to some of my stories for very young readers and listeners. Most of my current writing falls into the middle grade range, but over the years I've also written quite a few stories for younger children. Since I'm not actively marketing most of these, I decided to post a few as writing samples.

To access them, please click on the Pages tabs at the top. If you're reading this through FaceBook, you'll have to go to the actual blog at

Reader's Theater:
Just Two Words
I wrote this humorous, easy-to-read play about a wizard wannabee for children reading at an end-of-first grade grade level. It uses familiar vocabulary, and incorporates repetition. The story was inspired by a Taoist tale about a monk who took a vow of silence to enter a monastery--only to find conditions not to his liking.

Marco's School Bus
This read-aloud about some confused animals is for children ages four to six. It would be especially appropriate for a little one who is going to ride a school bus for the first time. It was published in the back-to-school issue of Stories For Children in August 2008. I retain all rights to the story.

Brave Haley and the Halloween Scream
A silly easy-to-read story with a Halloween theme, intended for children reading at a first grade level.

Feel free to copy the stories for your students or read them to your children, but please make no changes to them, and make sure they are attributed to me. I added some royalty-free clip art to brighten the pages, but the art is not my work, and should not be considered a part of the story.