Thursday, September 30, 2010


Remember those photos I promised you?  I bet you thought I was going to let you down, what with there not being a new post up this morning, huh?

Well.  It took a little longer that I had hoped, but I finally (temporarily) got my camera working.  And as for my awesome weekend, let me just say...

I got to meet the ladies who wrote all those.

Did I mention I got their books signed?

All those books?

Yeah.  And the women were pretty great, too - the funny, quick-thinking, hilarious kind of great.  And the generous kind - they signed books for HUNDREDS of people.  HUNDREDS.  Margaret Stohl actually came out and worked the line, signing books and chatting while people were waiting, because she's that cool and nice.

So, yeah.  AWESOME.

NOW: since I have almost a hundred followers, I'll have an announcement coming up in the next couple of days, involving a contest with some pretty cool prizes.  AWESOME prizes, even.  But not yet.  For now, I'm going to go lie down in the middle of my books of awesomeness.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Cue the Music!

I found myself in a bit of a situation the other evening.  I had an assignment due for my class the next day, and I just wasn't happy with what I'd written.  It was riddled with cliches, there were huge paragraphs of exposition, and most importantly, my main character was really flat and generic.  I had an idea of how I wanted to approach the rewrite, but I found myself just staring at the blank page, paralyzed.  I couldn't begin.  Sitting at my computer, faced with a fresh page, I still couldn't get past the words cluttering up the previous ones.

So, I tried something I've never tried before.  I usually prefer to write in silence, so I don't get distracted by conversations or lyrics.  But this time, I thought for a while about my MC, and about the theme of my book, and I decided to try listening to a song that kind of touched on that idea.

It worked.  The words started flowing, and I finished with something that, if not perfect, was definitely a solid draft - a huge improvement over the version I had started with.

I had to stop the music after a while because it did get distracting eventually, but it got me started.  So next time you hit a wall, try putting in some music that would fit in the world of your book, and see if it's enough to get you over that hump and into the next thousand words.

Have you tried writing with music?  Did it help or hinder you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Got Plans This Saturday?

My camera has died.  So, no photos today.  I'm sad, too.  Hopefully, I'll have some for you on Thursday.  In the meantime, you'll just have to keep guessing about what I did this past Saturday.  (I know.  I'm evil.  You'll adjust.)

Instead, I wanted to share the news of a really cool event that some Canadian authors I know (and others I don't know) are participating in this week.  It's called "Airlift to L.A.", and it's the brainchild of children's author Helaine Becker, who is working in conjunction with Access Books and four other authors (Rob Weston, Kari-Lynn Winters, Jill Murray, and Wendy Kitts - who has a picture book coming out soon with Nimbus Press) to bring hundreds of books to Bunche Elementary in the Compton Unified School District on October 2nd, 2010.  (That's this Saturday, guys!  And click those links back there to check out their author blogs and websites - pretty great stuff!)

Why Bunche Elementary?  Because their library has about 3 books for every kid who attends the school.  3.  A tiny fraction of what they should have.  And 90 % of the kids who go to this school live at or below the poverty line, which means school is probably the only place they have access to books at all.  Their library shelves are practically empty.  Not only that, but these kids, who have so little and whose lives are so challenging, need books more than anyone - to escape the daily hardship they endure, to know that they are not alone, and to see that the world can hold more for them than this.  I know this need.  We can't ignore it.

So, what can you do?  If you live in the L.A.area, you can volunteer to help paint the refurbished library and stack their new books on the shelves.  Remember, that's THIS SATURDAY, October 2nd, at 9 AM.

If you're busy this weekend but live in the L.A. area, you can volunteer with Access Books (who provide books for dozens of impoverished schools in Southern California) and help with marketing, publicity, or a myriad of other things.

If you're nowhere near the L.A. area (like me), you can hold a book drive, donate books, or simply help out by donating some cash.

Just do something.  Then, leave a comment about it.  And spread the word!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Happy Monday, everybody!  I hope you had a good weekend.

Mine was kind of crazy

Friday evening, I took my older one to the bookstore to meet Natale Ghent.  She was coming to the tween book club meeting that night because the kids had all read her book THE ODDS GET EVEN, which my own little odd fellow really related to.  It deals with bullying in a funny and liberating and wonderfully awesome way and you need to read it if you read middle grade at all.  (It was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award this year, guys.  READ IT.)  And Natale was funny and warm and related SO well to the kids.  I am her newest fan, and meeting her was the highlight of my week.  And we talked BOOKS!

Then came Saturday, which was a little bit awesome - it involved seven Smart Chicks, some microphones, flying keyrings, and a few hundred people screaming and hooting.  I was one of the screaming people.  In case you haven't figured it out, I'll post pictures tomorrow that will explain everything.  But believe me when I say, it was AWESOME.  Oh, and: BOOKS.

And then yesterday, my family took a road trip to this place:

to meet this lady, who also dragged her family there on a road trip of their own.  And we had a lovely afternoon chatting about all things writing while our spouses entertained the kids.  Somewhere else.  They say it was the Children's Museum, but based on the volume of sand that came out of my littler one's shoes, I'm guessing they tried digging their own version of the Chunnel under Lake Ontario.

So, MORE awesome.  And also, MORE BOOKS!

So, yeah.  Three days, three bookstore visits, one weekend of awesomeness.  I'm wishing it were Friday all over again.

How was your weekend?

Friday, September 24, 2010

How To Write Compelling Characters

We break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this post, which is one of many in The Great Blogging and Writing Experiment conceived of and hosted by super-blogger and author Elana Johnson.  This is in no way a blogfest.  (But go ahead and click that link and check out all the other great posts on this topic, which is just like a blogfest, but we won't tell Elana, okay?  Shhh.)

So, how TO write compelling characters, anyway?  The honest answer?

I haven't got a clue.

Seriously.  I write, but I have no idea as I write if my characters are compelling.  So I thought that today I'd talk about what I find compelling in other people's characters, since studying others' work is a great way to learn.

When I read a book and find myself drawn to the characters, it's usually because they have certain qualities that I find endearing or admirable or attractive somehow, and those qualities usually contrast with some other aspect of that person in an unexpected way.  For example, I've read a lot of YA recently where the female protagonist is petite and physically unassuming, but has a fiery personality.  Or maybe a character is very physically attractive, but also very bookish and a little bit nerdy.  In the case of TWILIGHT, Carlisle and Edward Cullen both crave human blood, but they have a moral code that forbids it.  In theatre, we call this "playing opposites", where things look one way and then you twist it a little; I think it's important that we do this with our characters in literature, as well.

Backstory also plays a big role in whether I find a character compelling, and this is also a trick I learned first in the theatre.  We used to spend hours creating entire life stories for every single character that we were going to play - even the minor ones who only had one scene and maybe one or two lines of dialogue.  As soon as I had read through the script for the first time, I would sit down and figure out who this person was: where did she grow up?  Who raised her?  What does she like to eat for breakfast?  Is she a coffee drinker, or does she prefer tea or juice?  Is she a night-owl, or an early riser?  How many friends does she have, and what does she talk to them about?  What are her fears?  Dreams?  Once I'd worked all of this out, I knew who my character was, and I'd know how she would react in certain situations.  I'd know how to play her scenes.  When we write our characters, even our minor ones, we need to know their whole story.  When an author knows her characters' stories, it comes through in the writing, and I end up wanting to know more about those characters, even the minor ones.  Diana Gabaldon has developed a whole spinoff series about Lord John Grey, one of the minor characters in her OUTLANDER series, because people wanted to know more about him.  They found him compelling.

I don't want to write any more - this is a long post as it is - but there's something to go on.  Make them contradict themselves a little, and outline their backstories ahead of time.  So far, I think it's working for me.

What do you think?  Have you tried either of these things?  Did it work for you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SPEAK. Loudly.

Yesterday's post was such a hit that I wanted to leave it up for another day, but there's some really important stuff going down right now and we just need to discuss it.

I'm sure you've heard of SPEAK.

It is a raw, beautifully crafted exploration of the traumatic emotional journey of a girl who endures something unbearable, but does not feel that she can safely speak about it.

How ironic that some guy who thinks he's somebody in Springfield, MO wants to silence it.  How ironic, too, that he lives in a suburb of Springfield called Republic, and he dares to call into question the foundational belief in the right to freedom of speech for which our Republic stands.

You know, I grew up in Ohio.  When I was a teenager 15 years ago, all the things he complains about in the books were happening.  Not in books or movies, but in real life, to me and my friends.  Kids were getting drunk.  Kids were getting high.  Kids were definitely having sex, and some kids were getting pregnant.  Even at my college prep high-school, where we were supposed to be the best of the best, these things were all actually happening.  Books like SPEAK gave us the tools we needed to figure out how to handle these things and come out the other side better and stronger than before.

But let's say he's right - let's say, for argument's sake, that the only reason teenagers even get into this stuff is that they read about it or see it in movies or on TV first.  All teenagers are perfect angels, until they're corrupted by the insidious and dangerous media.  (They're not, and he's not right, but let's just suspend disbelief for a second and pretend.)

The problem is, all adults aren't.  And if my son gets mugged by an adult, or sees his girlfriend getting raped by an adult, or comes across a child getting beaten by an adult, I want him to have had access to books like SPEAK so that he knows that it is okay to talk about it and get help with it.  I want him to have the tools to succeed, no matter what crap life throws in his way.

So, let's speak up.  Blog about it, and leave links on Laurie Halse Anderson's blog to your posts.

It's time to speak.  LOUDLY.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Do It Now

My husband and I tried our hand at pursuing a business venture about a decade back.  Without going into the painful details, I'll just say that we sucked and leave it at that.  But despite our major suckage at trying to manage people and make money, we actually learned something!  And it's something that applies to life as well as writing and business management.  That little pearl of wisdom?

Do it now.

Those breakfast dishes you just created?  Do them now, not after they've sat in the sink for a few hours (or days).  That pile of crud your toddler leaves under the table after every meal?  Clean it up now, not after it's had time to dry to the floor.  The layer of dust you noticed coating the television when you went to check the weather?  Deal with it now.  That blog post you know you need to put together?  Do it now.  Got an idea for a picture book?  Write it down now, while it's fresh in your mind.  The schedule you've been meaning to write for yourself to keep yourself on-track and make sure you fit in writing time every day?  You're at the computer reading this; open up a spreadsheet and do it now.

When you go through your day, as you see things that need to be done, just do them.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Top Ten TV Shows Bloghop!

Since I did my last Friday Favorites on Premiere Season, what better than to do a post for a Blog Hop, hosted by Alex Cavanaugh, on my Top Ten TV Shows of All Time Ever?  Apropos, yes?

SO, here we go: my Top Ten favorite TV shows, in no particular order:

1) MASH: Hawkeye.  Hot Lips.  Radar.  Need I say more?
2) The Cosby Show: As a child, I wanted to have parents like like that; as an adult, I want to be a parent like that.
3) The Big Bang Theory: Nerdy, clever, hilarious.  Watch it.
4) Star Trek: Essential late-night viewing throughout my teenaged years.
5) Grey's Anatomy: Compelling drama + talented actors + medical jargon + Chandra Wilson as a bossy boss = WIN.  (For the actors in the crowd: THEIR EYELINES ARE AMAZING, THE DIRECTORS EVEN MORE SO.)
6) Arrested Development: Jason Bateman and Michael Cera struck gold with this comedy that takes "dysfunctional family" to a whole new level.
7) Glee: It's funny and smart.  And there's singing and dancing!
8) Get Smart: The ultimate spy spoof.
9) Desperate Housewives, Season One: Poked fun at the evening soap while simultaneously peeling back the layers that veil the true desperation of a Stay-At-Home Mom in a way that was brilliant, clever, and often poignant.
10) Planet Earth: Because I want to know EVERYTHING.

How about you?  What are your favorite TV shows?

Don't forget to check out all the other entries this morning; maybe you'll find a new show to love.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Favorites: PREMIERE SEASON!

I usually hate September.  School starts again, it gets cold, everyone with kids has to impose a schedule of getting up before dawn and packing lunches and doing homework, it gets cold, it gets windy and rainy, it gets cold...

But about 2/3 of the way through, my favorite thing happens.  All the good TV shows come back!  Woo-Hoo!

Can you tell I like TV a little bit?  (Okay, a lot!)

I am so psyched for the return of Glee and Grey's Anatomy.  Glee is upbeat and fun and has great choreography and I'm a sucker for worlds where people break out spontaneously into song, and man, can Lea Michelle sing!  Plus, Jane Lynch. 

Need I say more?

And Grey's Anatomy is just compelling.  And well-cast.  And well-written.  And the actors are very, very talented.  It is one of my dreams to be cast in Grey's.  And also:


How about you?  What shows are you looking forward to this season, and what do you like about them?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Just Can't Get Enough

After giving up the rich decadent deliciousness of caffeine and chocolate ohHOWIMISSYOU, which wreak havoc with my already erratic sleep schedule (plus, they give me migraines - WHY ME, WHY???), I've got a new habit.

I am addicted to my critique groups.

Getting great critique is awesome - when you know something is wrong with your WIP, and then someone says something that just makes the lightbulbs go off and you rush back to the MS with that "YES, I know exactly how to fix this now and it is going to ROCK!"?  That's excellent.

But seeing something that one of your crit buddies has created and asked for help with and being the person to give the feedback that gives them that eureka moment?  And then seeing how much better they have made it afterwards?


Oh, yeah.  I'm hooked.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Mixing it Up

You know how writing - especially writing while trying to hold down a FT job or raise young kids - can sometimes leave you in a rut?  You have no time for frivolities like TV, you never go out, you hardly ever hear from your non-writing friends, and all your free time is sucked into the vortex that is your computer screen, but you're tired all the time and you just can't think of anything good to write about?

That happened to me once or twice.  You know what brought me out of it?

Catching up with friends.  Starting something new (in this case, something fun and exciting and secret that I will share with you at a not-too-distant future date).  Renting a movie now and then.  Going for walks.  Making time to play with my kids.  Getting out in the world.  Mixing it up.

Not only do I feel more connected with the world and more whole as a person, but I have more ideas for great stories than ever before.  I spend less time actively thinking about writing, but I'm a better writer for it.  I have more experience and insight to bring to the table when I craft my stories.

How about you?  How do you Mix it Up?  Does it make you a better writer?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To Blog, or Not To Blog?

I'm being a bad writer today and breaking from my schedule (Bad Ishta!), but I saw Elana Johnson's blog post yesterday on whether we promote good books, or books by authors we like based on their online presence, and it really got me thinking.  I decided to do some field research (online, of course - who says "field research" has to involve actually going somewhere?) on just how much of an online presence these mega-best-selling authors have, anyway.

The answer?  A lot.  Of the top ten books on the current New York Times bestseller list for MG and YA books, only one is by an author whose debut novel came without a whole whack of blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and other e-fanfare beforehand.  And since that debut 6 years ago, the author has stepped up his e-presence considerably, with a regular blog, website, and Twitter account.

What does this say for aspiring authors everywhere?  To me, it says an online presence is pretty important.  Will blogging your butt off make a mediocre book into a best-seller?  Probably not.  You still need to pour the bulk of your effort into writing an amazingly good, un-put-downable book.  But in an age where tweens and teens are almost universally wired, being accessible (and likeable!) online will almost certainly give you the edge over authors who aren't.

What do you think?  Is an e-presence essential to the debut author's success?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writerly Webinars, Classes, and Other Things You Should Know About

I don't know about you, but my head is swimming with webinar opportunities and writing classes and weekly chat opportunities and frankly, if it weren't for my handy planner, I'd be in a bit of a flustered tizzy. I thought we could use a little round-up, since there's so much going on.

First, for those living anywhere within reasonable distance of Toronto, there are several "continuing education" classes on writing for children being offered at the University of Toronto - woo-hoo!  That means anyone can sign up, guys!  There are three units, one of which is being taught by the Silver Birch Award-winning author of ZORGAMAZOO, Robert Paul Weston.  If this class is even a fraction as good as his book was, it will be a bargain.  You can read more and register for that here.  Hurry up, because it starts on September 20th.

Incidentally, the U of T has a whole bunch of classes on writing for kids, for which there are no pre-requisites, which means anyone who wants to write can register, and you can find those here.

Lots and lots of other universities offer classes in writing for kids all around the world, but I don't live anywhere near any of those and it would take me the whole term just to type them all in, so Google your nearest Uni and search their continuing education classes for whatever they're offering.

Also, Mary Kole, a literary agent with Andrea Brown (I'm sure most of you knew that, but seriously, if you haven't heard of her, check out her KidLit blog because it will blow your socks off!), is giving a webinar with Writer's Digest on Thursday, September 23rd.  Included in the price of the webinar is a guaranteed critique by Mary of the first 500 words of your novel or the first 300 words of your picture book.  Do you want to miss this?  No, you don't.  Read more and register here.

CALLING ALL PICTURE BOOK WRITERS: There's a weekly chat just for us over at every Sunday evening (for those operating on Eastern Time)/Monday mornings (for those in Australia)/whatever time it is where you are in the world when it's Sunday evening on the East Coast.  For more info on that and for instructions on how to join in, go here.

That's about all I have space for, but I'm opening the floor to you guys.  I want to make sure everything gets in here, so I'm not posting again until Tuesday, and I hope that if you know of a class/workshop/webinar and you think it looks good, you'll let us all know about it (with web addresses so we can find out more, please) in the comments.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Favorites: Let's Talk Movies!

I LOVE movies.  I think it must go back to when I was a kid and my dad would talk them up like crazy and we'd rent a whole bunch and make popcorn and have movie marathons.  No holiday is complete for me without movies.  And popcorn.  I love popcorn, and what's popcorn without a good movie?  It's like Lucy without Desi.  Bonnie without Clyde.  X without O.  Peas without carrots.  Fish without chips.  (Should I stop now?  I should stop now.  This is me stopping.  Now.  ahem)


Anywho, I thought it would be fun to share our favorite movies.  Some of mine are:


  • The Goonies, which made it cool to be uncool.  How cool is that?
  • The Wizard of Oz, which is still so magical and layered and complex that I just can't watch it enough.  I still discover new things every time I watch that movie.  Like how the farm hands' lines in the beginning all relate to their reincarnations in the Land of Oz - I didn't pick up on that as a kid, but I sure got it when I watched it with my 7-year-old.  A movie that speaks to kids and parents alike in such a subtle way is pure awesomeness.
  • The Lost Boys, which I now realize got me hooked on vampires.  Thanks, Kiefer.
  • Stand By Me, which is just amazing for the relationships, and for making me "get" that it was about the relationships when I was a kid.  My friends and I all learned how to play the song "Stand By Me" on the piano, we loved the movie so much.  And none of us actually played the piano!
  • Superman, for a whole bunch of reasons.  Besides, who doesn't love Superman?  Bad guys, that's who.  And only because they're jealous.  Also, Christopher Reeve was my first crush.  *blushes*  (And apparently, the comic strip was first conceived of by a teenaged Canuck while he was living in Cleveland - who knew?)

  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  I have been married to my husband for 12 years.  We watched this movie together.  We both laughed until we had tears in our eyes, because this movie is secretly about us.
  • Blood Diamond, because we need to know what kind of shit goes down in order to get diamonds from there to here, and because Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing in it.  (And no, I don't wear diamonds.)
  • The Incredibles, because it is incredibly funny and fun and it has Edna Mode.  I'm waiting for the sequel, Pixar - what's the holdup?
  • Taxi Driver, because Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorcese are an unbeatable combination.  (I'm a huge Scorcese fan.)
  • Mediterraneo, which you should watch even though it is in Italian with subtitles because it is BEAUTIFUL.  And the Italian makes it even better.  (Also: Go watch Life is Beautiful.  Now.)
  • The Deer Hunter, which wasn't afraid to be powerful and deep and wrenching.
How about you?  What are some of your faves, and why?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Prioritization

First: Bryan Russell over at The Alchemy of Writing is participating in the Terry Fox Run, an annual event to honor an extraordinary Canadian while raising money for cancer research.  Go here to learn how you can help.

And now on to the subject of today's post: prioritization.  I posted a couple of weeks ago on making a schedule, and how well it works for me (really well when I stick to it, not at all when I don't).  One person commented that her life had been thrown off-balance by various new concerns, and that she had way too much on her plate.

Can I share a personal story here?

I used to be one of those "Save the World" types of people.  I was always the provider of a sturdy shoulder to cry on and sympathetic ears for listening and a font of knowledge for anyone who cared to ask and I was on a bajillion committees and I generally looked after everybody in my life as well as I could, on top of getting top grades and having lots of interests and causes and things.  I was on the debate team and the eco club and in the musicals and I was class secretary and a candy striper and I babysat and tutored andandandandand.

None of it was fake or done out of a sense of obligation or to get something out of it; it was just who I was.  I wanted to help.  I liked to help, and I still do.  But by the time I got to college, all this helping while maintaining top grades and three part-time jobs (hey, I went to a small liberal arts college; those places are EXPEN$IVE) and taking mostly arts- and literature-based courses (read: lots of work) was getting to me.  The pressure just built and built and built, and I cracked.  In a breaking-down-in-tears over my oatmeal, everyone staring at me, my advisor telling me to take a few days off from classes kind of way.

And in that moment, when I was sitting across the table from my wonderful advisor with tears spilling into my oatmeal (Wendy, I am still grateful for having you in my life), she said exactly the words I needed to hear: "You can't save the world, you know.  And you don't have to."

And that was it.  I cut back on my extracurriculars, I decided what was most important to me, and I focused on doing the things that would get me there.

And this is what I want to share with you.  You don't have to do everything. You don't have to knit your kids' clothes from scratch and make gourmet meals and have a house worthy of Martha Stewart and have perfect kids and follow the blog of every agent and every author and every editor in the English speaking world and be in 10 critique groups.

Take an hour, or an afternoon, or even a week or a month, and really think about what things in your life are the most important to you right now.  Is it having kids who know that they are loved?  Growing your internet presence?  Finishing two novels this year?  Finishing one novel this year?  Having a neat and tidy house?  Rank things in order of how important they are to you.  Prioritize them.  And then focus on the most important things.

As for me, I still struggle with this sometimes.  Should I really be blogging right now, or should I have spent that time on one of my WIPs?  I've decided to let this week be a week of flux, where I let the heavy writing go a bit (but I'm still revising things I've already written, and outlining my current projects) while my kids settle in at school and my family settles into a new routine.  Next Monday marks the beginning of a new schedule.

My house is a mess, but my WIPs get nearer to completion every day and my kids know that they are loved. For me, those are the most important things.

How about you?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In Celebration of Author Visits, and an Announcement

The other week I took my son to see a well-read guy
Who wrote a novel all in verse.  (A thing I've never tried.)

We sat around in folding chairs; our books were in our laps.
And then the author sauntered in, to our resounding claps.

The bookstore lady grinned and said, "My gosh, I love this job!
I give you Robert Weston!"  And he said, "Please, call me Rob."

He took a seat, we said "hello" and introduced ourselves.
He talked about his favorite books; we told him ours, as well.

Then questions, lots of questions - yes, we really picked his brains.
He shared all his techniques, his secret methods, and his pains.

He gushed about his agent, cover artist, and the rest
Of lovely folks who worked so hard to make his book the best.

We asked him just how long it took to write it, anyhow?
He said it took him four whole years - the kids said, "Holy cow!"

We begged him, "Will you read for us?"  He smiled and said, "Why not?
Just let me find the passage in this softback that I brought."

And as he read, the children all leaned forward in their chairs
To hear the story of a girl who eavesdropped from her stairs.

He waved his arms, he leaped about, he cackled, wheezed, and grimaced.
I gazed upon my son: his eyes were shining, start to finish.

The bookstore lady thanked him then, and asked if he could stay
And greet the children one by one to end their special day.

He shook our hands; he signed our books; he posed for pictures, too!
I asked him: "Do you teach a class?"  He said, "Why, yes, I do."


If you live in the GTA (just like my son and me),
Then you can take Rob Weston's class, down at the U of T.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Out of the Frying Pan

Just when I thought I was done with the whole "e- versus print" debate (I'm on the side of print), I find something that makes me want to jump right back in again.

The most recent something manifests itself as IT'S A BOOK, a picture book by Lane Smith that enumerates in hilarious detail all the reasons why I love print media.  I found myself laughing out loud in the middle of the bookstore, and I immediately bought it for myself.  (Not for my kids - there's a swear word on the last page.  But definitely for myself.)

Go now to the bookstore and buy this book.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

What side of the debate are you on?  Print, or digital?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grey Griffins Contest!

In case you haven't heard yet, Shannon Whitney Messenger is hosting an awesome contest to win signed and drawn in copies of THE BRIMSTONE KEY, the latest in the middle grade Grey Griffins series by Derek Benz and J. S. Lewis, as well as some awesome signed posters of artwork from the series.


Go enter!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Favorites: Kids' TV

Some of you know that I write (at least, I try to write) across a range of age groups and genres, from concept to quirky, from contemporary to paranormal, and from picture book to YA (and most things in-between). Alongside that, I read a lot, but I also watch a lot of TV.

I have very logical, very writing- and acting-related reasons for watching TV - I do! But they are for another post. Since this is Friday Favorites, today's post is about my favorite TV shows. And I feel a little goofy admitting this, but...

'The Backyardigans' is one of my favorite shows. (sheepish grin)

(And check out those awesome cupcakes by Ana Fuji - my kids would probably murder me if it meant they could have just one of those.  Hell, if I were one of my kids, I would probably murder me for one of those.  Or at the very least pester me to death.)

The storylines manage to be interesting and compelling to kids while maintaining a generally benign feel (as in 'Blazing Paddles,' when the "villain" was a ping-pong paddle-hoarding ping-pong shark), they are clever (with take-offs on classics like Blazing Saddles, Star Trek, and Mission Impossible), and each episode has a different musical theme, from Bollywood to rock anthem to 20's swing. Each character is well-developed and distinct, with his or her own personality quirks. And, it's hilarious. If you write picture books - or even chapter books - you need to check this show out.

So, yeah. I get my kicks watching a quintet of computer generated animals shake it. In Technicolor. Sometimes with popcorn.  *ahem*

I have other favorite shows, but they'll have to wait for another Friday. In the meantime, the floor is yours. Do you like 'The Backyardigans'? What are your favorite shows?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Staying True To Oneself

Elana Johnson had an awesome blog post yesterday about "staying cool," and what that actually means. Like most of the people who commented, I think it's a mixture of staying true to yourself, staying in touch with what is real (as opposed to what is perceived), allowing yourself to change and grow as a person, staying humble, and living your life as you need to live it without worrying about what impression you're making.

And then I thought: what does that mean as I work on my manuscripts? I guess it means I should write the book that is burning to be written, and not worry about squishing it into a trend.

And then I thought: but what about all those agent blogs that talk about a book needing to be marketable before they can take it on? And I remembered all of the ideas I've had for books - pages and pages of ideas - that I've put on hold while I work on the one or two ideas that I think will be the most marketable. Suddenly I feel very un-cool.

And I wonder: how can I possibly stay true to myself while pursuing a career in this? Is that even something I can do? Is the only way to stay true to oneself and write marketable work to just have lucky timing?

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Squeezing it In

My piece of wisdom this Wednesday is all about what I am doing right now. That is, squeezing it in. No, not my stomach. Sheesh. This is a writing blog, people. "It" is writing/blogging/tweeting/facebooking/critiquing/ reading time. I'm not at home typing this on the computer; I'm in the parents' lounge at my kids' dance studio, typing it on my (very cheap, purchased in lieu of a laptop) netbook. I'm squeezing it in.

"Squeezing it in" means identifying all of those moments in your day when you're not really doing anything besides sitting around. Waiting for an appointment; sitting on the bus/train/airplane; waiting for your kids or spouse to get out of class/an appointment/work; even, if your cell phone is really good, standing in line. These are all moments in your day that could become "working" moments. Type a quick tweet or catch up on reading blogs while you wait for your coffee at Starbucks. Dash off a blog post while your kids spin, turn, and sashay under someone else's supervision. Squeeze it in.

Squeezing it in isn't only for the fully wired, either. A small notepad in your purse or briefcase can become the storage place for your thoughts and ideas until you can get the kids in bed and get in front of your computer.

Plan to use the down time in your day to make progress in some area of your writing life. You'll have more time for the rest of your life, and less to do at the end of the day. (Which means more time for that other important-but-elusive thing called sleeping.)

So, that's my wisdom. Squeeze it in.