Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays!

May your bookcases runneth over, and may your mailboxes be full (of publishing contracts!).

See you all in 2012!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Favorites WORLD RECORDS!

I once aspired to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. I was 9, and I saw a picture of a woman standing on a chair. Her hair went all the way down to the floor, came back up, was draped over her arm, and went down to the floor again. That was some L-O-N-G hair. I decided that I wanted to have even L-O-N-G-E-R hair.

Of course, genetics kind of got in the way of that one. Same for the tallest and shortest categories, and a lot of other categories.

But who am I kidding? I still want to be a world record holder. It's just a thing. Don't you feel the same way?

Enter Corey Henderson and Dan Rollman, yellow jacket wearers extraordinaire and founders of THE RECORDSETTER BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS, whose philosophy is that everyone can be the world's best at something: you just have to figure out what that something is.

With records like Longest Time Hula-Hooping While Standing on One Leg (12 minutes, 1.45 seconds), Most Balloons Used in a Costume (a whopping 154), and Most Bunnies Snuggled With in a Hammock (50, held by none other than Cameron Diaz), this website and accompanying book bring the fun back to record-setting, and prove that you don't have to be genetically blessed or favored by the Universe to be a World Record Holder - you just have to be creative, and have a healthy sense of fun.

Check out their website at and their Facebook page at, and follow them on Twitter at And get their book, but be warned: you won't be able to resist trying to set your OWN record!

As for me, I think I might go for "Most Toy Cars Stacked and Balanced on a Forehead." Or maybe, since my hair is pretty big, "Largest Straw Wig." Or "Largest Toothpick Wig." Or maybe ALL THREE. Heh-heh-heh...

What record have you always wanted to set?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: When Networking was Always Social

"Social Networking"

Let's admit it - it's a buzz word. Possibly THE buzz word. But why?

Because the gadgets DO allow us to lose touch while we think we're keeping in touch, so we need to remind ourselves that all that time we spend MyFaceSpace+TweetBlogging shouldn't just be about us and our product. We need to build in the time to connect with other people, ask them questions about their interests, talk about life and science and cupcakes, swap stories about our kids and share our favorite songs.

But that isn't the only way. Once upon a time, networking meant going to a place where there were others in your field, like a meeting or a conference or an awards ceremony and shaking hands with people and starting a conversation.

In the publishing industry, it still means that. We have SCBWI conferences (and CANSCAIPmeetings and conferences too if you live in Canada), and awards ceremonies, and book launches, and book clubs, and all kinds of fun writerly things going on.

As we spend December cramming in the pre-Christmas gift exchanges and charity dinners, let's think about how we can make a new start in January by either starting a local writerly event, or finding one to attend regularly. Some of my most treasured friendships and best person-to-person connections in the publishing world started with a handshake and a conversation. I hope it will be the same for you.

How do you plan to put the "social" back in "Social Networking" in 2012?

Monday, December 5, 2011

NaNo, No, No.

So I didn't make the 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. To be honest, I didn't even come close.

I did outline, and I did write a few scenes. I've made a great start on my novel. But I didn't finish.

It came down to this: my Physical Therapy team told me that in order to heal my shoulder, I would need to do about 40 minutes of exercises and stretches three times a day for several weeks.

40 minutes x 3 = 2 hours a day = my NaNo time.

I hated making that decision, but when it comes down to healing and taking care of my body versus spitting out 50,000 words of crap, taking care of myself wins every time.


I don't have a crappy novel that will need months and months of revision. I DO have a couple of well-crafted scenes that will probably change anyway, but are serving as a good foundation. I have a solid outline. I have a chapter book whose first half is beautiful and whose second half is about to go out to my crit group for feedback. And I have a bunch of many-times revised picture books that are nice and shiny and polished. (You'd be amazed how much work you can get done on a picture book when you only have slivers of time scattered here and there.)

All things considered, I did okay.

How was your November?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Memoriam: RIP, Anne McCaffrey

I received the sad news in my inbox today that Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragonriders of Pern series, has passed away.

I was an avid reader and watcher of Sci-Fi as a kid - I lost myself in Star Trek episodes and devoured the Pern series. Anne McCaffrey was a big part of why I decided to write books: I wanted to give kids the same feeling of being transported that I felt while reading her books. She was one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever to have written, in my opinion, and the world is better for having had her in it.

You can read more HERE, in Galleycat's feed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MMGM: THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan

It's MMGM time! Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by the lovely Shannon Whitney Messenger, who thought Middle Grade deserved more internet attention, and I agree! So most Mondays I spotlight a great Middle Grade book that I've read and loved.

This week, I want to tell you about THE TIFFIN, by Mahtab Narsimhan. Here's the cover copy: Bombay is home to the dabbawallas, a group of deliverymen who bring boxed lunches -- called tiffins -- to workers all over the city. For every six million lunches that are sent, a tiffin goes missing only once.

This is a story about one of those times.

When a note placed in a tiffin is lost, young Kunal is separated from his birth mother and ends up living as a twelve-year-old slave under the thumb of his foster father, Seth.

Kunal turns to his friend, a kindly old dabbawalla named Vinayak, for help. Vinayak takes Kunal under his wing, showing him the world through the eyes of a tiffin carrier. Filled with new hope for a better life, Kunal hatches a plan that could reunite him with his mother.

Aren't you just dying to know what the plot is and whether it works? I know I was after reading that.

I loved the characters in this book: Kunal is a true picture of a twelve-year-old boy, complete with stubborn temperament, and I really wanted him to find his birth mother and have her love him. I can't tell you what happens, obviously, but I can tell you that there are lots of twists and turns, and that at one point I was on the edge of my seat almost shouting at Kunal. (You'll know that scene when you get to it!)

But the thing that I most loved about this book is the setting, and the way she makes it come alive on the page. From the very first line, the sights and sounds and smells of Bombay swirl around in your mind. The descriptions are so vivid that I actually feel as if I have been there, even though I never have. And the little bits of Hindi dropped throughout the dialogue and text are the perfect finishing touch.

The bottom line is that I really loved this book. Not only is it a great story, but it brings Bombay (now Mumbai) alive for young readers who may never have a chance to see it in person, and that alone is a pretty amazing gift. So check it out! And if you liked THE TIFFIN, you'll want to check out her other books, which you can do HERE.

And then go to Shannon's blog HERE, for links to more Marvelous Middle Grade!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Favorites: Licensed Toys

It's Friday! The sun was shining, there was a light dusting of snow floating down through the air, and I finally started some strengthening exercises for my shoulder.What an awesome way to end the week.

And to top it all off, I opened my son's Scholastic leaflets this morning and saw that fellow writer, all-around wonderful person, and friend Helaine Becker has some AWESOME news: the porcupine in her Christmas book, A PORCUPINE IN A PINE TREE, has been turned into an adorable little plushie! I don't want to accidentally breach copyright by posting a picture of it, so I'll link to the Scholastic page, which is HERE, so you can go over there and admire it.

I'll wait.

ISN'T IT CUTE?!? I'm so thrilled for Helaine and Werner (who illustrated the book), I can't tell you. Except, I just did. Um... (Hey, it's Friday. Don't judge.)

So, this got me thinking about a good theme for this week's Favorite: licensed stuff! You know, those character-based dolls, bookmarks, stationery sets and the like. Some people hate those things, but I'm a total sucker for having physical evidence of my obsessions.

When I was a kid, I loved the Hello Kitty erasers and stationery sets.

Now, I'm into plushies. I'm particularly fond of the Zoobies. They're large plush toys that have soft fleecy blankets inside. They start out looking like this:

Ant then you open up a couple of velcros and do a bit of unrolling and they end up like this:

PERFECT for snuggling up under with your favorite book, or for keeping your legs warm during a four-hour typing marathon.

I've got the Olivia one in my office, but there's also a Very Hungry Catterpillar one that I'm really hankering for.

So how about you? Is there a character-inspired toy/stationery set/thing-a-ma-bob that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? What's your favorite?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNo Nutso

LORDYCAKES, I have dropped the blogging ball this month. Sorry guys. NaNo + PiBo + houseguest = crazy Ishta. I'll try to do better from here on in.

FIRST, my next MMGM will go up NEXT MONDAY, when I will be spotlighting one of my favorite books to come out this year by one of my favorite people, so make sure to come back for that.

And now for the nutso part...

I changed my NaNo project at the last minute. I was originally going to write a YA dystopian that I've been thinking about for a few months now, but the characters just weren't coming together. And then I met Sandra Bogart Johnston last month at a conference, and hearing about some of the books she's been working on got me thinking about my family and their role in WWII, and THAT got me thinking... there's a book in here somewhere. And I really want to write it.

So I'm outlining and taking notes for a YA historical about the guerilla movement in the Philippines during the Second World War. And I love it. That stuff about writing the book you're burning to write is totally true - I've never had the words fly out so fast before.

What have you been writing about? How is NaNoLand treating you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNo News

It's November! And you know what that means...

National Novel Writing Month!


Picture Book Idea Month!

And because I'm CRAZY, I'm doing both again! WOO-HOO! Let's hear it for the crazy people!

So, the thing to know is that this month, posting will be erratic. There will be one MMGM post next Monday, and NaNo posts on Wednesdays, and maybe the odd random Friday letting-off-steam post about nothing in particular, but for the most part, I'm not going to be here. Because I'm going to be HERE, in NaNoLand.

Are you NaNo-ing this year? If you are, come find me - my user name is Ishta - and let's be buddies!

And in the meantime, I've spent the last few days wondering how to start my NaNo novel. Last year, I started on page one. But there's more than one way to steamroll your way through 50,000 words, and this year, I'm trying something different.

I'm just going to start. I've got the beginning of a scene in my head, and I'm just going to start there and work my way over, around and through this thing.

So if you're like me, sitting there with this kernel of an idea and wondering what to do with it, maybe try that. Just start with the scene that is your idea, and go from there. See where it takes you.

Happy NaNoWriMo-ing!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Shout-Outs - SCBWI Canada East edition!

Every time I go to an SCBWI Canada East conference, I'm struck by what a supportive group of people writers are. We back each other up, cheer each other on, and urge each other forward at every opportunity, and I am so grateful for each and every one of my writing friends.

Some people you need to meet are:

  • Catherine Austen, critique partner extraordinaire, who writes picture books about cats, Middle Grade novels about surviving incredible losses, and YA dystopian. Can you say "versatile"? Am I thrilled and honoured to have her eyes on my PB manuscripts every month? Hell, yes. Is she super-nice and encouraging? Totally. Do I love her to pieces? Yes, I do.
  • Rachna Gilmore, another incredibly versatile writer whose work runs the gamut from hilarious to touching and back again. I heard her read an excerpt from her novel THAT BOY RED and it was absolutely captivating. And her blog is smart, and full of helpful things for writers to think about and implement in their own work. Read it.
  • Ben Hodson, illustrator extraordinaire who has lived the kind of life that you think you can only read about in books. I'm serious. If you don't believe me, find him at a conference and ask him to tell you about his illustrating journey. And in the meantime, follow his blog.
There are more, but you'll have to come back next week to meet them. And in the meantime, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Revision With RJ Anderson

Earlier this month, I had the enormous pleasure of attending SCBWI Canada East's fall conference in Ottawa, where I met literary agent Susan Hawk (who was super helpful in her talk about queries and what makes them work), Scholastic Canada editor Sandra Bogart Johnston (whom I had met previously at the TD Awards, but I didn't have my glasses on that night because I'm a dork (yes, it's true), so I only sort-of recognized her, but she was VERY gracious about it!), illustrator Ben Hodson (who I think is the most versatile illustrator I have ever met), and a whole whack of other people.

And I had my arm in a sling the whole time!* So I couldn't even come on here to blog about it until just now! But believe me, you wish you were there.

On Saturday, RJ Anderson, author of SPELL HUNTER and two more books in that series and of ULTRAVIOLET, out just now, as well as another upcoming series, talked about revision. More specifically, she talked about the difference between true revision and tweaking, which is what most of us do when we think we're revising.

I can't go into the details of what RJ said - for that, you just need to go hear her talk about it. But the one thing she said that resonated with me the most was that revision is exactly that: it's a re-VISION. I's seeing your MS in a new way.

So, onward, faithful blog-readers. Listen to that voice in your head that is telling you that something isn't quite there. Have the courage to truly revise your work. And if you ever get a chance to hear RJ Anderson talk in person, do it.

*See the asterisk at the bottom of Monday's post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

MMGM: Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters, by Rachel Vail

I'm back with another Marvelous Middle Grade read! Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger, who thinks Middle Grade deserves more online attention that it's been getting, and I agree! So check back every Monday for my take on great Middle Grade reads.*

This week I wanted to highlight JUSTIN CASE: SCHOOL, DROOL, AND OTHER DAILY DISASTERS, by Rachel Vail. Here's the blurb from Goodreads: It’s the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn’t get the teacher he wanted, he’s not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn’t seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he’s lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can’t tell anyone, because technically he’s too old to still have stuffed animals. Right? Here is third grade in all its complicated glory—the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math. Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell’s line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers’ hearts.

And I have to say that this book does not disappoint. The voice is pitch perfect - I can hear my son, who is quite the third-grade worrywart himself, on every page. And I was struck by the skill with which Vail captures the diary voice, while at the same time managing to make every plot point and turn of events relevant to the story and to the development of the character. This was a great read, and it was one that both my son and I enjoyed. Check it out!

And be sure to check out Shanon's blog HERE for more MMGM!

*Except for the past couple of weeks. I dislocated my shoulder - pantyhose + wooden stairs = bad, people. Don't do it. And typing with one arm in a sling? Slower than frozen molasses. So I haven't posted in a while - but I'm back! My shoulder is stiff, but at least I can move it enough to type!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay it Forward Blogfest Blog-hop

It's finally here! The Paying it Forward Blogfest!

For those of you who don't know, this blogfest is the brainchild of super-bloggers Matthew MacNish and Alex Cavanaugh, and the whole point is for participants share with you three blogs that we know and love so everyone can discover new blogs to read and love. And there were 171 people participating last time I checked that linky list at the bottom of this post, so I'm going to make this short so you guys can get on with the finding and following!

Blog numero uno is one that I love because it gives me some insight into what teens and young people are reading and loving, and why. Featuring book reviews, buzz, and giveaways, it not to be missed. It's called Reading Teen, and you can find it HERE.

Next up: Reading in Colour, by the wonderful, generous, wise-beyond-her-years MissA. This blog was started to bring attention to books about people of colour, which could use some more attention, if you ask me. With honest reviews, giveaways, and spotlights on issues like whitewashing of covers, this blog is one to pay attention to. Read it HERE.

Finally, a blog for the science nerd in all of us: Sci/Why. Featuring some of my favorite writer-peeps (like Lindsey Carmichael, critter and ledge-talker-downer extraordinaire, and Helaine Becker, a networking powerhouse who can research and write about anything and who is a wonderfully nice person to boot), this blog tackles questions covering everything from what eyebrows are for to just how dirty fuel from those oil sands really is. Find it HERE.

Yeah, I snuck in a couple extra ones there. I couldn't resist. I can never just choose a few; there are so many great blogs to choose from.

Now visit the other peeps on this linky list, and happy blog-hopping!

Your turn. What's one of your favorite, not-very-well-known blogs?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shout-Outs, TD Award Edition

I'm participating in my blogging friend Matthew MacNish's Pay It Forward Blogfest this Friday, so we're mixing it up a little today. But this is important, so it's worth breaking from the routine.

I had the great pleasure last week of attending the amazing, literary star-studded TD Canadian Children's Literature Award presentation and gala - and wow, what a party!

The food was great. The people were fabulous.(OF COURSE! I mean, a room full of book people, guys!) The presentation of awards was exciting and wonderful. And then, more food! I made off at the end (to heckling from the waitstaff) with three mini cupcakes. Yum!

But the reason we were all there was to honor the best in our craft. I know a lot of my readers are in the US and may not know a lot about Canadian kidlit, so I want to take a minute to list here the winners of the various awards presented Tuesday night, so you can go check them out.

And here they are, in the order in which they were awarded on the night:

The winner of the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People:

THE GLORY WIND, written by Valerie Sherrard, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside

The Winner of the John Spray Mystery Award:

A SPY IN THE HOUSE, written by Y. S. Lee, published by Candlewick Press

The Winner of the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction:

CASE CLOSED? NINE MYSTERIES UNLOCKED BY MODERN SCIENCE, written by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Michael Wandelmaier, published by Kids Can Press

Winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award:

I KNOW HERE, written by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James, published by Groundwood Books

Winner of the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award:

PLAIN KATE, written by Erin Bow, published by Scholastic Canada

(And Erin won all of our hearts with her teary-eyed speech when accepting the award - she complimented every one of the other books nominated. A class act all the way.)

So, go check out these amazing books by Canada's best. Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesday: From the Mouths of Babes

My kids made this the other day, and my 8 year-old son said about it:

"If you wear these then whenever you fall down, you'll always land on your feet."

The writing business and the acting business have a lot in common:

  • They're both about storytelling.
  • They're both about finding the emotional truth of each moment.
  • They both involve a lot of rejection.

And you'll be a lot better off if you can always land on your feet.

How my kids picked up on that is anybody's guess. But I'm so glad they did. Theirs are words to live by.

What have you learned from the kids in your life lately?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Art of Revision

First, this post is one day late. Sorry about that. This has been a crazy start to October.

And part of the crazy is that I've been rewriting a lot. In particular, I had this one manuscript - my CPs will know which one I'm talking about, but I won't say here - that was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Most everyone who looked at it thought it was either ready, or very very close.

Except for one person, who thought it was too quiet to be marketable. That person was an agent.

So, I wrote a new version. A much more character-driven version. And I think it's a lot more marketable, but I don't know yet if it's better.

Does that matter? What good is a great manuscript if I can't sell it? Should I go ahead and try to market my masterpiece, and to heck with selling lots of copies? Should I drawer the old one and go with this newer, more marketable, maybe not amazing but still pretty good version?

These are the questions running circles in my mind this morning.

Do you ever sacrifice a small amount of quality for marketability?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Shout-Outs - Rejection Letters of Awesome

My amazing CP Kristen Hilty, whose blogs over HERE at The Monkey Patch, is running a "Rejection Letter Tally" contest over at her blog. It got me thinking:

Rejection letters really aren't that bad.

Sure, they represent another name to cross off your list, another place where your book won't find a home - at least, not this draft of it.

But they also represent a growing network of people who understand who you are and what you do. They mean that you're getting your name, and your work, out there. They represent names to add to the growing list of people who you can send your work to in the future, when you are a stronger writer and your manuscripts are even better than they are now.

So, here's to sending out your work. Here's to opening yourself to the possibility of another rejection letter: because you're also opening yourself to the possibility that some day down the line, something wonderful is going to happen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Read a Banned Book Today

So I read on Lisa Asanuma's blog yesterday that the last week of September is Banned Books Week. If you're like me, then the first thing that comes to mind when you read that is the recent censorship of Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN, in which the "N-word" was replaced with the word "slaves" in a misgiuded attempt to protect the innocent eyes and minds of the current generation from the horrors of racism. Because, you know, that's waaaay better than talking to them about racism and educating them about healthy attitudes towards our fellow human beings and what lessons we can learn from the past, especially since we're sooo far beyond that now. It's not like anybody ever talks openly about hating Muslims or anything. *ahem* (In case you weren't sure, that was some pretty heavy sarcasm there.)

But to get back to the point, I expected to find HUCKLEBERRY FINN in the list.

HOWEVER, there were, for me anyway, some real shockers on the list of banned books. Like Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, banned because of its accounts of his having a child out of wedlock and making advances towards younger women. Neither of which I knew about before now, but that doesn't change the fact that he contributed enormously to America. I can't believe his autobiography was actually banned at one point.

Or LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, banned at one time for its racist attitude towards Native Americans. (See my comments about HUCKLEBERRY FINN above.)

But most shocking to me is the news that the HARRY POTTER series has been banned from some schools in the US for advocating wizardry and witchcraft.

Umm... Yeah. I think you know where I'm going with this one.

Suffice to say that while I respect every parent's right to guide their children's reading choices, I do not in any way, shape, or form support the idea that a book should be banned wholesale from any school, library, bookstore, city, country, hillock, or any other place. I believe in the free and peaceful exchange of ideas through conversation and printed matter. In other words, banning books = seriously bad.

So in honor of Banned Books Week, I'm reading a few banned books. On my TBR pile for this week are Lois Lowry's THE GIVER, John Steinbeck's THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and if I have time, George Orwell's 1984 (which I've already read, but it's a book that bears re-reading). I'm already reading HARRY POTTER, so let's throw that one on the pile, too. (I know. I'm a little behind. But I was waiting until they were all out to save myself from the anguish of having to wait a year between books to find out what would happen next. That's my line, and I'm sticking to it.)

Check out the list on Lisa's blog HERE (because I don't want to steal for my blog a list that she clearly worked hard to find or compile), and tell me:

Are there any surprises on this list? More importantly, what banned book will you be reading?

Monday, September 26, 2011


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger, because she wants to give Middle Grade fiction the attention it deserves out here in the blogosphere. And I agree!

So this week, I'm spotlighting a real favorite of mine: THE CITY OF EMBER, by Jeanne DuPrau.

Here's the back copy: Citizens of Ember shall be assigned work at twelve years of age...

Lina Mayfleet desperately wants to be a messenger. Instead, she draws the dreaded job of Pipeworks laborer, which means she'll be working in damp tunnels deep underground.

Doom Harrow draws messenger - and asks Lina to trade! Doon wants to be underground. That's where the generator is, and Doon has ideas about how to fix it. For as long as anyone can remember, the great lights of Ember have kept the endless darkness at bay. But now the lights are beginning to flicker...

I loved so much about this book. I love the way the characters come to life. Lina and Doon are both so well thought out and fleshed out and consistent that I was rooting for them the whole way.

Additionally, there's a mystery element to this, and it's pitched just right: not so easy that my son felt insulted when he was reading it, and not so hard that my he couldn't figure it out. It was just enough for him to think about and he was able to make the discoveries either with Lina and Doon, or just barely ahead of them enough to root for them. Finding a book that does this well for this age group is tough, so I really appreciate it when I do.

Even more, this is a book that stays with you for a while. It raises questions about what it is to be a good citizen, what it is to be a good person, and what it means to wield power over others. It explores how even the best of intentions can, over time, go horribly wrong, and how individuals can make it into something positive again. It gets young minds asking some really good questions.

Finally, I loved the ending. I thought it was perfect. It wrapped up just enough to satisfy the reader, but not so much that anyone's intelligence was going to be insulted. It left things on just the right note, and I love it when I find a book that does that.

In short, this book is awesome. My son and I couldn't read it fast enough.

And for even more MMGM, check out the faboo list-o-links at the bottom of Shannon Whitney Messenger's post HERE.

Also: my amazing PB CP Kristen Hilty is doing a contest and giveaway over at her blog The Monkey Patch. Go HERE to check it out!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Critique Isn't Just for Writers

I had an experience this week wherein I had to give some really negative feedback to a person. It wasn't a writer-person - it was in another arena of my life - and I realized as I prepared for this meeting that if I had had to give this feedback three years ago, I would have done it differently.

More harshly.

There might even have been tears.

But this time, without even thinking about it, I planned what I had to say so that I sandwiched the negative stuff (which was HUGE) between some pretty positive stuff.

It was a really good, really productive meeting. We parted ways with an action plan, and a plan to meet again to follow up.

I have benefited so much from my writing life.

How has what you have learned as a writer bled into your life?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reposting for MMGM: BURN by Alma Fullerton

This is a repost. I originally did this review on a Friday as a Shout-Out, because I know Alma and she is kick-ass awesome But this book really deserves some MMGM attention.

I read a book last night that pretty much took my breath away. It almost made me cry, and books do not make me cry.

BURN, by Alma Fullerton

I have known Alma for a couple of years now. She's the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Canada East, and she was one of the first people to encourage me to keep writing. As a moderator of one of my critique groups, she continues to encourage me, as well as many, many others. And she's a damn fine writer.

Things I loved about this book:

- It includes a, honest portrayal of an autistic sibling, and the relationship between her and the MC (who is the older sister) is bang-on.

- It addresses how having a child with special needs can affect each family member in different ways, both good and bad. In other words, it tells the truth about families like this.

- The decision that the mother makes early on in the book, and the decisions that the father makes throughout the book, are all things that I can identify with and that I have wrestled with in my journey as a mother who made the choice to stay at home.

- It gives hope to children who, for whatever reason, are having to grow up too fast. It lets them know that they are not alone.

It it rare to find a book that resonates simultaneously with both middle-grade readers and their parents, but this one does it.

Go read BURN. And then, go here to visit Alma's website and find out about all her other great books! And then visit Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog for links to more MMGM love!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fun: Happy Days are Here Again

Well, if you like network TV, they are. *grin*

Next week marks the return of all my Must-See-unplug-the-phone-put-the-kids-to-bed-early shows: The Mentalist (Thursday nights at 10 on CBS), Grey's Anatomy (Thursday nights at 9 on ABC), Castle (Monday nights at 10, also on ABC), and Glee (Tuesday nights at 8 on FOX). (Okay, not so much Glee anymore, but it's still pretty good. If they can get back the quirky humor and get out of the formulaic rut they've fallen into, they'll be back on top. It would also be good to improve the dubbing of all the singing parts. But I digress.)

How about you guys? Do you watch network TV? What are you excited to see the return of?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why Writing is Like Exercise

I spent the first couple of years of my writing life just writing whenever I felt like it or had a few hours in the evenings. I'd go for days at a time when I didn't write anything, then go for days at a time when I wrote tons.

But writing is like exercise: if you only do it once in a while, you're not really going to get the same results as if you do it every day. Writing when I felt like it led to a lot of rough or half-written and partially-polished manuscripts.

Recently, I've committed to writing something every day. Not always a lot of something - sometimes just a line or two on an envelope, then crossed out and revised over and over on that same envelope until it's perfect - but every day, I write something, or I revise something, or I do both.

Even when I've got a mountain of dishes to wash.

Even when I don't feel inspired.

Even when I'm so exhausted that one blink lasts for five minutes.

I turn on the computer, or I get some paper, and I write.

And after a few minutes of this, I find that I am no longer tired, or distracted, or uninspired.

I see now why so many authors tell us unpublished writers to treat writing like a job. Because exercising that writing muscle of sitting down every day and focusing your mind on one thing - your story - develops the muscle, until getting into the flow becomes easy and natural. Just like lifting a 5-lb weight for 40 reps every day will develop that muscle until lifting the weight becomes an easy job, writing every day has, for me, made it easier to write.

But I know there are published authors out there who will disagree, so I want to know what you guys are doing, and if it's working.

Do you write every day, or only when you're inspired? What works for you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winner, Winner, Bookish Dinner

It's winner announcement time, folks! And I don't have a lot of time, so here it is:

The winner of one signed copy of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater is:

*throws virtual confetti*

And the winner of one copy of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW by Nathan Bransford is:

*sets off virtual fireworks*

Email me with your addresses ASAP ladies, so I can get your prizes into the mail to you. If I haven't heard from you in TWO WEEKS, I'll have to re-draw, because I just don't have room for this stuff in my house anymore. It's too much amazingness for one office to hold.

See you all tomorrow!


SO. The new school year is in full swing, which means a new schedule for me. It means I have to work in a lot of "more" into my day: more travel time, more time planning and making lunches and snacks, more time ironing school uniforms, more time volunteering in my kids' classrooms.

More, more, more.

Unfortunately, there aren't MORE hours in the day, which  means there has to be less of something. And that something is Internet Time. Basically, in order to make sure I get my book done (because that's what this whole thing is about, right?), I need to devote my evenings to writing and critiquing and submitting and pre-submission research. I just have to get a lot more disciplined about that. It's what needs to be done.

So, I will be BlogPlusGoodreadsTweeting only in the few mornings that I am not helping out at my kids' school. You'll still find my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posts, but I won't be able to get around to as many of your blogs as I have in the past. I'm sorry to have to limit my time like this, but it's just what I have to do.

However, I promise you this: I will comment on every single blog of all the people who comment here. I've regretted not being so good about that in the past, so I am committing to being better about it in the future. You come visit me, and I'll visit you. And whomever else I can squeeze in.

In the meantime, if any of you invent a way to live without sleep that doesn't require an equal number of hours of mediation or the ingestion of substances with harmful side-effects, let me know ASAP, okay? 'Cause I could really use something like that.

Also: I know I owe you winner announcements for FOREVER and JACOB WONDERBAR, and I'm sorry I've been slow about that. Look for a special post TOMORROW. Woo-hoo!

And I'll leave you with this, since we all need a little David Bowie in the morning:

What changes have you had to make recently?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday R.A.P.-up!

It's Random Act of Publicity week*, so I'm joining in with some love for a Chapter Book series that I've recently read and loved: IVY + BEAN, by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. (Sorry for the lack of pictures and links; my right-click popup menu, which I use to do things like copy URLs, isn't working for some reason right now. I'm hoping this computer breaks for good soon so I can justify the expense of buying a Mac.)

Things I Love: Ivy and Bean aren't girly girls, and their adventures will appeal to boys as much as to girls. Speaking as the mother of two boys, this is a major plus. Also, I could see the punch line coming, but it was in a delicious anticipation kind of way, not a oh-no-this-is-supposed-to-be-a-surprise-and-the-author-didn't-hide-it-well kind of way. I actually giggled while I was reading this. Out loud. In front of other people! I love books like this, and there just aren't enough of them around.

This is not your run-of-the-mill, book-packaged chapter book. It demonstrates attention to detail, dedication to the emotional truth of the seven-year-old mind and heart, and excellent writing. You need to read this book, and then you need to give it to a kid you know.

Find it in your local independent bookstore, or online at in Canada or in the US.

What book have you read lately and loved?

*You thought I was going to post a vlog of myself rapping, didn't you? Bide your time, my pretties. We'll get to that eventually.

EDITED TO ADD: This is the last day for my US readers to enter to win a copy of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford! I can't paste a link because my computer is having issues, but if you look in my archives in the sidebar, you should find it in the list of August entries. Happy entering, and good luck!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Deconstructing the Deterioration of the USPS

If any of you follow me on Twitter or Google+, you might know that the United States Postal Service is on the verge of default. You can read the details here, but the bottom line is that they've been spending more than they've been earning (mostly on payroll and benefits and keeping tiny, not-often-used offices open) for years and it's built up, so now they need to come up with a cool $5.5 billion. (BILLION! THIS MONTH! I know!) So, they're asking Congress to "take drastic action to stabilize its (the USPS') finances."

In other words, they're asking for a bailout.

(Let's just say, for the record, that I'm not a fan of bailouts. It feels like enabling, in the way than the wife of an alcoholic enables his drinking by buying him more booze.)

How is this possible? I'm not exactly a globe trotter, but I've lived in a few different places, and I've never lived in a place without some sort of national postal service. It's almost synonymous with having a government that can function on its own, in my mind. It's like graduating: you're a grown-up country now, time for your own national postal service. It seems like such a basic thing, like buying your own toothpaste. Why can't America make theirs work anymore?

Of course, this brings up questions of how things got this way, and how it can be fixed. There's the fact that people just don't send good old-fashioned letters anymore. (Well, except for editors at publishing houses. The paper rejection letter is alive and well, and may be the only business the USPS gets these days. Also, children's magazines.) There's the fact that UPS and FedEx compete with the USPS for business. There are all the tiny offices that are visited once a week by Granny Maple and her six cats, but still cost money to keep open and staffed. And of course, there's the "No-Layoffs" clause that was signed recently to placate the Postal Workers' Union, which I think was a mistake. If your employer just doesn't have enough business to employ you, then I don't think you really have any business insisting that you have a right to continue to be employed by them. A good recommendation letter and decent severance package would be more reasonable.

Will the USPS ditch the "No-Layoffs" clause, end Saturday delivery service, close under-used offices, and open counters in Wal-Mart, akin to Canada Post's counters in the 7-Eleven and PharmaPlus? Maybe. All these things are things they implement in Canada, among other places.

But here's the real question: will that even make a difference? Or is this just a sign of things to come in another 5-10 years' time for the rest of the world? Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the concept of the National Post Office? Will this be the thing that finally drives publishing house editors to accept emailed queries? What will happen to my kid's Highlights subscription?

What do you think?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor/Labour Day!

Ah, summer. Glorious, sunny, thunderstormy, carefree, fresh-aired, long days that fill my hours with butterflies and the sound of running feet pounding the grassy plain of my backyard. I love summer. It always makes me sad to see it go, and I like to send it off with a bang.

Tomorrow my kids go back to school, so we've got a day of fun activities planned. Hubbles and I are taking them to the annual Toronto Air Show, and we're going to spend some time with relatives and generally have a good time.

Don't forget that this is the last day to win a signed copy of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater - if you spread the word, I'll love you forever. (See what I did thar?) And next week, I'll have another MMGM post!

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Shout-Outs!

So, my extraordinary crit buddy Lindsey Carmichael, who blogs at Ten Stories Up, has a short story in the anthology Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, which you can find HERE.

And make sure you go check it out, because the stories will be full of magic and mystery and wonderfulness. If the rest of them are even almost as good as Lindsey's, this anthology will be wicked-good. Plus, the cover rocks, in a wonderfully fantastically twisted (literally) way.

GO, Lindsey! And make sure to go to her blog and congratulate her, guys!

Happy Friday!

Edited to add: Due to migraine complications, I'm not up to promoting my contests in the interwebz today, so I've EXTENDED THE DEADLINE to win a SIGNED copy of Maggie Stiefvater's FOREVER, the brilliantly satisfying conclusion to the SHIVER trilogy, over HERE, until 11:59pm PST on MONDAY, SEPT.5th. So keep spreading the word!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writing on Wednesdays: Switching Up the POV

So, I've been working on this Chapter Book. I love it. It's fun, and the heroine is quirky and a bit sassy and super-smart, and I'm really enjoying spending time in her head.

Even better is that my crit partners like it. They like her, they like the premise, and they've been giving me awesome feedback that's helping me make it even stronger. The best feedback wasn't really feedback at all. It was a question.

If you are a CP for someone, I hope you aren't just telling them how to rewrite sections. I hope you're asking them questions about their manuscript. Because the biggest question that my CPs asked me - why does the MC want what she wants - led to the biggest change. I'm rewriting my entire manuscript in third person, instead of in first person the way it started.

Making this shift in mindset actually taught me a lot about my character: it taught me how her mind works, what her fears are, how she operates. And it also taught me a lot about her family and friends, and how they operate. I've thrown out the entire first half of my book and replaced it with something different, something closer to my vision of what I want this book to be. I think it's a stronger book now, and even if I go back and rewrite it again in first person, I'll still have this new knowledge and these new scenes.

So, when in doubt, try switching up your POV a little. You never know where it might lead you.

Also: go HERE  and HERE for a chance to win free books, from me to you.

Monday, August 29, 2011


FIRST: Have you entered to win a signed copy of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater? Go HERE to do that.

So, for those of you who don't know, Marvelous Middle Grade Monday ( aka MMGM) was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger, writer and blogger and WriteOnCon organizer extraordinaire, because she thought that middle grade books deserved a little more attention on the interwebz. And I agree!

So this week, I'm spotlighting a book that I really liked, and that my 8-year-old son (who reads up, so don't go thinking that this is a chapter book) LOVED.

JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, by Nathan Bransford, is a tale of three kids who trade a corn dog for a spaceship and accidentally break the universe. Here's the jacket copy: "Jacob Wonderbar has had a weird day. First there was that incident with the substitute teacher and the sprinklers. (Okay, maybe that wasn't so unusual for Jacob.) Then he and his best friends, Sarah and Dexter, discovered a silver man and a spaceship in the woods near their houses. Weirdest of all? The man offered to trade his ship for a corn dog! It sounded like a pretty good deal to Jacob, until he and his friends took their new ship for a test ride...and accidentally broke the universe. Now they must fend off space pirates, escape a planet that smells like burp breath - and find a way back home, before it's too late for them and their friendship.

The first book in debut author Nathan Bransford's hilarious planet-hopping series proves that all good adventures really do start with a corn dog."

I really liked this book. The action moves along at a good pace and the characters are well-done. I loved that Sarah Daisy's desire to appear as strong as the guys is actually as much of a flaw as a strength, and Jacob and Dexter both proved to be less caricature and more character, which was a real plus. The adventures they found themselves on were hilarious, as were many of the side characters, including but not limited to the villainous mischief-maker Mick Cracken. Additionally, this book shows that Bransford has honed an almost impeccable sense of comedic timing, which pops up throughout the book to great effect (as my son's giggling and guffawing proved). Finally, I really, really liked the way Bransford handled the best-friend-crush issues between two of the characters. Twelve years old is a time when kids start to feel extra-fond of their BFF but don't really know why, and I think Bransford navigated that murky territory extremely well here. He didn't ignore it, but he didn't make a huge deal out of it either, and I think he did a great job with that aspect of the storytelling.

Basically, if you have a kid between the ages of 8 and 12, this book is a really good bet.

And I'm giving away a copy to one lucky follower in the US or Canada!

To win, here's what you have to do:

  • Follow this blog. (Old followers +2, New followers +1)
  • Comment on this post. (+1)
  • OPTIONAL FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: MyFacePlusSpace, with links in the comments, for +3 per link; Tweet it, with links in the comments, for +1 per tweet (up to +5); dedicate a blog post to it, with link in the comments, for +3; Put it in your blog sidebar, with link in the comments, for +5
That's it! Contest will close on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, AT 11:59pm PST (that's 2:59AM on Saturday for East-Coasters).

This book rocks, guys, so spread the word!

And for more Marvelous Middle Grade, check out Shannon's blog HERE for her post and links to other MMGM bloggers!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater - AND A GIVEAWAY!

I promised you on Monday that I'd do this post on Wednesday.

Then my dad arrived from out of town.

And I forgot.


Sorry guys! In an attempt to sort-of honor my promise, I'll include the 5 people who commented on yesterday's post in the list of entries for this prize. Which is awesome, by the way!

So, I went to Indigo Yorkdale (that's in Toronto) to meet Maggie Stiefvater, and it was amazing. I made new friends, I got to chat with some pretty cool people, and we all gazed with wonder at the sharpied guitar, which was covered with Maggie's incredible artwork.

The Sharpied Guitar

And then, of course, there was Maggie. She was incredibly nice and very funny. And she had some awesome wolf stories!

Maggie = Awesome

And then, of course, there was Tessa Gratton, Maggie's best friend and partner in critiquing amazingness, who I had a lovely chat with about her own book and who told me that I have princess hair, which made me feel all happy inside.

Tessa and Me. With Princess Hair.

And, of course, there was the signing. DID I MENTION THE SIGNING? By Maggie? Of books?


I also have swag for one lucky runner-up. (bookmarks, keyring, etc.)

In case you don't know anything about FOREVER, here's the blurbie from Amazon: "In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. In Linger, they fought to be together. Now, in Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater."

I really loved this book. I love Maggie's lyrical storytelling style, and I found the characterization to be even stronger than in the previous two novels. Each character felt very real to me, and I am so impressed when an author manages to do that across the board with all of her characters.

I also loved the ending - which i can't tell you about, except to say that it wraps things up while still leaving the story open at the same time. It feels like a very satisfactory ending, but it's also clear that life for these people is going to continue, and not everything is certain, and that is okay. These are my favorite types of endings - this part of the story is over, but there will be more to come, and we will never know about it, and this is okay! Because this is the way life really is. Awesomeness.

It's an amazing book. I still want to move into it; just pack up my clothes and go live in the bookstore in Mercy Falls with Sam and Grace and everyone else. I loved it.

SO, you want to win this, right?

Here's what you have to do:
  • Follow THIS BLOG. (+2 for old followers, +1 for new)
  • Leave a comment on THIS HERE POST RIGHT HERE. (+1)
  • FOR EXTRA ENTRIES: MyFaceSpacePlusThingamy this post for +3 points, if you leave a link in the comments; Tweet it for +1 per tweet, up to 5 tweets, if you leave me the links in the comments; Put it in your blog sidebar for +5, if you leave me a link to your blog in the comments.

Happy entering, guys, and good luck to everyone!

*Edited to add PICTURES!!! Thanks to my friend Michele for sending them to me! You rock, Michele!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To Jot, or Not to Jot?

When I started writing for publication, I decided to keep an idea notebook. I didn't have any real reason for this, other than that I had heard that it was a good idea and was something that "serious writers" did, and I was going to be a "serious writer," so I obviously needed one.

The cool thing is that once I started carrying around a notebook for my thoughts and ideas, I found it to be really helpful. I lost so many flashes of insight in the past, because by the time I got around to writing them down, the minutiae of life had shoved them aside. But I know not everyone does this, and I'm curious about you guys.

I have a small booklet in my purse that I jot things down on, and a journal that I keep next to my bed for recording my dreams or any other thoughts that occur to me while I'm at home.

How about you? Do you jot, or not?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feel the Fear and Write It Anyway

First, I owe you guys a winner announcement for a copy of Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. I wish I had a copy for everyone, because this is such a fabulous book, but sadly, I don't. So, by random drawing, the winner is:


*throws cyber-streamers*

So, check your email, Antje! I'll get your book to you as soon as you get me your address.

And now I want to open up to you guys a little bit. 

It took me a really long time to decide to write for publication. I always enjoyed writing, and I always enjoyed telling stories, and you all know how much I love books. But whenever I thought of someone else reading what I had written, my words sounded hokey and stupid to my own ears, and I got so self-conscious about it that I'd scratch it all out or erase it or throw it away. Even now, I don't always feel as if what I'm writing is "me" - I follow the rules, and I work on my craft, and I've definitely been improving, and these are all good things.

BUT: I've been using the "rules" as a way of hiding my own true style, not because there's anything wrong with my style necessarily, but because when I write the way that comes naturally to me, I feel pretentious and stupid and I worry that everyone will hate it. And that's not good at all.

I've just finished reading Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER trilogy. I re-read SHIVER and LINGER and read FOREVER all in one weekend. (Hubbles had to do a bit more of the housework than usual. It made him a little crazy. This is understandable.) And the biggest takeaway for me as a writer was that her writing is so lyrical and poetic and UN-self-conscious, and that is the way I want my writing to be. Not lyrical in the same way or poetic in the same way, but un-self-conscious and simply "me".

So, I'm working on incorporating that principle into my work. I'm practicing the act of writing without judgement, beyond the question of "Does this tell the story the way that it needs to be told?" It's scary, but I'm trying it anyway.

And come back Wednesday for my review of FOREVER, the third and final installment of the SHIVER trilogy, where I'll be giving away a brand new SIGNED copy! (Are you excited? Because I am SUPER excited.)

Are you self-conscious about your voice in your written work? What book or books have you read that seemed utterly UN-self-conscious?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tidbits From WriteOnCon: On Being a Happy Writer

FIRST: Go HERE to enter a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher! And spread the word, 'cuz this is an amazing, amazing book. I'd give it to everybody if I could.

The WriteOnCon! It was fabuloso! With editors! And agents! And authors! And prizes! And armadillos!

One of my favorite posts was by Viking editor Kendra Levin, who posted on the writing/life balance. She talked about how, as writers, we need to do three things:

ONE: Set goals. Not just grand career goals, but smaller, achievable, weekly goals, as well.

TWO: Make sacrifices. In order to achieve our weekly goal, we must sacrifice something. You all know this by now.

THREE: Give ourselves a weekly gift. One that will feed us as people, and that will also make our writing life easier.

So, my three things for this week (before bedtime on Saturday) are:

ONE: Rewrite the first chapter of my chapter book. I thought it was done, but there was a problem that was nagging at me, and Tuesday morning I figured out how to fix it - unfortunately, the way to fix it is to throw out the first four chapters and do them over in a new way, with new scenes and a different beginning. I want to have the first chapter done by Saturday.

TWO: No internet. This post, a tweet to spread the word about this post, and that's it until I achieve my goal.

THREE: I initially chose a frap for my gift, but now I think a walk through the park would be a better idea. I can take my kids, and I always get good writing-thinking done on walks through the park.

How about you? What will your three things be this week? How about next week?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best O' Fluck

I'm not the greatest typist. I've never taken a class, and I just kind of get faster and better the more often I do it, which these days is pretty often. I'm still no speed demon, but I'm well past the one-finger-typist stage. However, I'm not immune to typos.

One typo that I seem to make over and over again happens at the end of my critique emails, when, instead of typing "Best of Luck," I keep accidentally typing "Best o fluck." And the more I do it, the MORE I DO IT. It's like the typo that won't die.

So, I finally decided to look up "fluck." And you know what?

It's a new word!* How awesome is that?

In light of this discovery, I am going to embrace my persistently typo-ridden signature. I'm going to define "fluck" as that wonderful type of luck that is part fluke, part luck, and part hard work. It is the awesome of luck: freaking luck. Freaking lucky people will be called "flucky."

Fluck: it's like luck, but better. And Irish sounding.

And to all you writers and actors and creative people out there,

I wish you the best o' fluck.

*At least, according to the Oxford English Dictionary,, and, it is. And that's good enough for me.

P.S. Hey! Have you read Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY yet? GO HERE to win a copy!

P.P.S. DUDE! It's WriteOnCon week! So I'm going to be busy being not-here, okay? Come find me at WOC! See you there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Favorites: Book Trailers!

I have an admission, and it's one that might offend a lot of you, so please try not to hate me, but...

I'm not really fond of book trailers. I find most of them to be klunky and amateurish and full of bad acting or weird lighting or generally non-professional-looking stuff.

(I majored in film and theatre. I'm a little snobbish about total amateurs basically making an ad. It's a character flaw. Try to forgive me, okay?)


Thanks to Cat Gerlach, whose blog can be found HERE, I have found a winner!

This is suspenseful. It is professionally done, in every way: acting, script, lighting, editing, music, etc. And I AM DYING TO READ THE BOOK NOW.

This is the standard to which we should hold ourselves when creating book trailers, people. Behold: the trailer for MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.

So creepy!

Don't you all want to run out and get it now?!? I know I do!

SO, you tell me, since I typically don't seek out book trailers: what good ones have you seen lately? What else have I missed?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Hey there! Do you write funny? Have you got a funny scene of 350 words or less in your WIP? Can you whip one up in a matter of minutes (or even hours)?


You're in luck, because Uber-blogger and MG-Writer Extraordinaire Nathan Bransford is hosting a JACOB WONDERBAR Funny Writing Contest Spectacular Happening Event over on his blog, which you can find HERE. HURRY! It closes at 6PM PST today! And if you scroll down to the 186th comment, you can read my entry! Or, you can just read it below:

Bartholomew Ophelia Treebottom IV was bored. He swung his legs, heels banging in time with the bonging of the clock tower. Bored...Bored...Bored...

Tuesday was always a boring day. It was the day his parents reserved for their weekly trip to the taxidermist’s shop. His father was a world-renowned specialist in stuffed dead tarantulas, and was always on the lookout for a new specimen. His mother accompanied him, because the taxidermist’s wife made excellent omelettes. Bartholomew never went; dead tarantulas were boring.

Just then his neighbor Mandy tripped by, her eyes gleaming. “I’m breaking into the haunted Whaley House.” She cocked her head. “Want to come?”

Bartholomew considered. Haunted houses never really were. They were always just full of old junk. And dust. Dust made him sneeze. Bartholomew hopped down. “Alright, then.”

The door was locked, but the window opened easily, so they clambered in. It reeked of rot, and Bartholomew gagged. The room was covered in an inch-thick layer of dust, and stringy cobwebs stretched from corner to corner. His father would have loved to see the spider that had woven those webs. Bartholomew reached out to touch one, when a loud moan rolled down from upstairs.

Surprised, he fell forward, grabbing at the web - which was much more rope-like than he had expected - and bringing it, and a nearby lamp, crashing down. The lamp snagged on the curtains, which tore from their rod and landed with a whump upon Bartholomew, setting off a sneezing fit as he flailed about in a frantic attempt to free himself. Mandy screamed. Bartholomew jerked his head free just in time to see Mandy, covered in fake cobwebs and stuffed tarantulas, careening backwards into and over the side of an overstuffed armchair, upsetting a basket of something that, Bartholomew belatedly realized, looked like eggs. Peals of cackling laughter drifted in from the hallway.

As he sat, rumpled curtains hanging from his shoulders, rotten egg dripping down his forehead and off his chin, it occurred to Bartholomew that his parents, and Tuesdays, were not as boring as he had thought.

Also, don't forget to enter to win a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, by Jay Asher, HERE.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, August 8, 2011


I'm going to take a break from the usual blogging schedule this month. It's summer, my kids need attention, my WiP needs attention, and I figured we'd all benefit from switching things up a bit. Besides, half of you are going to be on vacation some time this month anyway, right?

SO - contests today!

First up is Gabriella Lessa's contest, in which entrants post their 30-word pitch and first paragraph in order to win critiques from one of four editors at Sourcebooks, who will also be judging the contest. Yeah, that's right - your pitch and first paragraph read and judged by an editor at a closed house. This is a golden opportunity, guys, so go HERE to enter.

And now, I'm hosting a giveaway of my own, for a very special book.

A while back, I won a copy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, by Jay Asher, from Shannon Whitney Mesenger. It took me a while to get down to it, because I'd heard that it was pretty much a read-it-in-one-sitting thing, and I wanted to make sure I had enough time to at least get thoroughly into it, rather than sneak a page in here and there.

I had heard right.

Even though I ended up not being able to read this in one sitting because of demands from my kids and needing to sleep and write and things like that, I read it pretty much constantly until I had finished it - I snuck in pages while I was cooking, I read it curled up on the sofa when I should have been critiquing or revising, I read it on the bus... I could not put this book down, and when I absolutely had to put it down, I could not stop thinking about it.

And when I finished reading it, I could not stop thinking about its implications for me and my own life.

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY goes beyond the descriptions of it as original and fresh. This is an incredible, moving, thought-provoking, life-changing book. It will make you re-evaluate how you behave, how you speak to and about others, and how you go about living your life. And it might even change the way you think. This is a really, really important book.

So, I'm going to give away an unopened, unread, hardcover copy to one lucky blog reader.


  • Follow this blog. Not my Twitter account, not my Google+ account (although those are good, too). This blog. All followers get +1 for this.
  • Comment on this post. Another +1.
That's it! Simple giveaway, simple rules. If you spread the word this time, there won't be any extra entries, but there will be virtual pie and hearts forever from me. :-) And since it's only the one book, this one is OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! Woo-hoo!

The giveaway closes NEXT FRIDAY, AUGUST 19th, at MIDNIGHT WEST-COAST (that's PST) TIME, to give my followers over there a chance to get their last-minute comments in.

And... Begin.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Favorites: The Dixie Chicks

I've been listening to a lot of music lately, and one of the songs that's been in my head a lot, and thus in my CD player a lot, is "Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.

I like a wide range of music, from crooners like Frank Sinatra and Matt Dusk and Michael Buble to Folksy singers like Paul Simon and James Taylor to country singers like Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks to classical, like Mozart, and Baroque, like Vivaldi, to 80's pop like WHAM! I listen to David Bowie and Culture Club and Peggy Lee and Bad Religion all in one shot. I like music.

But I LOVE music that says something, that isn't afraid to stand up and say, "This is how I am, and this is what I believe, and I won't apologize for that."

What music have you been listening to lately?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Read Up

We writers hear a lot about reading widely. We're supposed to read a lot of our genre, but also a lot of everything else. We're supposed to read great stuff, mediocre stuff, and not-so-mediocre stuff. We're supposed to read literary and commercial.

Read, read, read.

Well, I'm not arguing with that.

But I'm here today to make the case for reading up more often than anything else. And by that, I mean read the books that are so well-written, they leave your ego in tatters. Read books that are so amazing, they make you want to slip inside them and live among their post-apocalyptic pages. Read books that, in one way or another, are so far beyond what you are writing that you have to stop yourself from actually screaming with the knowledge of it.

Because if you're like me, noting forces you to up your game more than the realization that you haven't broken through the ceiling of what is possible yet. Read books that show you where the ceiling really is.

Read up.

I've been reading books by John Green and Tahereh Mafi. What have you been reading?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing Craft: Voice, and WINNER!

FIRST: I was up late into the night counting and adding and clicking and compiling the entries for my 200 Follower Lauren Oliver Giveaway, and wow, guys! The entries! You blew me away with your enthusiasm. You guys are awesome, and I really wish I could have given something to all of you. But, there can only be one winner, and according to RANDOM .ORG, that winner is:


Yay! *tosses confetti and streamers*

So, Ari, check your email, okay? I want to get these books to you!

NOW: Writing craft. I've been reading a lot lately, and one thing that's been jumping out at me in a make-or-break sort of way is VOICE. We keep hearing that having a distinct voice is essential, but what does that mean? And more importantly, how do we do it?

Well, I think the most important thing we can do is make sure our character is well-thought out and fully realized. What personality type does this character have? Is she tough-as-nails, or sweet as cotton candy? Does he hold the door for his mother, or stride on through without looking back? Is he the quintessential nerd? Is she in love with her guy, or in love with love? Who are these people?

What is the framework within which their thoughts are built? (AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green is an excellent example of having a well-developed mental framework for each character.) And how will they react emotionally to this situation that they're in? The answers to these questions, more than anything, will dictate their voice, and getting that right can really make your book sing.

And of course, having a distinct way of writing, a distinct cadence, is part of it, too. Garrison Keillor's work is the perfect example of this. Other examples are Roald Dahl (you know a Roald Dahl book by the end of the first page), Dr. Seuss, and Bill Bryson, travel writer extraordinaire.

But then there's the "break" part. I've come across a handful of books in the past couple of months that just haven't resonated with me. The voice was distinct, the background was there... But it just didn't feel right. Most of the time, the character was being snarky in a moment that didn't seem to call for it. I'm not against snarky teens, but there doesn't need to be a comment on every page or at the end of every scene for a reader to get it. Over a whole book, it gets to be too much, and it loses impact.

I wish I had a formula, but I don't. These are just some things to think about. How about you? What book have you read lately that had an outstanding voice? What made it so amazing?