Monday, February 28, 2011

What I learned from Oscar

Okay, so there weren't really many surprises last night at the Oscars. Melissa Leo was clearly shocked by her Best Supporting Actress win for her work in The Fighter, and Billy Crystal's brief stint  was a welcome surprise, but other than that, not many surprises. Except for in the Short Film category, which is always a surprise because almost nobody has seen any of them, including me.

Well, no more! I've resolved to make an effort to see more short films this year. For one thing, they're usually very clever and very well-done. And for another, I write short stories and picture books, so isn't it obvious that I should pay attention to short form films? Screenwriters are great at focusing on story construction. So if I want to up my game, I figure I should up my exposure to the good stuff.

Now I just have to figure out where I can get my hands on some short films to watch. Any ideas? Can I hit up my local video rental store, or is there some kind of underground short film network that I need to tap into?

And what did you like and dislike about the Oscar Ceremony last night?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Shout Outs!

Hey there, writer-peeps! Another Friday, another last working day before the weekend, another chance to do a few shout-outs to some of my writer-buddies whose blogs you may or may not know about (but which you should all be reading).

So without further ado, I present to you my blog-buddy Emily White, whom I was lucky to meet in person at the conference in NYC and who is super-sweet and so smart and who I wish the best of luck with her recently announced self-publishing venture! Click on her name to check out her awesome blog, guys!

And another well-deserved shout-out to my amazing PB CP Kristen Hilty, whom I finally met face-to-face in NYC. And can I tell you how lucky I am to have scored this gal? She. Is. AMAZING. She forces me to up my game every single time. And she's a really talented writer, too! Go read her blog HERE

And that's it for now, folks. Enjoy the links, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisdom on Wednesdays: Accountability

Usually, I'm kind of a master of procrastination: I blog, I watch TV, I read, I wander aimlessly through the house looking for something to do. But lately, at least where writing is concerned, I have had a fire under my butt. I've been churning out words and ideas like nobody's business.

Why? Lots of reasons. But I think right now, the biggest reason is that I've made myself accountable to someone. Or make that a few someones. So that's my wisdom for today: if you find yourself in a writing rut, make a goal and then make yourself accountable to someone. Choose wisely; make it someone you would never, ever want to disappoint. Someone like your CP, or your spouse, or your mentor. Assign yourself a reward for when you meet your goal. And then, when that fire is good and stoked, go after your goal.

For me, the secret is in the numbers. And it can't be someone who would love me anyway; it has to be writer-friends, whose professional opinion of me would be partly formed by whether or not I can achieve this goal. And sometimes, I don't even tell them. I just think to myself, so-and-so would expect me to be able to finish this by such-and-such a time.

How about you? Who are you accountable to?

Monday, February 21, 2011

To Pontificate, or Not to Pontificate?

I had a conversation with a writer-friend a few months ago in which I pointed out that there seemed to be pretty clear messages in said writer'friend;s book, and asked if that was because these views were the views held by my writer-friend. And you know what my friend said? My friend said that it didn't matter; that the messages in the book are there because that's what best serves the story. That's profound stuff, guys.

It got me thinking: what if one day, I find myself writing a story that is awesome - but that sends a message that I don't agree with? Do I write it anyway, because it's a damn good story? Or do I discard it, because I don't want to perpetuate a lifestyle/belief system/whatever that I don't agree with? I'm not sure yet, but if my current manuscripts are anything to go by, I don't think I would write it. Then again... My answer might be different in ten years or so.

How about you? What would you do?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Favorites: Sources of Inspiration

My kids are off school today, so we're going to spend some quality time together: a trip to the library, a ginormous craft we've been waiting to do for months, some baking. And lots of playing.I love days like this - just watcing them play, listening to them talk, and reveling in their youth and exuberance and unique takes on life.

They inspire me.

What inspires you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Analysis Paralysis

It's no big secret that I'm getting ready to submit to agents and editors right now. I just went to a major international conference, and you all know the drill: you go to a conference, you get to submit one piece to those agents and editors who open themselves to conference attendees. Of course I'm subbing right now, and everyone else who was there should be, too. It would be silly not to.

But the closer I get to stuffing those envelopes, the more I find myself running back to the faculty bios and my own pages of notes and summaries of the books they've worked on. Because maybe that manuscript that I was going to send Editor A should actually go to Editor C, but then again, Editor B said that even though her house is known for X she really actually likes Q, so maybe I should send her Manuscript A and Editor C should get D and B should go out to smaller presses, but then again, B might be my strongest one, so if I send it to Editor C then even if it's not her thing maybe she'll hand it off to another editor somewhere in her house who would love it, because Editor A gave us all more time so maybe I should just polish the manuscript I'm finishing and send IT to her and I only have a month left maybe I'll just send them all randomly and see what happens.*

Tell me I'm not alone in this. More importantly, tell me how you handle it. What are your tips for getting over analysis paralysis?

*I would never really do that. Just so you know.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day: What Are You Writing?

Ahhh, Valentine's Day. The official start of thinking about spring, birdsong, and green grass. At least, for me. And this means I've got picture book ideas about birds and bunnies and flowers floating around my brain.

It made me wonder: do your ideas change with the seasons? Do you find yourself writing about Easter-y stuff in the spring and hot beaches in the summer and Jack-O-Lanterns and apple pie in the fall? I do. At least, when it comes to my PBs, that's usually where my head is.

How about you?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Shout-Out!

Hey there, fellow writer-peeps. Things are a bit hectic these days, so I'm only going to do one shout-out today, but it's a well-deserved one. Go and check out my friend Lynne Marie, who was kind enough to answer my call for a roommate for the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC. She welcomed me in New York with a smile and a hug, introduced me to her writer-friends, and was a fabulous roommate.

Check out her blog My Word Playground HERE, and find out all about her upcoming book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, coming this May from Scholastic book clubs. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting Perspective

"Write what you know."

We hear that all the time. But sometimes, we're so close to what we know that we can't write it. We're too close to get the necessary perspective to tell the best story we can tell. How do we step back?

Lately, I've been doing a lot of journaling. I write and write and write, then I go back and try to think about it from another viewpoint, or to see it from another angle. Then I write some more from that angle. Sometimes it works, but sometimes I find myself slipping back into "me" again after a while. But it's one technique I can use.

How about you guys? How do you get perspective on an issue that is close to you?

Friday, February 4, 2011


I'm still processing and decompressing after last weekend, and I've been wanting to spread the positivity around a bit lately, so I thought I'd take advantage of my brain-melt-moment and round out the week with some well-deserved shout-outs to some of my writer-friends.

First, a shout-out to my writer friend and sometimes mentor, Robert Paul Weston, whose YA novel DUST CITY (which, in an unusual but clearly well-chosen break from normal blog policy, I reviewed HERE) was nominated for an EDGAR ALLEN POE AWARD! The Edgars are given for the best mystery in various categories, and DUST CITY is nominated in the Young Adult category - way to go, Rob! (And check out his blog - his posts are sporadic, but always interesting.)

Next up, a shout-out to another writer-friend Helaine Becker, who is possibly the most prolific writer I know and whose book WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA made the Canadian Toy Testing Council's 2011 Best Books For Kids list, which you can read about HERE. Plus, she's garnered positive reviews for her book THE HILARIOUS HISTORY OF HOCKEY, and TWO of her books made the Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens 2010 list, which you can read about HERE. Write On, Helaine!

Finally, a shout-out to new writer/illustrator-friend Debbie Ridpath Ohi (pronounced OH-hee), who is a SCBWI Conference success story! She tells SCBWI Team Blogger Lee Wind (whom I met, and who is generous and supportive and lovely) all about how a rejection turned into a contract HERE. Check out her blog(s) HERE and HERE. (And in other places too - Google her, this lady is an amazing online networker. She is EVERYWHERE!) And look for I'M BORED, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie, coming out in 2012 with Simon and Schuster.

That's it for now. Check out those awesome writers, have  great weekend, and come back next Friday for more shout-outs!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SCBWI New York 2011 Wrap-Up

Last weekend was awesome. It was crowded; it was packed with great sessions; it was inspiring. There was networking and critiquing and soaking up of information. But most of all, there was the feeling of camaraderie that comes from being surrounded by others who share the same goals, and struggle through the same pitfalls.

And there was one underlying message: it's about the work. The writing, the crafting, the revising until you've found just the right words, the prefect turn of phrase, the scene that will mark the turning point in your story. Sure networking is important, bonding over irregular sleep patterns can make us all feel better about what we're giving up in order to achieve our dream of a published book, and developing tables to track every book sold by your dream agent or every book edited by that editor you clicked with feels really productive. But at the end of the day, what I heard from everyone, what every keynote speech came down to, was this simple truth: it's about the work. Because without the work, all that other stuff doesn't really mean anything anyway.

So, that's my takeaway. How about you? Were you there? What was the main thing you got out of the conference?