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?