Friday, February 26, 2010
Do the Olympics inspire you?
They inspire me.
But I often find myself thinking about those who are there who we don't see much of. The ones with no sponsors and with odds highly stacked against them that they'll take home any medal.
Are they glad to be there competing, regardless of the outcome? Of course. They are living out their dream - doing what they LOVE to do.
I've heard stories of how some of them sell everything and go into huge amounts of debt to be able to go to the Olympics.
Right now, I'm trying this dream thing on for size, doing the writing thing full-time. And it's SO scary. I was watching Suze Orman the other night and I started freaking out. What am I DOING, I thought? I should be working forty hours a week, pulling in a good income, saving for retirement!
But here's the thing. Life is a journey. If I spend all my time now doing work I don't enjoy to try and guarantee something twenty years from now, that's kind of insane. Because there ARE NO GUARANTEES. I have today. And what do I want to do with my day today? I want to be an author and write. In six months or a year or two years down the road, if I'm struggling to make ends meet and it's not fun anymore, I can change the direction of my journey. We can ALWAYS change direction, at any time. That's what we have to remember.
Every day, while I sit at the computer, the ones I admire in this business are in the back of my mind. The ones who came before me, worked hard, made a name for themselves and are the best in the business. I probably won't ever be one of them. It's like those athletes competing in the snowboarding - they look at Shaun and wish they could be him. But of course, there is only one Shaun White. Still, they're there, doing what they love, enjoying the journey. It's not about what they have or don't have.
It's about doing what they love, day in and day out. I mean, is there anything better than that?
~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Here's my Feb 2010 goals check in! Oh man, I'm almost afraid to look....
-- Incorporate CP suggestions into my YA, SISTER SECRETS
Um, no. Didn't happen at all. But can I take a second to give myself legitimate excuses? I went to NYC, St. Martin, Chicago, caught up at work in the meantime, and worked on a new book proposal that I pitched to my agent in NYC. Also looked at houses to buy and got engaged. Phew!
But to reimmerge in the world of the relevant, any SISTER SECRETS writing time I planned went to my new book instead.
-- Get 2 more chaps ready for and sent to my CPs of SS
Gong! See above excuses for why this didn't happen. Instead I did get 30 pages ready for Tina and Emily for my Chicago visit with them last weekend.
-- Meet up with Tina, Miss Delighted to Debut, in Chicago, schmooze with kidlitters at the Author Breakfast, and have a blast
Emily ended up coming, too, so I exceeded this goal! Had such a great time at Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast with 2/3 of the A2A girls. We also had a fantastic brainstorming session with each other on Saturday night and I am rearing to go on my 30 pages-plus to get them in top shape for my agent. I am also excited for Tina and Em's projects as well!
Overall, things have taken a different path writing wise, but they are still progressing.
How is everyone else doing so far in 2010 on their writing goals?
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Tina, Deena, and I were lucky enough to meet up this past weekend to attend the Anderson's Bookshops 8th Annual Children's Literature Breakfast.
Every once in awhile it's nice to attend an event focused at teachers, librarians, and booklovers instead of authors. You not only get to chat with people who get books into childrens' and teens' hands and see what they think about the book world, but you also get to listen to some inspiring publishing stories.
The event contained five key-note speakers and more than 65 Illinois authors and illustrators (yes that was a 6 followed by a 5. Holy Author awesomeness!).
It was great to meet people in person that I've known online for awhile and meet lots of amazing authors and "pre-published" authors for the first time.
Sitting through the speakers, I realized I needed to come up with much better stories for why I write my books, because some of these publishing stories are amazing. Like that Jordan Sonnenblick wrote Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie for a girl in his classroom who's brother had cancer and there were no funny books out there that he could find to give her. Or that Richard Peck's books have helped many teens open up about their feelings of suicide before it happens. Talk about a tear jerker.
But then I also met people who write books just for the love of it or write for themselves and are amazed that people actually want to read them. I remembered that no matter why you write that there is room in the market for all types of books that focus on everything from entertaining the reader, to issues teens face on a daily basis, or just allow the person to escape into another world.
It seems to be a common trend among children's authors that people they meet often ask them "why they write for children" or "why they don't write real books." That just baffles my mind that people think that at all, because there's so much value in children's and teen books.
And in my opinion all books matter, no matter what their focus or who they are targeted at.
--Emily, Miss Querylicious
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Tip of the Day: The days are getting longer! March 20 is the vernal equinox. That'll revitalize your spirits!
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Coming up with my characters' names is getting really. Freaking. Hard. I recently started writing my eighth book and I don't think I've repeated a name yet. That's a lot of names. At first it was fun and cute and I was going through all the names I loved and wouldn't get to use for future kids (had to stop having babies at some point right?). But as I've kept going it's just getting frustrating. My notes have been reduced to main girl, main guy, BFF, jerky dude and the like. All because I've been resisting naming the characters. I'm like one of those parents that lets their kid be named Baby Girl for the first couple of weeks after she is born all because mama can't commit to a name. It's like, once they have a name they're stuck with it even if it's sucky because I just don't want to come up with something else. One of the guys in my current WIP is named Nate. I'm not sure if it's a good name. Might be a terrible name. There's probably an online poll somewhere that says 87% of people hate the name Nate. But now he's stuck with it because I just can't go there again. And last names? Wow. That's even worse for me. Want to know what I do? I mentally go through the last names of every person I've gone to school with from kindergarten through college and I use their names. For real. I'm also fond of old teacher's last names. And when I get really desperate I look through sites like this one. And that helps. One fun thing I've been doing with names is having my kids' names make an appearance in each book. Not as a main character but as one of the characters that only has few lines. Like a walk-on role. In THE ESPRESSOLOGIST there is a customer names Gavin. In MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS there is a girl at the lunch table named Maya. And in PUMPKIN PRINCESS there is a patch worker named Teegan. I'm going to have to slip London into my new book. :-)
Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves
(How do you like the new name? I'm trying it on and walking around the store in it to see if it squeezes my toes. Does it look ok?)
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
To come up with a character's first name, I mainly go with my first instinct of whatever name jumps into my head. When I'm "forced" to change it bc it ends up being too similar to another character's name, then it is hard for me but I'm usually not that committed to a name. I just have to remember to keep using the new name.
But for last names, I have more trouble. A last name can signify a family heritage, which can then imply a certain look, attitude, family, and friends for your character. I tend to stay away from last names for my main characters that sound Italian bc I don't want them to be character versions of me. I seem to pick "generic" sounding last names bc I honestly don't refer to a character's last name that often.
For my current WIP, I realized that I needed a last name for my MC that would be used more often than in my other books, and something that could sound a bit more "fancy" for her TV stint. So she is now Lilly Aubendale. Her best friend is Marisha. And yes, I stole the first names from my coworkers who I think are partly flattered and partly like "OK, my boss is weird."
But going back to last names, um, I may be changing mine.... My manpanion bequeathed me with a diamond while on vacation! Woo hoo! His last name is still very Italian so I feel like my "heritage" and Sicilian identity would still be intact. But it's kind of like changing a character's name when you hit page 200 of a book. Can you re-identify yourself with a new name like you can with a character?
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
What’s in a name?
What would it be if Edward’s name in Twilight was really Walter, which was an equally popular name the time he was born? Do you think people would have created Team Walter t-shirts? Maybe. But maybe not.
Character names not only give away character traits, but they help shape the character in the reader’s mind. And the better the character name, the more likely your reader is to remember it and possibly even connect with your character (or swoon over him if that’s your goal).
One of the most important things I like to think about when developing my character and their name together is what does the name say about them or even more importantly sometimes what does it not say about them (because describing what a character wishes their name would be could give more development than just stating the name their parents gave them):
- Why was the person named this? After a city, a dead relative, or a car?
- Is the person constantly referred to by their last name (as was my case growing up since I had a funny last name)?
- Do they prefer a middle name or a nickname because they dislike their real name?
- Do they always get called by their real name but long for someone to give them a nickname?
- Is their siblings name much cooler than there’s and they are constantly jealous about it?
Explaining why the character has a certain name or nickname really helps the person resonate with the reader in my opinion.
Almost all of my character names happen by accident. I just start thinking about a character and a name instantly pops in my head. Sometimes the name sticks. Sometimes it doesn’t. Other times I have to search for hours in a Baby Name book to get the right name, or search online--as is the case for the book I’m writing now since many of the characters are from different countries.
There are so many variables with names, and a lot of it comes down to gut and instinct.
Whenever I come up with a name, I use it for a few chapters. If it feels right, then I usually stick with it. If not, then I try out a new name.
Luckily, your characters don’t have to be stuck with the same name for life (or at least until your book is published) and when a better character name presents itself you can always change it up. The “replace all” feature comes in real handy at this point. Especially if you are like me and decide to change a character’s name once you are on page 200. Several times I’ve switched a character’s name only to keep calling them by the old name and decided I couldn’t see them as anything else but their original name, so I change it back.
But there’s nothing more satisfying then finding the perfect name for a character and I think all of us are constantly on the hunt for that!
--Emily, Miss Querylicious
Monday, February 15, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
It's that time again for me! I need a new name. While Miss Delighted to Debut has been a lovely name I need one more suited to my current situation. What's that you say, hoping I'll remind you? Well, my first book came out last year, I have a second book coming out in September and a third in 2011. I'm working on several more books and I'm still learning the ropes and growing more each day into this whole author world. So my new name should be...
I have no idea. I did a much better job coming up with names last time. Do you have any ideas for me? Lisa's name is so cute (Miss Crafting a Career) but she's using it. Everything I think of sounds silly. Like:
Miss Pub Pub Pubbing Along- That makes me sound like a tug boat right? And I suggested it to Lisa last year. It didn't make the cut. :-)
Miss Pleasantly Pubbed- I picture people saying, "but she has a good personality and pretty face."
Miss Awesome Author- That sounds terribly conceited. But I couldn't think of another A word. Well, maybe Miss Aerobic Author. I've been doing a ton of that lately. But now I'm way off the point.
Miss Wishing for More Writing Time- Man do I ever. Life keeps getting in the way these days. Which brings me to my next name:
Miss Mommy Writer 3000- That's the name of the robot I'm building in my basement to take over all my daily duties.
Miss Marketing Maniac- Because I never realized how much marketing we need to do and sometimes it makes me feel like a maniac.
Miss Building a Brand- I guess that's sort of true. We kind of brand ourselves with our books. I mean, you eventually want someone to say oh, a (your name) book, right? But it makes me think of cereal or gym shoes for some reason.
ARGH! This is making my head hurt. I really need help! Anyone have ideas for me?
Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tip of the Day: For more notes on my whole SCBWI NYC weekend, check out my LiveJournal entry.
So much fabness was had in NYC with Miss Querylicious this weekend that I can't post it all here. What I will do is post the bits of information, the "A-ha!" moments that I gained from the weekend's fantastic lineup of speakers. Enjoy and feel free to ask questions!
1. Don't use the first idea that comes to you bc that will also be the first idea that comes to your reader and will therefore make your work less surprising/more predictable. (Libba Bray, author)
(Emily, Libba, me)
2. The chance of a book doing as well in the market as 13 REASONS WHY by Jay Asher is about 1 in 100,000. (Ben Schrank, Razorbill Publisher)
3. Fantasy is aspirational for readers. Instead of reading a contemporary realistic fiction story and thinking, "I wish I could also be a star basketball player," readers read fantasy and think, "I wish I could also have psychic powers." (Ari Lewin, Disney/Hyperion editor)
4. Publishers will package a book. (cover, title, blurb, etc) to make a novel more or less "literary." (Alvina Ling, Little Brown BFYR editor)
5. Kidlit sales increased 11% in 2009 over 2008. (Susan Raab, marketer)
6. Switch the age group you write for if you are prolific so your books don't compete with yourself. (Sheldon Fogelman, agent)
7. If you're writing a novel that takes place in any year except the present, is there a REAL REASON? Play around with other ideas to make it an easier sell. (George Nicholson, agent)
8. Consider subbing less-commercial works to smaller publishers. (Jane Yolen, author)
9. When writing on the sentence level, take the time to find the "right" word. (Jane Yolen)
10. Regarding how much self-promo to do, do as much as you comfortably have time for; that is the "right" amount. (Sheldon Fogelman)
If you can make it to this conferece, I highly recommend it. It was totally well-organized and well-attended. And if you can meet a writing friend there, even better! So, who's coming out my way next year? :)
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Just to continue on with my post last week about the SCBWI conference, here's some more information I learned.
Francesco Sedita, Vice President & Publisher at Grosset & Dunlap and an author of the Miss Popularity series:
1.) If you are writing a series, it's important to focus on writing a character that a child wants to return to. And make sure they are as 3-dimensial as possible.
2.) To get a handle on what kids want try to stay up-to-date on pop culture and know the celebrities the age range you are writing for likes and why they like them.
3.) They take submissions that usually fall into 3 categories: young middle-grade (1st, 2nd, 3rd grade), middle middle-grade (4th and 5th grade), and older middle-grade (6th and 7th grade)
Ben Schrank, Publisher at Razorbill:
1.) Common mistakes writers make include: writing for the market, trying to talk like a teen and not creating your own voice and language, windmilling (using lots of words with nothing happening), starting a story at the wrong place instead of in the middle of something, and not telling a story in a unique enough way that it stands out from all the other submissions.
Libba Bray, Author Extraordinaire:
1.) Make characters less than perfect and allow them to make mistakes. Allow for growth. And don't fall in love with characters, because you will miss their faults and maybe their strengths.
2.) Make the work matter to yourself!
3.) That Libba is hilarious and really sweet to talk to, and she has great picture ideas!
Susan Raab of Raab Associates, Inc. talked about "What's Selling, What's Not?"
1.) Types of books that publishers currently want: books like The Wimpy Kid series, fantasy is still selling, mystery & ghost stories are growing, inspirational or uplifting books are also growing in popularity, and funny books.
Suzanne Young, Author:
1.) She's completely charming and her new book series The Naughty List looks incredibly fun. Plus, she and her team at the SCBWI Team blog have way more in-depth and excellent information about the conference. You should definitely check it out.
If you get a chance to go to a conference, I highly recommend it!
--Emily, Miss Querylicious
Monday, February 8, 2010
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
One thing you may not know about me is that I hate fighting. And I suck at holding a grudge. Really, it's almost a negative quality sometimes because people can do really nasty stuff and I'll totally forget and I'll be all, Hi! How are you! the next time I see them. I've got relatives that can hold a grudge for a good 30, 40 years so I have no idea where I get this from.
Anyway, the whole Amazon versus Macmillan thing of last weekend-- ay yi yi yi yi. That really had my head spinning. I'll admit, when I saw the buy button for my book disappear off of Amazon I was freaking. The A2A girls got a panicky note from me. I saw people on twitter saying I don't get why authors are freaking out and really? We were freaking out because a major distributor wasn't going to be carrying our book anymore. That sucks. When you are a new author and not a bestseller, your book doesn't have a long shelf life in the stores. They say the typical book has 90 days before getting sent back to the publisher. Now this isn't a hard fast rule or anything-- if a book is doing well at certain stores they'll keep it longer. Lots of books do see 6, 9 months etc. But the 90 day thing does happen. So from there your book is sold at independents (hopefully) and online retailers. And if Amazon goes away, well, that's not so great.
The whole situation was confusing, especially to me as a newer author because I don't totally get all of the book publishing world yet. I know a heck of a lot more than I did last year but it's constantly a learning process. Luckily there were some really articulate people ready to put the problem into more comprehensive terms. Like Scott Westerfield here. When he explains it, it makes sense.
Anyway, what were your thoughts on the whole fiasco? I'm glad they stopped fighting (for now) and hopefully things end up where both sides are content (maybe?). I 'm not so sure we've seen the end of it though-- as of now the Buy button is still not back on my Amazon page. Hmph.
Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Laurie Halse Anderson recently posted her thoughts on how book piracy sucks. Also here. Her answer to the naysayers who shout, "But I can't afford books! And you want me to read your book, right?" is to go to the library and check the books out there. And if the library doesn't have the book, find a librarian and make the suggestion that they purchase it.
As a librarian, I say YES, PLEASE DO!
And to the naysayers who shout, "What's the difference between checking out a book from the library and downloading it from a pirate site online for free? I'm not paying for either one!" I say the following regarding public libraries:
1) Every time a patron comes into my library, it counts as a statistic. And good stats = good fodder for keeping good budgets so we can keep buying lots of materials.
2) Every time a patron recommends a book and we purchase it, and then the book is checked out, each check out counts as a good stat. See above.
3) Every time a patron recommends a book and we purchase it, us librarians can then recommend it to more and more patrons. Each patron who checks it out is another good stat.
Then on the author's income side...
4) If the recommended book is enjoyed by library patrons, word of mouth between the readers can cause more and more peeps to buy the book themselves...
5) Which can cause the library system to buy more books...
6) Which can cause more royalties for the author.
So in summary, checking a book out from the library DOES provide potential "income" for both the library (in the form of stats which can support the library's year-to-year budgets) and the author (in the form of more book sales to libraries and patrons).
I was young once. I had my days of Napster "free" music downloads and bootlegged PC software in the broke college years. But for real, now that I know better I wish I'd checked out more music from my public library and used the software at the computer lab. OK, OK, I still don't think Bill Gates needs my money, but think of all the people who work for BG, or for those who work for BG's workers, or who work in PC software sales and marketing and and and....well, you get the idea. It all trickles down.
Some day I'd like to work as a librarian part-time and as a writer full-time (instead of the present opposite ratio). In order for that to happen, I'll need royalties! And I'll need a library budget! Please don't steal, matey!
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
So I'm back from New York and my first time attending the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I'm still trying to process all the information and I have this thing called work (boo) that I have to go back to this morning, so this post will be short and sweet. But pictures and a fuller recap will be coming next week. Including the awesomest pic with the delectably lovable and recent Printz-winning author Libba Bray.
Had the best time meeting people, talking about writing, and seeing The City. I HIGHLY recommend attending a conference if you get a chance. You'll walk away feeling inspired and anxious to get home and write.
The top 5 things I heard repeated at the conference include:
- Creating 3-dimensial characters is so important.
- You need to find your own voice--not anyone else's--and that's how you can seperate yourself from every other story out there.
- It's good to keep reinventing yourself as an author and constantly trying new concepts, ideas, and ways of writing.
- Go back home and forget everything you've learned. Rules are meant to be broken (within reason), and everyone is in search of an unusual book that graps them and stands out from all the rest. Just stay true to yourself and your own voice.
- To be a writer the most important thing you have to do is WRITE!
Living in a virtual world you kind of forget editors and agents are approachable. Much like the celebrities of the writing world that hold your future in their hands. Meeting some in person makes them transform from pictures on a screen to real life people. And most of them are really nice, down to earth, and pleasant to be around! All of them just want to find a great book and a great author. They are on your side and rooting for you. I think that's an excellent thing to be reminded of.
--Emily, Miss Querylicious