Friday, February 26, 2010

There are no guarantees, in writing or in life

Tip of the day: Last weekend of the Olympics - watch and be inspired!

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

My Writer's Cup is Full :-)

Tip of the Day: To see my write-up on the Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast see my personal blog.

I have a new project! And I'm so jazzed to work on it-- it's literally killing me that it's so busy at my house this week that I haven't been able to write! My son is having his tonsils out on Friday and I'm going to sit at the hospital all day with him and I'm bringing my laptop to get some writing done. (Does this make me a bad mommy? I can type with my right hand and hold Popsicles with my left I'm sure.)

So why am I so excited? I'm coming off of a fab writerly weekend! Deena and Em stayed with me this weekend and in between my children climbing the walls and leaping from Deena's lap to Em's we got so much writing chat in! We talked about our projects, did a little reading, and made suggestions for each other. And I'm just stating this now so that I can say told you so in a month or six months or whatever it takes until they sell-- OMG guys, wait until you see Em and Deena's new books!! AWESOME!!

We also spent the majority of Saturday at the Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast. Here we are looking oh so cute:

The breakfast was pretty cool and I honestly never realized just how many kid lit authors Illinois has. WOW! I vote us coolest state ever! :-) But seriously, I remember just four or five years ago complaining that there were no authors near me and now there are tons! 65 at this breakfast alone. Yay!

After the breakfast ended we hadn't chatted quite enough so a group of us went to lunch for some more fun writer gab time.

I'm sure you can spot Deena and Em in there but also you'll see from L-R around the table nice librarian whose name I forgot (sorry!), Kristin librarian/Bookworming in the 21st Century blogger, Ronnie and Adam Selzer, Kristin Walker, and Trina Sotira. Fun, fun, fun people! I'd like to tell you what we talked about but some of it was Rated R (looking at you Deena) and I had to put my hands over my ears to protect my innocence.

Having such a fun writerly weekend has made me realize I want them more often! So who's planning the next one? :-)

Kristina. Miss See Me on the Shelves

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Goal Check-in (or How the H3ll is it Almost March Already?)

Tip of the Day: Sometimes it's worth the extra $ to fly direct with no layovers, especially for your third trip of the month.

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

Children's Lit Breakfast

Tip of the Day: women's figure skating starts tonight!

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

Sports Stories for the Win

Tip of the Day: The days are getting longer! March 20 is the vernal equinox. That'll revitalize your spirits!

I've had more fun watching the Olympics this year than any Olympics I can remember. It makes me want to write a sports story for girls. Like one where an ice skater convinces a bad boy hockey player to be her skating partner. Wait, that one's been written before, hasn't it? Hmm, maybe something more original.

My husband's been watching a lot of curling. I could write a story about curling. I don't think that's been done before. Except every time I watch curling, I fall asleep.

Did you see the ice dancer representing Georgia? She had never actually been to Georgia. The country recruited her and she hoped to visit Georgia for the first time after the Olympics. That would make a good story element.

Actually, the only sport I know much about is the cut-throat, competitive world of Irish step dancing. I could write a story about the feis, with the girls in their wigs, heavy dresses, and gillies, and the tough competition for the few male partners.

So what do you think about sports books for girls? Do they only sell for boys, or are girls interested in sports books too?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Name Game!

Tip of the Day: Are you watching the Olympics? If not, you are missing out!

When I wrote I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, I sat down with these characters in my head and a story to tell. Only problem was, they didn't have names.

Ava came out of nowhere. It was weird. But I loved the name. I don't really remember how I came up with Jackson. But once I had their first names, I had to think of last names. I think I knew a lady named Ava Bender at one time, a long time ago. So I borrowed her name. Jackson's last name popped into my head as I tried to think of something that went well with it - Jackson Montgomery.

Later, I discovered why that name sounded so pleasant to my ears. There's a character on All My Children named Jackson, and guess what HIS last name is? I think Tina mentioned that to me shortly after the book came out. At first I was horrified. Then, I laughed about it. I certainly didn't copy the name on PURPOSE!

Interestingly enough, a couple of years after my book came out, both the names Ava and Jackson showed up on the "most popular baby names" lists. I'd like to think it's because of my book, but I'm pretty sure it's just a weird coincidence.

Like others have said, either names come really easily to me, or they don't, and it is pure agony trying to think of a name that fits and I haven't used before. I mostly use baby name web sites. I'll google what I'm looking for in a name - unique boy name or cool girl name and surprisingly, something usually comes up.

HOW did writers survive before the internet is what I want to know!?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Character Names. Sigh.

Tip of the Day: Want a chance at winning a signed copy of A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL? Hop over to my blog. Tip #2: In the IL area and want to go to an awesome kid lit event this weekend? Anderon's is having their annual Children's Literature Breakfast this Saturday. Deena, Em and I will be there!

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

What about last names? (or OMG ENGAGED!)

Tip of the day: If you are going to travel south for a winter vacation, be prepared with many books for the inevitable airport delays. My vacation reading this past week? FALLEN by Lauren Kate; BOYS, GIRLS & OTHER DANGEROUS MATERIALS by Rosalind Wiseman; SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See; and ALL UNQUIET THINGS by Anna Jarzab.

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 anyway?

Tip of the Day: Does anyone else feel like they can't get anything else done when the Olympics are on?

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

How I Write: Character Names

Tip of the Day: Check out the blog How to Write Badly Well for hilarious examples of how not to write.

This week on Author2Author we're gonna have some fun! We're talking about one of my favorite parts of fiction writing: coming up with character names. Because I recycle the names my husband wouldn't let me use on our kids. (No, not really. OK, sometimes.)

I love names. I love looking through baby name books and freaking out my husband. In my public library, there's a big volume of last name meanings that doesn't circulate, and I've sat at a table and looked through that. I like my character names to tell you as much as possible.

Because we don't get to pick our own names. Our parents do. So I like my character names to tell you about their families. A last name can communicate ethnic heritage, or for a funny character, it can be incredibly awkward. A first name can tell you if the character's family is religious, traditional, daring, or not that considerate of how their children will be teased.

The novel I'm writing now takes place in the future, and one of my characters has the last name Tereshkova. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space (a cosmonaut) and I like that little fact buried in my story, even if I'm the only one who sees it.

I usually pick my character's first name off the top of my head before I start writing. But once I get serious, I google popular last names for specific ethnicities, or I look through the phone book. I'd like the last name to mean something, but sometimes I just like the last name: it "fits." Then I rethink the first name. If I've realized more about the character's family by then, I change it. A Brittany became a Hannah after I realized her parents would pick a biblical name, for example. I change my first names a lot. Sometimes I wish I could change them more, but I have at least one where it feels too late. The name doesn't totally fit him, but he's been Josh for so long I can't think of him as anything else.

And of course, I google the first and last name together. Nobody wants to find out their main character's name is the same as an infamous mob hitman ... unless that was your intention, I guess.

Do I put too much thought into this? But it's fun! I love this part.

How do you pick your characters' names?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meet Little Chimp!!

When I first started writing, I wrote chapter books and picture books. I especially loved picture books. I loved the challenge of telling a story in as few words as possible. Interestingly enough, I still do that in my YA verse novels.

I had one story I especially loved that came about when I was brainstorming ideas and this line popped into my head: In a jungle, in a tree sits a little chimpanzee. And so, a book called LITTLE CHIMP'S BIG DAY was born. That is still the first line of the book today!

I came close with an editor at one house, who helped me revise the story not once, but twice. In the end, she didn't end up buying it. As you can imagine, I was devastated. But, I had a much stronger book, and so, I sent it out to a few more editors (this was all before I had an agent), including my new editor at Sterling, who had replaced the editor I worked with on BABY CAN'T SLEEP.

She loved it. They ended up making an offer, but said they were thinking about starting a series of easy readers, and would I be okay with the book in that format. After thinking about it, I said yes. But then, time went by, they searched far and wide for an illustrator, and when they finally found the one they wanted, it was decided by all parties that the book would best be served as a picture book. I was thrilled!

Years have went by since I sold that manuscript. I thought it was five years ago, but I just checked and it was actually only about three and a half. Still, awhile ago. It's good to be able to finally say LITTLE CHIMP will be coming out this fall, October 2010. And here is the cover, for your viewing pleasure!!

Lisa McCue has done an AMAZING job bringing the jungle where Little Chimp lives to life. I am so happy with how it turned out, and can't wait for parents to read it to their kids come fall.

What do you think??

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who am I Now?

Tip of the Day: If you're in the Chicagoland area stop in at Kristin Walker's launch party on Saturday in Oswego, IL or come to our (me, Kristin, and Kimberly Pauley) book signing on Valentine's Day. More info here.

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

How I Spent Last Weekend (or In a New York Minute*)

*With apologies to The Eagles

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

SCBWI Recap 2

Tip of the Snow: there's a very strong possibility tomorrow there will be a snow day here. That makes me very happy!

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

Hashing Out Hashtags

CONGRATULATIONS to the winner of a signed copy of Lisa Schroeder's FAR FROM YOU ... Kimberly Job! Kimberly, our email address is [at] gmail [dot] com if you'd like to send us your mailing address to get the ball rolling.

Today I'm going to talk more about my growing addiction to Twitter or, as my husband calls it, the imminent Twittervention. (I personally blame my MigWriters partner in crime, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, for creating her essential and phenomenal Writer's Guide to Twitter web page. Thanks Debbie!)

Twitter is very confusing at first but it doesn't take long to get as addicted as I am. Of course, I mean to get as much utility from Twitter as I do. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the first step is to follow the right people. The second step is to figure out hashtags.

A hashtag is just like a blog post label. It's a way to index your tweet while you post it. Then you can use the search box to search by hashtags such as #yalit. That will call up tweets where the writer appended the hashtag #yalit. People are so creative, though, that it didn't take long for hashtags to be used for more than simple indexing:

1. Scheduled chats. Tuesday night (starting 9 p.m. EST) is #kidlitchat. Wednesday night (starting 9 p.m. EST) is #yalitchat. To get into chats, that's all you need to know at first. Get on Twitter on one of those nights, search the chat hashtag, and read. Once you want to join in the fun, the web site will show you only tweets from your chosen chat AND add the hashtag automatically to your tweets. I always forget to add the hashtag!

2. Anytime chats. #amwriting is popular. It's like a watercooler of people who are currently writing and need to express their frustration or elation on their works in progress. It's virtual coworkers available around the clock.

3. Conference updates. #scbwiny10 was the tag used for updates from the recent SCBWI conference in New York. There are usually administration type tweets circulating before a conference where everyone decides what hashtag to use.

4. Spontaneous conversations. Check out #genderinya. A couple of people started talking about gender in YA on Twitter using that hashtag, and soon lots of people had joined the conversation.

5. Meta-humor. For example, I could tweet this:

Looks like the fifth candidate has turned down the head coach position in Buffalo. #WowtheBillsSuck

There isn't an actual hashtag in general use named #WowtheBillsSuck, but it's funny because there should be.

So, should you add #yalit to all of your YA-related posts? All I know is that I always forget to use the hashtag. Even when I mean to add #yalit, it slips my mind. Maybe that's for the best. Some people think that adding hashtags to all of your tweets clogs up the hashtag stream, makes you look spammy, makes you a minor servant of the devil, etc. I have never thought less of anyone for using hashtags myself.

What do you think? Have you ever been irritated by hashtags?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, February 5, 2010

Birthday Giveaway!!!

Tip of the day: It's my birthday! Please, have a cupcake (or two or three) in my honor!

What am I doing to celebrate, you ask? Well, tonight my family is taking me here for dinner. And yes, I fully intend to have this for dessert:

I have a present waiting for me already on the kitchen counter, but like a good little girl, I haven't peeked. Yet.

Otherwise, I will spend some of my morning working out, and then the rest of my morning writing. As for the afternoon - maybe I will splurge and spend it reading!!

Most importantly, because it's my birthday, I've decided to give away a book in three different places - my personal blog, the Author2Author blog, and twitter. Enter to win in all three places if you'd like - I don't mind at all!! You know, because they say it's much more fun to give than to receive!

Okay, I admit, there's another reason. I'm trying to get people to get over their fear of reading a novel-in-verse. It makes me very sad when I hear someone is afraid to try it. You don't want me to be sad on my birthday, right?

See, there is nothing to fear, I promise! There are characters you can relate to. There is a story that will keep you turning the pages. It may be told in a bit different format and somewhat poetic, which in my books helps bring out the emotions, but it is still a NOVEL!!

To enter to win a signed copy of FAR FROM YOU, all you have to do is tell me you've read one of my books and why people shouldn't be scared OR that you are excited to read one of my books, which will make me SO happy on my birthday.

I'll have Kate announce the winner on Monday! (Sorry, contest open to US residents only. You have until midnight EST Saturday, 2/6 to enter.)

So go. Comment, please! It's my birthday - make my day!!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"I don't care who's wrong or right, I don't really wanna fight no more"

Tip of the Day: Click HERE for the Be Our Valentine Giveaway! You have a chance of winning three autographed romance YAs (The Espressologist, Stupid Cupid, and A Match Made in High School), handmade Valentines from the authors and yummies. And happy release day to A Match Made in High School today!

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

Libraries are Money! (or Arrrr, Matey!)

Tip of the Day: If you are subbing for pubbing, it's a great idea to meet your agent in person if you haven't before. So much fun, even in a rushed weekend of SCBWI-ing and sight seeing! More updates on the conference with pics next week, once I have a chance to organize my thoughts.

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

SCBWI Recap 1

Tip of the Day: didn't get to attend the SCBWI conference in New York, but want to feel like you did? Then check out the wealth of information at the conference blog. It's like you were there, but didn't have to pay the admission price. Win, win!!

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!
And finally, one of the most valuable pieces of information I took away from the conference was that editors and agents are real people. Who would have thought?

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

Six Things I Learned from Online Pitches

Tip of the Day: Check out the interestingly worded letter from Amazon to its customers regarding the Macmillian pricing dispute. (Yes, Amazon, customers will pay for books if we think the price is reasonable and we won't pay for them if we don't. We do that. Really, you didn't need to spell that out for us.)

I had a busy weekend, including a museum sleepover with my Girl Scout troop, which is good because it kept me away from the internet. I was dying to follow the tweets and blog posts from the SCBWI New York conference; I was trying to keep up with the Amazon/Macmillan stand off. But I was completely entranced by the Caren Johnson Literary Agency's online pitch session. Basically, agents Caren Estesen and Elana Roth held a pitchfest on their agency's web site. Anyone could submit a pitch to their online forum. Elana Roth is the YA/MG agent and you can read all the pitches with her responses in this forum thread.

So many pitches--Elana's thread is seven pages long. Seeing them all in one place like this is a great example of what an agent sees on a regular basis. Elana's responses are polite, thoughtful, and realistic. If you're getting ready to query agents, take a look. I didn't pitch myself as I had queried this agency the regular way recently, but here's what I learned:

1. Agent responses are subjective. Yes, I know, you may have heard that before. But it's affirming to see it in action. Sometimes an agent just doesn't cotton to a particular genre or subject.

2. Wow, it's surprising which subjects came up in multiple pitches. I had no idea Neanderthal books were common. I guess by sheer volume, any random subject might come up in more than one query. So just naming interesting story elements doesn't work in a pitch.

3. A hook is not a story. A main character is not a story. A setting is not a story. Even the most fascinating setup is not a story. None of those things by themselves will sell a book.

4. Your story pitch should inherently convey which age group will want to read your story. Read a bunch of these pitches and you'll see what I mean. If I can't tell if it's a middle grade or adult book, I don't know, it seems too vague and undefined to be interesting.

5. Use concrete, specific nouns in your pitches. In pitch world, lots of people discover things too late, uncover secrets, make fatal mistakes, and want things that come at a heavy price. After dozens of pitches, anything stripped of concrete nouns makes the eyes glaze over. Every other kid in pitch world is a vague troublemaker at school--the kid specifically suspected of cafeteria theft is the most interesting.

6. If I were an agent, I'd be in trouble. I'd want to request enough pages to give me 100 hours a week of work. I suppose I'd learn to be very, very selective in order to survive. "Nothing personal, your pitch sounds great, but I have to eat and sleep sometimes."

Check out the pitches and play agent for the day. I'll bet you learn something too.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages