Friday, December 31, 2010

A Fresh Look At Writers' Resolutions

Keeping a New Year's Resolution is tough, unless you're one of those people who resolves to eat more chocolate or watch more tv. But what if, instead of picking something that is a daily struggle, we could do a one time act that would be good for us? We could do that. Right? We could even handle more than one.

The first thing I've done to help myself as a writer in 2011 is to set up a file box. I've labled folders for my manuscripts and filled them with drafts and critiques. This way, when I'm ready to work on a story, everything is together and organized. The file box also contains the envelopes that I record submissions on and place the responses inside.

What's a one time deed you could do to help your writing in 2011? Leave a comment and let us know.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coming Up For Air

With the holiday hurry underway, November zipped by without a new blog post from me. Sorry about that. But I promise I didn't spend those silent days popping bonbons in my mouth (They were dark chocolate M&Ms) and neglecting manuscripts. Nope. I've been working.

There's a new manuscript in my life, and we've been spending lots of time together. It's a middle grade and darker than my usual voice. I'd pitch it to you, but I'm afraid to jinx a first draft.

Along with writing, I've been researching agents and hoping to find one that loves PRINCESS OR PIRATE and wants to help me find it a good home. I'll be crossing my fingers, toes, and eyes as I check my inbox and wait for the mail lady in the coming months.

Thanksgiving found me thankful for family, friends, and the ability to do what I love. Now my tree is up, the first snow has fallen, and my heart is happy as I wait for Christmas.

What are you waiting for? An email? A baby? Twooo Love? Gotta love The Princess Bride. Leave a comment to let us know. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Giveaway

I love bookstores, but I love libraries even more. Everyone, regardless of their income, should be able to read great books. In this economy, budgets have been cut and libraries have felt the wrath of it.

From The Mixed Up Files..., a blog for fans of middle grade books, is having a fabulous contest where they will donate STACKS of books to one lucky library. Know a library that could use more children's books? Swing by and leave a comment to nominate them for a chance to win.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Keeping to the Code: Do You Follow Submissions Guidelines?

There are nine aisles at the grocery store. One is open. It's the ten items or less aisle. My cart is overflowing.

The lady at the register says, "Come on, Honey. I'll take you on this one."

I unload my cart in record time, help bag my groceries, and apologize in a babbling manner to anyone with less than ten items who ends up behind me.

If there are rules or guidelines, I like to follow them.

In these days where most major publishing houses are closed to unagented submissions, I wonder how many writers play by the rules. Do you send unagented submissions or queries to editors that are closed to them? Or do you consider those publishing houses off limits until you find someone to represent you? Weigh in in the comment section.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Elementary Books by SCBWI Carolinas Writers

Writers attending the SCBWI Carolinas fall conference are asked to bring a book for the book basket. Each year, our chapter showers an elementary school with books. In case you haven't picked one yet, here are some written or illustrated by our fellow members.

TEACHING THE STORY: FICTION WRITING IN GRADES 4-8 written by Carol Baldwin. Published by Maupin House, 2007. (1 copy will be in the basket)

AROUND OUR WAY ON NEIGHBORS' DAY written by Tameka Fryer Brown. Illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010. (1 copy will be in the basket)

ISLAND STING written by Bonnie J. Doerr. Illustrated by Joanna Britt & Laurie Edwards. Published by Leap Books, 2009.

STATE OF WILDERNESS, STATE OF QUARRIES, and STATE OF RESERVATIONS written by Elysabeth Eldering. Published by 4RV Publishing, 2008, 2009, & 2010. Can be ordered from

BRAVE DONATELLA AND THE JASMINE THIEF written by Caroline McAlister. Illustrated by Donald Hendricks. Published by Charlesbridge, 2010.

THE PROMISE written by Maureen Crane Wartski. Published by Perfection Learning, 2003.

Pop Rocks Prize Pack Winner

The winner of the Pop Rocks prize pack was Elaine DeFoe! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing a favorite songwriter with us.

A big thank you to everyone who shared their favorites. You built a fun list for us to check out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Songwriters and Other Magical Storytellers

I love good storytellers. They suck you out of your own world and into another. They're magical, and when we pay attention, we can learn some of their tricks.

Some of my favorite storytellers are songwriters. I use them to set the stage for my writing process. Christine Kane's Wide Awake cd (especially tracks 1, 3, and 5) pumps me up to dream big and make it happen. Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" inspires me to send out submissions, and his song "The Waiting" relaxes me as I check and recheck my inbox and mailbox hoping to hear good news. Other favorite songwriters of mine are Don Henley, Steve Seskin, and Jimmy Buffet.

What songwriters do you love? Leave a comment about them and on Wednesday, September 22 one name will be drawn to win a Margaritaville guitar pick, a Post-it Flag Highlighter, and some Pop Rocks. Not a ten page critique, mind you, but I bet it will make you smile!

Remember, leave your Twitter name or email address if I can't find it through your blog account. I will only mail the prize to a U.S. address. Good luck, and thanks for sharing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Kind of Writer Mama Are You?

This morning I watched a mom being interviewed about her daughter's incarceration and trip to rehab. Every time she was asked a question about her daughter's behavior and whether or not it would change, the mom skirted the question by pointing out something someone else did wrong.

How are kids supposed to learn and improve, if the parent refuses to look at what needs work?

This applies to writers too. We birth our manuscripts after long labors. Our stories are our babies. It's hard to hear negative things about them, but we must. If we don't listen, we'll keep making the same mistakes. We need an outsider's opinion on our beloved creations.

I love my critique group. There are seven of us, and everyone brings something different to the table. When it's my turn to submit, I squirm, because if my story is trite, they will tell me. The feedback is not to be mean. We encourage and celebrate with each other too. But each member wants the others to grow, improve, and send out their best work. If I am submitting a manuscript to an agent or editor, you can be sure my critique group has seen it first.

So, manuscript mamas, who do you trust to lovingly tell you what needs work? A critique group? Beta readers? Your mother-in-law? How has your writing improved because of the criticism of others?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Many Hats and a Great Resource for Writers & Illustrators

I wear lots of hats. I’m a mom, a wife, a children’s book writer, a freelancer, a Sunday School teacher, the list goes on. One hat I wear is related to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. SCBWI is a fabulous national organization that helps newbies and gurus learn and network. I am the Online Networking Coordinator (ONC) for the Carolinas chapter. One my responsibilities is writing a column for the Pen and Palette, their quarterly publication.

The Pen and Palette is a great resource, and you can download it free. The artwork is beautiful, thanks to talented contributors from our chapter and art director Bonnie Adamson. Our editor, Rebecca Petruck, puts together informative and entertaining issues full of advice and opportunities. If it sounds like I’m bragging, it’s because I am. It’s a great publication, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’ve added a link to the Pen and Palette at the bottom of this post and on the side of my blog. Check it out and let me know what you think.

My column, Caught in the Web, focuses on online networking. Make sure you come back for the Fall 2010 issue to read my interview with agent Natalie Fischer. She shared great information about what she hopes to find and not find when she looks up potential clients.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paying Agents?

As I write this, there is a passionate discussion taking place on twitter under the hashtag of #agentpay. Colleen Lindsay brought up the topic of what would it be like if, instead of working off of commission, agents billed writers by the hour.

I won't lie. This hypothetical proposal scares me, not because I don't think agents would be worth what they would pull in, but because many of us would not be able to pay them for all those hours.

How many writers would have to venture out into the world of slush without agents because they couldn't afford the billable rates?

Those of you with agents and those of you without, comment and share how the "what if" would play into your decision to seek representation.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Top 10 Things Writers Should Try Instead of a Pity Party

10. Read Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s blog posts on famous authors’ experiences with rejections.

9. Celebrate others’ success stories. This is not a beauty pageant. More than one person can win. Cheer on others, and daydream you are next.

8. Step away from the computer. Try a Zumba class. Go on a walk. Get some fresh air instead of overloading on everyone’s virtual updates.

7. Be thankful. Sometimes even grown ups get a case of the gimmies. Make a list of goals you’ve accomplished. Be proud of yourself.

6. Help someone else. Volunteer at a school, a soup kitchen, or animal shelter. It’s easy to lose perspective on needs versus wants.

5. In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming…” Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep submitting.

4. Find some fun. Paint your toenails a funky color. Meet a friend for a night of bad karaoke.

3. Set goals. Big goals. Little goals. Give yourself deadlines and find people to hold you accountable.

2. Think of setbacks as part of your story. Every main character has to overcome obstacles. Turn the page. Keep going. It’s the only way to get to your happy ending.

What do you think the #1 thing to do instead of having a pity party is? Tell us in the comment section. And if you can’t inspire us, at least make us giggle!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

First Drafts And Dandelions

I love dandelions. They dot the grass like yellow smiley faces stamped by a five-year-old. My girls pick the puffs and blow wishes and seeds across the backyard. I know the dandelions will have to be tamed, but to me, they are lovely.

I also love rough drafts. They spring up, wild and free. I try to fence out my inner editor until they have bloomed. Adverbs, passive verbs, and exclamation points can be weeded out later. The important thing for me, is to let the ideas land and grow.

May 1-7 is National Picture Book Writing Week. Paula Yoo challenges anyone who wants to participate to write seven picture books in seven days. Let your inner editor have a week off. Blow your wishes and ideas into the universe. Don't worry about what the neighbors will think. There's a big privacy fence surrounding your work and plenty of time to revise and edit before the submission party.

Who will be joining me for a walk on the wild side? Leave a comment and let me know. For more information on National Picture Book Writer's Week, check out and follow #NaPiBoWriWee on twitter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Books We Hide

Confession time: I've been known to hide certain books from my kids when it's time for bedtime stories.

I know. It's awful. I should be delighted to have girls that love all sorts of books. But there are books a mama can only take reading aloud so many times. What children's books do you hide when it's read aloud time?

As a writer, I want my book to be read, loved, and reread. It's important to look at why some books are sweet repeats while others are not agains. So let's share. Comment and tell me what makes you not want to reread a book to your kid. I'm all about keeping things positive and being kind to other writers, so DO NOT TELL THE TITLE OR AUTHOR of the books you discuss. Let's keep things general so we can all learn from them.

Book hiders of the world, come clean. Tell us what to avoid when writing for children.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Plot Bunnies Play: Writing for Different Audiences

Overheard on twitter this morning from fantasy and paranormal romance writer Ruth F. Long (@RFLong):

“Wait, I don’t write picture books. So why do I now have an idea for one? Out, d*#* plot bunnies, out I say!”

Has this happened to you?

Last summer, I was driving home from the library when an awesome idea for a thriller seeped into my head. With many experts advising writers to stick to one target audience, I decided someone else’s muse must have gotten confused and whispered in my ear. So I ignored her. Sort of. But the story is still there, spinning around and occasionally bumping my brain when I should be focusing on a draft of a picture book.

What do you do when you get a fabulous idea for a book that is not in your marketing category? Do you write the story, share it, or walk away quickly and quietly? Please leave a comment to let us know what you do when the plot bunnies play.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Phone Zone Winner

The winner of the No Phone Zone McDonalds Gift Card Giveaway is Stephanie Jenkins! Congratulations, Stephanie. I am proud of everyone who promised to make their drivers' seats no phone zones. The roads will be a little safer because of you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blog Contest: Take Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge

Yesterday, Oprah’s show was on driving while distracted. According to University of Utah researcher David Strayer, our brains can’t multitask the way we would like to believe they can. Drivers who are on their cell phones talking or texting experience a sort of tunnel vision that is equal to or worse than driving while intoxicated. One of the points raised was, even if you are able to stay between the lines while distracted, you are not as alert to the people around you who are weaving, and your reaction time is worse. I don’t text, but admit to checking in with my husband while driving. The idea that my flippant phone call could cause anyone’s (especially a child’s) death is horrible.

This morning I signed Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge, and I want to challenge all of you to do the same. I’m providing the link to Oprah’s challenge. Sign it, commit to it, and leave me a comment on my blog telling me you took the pledge. On Monday, January 25, one commenter who took the challenge will win a $10 McDonalds gift card. After all, you deserve a Happy Meal for committing to something that will make the world a safer place for kids.

Remember, I must be able to contact you to send you a prize, so make sure you leave me your twitter name or email address if I can’t find it through your blog account. I will only mail the prize to a U.S. address. Good luck, and thanks for taking the challenge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Less Whine. More Win. (A Writer's Pep Talk)

It’s easy to whine about how tough it is to break into the publishing industry. It’s easy to whine about form rejection letters and “if you haven’t heard from us in 6 months, we are not interested” policies. It’s easy to whine about how hard it is to get any writing done with “Mom, Mom, Mom,” in the background.

You know what’s not easy?

Writing. Perseverance. Taking negative feedback on your work and transforming it into positive changes. Finding the courage to send the manuscript you’ve nurtured to someone who may or may not even acknowledge it arrived. Having faith that the right publisher is out there and will love your work as much as you do.

So why do it? Do it because this is your story. Because the writing, the revising, the rejection, and the perseverance are all part of your grand adventure. If you want a shot at a happy ending, you’ve got to keep turning the page. Don’t let yourself get stuck on the negatives. Keep going. Work harder. Less whine. More win. Happy New Year.