Ran into a couple fabulous articles this morning that converged into an unexpected blog post. The first article was in relation to something I read in the book ORIGINALS by Adam Grant.
I loved this book for a million reason, but there was a particular concept that stuck with me and intrigued me. It also got me thinking about another article I saw this morning. But before I can build the connections, here is the back story…
Adam Grant talks about how to raise creative, original kids and how that might relate to the heroes who were Holocaust resisters–saving lives while putting their own at risk. This concept really stuck with me as I examined my own parenting, because who doesn’t want to raise the kind of kids who have enough moral fiber to be some body’s hero some day?
My friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt writes books and raises awareness about the impact every day heroes can have on every day lives…
BE SOMEONE’S HERO. NO CAPE REQUIRED ~~ Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
Lynda also writes and talks about how…
I’m here to tell you that can be a beautiful thing. I know this concept (as Lynda is using it) is rooted in a subject close to me–dyslexia. But I also think it’s bigger than that. An important component of raising creative kids (according to this article by Jessica Stillman) is to reason with your kids–to create kids who think independently and don’t just follow the masses.
Laying down the law can be easier than explaining why the law is as it is, but if you’re interested in future creativity, you should take the time to reason with your little ones. Citing studies on the early lives of heroes who rescued people from the Holocaust and highly creative architects, Grant suggests parents “help children think about the consequences of their action for others,”
Not quite sure what Holocaust resisters (incredibly brave as they may have been) have to do with creativity? Morality and creativity are intertwined, Grant explains in another, illuminating TechCrunch interview. “Kids who evolve into creative adults tend to have a strong moral compass,” he says. “They’ve been nurtured by their parents, who’ve talked with them and modeled values of excellence for them that [seed ] concern for the consequences of their [kids’] actions on other people. At the same time, they’re given a lot of autonomy to figure out how they want to live with those values.”
But then the fireworks of connection really started firing in my head when I stumbled upon another article. It made me think about why we struggle to raise kids who are morally and creatively rich. There is a sad cycle holding us back.
Meet the Newest Bully on the Block: The Mean Mom by Mary Beth Sammons
Our children aren’t just battling their peers, who are also struggling to learn who they are and what they are about. Our kids are being terrorized by the very people who should be making them feel safe.
The good news, Saltz says, is that if you’re alert to the toxicity of bullying behavior, you can deflect it and send a strong message to your children, by example, that mocking, manipulating and swinging blows at other people is not okay. If you’re looking to stop a bully in her tracks, the best way to do so is to confront the bully directly. “Call it out,” Saltz says on TODAY. “Tell the bully, ‘I see what you’re doing, and it’s not OK. Let’s not do that.”
She adds that moms need to stand up to mom bullies to create a bully-free world. Parents have to teach by example
Here’s the thing, we all know that raising great kids and protecting children from bullying is a great thing to do. In the abstract–this is a no brainer. But we don’t always see the world from a place of perspective. We see it in relation to our own needs and interests and fears. I sympathize with that–it is human. But so is admitting we are sometimes wrong and need to apologize.
So, I’m just going to lay it out there. If you’ve made a mistake–we can get through this–together.
But if you think bullying is a great way to go–we can’t be friends. It’s that simple. I don’t condone that behavior. This is me telling you…
I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND IT’S NOT OK!
Sometimes we get away from our better selves. It happens. It doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us people who need to be more original. We need to step away from the status quo and decide that it might be harder to own our behavior than to live in denial. But being brave enough to do it, might also make us exceptional.
Some days I look around me and realized it’s quite an uphill battle to teach our children to be original, moral, kind and brave.
We live in an environment where we don’t just worry about children being bullied by their day to day life–we have to fight this kind of ignorance on a cyber front. We live in a time that allows people to do and say things they wouldn’t have enough courage to stand up and say to someones face–in front of others. It’s a scary place out there, but it’s worse when bad behavior takes root and hides in the dark. We can’t let that happen.
What I’m asking of you today, is to stand up and be an original.
Behave better than the average person.
And use the internet to shed light, instead allowing bullies to hide in the dark behind cyber shadows.
You can repost this blog. Or you can share your own message.
But please find a way to be heard.
Will you be a bully or an original?
Will you raise a bully or an original?
Will you stand up and say…
I see what you’re doing and it’s not ok?
I’m counting on you…
It’s time for my last installment of my #LA16SCBWI recap. I apologize for taking so long. I’m usually well done with these by this point, but my kids, my own writing, and other life stuff has kept me busy. But I’m here now and I have lots of great information to share with you about the LA 2016 SCBWI Conference.
Lin and Steve strategically kicked off Sunday mornings #LA16SCBWI offerings with the Agent Panel. After an evening of dancing and kid lit shenanigans at the Gala–only the promise of finding an agent can get the sleepy masses out of their beds LOL!
Agent Panel: Acquisitions Today
VWA–Victoria Wells Arms (Victoria Wells Arms Literary)
GC–Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, LTD)
KH–Kristen Hall (Catbird)
BS–Brooks Sherman (The Bent Agency)
ERS–Erica Rand Silverman (Stimola Literary Studio)
TW–Tina Wexler (ICM Partners)
Here are some interesting bits and pieces of the conversation…
KH–(Talking to her kids) On quitting her job and starting her own agency… I’m fine. I’m covered in hives, but really I’m fine.
TW–After her intro…”I should have just said I was a cat person.”
ERS–I’m looking for people who are purposeful in their craft.
TW–Do I love it? AND… Can I sell it?
KH–Relies on her instinct when picking clients.
BS–Doesn’t worry about what will sell. If he likes it, he’s willing to dive in.
GC–On queries: No voice of the MC. No gimmicks. Not overly personal. PROFESSIONAL! All authors used in comps should be no older than 5 years!
KH–Loves all the opposite query things that GC does ROTFL!
Then it was time for the Art Award Announcements!
The Mentorship Winners.
The Showcase Honors.
And Showcase Winner–Oge Mora
And speaking of fabulous illustrators, next up was a Keynote by Sophie Blackall: FORAGING FOR STORIES: HOW TO JUSTIFY EAVESDROPPING, LOITERING AND BUYING THINGS ON EBAY
Sophie was a natural storyteller and it was hard to pick out the individual threads to share because everything she said was woven together so interestingly. But I’ll do my best to pick out a few things for you…
*I collect things.
*I’m inspired by my fellows.
*One must always pay attention.
*Missed Connections–> the Measles Project.
*I rode the subway in NY, made eye contact with a stranger and ended up in Bhutan.
*Why is yoga still so hard? Because you are constantly pushing your limits. –>Apply that concept to your writing.
*Kids notice your trivial transgressions. Details matter.
*We make mistakes, but we should strive not to.
*The gestation of a book may be the best part.
*Toni Morrison writes into the light. “It’s not being in the light–it’s being there before it arrives.”
*The making part IS the best part. Do not hoard your ideas–use them all now. Something else will arrive.
Next up was my first Break-out Session of the day. I got so lucky picking Neal Schusterman-DON’T TELL DAD I TOTALED THE UNIVERSE: LESSONS IN WORLD BUILDING LEARNED THE HARD WAY
This was an incredible workshop. If you ever get a chance to talk world building with Neal–I suggest you take it. What I loved about his advice and techniques were how accessible they were. The focus was not on High Fantasy which isn’t what I write. And his approach was clear, logical and easy to assimilate into your own process. Plus he was inspirational and funny. Here is some of the best things I learned…
*There are no rules but the ones you make.
*Be prepared to live by your rules. There are ramifications to the rules that you make.
*You don’t have to address all the changes the butterfly effect has on your story, but you have to KNOW them.
*Rules can be problematic, but they can also be tools.
*Bring the reader in slowly.
*Stories are about people, no matter what world you are building–resist putting the world in front of the characters.
*Learn to write characters in the real world first–then move to world building.
*Master world building with shorter works.
*Too much info on the world can be confusing to the reader.
*When you are world building on existing mythology, you have to bring something new to the table, a twist.
*IF YOU CAN’T KEEP TRACK OF YOUR WORLD IN YOUR OWN HEAD, IT’S TOO COMPLICATED FOR YOUR READER!
*Start with the concept of the world. Find characters that fit into the world. Then work to balance the two.
*The world grows as you go along, that’s why revision is so important. By the end you know the world and the characters, then you have to go back and be sure that everything is consistent.
*Follow the exciting, shiny idea within your manuscript–even if you didn’t plan for it–otherwise the writing will be boring.
After lunch, Linda Sue Park did a fascinating afternoon Break-Out session on CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS: HOW JUDGING HAPPENS.
I took a picture–I swear I took a picture. But the phone goblins ate it. I’m still missing my good camera. I can’t believe I didn’t bring it. Maybe I need one of those lens attachments for my phone. Any recommendations?
Anyway–this break-out was Linda giving us back ground and information on the judging of kid lit awards and her personal experience doing the judging. There was so much interesting information woven into Linda’s narrative, but I’ll try to pull out some nuggets that will enlighten you.
*When judging the National Book Award in 2006
*Getting from 50 books down to the ones we wanted to discuss as a group was very difficult.
*Used a weighted math system to get down to the groups top 20 books.
*No one goes over these books the way the committee does–it is legit.
*The were the first committee to have a graphic novel as a finalist.
*The process was super time consuming. Linda couldn’t write for a year and sometimes resented not having a choice in what she could read.
*On judging–if you do this–you will never feel bad about not winning an award again. There are so many good books, deserving books out there.
*If you see Linda Sue Park–ask her how the truffles were? I promise, it’s a great story.
Next up was the always informative Deborah Halverson with the UP-TO-THE-MINUTE MARKET REPORT
Here is some of the newest market info complied by Deborah…
*Overall children’s publishing revenue dipped very little–not a lot of movement.
*YA fiction sales dipped by 3%–the Divergent factor. (dips following movie years)
*Non-fiction kids up by 17% due to adult coloring books
*Audiobooks up 24% making up 10-14% of children’s books
*Expansion as a theme. 60 new Indies this year. 660 since 2009. Stable but flat.
*New codes for YA on the bookshelves allowing for more customization and discovery.
*31 new imprints in the last four years.
Market Trend–How Your Current Projects Fit Into the Marketplace
-quality and creativity are being rewarded. Think: LAST STOP ON MARKET PLACE
-creativity in language and text
-dominated by younger PB’s
-some have longer texts where hope is strong and feels justified
-plenty of room for the illustrator to have story telling room
-Write a single title–>series possibility comes later
-diverse characters/actively looking for diversity
-historical fiction/biographies…ordinary people who change the world
-looking for marketing potential, story telling and personal connections
MIDDLE GRADE FICTION
-a great place to be
-agents say editors are asking
-open field–literary and commercial balance
-wants beautiful language, superb execution
-slow build that garners awards and longevity. Think OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper
-room for serious subject matter
-historical fiction–there are lesser known people to explore or new twist on well knowns
-multi-author series are still strong
-stand alones embraced too
-risks that don’t feel gimmicky
-non-fiction–fresh engagement-something unexpected
-MG is not wrapped up in a single trend at the moment
-looking for humor, adventure, realistic fiction
-serves a diverse audience but doesn’t make diversity an issue
-story trumps trends
-sweet spot falls between literary and commercial
-voice that masters the MG sensibility and funny bone
-in historical fiction a contemporary voice gives access–think Hamilton on Broadway
-realistic fiction and fantasy
-still happening but market saturation
-there are the big stars and the rest of us are duking it out for a space
-everyone is super careful/cautious about what they take on
-you need something different and stand out in a crowded market
-be careful about realistic contemporary–its been done
-blending genres–create fresh magic systems–think GRACELING
-layered female friendships*
-exploring grey areas*
-on twitter… #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)
The internal mood of publishing…
*We are in a good place.
*Not being lambasted by trends.
*Room for thinking creatively.
*Not relying on only one thing.
*Publishing has settled into the mind set that we CAN change and adapt.
*An active author contract initiative underway
*Discovered we were doing it right all along.
Next up was a Keynote by one of SCBWI’s best, Ellen Hopkins: KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REAL PRIZE
Ellen had the whole place in tears as she told the story of how life and writing intersect…
*Garbage writing is why they invented revision.
*In this day and age, books are candles in the darkness. And for some children, they are a lifeline.
*Keep your eyes on the real prize: making a positive difference in young lives.
And the final and closing keynote came from the one and only RICHARD PECK <3
*We gather today because misery loves company. *giggle*
*The barbarians are at our gates now–with phones in their hands–playing Pokemon. And they might die never knowing WE are the people who augment reality.
*There are 250 million texts and not a semi-colon among them.
*Where do you get your ideas? Isn’t it odd to suggest we can’t THINK of them?
*Schools don’t build foundations–they build upon them.
*Readers are not looking for authors in their books–they are looking for themselves.
*Throw out and rethink the first chapter after you have the table of contents for your real story.
*It’s never to late to be who you might have been” -George Elliot
And now that Richard Peck has reminded you who you are meant to be, it’s time for the autograph party.
Richard signing a book for the Desmond Fish Library who gave me the Alice Curtis Desmond Award
If you can see the iPad on the table, with Richard Peck—it was a part of me having a beautiful, full circle moment. This spring I had the privilege of being awarded the Alice Curtis Desmond Award and had to give my very first speech. And this speech was in front of another award winner–Salman Rushdie. Yup, it was a sweaty palm, heart racer. But I lived to tell the tale and what I was showing Richard was how I quoted HIM in my speech. And how I also heard Richard speak at my very first NY conference and clearly he had an impact on me then and over the years. And how he used the quote from my speech in his keynote and I couldn’t stop smiling at having the chance to share it all with him. Here’s that speech…
Being here tonight is both thrilling and a little terrifying.
I’m in awe of the esteemed company I get to keep this evening.
Compared to my fellow award winners, I’m at the beginning of my career. This is my first professional nod of recognition.
Receiving the Alice Curtis Desmond award reminds me that sometimes, our FIRST experiences do the most to shape our middles and our endings.
The acclaimed children’s author, Richard Peck once said… “–nobody BUT a reader, ever became a writer.”
When I hear that, what immediately comes to mind–are families, schools and libraries. They are the gate keepers that shape so many first experiences.
I still have my FIRST library card. I was the girl who had more books than Barbies.
In fact, I never went into the stacks without a large, paper grocery bag. I needed something big enough to hold my treasures. Those books held the world.
In the 6th grade, my English teacher read to my class… “In Flanders fields the poppies blow. Between the crosses, row on row.”
It was the FIRST time I understood how powerful writing could be. The meanest teacher I knew, was moved to tears—by words.
In the 10th grade, my class read THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. It was the FIRST time I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in the world who asked the same strange questions I did.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I took stock of who I was and what I wanted to be. I compared myself to some of my heroes: Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller, Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi.
It was the FIRST time I declared myself woefully inadequate to be anyone’s hero. I lost something that day.
On January 1, 2005, eighteen years later, I lost my father, but I finally found my voice. It was the FIRST day I decided to bravely live up to my own potential.
After my FIRST novel was published, my Mom, an extremely avid reader, told me I was the FIRST author she’d ever met in person. It wasn’t the first time I made my Mom proud, but it was one of my favorites.
My husband has always been my FIRST and most enthusiastic supporter. And because of it, there is an exceptionally large group of twenty-something single males, who work in IT Audit, who’ve read my young adult novel. #uniquemarketing
And I shouldn’t admit it, but when my boys were 2, 4 and 6 they ran out of clean socks and underwear because I was writing. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but it was the FIRST time they called me out on it. We bought more.
Then the day came when I received my FIRST letter from a fan. I’d become someone’s hero after all.
And now, because the clock and good story telling demands it, I need to make my ending reflect my beginning–by returning to the library, where I started.
I want to thank everyone at the Desmond Fish Library, not just for honoring me with my FIRST award and hosting such an incredible evening, but also for all you do–you bring books and readers together. You share my FIRST love and I could not be prouder to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.
I adore this guy! <3
Pam Munoz Ryan and Esperanza Rising
Sophie Blackall had the longest line in the room.
Getting my CHALLENGER DEEP signed by Neal Schusterman
I had an amazing conversation with him. So fan-girling!
Totally goof-balling around with Drew Daywalt of Crayon fame!
Don’t ask–I don’t know ROTFL!
Jon Klassen–what would he have done if I’d grabbed his hat and run? And how often does that happen???
And then we were hungry! Because fan-girling is kind of hard work.
And ice cream after dinner will certainly do the trick!
And it might even work tonight as a reward for getting this last #LA16SCBWI blog post done.
Hope this helpful. If you have any questions about the conference or SCBWI conferences in general, feel free to ask. And remember–if you’re heading to your first conference and you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll be sure to help out and introduce you to some new friends.
I’m back! And ready for #LA16SCBWI Part 2–Saturday.
You can’t start your day wrong with Jon Klassen: FINDING YOURSELF IN THE WORK
In case you live under a rock, Jon is the fantabulous author/illustrator of the hat books and more.
And according to Lin, he’s also one of the two hottest Canadians on the planet.
And we have one of them with us at #LA16SCBWI! LOL!
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 16: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends the Catalyst Awards Dinner at Waldorf Astoria Hotel on March 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)
The laughs never ended after that comment, but Jon also brought his depth to the table in addition to his humor…
*”The worst thing you can think about when you’re working is yourself.” Agnes Martin
*Don’t think about your style.
*Your style is mysterious and should be opened up–but not by you.
*Take care of the machine that makes the style.
*Write the stories your brain is able to produce then evolve with your instrument.
*Stop trying to be creative. Don’t try to get a butterfly, you’ll get a car. Embrace the car. Force vs. Flow
Next up was Marie Lu: THE CREATIVE LIFE
Marie was fabulous–I can not begin to tell you how professional, charming, sweet, honest and adorable she was. I was blown away by her work ethic and her ability to speak so eloquently about her experiences. Here’s some of her take aways…
*Was born in China and moved to the US when she was 5.
*New Orleans was VERY different than China LOL! Her first time out exploring was during Mardi Gras. ROTFL!
*Starting writing as a teen.
*Went to work at Disney and was surrounded by creatives for the first time in her life.
*Being published is NOT relevant to being a writer.
*Every writer proceeds at their own pace, in their own way. The process itself should be reward enough.
*Marie has received well over 500 rejections in her writer’s life so far.
*You can’t perfect something that doesn’t exist.
*With time and practice you will get there, but you have to finish something in order to progress.
*Rejection comes for all of us–don’t fear it. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will thicken your skin in preparation for the really tough criticism.
*Talent is over rated–most of what gets you there is passion, perseverance and hard work.
*Accepting criticism is the key to growth.
*If the critique isn’t “correct” it only means that something isn’t working.
*A high tide lifts all boats. It’s difficult to tame the envy monster but know that books lift books and writers lift writers. <3
*Be brave and listen–none of know everything or are always right.
*Never defend yourself–listen.
*It’s scary to be called out but remember no one goes out with bad intentions.
*As scary as it is to put yourself out there as a writer–think about how scary it often is to be the reader.
*Those readers are worth the work of being brave. <3
*We are all in this together.
Then this happened…
My Eastern NY SCBWI RA was chosen to give the keynote from last year’s crop of Crystal Kite winners!!!
Nancy Castaldo: THE TERRIFYING PATH TO PUBLICATION AND HOW IT ENDS
Hahahaha! I took no notes during Nancy’s speech. I was in the audience cheering, smiling, preening and proud. It was an excellent speech. It had dogs and writing inspiration. It was fabulous. You should book her for your next event.
Saturday’s first Break-Out session was with Justin Chanda: PRO-Track CAREER LONGEVITY
Justin is the Vice President and Publisher of the four flagship children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster: S&S Books for Young Readers, McElderry Books, Atheneum, and the new Salaam Reads. AKA—BAMS! Here’s a look at publishing through the Chanda Filter. As always, I could listen to him talk for hours.
*Always keep communication lines open. Establish the chain of command.
*Communication from an assistant is coming from your editor. Treat them with respect.
*Never think of your agent as a tool.
*A good editor is there to challenge you–not rewrite your book.
*No one wants an unsuccessful book.
*Creative differences happen, but we are all on the same page.
*Always be realistic about achievable deadlines. Advance notice of realistic expectations is better than missed deadlines.
*Make sure your working on your book, not just working on marketing it. At the end of the day readers want books, not marketing.
*Advertising doesn’t work–especially with children’s books. And $10,000 doesn’t even move the needle.
*What does work? Word of Mouth.
*If you do book tours, it’s inevitable you’ll be at an event where no one shows up. Use it as an opportunity to be professional, make connections and be charming.
*School Visits–there is an entire other industry set up to support us.
*It takes time to get traction as a speaker at schools and conferences.
*Social Media–don’t get caught up in the echo chamber.
*Twitter is the best/worst thing to happen in Kidlit.
*Unforgivable Practices–Never air your grievances on social media.
*The most important thing you can do for self promotion is to get other people to talk about your work.
*Keeping the book alive after the first year–work on the next book. Your next book promotes your first book.
Even at #LA16SCBWI there’s time for Lunch!!!! But then we are back for Carole Boston Weatherford: THE POWER OF PREMISE
I’m so sorry–I don’t have a lot of notes from Carole–she had one of those keynotes you just sit and soak in. She had me at… A premise is a promise that your manuscript will deliver on…
Next up was a panel discussion: INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PICTURE BOOK
JB–Jessixa Bagley (author/illustrator)
JP–John Parra (illustrator)
SR–Susan Rich (Editor–Little, Brown)
BS–Barney Saltzberg (Author)
DT–Don Tate (author/illustrator)
WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL PICTURE BOOK?
JB–the book has a completeness to it.
SR–it has to stand up to weary parents and antsy toddlers.
BS–Rhythm of the page turn, element of surprise.
DT–Connection through emotions
SR–If we knew what the secret ingredient was we’d replicate it.
BS–Put Jon Klassen’s name on it. ROTFL!
ADDITIONAL GOOD ADVICE…
SR–there are hooks (curricular and seasonal) that can make your books stand out–don’t start with that.
BS–You have to be careful who you share your work with and at what stage.
JP–it’s up to us to define ourselves–be unique.
BS–Take your ego and bury it in a box in the backyard. There is wisdom out there to be heard. Show up daily.
And I was waiting all day for this one…
Neal Schusterman on MAKING MEANING: THE WRITER’S STRUGGLES TO FIND ORDER IN CHAOS, AND STORIES WORTH TELLING
Neal started with an “adorable” representation of his 3rd Grade Teacher…
I’ll let you use your imagination on how she influenced Neal. The good news is that he had a strong and persistent personality.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Neal also talked about the fallacies he believes surround the writing process.
*This is how you do it.
-There isn’t one way. Do what works for you.
*Focus on your strengths.
-If you want to be a writer you have to be well rounded and work on your weaknesses.
*Writer’s Block is real.
-There’s no such thing. It’s writing when it’s hard and calling it that gives you permission to walk away. Being stuck it part of the process.
*If you build it, they will come.
-They’ll be walking by on their phones *snicker* Keep building over and over.
*Never ask for feedback from someone you feed.
-Family can be honest. My kids call me out.
*If traditional publishers won’t publish you, then e-pub.
-I know this probably isn’t a popular view, but if e-pub was available I never would have been traditionally published.
-Gate keepers are there with there rejections for a reason. When I look back, my work deserved to be rejected,
-traditional to e-pub is a little different.
*You must have your writing place
-In high school I had that–it was called detention. Now I write everywhere and get inspired. Check it out…
Why Do We Write?
-It’s all about the reader.
-Deep down we have a belief we have something to say.
And a reminder…If we are doing it right, we are always terrified we aren’t doing it right.
And that was the end of the instructional part of the day, but it don’t worry–the day was far from over…
I got to hang out and chat with Marie Lu and she signed my book!
I also got to check out all our fabulous illustrators at the Portfolio Showcase.
There were also Happy Hour Hangouts with the agents and editors.
Followed by the Red Carpet Ball
Our costume goal for the costume contest was to pull out all the stops and glam it up Hollywood style. Nothing says glamorous Hollywood then Fred Astaire!
I even had my tap shoes on.
A class of 2k12 fancy meet up for me and Lynne Kelly or maybe Ginger?
And I wasn’t the only one dressed up. The fashion police were on the scene. Some body was getting ticketed.
There was also a long line of red carpets LOL!
There were loads of people on the dance floor.
And even the balconies were full.
And later when things wound down, it was lovely to take off your top hat and sit outside.
And when you think there are no surprises left in the day…
You come back to your room and wonder if you’re having some unexpected company LOL!
Hoping all this good advice resonates with you. Which bit of inspiration speaks the loudest for you?
And don’t forget to stay tuned for #LA16SCBWI coming soon.
Hello… it’s #LA16SCBWI time…is there anybody out there? I know. I’ve neglected the blog, but for a good reason. Blogs are secondary to the writing and the writing has been my priority. But I LOVE my SCBWI conference blogs. They help me process everything I learned and I also love sharing a bit of the magic and insight with those who couldn’t make it. Plus I missed you. So, let’s go to #LA16SCBWI together!
Compared to last year, my journey to #LA16SCBWI was a breeze. No hassles. Everything was on time. The Jet Blue snack was blue chips. I even had my roomie picking me up at the airport and we defied the laws of LA rush hour and made it to the hotel in a record amount of time for the afternoon. Everything was perfect until…
My luggage lock wouldn’t come off. Really???? I think what happened was I accidentally twirled and twisted when I should have pushed and clicked–resetting the combo to a magic number I did not know. Grrrr. I thought about trying all the possible combinations then called the hotel desk and had a lovely gentleman cut it off for me. Crisis averted. Dinner was had and friends caught up. Easy Peasy. And when all was said and done, I fell asleep and never rolled over until morning. Not even the Biltmore ghosts could wake me.
Yes, the Biltmore hotel, the sight of #LA16SCBWI is supposed to be haunted. Do you see the wee ghosty on the SCBWI folder? I wouldn’t lie. Totally haunted. I’m positive, although I didn’t see, hear or sense a thing.
But any building that looks like this inside must be haunted, right?
BTW–sorry for the grainy pictures–I left my good camera at home by mistake. Boo!
But the ghosts aren’t really the important part–unless they inspire some fabulous stories. We were there to get our kid lit on and we took off running on Friday.
Steve Mooser and Lin Oliver were on the scene–Lin entertaining us with stories of her senior prom and bachelor party at the Biltmore. Which by the way, was built in 1923 and was originally a cathedral. And this past weekend it housed…
-952 Full Time Attendees (with a 950 seat ballroom) Good thing there were always spatially challenged writers who had trouble finding their way around the building LOL!
-47 States. (West Virginia was absent and Vermont. But Lin figures they were still too busy feeling the Bern)
-And there were some interesting primary occupations listed: 101 Full Time Artists, Cake decorator (because frosting is a legit medium), 93 FT Writers, A Writer/Shepherdess (and obviously a good one–never saw a single sheep in the Biltmore), 3 Paper engineers, a Bonsai Artist, a cluster? herd? swarm? flock? pod of lawyers? and a Retired Housewife. Lin didn’t know that last one was an option. Sign her up!
And our joke contest was Books in the Olympics–write your own headline!
In LA the faculty also marches in and shares their word of the conference. Here are some of my favorites from #LA16SCBWI…
–Lisa Yee and Martha Brockenbrough–Wonder Woman
–Alvina Ling–Breathe (she was congested)
–Linda Sue Park–(for anyone who cares about kids) VOTE!
The first Keynote Speaker of the conference was Drew Daywalt of crayon fame.
DOES THIS KEYNOTE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK BIG?
Drew was funny and sweet as he talked to the group. Here are some of the most interesting things Drew had to say…
*Jack Gantos wanted Drew to write for children–he was his Obi Wan Kanobi
*Did you ever notice how crayons are in your house but you didn’t buy them?
*20 years later..”I told you so, idiot!” Jack Gantos
*First school visit he panicked but the librarian told him he could bring THE box of crayons LOL! A boy raced past”security” and jumped in his lap and said…”I love you, Mr. Daywalt.” It changed his life. <3
*Hollywood kicked me for 20 years and knocked me down and a million little hands caught me. <3
*Be true to your voice.
*Authors find meaning in the meaningless and define meaning in the meaningful.
*Don’t overstay your welcome. *waves*
Next up was Pam Munoz Ryan: ONE WRITER’S CONFESSIONS
Things she’s learned along the way…
*Getting published and discovering I could still fail.
*If you’re not struggling to learn something new, you’re failing.
*If you aren’t struggling, you’re setting your goals too low.
*I wasn’t self actualized to feel marginalized. (On not seeing herself represented in the books she read)
*Things that get you out of writer’s block–a deadline.
*I don’t have a muse, but I’m still waiting.
*I don’t write every day. A writer has a relationship with writing.
*Goal: I want the reader to sit down and turn the page.
*It still stings–writing doesn’t get easier for me.
*I write in a feeble attempt at immortality.
*I read to forget and I write to remember. <3
Every conference has those bathroom breaks between speakers and they are perfect for coffee and meeting friends you’ve only loved on line. So pumped I FINALLY got to meet Lynne Kelly on of my fellow Class of 2k12 siblings. <3 Such a lovely treat.
The next Keynote belong to Justin Chanda (VP & Publisher of four children’s imprints at Simon & Schuster)
THE STATE OF THE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY
Justin took the stage fighting the urge to suggest we unify the party. LOL! Here were a few things going on in the industry…
* 2015-2016 was a great year for independent books stores.
*Kid lit is doing well, but blockbusters are driving the overall sales while the mid-list are struggling.
*Blockbusters keep the lights on.
*It’s a big leap of faith to acquire a picture book. Because of that editors are selectively looking for character drive, humorous books that appeal to adults as well as kids. You have to be the best of the best to get a deal in this market.
*Advice: Write, Illustrate, Rinse, Repeat.
Sorry it’s a little dark. Remember I forgot the one with the telephoto lens. Grrrrr But even so, I can vouch, this is my first break out session of the conference. It was a Pro-Track session with Don Tate on SCHOOL VISITS.
Don gave a sample of his own presentation, followed by advice and tips from himself and multiple experienced authors/illustrators. It was a wealth of knowledge.
He also shared the fabulous Debbie Gonzales who works with the academic standards to create projects, presentations and study guides. She’s currently working with TOUCHING THE SURFACE and I’ll be excited to soon launch some fabulous new ways that TTS can be used in the classroom.
And my favorite tip from Don? GO WITH THE FLOW–IT’S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GO AS PLANNED!
Next up was the Editor Panel: THREE BOOKS I LOVED PUBLISHING AND WHY
SB-Stacey Barney–Senior Editor (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin)
KB-Kat Brzozowski–Editor (Swoon Reads/Feiwel and Friends)
AL-Alvina Ling–VP and Editor in Chief (Little, Brown)
MM-Melissa Manlove–Editor (Chromicle)
NP-Neal Porter–Publisher (Neal Porter Books)
MR-Matt Ringler–Senior Editor (Scholastic)
SS-Sara Sargent–Executive Editor (Harper Collins)
RS-Reka Simonsen–Executive Editor (Atheneum)
KS-Kate Sullivan–Senior Editor (Delacore)
Moderated by: ED-Emma Dryden (Dryden Books, LLC)
Each editor was asked to talk about three books they proudly published and talk about why they were meaningful. They also gave advice to the audience. I missed a few here and there and I can’t possibly effectively duplicate their gushing–but here’s what I can give you…
SB–Firebird, The Lions of Little Rock, A Crack in the Sea
*Breathe, publishing is a marathon. It teaches patience. Work on your craft.
KB–RL Stein’s Fear Street Series, When the Moon Was Ours
*Build a strong network of people. Publishing is small. Reciprocal relationships.
AL–Thunder Boy Jr, The Year of the Dog, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
*Rejection is not personal.
MM–Picture This, President Squid, Josephine
*Inspiration is electric, but it’s the lightening bolt that hits the person grinding the generator. You have to do the work.
NP–Giant Squid, School’s First Day of School, Ideas Are All Around
*Do I HAVE to write this book? Is there intense feeling?
MR–Kill the Boy Band, The Hero Two Doors Down, Puppy Place Series (Because you can’t have a bad day picking out puppies for book covers ROTFL!)
*Rejection can feel personal, but it’s an industry thing. Editors can’t always get what they want.
SS–Cruel Beauty, The Museum of Heartbreak, Last Year’s Mistake
*Look for the window where you know what an agent/editor likes but then make it different.
RS–Enchanted Air, THE WICKED AND THE JUST (In caps because it’s a fabulous book by my Class of 2k12 sib J. Anderson Coats) and Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal.
*Write what you love.
KS–Ash, Rapture Practice, Passion Counts
Next up was another Keynote with Jenni Holm: IT TAKES A FAMILY
Jenni shared lots of personal stories but this fact was key…If you’re going to write about your family, write about your mother’s family first LOL!
And then, just when you think you can’t do one more minute of conference, we got to celebrate the Golden Kite Award Winners and have a celebratory dinner.
We even had a display in the lobby of our celebrated books for #LA16SCBWI
And don’t forget the pyramid of chocolate. It was very yummy.
And on that sweet note, I’ll leave you to digest this first day of #LA16SCBWI and I promise I’ll be posting more soon.
Want to see a little bit more of the Biltmore and it’s Hollywood History? Check out this video…
Where in the world is TOUCHING THE SURFACE? Well, let me tell you…
Here are some of the upcoming events, where you can get signed copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE and hang out with me and talk about writing, agents, publishing and books. You know I ALWAYS love to talk about books.
Fasten your seatbelt…here we go!
Right around the corner (THIS SATURDAY) is the 2016 Millbrook Literary Festival.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
10:00AM – 5:00PM
I’ll be hanging out all day, chatting with readers and signing books. And if you have the time, don’t miss this fabulous panel…
You’ve Written a Novel For Teens: Now What?– 4:00 – 5:00pm
YAModerator: Jake Wizner with panelists Gail Carson Levine, Jennifer Castle, Barbara Dee, and Kimberly Sabatini.
Join young adult author Jake Wizner (Spanking Shakespeare) as he talks to Newbery medal honoree Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), and award-winning authors Jennifer Castle (The Beginning of After), Barbara Dee (The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys), and Kimberly Sabatini (Touching the Surface) about the paths that they took to get their work published. How did they decide which age group to write for? Find out what it takes to succeed in the world of young adult and middle grade literature.
There is so much to do in quaint Millbrook–visit the shops, grab some fabulous food and make a day of it! You can find the full list of authors and panels HERE.
* * *
And where in the world is TOUCHING THE SURFACE next?
I’ll be DOUBLE TROUBLE at B-FEST, the TEEN BOOK FESTIVAL at Barnes & Noble!!!!
What is B-Fest???
B-Fest is the place for teens to:
•Be in the Know and participate in fun, interactive trivia and games based on popular teen series and books
•Be First to receive exclusive content like chapter samplers and advance reading copies of upcoming teen book releases
•Be Part of the Story and participate in writing workshops, meet authors and illustrators and express their fandom through cosplay and photo ops with popular character standees
•Be Rewarded with prizes, giveaways and enter-to-win items
•Be Heard and Influential by giving Barnes & Noble and publishers feedback through social media campaigns and vehicles for their feedback in stores during the weekend
And what will I be doing at B-FEST???
Do you have a reader at home, who loves to write and might like to be an author someday? Bring them to see me at B-FEST. I’ll be sharing my insights on writing, agents and publishing. I can answer your questions about how to get started or where to go next on your current project. I’ll also be signing copies of TOUCHING THE SURFACE while I’m there. And of course, I love talking about anything involving YA Books–so stop by and we’ll hang out!
I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble (Poughkeepsie, NY) on:
Saturday, June 11 at 1 PM
2518 South Road
Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
Sign up on FB for event updates.
And I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble (Mohegan Lake, NY) on:
Sunday, June 12 — TBD
3089 E Main St
Mohegan Lake, NY
More info to come on B-FEST as the events get closer. Hope to see you there!
Last Friday, May 6th 2016, was a magical night. It was so amazing, it’s taken me almost a week to digest it enough to be able to share it with you.
I finally became the official 2016 recipient of the Alice Curtis Desmond Award!
And if you remember me talking about it, I also was able to spend my evening in the company of two additional and very fabulous award winners…
Andy Chmar–The Patricia Adams Award
Salman Rushdie–The Hamilton Fish Award
After an hour of mingling and a fund-raising auction for the the Desmond-Fish Library, I was able to take a few pictures of the venue. Only a few because I was going to be the first speaker of the evening. And I won’t lie, I was more than a bit nervous giving my first acceptance speech to 250 people, with one of them being the iconic Salman Rushdie.
I arrived at my seat with my To Kill A Mockingbird Purse, perfect for the occasion, to find signed copies of two of Salman Rushdie’s books on my seat. <3
Everyone filing into The Roundhouse Beacon. Hard to believe this gorgeously renovated place was an old, run down factory when I was a kid.
Such a big crowd! I’ve never spoken in front of that many people before. *butterflies*
Here’s my seat!! I won’t be able to eat a think until I’m done. So glad I was going first, because the food was amazing and I eventually did get to enjoy it.
I don’t have pictures of me speaking–yet. My Mom was able to attend the event and took a few and there was a professional photographer at the event, so I’m hoping to be able to share a few more pictures at a later date. *fingers crossed*
Part of the awesomeness of the evening was having my extremely sweet husband introduce me and hand me my award. And while he may have interjected a small bit of teasing into his speech, he once again made me feel incredible. He’s not only my biggest fan when it comes to my writing, but he’s also makes me feel like an incredible human being. I felt so loved. I find myself thinking about his words every day. <3
Then, I not only survived my speech, but according to feedback–I nailed it! Which meant the hours I spent writing and practicing paid off. It also meant my insanely shaky hands and at one point, trembling body, didn’t effect my voice. *phew!*
And here was my reward…
I MUST get this framed!
And I was also presented with two of Alice Curtis Desmond’s books. I can’t wait to read them.
Each book has this moving bookplate inside. Whenever I have one of those inevitable crappy moments as an author, I’m going to pull one of those books out and read…
in recognition of her distinctive contribution
to Children’s Literature
And then I’ll get back to work.
Here’s my only picture of Salman Rushdie as he was being interviewed by Hamilton Fish.
Mr. Rushdie was intelligent, funny, thoughtful and engaging. I could have listened to him all evening.
And the cherry on my sundae came later in the evening, when I had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Rushdie after the presentation of his award. He spent several minutes asking me about my publisher, my writing and my book. It was a surreal experience I won’t ever forget.
And if all of the above wasn’t humbling enough, I had the opportunity to look at the award winners who walked before me…
I’ve had the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of so many amazing writers who have come before me. Now my goal is to be worthy of boosting up those who will come after. It’s time to get back to work to ensure that the Alice Curtis Desmond Award is the first of many.
Today I’m saying something out loud that I’ve been thinking for awhile–I’m committed to my growth.
One of the many ways I’m honoring this commitment is by spending less time on the internet and attached to my phone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, my fabulous cyber friends, but the more I look, listen and learn, the more I realize that the internet isn’t the best place to spend my time. Let’s be honest–a lot of bullsh*t goes on over there–a lot.
So, I’ve decided I’m not committed to my bullsh*t. Instead I’m committed to my growth.
What does that mean?
It means I’ve watched my writing productivity sky rocket when I prioritize deep work over shallow work. Read DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport if you want more information about what that entails.
I’ve also realized that I love this blog and very much enjoy writing it–when I organically have something to say. But, if I have to spend too much of my quality writing time and family time thinking about what to pen–I probably didn’t have to struggle with a post that day. And I don’t need to apologize for it. If it was that hard to write, then you probably didn’t want to read it anyway.
And yesterday I saw a great quote on Elizabeth Gilbert’s FB page that resonated with me…
“Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business.”
It’s come to my attention lately that when I’m too engaged in social media, I feel the need to have opinions and give commentary on things that really aren’t my business. This is especially true in this political climate. The truth is, I never walk away, from minding other people’s business, feeling welcome or believing I made positive change. In fact, I usually feel anxious and frustrated–occasionally a little sick to my stomach. And internet trolls are horrifying. I’ve decided I want to limit my exposure to that kind of stuff.
And then there is that insane addiction going on where you can’t talk to a person without them having their face in their phone. It’s so disheartening when you’re at a restaurant and their right in front of you on FB. Or your having a conversation with someone and you lose the face off. But, since I’m more dedicated to trying to mind my own business, I’m not going to talk more about what kind of bullsh*t that is. I’m just going to say that I don’t want to be that person. I can’t change them and I’m aware of that. But I don’t have to be rude–that’s my choice. I want to be a listener. I want other’s to feel valued when they are around me. And I’m also trying to stop using my phone as a mental pacifier. I used to be able to be with myself for more than 30 seconds without needing to be entertained. How can I grow when I’m not thinking? When I’m not day dreaming? And putting my phone away is another opportunity to pull out a book and read!
And then there’s the hype about needing a crazy social media presence. And I hate to admit this… there are a ton of fabulous authors that blog and do crazy social media–and I read their posts and follow them–but I’ve never bought or read their books.
I am skeptical about how social media translates into book sales and success as an author. I’m not saying it can’t happen or that a strong presence doesn’t have some beneficial side effects, but I’ve become convinced that it’s not the best way for my growth to occur. If time on social media directly translated into book sales and followers–I probably would have sold more books. #hardtruths
Do you see what I’m declaring here?
I’m still going to be on social media, write a blog, have a smart phone and adore my laptop. But I need to make sure that I’m functioning like an intelligent human being. I need to use these things as tools. I do not need to let them use me. I must be sure they aren’t ruling my life. Instead, I have to be running the show and doing productive things that matter.
Today I’m taking another step towards balance and sanity.
I’m committed to my growth.
Share your thoughts if it resonates.
I’ll see you when I see you.
More often than I can count, I read a book that intrigues me. It doesn’t matter if it’s kidlit, adult, fiction or non-fiction. When an interesting book strikes, you want to share it and discuss it with your people. It really makes me wish I was part of a book club. Starting one is on my bucket list, but until then, I think I’ll have to start a virtual book club here on my blog.
Here’s what I’m reading…
DEEP WORK by Cal Newport
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you’ll achieve extraordinary results.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.
In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
Deep Work: Cognitively-demanding, requires focus without distraction, and you apply hard-to-replicate skill sets.
Shallow Work: More logistical/basic tasks that don’t require tremendous amounts of attention or skill.
I’m not finished reading this yet, but clearly I find it intriguing enough to want to share it with you. It was pointed out to me by a fellow writer–she was raving about how it changed her outlook on her writing process. Already I’m agreeing with her. I’m intrigued, especially since I signed up to participate in #WriteDaily30 with Linda Urban in the month of April. What I’m finding as I read and write is that this book and that challenge have overlapped. The concepts reinforce each other and I think I’ve learned some valuable take aways from having both show up at the same time. I love when the universe sends me a message and I’m alert enough to make the connections.
So, if there are any of you out there who are looking for some guidance, clarity or inspiration for getting focused and being productive with your craft, art or career–then maybe it isn’t a coincidence that you stumbled upon my virtual book club today.
Have you read DEEP WORK? Are you intrigued enough to want to read it? If you do decide to read it, make sure you come back and let me know what you think.
I can’t run right now. *growls* I mind and it matters.
The weather is perfect.
And up until last week, I was kicking milage butt. I was on track for one of my best months of running to date.
And now–not so much.
It started with some mild leg pain. But it wasn’t too bad, more like a sore muscle, so I was running through it. And it always felt better after the run. But even so, I started to notice my runs were getting slower. And instead of the leg warming up over the course of the run and feeling better, it began to hurt throughout the whole run. Clearly I was compensating for something wrong by changing my gait and now more of my leg was beginning to hurt. At this point I realized “running it out” wasn’t going to be the answer.
I was going to have to stop running and rest the leg, which means I need to find other ways to keep up with staying in shape and eating right. Exercise is essential, because I may be willing to count those calories and hold myself accountable, but I’m not capable of doing it without some extra calories providing me with real food in moderation.
But here’s the problem…running is the quickest, most efficient way I know of, to stay in shape. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but this is the one that works for me. So, this means I’m now stuck finding other ways–more time consuming ways–to get a somewhat comparable burn. And I also have to go to a podiatrist and get my inserts checked. *sigh* And all of this takes time. Time I need for my writing.
You see where this is going, right?
And while all the changes have been inconvenient, the truth is that I’ve committed to writing at least a little bit every day this month with #WriteDaily30 a challenge run by Linda Urban. And because I’ve eliminated my excuses and decided that a little is better than nothing at all–I’m making daily progress on my writing. Really good progress that makes me happy.
So, what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m really grumpy because I can’t run and my leg is being a pain in the leg. But I’m also really excited because I got retrained on the nautilus machines at the gym and some day I’m going to be kinda buff. And then the pup is dog-wagging excited that I’m taking him for longer walks. And despite it all, the writing is getting done because as I was recently reminded that it’s all about mind over matter…if you don’t mind being flexible, it won’t matter.
When has mind over matter worked for you? Have you had to cope with a running or sports injury? Were you climbing the walls?
This month I am participating in Linda Urban‘s Write Daily 30 (#WriteDaily30) challenge. This has been wonderful for me. You set your own goal and try to meet it every day for the month of April–but you do it in a hard working, supportive group.
Here are my list of reasons why any writer should grab a group of friends and do a Write Daily 30 #WriteDaily30 Challenge…
*Checking in and knowing your friends are watching helps you stay accountable.
*Setting your own goals allows you to do exactly what you need to do. Your choices can be specific to you and the project your working on. My goal is to show up for 15 mins and work on my WIP. This is a great goal because my problem is STARTING, but once I begin I almost always do a lot more than I expected. Score!
*Having to check in everyday creates a new view of scheduling–you WILL carve out the time you need to meet your goal. Even if it means bringing your lap top to Little League practice.
*You may make wonderful discoveries–like how much you get done at Little League practice when no one else is bugging you or interrupting you. You may begin to wonder why your child hadn’t signed up for Little League earlier.
*You”ll probably learn or be reminded of some important lessons about writing in general because you consistently engaging with your work. The biggest for me so far, is about the importance of staying in a close relationship with my manuscript. When you do this, you spend less time working to place yourself back into your work. When you stay in the moment, you improve your writing. Time away from your manuscript is important at other times in your process but not when I’m trying to complete that MS.
*I’ve also discovered that the small bits add up. When I look at each individual day, more often then not, I find myself wishing for bigger numbers. But a funny thing happened when I stopped and added up those word counts–I realized that even if I only did a little bit on some days–those numbers were adding up and I’m pleased with the results. Not doing anything, because you don’t think you’ll get enough done, is just plain stupid. This is a much better approach.
Since it’s only April 14th–I’m almost at the halfway mark of Write Daily 30 (#WriteDaily30.) I’ll try to check back in at the end of the month and let you know how I did and tell you about any other additional insight I gained by participating.
Have you done this kind of group writing challenge before? I’ve done #NaNoWriMo (a monster challenge) and #JoKnoWriMo (which is very similar to this one.) What works for you? What are some of your best tips? Planning on getting involved with a writing challenge or starting your own? Have any questions?