Archive for the ‘Critique’ Category

Nov

7

2017

Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat 2017

Filed under: Check-it-out, Conferences, Critique, Drafting, Kimberly Sabatini, Publishing, Revision, SCBWI, Writing, Writing for Children

Hello dear readers! It’s been so long since we’ve chatted. I’ve missed you. But as we’ve discussed–I have no intention of filling up your inbox with random chatter. Although I am super capable of doing it.

Instead I’ve promised to only blog when I had something relevant to add to the conversation. And here I am with a brief recap of the 2017 Silver Bay Falling Leaves Eastern Upstate NY SCBWI Retreat. I have to share this SCBWI event with you for a number of reasons–I met amazing people, learned fabulous things and I think you’d love to come to this event next year! So let me tempt you.

The weather was beautiful when I arrived at Silver Bay and I took advantage and walked around a bit. I was happy  that I’d brought my good camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After checking in and getting my bearings, it was time for dinner and our first round of workshops.

*WORKSHOP #1 Gestalt: or 1+1=More  Words and Pictures in Picturebooks by Rotem Moscovich (Executive Editor at Disney-Hyperion)

And if you look closely at Rotem’s display of fabulous picture books, in the middle of the bottom row you’ll see my forever friend and editor for TOUCHING THE SURFACE, Anica Rissi’s THE TEACHER’S PET. Rotem told everyone all about Anica’s art note perfection and the magic that ensued because of it. Interested in finding out more about The Teacher’s Pet? Have Anica come and visit your class and tell you the story herself <3

And I don’t want to forget to tell you some of Rotem’s best words of wisdom…

*Gestalt=more than the sum of it’s parts.

*The best picture books are composite texts that combine the text, the illustrations and the input of the reader.

A great example of this is ONE SPECIAL DAY by Lola M Schaefer and Jessica Meserve

*WORKSHOP #2 The Body Electric by Katherine Jacobs (Senior Editor, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

And here are Kate’s best bits…

*Characters are the best way to engage your reader. Follow the characters–>sing the body electric!

*Resist the urge to over describe your characters, but be sure to KNOW those characters.

*Flat characters vs Round Characters. Round characters are surprising, unique and multi-dimensional.

*Motivation: What does your character want?

*Conflict: you need a problem that can be solved.

 

And then it was back to the main building. Want to take a peek?

 

The inside is great too. 

 

 

And if you’r anything like me and thinking of heading here next year for the first time, you might like to know what the rooms look like. So, let’s head upstairs…

 

 

 

Yes, we had real keys and wooden doors. And the most adorable, clean and cozy rooms…

 

 

On Saturday, we spent the morning broken up into critique groups. I brought five pages of my current YA work in progress and my group was super helpful. I also want them to finish writing all their projects and get them published–so I can read them! In the afternoon we had our one-on-one critiques with our editor/agent mentor. I brought a chapter book project for that and got an insanely amazing amount of help from Grace Kendall. More from her later. <3

In between lunch, critiques, and dinner we had some glorious free time for writing, sharing, hiking or whatever else you wanted to do.

I planted my butt at that round table and got in several hours of work. It was fun to shove a pair of ear plugs in my ears and enjoy being “alone” around so many writers. And productive!

Then it was time for evening workshops. And my apologies–my pictures from these workshops went missing. *grrrr* WAIT!!!! I FOUND THEM> ADDING THEM IN BELOW.

 

*Workshop #3 Non-Fiction Proposal Writing with Hilary Van Dusen (Executive Editor, Candlewick Press)

Here are some of the things Hilary is looking for in a Non-Fiction Proposal…

*Demonstrates passion

*Proof that the author has done their research

*A summary

*Outline

*Sample chapter or two

*A sense of the author–who they are and what they are about

Workshop #4 It’s Not A Race: How to Find and Build the Perfect Pacing for Your Manuscript with Grace Kendall (Editor, Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillian)

Here’s what Grace thinks you need to know about pacing…

*What is pacing? Character + Plot + Purpose = Pacing

*Your sense of pacing is different for each purpose.

*Why is pacing a problem? Too slow = bored reader and too fast = reader loses empathy. Additionally, bad craft creates distrust in the reader.

*You can use pacing like any of your other creative tools. (character, voice, diction etc…)

*You can look at pacing at the book, scene, paragraph and sentence level.

 

And then it was time for the Big Falling Leaves Birthday Bash!!! It’s the 10th Anniversary of this retreat and we celebrated at the Boat House…

On the mantle are book covers of Falling Leaves success stories. <3 More are preparing for their book birthdays in 2018 and beyond…

 

Our fearless leader, Nancy Castaldo and her Left hand Lois, Lois Miner Huey and her Right hand man, Greg Matusic. Thanks for EVERYTHING guys!

And here is our fabulous faculty from left to right: Hilary, Rotem, Kendra, Grace, Kate and Jennifer

On Sunday morning we packed up our suitcases, but we still had a half day of awesomeness. We even get to have a toasty fire…

*Workshop #5 Be the Hero of Your Own Writing Process with Kendra Levin (Executive Editor at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Here’s some tips on how to be a hero…

*There is a universality to the creative process.

*The happiest people can find a way to extra meaning from anything that happens to them.

*Heroes: Protect, Serve and Make Sacrifices.

*Having a step-by-step plan and having goals is key to being a writer.

*Know your strengths and weaknesses. Actively address the areas where you need the most work.

*Writing for young people REALLY DOES MATTER!

Want to find out more about how to be the hero of your own writing process?

 

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin (Life Coach for Writers)

Next we jumped to the Editor/Agent Roundtable for an intimate Q & A Session before our last speaker of the conference.

*Workshop #6 Best Practices for Maximizing Your Books’ Success with Jennifer Laughran (Senior Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Bookseller)

What to do to increase your success…

*Website–think of it as your business card. (contact info, links to social media, blog if you have one)

*On your website have a pre-order page/book page (include ISBN, links to buy the book including Indie options, Skype/school visit info and curriculum guide if you have it.)

*Have a Press Kit on your website.

*Present yourself the way you want to be perceived.

*Never vent business or rant like a crazy person on line.

*Give to the writer community–don’t just be a taker.

*Introduce yourself to local booksellers.

*Figure out what your niche is and lean into it.

*Find out what about you is unique that you can share with readers. Find ways to add value to what you are doing.

*Publicists and Marketing: other people are more likely to help you if you are helping yourself.

Want more of this fabulous advice? Check out Jenn’s Podcast–the link is on her website.

 

And then it was time to go home–and work! I’m still so energized. Falling Leaves gave me so many new friends and an incredible amount of insight into my projects–particularly one I was very stuck on. Sometimes all it takes is a trust fall with your tribe. <3

Any questions about the retreat? I’ll happily answer what I can or point you in the right direction. And I have one more question before you go… This question is inspired by the book DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu. We used it as a learning text in Kate’s presentation.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

 

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Jan

26

2016

Draftvision

Filed under: #lifeofriley, Chasing Adaptation, Check-it-out, Critique, Drafting, Family, In the Wild, Pondering, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

On mornings when I’m not running or running errands, after I get the boys all off to school, I look forward to plowing through my emails and knocking out a blog post so I can spend the lion’s share of the day working on my WIP. Doesn’t that sound delightful? Yeah, yeah–I know it’s not that easy. After all it is Monday (I wrote this yesterday) and every person in the house managed to drag a laundry basket upstairs in retaliation for my subversive parenting techniques…no one eats chips or watches football until their clothes are put away, their rooms are clean and their bathroom isn’t gross. So, now I have chores to do in-between my projects. But that’s not my only problem, there is also this guy…

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By rights, he should be in a snow coma at the moment. He’s been outside non-stop for two days playing in the snow with the kids or by himself if every other human was exhausted. I figured by today, his get-up-and-go would most likely be his got-up-and-went and he’d pass out quietly in the corner, providing me with a quiet writing day.

No such luck.

Why doesn’t the dog understand that I NEED this writing day!!!!  I’ve been a bad, bad writer and I’m in the middle of DRAFTVISION????

Wait, you don’t know what draftvision is? You do–your just blocking it out. It’s when you’ve drafted 75% of a manuscript and because you’ve struggled with some aspect of plowing forward to the end of the draft, you’ve started to revise the front end while still drafting the back end. Draftvision. It can be a cold mess. Ugly on the scale of the 2016 Blizzard Jonas.

I do have good news. Besides the fact that Jonas only dumped a mild 10 inches in my yard. (Thank you mother nature for the pass) I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer stuck on my work in progress, spinning my wheels on the big expanse of white page. I know what to write to get out of draftvision. But here’s the thing, even when you’ve finally been able to plot your escape–you’ve still got to shovel yourself out of that shit. There ain’t nobody coming along with a word plow who’s going to do it for you. Which ultimately leaves you with lots of work to do on your WIP, plus a blog post and mountains of laundry to climb and whether you want to be or not, you ARE outside with the frisky snow pup who just wants to play ball.

My compromise is to brainstorm my blog post while running the dog silly. Sometimes this means “mind-writing” a topic I’ve already been thinking about. And other times, like today, it means I’m hoping to be struck by inspiration while I’m hanging out in the good old outdoors.

Today my connections started firing when I tossed that first neon orange tennis ball across the field and into ten inches of snow. I hadn’t really thought it through. White snow. Orange ball. This was going to be easy. That’s what I thought until this happened…

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Gone. I hadn’t expected snowball hide and seek. And it quickly became apparent (to me at least) that playing ball in the deep snow was a lot like struggling through draftvision. One minute your tossing your best stuff into the air and the next minute–BOOM! Ball is gone and you can’t find it anywhere. But you don’t panic because the snow is pretty pristine and there is a ball shaped space letting you know where to start digging to fix the problem.

But the dog isn’t close to being done yet and you realize you are still playing ball in the snow and the more you play, the more foot prints, dog paws and old ball holes there are lying around. Take your eye off that ball for a minute and you suddenly have to change your strategy for finding what you need. Now you have to begin looking for new clues to solve your problems. But eureka!  You realize that as the snow packs down, initially it’s harder to see where the ball went, but now it’s easier to search by color. You wander around until you spot what you need to throw the next ball.

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But now your sweating. Deep snow is tiring to trod through and the whole yard is starting to look a bit off. It’s just when you’re on the edge of leaving that ball out there until the spring thaw that you have to dig deep. You must get in there and start poking around until you find what you need. You do not have time to let that manuscript sit for a few months and lose momentum. Start moving stuff around until you make some progress. If you stumble around long enough (trust me–i know) you’ll eventually find something you can toss around, under all that mess.

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And incidentally, as if finding these disappearing balls isn’t hard enough, you should also know that the balls you’re throwing  aren’t traveling as far as they usually do. I’ve never been a major league pitcher, but momentum has always been my friend. I’ve relied on a little bounce, bump and roll to get some distance. But in draftvision, that ball stops where it lands, without getting a lot of milage or tiring out the dog and now you still have to go find it. Grrrr. After awhile, you may realize that even though you’re trying very hard, nothing seems to be working. In this case, you just might want a little help.

You NEED a critique or two to help you sort out what you’ve got going on. Sometimes that critiquer will tell you things you didn’t know, which is pretty freaking fabulous. Yay for new insights that solve old problems. But usually, the critiquer will do the same thing you are doing and tell you what you already know. Yup–it works like that sometimes. Believe it or not, you’re smarter than you know. But even though you’re a bright light, the black hole of draftvision has sucked the illumination out of your life. There’s no shame in it, some times it helps to have someone else flip your switch. It can help to see your process laid out from a different perspective…

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Oh, that’s how you do it????

See–it isn’t magic. Do the work and you end up with a cold, orange ball at the end or a finished manuscript–whatever you prefer. Either way, you too, can get everything you’ve ever wanted. Be persistent. Believe in your story. Be willing to try different approaches as the rules for what your throwing on the page keep changing.

And so you’re aware (because tough things exist even if we don’t acknowledge them) none of this process guarantees you anything, other than the completion of your art to your satisfaction. No matter how hard you work at writing or how diligently you learn your craft–publishing is a wild card. No one can predict it. You can work hard to stack the odds in your favor like an arsenal of snow encrusted tennis balls and that’s a great thing to have in the fight to get published. But it’s important that your goal is always to write the best book you can write, regardless of where that takes you.

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And there’s  another important reason to have your own measuring stick for your work. Sometimes we do not know when draftvision turns to revision, which then turns into TOO MUCH revision. It can be a slippery, ice encrusted, slope and once we are on it, we start moving ass-fast downhill and don’t know how to stop sliding and get off.

At the end of my blog post plotting, I pocketed both bright orange balls for another day, trading them for a large stick that I tossed up into the woods. Somewhere between the toss and the run to find said stick, the pup forgot what he was looking for and spent the next umpteen minutes looking for his ball in every conceivable place. He was completely unaware that the orange ball part of his story was already over.

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It’s important to know that all good games of fetch and stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Looking back I’ve realized that sometimes draftvision is completely unavoidable–like snow. It’s one of mother natures challenges. But when we find ourselves walloped by the blizzard of draftvision, it’s great to have some tactics to help you shovel out of there as quickly as possible…

  1. Look carefully at what you already have for the clues you need to move forward.
  2. Be tolerant of where you are in your writing and forgiving of how you got there.
  3. Then be positive about where you are going.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go digging, no matter how big of a mess it makes–journeys are important.
  5. Keep your eye on the ball. But if you lose track of it, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you. Perspective is key.
  6. Know the real reason you are playing ball in the first place. Understand what is in your control and what is out of your control.
  7. Don’t keep playing when the game is clearly over. There is a time to stop or you end up chasing the wrong things. Send that work out when it feels done, not when you think it’s perfect. There is no such dog.
  8. Drink hot chocolate–it makes everything better.

Have you spent time in DRAFTVISION before? What are your tips for getting out? Do you have a dog that makes you throw balls in the snow? What other pets mess with your writing time? Aren’t you glad dogs don’t wear clothes and don’t add to the laundry pile?

Hang in there and keep tossing balls in the snow and words on the page.

 

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Jan

12

2016

Passion Planner Mini Me

Filed under: Check-it-out, Critique, In the Wild, Pondering, Stuff I Love

Last year I bought a Passion Planner and optimistically blogged about it. You can read my 2015 Passion Planner post HERE. But now, it’s 2016 and I wanted to let you know how  my planner worked out for me.

First of all, I had every intention of purchasing another one. I really love it a lot! But I became very excited at the end of the year,  when I learned that there was going to be a mini passion planner on the scene in 2016.

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The size of the planner was one of the main things I struggled with. I loved the space to write, but it took up way to much personal space on the counter near my computer. I tended to close it up and leave it behind my laptop, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the planner accessible.



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Look at me now!

With the compact planner, it’s just the right size to keep next to me and accessible. I will admit that unfortunately, the writing space often feels a little squished. But there’s nothing I’d like to sacrifice on the page to get more space, so I think I’m going to pull out a pen with a finer point and see if that helps. In fact–one of these might do the trick…

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And using these pens in my planner will make me happy because I had to STOP using these pens in my planner. I know, you’re confused, but I can explain. I LOVED sitting down and color coding all of my weekly events with my fabulous new pens! I really did, but it took up too much time. Time I didn’t have to fart around with–even when I was enjoying it. On a good day, it was time I didn’t need to waste.

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So pretty! *pets page*

And on a bad day, when I didn’t have the time, my planner tended to look like this…

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I wasn’t really good at finding a middle ground. Not helpful anyway you flipped the pages.

Instead of setting myself up for failure, I’m using one pen at a time and one pen only. No excuses!

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But as I was writing this post I joyously realized that I could rotate through my gorgeous fine tipped pens and mix up my colors seasonally or as the mood strikes me. Best of both worlds. *high five please*

I’m also consolidating some of my other calendars. In the past, I have a tendency to place a printed monthly calendar on the cabinet in front of me to track my writing progress. That calendar is ALWAYS changing. Some days I need to tightly track my word count. Other days I need to acknowledge that I’m revising but not track word count details. Some days it’s a mix of several things I’m working on. My needs and my accountability is fluid with the calendar.

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I also keep a white board calendar in a different location, reminding me of my blogging days and author related activities. This calendar used to be above my desk (where I did my writing.) But once I moved to my new house, it didn’t quite play out like that. So, in 2016 (since this mini version) is right next to me) I’m keeping track of all of this stuff on the monthly pages of the planner. It’s a work in progress–I’m just starting to dabble with it, but I think I’m going to like this even better than what I was doing before. And then I’ll have a place to keep that info without papers being lost–because if you know me–you know I stash them in the oddest of places. You know, to keep them safe.

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Overall I’ve found that the more accessible I keep the planner and the simpler I make my process, the more I use it. And the more I use it, the more I get out of it. So, despite some design incompatibilities (for me) and a lot of operator head space on my part–I’m still a HUGE fan of my Passion Planner and I’m always finding new ways to alter it to best suit my needs. I anticipate a January 2017 update coming your way next year.

Anyone else using a Passion Planner? Do you have another planner that works or doesn’t work for you? What are some of your best planner organizational tips? Do you LOVE colored pens as much as I do??? Tell the truth.

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Oct

27

2015

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Filed under: Book Reviews, Critique, Pondering, Publishing, Reading

I LOVE reading YA. But I’m also a fan of not limiting yourself to only one age group or even genre of books. There are things to be learned and pondered out there and they come in all kinds of packages.

For months my husband has been reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand and begging me to read it also so he’d have someone to discuss it with.

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When it was first published in 1943, The Fountainhead – containing Ayn Rand’s daringly original literary vision with the seeds of her groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism – won immediate worldwide acclaim.

This instant classic is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him.

I decided to read the book (I’m attacking it on audiobook) since it’s a very lengthy tome. This way I can listen in the car, on a run or even in the shower LOL! I’m on Track 45/68 so do not spoil it for me. But I can’t contain myself any more. I want to talk to people about this book–the parts I love and the parts I hate. The things that have been illuminated and the things that have been muddied.  The hubby and I are a bit obsessed about discussing it and had a hell of a conversation after seeing the Steve Jobs movie. But I want more thoughts and opinions. This book has made me curious in so many ways.

Have you read it? What do you think? Do you want to read it? Do you love it? Do you hate it? What does it mean to you? Talk to me about it–just don’t spoil the ending for me or the book for anyone else.

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Jul

7

2015

Critique Partners, The Ladies Noir and PIXILATED by L.S. Murphy

Filed under: Blogging, Check-it-out, Community, Critique, Publishing, Stuff I Love, The Ladies Noir, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I LOVE my critique partners. I have a very small group of friends who I’ve been working with for a very long time and they are amazing. I also have lots of critique support through my local Shop Talk. They never let me down. And then there’s my amazing buddies from the Class of 2k12 and the Apocs that I can ALWAYS call upon. But recently I’ve joined a new critique group I’m very excited about. We call ourselves The Ladies Noir and we’re a group of 30 YA authors supporting each other with critique and promo. I’m loving this diverse group already and I’m happy to begin sharing one of these great YA authors with you. PIXILATED by L.S Murphy is on TBR list but I wanted to be a part of her Book Blitz, so I’ll tell you about how awesome it was later. For now, here’s what you need to know to be excited…

Pixelated

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by L.S. Murphy

Release Date: 06/30/15

Bloomsbury Spark

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Senior Year. 

Middle of nowhere. 

What’s the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields. 

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they have to be together. 

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, ’cause Les is about to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color. 

Add to Goodreads

Buy Links:

AMAZON│BARNES & NOBLE│KOBO

 Praise for Pixelated:
“In Pixelated, L.S. Murphy weaves a complex web of secrets and lies with a ‘will they or won’t they’ romance that kept me turning pages and holding my breath!” ~ Julie Reece, author of The Artisans and Crux

“Beautifully written, with a full spectrum of emotion and complex characters, Pixelated will tug at all your heartstrings. I easily lost myself in the world L.S. Murphy created and couldn’t stop reading because I needed to see how the story ended.” ~ Kelly Oram, author of Cinder & Ella

“L.S. Murphy brings something for every reader with Pixelated: romance, secrets, mystery, and a main character torn between two choices. Murphy’s writing is sharp and steeped in emotions, deftly hooking her readers from the first sentence to the last.” ~ Sarah Bromley, author of A Murder Of Magpies 

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About the Author
L.S. Murphy obsesses about St. Louis Cardinals baseball, fangirls over her favorite authors, and watches every episode of Doctor Who like it’s the first time. When she’s not doing those time-consuming things, the former farm-girl turned city slicker turned suburbanite writes sweet romances for teens and adults.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Blitz Organized by:

Unknown

YA Bound Book Tours

I’m completely intrigued by a girl wanting her work to grace the cover of a National Geographic–what intrigues you the most about PIXILATED???

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Jan

29

2015

How to Make an Author’s Day

Filed under: Book Auntie Braggery, Book Reviews, Check-it-out, Community, Critique, Fan Mail, In the Wild, Pondering, Publishing, Reading, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I recently tagged a couple people in a Facebook post about a friend’s book trailer. I knew the subject matter of the book would highly resonate with them AND I know this author is an amazing writer. Win-Win for everyone! In less than ten minutes there were several people interested in ordering the book who never would have known about it before.

Initially, there was a little confusion because the book is available for pre-order but it won’t be out until 2/5.  But one of my friends jumped in and clarified the way a pre-order works and how it’s VERY helpful to the author to have pre-orders. Was it wrong that I wanted to kiss her on the lips? I forget not everyone eats, sleeps and breathes publishing. So, today I thought I’d give some simple tips about how you can make an author’s day.

Many books

*Buy their book. Pre-order it if it isn’t out yet.

*Buy the book as a gift for a friend or a donation to a school or library.

*If you loved the book, tell everyone who has ears they should read it ASAP! Nothing can compare to word of mouth for the success of a book.

*Write a review for Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any place that sells books. It does not have to be an insanely long and complicated essay. You can write one sentence and have the eternal gratitude of the author. Reviews make us feel good, but they also are important to the gods of Amazon and it’s algorithms.

*Help the author spread the word when they run contests or share information.

*Tell the author their books had in impact on you. You may not realize it, but fan letters make our hearts grow three sizes when we read them.

 

Now go forth and make an author’s day. And feel free to share any additional tips in the comments.

 

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May

15

2014

We Need Diverse Critiques On Our Manscripts

Filed under: Critique, Drafting, Revision, Writing, Writing for Children, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

Recently the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been all over twitter and the blogoshere. I’ve loved hearing and seeing the amazing requests for books and covers to reflect all the lives and faces of readers. I’ve also found the surrounding blog posts extremely interesting. They have often insightfully commented on the speed bumps we put in our own path to making change. But today I’m talking about something a little bit different. #WeNeedDiverseCritsOnOurManscripts

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Not exactly the same thing, but as a writer, also pretty important.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an unpublished newbie or the author of multiple successful books. At some point, you need to have eyes other than your own on your manuscript. Of course, if you’re John Green or Veronica Roth, you’ve probably got some very eager and talented higher-ups in publishing who are willing to give feedback. But I would also imagine they have a secret stash of trusted people who will give them honest feedback on their work. And I would hazard a guess, that while those special people may not all be in publishing, they are intelligent readers who bring special insight to the table. This diversity is really important.

I very recently finished up a draft of a project to send to my agent. Because this project is a little different than what I’ve previously worked on, I really needed to have a wide swath of readers to give me feedback before I sent it for it’s first date with my agent. I don’t want to give away too much about my shiny new project. *hugs project protectively* But I have to tell you, despite having close to a dozen pairs of diverse eyes looking it over, I received very little overlapping advice on how to tighten the story. And even better, most of the suggestions were excellent and incorporated. The readers who gave me critiques saw my work with unique filters and now my writing is richer because of their vision.

Here are some general suggestions for finding diverse critiques for your writing. Since I write for kids, I’m gearing my advice to similar writers, but I think you can effectively extrapolate on the idea if you write outside of kid lit. Also keep in mind that too much advice can make you crazy. Pick your readers wisely. You should also be aware of your inner compass–be prepared to pass over advice that does’t resonate with you. Know your own voice and stick with it. But just as important,  be open to trying something that doesn’t initially feel comfortable. You can always return to the original. Here are some of my suggestions for getting diversity into your critiques…

*Find someone who represents your target audience. They don’t have to be a writer–just a reader. How do they organically respond to your writing. Do they emote in the correct places? Do they get confused? Do they dislike a character they are supposed to be rooting for?

*Find someone who teaches your target audience. They know your target audience intimately, but they bring a unique perspective. Is the reading level too high? Is the topic one that kids are looking for more information on? Is your dialogue completely outdated?

*Find a children’s librarian. They know what is being checked out and read over and over again. They may also be able to help you find readers in your target audience if you are having trouble with that.

*Find a parent of a child in your target audience that takes an avid interest in their children’s reading. (This is less important with teens, but can be an interesting perspective) For younger kids, it is often the parent who is doing the reading. Will a parent want to read this book over and over again with their child? And not that you always care whether they do or not (sorry parents–ultimately we write for kids) but do the parents want to ban your book? It’s never bad to know what you’re up against.

*Find an expert that compliments your subject matter. Writing historical fiction? Writing about a medical issue? Writing about a unique location? Have someone look your manuscript over who is knowledgable in the area you are writing about.

*Find someone who has great editorial skills. It’s fabulous if you can find a crit partner that knows spelling, grammar and the proper way to set up a manuscript for submission. Especially if this is an area you are weak in. *coughs*

*Find a friend who understands your emotional personality. We write with our hearts and that’s a good thing. It is a bonus to have a reader that is keyed into the deeper threads of your story. You need someone who can  point out the places where those threads are seamlessly woven and on the other hand, where you’ve gotten yourself into a knot.

*Find fresh eyes. Sometimes, no matter how lovely and talented the above critique partners are, you need fresh eyes. When someone has gone over multiple drafts of your project, they can  provide a lot of amazing feedback, BUT they can also get too close to the work. They may forget that they know something only because it was in a previous draft of your writing. They are familiar–too familiar with the story. Sometimes their knowledge of your manuscript can taint their response to it. At this point, it’s always nice to get a fresh pair of well rounded eyes to look over your writing with no preconceived notions.

 

Did I miss any? Do you have any other recommendations for utilizing diverse crit partners for your manuscript? Please share. Or if you have any questions, fire away!

And remember–it takes time to go through all those notes you get back from a critique. But it also takes time for someone to read your work and write you those notes. Not every person can drop everything to attack your MS in a pinch. Know your timeline and never forget  to return the favor. Thoughtful critiquing makes you a better writer and a much more awesome human being. :o)

 

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Mar

4

2013

Writers Are Never As Good As They Think They Are

Filed under: Critique, Revision, Writing, Writing Style

Recently I’ve been knee deep in revision, doing some critiques for friends, and answering some writerly questions at a bookstore event. The collision of these processes has gotten me thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that we writers are never as good as we think we are. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s hard to see the forrest through the trees. We get so immersed in the manuscript we’re working on that we lose all sense of perspective. We forget that just because we are turning around our best work, doesn’t mean it’s THE BEST WORK. And sometimes it also means that our best isn’t yet good enough in the publication competition. This is a very hard lesson to digest.

As I look back through all the phases of my writing journey, focusing on the times when I was ready, I realize that these moments were often more about me feeling ready than the work being ready. Sometimes I’d exhausted my capabilities, other times I was so freaking sick of the story I couldn’t look at it another minute. Sometimes there were deadlines. Other times I thought it was perfect. Silly me–perfect does not exist. I lacked objectivity. Often I still do. But that is not always a bad thing. Publishing is a tough business. It pays to have a little hubris mixed in with our neuroticism. It gives us the courage to keep going in the face of great odds.But that only works if we also have the ability to take criticism and use it constructively. I’m aware that everyone is wired a little differently, and what works for one, doesn’t always work for another, but here’s my takeaway…

I need criticism–it’s the platform that I use to plant my feet and push off of. Now, no–I’m not talking about the critique your crazy Aunt Myrtle gives you, that comes with her suggestions acted our in front of the family at the holiday get together when she hasn’t even read your book. I’m also not talking about the vicious review that says your kids are doomed to a life of hell because you, dear sucky author, are unfortunately their mother. That kind of feed back doesn’t count. I’m talking about the level headed stuff. Writer friends, agents, authors, editors, teachers, passionate readers. I’m talking about thoughtful advice. I repeat. I am never as good of a writer as I think I am and that feedback helps me. I know this is true because I look at what my book and manuscripts were like before I used the feedback and I look at what my writing was like after the feedback. Big surprise (NOT!) 99% of the time the work is ALWAYS better after the feedback.

So, on your quest for writing perfection, I urge you to be a sponge. Absorb all the universe has to offer you, then take the best and forget the rest. And here’s the thing about writers never being as good as they think they are. It works the other way too–sometimes, the writers who are ready, are also never as good as they think they are–they’re better. My guess is it’s because they learned today’s lesson too well–you can always get better with hard work and effort.

 

How do you deal with feedback on your writing? Do you cry and then wrap your mind around it later? Does it not even ruffle your feathers? Does it sting quick like a Band-Aid, but you get over it super quick? Do you avoid it at all costs? Yell and tantrum at the person foolish enough to try to help you? Does it depend on the day?

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Mar

1

2013

Revision and Cleansing: Chips off the Same Block (Did somebody say chips?)

Filed under: Check-it-out, Critique, Revision, The Opposite of Gravity, Writing, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I’m going to make this as streamlined as I possibly can because it’s 10:00pm on my last cleanse day and even the cat food is starting to look really good. LOL! The sooner I go to bed the sooner I wake up to the world of normal eating. And although I’m talking about the cleanse, it’s not the cleanse itself that has made me behind tonight. I just hit the SEND button. The revised manuscript for THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY is in the hands of my critters!!!! This means it’s not long now until my agent has it in her hands. I’m thrilled and scared–a typical author reaction to just about everything in the publishing process.

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So, obviously I’ve been cleansing AND revising, which has made me realize that both of these things are really quite similar. Both are actions that do a deep cleaning in order to arrive at a better version of the current product. I could wax poetic about all the weird connections but honestly I’d rather go drink some organic veggie broth. But since a lot of you have asked about the cleanse I thought I’d give a a few quick tips and take aways from the experience.

First of all, I used a 9 Day Isagenix Cleanse. I’ve used it before to good results. My last cleanse was probably close to two years ago. I decided to do one now because I had gotten to a place where I NEEDED to do this to feel better. I always know when I need to do it because this isn’t the kind of thing I enjoy doing, even though I enjoy the end result. If you’d like to find out more about it, I have a friend who is involved with the program. You can contact Stephanie HERE.

If you plan on doing this or any other cleanse, here’s a few tips I’ve come up with that are helpful…

*Wean yourself off of caffeine slowly before the cleanse. I don’t do a lot of caffeine and I had almost a 2 day headache and I think it was possibly from sugar withdrawal. Help yourself out by cutting back on at least some stuff incrementally.

*Go into the cleanse with the odds stacked in your favor. I timed the cleanse so I wasn’t doing it on a holiday or ski trip. I also put myself out publicly, which works for me. Making public declarations helps me to have that group mentality and it works. I also gave myself a sort of mantra to think about. I didn’t have a specific phrase, but I concentrated on mind over matter. I wanted to feel that I was driving my own ship. I also wanted to feel healthy again. I also thought about skinny people I really don’t like and used them as motivation. *grin*

*Specifically for Isagenix–after the first day and a half–I couldn’t stomach the chocolate wafers used on cleanse days. I couldn’t do another one. I opted for a teaspoon of sliced almonds and a half an apple or some organic veggie broth. Seriously, I will never eat another wafer again. Ever. Be a little flexible. I also added fresh and frozen organic fruits and veggies to my shake on the five shake days. I had no dessert all the way up until right before the last two cleanse days. I was dying for a piece of chocolate, so I had a few squares of organic 85% Green and Blacks chocolate. It helped me to not be overwhelmed by that craving during the last two days. Flexibility is cool as long as it’s not sabotage.

*On cleanse days I found that varying the temperature and flavors of my liquids helped a lot. In the mornings I put hot water with lemon in a thermal cup to sip. In the evening I used the organic veggie broth because dinner was the hardest for me to skip. I was both physically hungry and emotionally hungry at that point in the day.

*On cleanse days I rested if I needed to and if I felt good, I walked for 60 minutes (15 min mile) This was hard for me because I’m a runner and I hate toning things down, but I also knew that I’d burn through my energy too quick and probably make myself so hungry I’d cheat. The walking worked out really well and on the shake days I did my usual.

Time for the take aways:

I lost 6.66 lbs over the nine days and my BMI dropped by 1.7 Woo hoo!!! I lost weight and inches and my clothes are fitting very differently–I no longer feel like a sausage in a casing. Overall, I feel great and I also feel VERY un-stuck. Now I’m  very vested in not wasting all this effort by binging now that I’m done. I’ve shown myself what I’m capable of doing–normal, healthy  eating, by comparison, should be a breeze. Seeing and feeling results is very motivating so even though I won’t be doing another cleanse any time soon–I am really glad I did it.

Are you revising and/or cleansing? Any questions about either? I’m too tired and hungry to think of more questions–add your own.

 

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Feb

25

2013

Up Over the Hump of This Monster

Filed under: Critique, Revision, Writing, Writing Style, YA Books, Young Adult (YA)

I am so excited. *fist pump* I’m almost done with my revision of THE OPPOSITE OF GRAVITY and I’m confident I’ll be turning it over to my crit partners this week!!!! I’ll be tweaking and tinkering some more while my critters do their magic, then I’ll have to turn around their suggestions. But even with that left on my plate, I’m up over the hump of this monster. I feel really, really good right now and I try to never ignore those little moments of success. *Woo Hoo!* Those highs are what gives me momentum to get back up the other side when I hit the next hump in the publication process.

And though putting myself out there–the waiting and risk of failure is hard–you know that I’m a girl who gets excited about possibility. The idea of getting this book back into the hands of my agent gives me tingles.

POSSIBILITY.

POTENTIAL.

These are some of my favorite P words besides pizza and plethora. My little book is growing up and getting ready to go out into the world. *grin* This makes me very happy. A little nervous, but very, very happy.

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Where are you in your writing process or in any big life project you’re working on? Do you like roller coasters? Are you able to celebrate each individual hump that you rise above? And do you scream on the way down????

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