Saturday, March 27, 2010

Library Love Support

One of my fellow Vermont College students, Mikki Knudsen, is supporting libraries through a blog challenge - she'll donate $1 for every comment on her her blog. So stop by and speak up if you love libraries.
Mikki's middle grade novel, The Dragon of Trelian, is published by Candlewick Press.

I had a great time at the OKC SCBWI conference and I will post more about that soon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Editor Information

Only a couple days left before the SCBWI OK Spring Conference.

In anticipation, I've continued my research on the editors who will be in attendance.

Let's start with Kate Fletcher from Candlewick. Now, Candlewick publishes everything from board books to young adult, but from what I found, it looks like Ms. Fletcher handles mostly picture books. Here is an interview with her from Tina Nichols Coury's blog. She is also editing a bilingual picture book  from Meg Medina called TIA ISA WANTS A CAR, in which the narrator helps her aunt buy a car -- a perfect, shiny-green, used car with a bad radio and no air conditioning, but it will get them to the beach just fine.

A recent release from Candlewick that looks interesting is Wiggens Learns His Manners by author/illustrator Leslie McGuirk.

It looks like a really fun book and it has a devoted website complete with book trailers and lots of other fun things. 

Amy Lennex from Sleeping Bear Press will also be speaking at the conference. One of her recent projects was S is for Story written by Esther Hershenhorn.  This is a delightful story and a must-read for all writers (it is a "writer's alphabet" after all.)
Zachary Pullen is the illustrator and he talks about his experience working with Amy and the rest of the Sleeping Bear team here. It sounds like an ideal artistic situation.

Kerry Martin is the senior designer at Clarion, which is now an imprint of Houghton Mifflin. Now, I have to admit, being a writer, I wasn't completely sure exactly what an art director does. But I certainly did understand illustrator Jerry Bennett's excitement about getting to meet with Kerry at the conference.
I assumed (incorrectly) that a designer would be involved only with picture books. And while it is true that I found a lot of those on Kerry's website, I also found several middle grade and young adult books.
I particularly liked this cover.

I mean, who could resist that face? Certainly makes me want to buy the book. And I guess that explains an art director's primary job.  I'm eager to learn if I'm right about this on Saturday.

So, that's it - three editors, one agent and an art director.
I submitted the opening pages of my manuscript for a critique, but I don't know whether it ended up with the agent or one of the editors. I will be very excited to see what comments they have about it and maybe I'll even be lucky enough to win one of the coveted face-to-face time slots.
We shall see.
In the meantime, I'll be gearing up to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Hope to see you there.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Conference Countdown Continues

Greg Ferguson from Egmont will be one of the featured speakers at the SCBWI Oklahoma Conference on March 27 in Oklahoma City.

This is very exciting because when other traditional publishers are downsizing and laying people off, Egmont is expanding their business. Egmont is a long-established European publisher that give a portion of their profits to children's charities. Here's an interview with Egmont publisher Elizabeth Law from the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations.

Here is a blog post from Kathleen Temean from the NJ chapter of SCBWI about Egmont and Greg Ferguson.

A recent book he edited at Egmont is The Dark Divine by Bree Despain.  I haven't read this yet. I am on the waiting list to get it from the library, but there are seven other patrons ahead of me. So, I'm probably not going to get it before the conference. :(

And here is the most exciting bit of news I could find. A couple weeks ago, he acquired a YA dystopian thriller trilogy in a six-figure deal. The author, Ilsa J. Bick, talks about it on her blog, Paperback Writer. So, yes, publishers are still buying books and making advances and that is encouraging given all the negative things we hear so often.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Conference Countdown

In less than one week, I’ll be attending the Oklahoma SCBWI conference in Oklahoma City.
I’m pretty excited about this event. Here is the lineup of speakers:
  • Amy Lennex, Sleeping Bear
  • Greg Ferguson, Egmont
  • Kate Fletcher, Candlewick
  • Agent: Stephen Fraser
  • Art Director: Kerry Martin, Senior Designer, Clarion
I always find that I get the most from a conference when I’ve done a little research on the speakers ahead of time. With author speakers, this means reading their books before the conference. In the case of editors and agents, it’s more a matter of finding out which books they’ve sold or edited.

With Google and Blogs, finding out this information is so much easier than it used to be. Still, I thought I’d share the results of my detective work with others who might be interested.

First up, Agent Stephen Fraser with the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in New York City. stephenfraser  
Before becoming an agent, he worked as an editor at HaperCollins Children’s. There he worked with Mary Engelbreit, Gregory Maguire, Michael Hague, Ann Rinaldi, Kathryn Lasky, Brent Hartinger, Stephen Mitchell, and Dan Gutman.

Though the agency lists clients on their website, it doesn’t delineate which authors are represented by Fraser. So, more investigation….
Here’s a recent interview with him from Carol Lynch Williams’ blog, Throwing up Words. The interview is done by Carol’s daughter, Kyra. Carol Lynch Williams is an alum of Vermont College of Fine Arts and one of Fraser’s clients.

In the interview, he mentions several books he sold that will be coming out this spring: Drum City by Thea Guidone (a pb from Tricycle Press).  two fantasy novels, The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby (September, Scholastic) and The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones (April, Random House), and Carol Lynch Williams’ novel Glimpse (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster).
Here’s another January interview with him from Joy Preble at the Class of 2K9: Debut Middle Grade and YA Authors blog.  In it, he mentions several of his favorite MG books:
Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat (in the Dangerous Angels series); Jack Gantos’ Joey Pigza books; Holes by Louis Sachar; Seedfolks and Whirligig, both by Paul Fleischman; Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan and Missing May by Cynthia Rylant.

And, another interview with him promoting the Pacific Coast Writers Workshop where he talks a little more in depth about what he enjoys in a book.

chosen oneWhen I found out he repped Carol Lynch Williams, I decided to read her novel, The Chosen One. I was completely blown away by this emotionally-charged story about a polygamist family. I found myself really caring about this teenager born into a society so different from mine, yet so geographically and philosophically nearby. Yet, what moved and inspired me the most was how the author so beautifully wove in how important books can be in a person’s life. Kyra learns of the outside world and finds escape in the pages of the books she treasures. This is an amazing book and a must-read for everyone considering writing.  You can find an excerpt from the publisher  here.

Next, up: Greg Ferguson from Egmont.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break Pact - Achieved my Goals

I'm scheduled to meet shortly with writing buddy Steve Wedel to review the progress we've both made on our novels this week. You'll recall on Monday we both set goals about how much we wanted to get done this week.
I set a very modest goal for myself, aiming for quality rather than quantity. I had hoped to revise 50 pages of Betrayed, my middle grade mystery novel. I was aiming to make my main character be more "emotionally present."
I'm excited to say, I actually ended up 64 pages!
And now, it is time to take a break. I have to slow down and think about what I've written. And ask myself questions: Is this really how this character would behave in this situation? How does she really feel about what's going on? Do the minor events reflect and support the larger events?
I do have an ulterior motive behind all this revision: my ultimate goal for 2010 is to sign with an agent and/or get a book contract. And I intend to put in all the work needed to make that happen.
In the near future, I am attending several conferences where I'll have the opportunity to talk with editors and agents.
The first of these is the Oklahoma SCBWI conference on March 27.
A few months ago, I sent in the opening of Betrayed for a critique from one of the guest speakers. The organizers have arranged for each speaker to have a brief appointment with the two most promising manuscripts from those they critiqued. The competition is fierce - our group has an abundance of talented writers. But if I am lucky enough to get one of those appointments, I want to be able to say that I've made my manuscript the best it can possibly be and the whole thing is worth their time to review.
I'll be blogging more about the SCBWI conference and the other conferences soon. But now, it's time to check in with my pact partner and see how he did this week.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day Two - Inspiration and Perspiration

My main goal this week is to add emotional depth to my characters. Particularly the protagonist of my middle grade mystery, Maple.
Since this is a mystery, Maple doesn't have to be quite as touchy-feely as say, a coming-of-age protagonist might be, but she does need to have emotions and react to situations. Otherwise, she'd be a perfect, crime-solving computer. (hmmm.....there's a future book idea)
When we exchanged what we have so far, Steve also loaned me a book he thought might help me in the character development arena: The Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, PhD. The book "includes profiles of human behaviors and personality types." The author is a psychologist, so it is fairly detailed and in depth.
But I have to admit, what intrigues me most is the cover. You've got to check this out.

I know the resolution isn't too good - maybe I'll resort to taking a picture of the actual book.
Talk about identity crisis! But this can happen when writers try to pack too many quirks into one character - you end up with the Queen of England drinking beer and wearing cowboy boots while holding a meat cleaver and playing the guitar. Okay, so probably any writer would notice before it went that far. (the recent reprint has a calm blue background and puzzle pieces coming together to form a woman's eyes - probably sells better, but not nearly as interesting)
But it is something to keep in mind. We are all more than what we appear to be on the surface. (at least I hope I'm more than the frazzled writer who often forgets to put on her makeup and stumbles in high heels)

On to the inspiration part. Last night I attended the OKC SCBWI monthly schmooze. Up and coming illustrator Jerry Bennett shared an illustrator's perspective on picture books and graphic novels. He urged all of us to allow our imaginations to create a sense of atmosphere. He also showed us his portfolio and I was really blown away by his work. I hope I am lucky enough to be paired with someone as talented as Jerry when my book gets published. (even young adult novels have cover illustrations)

And, I was excited to learn....(drum roll) there is someone else reading this blog! Fellow writer Larry Mike Garmon from Altus is accepting the challenge to write more during Spring Break. Welcome to the Pact!

Okay, enough procrastinating, Maple's got a mystery to solve! I've got to get back to work.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break Writing Pact

What could be more young adult (or middle grade) than making a pact?
Call it what you like - a dare, a bet, a promise. A challenge, even. I hope to call it motivating.
My longtime friend and writing buddy, Steve Wedel has accepted my invitation to participate in an all-out writing week. We'll be plotting, developing characters and pounding the keyboards all week on the way to meeting our respective goals.
I'm focusing on adding emotional depth to a manuscript that is already complete as far as plot goes. Steve is trudging through that soggy middle that plagues so many writers.
Will we triumph?
Check back later in the week for updates.