Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. I & II

Taking a lesson from my former Vermont College advisor and writing hero Cynthia Leitich Smith who told me to be brave and talk to other writers, I emailed MT Anderson to ask if he had any advice for aspiring authors. And whaddya know? He emailed me back! I've pasted his response below.
Gayleen: Is there one piece of advice you might have to share with aspiring writers?

MT Anderson: Hmmm ... Well, I'd suggest two things, I guess. One is to read as widely
as possible and as eccentrically as possible. I mean reading not just what
you're trying to write, but also ancient hymns and nineteenth century
novels and medieval mystery-plays and Harlequin romances and technical
manuals for VHS recorders ... Anything and everything. Denaturalize your
sense of language and try to always remind yourself of the thrilling
varieties of approach to language and story-telling that people have had
around the globe and throughout the ages.

Then the second thing I'd say -- completely unconnected -- is DON'T BE
AFRAID to take time off of a project between drafts! Give yourself a month
or two at least, and you'd be surprised what insights you have when you
return to the project!

And I guess also, keep working and good luck!

Isn't that cool? I'm pretty ecstatic that a National Book Award winner emailed me.
And I have a challenge for all of you - take a step out of your comfort zone. Whether it is commenting on a kidlit blog, emailing an author you admire or writing something different.

And, I'm off to take my own advice as I attend the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference. My goal is to meet at least ten new people this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Writing News

I've been itching to share this news for quite a while, but I was specifically asked not to blog, tweet or facebook about it until today.

The opening chapter of my middle grade mystery BETRAYED won the middle grade/young adult category in the Hook 'em contest at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Writers Conference. My prize - a ten-minute pitch session with agent/contest judge Laurie McLean from the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. I was pretty excited about this because unlike most pitch sessions where the agent has no idea whether you can write, Ms. McLean had already seen my writing and liked it. She also already knew what the story is about.
This took a lot of pressure off, since I didn't have to give a perfect pitch. It also allowed me to use my ten minutes to find out more about Ms. McLean - that she is an editorial agent who likes to represent clients for their whole career. She asked to see more of my manuscript and said we were "beginning a dialogue."

My meeting with her was first thing this morning - and an excellent way to celebrate my birthday.

I also picked up this very cool T-shirt at the conference from Angela Whitehead. Her company is Youniquely Yours.
Just for clarification, it says "Writer's Block: When your imaginary friends won't talk to you." Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

Here are my thoughts about this compelling middle grade novel.

The roundup on Heart of a Shepherd.
Learn more about Rosanne Parry at her website
She is represented by Stephen Fraser at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.
Jim Thomas at Random House edited the book.

I emailed Rosanne Parry and asked if she had any advice she could share with aspiring writers. Here's her reply:
This is not so much advice as an observation. HEART OF A SHEPHERD is

the book it is, in part, because I thought I'd never sell it. Brother
is such a quirky character and Malhuer County is so far out of the
mainstream, I just assumed no one would want it. As a consequence I
focused on learning as much as I could about how to structure a book
that takes place over a whole year and how to handle a large family
while keeping to focus tightly on just one character. I ended up with
a story unlike anything I'd read recently and not a good match for any
editor or agent's list of "what they are looking for". Which, as it
turned out, was exactly what my editor and agent liked about it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Another installment of Book Talk!

More information about Olive's Ocean, a Newbery Honor winner:
Author Kevin Henkes is equally famous for his picture books (and is also an illustrator)
He was lucky enough to work with the same editor, Susan Hirschman, for many years and she wrote a wonderful article about him in the Horn Book.
On the author's website, you can read a four-chapter excerpt
The folks at Greenwillow included pictures of work on his new book on their blog.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Talk - Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

Inspired by a number of people, I'm trying something a little different. To add a little more excitement to my blog, I'm testing out short video book recommendations. I plan to post several of these and get some feedback before deciding if it will be permanent feature.

In gathering the information on the editors and agents for the SCBWI conference, I ran into some difficulty in finding which books they had edited. Though it is becoming more and more common for authors to mention editors and agents on the acknowledgments page, that information is still sometimes scarce on the web. To help alleviate that, I plan to list all relevant information I can about each book along with its recommendation.

Here's the scoop on Each Little Bird That Sings.
Deborah Wiles has a website and a blog with a great recent entry on her writing process.
Her agent is Steven Malk at Writer's House
Liz Van Doren edited the book.
And last, but certainly not least, Deborah Wiles is an alum of the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College.