Children’s Writing 101 with MWPA: Blog and Retreat Links

Last Saturday I presented the workshop “The Business of Children’s Writing 101” with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. We had a cozy class which allowed the participants to get some great one on one attention as they crafted their elevator pitches and queries in advance of the New England SCBWI spring conference. We discussed the journey of a book from manuscript to publication, defined Midlist, and learned not to defend our work in a critique. We even got to have a mini-workshop for those who had brought picture book manuscripts.

The afternoon brought a web hunt of great kidlit blogs, social media, and kidlit community events that I’ve listed below.

Most important—we discussed that craft comes first and that if you have trouble with your pitch or query it often means that your manuscript is not quite ready for prime time.

If you missed this class and would like MWPA offer this or other kidlit workshops again, please contact Josh Bodwell, Director of MWPA. Happy writing!

A Few Great Blogs:

Through the Tollbooth: VCFA students who do in depth pieces on craft.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Be Someone’s Hero, No Cape Required: Specific connections with literacy, student success, and educators.

Cynthia Leitich Smith, Cynsations: Clearing house of amazing info from the industry including guest bloggers.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: In depth illustrations and illustrators, process, production, and more.

Jama Rattigan, Alphabet Soup: Reviews of food-based books, poetry.

Ingrid Sundberg: Great posts about story structure, screenwriting, and plot.

Pub(lishing) Crawl: Group of authors and industry professionals posting about craft and business.

A Few Great Kidlit Retreats/Resources:

Highlights Founders Workshops

The Writing Barn

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Falling Leaves/Green Leaves from SCBWI Eastern NY

Rutgers One on One

Picture Book Boot Camp with Jane Yolen

SCBWI

 

Sporty Girl Books blog debuts tomorrow June 1st!

When I saw on Twitter that my friends Kris Asselin and Stacy Mozer were starting  Sporty Girl Books group blog:

“…devoted to girls (and the people who love them) who love reading, writing, talking, watching, and playing sports.

I said sign me up! Well, no. That’s not what I said at all. I said, “I’d love to do a guest post every once in a while.” But if you know me, and many of you do, you know that I have problems with one word. “No.” So when they said, do you want to join the group, you’ll only have to post once-a-month. I said, “Sure!”

You know what? I am not sorry at all. Kris and Stacy also recruited Robin Hall another up and coming writer, yoga instructor, rock climber and all around athlete, and I’ve had a blast getting to know her. Over the last weeks we’ve hammered out a new logo (see below), content ideas and blogging schedule (we’ll each post once-a-month).

At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about the sports they love. We look forward to the day when the words, “You play like a girl,” is the best compliment anyone can receive.

The blog debuts tomorrow, June 1st and you can expect interviews with authors, profiles of girl athletes, book reviews, essays, current event tie-ins, and (drum roll please) GIVEAWAYS! In fact, to start things off we’ll have a rafflecopter giveaway of some of our favorite and new sporty girl books. The contest will run through the month. What do you have to do? Follow the Sporty Girl Books blog and our Twitter feed @SportyGirlBooks. For extra points you can follow our personal blogs and Twitter feed as well.

SportyGirlBooks 2

Most important we need you to spread the word to all the sporty girls in your life. We’d love for the girls to be involved in the blog. In the “Your Stories” section of the blog, girls can write about their own athletic stories, good or bad. (All stories will be reviewed before publication.)

So come visit us, enter the giveaway, and spread the word!

That’s One Lovely Blog You’ve Got There!

A huge thank you to Julie Kingsley for the “One Lovely Blog” award. The award is sort of the equivalent of the old chain letter (add a few names and send it on) but better because there is no envelope licking involved, and it’s a wee bit of recognition.

Yes, I do take time from my writing, children, and domestic goddess (not) duties to share a bit of myself, my reading, my writing life, and industry news with the rest of the world. I throw my writing into cyberspace and listen to the deafening silence. So I’m happy to pay it forward and possibly introduce you to some other bloggers who post a good blog.

First, according to the rules, I need to tell you seven random facts about me.

1. I love dancing, although I don’t do it much these days. I took dance for years, and was in an Afro-Caribbean dance troupe in college. I’m also often the first one on the dance floor.
2. I was in musicals throughout my teen life both in summer camp and in Junior High School and still sing “Tomorrow” loudly from time to time, if only to embarrass my own adolescent children.
3. I’m sort of evangelical about voting. There are people who died for my right to vote and folks all over the world who don’t get that right. Every American should honor those people by casting a ballot.
4. I row in boats that look like this:

(Top: I think that’s me in bow seat. Bottom: I’m coxing.)

and I’m learning to row in a boat like this:

(My coach sculling.)

and I love the beauty and strength and insanity of the sport. My current WIP is about a high school crew.

5. I’ve been dealing with Patella Tendonosis for the last 12 or so weeks which means that I’ve done no running, or biking, and only recently started rowing again (just as the water is turning cold) and that bums me out. Still, I have my eye on the weather prophets who say that  we might get a snowy winter. So if I can heal, I could xcountry ski and that would make me happy.

6. My guilty TV pleasure is Project Runway. I think the design and crafting skills required to participate makes it one notch better than most reality shows.

7. If I had one wish, I would read faster and retain more of what I read. (Is that two?)

And for the second half of the One Lovely Blog award requirements, I am happy to tell you about some of the blogs that suck away my writing time keep me in the know.

(Pub)lishing Crawl: Great place for craft discussion, writer’s life and industry info.

Writing With A Broken Tusk: Blog of Uma Krishnaswami, faculty member of VCFA Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, kind and peaceful soul, and massively intelligent person.

Mitali’s Fire Escape: Mitali Perkins writes about Children’s Book, diversity issues, the industry, and goings-on around Boston.

KidLit.com: Ah… Mary Kole. This agent and fun loving industry professional does not mince words. Amazing archive of information for those new to the children’s publishing industry and those not so new.

The Brown Bookshelf: I firmly believe that all children should be able to see themselves in the books we publish. This site brings “the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers” to our attention.

PhotoBoto.com: This site posts photographs that are great for story starters, illustration reference, or just to be amazed.

Write at Your Own Risk: Shop talk with the faculty of the VERMONT COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Yes, I’m ridiculously loyal to VCFA.

Thanks again to Julie Kingsley. Now all of you, get off the internet and do some work!

 

Member Monday: Getting the most from Social Media

This weekend I had lunch with some wonderful, experienced NESCBWI writers and illustrators who are, like many in the industry, a little overwhelmed and perplexed by social media. They wonder if they have to do everything– Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Goodreads… They want to know how they are supposed to have time to still do their work if they are busy posting status updates and being cyber-social with everyone on their list. They want to know what their ROI (Return on Investment) will be once they take the time to learn and then use social media platforms.

I’m not a social media expert but here’s what I’ve gleaned from listening to editors, agents, and other writers/illustrators about the subject:

  1. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
    Social media is at its cyber-heart– social. Whatever platform you adopt should be one that you enjoy and that you will do regularly. If you don’t want to put the time into blogging– don’t blog.  If you don’t enjoy perusing Facebook updates or following others on Twitter, your friends and followers will know. Take some time to be familiar with the various sites out there and make an informed decision. This is one of my favorite explanations:

    Social Media Explained From Geek.com
  2. Once you decide on a social media site, take the time to learn about it. Watch a few tutorial videos, read a few blogs so that you can maximize the time you waste put into it in the future. Most of these sites have ways to make groups so that you can view your close friends, your writer/illustrator friends, and industry professionals separately. Learn how to search for keywords that are important to what you do. There are a bunch of “Third-Party Applications” that you can use to follow more than one social media site at a time. I’m currently using one called Tweetdeck but I hear that Hootsuite is good too. I’ve included a few links here to other blogs that review/discuss these and more. This one has an interesting graph that shows the variety of apps out there: THIRD-PARTY TWITTER APPS STILL THRIVING This one is a review post: 8 of the Best Third-Party Twitter Apps for iOS [App List]
  3. What goes around, comes around. Even if you are doing this to expand your marketing platform, no one will follow/friend you if all you do is toot your own horn. Pass on industry info, help launch other people– in general, be a good neighbor in the kidlitosphere. No one really knows what the ROI is. Does social media really sell books? Maybe not. One thing marketing professionals agree on is that word of mouth is very powerful. I can tell you that if I follow a link to your book and I’m interested, it goes on my Goodreads list which I pull up on my phone every time I go to the library or  bookstore. That’s social media in action.
  4. Set some limits for yourself. You can set time limits. (ex: I will look at Twitter for 15 minutes three times a day.) Or day limits. (ex: I will make Monday and Friday mornings my marketing time.) Or carrot limits. (ex: If I write 1500 words today/ finish the color study on this spread, I will go online.) If you don’t have this kind of self-control, there are productivity programs that you can set to block your own internet. Freedom. Or you can literally unplug your router. Remember, if you don’t DO THE WORK: write, read, draw, paint, focus on craft– there will be nothing to market.
  5. The party goes on without you. I distinctly remember when my parents would have parties (I was about five years old) and I wouldn’t really want to go to bed. I’d sit on the stairs and watch them talk until I got so tired I’d fall asleep on the landing. At some point, Dad would take me up to my bed, but the party went on. In the social media party, you will always miss something. Make your peace with it. Look at whatever is on your screen at the time, set your limits and then move on with your life. Cyber space is vast. Don’t fall into a black hole.


Happy Groundhog Day- Blog host change…again.

The Groundhog has spoken.
Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter.

Today is Groundhog Day which reminds me of awesome books for kids…


Shop Indie Bookstores

But it also reminds of Bill Murray…

Who is trapped reliving the same day over and over until he can get it right.

I feel a bit like that today. I stayed up until about one am today moving my blog from Livejournal to WordPress. The change had been coming for a while. I was frustrated by the lack of simple, clean themes on LiveJournal, and I was spending a lot of time deleting spam comments about purses. I also wanted to be able to write posts one day and schedule them to publish another day. So here I am on WordPress.

My website has sort of fallen by the wayside as well and in preparation for the April 20th-22nd NESCBWI Annual Conference, I wanted to revamp it. Wordpress gives me the ability to expand. Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to add links and my portfolio. I’ll still be posting Member Mondays and Book Review Wednesdays. I know. I’ve missed a couple of Wednesday now, but I’ll be trapped here week after week trying to get it right. 

I’ll also be adding back in my About Me Fridays in case anyone is interested. It will be more personal, poetry and process oriented. I hope you’ll follow the blog and link to it often in your tweets and facebook updates.

Bundle up. Six more weeks of winter.

What are you doing this summer?

Even though it is raining and in the mid 50’s I can’t get away from the question, "What are you doing this summer?" Yesterday was the last day of school for my students so I got to answer the question time and again. My summer is packed with trips and events. The first exciting event is my graduate residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The year of the thesis (Critical and Creative) has been extremely demanding and the graduation will be a chance for me to celebrate my own efforts and cheer on the fellow members of my class: The League of Extraordinary Cheese Sandwiches. As always it will be ten days of community, learning, and love but from a very different and special perspective.

After graduation I’m headed to LA to attend the SCBWI National conference. I’ve never been and can’t wait. If anyone else is going please say hi in the comments and we can email each other. I’m hoping to add a new feature to my blog for the summer and fall. "Member Monday" will be a reposting of interesting goings ons at SCBWI as it affects New England from Headquarters and around the globe.

Later in August, you’ll find me traveling through the Adirondacks and Western New York attending a family reunion and camping. Hopefully, there will be a few quiet days reading at the beach, gardening, biking, and running. I’ll be finishing the novel that I’m turning in for my creative thesis and then September brings the infamous– Hunt for an Agent. (More about that later.)

What are you doing this summer?

Delaying the Happy Dance

I am back in the singles game anew, looking for that soul mate, that agent of my heart. Yesterday’s post by Editorial Anonymous, regarding the enthusiasm of new authors upon being offered representation, caught my eye. An Offer of Representation. The responses to Editorial Anonymous were filled with hysterical laughter and LOL’s. I can only hope they are laughing at themselves because they have experienced first-timers eagerness and not because they are laughing at those of us who have.

This business is about as personal as you can get.  We are not selling water bottles (as one agent pointed out to me) we are selling our creative property. And while creative property is not really a piece of our souls, it takes a lot of soul (and time and work and energy and sacrifice) to create property worth selling. So surely Editorial Anonymous can understand the relief that comes when someone from an industry filled with "no" says that they recognize our talent and our potential– when someone finally says, "yes."

One of the comments to the EA blog post asked, "What should I be asking?" I wondered the same thing before I had a talk with the agent who first offered me representation. At that time, I Googled the subject and jotted down a long list of questions, asked them (not really paying attention to the responses). What I knew then was that my "yes" at the end of the phone call meant that I had moved one step closer to my dream. One step farther on this long (getting longer) journey.

What I learned in the 18 months I spent with my agent is that we should be asking ourselves, "What do I need from this relationship?" What kind of communication do I need? Email, phone? Do I want to be left alone? Do I want someone to check in with me on my WIP? Should that person ask about my personal life or do I want the relationship and communication to be completely business? How often does the agent need to contact me about submissions? How about pulling manuscripts? How do I see my career progressing? What houses do I want to work with (if you know)? How much editorial help do I need? Why am I getting an agent in the first place?  What type of work do I do most often and do they represent that kind of work? If you have a clear picture of yourself you’ll be able to honestly say, "This is who I am, this is what I need, can you give this to me, and can we put it in the contract?"

Perhaps next time I’m offered representation or a contract (I have high hopes that this will happen) I will be self-assured enough to delay my happy dance, ask for the fine print and ask the right questions.  I can’t promise anything.

Mom’s Blog

I’m pleased to say that my mother has been bitten by the blogging bug. If you’d like to check it out, link to Art and Politics with Ruth Jordan. My Mom is an amazing woman. A long time writer, journalist, and public relations guru, she is also a print maker.  I can promise you plenty of Democratic politics over there as November draws nigh. She is the President of the Greencastle-Antrim Democratic Club, part of the Franklin County Dems.

Ah-ha, you say. That is where Anna gets all of her organizational madness. Yes, my Mom was certainly a large part of it but both of my parents were union organizers so I think I got the gene double duty. I can say that my mother was my first editor. I’ve gotten a much thicker skin since then but her edits used to make me cry. Me: “But, Maaa-om, that’s not what I want to say!” Needless to say, she was right then and I’m finally experienced enough to admit it.  Recently, my mother finished her SCUBA certification. Not bad, for a 69 year old lady. (Way to go, MOM!) So take a look at her blog if you get a chance.


Mom and Dad on the Peaks Island Ferry, Casco Bay, Maine.