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Viewing Blog: Blue Rose Girls, Most Recent at Top
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A group blog by Linda S. Wingerter, Grace Lin, Alvina (editor at Little, Brown), Anna Alter, Libby Koponen, and Meghan McCarthy.
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1. Research and writing


I'm outlining and researching a new novel, set on the island and elsewhere in Britain in Jane Austen's time.  One of the characters is super-interested in fashion I'm having enormous fun looking at clothes from the period -- these are from Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen, available on Kindle for only $6!

But researching and reading  is a LOT easier than writing an exciting story, and I don't want to let the research become an excuse for not writing......so I'm limiting myself to looking at these (and other fascinating objects from the time, like candidates for the miniature the heroine wears) in the evening, outlining in the morning.

Or at least that is the plan. And I won't start actually writing until both are done -- that is, when the story has reached a satisfying conclusion and the world is solid and clear.

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2. The Other Meghan McCarthys





I was trying to explain to Libby what the deal was with the "other Meghans." I figure posting this will explain the whole thing!

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3. Paintings from Chapter two: Emma






Here are a few of my favorite paintings from the second chapter of Sprout Street Neighbors (some chapter one paintings here), featuring a rambunctious squirrel named Emma:









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4. The mysteries of marketing

Yes, that is Drew Barrymore -- the picture was taken on the steps of my building in Boston, while they were filming Feverpitch.  The pink hat is mine, but I (wisely, I think) cropped myself out of the picture.
Ordinary people rarely come off well when photographed with celebrities -- especially when the celebrities are young, beautiful movie stars!

She didn't just happen to be holding my book -- I asked her if she would, which now seems a bit obnoxious. She was really gracious about it, though. I've liked her ever since I saw her in E.T. and I liked her even more after she was generous enough to let the picture be taken.

Even though it seemed like a great marketing idea at the time, all I ever did with the photograph was post it at the bottom of a page on my old Web site. I doubt that anyone ever even saw it (this was before the days of blogging), and I'm almost positive that it didn't sell a single copy! Still, it's nice to have.

And that's the thing about marketing -- you never know in advance what's going to work and what isn't. You have to just try lots of different things, and hope some of them work..... I think it's a little like Internet dating: if you do something fun on the date, it's not time wasted even if it doesn't lead to anything. And you have to date lots of people to find someone you like and do lots of marketing things to find any that work   -- though with marketing, you'll probably never know which things worked and which didn't.






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5. Paintings from Sprout Street Neighbors







Here are a few of my favorites from the first chapter of Sprout Street Neighbors, the chapter book I've been working on. It's been a lot of fun painting without color, it sort of frees me up to think more about the values, textures, and patterns in a painting. I like spending time in this cozy black and white world.






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6. Never finished, only abandoned?

Stephen King says that novels (or any work of art) are never finished, only abandoned -- but I think sometimes you DO feel done. People have asked me how you know when you are, and I've answered that question differently than I'm about to now  -- even here on this blog when no one was asking! Maybe the answer is different for each book.

The novel I sent to my agent last week (for the fourth time!) feels really and truly done because I've stopped thinking about it. Oh, I still wonder each time I check my email if I'll have heard back from her --but I would be surprised if she asked me to do anything else. And all the space in my head that was taken up imagining scenes or revising them has been wiped clean.

Sometimes after finishing something it feels like a loss, but now I'm glad to be able to concentrate on wherever I am and whatever I'm doing  -- like this:

(There are daffodills all over my garden in Scotland--some I planted last fall, these some girls planted for me: and then came back to put stones around them so they wouldn't get stepped on or blown over by the wind).

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7. HOW TO PAINT AN EYE: SPED UP

I'm working on a "how to" and this is the sped up version...



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8. How to (really) avoid jetlag

Several of the Blue Rose Girls have been traveling lately: Grace is in Hong Kong, Alvina was in Italy, I'm in Scotland, and our long-lost Linda was in Israel. So since no one has been posting much lately I am describing the five-step plan for avoiding jetlag.

I've heard of various cures:
  •  always be exhausted, so you sleep wherever you are -- this was what a work-aholic boss always did
  • drink a lot -- "Works for me!" a builder/pirate-fighter (really) on the island said cheerfully
  • follow the anti jet lag developed by the US Air Force.


These are the five steps that worked for me, starting with the Air Force diet.  I slept for 12 hours the first night  and did not have ANY jetlag at all after that, thanks, I am convinced, to this five-step plan developed by trial and error over the years.



1. My version of the USAF anti-jet lag diet

The science behind this diet is that your liver plays a big role in setting your body's internal clock -- how and why this is, and how these foods play into that, I don't know. I just know it works.

How you do this varies depending upon whether you are going East (it's later at your destination) or West (it's earlier).This is the going East version.

 Five days before the flight (counting the flight day as day 5), alternately feast and feast.

 They said no caffeine, but I had white tea. They said no alcohol, but I had wine with dinner two of the feast nights -- two glasses. They said to start 4 days before the flight, but I started 5....and I drank as much water as I could stomach every day, especially the day of the flight.


The details:

Day 1, fast -- MY version of fasting is to have liquids (berry smoothies and green drinks) or salad (baby greens with an avacado: no cheese, no meat) and a light supper of cooked vegetables or eggs



Day 2, feast -- high protein breakfast AND dinner (avoid carbs both days), lots of water



Day 3 -- fast



Day 4 -- feast, and on THIS day, have a dinner that is high in both protein and healthy carbs.



Day 5 (the day of the flight) -- fast: smoothie for breakfast, salad or nothing for lunch, salad for dinner (a bit of protein with it if you wish), and as much water as you can drink.



2. The day of the flight:

Get a massage. It's a nice treat and in my case, I think it really helped.

3. On the plane:
If it's a red-eye, try to sleep -- and drink as much water as you can. No alcohol on the plane!


4. Wherever you are (on the plane, at your destination), use the time at your destination as your clock and at your normal wake-up time:
Have caffeinated tea or coffee when it's wake-up time in destination's time zone.

Follow this with a high-protein breakfast, with some vegetables if you can get them.

5. First day at the destination:
 Stay up until bedtime, no matter what -- walk around a lot, outside, in the morning. Morning light helps you adjust to your destination time if you're traveling East.

If you are really really tired, take a nap at around 4 (no earlier or all your efforts will have been wasted) in the afternoon but this time I did not. I stayed up until 9.30 -- and slept for 12 hours!!!


I admit that one reason I was able to do this is that I got an absolutely hideous haircut and the drama, stress, and sight of it kept the adrenaline flowing. Perhaps you can add a little stress to your first day and let that keep you up.



Continue to drink as much water as you can.



To me, the trouble was worth it.  I'd take the bother of the diet -- which is simpler than it may sound -- just think feast, fast, feast, fast, feast -- over feeling out of it and off for the first two weeks. It's true that I was completely incompetent and out of it the first day -- but when I woke up after having slept soundly for twelve hours that was worth it, too.

From then on, I was on local time.

What's worked for you? And if you try this, will you report back on how it worked for you?

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9. Sprout Street Jacket



Here is the final painting for the jacket of Sprout Street Neighbors. I began with this sketch. I'll post the jacket design soon!


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10. I get scared

Recently, I read this disturbing post and it made me worry about my privacy online. As authors, we are told  to "be real," to "share" and to "connect" with readers as well as others. And, honestly (when I  have the time) I rather enjoy doing those things. I love sharing real photos of my life, my baby, my studio. I love connecting to readers and hearing how they've read my book. The purpose of being an author/illustrator is that you want your ideas, your images, and (not to be cheesy, but truly) your heart to be shared. Otherwise, why bother to publish--just keep everything in a box under the bed!

But, I get scared. That same baby I love to share photos of--am I risking her safety? Am I risking my own safety, my family's safety by revealing--by "sharing" so much of our lives? I don't want to be afraid, but I don't want to be dumb, either.

Thoughts?


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11. Inside Random House: Bringing Our Authors' Books to Life





I've been off the radar because I have to move... to where I don't know. All of my books are now in boxes--over 35 and counting! Yeah, I have a lot of books. This whole process is just really draining for me. The day I'm supposed to be out of my apartment I have a school visit so I've been working on trying to add some material to it today. I have tons of school visits coming up in the next two months. Something I struggle with is how to explain how a book is created. I found a good video FOR ADUTLS. What I'd like to do is create one for kids. But oh, how to find the time... Read the rest of this post

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12. Dealing with comments

When I first started out in this business, I thought that if an editor told you to change something you had to do what she said.

Now, I think that when an editor makes a comment, you have to do SOMETHING -- you can't just leave it as you had it -- but even good editors aren't always right about WHAT. That's why they're editors, not writers.

So when an editor comments on something, I take it as a sign that it's not working, but (unless I love the editor's suggestion), I figure out how to fix it myself.








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13. Saturday Sketch




Tightening up the jacket sketch for Sprout Street Neighbors, my first chapter book, due out next year. 


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14. More famous than you might think (or, what's the point?)

The book was published more than a hundred and fifty years ago! Yet when I typed her first name into Google, she was number 1 on the list. (Will spare you the labyrinthian thought process that led to this act.)

So I put in other names.

Here are some random results....

SLOT ON LIST (after typing in first name followed by space)

Eustacia (Vye) # 2

Tess (of the d'urbervilles)  #1

Harry  (Potter) #3

Harriet (the Spy) #6

Elizabeth (Bennet) -- not even on it! This must have to do with how common the name Elizabeth is?

Scarlett (O'Hara) #8

Rhett (Butler) #3
(This was partly to test how having an unusual name can bump the character up)

Lisbeth (Salander) #2

This is NOT why I was doing it -- but the next time I'm tempted to wonder what the point of writing is, I hope I'll remember how important these people are. And that characters who never come so high up on the list may be just as important to a smaller number of readers.


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15. keeping your mouth shut








Like many authors, I had a great laugh at these videos of children's authors reading their harsh online reviews. However, a couple days later I was looking up Ellen Oh's book Prophecy on Goodreads and found myself reading this, an example of how online readers show their ire when authors respond to negative reviews.

And honestly, I do understand that, to a point. When a book is published, it no longer belongs to the author. It becomes the reader's book and its their experience which an author has no right to criticize. The big unwritten rule when it comes to reviews when you are an author seems to be KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Personally, if I can help it, I try just to not read reviews (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't read reviews at all, though).

Sometimes I wonder, though, what they expect from us. Once and a while, I'll get an e-mail from an irritated or even angry reader who wants to know what I meant by this or that, and I never know how to respond. Just as the reading experience belongs to them, the writing experience belongs to us.  Every author I know has written their book to the best of their ability and I've always assumed that readers take it on faith that authors are not out to create books to annoy them. But, perhaps, they just want that agreement acknowledged. So, most of the time, I usually respond, "I'm sorry your reading experience was not what I intended." However, sometimes, I think the best course of action is to follow the rule and keep my mouth shut. What do you think?

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16. Wise words from Leo Lionni






"Of all the questions I have been asked as an author of children's books, the most frequent one, without doubt, has been 'How do you get your ideas?' Most people seem to think that getting an idea is both mysterious and simple. Mysterious, because inspiration must come from a particular state of grace with which only the most gifted souls are blessed. Simple, because ideas are expected to drop into one's mind in words and pictures, ready to be transcribed and copied in the form of a book, complete with endpapers and cover. The word get expresses these expectations well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

"It is true that, from time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge. The sense of instant recognition with which we pull this image into the full light of our consciousness is the initial impulse of all creative acts. But, though it is important, it produces no more than the germ of an idea. Each book, at the birth of its creative history, has such a moment. Some are fortunate enough to have, from the outset, a strongly identified hero, one with an inescapable destiny. Others are blessed with a promising beginning, or perhaps with the vision of an ending (which means working backwards to a surprise opening). Others stem from a clearly articulated conflict situation. Sometimes, I must admit, the motivations of a book may be found in a sudden, unreasonable urge to draw a certain kind of crocodile. And it may even happen that in the dark of our minds there appears, out of nowhere, a constellation of words that has the bright, arrogant solidity of a title. Only last night I was jolted out of a near-slumber by the words the mouse that didn't exist. I am sure that, temporarily tucked away in my memory, they will eventually become the title of a story for which as yet I have no idea.

"To shape and sharpen the logic of a story, to tighten the flow of events, ultimately to define the idea in its totality, is much like a game of chess. In the light of overall strategy, each move is the result of doubts, proposals, and rejections, which inevitably bring to mind the successes or failures of previous experiences.

"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.

"And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.' "

-Leo Lionni

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17. Looking back, looking forward

         




As I mentioned in an earlier post, while packing, moving, and unpacking, I've unearthed some forgotten things. Another thing I found was my cover letter when I applied for the editorial assistant position at Little, Brown, and also the thank you letter I sent after my interview. Here's a draft of my thank-you letter:


As the CBC Diversity Committee has been such a significant part of my life the past few years, I especially appreciated my comment about Megan's commitment to publishing diverse books. That still holds true. By the way, the two spaces between sentences drives me crazy now.

Also, note the "Time Warner Trade Publishing"--back then, Little, Brown was part of Time Warner, and the children's division was still based in Boston. Soon thereafter, it became part of "AOL Time Warner"--I also found this:
Now, of course, we are Hachette Book Group, and the children's division is based in New York. The company has been through at least four name changes in the 14+ years I've been here.

And finally, I found this fun note. Grace (Pacy) Lin and I were roommates back then, and she left me this fun little note before leaving for vacation:

Ah, memories.

***

I did a quick wrap-up of my vacation on my personal blog. I'm really looking forward to putting 2013 behind me, and am looking forward to and hoping for a better, less tumultuous 2014.

As always, I love making new year's resolutions. Here are a few of mine for 2014:

- No internet shopping unless it's a gift, a necessity, or for work. (I successfully kept this resolution from last year, and will try to keep it for at least one more year)

-write in my journal and/or blog at least twice a month

-go on a vacation to Europe with Greg

-achieve a maximum of work inbox 100 at the end of each week

Happy 2014, all!

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18. True confessions: Time Online

I take New Years Resolutions very seriously:  think about them and talk about them and write them down --and, I admit, sometimes forget about them completely after all that.

But not always.

And one I'm thinking of making this year is not to do ANYTHING online until after I've done my morning writing.

In Scotland, I usually started the day by making a fire and heating water (I had an electric kettle, but if wanted hot water, I had to heat it myself so the day ALWAYS started with that even if it wasn't cold enough for a fire). And then I would just sort of naturally have tea and write or do yoga or something.

Here, I often start the day by checking email.....and I got so much more written when I didn't go online until later in the day!

For me, this is a better way to regulate it than by time -- but if I do it by time, HOW MUCH TIME is it reasonable or productive to spend emailing and looking at FB and shopping every day??

On a bad morning, the whole morning can vanish online! This is not good!

How much time do you spend online? How much time do you think is reasonable? How do you control it?

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19. RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale






I'll be selling books and prints once again at the RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale (as will Grace!), this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. As always, the sale is a great place to do your holiday shopping- I love to stroll the aisles and pick out handmade goodies for my xmas list. Come join us! The sale is from 10:00-5:00.


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20. Off

I sent my novel off to my agent last week -- electronically, but towards the end I can read it more objectively on paper, pencil in hand to make comments.

There were lots -- and of course after I sent it, I thought of another way to do a chapter that was slower than the rest. But I am resisting the urge to rewrite now; plenty of time for that once I get my agent's comments.

In the meantime, I'm using the time and energy I would normally be spending  on my book to sort through my possessions; donate, sell, and throw out throw out a lot (thank you for going through my shoes with me, Alvina!); and find a new place to live.

I'm going to blog about that (not here, on my personal blog), both as a way to get other people's ideas and remember what I saw.

But first: what I learned about writing novels from Tibbie. This is advice to myself as much or more than anyone -- though of course I hope these thoughts will be useful to some of you as well!

BEFORE WRITING
1. Start with some kind of inspiration -- idea, situation, image, feeling, SOMETHING that has a lot of energy attached to it. Otherwise it's all a waste of time -- what you produce will be essentially dead (I think this was the real problem with my last novel, which never sold).

2. Test this idea -- Raold Dahl gave me this thought. By test it, he meant: think about it, attack it from every angle, to see if there's enough there to make a novel and if it will WORK. This too can save a lot of time -- disappointing as it may be to realize that the idea you're so excited about just won't make an exciting, interesting book that will keep readers turning the pages....or won't hold YOUR interest.

3. Get to know the characters -- at least the main character. Depending upon how much you plan things out, more may emerge as the story develops, but I think it's a mistake to start writing until the main characters are as clear to you as, say, the characters in THE LITTLE HOUSE books (who have always seemed like real people to me, people I actually knew).

(4. This one I am putting in parentheses because I've done it different ways and everyone I think has her own way. I like to know where the story starts, and where it's going to end up -- but not really too much about what's going to happen in the middle: maybe one or two things -- really clearly and vividly. I was enormously relieved to read that that is what Diana Wynne Jones did

FIRST DRAFT
For me, first drafts are the hardest and most painful parts of writing. I flipflop between  being wildly enthusiastic and excited, really carried away by what is just coming to me; and times when NOTHING comes, feeling that I'm wasting my time, this doesn't even make any sense, no one is going to read it ever....blah blah.

That second feeling is hideous and painful, but it is necessary -- and I can say this now that it's over, good -- it means that I'm taking chances (and also, that I'm not being satisfied to just chatter). A friend said that writing a book is like jumping off a cliff without a parachute -- you just have to have faith that one will blow by and you will grab it.

Work on the book every day -- even if "working" means just sitting with it, clueless about what happens next. To mix the metaphor: keep the sails up, a wind will come.

Do not give in to the hideousness and give up, even for a few days, let alone for long periods-- you will lose momentum! I did put this aside and lost a lot of time getting back into it....but I did the rest of what's here.

SECOND DRAFT
For me, this is where it starts to get less scarey and more satisfying. I've got to the end, and even though there are some really boring places that don't work at all, there are a few places that feel alive and (again, if I stick with it and write every day), I can fix the others.

Often this means throwing out whole scenes and plotlines--but it's okay, they are getting replaced with better ones.

It is especially fun to be thinking about a scene in which nothing interesting happens, or that isn't working, and suddenly SEE what is supposed to be there.

TO BE CONTINUED.....this is already long enough!

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21. POETRY FRIDAY: Things to Do If You Are a Book






I’ve been away from blogging at Wild Rose Reader and Blue Rose Girls for so long that I thought I might forget how to post. It has been an eventful year for me. We finally moved into our new home in June. It was—at first—difficult saying goodbye to my home of thirty-seven years…and even more difficult boxing up and moving all the “stuff” we had collected in nearly four decades. The heaviest things to tote to our new place were the thousands of children’s books that I owned and cherished—books that I’ve been sharing with my granddaughter Julia. We had a number of bookcases built for our in-law apartment so I could keep my books on display…and easily accessible. 

NOTE: For Mother's Day, my daughter gave me 
a lovely drawing of our old home. 

We’re fortunate that our apartment is more spacious than most in-law suites. Still, it’s much smaller than our old place. At my age, it has been good to “downsize.” My apartment is much easier to clean than my other home. It’s the perfect size for two old fogeys! 

It’s so wonderful living next door to my daughter and son-in-law. I get to see Julia every day. It’s such fun watching her change and grow…reading books with her…helping her make puzzles…listening to her vocabulary grow.

Lots and Lots of Book Shelves!





THINGS TO DO IF YOU ARE A BOOK
By Elaine Magliaro

Be filled with words that tell a tale
of a little mouse and a giant whale
of a runty pig and his spider friend
who was true and loyal to the end
of a badger who loved eating bread and jam
of a funky guy, green eggs, and ham
of a spunky girl named Ramona Q.
of a boy and the Jabberwock he slew.
Be filled with words and tell a tale
that will let my imagination sail.
Be a mystery
or a fantasy
or sing with sounds of poetry.
Between your covers
let there be
a story that’s just right for me.














Over at Wild Rose Reader, I’ve posted an original poem for the holiday season titled Under the Tree.

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22. ONE STAR CUSTOMER REVIEW

Ugh. I haven't been posting because I have a bookdeadline and I have so much art to do! Help!

Anyway, my pal Marc Tyler Nobleman came up with an idea: to have writers read one of their bad Amazon customer reviews and he'd put them all together. Obviously we're not to be negative about them or anything like that. After I did mine I found out that we were supposed to make the videos only 10-15 sec long. I guess Marc had gotten so many responses that he had to limit the video responses. So... this is my long video response. If he uses mine it'll be one fraction of this:

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23. NY Merry Christmas

In NY now the Salvation Army people are all young and they don't just ring bells -- they DANCE. I was lucky enough to see two guys dancing to that old carol, "YMCA."



 They were joined by a large group of young teenagers -- the sight of them all line-dancing on 5th Avenue was quite something! -- and then by a middle-aged matron

I absolutely can not imagine that happening where I live in CT and I loved it.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

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24. Christmas at Grace's


Grace put the finishing touches on her gingerbread house, we took a picture,

and then Grace presented the house to her daughter for destruction.

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25. name this tune!


At the hotel in Taiwan, a violinist serenaded us during breakfast. It was Rain Dragon's first experience with a violin and she was fascinated--so much so that she watches this video over and over again. Because of this, the Sasquatch and I find ourselves humming and singing this tune all the time and it is driving us a bit mad that we don't know what song it is.  Do you know it?  If you do, please tell us as then we could start the new year without losing our minds!

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