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26. WOW Wednesday: Lessons On Launching a Book and Becoming an "Author"

COMPULSION is out in the world as of yesterday. Literally. It's in my nearest Barnes and Noble, and Target and Walmart and all kinds of lovely, lovely, lovely indie stores. Someone even tweeted a photo of it in the Philippines.

So how do I feel about becoming an "author"?

It's hard to be coherent, but in a word, I feel grateful.

These WOW Wednesday posts are supposed to be the one tip that published authors want to pass to other writers about what most helped us make the leap from aspiring author to published author. So here's my tip:

Hundreds of incredible people make it happen.

First, there are the authors who have written the books that inspired us to read and write. As authors, we have to be readers first. We have to love the genre we're writing within, and we need to know the  current books that are being published within the genre. Going on tour with a bunch of fantastic authors, I'm spending so much time fangirling, I can't even tell you how embarrassing it it. Here's me fangirling over Melissa Marr at our event on Saturday.



Next, there are the amazing people you meet on your journey. The people who become YOUR people. I am so lucky to get to share my debut weekend with my besties Cici and Carol, two wonderful women I met at my first SCBWI conference when I was just starting to write YA.


There are critique partners who read your manuscript in the middle of the night -- all night -- and reassure you when you doubt and find all the things that you can't see for yourself.  COMPULSION wouldn't exist without Jan Lewis and Susan Sipal. And they don't just let me thank THEM, they actually send *me* flowers. How crazy and lovely is that?


And then there are all the bloggers who wrote posts and created a community where I could actually learn how to write a novel. I've been learning from people like Lisa Gail Green, Julie Musil, Natalie Aguirre, Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi, Stina Lindenblatt, and sites like Writer Unboxed, Pub(lishing) Crawl, and so many others for years. I continue to read them, because they constantly teach me something new.

My agent, Kent D. Wolf, and Amanda Panitch, who first read the manuscript at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, has been amazing. Annette Pollert, who acquired the manuscript and edited it for Simon Pulse, was beyond wonderful. And there are literally not enough words to describe how smart, lovely, enthusiastic, endlessly supportive, and dedicated the team at Pulse has been. From Mara Anastas, the publisher, to Mary Marotta, the VP and Director of Sales, who with her team worked miracles in getting COMPULSION to so many places, to Carolyn Swerdloff, the Assistant Marketing Director, who worked with the incredible marketing department to create an unbelievable campaign for this book, to Teresa Ronquillo who got so much blog coverage and handled our Compulsion for Reading campaign, to my lovely, lovely editor, Sara Sargent, who is basically an orchestra director pulling the best out of me and creating a gateway to everything that is this book. There is just not enough meaning in 'thank you' to express my gratitude.

The authors I've met along the way through blogging, who have been kind enough to share their experience and expertise. Words fail here too.

There are the fabulous authors who said kind things about COMPULSION. Jennifer L. Armentrout, Wendy Higgins, Claudia Gray, Kimberly Derting, Megan Shepherd, Kendare Blake, Kat Zhang, and Leah Cypess -- you have made ALL the difference in this book. SO much gratitude, I can't even . . .


My beyond fantastic blog partners, Alyssa, Lisa, Erin, Katharyn, Susan, Jocelyn, Becca, and Shelly.   The bloggers and readers who have helped spread the word about COMPULSION are the engine behind this book. THANK you! And I can't even begin to tell you how much joy and how many tears you have given me with your kind comments.

My street team! OMG, I love you guys! You're so amazing.

The readers who have come to our events so far, you guys ROCK. Being part of the Compelling Reads Tour these past four days has been a joyous, eye-opening, and uplifting experience. I've loved every moment, and can't believe how lucky I am to get to do it for two more weeks.

Kimberley Griffiths Little, Wendy Higgins, Martina Boone (me :)),
Melissa Marr, Leah Cypess at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA 


Wendy Higgins, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Jessica Spotswood,
and me at the Bethesda Library with Politics and Prose.
Most of all, there are the people who were kind enough to buy this book and help me spread the word yesterday, before yesterday, and hopefully today and tomorrow. Everything I've done so far on COMPULSION, every word that the characters speak and the actions they take, are now turned over to you. I love hearing from you, and I love sharing this story with you.

That's my second big tip for aspiring authors: understand that what you put on the page is only a fraction of what readers bing to it and take away from it.

Whether you're a reader, or an aspiring author, or both, I hope you love COMPULSION as much as I do.

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me!

XO,

Martina

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27. We Need Diverse Books Team Launches Indiegogo Campaign

The We Need Diverse Books team have launched a crowdfunding venture on Indiegogo.

This group hope to raise $100,000.00 that will be used towards several different projects. Future plans include bringing diverse books and authors into disadvantaged schools, initiating the Walter Dean Myers Award & Grant program, and launching the inaugural Kidlit Diversity Festival in Washington, D.C.

We’ve embedded a video about the campaign above; it features appearances from Matt de la Peña, John Green, Marie Lu, Cindy Pon, Grace Lin, Lamar Giles, Tim Federle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Arthur LevineFollow this link to read a transcript. What do you think?

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28. Two NYC Bookstores Will Close

posman booksTwo New York City-based bookshops will cease operations

Barnes & Noble will close the branch located in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood on January 31, 2015. The Queens Courier reports that ”a lease agreement between the owner and the store was scrapped.” Many members of the community have expressed great sadness over this situation.

Posman Books will close the branch located inside Grand Central Terminal on December 31, 2014. According to The Gothamist, this decision was made because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) refuses to renew the store’s lease. The owners have posted a “heartful thank you and farewell” letter on the Posman Books website; follow this link to read it.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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29. Final Trailer Unveiled For ‘Mockingjay Part 1′

Lionsgate has unveiled the final trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One. The video embedded above features a “burning” message from rebel Katniss Everdeen to the villainous President Snow—what do you think?

Thus far, the trailer has drawn more than 26,000 “like” on Facebook. Throughout the past few months, several promotional videos have surfaced for this movie including two “Panem Addresses,” a clip, and a teaser trailer.

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30. 4 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist

Gone_Girl_(Flynn_novel)When I started reading Gone Girl, I’ll admit I had high expectations. “It’s incredible,” one friend told me after recommending it and praising it profusely. “You just won’t even believe what happens …” She stopped short, looking guilty. “I can’t say any more,” she said, almost at a whisper. “I don’t want to give anything away.”

If you haven’t read the novel, I don’t want to give anything away either. But suffice it to say (and you’ve probably heard it already) that Gone Girl contains some killer plot twists. The narrative builds and builds, and then—boom—a major revelation is revealed. And then another. And another. It makes for a delicious, tense, uncomfortable, and incredibly thrilling ride.

And here’s the thing: As implausible as some of the occurrences in Gone Girl are, they’re also set up in such a way that I embraced each of them, one right after the other. They felt organic. They felt natural. They didn’t feel forced.

How do we do that when writing fiction? How do we write plot twists and turns into our stories without seeming overly obvious? How do we surprise readers without coming completely out of left field?

In this excerpt from Story Trumps Structure, Steven James presents four ways to craft plot twists that readers will never see coming.

PLOT TWISTS: PRACTICAL STEPS TO PULLING THE RUG OUT

1. Eliminate the obvious

When coming up with the climax to your story, discard every possible solution you can think of for your protagonist to succeed.

Then think of some more.

And discard those, too.

You’re trying to create an ending that’s so unforeseen that if a million people read your book, not one of them would guess how it ends (or how it will get to the end), but when they finally come to it, every one of those people would think, Yes! That makes perfect sense! Why didn’t I see that coming?

The more impossible the climax is for your protagonist to overcome, the more believable and inevitable the escape or solution needs to be. No reader should anticipate it, but everyone should nod and smile when it happens. No one guesses, everyone nods. That’s what you’re shooting for.

While writing, ask yourself:  

What do I need to change to create a more believable world for each separate twist I’m including?

How can I drop the gimmicks and depend more on the strength of the narrative to build my twist?

Will readers have to “put up with” the story that’s being told in anticipation of a twist ending, or will they enjoy it even more because of the twist? How can I improve the pretwist story?

How can I make better use of the clues that prove the logic of the surface story to create the twist and bring more continuity to the story—but only after the twist is revealed?

2. Redirect suspicion

When you work on your narrative, constantly ask yourself what readers are expecting and hoping for at this moment in the story. Then keep twisting the story into new directions that both shock and delight them.

To keep readers from noticing clues, bury them in the emotion or action of another section. For example, in an adventure novel, offhandedly mention something during a chase scene, while readers’ attention is on the action, not the revelation. Use red herrings, dead ends, and foils. Bury clues in discussions of something else.

While writing, ask yourself: 

How can I do a better job of burying the clues readers need to have in order to accept the ending? Where do I need to bring those clues to the surface?

How can I play expectations based on genre conventions against readers to get them to suspect the wrong person as the villain or antagonist?

3. Avoid gimmicks

Readers want their emotional investment to pay off. The twist should never occur in a way that makes them feel tricked, deceived, or insulted. Great twists always deepen, never cheapen, readers’ investment in the story.

This is why dream sequences typically don’t work—the protagonist thinks she’s in a terrible mess, then wakes up and realizes it was all just a dream. These aren’t twists because they almost never escalate the story but often do the very opposite, revealing to readers that things weren’t really that bad after all (de-escalation). Showing a character experiencing a harrowing or frightening experience and then having him wake up from a dream is not a twist; it’s a tired cliché.

How do you solve this? Simply tell the reader it’s a dream beforehand. It can be just as frightening without de-escalating the story’s tension, and it can also end in a way that’s not predictable.

While writing, ask yourself:

Will readers feel tricked, deceived, or insulted by this twist? If so, how can I better respect their ability to guess the ending of my story?

Have I inadvertently relied on clichés or on any plot turning points that have appeared in other books or movies? How can I recast the story so it’s fresh and original?

4. Write toward your readers’ reaction.

The way you want your readers to respond will determine the way you set up your twist. Three different types of twists all result in different reactions by readers: (1) “No way!” (2) “Huh. Nice!” and (3) “Oh, yeah!”

When aiming for the “No way!” response, you’ll want to lead readers into certainty. You want them to think that there’s only one possible solution to the story.

The more you can convince them that the story world you’ve portrayed is exactly as it appears to be—that only one outcome to the novel is possible—the more you’ll make their jaws drop when you show them that things were not as they appeared to be at all. If the twist is satisfying, credible, and inevitable based on what has preceded it, readers will gasp and exclaim, “No way! That’s awesome! I can’t believe he got that one past me.”

With the “Huh. Nice!” ending, you want to lead readers into uncertainty. Basically, they’ll be thinking, “Man, I have no idea where this is going.” When writing for this response, you’ll create an unbalanced, uncertain world. You don’t want readers to suspect only one person as the villain but many people. Only when the true villain is revealed will readers see that everything was pointing in that direction all along.

Finally, if you’re shooting for the “Oh, yeah!” reaction, you’ll want to emphasize the cleverness with which the main character gets out of the seemingly impossible-to-escape-from climax. Often we do that by allowing him to use a special gift, skill, or emblem that has been shown to readers earlier but that they aren’t thinking about when they reach the climax. Then, when the protagonist pulls it out, readers remember: “Yes! That’s right! He carries a can of shark repellent in his wetsuit! I forgot all about that!”

Relentlessly escalate your story while keeping it believable, surprising, and deeper than it appears.

While writing, ask yourself:

If I want to shock readers with the twist, have I led them into certainty as they try to predict the ending?

If I want readers to suspect a number of different endings, have I satisfactorily built up all the potential outcomes?

If I want readers to cheer at the ending, have I (1) created a seemingly impossible situation for the protagonist to escape from or conquer or (2) allowed the protagonist to persevere through wit or grit rather than with the help of someone else (that is, deus ex machina)?

9781599636511_5inch_300dpi

Story Trumps Structure shows you how to shed the “rules” of writing—about three-act structure, rising action, outlining, and more—to craft your most powerful, emotional, and gripping stories. For Steven’s insights on ditching your outline, writing organically, crafting a satisfying climax, and escalating tension, be sure to check it out.


Rachel Randall is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest Books.

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31. How to Choose the Right Age Category for Your KidLit Work-in-Progress

2014 was a busy year—I released my first middle grade book, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, and my third young adult, FERAL. Both books actually started out in younger age categories: the first draft of THE JUNCTION was a picture book, and the first draft of FERAL was an MG. Having been through the process of changing manuscripts’ age categories, I’ve learned a few tricks for better understanding, at an early drafting stage, which category is right for a juvenile WIP:

1. Don’t forget your overarching concept. My MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, is about a young girl who becomes a folk artist; with her grandfather’s help, they turn their home into a folk art environment.  My initial idea was to write a picture book—the illustrations, I imagined, would grow increasingly wilder as the property became covered in sculptures and whirligigs.  Consistently, though, early editorial response was that the concept of folk art was just too advanced for the picture book readership—teaching me not to get so caught up in ideas external to the text that I lose sight of the main concept that the book is built around.

GIVEAWAY: Holly is excited to give away a free copy of either one of her two most recent novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 4.04.41 PM   Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 4.04.21 PM   Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 4.00.33 PM

Column by Holly Schindler, author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs). Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, released in 2014, was called by Kirkus Reviews as “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller.  Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.” Find Holly online with her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

——-

2. Listen to your character’s voice. Auggie, the protagonist of JUNCTION, speaks in frequent simile and metaphor—her poetic worldview is the reason she’s able to become an artist using found items or “junk.”  (Metaphors compare two dissimilar objects—which is much like the process of Auggie seeing a potential flower in a broken toaster or wind chimes in a rusted old car.)  Many of the same poetic phrases from the original picture book are included in the final MG version—a sure sign that the book should have been MG all along.

(Is it best to query all your target agents at once? — or just a few to start?) 

3. Try your hand at description. FERAL was originally drafted as an MG mystery.  During the revision process, the description began to take on a much darker tone—so much so, I began to suspect the book needed to be a YA.

I know now that rather than working all the way through a draft, focusing primarily on plot development, it’s best to take some time to write several passages of solid description.  What kind of details do you find yourself gravitating toward?  Would you call your passages gritty or sweet?  Simple or complicated?  This will give you a better idea of whether your book is trending younger (MG) or older (YA).

4. Examine your character’s life experiences. We aren’t the same people at seventeen that we are at thirteen.  In fact, when I got the inkling that FERAL needed to be a YA, I realized that my original protagonist would no longer work.  I had to brainstorm a new, older main character.  When I explored this new protagonist’s backstory, I discovered that she’d endured a brutal beating.  That was when I knew that my theme (or overarching concept) would actually be recovering from violence—and the genre would be psychological thriller.  All of this only confirmed my suspicion that the book needed to be YA.

(When can you refer to yourself as “a writer”? The answer is NOW, and here’s why.)

Your own main character can help you early on, as well—long before the revision process.  Brainstorm your character’s likes and dislikes, his or her attitudes.  Of importance here is not only the attitudes themselves, but the reason(s) why your character has these views or beliefs.  What experiences has this character had?  And, of equal importance in juvenile lit, what has your character not yet done?  This will give you a glimpse into how old your protagonist is (and, as a result, what age category your book should be).

I still believe in the power of successive rewrites; going over a book multiple times allows an author to include subplots and to tie together themes, making a book richer and stronger.  But bumping a draft up (or down) to a new age category can result in a complete overhaul—it’s far better to nail the age category right from the start.

GIVEAWAY: Holly is excited to give away a free copy of either one of her two most recent novels to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

 

2015-CWIM-smallWriting books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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32. John Green Shoots a Behind-The-Scenes Video On the ‘Paper Towns’ Movie Set

John Green has shared a behind-the-scenes video for the Paper Towns film adaptation on the vlogbrothers YouTube channel. The young adult novelist is serving as one of the executive producers for this project.

In the video embedded above, Green introduces executive producer Isaac Klausner, director Jake Schreier, and actors Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair, and Justice Smith. Thus far, it has drawn more than 2,000 “likes” on Facebook.

Green has also posted several photos from the movie set on his Tumblr page. Paper Towns will hit theaters on June 19, 2015.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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33. Marvel Reveals a Special Look at ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

A special look at The Avengers: Age of Ultron aired during last night’s episode of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.

The video embedded above features a scene with all the members of The Avengers and several allies. Follow this link to watch the first teaser trailer.

Marvel Studios recently revealed that 11 adaptation projects will come out starting in 2015 up until 2019. See the complete list of movies and the theatrical release dates below.

(more…)

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34. Wednesday Writing Workout: Finding the Best Beginning, Courtesy of Lenore Look


Hi Everyone,
The clock is ticking! If you haven't entered for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) yet, see the link at the end of this post. The giveaway ends on Friday!

We're hosting the 2015 CWIM giveaway this month to celebrate the publication of my article in it: "Writing for Boys (and other 'Reluctant Readers')." The article contains advice and insights from four award-winning authors known for writing books that appeal to reluctant readers: Matt de la PeñaLenore LookDavid Lubar, and Steve Sheinkin. Today, I'm pleased to share a guest Wednesday Writing Workout from one of those authors: Lenore Look!


Here's Lenore's bio, as it appears in the 2015 CWIM:
Lenore Look recently released the sixth book in her award-winning (and boy-friendly) Alvin Ho chapter book series: Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions (Schwartz & Wade). She is also the author of the Ruby Lu series (Atheneum) and several acclaimed picture books, including Henry’s First-Moon Birthday (Simon & Schuster), Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (Atheneum), and, her newest, Brush of the Gods (Random House), a historical fiction account of the life of Wu Daozi, China’s most famous painter. Lenore taught creative writing at Drew University and St. Elizabeth College in New Jersey, and frequently speaks in schools in the United States and Asia. She has also co-presented the Highlights Foundation workshop "Writing for Boys" with Bruce Coville and Rich Wallace. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, and blogs frequently at lenorelook.wordpress.com.

I'm a big fan of Lenore's Alvin Ho books, which is why I approached her about participating in the CWIM article. I haven't read Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions yet, so I'll share the blurb for it that appears on Indiebound:
Here’s the sixth book in the beloved and hilarious Alvin Ho chapter book series, which has been compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and is perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers. 
Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost.
From Lenore Look and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham comes a drop-dead-funny and touching series with a truly unforgettable character.
Sounds like a fun read! J

For today's WWW, Lenore shares a great exercise in beginnings.

Wednesday Writing Workout:
Finding the Best Beginning
by Lenore Look

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, the first thing I learned was how important the “lede” or beginning of the story is. The first sentence is crucial. It’s called the “hook” because it snags your reader and reels them into your story. Without a strong hook, your reader will get away before you can tell them the five Ws and H – who, where, what, when, why and how.

When writing fiction, your hook is not just the best way to snag your reader, but it’s the place from which you will hang the rest of your story. It’s THAT important. For me, the beginning is the hardest part of the book to write. I’m faced with all my research, my characters, what I want to say, and a few ideas for scenes. It’s overwhelming. Where do I start? I pick something and have a go at it. It’s a mis-start, or a scrub, as they call it at NASA when a launch is aborted. I have many scrubs. When I find the spark that will finally launch my rocket, there’s more trouble.  Often I will agonize over the first sentence for days, re-writing it, tweaking it, throwing it out, starting it over, again and again. But when I finally get it right, it’s blast-off! And the rest of the book seems to write itself.

Here’s my top-secret recipe for finding the strongest beginning, and I hope it helps you find yours.

How to Find the Strongest Beginning to Any Piece of Writing.
1. Sit down.
2. Open your writer’s notebook.
3. Ask the following questions:
            a. Who’s your character?
            b. What’s your setting?
            c. What does your character want?
            d. What are the obstacles in her way?
4. Summarize the story you’re telling in one sentence.
5. Write your summary sentence in the center of a blank page.
6. Now surround your summary sentence with your answers to the questions from #3. Some people call this “clustering,” – if you draw circles around each of your sentences/ideas, it begins to look like a cluster of grapes. I don’t bother with the circles, instead I make lists, and surround my summary sentence with lists that answer the questions.
7. Add your research as they fit under the different questions in #3.
8. Step away.
9. Eat some ice cream.
10. Stare at the sunset.
11. Call a friend.
12. It’s important to start the next part with fresh eyes.


How to Find the Strongest Beginning, Part II
1. Look at your messy page(s).
2. Find the smallest, most simple detail that captures your entire story.
3. What you’re looking for is the KEY to your house. Keys are small. A small detail will open the door to the rest of the house, which is your story. All the rooms in your house are the different scenes that make up the story.
4. Study carefully the beginnings to books you like.
5. Using the detail you found in #2, and the inspiration you found from #4, write the most compelling beginning you can.
6. Let it lead you into the first room of your story.
7. Finish off the ice cream.
8. Stare at the sunset.
9. It may be the last sunset you see for a while.
10. Writing a book takes a long time.
11. Cry.
12. Cry your eyes out. It’s only the beginning. You still have the middle and the end to tackle!


            Writing Exercise Text © Lenore Look 2014, All rights reserved

Thanks, Lenore, for this terrific exercise! Readers, if any of you try today's WWW, do let us know how it works for you.

And don't forget to enter for a chance to win your own copy of the 2015 CWIM, where you'll be able to read additional helpful tips from Lenore. See my last blog post for details. The giveaway ends October 31.

Happy Writing!
Carmela

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35. Andi Watson: ‘Working hard and having fun hopefully go hand in hand…’

Andi WatsonHave you ever written a scary story? In honor of the Halloween season, we are interviewing horror writers to learn about the craft of scaring readers.

Throughout his career, cartoonist Andi Watson has written and illustrated dozens of comics and graphic novels. Right now, Watson is working on a spooky children’s story called Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you land your first book deal?
A: Because I’m a cartoonist, my first opportunity of being published came through physically mailing my mini-comics to publishers. Six months after sending them out a company called Slave Labor Graphics agreed to publish me. This was a good two decades ago when publishers would look at unsolicited submissions without needing to sign legal disclaimers. Having said that, after experiencing something of the book publishing world, it’s still an awful lot easier to make contact with graphic novel publishers than it is in the traditional prose world. Putting work online and attending cons is a good way to make contacts. As in all areas of work, it helps to know people.

(more…)

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36. Monthly etymology gleanings for October 2014, Part 1

It so happened that at the end of this past summer I was out of town and responded to the questions and comments that had accumulated in August and September in two posts. We have the adjectives biennial and biannual but no such Latinized luxury for the word month. Although I realized that in this case bimonthly would be misleading, I hoped that the context would disambiguate it. Let me assure our correspondents that my gleanings will keep appearing every last Wednesday until some unpredictable circumstance (for example, a sudden lack of queries: I can’t think of anything else) do us part. My bimonthly meant “gleanings for two months.”

Etymologies

Gaul, Walloon, Wallachian

Wallachian, Walloon, and Welsh share the same Germanic root, which means “foreign” (one can also see it in walnut, as well as in the family names Wallace, Welsh, and Walshe). The Anglo-Saxons called the Celts and the Romans foreigners. The element -wall in Cornwall is related to them. Gaulish is a Romanized form of the same adjective (compare ward and guard, Wilhelm and Guillaume). But one should not argue from etymological affinity to tribal or national identity. Calling some people foreigners does not say anything about their origin.

Hull gull

Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) has an entry for the word, and descriptions of the game abound, but the origin of the name remains undiscovered. My browsing has not yielded anything worth reporting. What little has been said on the subject in books on games can be found on the Internet in five minutes. The idea that hull goes back to the Old Engl. verb for “hide” (hellan ~ helian, in Modern English, rare and dialectal hele; compare German hehlen, hüllen, and their cognate -ceal in Engl. conceal, from Latin, via French) is, in my opinion, fanciful. Hull gull is known among American Indians, but in the absence of its native name nothing follows from this fact. The hully gully dance seems to have been called after the game. Some people have looked for its source in Africa, yet no facts bear out its African origin. In my experience, the nucleus of such reduplications (hugger-mugger and the like) is more often the second element; the first is then added to rhyme with it. This is especially true of the words whose first element begins with an h. Should some brave word sleuth decide to search for the etymology of hull gull, it may pay off to begin with gull. Perhaps some of our correspondents have ideas on this subject. If so, kindly don’t hide them.

A hazel-grouse
A hazel-grouse

Color words

Brown

My gratitude is due those who informed me about the origin of brown shirts in Germany. I knew most of what was said in the comments but can now state with certainty that brown had no symbolic value in the choice of that uniform. As regards the name of the hazel grouse, it indeed has a root with wide Indo-European connections. The remark on braun und blau (see the quotation from Deutsches Wörterbuch adduced by Roland Schumann) should be considered, but in such binomials a descending scale is also possible: compare Engl. black and blue.

Livid

I am sure Michael Lamb is right. It did not occur to me to consult dictionaries. The OED explains that livid with anger means “pale with anger.” However, I still wonder whether anger, rather than fear, causes pallor. In those few cases in which I heard the phrase, the speakers always meant “suffused with red.” Apparently, I err in (good) company.

One as a pronoun

One is responsible for one’s mistakes. Is this a silly sentence? In at least one opinion, it is as silly as John is responsible for John’s mistakes. I am afraid I disagree. One, our correspondent points out, is not only an indefinite pronoun but also a noun, a circumstance ignored by grammarians. However, grammarians have always been aware of the nature of one. In the United States, grammar is seldom taught today (where some watered down elements of it remain, grammar has been replaced by the less offensive term structure; I cannot vouch for the rest of the English-speaking world), but those of us who did study this allegedly-devoid-of-fun subject at school have heard about the parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, verbs, and the rest). The division of the vocabulary into parts of speech is a minor catastrophe. For instance, adverbs often resemble a trashcan (what is not a noun or an adjective finds refuge there, and, to add to the confusion, nouns and adjectives in oblique cases tend to be “adverbialized”). Numerals fare even worse: we provide a list of them (one, two, three, etc.) and say: “This is your part of speech.” Is twice a numeral or an adverb? Twelve is a numeral, while dozen is a noun. Is threescore a numeral or a noun? Sixty is certainly a numeral. In the Old Germanic languages, the words for one, two, three, and four could be declined (as they still are in Icelandic) and belonged to the same classes as nouns; yet we call them numerals. All this is common knowledge. One is the worst offender, because, despite its meaning, in Old Germanic it had a plural form and sometimes meant “only.” Modern Engl. ones shows how natural that plural sounds, while once is a petrified genitive.

My next point concerns usage. John is responsible for John’s mistakes is unnecessary and even silly, because his, instead of John’s, would refer to the subject quite clearly. But one has no correlate, hence the trouble. One is responsible for his (her) mistakes is embarrassing, because one is neither a man nor a woman. Their is safe and politically correct, but one is singular, while their is plural. To be sure, those who say when a student comes, I never make them wait will find the correlation one/their unobjectionable, and let them enjoy their usage (“every man in his humor”). In addition to those variants, we can say either one is responsible for one’s mistakes (logical but perhaps inelegant) or rephrase the sentence (all of us are responsible for our mistakes). “John” is doing better: he pays the price for his folly, just as “Mary” rues her missteps. While speaking English, one occasionally hits the wall, and there is no help for it.

Come one, come all
Come one, come all

I wrote my response before Michael Lamb’s comment appeared. There was no need for me to change anything in my text, and “at this point of time,” as so deplorably many people say and write, I invite our correspondents to read our “polemic” and express their opinion: come one, come all.

Disagreements over strategy, or a maid of all work: over

Some prepositions succeed in ousting all their competitors. Henry W. Fowler, the author of the immortal book Modern English Usage, wrote with contempt about those who say as to, because they are too lazy to think of for, about, and their synonyms. I have a dim recollection that in one of my old posts I discussed over as an example of an evil invasive species. Recently, Walter Turner has sent me a list of such overdone phrases from the most respectable British and American newspapers. Some of them are offered below for the wise to be aware. “Egypt jails nine men over sex assaults”; “Moscow faces bank curbs over new public-sector projects” (= because of? in connection with?); “Journalists face jail over spy leaks”; “Cameron ambushes Labour over tax plans”; “Cameron criticized over plans to knight Tory reshuffle victims”; “X warns Y over boozy night out,” and many more. This virus, like all viruses, knows no borders. Take note and think it over.

I have something to say about the Indo-European names of fruits, the phrase in brown study, the origin of Viking, and about the ever-green subject of English spelling but will do so next Wednesday.

Image credits: (1) Hazel grouse. Naumann, Naturgeschichte der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band VI, Tafel 8 – Gera, 1897 digitale Bearbeitung : Peter v. Sengbusch. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. (2) Marx Super Circus Tent Side 2 Inside Detail 1. Photo by Ed Berg. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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37. Hachette Publishes a Cookbook Inspired by ‘Breaking Bad’

Who is the one who bakesThe Telegraph reports that “Walter Wheat” has been credited as the writer behind a Breaking Bad-inspired parody cookbook.

BuzzFeed has posted seven recipes from Baking Bad: Great Recipes. No Meth-in Around. The book trailer (embedded above) features the cook preparing a batch of “Meth Crunchies.”

Hachette Books released the American edition of this book on October 28th. The Orion Publishing Group will follow with the United Kingdom edition on November 6th.

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38. The Catholic Supernatural

From eighteenth century Gothic novels to contemporary popular culture, the tropes and sacred culture of Catholicism endure as themes in entertainment. OUP author Diana Walsh Pasulka sat down with The Conjuring (2013) screenwriters Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes to discuss their cinematic focus on “the Catholic Supernatural” and the enduring appeal of Catholic culture to moviegoers.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: Your recent movie The Conjuring was financially very successful and is the third highest grossing horror film about the supernatural, behind only The Exorcist (1973) and The Sixth Sense (1999). Each of these films engage Catholic themes, and more specifically, the supernatural. The Conjuring, of course, is based on the lives of Catholics Ed and Lorraine Warren. What is it about Catholic culture that you think resonates with audiences?

Carey Hayes: Catholic culture is global. It also has a long history that almost everyone in the West identifies with on some level. Medieval cathedrals, priests in black robes and white collars and nuns in habits, in many ways these visuals are like short hand or code, and audiences understand them. For example, take the movie, The Exorcist. When it is apparent in the movie that the little girl is possessed by evil, they call in the priest. The priest, with his identifiable clothing, his crucifix and holy water, is the representation, visually, of the antidote to evil. Of course it doesn’t hurt that authors and filmmakers have used these themes over and over again, and this adds to the recognizable effects. The more we see elements of Catholic culture used in visual culture this way, the more we understand what they mean.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: That’s interesting. The meaning of these tropes, then, can take on a second life, of sorts, in popular culture. Non-Catholic audiences might equate what they see about Catholicism in the movies, with Catholic-lived practice.

Chad Hayes: That could be the case, of course, but in our experience we’ve had only positive reinforcement from Catholics. When we promoted The Conjuring in San Francisco a Catholic priest approached me and said “Thank you for getting it right.” That one comment was one of the best compliments I’ve received about the movie. We were also interviewed for U.S. Catholic, and they were very positive.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring. New Line Cinema. © 2013 Warner Bros Entertainment.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring. New Line Cinema. © 2013 Warner Bros Entertainment.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: A few years ago, Carey, you coined the term “The Religious Supernatural” to differentiate what you were doing from other screenwriters who wrote movies about the supernatural. Why designate it “religious?”

Carey Hayes: I coined the term to identify a certain framework, and, I suppose, to suggest a history. Today there is a lot of focus in popular culture on the supernatural or the paranormal. It is almost all secular. In the past, the supernatural and paranormal occurred within a worldview that allowed for the supernatural but within a religious framework. People had tools like prayers to deal with the supernatural, which, you have to admit, is scary. We wanted, in our movies, to return to that. We thought that, in many ways, religion deals with the big questions, and the supernatural is usually a scary thing that interrupts daily life and causes people to think about the big questions. So, we wanted to pair the two, religion and the supernatural, and remind audiences that this is, ultimately, what scary movies are about: ultimate questions about life.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: Are you ever frightened by what you write about?

Chad Hayes: We’re not afraid when we write and produce movies about the supernatural. But our research frightens us!

Carey Hayes: Right! It is frightening because some of this is supposed to be true, or based on events that are true.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: I wondered about that. Part of the appeal of your movies, and other movies like it such as The Exorcist, is that they play on the ambiguity of fiction and non-fiction, or the realism of your subject. The Blair Witch Project (1999) is a great example of the play on realism. The movie was presented as recovered footage of an actual university student project. I was in Berkeley, California for the pre-release of that movie, and I couldn’t get tickets for three days because the lines outside of the theaters were so long. When I finally got to see the movie members of the audience were wondering, is this real? Of course, we knew that it wasn’t, but we were also intrigued that it was presented as real. That definitely contributed to its popularity. The marketing campaign for that movie was unique at the time, too, in that they emphasized the question of the potential realism of the movie.

Chad Hayes: We purposely look for stories that are based on true events. We do that for this very reason: because people can relate. They can Google the story and see that maybe its folklore, or its real, but it is out there and is an experience for other people. So that contributes, no doubt, to the scare factor.

Diana Walsh Pasulka: Do you think this also has something to do with the appeal of the Catholic aesthetic, like the use of real Catholic sacred objects — the sacramentals, the crucifix, and the robes of the priests?

Chad Hayes: Absolutely. Ed and Lorraine Warren are practicing Catholics. Ed has passed away, but Lorrain still attends a Catholic Mass almost every day. That part of The Conjuring is based on her real Catholic practice. We were in contact with Lorraine throughout the writing of the movie and we included the objects that she and Ed actually used, like the sacramentals, the blessed objects, and holy water. My Catholic friends tell me that most Catholics don’t use these objects in their daily lives, but then they aren’t exorcizing demons, are they?

Diana Walsh Pasulka: I suppose not!

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39. Guest Post: Chris Barton on Writing & Cross-Generational Interests

Via Public Domain Pictures
By Chris Barton
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

There’s never an answer I that I find quick, simple, and faithful to the full truth when someone asks what inspired one of my books.

Take Shark Vs. Train (Little Brown, 2010), for instance.

Yes, I’m sure the seed was planted by my now 15-year-old son’s love of sharks and trains. But...

He loved reading books about sharks. He loved playing with wooden trains. Putting the two things together, however, just wasn’t his style of play. As a small child, he had a much more literal view of the world. Sharks were fascinating ocean creatures. Trains rolled on wooden tracks that he could build with all day long. There was no crossover.

My style of play as a kid, however, would have been to mash those two concepts together. And I guess that still is my style of play, because that’s how it worked with Shark Vs. Train.

The idea grew out of my paying attention to my kid, to what he loved, but the book that resulted was much closer to my imaginative comfort zone than to his literal one. I wrote it for me, not for him.

(See? It took me nearly 140 words to get close enough to the full truth to suit me.)

As another example, take my new book, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (illustrated by Joey Spiotto and published by POW!)

Once again the seed was planted by the interests of that now-15-year-old, along with his now-10-year-old brother. This time around, those interests were video games such as Legend of Zelda, Wizard101, Little Big Planet, and Minecraft.

But in this case, my comfort zone would have resulted in no book at all. Though I had played video games some as a kid, I hadn’t played in many years, aside from the occasional encounter with an old arcade game.

And I was deeply skeptical of my kids’ respective abilities to balance time spent in front of a screen with time spent on their own creative pursuits, on outdoor play, on reading.

I also, however, wanted to understand what the heck they were talking about when they spoke of mods, sandboxes, attacks, bosses, and cheats. And I wanted to demonstrate to them that I took seriously the things that they loved -- or, rather, their love of those things.

I guess I could have done that simply through playing video games with my boys. Instead, I chose to demonstrate my appreciation for their passions through my own work. In other words, I wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! for them, not for me.

Even though those two books resulted from my going down different paths, they both offered a similar choice: Is it for them, or is for me? But then, isn’t the same true for every book for children?

Chris writing with fellow Austin author April Lurie and Greg Leitich Smith
Isn’t there always a decision to be made regarding how much the experience of a book reflects the interests of the adult -- be it an author or illustrator doing the creating, a parent or grandparent doing the buying, a librarian doing the recommending, or a teacher doing the assigning -- and how much the experience of that book stems from consideration of what the child audience will bring to it or is likely to take away from it?

Every book is an opportunity to navigate that territory in the middle, between what we adults want and love and think we know and what those kids want and love and think they know.

Through my experiences with Shark Vs. Train and Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!, I’ve come to appreciate just how much room there is to maneuver through that middle ground.

Yes, I wrote Shark Vs. Train for me -- but that didn’t stop me from trying out scenarios on my boys and trying to crack them up and seeing what they responded to before deciding with illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and our editor which competitions to keep.

Chris with his wife, fellow author Jennifer Ziegler at Texas Book Festival.
And yes, I wrote Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! for my boys -- but I couldn’t have done that without relying on my own research skills and my own judgment about what was important to include or exclude, even when that put me at odds with a 9-year-old who totally thought that “M” should be for Minecraft.

Each book we write, and each book we recommend, is partly about us and partly about them. If we keep that in mind before we put our fingers to the keyboard or pull a title off the shelf, and if we consider how best to strike a balance in that particular case, I think we’re all more likely to be happy with the outcome.

Not every book will fall squarely between our desires and those of our readers. But the more books we share -- truly share -- the more opportunities we’ll have to average out closer to the middle.

And the more we’ll learn to trust each other.

And the better the chances that we’ll each be able to think of a book -- one that we give and that they receive -- as ours.

Cynsational Event

Join Chris and K.A. Holt, author of Rhyme Schemer, at 2 p.m. Nov. 1 at BookPeople in Austin.

Cynsational Notes

Chris Barton is the author of the picture books Shark Vs. Train (Little, Brown, 2010)(a New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller) and The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2009)(winner, American Library Association Sibert Honor), as well as the young adult nonfiction thriller Can I See Your I.D.? True Stories of False Identities (Dial, 2011).

His 2014 publications include picture book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet (powerHouse) and his YA fiction debut as a contributor to the collection One Death, Nine Stories (Candlewick), and 2015 will bring picture book biographies The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdman's) and The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition (Millbrook).

Chris and his wife, children's-YA novelist Jennifer Ziegler (Revenge of the Flower Girls (Scholastic, 2014)), live in Austin, Texas, with their family.

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40. Celebrities Serve as Readers on Amy Poehler’s Audiobook

Yes Please AudioSaturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler has enlisted several celebrity friends to serve as narrators for the audiobook edition of her memoir, Yes Please.

The participating readers include Sir Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Mike Schur, Kathleen Turner, and Poehler’s parents. It also includes a recording of Poehler’s one night only live performance at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

The Wall Street Journal has posted a SoundCloud clip with Stewart reading Poehler’s haiku about plastic surgery. Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, released the audiobook, the eBook, and the hardcover book yesterday.

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41. John Grisham & Jim Gaffigan Debut On the Indie Bestseller List

let it snowWe’ve collected the books debuting on Indiebound’s Indie Bestseller List for the week ending October 19, 2014–a sneak peek at the books everybody will be talking about next month.

(Debuted at #1 in Hardcover Fiction) Gray Mountain by John Grisham: “Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.” (October 2014)

(more…)

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42. Halloween Costume Writing Prompt

Dear STACKS readers,

We want to know . . .

What are you going to be for Halloween???

Warriors book costume

Leave a Comment and tell us your Halloween costume this year!

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43. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 286

This will be our final Wednesday Poetry Prompt until December. Beginning on Saturday, the November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge will provide a prompt and poem each day of the month. Click here for the guidelines.

For today’s prompt, write an emerging poem. Some things emerge out of the shadows or the darkness. Some things emerge from the water. Others emerge in broad daylight, whether we’re talking monsters, athletes, politicians, or what have you. Poems themselves emerge from the blank page and/or screen.

*****

Win $1,000 for Your Poetry!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at an Emerging Poem:

“suburban coyote”

we stood together
with the rising sun
for the camera

when Simon saw it
and asked what is it
and without looking

we said it must be
a deer but he said
no that’s not a deer

it’s a coyote
we followed his eyes
and watched it emerge

from beneath a bush
and it was bigger
than I thought they got

and I worried for
the kids as it ran
one end of the yard

to the other like
lightning but under
that speed was a fear

of the chain link fence
and questioning eyes
as sun revealed all

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

This will be his seventh year of hosting and participating in the November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge. As much as he loves the hustle and bustle of the April PAD Challenges, November is nice for a few reasons, including the focus on creating a chapbook and just the laid back feel. Some of his favorite poems have come out of the November challenges, and he can’t wait to get started again.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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44. Successful Queries: Agent Kate Testerman and “Steering Toward Normal”

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 70th installment in this series is with agent Kate Testerman (KT Literary) for Rebecca Petruck‘s middle grade novel, STEERING TOWARD NOVEL (Abrams/Amulet, May 13, 2014). The book was chosen as a American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce New Voices selection as well as a Spring 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List selection. It was among Vanity Fair’s Hollywood’s “10 Books We’d Like to See Made Into Films.”

(16 things to do prior to sending your work out to agents & editors.)

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 2.40.59 PM

 

Ms. Testerman,

I’ve been “attending” WriteOnCon the last few days and appreciated your frank and funny advice about query letters. I hope you will be interested in my middle grade novel, STEERING TOWARD NORMAL.

STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is a 56,000-word coming-of-age story set in the world of 4-H steer competitions. (I’m from Minnesota–we know cows.) It begins when eighth-graders Diggy Lawson and Wayne Schley discover they have the same father. STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is the tale of how the boys go from being related to being brothers.

Diggy’s life may not be typical, but he’s content. He hangs out with Pop and the county’s farmers, raises steers to compete, and daydreams about July Johnston, high school senior and girl of his dreams. Hardly anyone teases him anymore about how his mom abandoned him on Pop’s doorstep and skipped town on a tractor.

Then Wayne gets dumped at Pop’s, too. Suddenly, Diggy has a half brother messing things up. Wayne rattles Diggy’s easy relationship with Pop, threatens his chances at the state fair, and horns in on his girl. Diggy believes family is everything, but he’s pretty sure Wayne doesn’t count.

The first ten pages of STEERING TOWARD NORMAL won first place in the SCBWI Carolinas Writing Contest, judged by Sarah Shumway, Senior Editor at Katherine Tegan Books.

I am a graduate of the Creative Writing MFA program at UNC Wilmington, editor of the SCBWI Carolinas quarterly newsletter, and member of the NC Writer’s Network. My work has appeared in Our State magazine.

My professional background is in PR and marketing, having promoted new fiction and nonfiction authors with [redacted] and marketed magazines online for [redacted]. Additionally, I was president of my 4-H chapter in fifth grade. This is a multiple submission.

I look forward to hearing from you about BLUE MOO.

Sincerely,
Rebecca Petruck

 

Commentary from Kate Testerman

Rebecca got off to a great start by referencing a conference where I’d spoken, and her query showed she’d taken my advice to heart. The first paragraph of the book’s description does a great job of setting the story in a specific place (with a fun parenthetical that shows the author’s sense of humor). The hook line of “BLUE MOO is the tale of how the boys go from being related to being brothers” is something we’re still using to describe the story, many steps later on the publishing road.

Rebecca goes deeper in the next two paragraphs, showing me what Diggy’s life had been, and how it changes when Wayne comes to live with him and Pop. The line “Diggy believes family is everything, but he’s pretty sure Wayne doesn’t count” is an almost perfect example of the voice that so hooked me on my first reading of the partial, through my reading of the full, and why I offered representation.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Rebecca had won a writing contest with this material, judged by an editor I knew and respected, and was a member of the SCBWI, as well as a past member of 4-H herself!

As with all great queries, though, this one also touched a personal note for me, as my husband was a 4-H member and farm boy in his youth, and reading about these two boys helped me better understand his childhood.

(Learn how you can support and help a new author with their book release.)

 

2015-CWIM-small

Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

 

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45. TURNING PAGES: WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY, by Gail Carriger

Somehow, though I've been reading along faithfully, I never got around to reviewing the second in the Gail Carriger Finishing School series. Curtsies & Conspiracies was just as much hare-brained fun as my well-loved Etiquette & Espionage. May I have... Read the rest of this post

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46. Your Name in Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, or Ken Follett’s Book

LiteraryAuctionAuthorsImageJust like Will Ferrell’s character in “Stranger Than Fiction,” you might find “yourself”—or your namesake, your avatar—spinning through a tale told by Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Ken Follett, Hanif Kureishi, Will Self, Alan Hollinghurst, Zadie Smith, Tracy Chevalier, Joanna Trollope, or another of the 17 authors participating in a fundraising event for the UK medical charity Freedom From Torture.

In this Literary Immortality Auction, participating authors have donated a character in a forthcoming work that will be named after auction winners.

Tracy Chevalier, author of the international bestseller The Girl with the Pearl Earring, said:

“I am holding open a place in my new novel for Mrs. (ideally a Mrs.) [your surname], a tough-talking landlady of a boarding house in 1850s Gold Rush-era San Francisco. The first thing she says to the hero is ‘No sick on my stairs. You vomit on my floors, you’re out.’ Is your name up to that?”

According the New York Times, Margaret Atwood is “offering the possibility of appearing either in the novel she is currently writing or in her retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ to be published as a Vintage Books series in 2016.”

Bestselling author Ian McEwan (Atonement) said:

“Forget the promises of the world’s religions. This auction offers the genuine opportunity of an afterlife. More importantly, bidding in the Freedom from Torture auction will help support a crucial and noble cause. The rehabilitation of torture survivors cannot be accomplished without expertise, compassion, time—and your money.”

Freedom from Torture notes on its site: “Seekers of a literary afterlife can place their bids online from 6pm this evening,” so get going.

Click here for your bid for immortality.

The real-time episode of the auction will take place at The Royal Institute of Great Britain in London on November 20th.

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47. Crystal Clear

Entering the “Oracles Den” at the fair with your significant other seemed novel at first. When the oracle had you gaze in her crystal ball though and you see yourself five years down the road with someone you’ve never met, well things just got interesting. The real problem: Your significant other knows who the person is. Write this scene.

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.

 

 

 

 

 

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48. Let us now praise school visitors

G. Neri visits Krasnoufimsk, Russia

I get to work with many authors and illustrators who have school-visit schedules that would make your head spin. John Coy, Nancy Carlson, and Greg Neri to name only three Nancy Carlson takes input from students on what should be included in her doodle of her popular character Harriet. Harriet is based loosely on many of the experiences in Carlson’s own life. Carlson showed step by step the process she uses for drawing her favorite character.rack up more miles and passport stamps than I care to contemplate. I consider myself a good traveler and something of a road warrior where car trips are concerned, but I’ve seen school visit schedules that would make me cut up my driver’s license and let my passport expire. And as taxing as this work is, I think this travel is also one of the most important things authors and illustrators do today.

Don’t take my word for it though. John Coy has written with characteristic eloquence on the matter.

“Like any school visit, once I’ve agreed to come, teachers and librarians start preparing students. Because of those efforts, I never cancel and am reluctant to postpone. That’s true with winter driving in Minnesota, and it’s true with unforeseen situations at international schools.”

 Read his whole piece here.

Author John Coy speaks to West Carroll eighth-graders Thursday. Oct. 7, 2010, at West Carroll Middle School.

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49. DOESN'T FALL OFF HIS HORSE by Virginia A. Stroud


One of the things I love to see in a picture book about Indigenous peoples is a visual that puts the story and its teller in the present day. Virginia A. Stroud's Doesn't Fall Off His Horse does that beautifully.

The first page from Stroud's book is to the right. See the little girl? See the wallpaper on the walls? See the glass windows in the house?

To a good many of you it might sound ridiculous to point out those things, but there are so many people who think Native peoples are long gone, or if we're still here, that we live exactly like we did several hundred years ago. Some even think that if we do NOT still live that way, that we can't be "real" anymore, as if being Native is about material culture and nothing else.

We're far more than that, of course. Every culture or nation or ethnicity is more than its material culture. Stories, for example, are an unseen part of a people's culture.

In Doesn't Fall Off His Horse, Stroud tells us a story about her grandfather. Specifically, it is a story about how he got his name.

The little girl is called Saygee. There's a glossary that tells us Saygee is a Kiowa word that means youngest one, or, little one. She wants him to tell her a story,
"but which one? He was like a living book; nearly a hundred years had passed under his footsteps during his walk upon the earth. He had followed the buffalo, he had roamed the open plains with tepee and lodge poles, he'd seen the non-Indian wagons come to Indian Territory and watched from a hilltop as the settlers staked out the land. He saw one of the first locomotives cut across the prairie, then an automobile, and an airplane; he had received the citizenship given to the Native American people."
Sensing she wants a story, he says "Doesn't Fall Off His Horse." Saygee asks him who doesn't fall off his horse, and he says "Me." and "That's my Indian name." From there, he begins this thrilling story. In its telling, we learn that he is Kiowa. I chose that excerpt (above) quite deliberately. Another thing I look for in a children's book is a way of telling that sounds like the people I know. I don't know any Native elder--or any Native person, in fact--who calls a train an "iron horse." I've seen non-Native writers put that phrase in the mouths of their characters, or, in their stories, but I don't think it originates with any particular Native people.

I highly recommend Doesn't Fall Off His Horse. First published in 1994 by Dial Books for Young Readers, it is also available in ebook format.


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50. Food insecurity and the Great Recession

While food insecurity in America is by no means a new problem, it has been made worse by the Great Recession. And, despite the end of the Great Recession, food insecurity rates remain high. Currently, about 49 million people in the U.S. are living in food insecure households. In a recently-released article in Applied Economics Policy and Perspectives my co-authors, Elaine Waxman and Emily Engelhard, and I provide an overview of Map the Meal Gap, a tool that is used to establish food insecurity rates at the local level for Feeding America (the umbrella organization for food banks in the United States).

For 35 years, Feeding America has responded to the hunger crisis in America by providing food to people in need through a nationwide network of food banks. Today, Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. You can learn more about food insecurity rates in America by listening to the below podcast:

 

What are the state-level determinants of food insecurity? What is the distribution of food insecurity across counties in the United States? How do the county-level food insecurity estimates generated in Map the Meal Gap compare with other sources? Along with reviewing Map the Meal Gap and finding out the answers to these questions, we discuss ways that policies can and are being used to reduce food insecurity in the United States.

Headline image credit: Supermarket trolleys, by Rd. Vortex. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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