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I'm a magazine editor by day/aspiring middle-grade novelist by night and, in between, I author a line of children's travel books. This blog is about balancing work, life and the desire to create, with plenty of children's writing insights thrown in.
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1. Blog has moved

DayByDayWriter has moved. I figured it was time to have a URL with my name. :)

So, please come and join in over at SamanthaClark.wordpress.com.

Write On!

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2. Children need books

I read some really troubling news today. In the U.K., three out of every 10 children do not own any books — none! No bookcases in their bedroom with Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Harry Potter… No parents reading to them before they go to bed. I hope they at least borrow books at a library.

As a children’s book writer, this doesn’t look good for my future financial prospects, but that’s not why it’s troubling. I feel for these kids. They don’t know what they’re missing. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without books. They were my escape when I needed help. Books gave me confidence. The characters were my friends. They were always there for me. And my love of books then has shaped the person I am today.

According to the Guardian‘s report on the U.K.’s National Literacy Trust’s survey, not owning books is potentially damaging to children. Here’s a quote:

Children who did not own books were two-and-a-half times more likely (19%) to read below their expected level than children who had their own books (7.6%), and were also significantly less likely (35.7%) to read above their expected level than book-owning children (54.9%).

And here’s another:

Children who don’t own books “are less likely to have positive experiences of reading, less likely to do well at school and less likely to be engaged in reading in any form,” according to the research. “It is not a case of books being irrelevant now technology has superseded printed matter,” wrote the National Literacy Trust’s researchers Christina Clark and Lizzie Poulton. “Children with no books of their own are less likely to be sending emails, reading websites or engaging with their peers through the written word on social networking sites. Children who grow up without books and without positive associations around reading are at a disadvantage in the modern world.”

The Guardian‘s report says the problem is worse with boys, where 4 in 10 books don’t own books.

Parents are to blame. They set the standard for their children. They are the primary gift buyers.

Couldn’t books be thrown in with the Xbox games? Books are much less expensive. And what are parents reading to their kids before bedtime? The newspaper? It’s sad to think these children are missing out on that bedtime tradition.

But there is something we can all do to stop this problem — because I’d be willing to bet there are similar numbers in the U.S. too. Whenever we’re buying gifts for children, our own or friends’, buy them books.

How did books help you when were a kid?

Write On!

2 Comments on Children need books, last added: 6/21/2011
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3. Fear and keeping your head

My husband and I were talking about fear the other day and he mentioned the saying that’s painted over the player’s entrance to centre court at Wimbledon: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…” It’s a small section of poet Rudyard Kipling‘s poem If, and it reminded me of the ups and downs writers face every day.

If you don’t know If, you can find it at EveryPoet.com, and it’s worth reading. A lot of lines fit what we go through:

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you / But make allowance for their doubting too

We get lots of opinions about our writing, from critique groups, family members, friends (you know, when they inwardly roll their eyes when you say you’re working on another novel), agents, editors, etc., and it can be hard to digest. Even from those people we trust, we sometimes get conflicting ideas. But as writers, our loyalty has to be to our writing. Our job is to take in all the approvals and criticisms, process them and use only what we feel will help our work get to a new level. We have to take all the doubts and push them aside, fully believing in ourselves and our work, while also recognizing that we can always learn more.

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master

If we didn’t have the dream of being published, we probably would never show our writing to anyone. Dreaming is a big part of writing, not only for our creativity but also to power our drive, but the challenge is to not get so caught up in our dream that we don’t enjoy our lives. Writing requires a lot of waiting, and in that time, we must live — and write even more.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone / And so hold on when there is nothing in you / Except the Will which says to them “Hold on”

I’ve read about and talked to a lot of writers who’ve had moments when they’ve thought about quitting, not wanting to face any more disappointment, but if they didn’t, they would miss out on the best part of writing: the creation — not to mention the book signings when their book is finally in print.

If we can do all that and more, as Kipling says:

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

(Or woman!)

So writers, fear will always be with us, we  just have to keep our heads.

Write On!

2 Comments on Fear and keeping your head, last added: 5/21/2011
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4. Beautiful first paragraph: Myra McEntire’s Hourglass

I had a blast volunteering for my local Austin SCBWI chapter a few weeks ago at the Texas Library Association. It was my first time at the conference, and the rumors of all the free advanced reading copies of upcoming books were not exaggerated. I saw people walking out with big bags full of books. Very exciting!

I was working our SCBWI booth, promoting our awesome children’s book authors in Texas, so I didn’t walk out with armfulls — plus, I gotta admit, as it was my first time, I was a little too much in awe to move! But, I did visit the Egmont booth and the kind ladies there happily shared the books in Egmont’s upcoming line.

HourglassThe first one I’m reading was called by one Egmont lady her “favorite” and after starting it, I can immediately see why.

Hourglass is the debut novel by Myra McEntire, a YA paranormal/science-fiction book about Emerson Cole, a young lady who, since the age of 14, has been able to see strange things, like Southern Belles, soldiers and eerie apparitions. When she meets Michael Weaver, she learns that there are others like her and she can get help at an organization called the Hourglass. The more she delives into that world, the more she learns about her past, her future and her life.

I’m on page 44 and totally hooked, but I was hooked from the opening paragraph. It immediately set the book’s tone, pulled me into its world and intrigued me enough to want to keep reading — exactly what a good opening should do.

Here it is:

My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift. You could say my brother, the architect, is Ivy Spring’s plastic surgeon.

Gorgeous! I can totally see why Egmont picked up this book, and that beautiful imagery continues throughout — at least for what I’ve read so far.

I’m one of those people who reads first pages in the bookstore before I take a book home with me. Sure I read the jacket cover, but then I look at the opening of the novel. If it doesn’t immediately pull me in, I put the book down.

At conferences, I’ve heard from agents and editors that they’ll give a manuscript 150 words. That’s all they have time for. If they’re not interested in 150 words, they’ll stop reading and move on to the next. There are enough manuscripts out there.

You might think, that’s not enough. 150 words is nothing. But you’d be wrong. Myra McEntire set up her book in 38!

And of course, this isn’t the only example. Charlotte’s Web anyone? Best first line of a book — ever!

So, if you want to stand out in front agents, editors and ultimately readers, make sure your first paragraph is amazing, then follow it with hundreds more. That’s how you write a great novel. Take Hourglass as inspiration.

The back of the ARC says Hourglass will debut in May, but Amazon says it’s coming June 14. So, either it has been delayed or some other retailer has an exclusive for a while. Either way, get it when it comes ou

2 Comments on Beautiful first paragraph: Myra McEntire’s Hourglass, last added: 5/5/2011
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5. Rest in Peace L.K. Madigan

L.K. Madigan headshot

L.K. Madigan

In January, I wrote about the wonderful community that children’s book writing has and how they were supporting young adult author L.K. Madigan, who had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Madigan passed away this week, and the support for her family continues. Fellow author April Henry has written that, if you want to do something in memory of this writer, you can donate to her son’s college fund.

I didn’t know Madigan, but I’ve read wonderful advice she gave via former agent Colleen Lindsay: “The main thing is to WRITE. Some days it might be 2,000 words. Some days, you might tinker with two sentences until you get them just right. Both days belong in the writing life. Some days, you may watch a Doctor Who marathon or become immersed a book that is so good you can’t stop reading. Some days, you may be in love or in mourning. Those days belong in the writing life too. Live them without guilt.”

Madigan’s husband wrote a lovely post on her blog after she passed away.

Whether you know Madigan’s work or not, please spread the word about her and her books. She will always be remembered through those.

Write On!

2 Comments on Rest in Peace L.K. Madigan, last added: 2/28/2011
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6. Self-publishing and ebooks

Going into the Austin SCBWI chapter’s annual conference this weekend — it was great, by the way — I was curious to find out how middle-grade novels are selling in ebooks, as that’s what I write. I’ve seen lots of articles in the Publishers Lunch enewsletter saying that ebook sales are rocketing in adult books and even taking off in young adult, but I suspected that middle-grade was behind. According to Egmont‘s Elizabeth Law, I was right. She said they’re not seeing noticeable ebook sales in middle grade.

Anathema book cover

Megg Jensen's self-published YA novel Anathema

Even though MG is slower to this technology, it’s great to see ebooks being embraced so quickly. As I wrote in January, sales of ereaders were stellar for the Christmas season, with many places selling out. Although I still love — LOVE — physical books, whether a book is printed on paper or eink, it’s still a story. And if this new technology is enticing more readers to stories, that can only be good.

The new technology also is changing the publishing landscape. With ebooks, it’s easier than ever — and less expensive — to self-publish books. Author J.A. Konrath has written about this extensively on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. He had gone the traditional route before he started publishing his books on his own as ebooks, but he gives good arguments of why that doesn’t matter. YA author Amanda Hocking is an example, selling more than 185,000 ebook copies of her self-published novels.

Now, I’m not saying all writers should stop submitting to agents and editors of traditional publishing houses and go it alone. There are definite advantages to being signed by an agent and getting your work published by someone else. Let’s face it, most writers are not so great at the business end. And throwing an ebook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever doesn’t automatically mean it will sell; there’s marketing, publicity … oh, and the book should be good (editors are invaluable) or repeat sales won’t be much.

But the advent of ebooks has made it easier for writers to take the publishing of their work into their own hands, and blogs and social networking make it easier to build publicity.

YA author Megg Jensen is trying just that with her novel Anathema. And so far, it looks like she’s off to a great start. The book launched on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, she had already sold 50 copies. She’s hosting a contest right now where people can guess how many books she will have sold by March 11, and the main prize? An ereader. Now that’s what I call promoting future business.

What do you think? Would you be willing to read a book if it’s se

5 Comments on Self-publishing and ebooks, last added: 2/25/2011
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7. New Enid Blyton book uncovered

Being British — to my American readers, yep, that’s right, if I was talking instead of typing, I’d have a funny accent :) — the first author I knew by name because I loved her books so much was Enid Blyton. I keep naming things in my books Nod after her Noddy!

So seeing the news from the BBC that an unpublished novel of hers has been found, I got goosebumps. I, for one, am dieing to read it. How about you?

If you had the chance to read a lost manuscript from a children’s book author, whose would it be?

Write On!

3 Comments on New Enid Blyton book uncovered, last added: 2/24/2011
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8. Book recommendation

I don’t write book reviews — I’m not a fast reader — but when I find a book that I really love, I like to write it. Today’s book recommendation is for Gayle Forman‘s young adult novel If I Stay.

If I Stay book coverI discovered this book when Gayle was a speaker at the Teen Book Con in Houston last year. When I go to writers’ events, I try to support the industry by buying a few of the speakers’ books, and If I Stay was one of the novels I picked up that day.

The book’s premise intrigued me immediately: After being in a car accident with her parents and young brother, a teenager falls into a coma. But her spirit stands outside her body, and as she watches her family, friends, doctors and nurses try to keep her alive, she considers if it’s worth it.

You could say I’m drawn to the dark, and this book was no exception.

But what also touched me was the way Gayle talked about it. She said that when we’re writing, we shouldn’t worry about the market or whether a book will sell when we’re done. We should follow our heart and write the story we want to tell. That’s what she did with this novel, putting her whole heart into the writing, and that’s what made me want to read it.

If I Stay pulled me in from the first few pages, and I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book in less than a week, which is fast for me — the only time I get to read is while I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed.

It’s a touching and beautifully written novel that has a lot of heart.

I highly recommend it.

What book did you read recently that you’d like to recommend?

Write On!

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9. Authors helping authors

The Mermaid's Mirror book coverWhen I joined the children’s book writing community, one of the things I was immediately impressed with was how supportive everyone was. Not all writing communities — or all creative communities — are like that, and it’s wonderful that children’s book writers are. On Verla Kay’s board yesterday, I saw another example, author Cindy Pon writing about and supporting fellow author L.K. Madigan.

Madigan, author of Flash Burnout and The Mermaid’s Mirror, was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and Pon put out a call for support. Pon and the other 2009 Debutantes are giving away copies of Madigan’s books to create awareness, but she also hopes you’ll add them to your Goodreads lists, tell your friends about them (if you’ve read them) and do whatever else you can to spread the word.

I haven’t read Madigan’s books, but they sound great and have gone on my plan-to-buy list.

So, if you haven’t read Madigan’s books, check them out and spread the word about this wonderful author.

Write On!

2 Comments on Authors helping authors, last added: 1/19/2011
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10. Patience, perseverance and a whole lotta reading

Pile of booksSaturday was the monthly meeting of the great Austin chapter of the SCBWI at the awesome independent bookstore BookPeople, and all who attended got a healthy dose of inspiration.

The speaker was author Jessica Lee Anderson, who taught about dealing with the ups and downs of publishing through songs — and yep, she even sang.

Jessica reinforced the idea I wrote about in my last post, that the writing is the best part of the journey, so stop worrying about publication. But how to do that? Well, with a little Patience (from Guns ‘n Roses), R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (from Aretha Franklin) for ourselves as writers and people, and the knowledge that I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor). (Jessica’s talk had a wonderful soundtrack!)

Jessica also reminded us that reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer, and she said she had set a goal for 2011 to read a book a week. A book a week! And she’s running ahead of that goal right now!

I was amazed. I can’t read that fast. (She did admit to me later that she listens to a lot of audio books in her car and has to drive a lot, so that’s one way you can fit them in.)

Although I won’t be matching Jessica’s pace any time soon, she did inspire me to push harder to get more books read. Spurred on, this weekend I picked up my book whenever I had a few spare minutes, instead of browsing the Web. I was determined to finish the novel I was reading and start another. I finished on Sunday afternoon and immediately went to my unread pile and picked up a new book. I’m already racing through that one — as often as I can at least. We’ll see if I can finish it in a week.

So, stop worrying, be patient, keep writing and make reading a priority.

Do you have a reading goal?

Write On!

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11. The writer’s journey is the best part
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By: Samantha Clark, on 1/14/2011
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  Writing, bird by bird, peaceful warrior, Add a tag

Peaceful Warrior movie posterMy husband and I watched the movie Peaceful Warrior last night — based on the book by Dan Millman, whose life is supposedly the basis for the book and movie — and I found myself nodding and smiling a lot. Not that I’m half as wise as the movie’s Nick Nolte character, but I understand the film’s main message, which is, the journey is the best part.

In the film, a college gymnast (Millman) is on track to get it all; he already gets the girls, but he’s aiming for Olympic gold too. A chance encounter with an odd older man (Nolte) makes Millman think he’s missing something and that he could be even greater. Along the way, he discovers that gold medals are not the most important things in life and that being the best you can be is really about letting go of your worries for the future and concentrating on the present.

It made me think of writing. I’m halfway through my third novel and, like many writers, I think ahead to the time that it will — hopefully — be published. The story is a bit experimental, a 10-year-old protagonist with some pretty heavy — adult — issues, and often my thoughts question whether a publisher will take on the book because of it. But it’s a story that I like, that I feel and want to write, and ultimately that’s what counts.

The journey we take when we’re writing our books is the best part. Although I’m not yet published as a novelist, I have been a journalist/editor for 19 years and have seen my name in print over and over again. It was thrilling the first few times, but then it’s over. What stays with me most from my career is the moments when I’ve written a particularly poignant lead and learned something really amazing during research for a story, like when I wrote about an art exhibit by Croatian children who used their painting as therapy. I wrote that story some, hmm, 13 years ago? And yet it’s one of the closest to my heart. And it’s not because of when I saw my name on top of it in the newspaper. It’s because of the journey I took for the article.

I imagine it’ll be the same when one of my novels is finally published. Sure, it’ll be thrilling for a while — a long while — but that will fade, as writer Anne Lamott describes in her great book Bird By Bird. The best part of my novel will be the time I spent writing it.

So, if you’re worrying about publication and looking ahead to seeing your words in print, stop. Don’t dwell on that, because if you do, you’ll miss the best part of your work — right now, when you’re writing.

Write On!

3 Comments on The writer’s journey is the best part, last added: 1/17/2011
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12. Need a good book to read?
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By: Samantha Clark, on 1/12/2011
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  books, book talk blog, caldecott medal winner, Newbery Medal winner, printz medal winner, scholastic book clubs bestseller list, Add a tag

We writers always have a stack of books waiting to be read, but when reading the best books helps us becoming better writers, what are the best books for us to read? The bestsellers and award winners in our genres are a great place to start.

The Association for Library Service to Children has just announced this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, for picture books, and Newbery Medal winner, for novels, plus honor books.

And there’s the Printz Award winners, for excellence in young adult literature.

On the bestseller side, Scholastic Book Clubs has launched a monthly children’s book bestsellers list, which will be available the second Tuesday of every month starting this month. The list will have the most popular five books, according to unit sales data, in these categories:

The list is available at the Scholastic Book Clubs Book Talk blog, but you can also request to get it emailed to you every month by sending an email to bookclubsbestsellers@scholastic.com.

Go grab a list and get reading.

Write On!

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13. Fun writing news
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By: Samantha Clark, on 1/6/2011
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  books, Writing, writing contests, childrens book hub, emma walton hamilton, invasion, jon s lewis, meegenius contest, thomas nelson chaos series, Add a tag

Lots of fun publishing news out the last couple days, so I thought I’d compile it for you:

Invasion book coverThomas Nelson has launched its science-fiction fantasy Chaos series for young adults with Invasion by Jon S. Lewis. Here’s the jacket cover:

When sixteen-year-old Colt McAllister’s parents are killed in a car crash, he learns it was no accident — his mother, a journalist, was writing an expose of the powerful biotech corporation Trident Industries.  Now, Colt has been targeted, and he and his friends Oz and Danielle find themselves battling the same sinister forces that took his parents’ lives.  A gateway between worlds has been opened, and Earth is in mortal danger.

Thomas Nelson says Invasion has “crackling plot twists, cliffhanger chapter endings, cyber attacks, alien invaders, and an undercurrent of teen romance.” As a sci-fi fan and writer, sounds good to me!

New York Times best-selling author Emma Walton Hamilton has launches the children’s writers’ salon Children’s Book Hub, a membership-based forum to provide information, resources and support for aspiring and established children’s book authors. There is a fee, $19.95, and members will reportedly have access to regular teleseminars with authors, editors, agents and other members of the children’s book industry. The site also will offer monthly newsletters, a members’ forum and lists of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, among others. The industry has lots of other places to get info and support, but another can’t hurt.

And in September, I wrote about the MeeGenius contest. They’ve now picked their winners:

Grand Prize: Pajama Girl by Sarah Perry and Ingvard the Terrible

1st Runner Up: The Cat Just Sat in the Chair by D.T. Walsh

2nd Runner Up: Floppity Phillip Flaut, words by Gary Guthrie, illustrations by Sunyoung Kim, characters by Taylor Lewis Guthrie

3rd Runner Up: Who Is the Most Beautiful Bird in the Barnyard? by Sharon Mann

and 4th Runner Up: The Little Green Bubbles by Kevin Malone, illustrated by Lee Hadziyianis.


Got any news to share?

Write On!

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14. Going digital
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By: Samantha Clark, on 1/5/2011
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  books, digital books, e-readers, ebooks, kindle, nook, Writing, Add a tag

KindleHappy New Year!

It’s a new year, and, now that I’m finally starting to settle down after my monster move, I’m back on Day By Day Writer. I’m excited and pledge that I’ll be with you at least three times a week.

So, with the new year comes good news and bad in the publishing industry: Borders is still in financial trouble and delaying payments to vendors in a short-term effort to fix things. But on the upside, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble reported strong sales of their ebook readers, the Kindle and Nook, respectively. Amazon says 2010 Kindle sales were at more than 8 million units, with B&N claiming “millions” of Nooks were sold.

I can attest to this, as I had a hard time finding one this Christmas.

Although a paper-book lover, I definitely see the benefits of going digital. Aside from the obvious benefit to trees, e-readers are great for avid readers who travel a lot. My father is one of those. He makes long trips a few times a year, and on those trips, he carries a good four or five, maybe more books. And I’m not talking about little thin books. When he left my house a couple days ago after the Christmas and New Year holidays, he left with me the James Bond Union Trilogy — a three-book pack — because it couldn’t fit in his suitcase. He had another three books already in there!

For people like my dad, an e-reader, at a little more than 8 pounds for the Kindle, is a great idea. And although we had had conversations about how we both preferred the feel of paper, I took a leap and bought an e-reader for my dad for Christmas. After much research, I chose the Kindle, but both Best Buy and Target — all my local stores — were completely sold out of the devices when I was shopping, proving their popularity. Amazon happily sent one my way, however, and my dad was surprised and pleased. A gadget lover, he quickly loaded it up with his favorite books, and I caught him reading his Kindle on the couch a few times before he left. Next time he flies across the world, his suitcase will be a lot lighter, but he’ll be able to carry with him many, many more books to enjoy.

The popularity of e-readers is great news for publishers and us writers. Book sales have been waning the last few years. But, if people like their e-readers, they’ll want books to read on them.

And good books are good stories no matter whether they’re printed on paper or e-ink.

So, this year, keep up the writing. E-reader lovers need more stories.

Write On!

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15. Win Storybook Treasures read-along DVDs from Scholastic
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By: Samantha Clark, on 12/14/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Scholastic's Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics DVD boxIf you haven’t seen Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures line of “read-along DVDs,” they’re a great blend of books and screen. Scholastic animated some of its best children’s books, along with award-winning titles, and put them on a DVD with the words so children can read along.

I’m all for anything that encourages children to read. Scholastic could have just made animated versions of all these books, but it’s wonderful (not too mention a smart business move) that they included the words of the books so they are read-along DVDs. Children who grow up with these with hopefully read books too. I’d say there’s more chance with these than for kids watching other children’s DVDs.

Anyway, my day-job website, www.discdish.com, is giving away huge bundles of Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures DVDs right now.

Wheels On the Bus Sing-Along Travel Kit DVD boxAmong the books on the DVDs in the contest are Where the Wild Things Are, Wheels On the Bus, The Ralph Mouse Collection, Curious George, A Very Brave Witch, Corduroy and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Here’s a review of one of the DVDs, the Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics 2.

DiscDish.com is giving away four bundles of these DVDs, the biggest valued at $685.

So, get over there and try out for your chance to win. You can enter every day, plus put up links to the page to get more entries.

Click here to enter the contest.

Write On!

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16. Interview: Kate Messner on writing and researching
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By: Samantha Clark, on 12/10/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Kate Messner headshotToday on DayByDayWriter, I’ve got a great guest post on writing and researching from Kate Messner, author of Sugar & Ice, a Junior Library Guild Selection, Amazon.com Best Book for December and on the WInder 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List.

Here’s the synopsis of Kate’s book:

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

Sounds fun.

Now, here’s Kate’s advice on writing and researching:

It’s all in the details…

Sugar & Ice book coverWhen I was writing Sugar & Ice, I did a lot of the research you might expect – reading books about the different spins and jumps in figure skating, studying skater biographies and interviewing coaches and competitive skaters about what it’s like. But there are some things you just can’t get from a book or an interview.

How does a skater interact with a coach who’s really pushing him or her?  What kinds of things does a coach say to encourage a skater who’s struggling?  To push a skater who’s not working as hard as he or she needs to be?

To answer those questions, I spent several afternoons at the skating rink. Former Olympian and current skating coach Gilberto Viadana allowed me to attend several of his sessions with skaters, so I bundled up and listened in as they worked on everything from sit spins to salchows.

“The arms! The arms!” Gilberto would shout.  And I would scribble down his words in my notebook.  More than that, though, I watched him watching his skaters. I paid attention to the way he nodded, just a little, when they responded to his coaching, to the way a skater stood when he or she was listening to advice, to the body language of a coaching session.

When you read the scenes in Sugar & Ice that involve Claire’s coach, Andrei Groshev, Groshev’s personality is all his own. But some of his words, his gestures and his coaching strategies are borrowed from Coach Viadana.

Authors rely on experts not only to review manuscripts and answer questions, but also to open up their worlds for that inside experience, and I’m so very thankful for this. The tiniest details – the things that could never come just from my imagination – are what make a scene feel rich and real.

Want a personalized, signed copy of Sugar & Ice?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a Sugar & Ice launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, Dec. 11, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at 518.523.2950 by Dec. 10. They’ll ta

0 Comments on Interview: Kate Messner on writing and researching as of 12/10/2010 9:32:00 AM
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17. A Winner and Character Naming
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By: Samantha Clark, on 11/15/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Thanks to all for your best wishes during my crazy move. (We should be finally getting settled at the end of this week. Phew!)

And thanks to all the commenters on the great guest post from editor Sherri Woosley. Sherri is giving away a copy of her Coffee House Fiction 2009 Anthology, and the lucky commenter (chosen by Random.org) is Cathy! Congratulations! I’ll email you for your address.

With my life turning into a roller coaster the last few months, and my brain pretty much turning to mush, I haven’t been writing, and the break from my story has not been good to my creativity. I’m still busy with lots of house stuff swirling in my head, but I wanted to get back to writing. The problem is, I’m having a hard time getting back into my story.

Over the weekend, I decided to try a new tack and write a few scenes as my protagonist, to try to get back into his head. When I started, I realized I wasn’t sold on his name. It’s not sticking the way I’d like. So this morning, I spent my writing time trying to figure out what name would be best for this boy. After many searches for meanings, I still haven’t come up with anything — but I’m still working on it — but I did find a good article on character naming on BabyNames.com.

It has eight tips, many of which you’ve probably already thought of, but some that you might not have. Either way, they’re always good reminders.

As I’m not having much luck finding a name through the meaning route, after reading these tips, I’m going to try the social security registry for inspiration.

How do you name your characters?

Write On!

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18. Guest blogger: Sherri Woosley with 3 rookie writer mistakes
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By: Samantha Clark, on 11/5/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Huge apologies for not being around. I’m still busy moving house, and my brain is fried with a bunch of things. But I keep thinking about all the things I want to write on here… then don’t get around to doing it. Lame, I know.

Sherri Woosley headshot

Sherri Woosley

I’ll be back really soon. But today, Sherri Cook Woosley is visiting DayByDayWriter with a great guest post about the top three rookie mistakes writers make most often.

Sherri is the editor of The Coffee House Fiction 2009 Anthology and The Fifteenth Dame Lisbet Throckmorton Anthology, 2010. She has an M.A. in English literature from University of Maryland.  She wrote academic articles in the field of comparative mythology before switching to fiction writing.  Her stories have been published in ZoneMom, Mount Zion Fiction Review, and New Lines from the Old Line State. She accepts editing work through www.coffeehousefiction.com. Check out this video of Sherri reading the winning story.

Thank you to Sherri for being here today. Let’s all give Sherri a big round of applause: clap clap clap!!!

Here’s her post about the writers three rookie mistakes:

Three Rookie Contest Mistakes

I’ve been chief editor at Coffee House Fiction for over six years now, which means that I’ve read a lot of contest entries.  Read the following list and make sure these rookie mistakes don’t tank your chances to win a writing contest or see your short story in print.

1.        The Mistake: Wrong Point of View

The Reason: Author thinks his or her entry will stand out if told from an unexpected source.

Worst Offenders:  A story told from a parrot’s POV.  I wanted to stop halfway through when the narrator (bird) called 911.  Really?  With its beak?  Did it know to press the ‘talk’ button first or was the phone on the wall?   Another story was written as if a horseback riding saddle was telling the story. Hard for a master storyteller to pull off, impossible for a novice.

The Fix:  POV should be a conscious decision.  Who is the best person to tell the story?  Who was the most affected by the events?  Finally, who has a decision to make?  It is much more vital when the audience experiences with a character rather than hearing about it from someone else.  A short story is also not the place to use multiple points of view.  There just isn’t time for the reader to connect with different narrators.  Instead, pick from classic choices like first-person, third-person limited, omniscient third, and stick with it.

2.       The Mistake: Neglecting the story for purple prose or over-description

The Reason:  The writer is infatuated with the writing and his or her own arabesque creation.

Worst Offenders:  “In a teary-eyed nostalgia, he wistfully recalled the halcyon days of his youth when, with an innocent eye rapturously fixed upon an idealistic mark, the ardent romantic had defiantly stood upon desks and dismissively ripped up texts, had passionately promoted Dead Sappo

3 Comments on Guest blogger: Sherri Woosley with 3 rookie writer mistakes, last added: 11/9/2010
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19. Emma Thompson writing a new Peter Rabbit book
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By: Samantha Clark, on 8/17/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  books, beatrix potter, emma thompson, frederick warne, peter rabbit books, Add a tag

BBC reported yesterday that actress Emma Thompson has signed a deal with publishers Frederick Warne to write a new Peter Rabbit book. Frederick Warne reportedly asked Thompson to write the book for the 110th anniversary of author Beatrix Potter‘s original Peter Rabbit story.

Now, I’ve got to say, I’ve got mixed feelings about this news. On the one hand, I’ve got the highest respect for Emma Thompson. I think she’s a great actress and just really cool.

But, even though she has written screenplays for the latest Nanny McPhee movie, Nanny McPhee Returns, and Sense & Sensibility, writing screenplays is very different from writing books, much less a children’s book.

But No. 2, why did Frederick Warne ask Ms. Thompson instead of one of the many, many, many wonderful children’s authors around? Because she’s a great writer or because she’s a celebrity? Somehow I think it’s the latter, and to me, that’s not the right reason to give someone a job.

And but No. 3, do we really need a new Peter Rabbit book? Beatrix Potter’s originals are so wonderful, and it’s fantastic that they have been preserved as well as they have and are still being enjoyed by new generations. What will a new book mean to the already-loved books?

Now, I’m not saying that Emma Thompson won’t do a great job, and that the new book won’t be fantastic and really loved by all Peter Rabbit fans, but, I don’t know, this announcement just makes me go “hmmm.”

How do you feel about a new Peter Rabbit book and the hiring of Emma Thompson?

Write On!

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20. Kurt Vonnegut’s rejections
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By: Samantha Clark, on 8/23/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  Author Interview, Inspiration, Writing, writers, Rejection letters, Kurt Vonnegut library, Add a tag

The New York Times reported on a new Kurt Vonnegut library that’s going to open in Indianapolis in the fall, and my favorite part of the article is a quote from his oldest daughter, Edie Vonnegut, who said, “We have boxes of rejection letters, letters saying, ‘You have no talent and we suggest you give up writing.’”

Now, don’t get me wrong — I don’t revel in the rejections great writers have suffered through. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But, knowing that if a writer as a great as Vonnegut can get rejections like that, rise above them and continue to pursue writing — and be successful at it — that’s inspirational.

Rejections are difficult to deal with, but it’s part of the business, and not personal — even though it feels personal, it’s not.

Rejections are also nothing that should stop us from writing and pursuing publication. A rejection is simply one person saying no; there will be others, but there also will be plenty of people who will say yes.

Like Edie says in the article: “He did not have an easy time of it, and I think anyone who wants to be a writer, it will be important for them to see how tough it was for him.”

It Vonnegut could do it, we can do it. Thank you, Kurt.

Write On!

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21. Children’s book only as e-book
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By: Samantha Clark, on 8/25/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  books, e-books, michael scott, random house children's books, secrets of the immortal nicholas flamel, the death of joan of arc, Add a tag

I’ve read that children’s books aren’t succeeding in an electronic format the way adult books are, but Random House Children’s Books is looking to put a fire under it.

Random House is releasing the new novel by Michael Scott only as an e-book. The Death of Joan of Arc: A Lost Story From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, the newest addition to Scott’s The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel book series, is available now as an e-book priced at 99 cents.

It’s a good plan for Random House, as the e-book is part of an already established series and fans will be looking for the next installment.

Joan of Arc, however, is a short story that’s an addition to the series, and not the next novel in the six-part series, which is The Warlock coming out next year.

There are lots of benefits for publishers to encourage readers to go to e-books, such as much lower costs.

I don’t own a Kindle or another e-book reader, but I do see the benefits to them — less killing trees, for example. For me, though, I still love the feel of a book in my hands, the texture and smell of the paper, being able to see how far in the pages my bookmark sits and the feeling of anticipation as it gets closer and closer to the end.

Kids are a newer generation, though, and if going electric makes books more attractive to them, I’m all for it.

As long as we can still have some paper books for those traditionalists like me.

What do you think? E-book or paper?

Write On!

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22. Keeping up with middle-grade
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By: Samantha Clark, on 8/27/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  Blogging, author websites, Bruce Coville, From the Mixed-Up Files blog, middle-grade book author blogs, Add a tag

Browsing my Google Reader subscriptions the other day, I realized that the majority of the author blogs I follow are by young adult authors. And, although I love those blogs, as I write middle-grade fiction, I figured it was time I broaden my scope. So, I started looking around for blogs by middle-grade authors and found this great group entry, From the Mixed-Up Files.

It’s written by a group of nearly 30 authors of middle-grade books and offers news, information, insight, interviews and fun. Oh, and book give-aways! It’s good for everyone interested in middle-grade books, from writers to readers to parents of readers.

For writers, posts like this Reading Through Middle-Grade one is awesome. In it, author Joanne Prushing Johnson relates her conversations about books with her own middle-grade children. It’s interesting to see their answers.

The blog also have a starting page for writers, as well as many areas for parents.

In my search, I also found the website of middle-grade-book author Bruce Coville. Although his website is more for fans, it’s a great example of what authors can do to connect with children in this age group.

For example, he has a guest page where fans write in and he posts replies. The fans must be so thrilled to get that kind of conversation … if you will … going with one of their favorite authors.

Coville also has a fan art page, which I thought was wonderful. Again, young fans must be tickled pink to see their work on their favorite author’s website. Check out the awesome pictures.

What are your favorite blogs or websites by middle-grade authors?

Write On!

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23. Query contest with agent Michelle Humphrey
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By: Samantha Clark, on 9/2/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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As part of the book launch for her novel Losing Faith, author Denise Jaden has a contest on the Class of 2K10 blog for a query critique with her agent, Michelle Humphrey at ICM Talent Agency.

To enter to win the critique, you just have to upload a logline for your novel in the blog post‘s comments section. The best one will win the critique. (You’ll see mine on there. Go add yours.) The contest ends on Sept. 14.

The post also includes a quick interview with Michelle, in which she says what she’s looking for and how to submit to her.

Good luck!

And, if you’re into non-fiction, School Library Journal is hosting a free webinar on non-fiction children’s books. Here are the details.

Write On!

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24. Some great inspirational links
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By: Samantha Clark, on 9/7/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags:  Author Interview, Inspiration, being productive, Kathi Appelt, rejection, success, Writing, Add a tag

Between my DVD and Blu-ray website, DiscDish.com; my books; and moving, I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water. So, a couple articles I read today as I was doing research really caught my eye. They’re geared toward bloggers and those trying to make money online, but their message works equally well for writers trying to get their work published and pushing through the self-doubts.

The first is How To Remain Productive When You Feel Like Giving Up. Self-doubt is a normal thing that every writer has to battle, even if they’re published but especially when they’re just starting out. It’s hard to sit at that computer and type and type without knowing if your work will have any success at all. The majority of people who start writing a book never finish it, and those who do often don’t do the work necessary to get it in a good enough shape for publication. And then there’s the querying agents process… Rejection is part of a writer’s life, and it can be hard to keep going, but this article has some great tips.

The second article, from the same site, is titled: If You Want Success Today, Let Yesterday Go and Stop Seeking Tomorrow. The article is long — and I must admit, I skimmed it — but the title itself is what I thought was great advice. I tend to look back and look forward way too much for my own good, but it does nothing except build my anxiety. And the truth is, I can’t do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. All I can work on is right now. And in this moment, I can work on one thing. So I need to choose that thing, then work on it to the best of my ability, not worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what I missed yesterday. If I do my best right now, if I succeed today, then tomorrow will be sorted out by itself.

The third inspirational blog post I found today is for writers. Author Bobbi Miller has a great interview with fellow author Kathi Appelt. Kathi offers up a bunch of good stuff (her answer about the “American fantasy” genre is very interesting), but the most inspirational part is at the bottom when she talks about advice she received from M.T. Anderson, who told her “write what you think you can’t.” To Kathi, that meant she had permission to fail, and that opened her up to try new things. Good advice for all of us.

Write On!

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25. Contest links
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By: Samantha Clark, on 9/18/2010
Blog: Day By Day Writer (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Got some links to share today to great contests:

The Bookmuse is celebrating 1,000 followers by offering five five-page critiques, two first-chapter critiques and a three-month mentorship with author Angela Ackerman.

Freelance editor Cassandra Marshall is offering a whopping contest for a free substantial edit of an entire manuscript of up to 100,000 words! One word: WOW!

Authors at The Longstockings blog are offering feedback for 25 pages of a teen, tween or middle-grade novel. Yay!

And children’s book app maker MeeGenius is running a contest to celebrate the launch of its new app platform. MeeGenius is looking for books for children ages 3 to 8 that include illustrations. One winner will get an Apple iPad and four runners-up will get an Apple iPod Touch, and all will get their manuscript published as an ebook and receive 30% of the sales.

Some great oppoortunities, so get entering!

Write On!

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