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1. Dear Literary Agent...

...is now available in digital format.

At last. The book that collects the funniest query critiques from this blog (and improves many of them with new laughs and artwork), is available in a format you can afford. You get the werewolf popes, the pay phone occlusions, the ruthless vigilante sorcerers... 50 in all.

Whether you've been here for the whole 9+ years and want the book as a memento, or you got here recently and don't have time to slog through 1200+ query letters on your computer screen, you want this book.

Of course you'd rather have the 8 by 10 full-color book, but if you don't want to spring for the higher cost, this is the next-best thing.

Click on "bookstore" in the sidebar. Then click on the picture of the book, and order the version you want. The digital version is $2.99. I'll send you the code that allows you to read it on your tablet. Or on your computer screen.

Also available in digital format: 

Schliegelman Saves the Universe (EE's award-winning novelette transformed into a graphic novel starring EE as Schliegelman)

The History of the World in Tweets (What happened, when it happened, and what's so funny about it, in 140 characters)

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2. Cloth flower

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3. Melissa de La Cruz and Soman Chainani Debut on the Indie Bestseller List

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4. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e July 31st 2015

Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Advice for Authors from a Bookseller’s Perspective (Tracy Hahn-Burkett)

Surviving the Space Between: A Writer’s Journey (Heather Webb) [Jon’s Pick of the week]

21 Self-Editing Secrets to Make Your Book Shine (Jerry Jenkins)

Living in the White Space (Liz Michalski)

Never Self Promote (Rachelle Gardner)

Does Your Freelance Writing Career Need to Grow Up? (Tamar Auber)

Does Genre Matter? (Diana Hurwitz)

How Not to Get Sued When Writing about Real People (Ed Sikov)

6 Ways to Make Your Editor Stop Yelling At You (Lisa Lepki)

How a Book Becomes a Movie (Jane Friedman)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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5. Road Trip Time

Right now as I type this using my iPhone we are heading to Elgin Illinois. 

Brian and I have teamed up to provide a tent, product, and whimsy to the World of Faeries Festival. Funny, we used to joke about running our own business together. It seems as God's plan has done just that!

Honestly this is just something I could not do on my own. I feel like this is right where we, and me, need to be. We are also taking a four day vaca from our daughter (so scary!!). 

I'm way beyond my comfort zone, being out from behind my computer screen. Yet we can only truly connect with others face to face, and I do t want to loose that ability out of fear. 


If you're near the Elgin area, I encourage you to leave the computer screen and come say hi. ^_^

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6. Entrance Ramp

At sunrise I'm standing at the bottom of an entrance ramp leading down into a parking lot in Kingston, New York. It's not a place that tourists would ever go. 

Entrance Ramp, casein, 5 x 8 inches. 
Instead, ordinary people come here on their daily routines. At this hour it's mainly older guys arriving for fitness sessions at the YMCA and patients showing up for appointments at the nearby radiology lab.

Off in the hazy distance is a tangle of street lights, utility poles and cell towers. The sun is coming up hot. A few pools of cool air settle in the shadows around my ankles.
I limit my casein colors to three (plus white): raw umber, golden ochre, and cobalt blue. The underpainting of tinted Venetian red adds a contrasting hue. (By the way, using a contrasting colored underpainting is a legal way to sneak in an additional color in the "Outdoor Market Challenge.) 

Halfway into the block-in. The blue-yellow limited palette mixes with the red of the underpainting.

Covering the surface with grayish opaques is like putting out a fire. A few red embers still glow. 

Now I can concentrate on the close value contrasts and the oppositions of warm and cool colors.

I'm glad I've got my night-painting Department of Art shirt on, because I'm standing a little ways into the road. 

As I paint, I wonder about strange stuff, like why poles are never vertical, and who chose those ball-shaped street lights, and what the sounds would have been like here 100 years ago. I think this sunken parking lot was once the basement of a bustling factory.

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7. 2015 annual conference in Los Angeles: opening remarks and stats on attendance

It's a tradition of Lin Oliver's to tell us a few statistics about conference attendance as we kick these events off.

This year is the biggest ever—1,173 attendees:

  • 437 of us are published
  • 736 are pre-published
  • We come from 19 countries including U.S., Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain
  • We come from 48 states—this year both North and South Dakota are represented (finally!). West Virginia and New Hampshire didn't send anyone. 
Some of the more unusual occupations in the crowd are bookkeepers, carpool coordinators, waiters, a choreographer, trucker, opera singer, bonsai artist, and dealing in international small arms (doll arms, mostly).

The show is now officially on the road.

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8. #BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

#BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating ( Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). If you or your tween is looking for a fun summer read, I strongly recommend this book. Love the funny, fresh voice and quirky humour. Love the poignant moments. Love the fact that Ana's parents are zoologists (Ana is short for Anaconda!) -- the author herself has a zoology background. Read the *starred* review in Kirkus.

I've already bought the next in the series, HOW TO OUTSWIM A SHARK WITHOUT A SNORKEL and also look forward to the release of HOW TO OUTFOX YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE, which comes out in October 2015....and it just got a *starred* review in Kirkus.

Synopsis of HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE: "Ana Wright's social life is now officially on the endangered list: she lives in a zoo (umm, elephant droppings!?), her best friend lives on the other side of the world, and the Sneerers are making junior high miserable. All Ana wants is to fade into the background. Yeah, that's not going to happen."

More about Jess and her books.

More about Jess's Sourcebook Jabberwocky series.

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9. Happy Friday!

Just because it's Friday, here's a collection of yummy strawberries for you, drawn with colour pencils on a watercolour background wash.


...and an early morning sketch I did while soaking up some vitamin D in the early morning sun 
Have a great weekend!

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10. Confused about the order of things

Question: I am 13, and I finished my manuscript, and I'm about to give it to my sister, who is an excellent writer, to edit. While she is doing that I

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11. The air's a-buzz!

The registration tables are percolating, and the California ballroom is starting to fill...

Our cups are about to run over with craft, business, inspiration, opportunity and community!

The 2015 SCBWI Summer Conference is just minutes away... Read the rest of this post

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12. Cover Revealed for New Dale Talde Cookbook

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13. Illustration Friday's (Grow)

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14. #LA15SCBWI New Attendees Orientation

New to the conference? You are not alone. There are more than 400 new attendees at the #LA15SCBWI—so no worries.! Longtime conference goer, writer Jolie Stekly kicked off the day with a New Attendees Orientation, schooling newbies on getting the most out of the weekend. And, boy, there was a lot of laughter—she had 'em cracking up! Secret: BIRD is the word, though you have to be here to be in on that secret. 

• Be yourself! There is room for everyone and know that you don't have to compete with anyone here. Relax. Get to know someone. Have fun!

•Don't get overwhelmed. There are many choices for sessions and keynotes. You don't have to do everything. And don't be afraid to take a break.

• Don't make the weekend about editors and agents only. There are many aspiring and published authors and illustrators at this conference. Take advante of who is sitting next to you. Introduce yourself.

• Set yourself up for success: Think of three goals that you know are achievable—and go for it!

Now, go have fun!

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15. Crowdwatch: Steve Hamaker’s PLOX Volume One

  Well, since it’s Friday let’s go all out with the Kickstarter newsw. Her’s a newsish one from Steve Hamaker, a collection of his graphic novel PLOX Volume One which he’s been serializing online. The story follows three online gamers and their experiences: Kim; the guild leader at the end of her rope, Chad; the […]

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16. Faculty Word Parade

Gouda Morning!

Some of the words have been



preparation (the H is silent)






Lin, the Beach Lane ladies Allyn and Lauren, Emma Dryden, Laurent Linn, and more!

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17. New Books and New Reviews

We have had a busy year so far we have released 15 books and we have seven more on the way. We appreciate all the comments from editors, reporters and bloggers. I have shared a few favorites here, enjoy!


Achoo_187Feathered Quill Book Reviews
“This is a fun book that will teach young children about pollen and why we need it. Of course many children who are allergic to some forms of pollen might not find it useful, but they will adore Baby Bear. He sneezes here and there throughout this highly informative book, one that makes it easy for children to understand the pollination process. The artwork is fun, vibrant and the picture book format makes it easy for even the most reluctant reader to learn some very interesting facts.”


AnimalMouths_187NSTA Recommends
“Teachers and their young students will eat this book right up! It offers K-3 students a unique and exciting opportunity to get an up close and personal view of the many types of animal mouths in nature. It stands out among other books of its type because of the stunning photographs and interesting descriptive text that conveys content information about the structure and function of animals’ mouths.”


Fibonacci_187Outnumbered 3 to 1
“This book is absolutely fantastic at teaching the basics of Fibonacci’s sequence to younger kids. So well laid out and with the perfect illustrations to accompany it. My oldest has always had a thing for math and she thinks this book is “so cool I can’t believe I’m learning this.”


PrimateSchool_187Goodreads Review
“Readers will quickly realize just how intelligent primates are and how they can grow bored easily with nothing to do. The photographs from various zoos in the United States feature some primates such as the golden lion tamarin and the white-cheeked gibbon that I have not often seen featured in nature books before. There are many shots of the animals and the zoo keepers hard at work–or play, depending on one’s perspective.”


ThisLand_187ACS Readers Haven
Catherine Ciocchi has written in rhyming cadence a sweet and simple geography lesson. Kids won’t even realize that they have just had a lesson in geography. This is educational entertainment done well.


WandrngWoolly_187Literary Classics
“This is a lovely book which incorporates learning about the Woolly Mammoth while teaching an understanding of the importance of staying close to an adult for safety’s sake. Gabriel has skillfully blended fact and fiction in this book which young boys and girls are sure to connect with on many levels. This book is highly recommended for home and school libraries and for classroom reading.”

Read more reviews by visiting each book’s homepage, and check out our upcoming books ready for reviewing this fall!

AmphbnReptile_187 HungriestMouth_187 LuckyLitter_187 SoundsSavanna_187 SparrowTrees_187 TheyJustKnow_187 TortoiseHare_187


If you would like to review an Arbordale book for your blog or magazine please leave a note in the comments.

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18. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer Star in Behind The Trees Video

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19. Why do we prefer eating sweet things?

Is the "sweet tooth" real? The answer may surprise you. Humans vary in their preference towards sweet things; some of us dislike them while others may as well be addicted. But for those of us who have a tendency towards sweetness, why do we like what we like? We are hardly limited by type; our preference spans across both food and drinks, including candy, desserts, fruits, sodas, and even alcoholic beverages.

The post Why do we prefer eating sweet things? appeared first on OUPblog.

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20. Using Physical Boundaries To Add Conflict

Last week, we discussed blurring psychological bounaries. This week, we'll tackle utilizing physical boundaries as conflict at the scene and overall story level.

The concept of physical boundaries ties in with the thematic question of ownership. Do we ever really “own” anything? Characters draw chalk lines and erect fences, warning signs, hedges, and walls to define physical boundaries.

Characters in any genre can argue the fine points of the debate whether they are talking about a desk, a house, a country, a dog, a child, or a partner. Trusts, inheritance entailments, and wills are drawn up to ensure that the ownership of a thing passes down in the desired way. 

These often play a part in a Mystery or Thriller, but can be used in any genre.  Physical boundary conflicts escalate until a crisis point is reached. These conflicts can be resolved amicably or resolved because only one is left standing. They can result in a new division of territory or someone takes all. Such are the basis for world or interstellar wars.

Skirmishes erupt between neighbors over the borders of their yards and driveways. It can erupt between cities and counties and states and countries. Border wars make great overall story problems and thematic arguments: borders are arbitrary versus borders are necessary. No one should fence in anything versus enforcing borders keeps its residents safe. When countries redraw borders, people get displaced and that makes a terrific thematic argument to explore. Humans are willing to kill over scraps of land, even if the land lacks water, food and clean air. Is every scrap of land worth fighting for? Some would argue yes, others no.

Battles over borders could also serve as a problem at scene level if Dick needs to enter a geographic area to gain something and can’t go there. He may have to find a way in that is subversive or get someone else to go there for him.

Characters get testy when people trespass on what they believe to be theirs, whether they are accurate or not. A character might object if someone else’s children played on his lawn or swam in his pool without permission. The same character might make justifications when his children do it to someone else. Characters get really testy, even violent, over their perceived boundaries. Try trimming someone's prize rose bush and you'll know what I mean.

Arguments over physical boundaries can involve a country’s borders, a contested parking space, a room with a view, or the scope can be narrowed to a very personal boundary. Making Dick confront physical boundaries creates conflicts whether he has to jump over a railroad track or cross into Palestine from Israel.
Use physical boundaries to trip up your protagonist and make his scene goal more difficult.

For more information on these and other obstacles for your fiction, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in print or E-book version.

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21. Part time job, full-time artist: rethinking the creative career trajectory

Amy Ng blogs at Pikaland, a popular stop for illustration lovers, students and artists who are looking for answers on how to find a balance between art, creativity and commerce.

Two years ago while I was attending a conference on children’s books in Singapore, I sat in on a panel that consisted of two writers and an illustrator. The one-hour long talk was about their journey and experience, and how they got to where they were, career-wise. When the Q+A session rolled about, I knew what I wanted to ask – it was at the back of my mind when I saw the slides of their journey and creative processes. It slid off my tongue: “How do you guys earn enough to do this for a living, since you only produce about 2 books a year?” 

The room buzzed a little, and murmurs could be heard. It turns out it might be a little sensitive – this topic about money. But I had asked in earnest, because their achievements were not to be scoffed at. However, it didn’t add up, because we all know how long it takes a book to get published. And was there a secret to holding out for a paycheque to cash out in the meantime? It wasn’t meant to put anyone down – I was just really, really curious.

Their answer? Both of them had part-time jobs unrelated to writing/illustrating. They were frank: they couldn’t possibly live off from their books (not at the moment anyway). They told the crowd that having a part-time job freed them of the pressures of having to rely on their books financially – which would ruin their experience of writing/illustrating one. 

It made a lot of sense. And I was thrilled that they didn’t sugarcoat the experience. They told the practical side of a story that not many people care to hear about. Maybe it ruins the perfect illusion – one that spreads the idea that artists are supposed to come out the other end, triumphant after years of struggling alone, working hard on their craft. Although some might find it a silly or even inappropriate question to ask (It’s too personal! No one wants to hear the negative stuff!), I felt it was important. And it’s a pity no one talks about it more within the creative field. 

Beyond the encouraging (and yet irritating) shouts of “Work harder!”, “You’re not doing enough!” and “You need to get out there more!” that’s ringing in the ears of every artists who has tried, failed and tried again, harder; it can mean so much. It means that the idea of an artist, sitting behind their desk, deep in the flow of creating work with no other obligations (financial or otherwise) besides their 100% focus on their art, might be a reality that’s not in line with what a lot of artists are facing. 

Yes, there is a percentage of artists who are able to do it full time, but they add a whole lot of other things to their repertoire too – some teach, some freelance on the side, and others pick up part-time jobs to substitute their income. Besides art patronage (which is harder to come by these days), there’s another way; one that’s not talked about more:  sponsorship. This article – “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from – is a really great article about how artists are doing a disservice to others by not being honest about how they got to where they are. Replace “writer” with “artist” in the article and there’s not much difference – we’ve all gotten help along the way. The question is how much? Was it through your own efforts, or by someone else? No one really talks about where their money comes from (or maybe there’s not enough frank conversations around it to begin with in the first place). 

Some might not need to make money from their art – for some, the love of process is enough. But for many, the financial lift from selling their work isn’t just about making a living. It’s a sign that they’re doing what they love – and are being loved by others as well. Call it validation. Or maybe the fact that it could signal the beginning of a viable business (and no, it’s not a bad word). It’s a value system that rings higher than just dollars and cents.

Taking on another job – part-time or otherwise, doesn’t mean that you’ve hung up your artist hat for good. It just means that you’re being pragmatic and realistic. Money pays the bills and keeps the light on. It keeps your fingers warm enough to move when the temperature outside is freezing. It keeps you from hunger and pain, and it buys you supplies needed for you to work your magic. Above all, having a bit of money ensures that your basic needs are met, so that you can focus on creating great things.

Taking on another job – part-time or otherwise – is also a great way to add another dimension to your work, particularly if you have interests that run outside of art that you can capitalise on. Or perhaps you’re merely taking on extra work to fill the the gaps financially, and are not really into whatever it is you’re doing to help pay the bills. That’s fine too. Whatever works for you. Just remember: if you start to have a strong, adverse reaction to work outside of your creative interests, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate the impact it will have on your art. 

It’s a fine line to tread. You don’t want to be too comfortable that you neglect your art, but you want to earn enough so that you can take the edge off from financial burdens. So what’s the best way to go about it? Pick something that you’re good at. Something that you can do quicker, or better than others. Do something that comes second nature to you (and I’m not talking about lying back on the couch going over Games of Thrones).

I know a few people (myself included) who look for avenues where they can separate their emotions from work. In other words, they are able to distinguish and remove themselves emotionally while completing the task at hand. For example, if you’re a designer during the day, you’ll be using up a lot of creative energy – which makes it a bit harder to squeeze out creative juice for your own personal projects come night-time. The goal is to find that sweet spot between your interests and also what you’re good at – which you might find has no relation to art at all. I’ve known artists who are also accomplished accountants, gardeners and even magazine writers (yours truly).

So throw out the outdated notion of being a starving artist. Keep your hands busy and get out there while you scale your creative heights. Find a job if you have to – so you won’t have to sacrifice your artistic integrity or worry about things like being too hungry to think properly or if you’re struggling to stay afloat under the constant pressure of being evicted from your home. You’ll be able to stay true to your voice and your goals, and enjoy the artistic freedom it offers you.

One caveat though: don’t let the need or want for stability rob you of your passion in the first place. 

It’s a fine line to tread, but that’s a whole different subject altogether.

[Illustration: Jean Jullien]

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22. On the Spotlight: The Aqua Lie, by L.L. Hunter

Title: The Aqua Lie
Series: The Aqua Saga book 2
Author: L.L. Hunter
Genre: YA Dystopian
Cover Designer: Regina Wamba of Mae I Design and Photography
Release Date: July 31st
Ever since being told he had to work for General Maddox in order to see Pym, Rush has had more than enough time to contemplate how to get out of this deal.
When he is invited to play a high stakes poker game with the General and his father, he is a little suspicious of the General’s motives.

When he discovers just what he is playing for, it has Rush seeing red.
The prize: Pym’s heart.
But if he loses, he will have to watch his friend Troy take Pym to the annual General’s Masquerade Ball while he sits on the sidelines.
And the hardest part of it all – trying to keep his secret from Pym.

In the much anticipated sequel to The Aqua Secret,
Will Rush be able to keep up the facade, or will it all be unraveled by midnight?

Purchase The Aqua Lie

Purchase The Aqua Secret

L.L. Hunter is the author of over 20 published works, including The Legend of the Archangel Series and The Eden Chronicles. She has studied everything from veterinary nursing, forensic science, and dramatic arts, but has always known her true calling was to be an author. She has been writing since her teens – everything from fan fiction, to song lyrics, to plays and musicals. When not working on her next paranormal romance, she can be found at home in Australia, reading somewhere comfortable with one or both of her “fur babies.”

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23. SCBWI Staff chimes in with their words!

Tagging onto the end of the faculty word parade, Lin has the SCBWI office staff introduce themselves!

From right to left, Lin Oliver (SCBWI's Executive Director), Kim Turrisi (Director of Special Projects), at the podium, Sara Rutenberg (Chief Operating Officer and Conference Coordinator), Kayla Heinen (Asst. Conference Coordinator), Sarah Diamond (Administrative Assistant), Brandon Clarke (Logistics Coordinator), Joshua Smith (Webmaster and Database Manager) and Sally Crock (who says she's 'retired' but still does SO much for SCBWI!)

Brandon and Joshua share the final words, the send off for an awesome conference ahead:


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24. work-in-progress by Linda T Snider-Ward, Louisiana artist

detail of a larger watercolor work-in-progress. I find that I have to let my work "rest" while I work on another piece. I'm pretty excited about this one, but I want it to "rest" a bit until I return to it.  More of my artwork can be seen on my website and my Etsy shop

If you're a watercolorist or just someone who likes dappling in watercolor, and you would like to join this site and share your work, send me a link to your blog or website in a comment, and I'll add you to the site.

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25. HBO May Air Game of Thrones for 8 Seasons

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