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1. Writer Wednesday: Where Writers Ever Just Writers?


Lately I've been wondering if writers were ever just writers. Sure, I guess we could just write books, send them to our agent, who submits to publishers, and let the chips fall where they may while we write the next book. But would we really find success if we ignored all the other jobs writers have?

Today more than ever, writers have to be great at marketing. I'm talking getting your books out there by identifying who your fans are and making sure your book is seen by those fans. Everything from interacting on social media, joining Goodreads and FB groups, setting up book signings, creating teaser images, maintaining a website, blogging, offering free content... The list goes on and on. 

Sometimes I'm left wondering when I'm supposed to write. I'm getting one book ready for production and another ready for my editor, and what I noticed is that some parts of these books are foreign to me. I'm so far removed from when I drafted them that I don't remember writing certain parts. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Distance gives you perspective and can really help during the revision process. But I actually have to schedule writing time. Part of me finds that crazy. I used to just write. Nothing else. Now I'm writing, editing, marketing, and self-publishing. I feel like I wear a thousand hats each day.

So I'm wondering, was it always this way? Or has it gotten worse with time? What do you think?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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2. Monday Mishmash 7/25/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. My Laptop Works Again!  I'm jumping for joy because my laptop is finally working again. I ran a huge update and now everything is good. It took forever, but I'm happy. :)
  2. Proofing After Loving You  I'm doing the final proofing for After Loving You (Ashelyn Drake NA romance) before it goes off to the formatter.
  3. Fun Story! Last week the contractor who put in our new windows told me his wife asked what my first name was and when he told her she realized she recognized my name because she had read one of my books. How cool is that?
  4. Editing  My editing schedule is booked into next year already. Just wow!
  5. Updating My Website  I've been updating my website after a few people asked how to order signed copies of my books. There's now a store! I don't have payment buttons because shipping costs are different depending on where you live, but all my books are there with prices.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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3. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e July 22nd, 2016



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

Creating voice in the query (The Intern)
https://intheinbox.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/creating-voice-in-the-query/

Making Clichés Work for You (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/10/you-spin-me-round-making-cliches-work.html

When in doubt, bury someone alive (Joe Moore)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/when-in-doubt-bury-someone-alive.html

5 Ways to Develop Your Writer’s Voice (Jennifer Louden)
https://janefriedman.com/5-ways-develop-writers-voice/

10 Questions for Outlining a Scene smack-dab-in-the-middle (Marcia Thornton Jones)
http://blogspot.com/2016/06/marcias-10-questions-for-outlining.html

Saving the Sagging Middle (Clare Langly-Thorne)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/saving-the-sagging-middle.html

4 Ways to Verify Your Story Concept Is Strong Enough (K. M. Weiland)
www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/story-concept-2/

First Line Winners and Losers (Janet Kobobel Grant)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/first-line-winners-losers/

So Your Self-Published Novel is Just Sitting There (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/so-your-self-published-novel-is-just-sitting-there.html

Is Your Query Letter Ready (The Intern)
https://intheinbox.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/is-my-query-letter-ready-for-submission/
by way of Laurie Wallmark



If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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4. Writer Wednesday: A Little Perspective


Since I became a part of this crazy world that is book publishing, my goals and perspective have shifted several times. At first, I dreamed of book deals and best-seller lists. Then I learned that this industry is can be harsh. I'm not talking about bad reviews from readers. I'm talking about the industry itself. It's slow. Publishers go under or don't honor contracts, which leads to rights reversions. Agents can come and go as well.

I've been through a lot, and it's made me change my perspective. I no longer stalk my spreadsheet when my agent has one of my books on submission. It's not that I don't care. I definitely do. But I've come to the conclusion that not every book needs to be published traditionally. So if a good publisher wants my book, that's fantastic. If a book doesn't get picked up, I know it's not the end of the world. I'll hire a great editor and self-publish. If I have too much time between releases, I look at the books I have written, decide which would be better suited for self-publishing, and get that in the works so readers are continuing to get new books from me.

Being a hybrid author is freeing. I don't feel the stress I once did in this industry, and I'm much happier for it. Has your perspective changed after being in this industry for a while?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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5. Monday Mishmash 7/18/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Back to Normal  I returned from my blogging break last Friday. Now it's back to my normal blogging schedule. While I missed the blog and all of you, it was nice to disconnect for a little while. I barely checked email or anything. 
  2. Reading  I'm in the middle of three books at the moment. I haven't done that in a while. They all happen to be suspense novels too.
  3. Revising  I'm revising my adult suspense so it's ready for my editor in September. I really love this book, and each time I read it, I get ideas for how to make it better.
  4. After Loving You  I'm so close to having my Ashelyn Drake NA romance After Loving You ready for formatting. This book tugs on my heartstrings every time I read it.
  5. National Ice Cream Day  According to my planner, yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. I may have indulged in some myself. ;)
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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6. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e July 15th, 2016



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

Discount Abuse (Contracts/Dealbreakers) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/07/13/business-musings-discount-abuse-contractsdealbreakers/

Write Book One, Not Book Two (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/07/write-book-one-not-book-two.html

The Long and the Short of Stories (or advice on short fiction) (James R. Tuck)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2016/07/the-long-and-short-of-stories-or-advice.html

5 Tips to Finish Your First Draft (Amy E. Reichert)
http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/07/5-tips-to-finish-your-first-draft/

Four Major Stumbles by Newer Writers (Larry Brooks) [Jon’s Pick of the Week]
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/four-major-stumbles-by-newer-writers.html

Writing Fiction for Middle-Grade Readers (Sophie Masson)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/07/11/writing-fiction-for-middle-grade-readers/

Helpful Tools and Sites for Writers (Elizabeth Spann Craig)
www.elizabethspanncraig.com/4563/helpful-tools-sites-writers/

How to Write an Eating Scene (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/how-to-write-an-eating-scene.html

Query Letters Part 1: The Pitch (Annie Neugebauer)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/07/09/query-letters-part-1-the-pitch/

In An Interesting Twist, B&N to Sell Self-Published Books In Stores (Thad Mcllroy)
www.bookbusinessmag.com/post/interesting-twist-bn-sell-self-published-books/


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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7. Shaping Voice and Tackling Heavy Themes in Children’s Stories

New Voices Award sealSummer is settling in and this month marks the halfway point of the submissions window for our New Voices Award, an annual writing contest for unpublished authors of color. If you’re an aspiring writer working to submit a children’s book manuscript, you’ve probably got the basic elements of your story (characters, setting, and plot) figured out already. You may even have most of the story written down. If so, kudos! But a story is more than words on a page. It’s the voice behind the words that drives the narrative and keeps the reader engaged.

Unsure of how to tackle this essential yet elusive story element? Fear not!

Last month we interviewed New Voices Award winner Sylvia Liu about her path to publication. In this next blog post, New Voices Award Winner Patricia Smith and New Voices Award Honor Hayan Charara share their experiences with shaping voice while tackling the difficult themes in their award-winning titles Janna and the Kings and The Three Lucys.

  1. What kind of writing did you do before entering the New Voices Award and how did that experience influence your story writing?

Patricia Smith: I’d been a professional journalist, but my primary mode of writing at the time was poetry. I think I became a poet after taking on some of my father’s storytelling skills. When he came up from Arkansas to Chicago during the Great Migration, he brought with him something I like to call “the tradition of the back porch.” Every day ended with a story from him that opened up new worlds, stretched the boundaries of my imagination and taught me that language was so much more than what I was learning, or not learning, in school.

But I don’t think my father’s stories inspired Janna as much as my father himself did. I was that little girl sitting in the barbershop, fascinated at all the magic found there, but it was my father–not my grandfather–who let me tag along with him every Saturday. I was an adult when my father died–and Janna was a way to explore that sense of loss, of the world not being the same. Also, although I’m a diehard sentimental, I never really knew my grandfather. So I wanted to explore that warmth that I imagined between a grandfather and grandchild.

Hayan Charara: I published my first poem when I was nineteen, so it’s been almost twenty-five years since I began writing poetry. Some of my poems tell stories, and all of them use a good deal of imagery to get across both meaning and feeling. Without storytelling and imagery, The Three Lucys simply couldn’t exist.

  1. What inspired you to write your story as a book for children?

    janna and the kings
    from Janna and the Kings

PS: I’m the dictionary definition of a daddy’s girl, so a few things were in play. I needed to express the singular and enduring type of love I felt for him. Although he was gone by the time the book was published, I was writing it for him–he died before he could see that I’d become a writer, which is something I promised him when I was very young. And I really wanted to capture that special time in a special place, the barbershop–a place that has been so pivotal, and so nurturing, in so many black communities.

HC: I first wrote about the events that take place in The Three Lucys a few years earlier in a poem originally titled, “Lucy”. I changed the poem’s title to “Animals,” and it appears in my new poetry book, Something Sinister. Generally speaking, I write poems, in part, to figure something out, either about myself, the people I know, or the world I live in. While I don’t always find an answer, I find that I have a better sense of these things than I did beforehand.

Despite the poem, I still had questions about the war, and most of them had to do with my little brother who lived through its events. Like Luli, he was six years old when the war broke out. I hadn’t yet thought very deeply about how he and other children might have experienced war and its aftermath.

I might not have tackled these questions with a children’s book if not for Naomi Shihab Nye, the poet and children’s book author. For years, Naomi had been urging me to write a children’s book, and for almost all of that time I didn’t feel ready to do so. Then, at a café in San Antonio, she handed me an announcement for the New Voices Award and said, simply, “You need to write a story for children.” This time, I felt ready.

  1. Did the voice for your story come naturally, or did you experiment with different points of view while writing?

 PS: Because I envisioned myself as Janna, and because my father’s voice is so clear in my head, the writing came easily. Actually, I had held on to the New Voices call for some time, moving the notice around and around on my desk. I work best when there’s an anvil swinging over my head, so I didn’t begin writing until I had no choice–a day or so before the deadline. I didn’t panic, because I knew the story so well.

HC: Before The Three Lucys, I had no practice writing children’s stories, and it had been years since I last read one. I went into writing the story very clumsily, not really knowing what I was doing or how it would turn out. Depending on who is asked, that’s either the most natural or unnatural way to write a story.

Though I wrote the story in one sitting, it took several revisions before I started to think of it as finished. All along, the voice remained relatively unchanged; the same goes for the points of view. What did change through each revision were the details and descriptions, the sort that would bring to life the experiences of the people in the story, as well as their deeper emotions.

For example, none of the early drafts brought out in a powerful and memorable way the moment that Luli realizes he will never again see one of the three Lucys. At best, the scene was nothing more than a description. I hadn’t gotten at how Luli felt.

I took months to arrive at an image that expressed the kind of sadness that comes with the loss of a loved one. Luli tells us, “My heart feels as heavy as an apple falling from a tree.” Sometimes, we get lucky and an image like that comes quick. Sometimes, it takes a long time, but I still feel lucky when it happens.

  1. Both Janna and the Kings and The Three Lucys discuss heavy themes. What challenges did you face when creating the right tone/ voice for your main character as they experience tragedy and cope with its effects? How did you overcome these challenges?
the three lucys
from The Three Lucys

PS: It didn’t feel like a challenge. I feel like I’m forever processing the loss of my father, and a lot of what I hoped the world will be without him is much like what the world turns out to be for Janna. I wanted to acknowledge his loss, but to have my life be full of him. I was writing from the perspective of a child, but the feelings were very much my own–an adult woman still suffering the loss of her best friend.

HC: The hardest part of writing this story was separating myself from it. I had all sorts of feelings, thoughts, and responses to the war itself, to war in general, and to the loss of a loved one. My mother died when I was a young man, for example, and that experience altered me forever.

I knew that I would be coming at this story with a lot of ideas and emotions already in place. On the one hand, this is a good thing because it meant that I was prepared to write the story. On the other hand, it was clear to me that I had to come at this story from a perspective very different from my own. After all, the story is about a child’s experience, not an adult’s, a fact I had to remind myself about often and be reminded about just as often by those who read drafts of the story.

  1. Finally, what advice would you give to new writers interested in tackling heavy themes in their stories for children?

PS: We constantly underestimate children. The world they live in is sporting sharper edges; and each day they adjust, their perspectives deepen, and they grow thicker skin. Children suspect these heavy stories even if we’re not ready to tell them. I think the key is remembering to revel in the myriad possibilities of language, to never downplay the role of imagination, and to always, always look for an unexpected entry point into the story. I don’t mean to sugarcoat–just write the story in a way you’ve never heard it. Your readers will be so enthralled by the way the story unfolds that its content becomes something more than just “that difficult topic.”

HC: When I wrote The Three Lucys, my wife and I didn’t have any children, only cats and dogs. You don’t have to explain anything to a cat or dog—you can, of course, and I think it’s a good thing if we talk to our animals. With cats and dogs, no matter what you say, they always listen. There’s practically no pressure at all to get it right. It’s really hard to screw up.

We’re parents now, to a four-year-old and a five-year-old. And I’ve realized that I am talking to them all the time about heavy themes, mainly because they bring them up. Every so often, one of them will ask me something like, “Will you die before me?” or “Can I live with you forever?” Or, even harder to answer, “What is the universe?”

When my boys ask me these kinds of questions, I feel like every one of them is an opportunity for me to say exactly the wrong thing. Obviously, these are also opportunities for growth and knowledge (for them as much as for me). When I talk to them about anything, not just heavy stuff, I try to do so honestly and in a way that doesn’t terrify or confuse them. I’ve also realized that, no matter how much I try to protect them, difficult and at times ugly realities will still make their way into their lives. This happens to all children, all the time. When it comes to helping children understand and get through difficulties, parents and teachers are usually the first-responders. And writers are often right there with them. We can be, at least. As a parent, I know that I often rely on writers—on children’s books—to help me out, not only with the heavy stuff, but the simple stuff, too. So I hope that more writers will tackle the big issues. It’ll make all our lives a little better.

Janna and the Kings by Patricia Smith is available now!

janna and the kings

The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara will be available September 2016!

the three lucys

For more details about the New Voices Award please visit the New Voices Award page.

 

0 Comments on Shaping Voice and Tackling Heavy Themes in Children’s Stories as of 7/14/2016 1:09:00 PM
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8. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e July 8th, 2016



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

“Busting” Some Popular Copyright Myths (Susan Spann)
http://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/07/busting-some-popular-copyright-myths/

There’s No Wrong Way (Anna Elliott)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/07/07/theres-no-wrong-way/

Ideas to Improve Your Writer’s Group (Jordan Dane)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/07/ideas-to-improve-your-writers-group.html

Long-Term Thinking: Rights Reversions (Contracts/Dealbreakers) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
www.kriswrites.com/2016/07/06/business-musings-long-term-thinking-rights-reversions-contractsdealbreakers/

Getting Ahead of Yourself…and Your Reader (Donald Maass)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/07/06/getting-ahead-of-yourselfand-your-reader/

5 Pieces of Writing Advice You Should Ignore (James Scott Bell)
https://janefriedman.com/writing-advice-to-ignore/

#thingspeoplesaytoYAauthors (Bill Cameron)
http://yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com/2016/07/thingspeoplesaytoyaauthors-bill-cameron.html

Overcoming False Starts on Your First Chapter (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/01/re-write-wednesday-false-starts.html

Don’t Overdo it! Examples of Overwriting (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/dont-overdo-examples-overwriting/

How to Make Boring Story Parts Exciting (Kristen Lamb)
https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/how-to-make-boring-story-parts-exciting/

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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.



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

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9. Writer Wednesday: Encouragement

REMINDER: I'll be on a one-week blogging break beginning Friday, July 8th. I'll see you back here on Friday, July 15th.

Lately, I've seen a lot of writers who are just down in the dumps. They're either discouraged because they are experiencing writer's block or they are in the process of separating from a publisher who isn't right for them or they've been on submission for months with no bites from editors. :(

As you probably know, my daughter has been writing her first book. She was so excited when she first began and the idea just flowed. She wrote every day with no shortage of ideas. Well, she's hit the late-middle slump. She knows the ending of her book, but is stuck at the point leading to the climax. She needs some encouragement, and I'm sure some of us could use some too.

So, today I'm asking you to share your words of wisdom in the comments for how you push through when you're going through the many downs that we experience on this roller coaster we call writing. To start you off, here's my advice:

Freewrite anything and everything that comes to mind. Sometimes the act of writing (no matter what about) will inspire creativity and get you over the hump.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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10. The process of writing and acquiring agents.

What do writers do when they receive a response from an agent that reads:

Many thanks for giving me the opportunity to read a sample of your work.  I enjoyed reading what you sent, but I am afraid that after much consideration I am going to have to pass on it.

The agent gives no reason, no feedback, no opinion.

The writer takes these comments in stride and forges on with their work. If you as a writer have a thin skin or don’t like rejection, don’t sit down and write. Be a critic instead. Everyone is a critic but without writers there would be no critics.

As a writer you are your own critic and need constructive criticism. That’s where a writers’ critique group comes into play. After months of constructive criticisms and rewrites, your work gets better, more polished and then you resend it to an agent. Will they read it? Will they contact you for more?

Yes. That’s just the way it works in the hard world of getting published.

If you are a writer. Don’t get discouraged. Keep going. Persistence and polish will win the day.

In words.

 

Denis.

 

IMG_1972

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11. Monday Mishmash 7/4/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Happy Independence Day!  I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July! 
  2. Blogging Break  Just a reminder that I'll be on a blogging break for one week beginning this Friday. I'll return to blogging on Friday, July 15th.
  3. Computer Issues  I've been putting off adding memory to my laptop, but it's causing serious issues now so I really need to do this soon.
  4. Editing  I'm editing for a new client this week.
  5. New Author Logo  Since I'll be self-publishing my new adult and adult titles, I decided I wanted an author logo to put on the back of the books where a publisher logo would go. Here it is! (I love it!) 
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. It's Kidlit Summer School Time!

https://nerdychickswrite.com/

Funny how things change - when I was a kid, summer school is not something to get excited about. But now I look forward to this opportunity to hone my writing skills by learning from some awesome kidlit authors.

This year, the focus is on heart and humor - perfect.  While you're out soaking up that summer sun, hop on over to Nerdy Chicks Rule and soak up some writing knowledge, too.

0 Comments on It's Kidlit Summer School Time! as of 7/7/2016 8:54:00 AM
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13. Boring to Exciting

How to turn the boring parts of your story into the parts people want to read over and over again.

https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/how-to-make-boring-story-parts-exciting/

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14. Summer Projects

It's hotter than July here in Colorado, and it's not even July yet... I'm not such a fan of heat. But I will say that summer is good for writing for me, not sure why. Maybe it's the longer days, or that the sun kicks me out of bed earlier? In any case, I'm on a roll with writing, which is nice. 2016 is my year for holing up and writing some manuscripts, so let the words stack up, please.

One of my projects has me delving into music history a little, blues history in particular. So I'm listening to all kinds of oldies to get in the mood. And I also have some new music on the playlist-- this up-and-coming band Kaleo came across my radar. I was sure they hailed from the deep south, from some town in the Alabama or Mississippi mud, because that's the sound. Turns out Kaleo is from Iceland. I kid you not. Check it out:


I like being surprised, and I like it when the universe reminds me that not everything is so predictable. I try to use that little trick in my writing, too, when I think I can get away with it.

I'm not easily surprised anymore when it comes to books. I tried to think of an example, but can't think of a single book where a plot twist blew me off my socks.

Help me out, guys: any books that threw you for a loop?

0 Comments on Summer Projects as of 7/3/2016 1:53:00 PM
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15. Break Out of Your Shell!

"Mussel Shells"
Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils
on Canson Pastel Paper
The drawing challenge from my color pencil group this month was to draw seashells. As you can see, I tackled four of them including the inside surfaces. Despite my initial resistance (too hard, too repetitive, not my thing, etc., etc.), I learned a lot from this exercise, much of which can be also be applied to my writing life, starting with practice, practice, practice. 

Thanks to my reluctance to start, I procrastinated like a pro. I answered email, cleaned my house, wrote more poetry; anything to avoid drawing. Finally the day came when I either had to get to work or go to my group empty-handed, aka "being a quitter." Not my favorite option. So with deep misgivings I started in with just one. Hmm. Not so bad. So I tried another. And another. And before I knew it I had drawn all four. Hey, I did it! Which made me realize:
  1. Repetition is valuable. One of the main things holding me back was fear of boredom: how could I draw four similar shells without losing my mind? The truth, however, was very different: first, the shells were NOT similar, and second, by repeating the process several times my technique improved as I got to the last shell. Practice, practice, practice! Whether you want to improve your drawing, write exciting action scenes or learn the intricacies of arranging a pantoum, it takes more than one attempt to get it right.
  2. Don't hide away in your "I can't do it" shell. Rather than setting yourself up for failure by aiming for the most incredible work in the whole of human history, start a dreaded project by drawing or writing in your most basic style: just get some shapes or words down on paper. Once that's done, tweak a little here, add a little there--before you know it your right-brain will be engaged and intrigued with all the possibilities. At this point, I dare you to stop.
  3. Shells make great writing and art journal prompts. The first time I wrote about a seashell in my art journal was an entry about playing with my grandmother's collection of shells from the Gulf of Mexico when I was a little girl. I loved holding those shells to my ear and "listening to the sea." You might have a similar memory, or you might want to write about your first trip to the beach, or your own collection of seaside finds. On the fiction side, including a seashell in a short story, poem, or novel could trigger all sorts of themes, associations, and plot twists--especially if the shell is rare and valuable!
  4. Artwork isn't always about drawing. How about brushing some ink or paint onto a shell and using it as a stamp in your art journal or mixed-media piece? Or pressing a shell into earthen or polymer clay? Drilling a hole into the top of a shell to add to a jewelry piece? Or simply painting and/or collaging the shell itself for a whole new look? 
  5. Using shells for meditation and mindfulness. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, there's something profound about a seashell. Whether it's the patterning, the colors, or just the fact it once housed and protected some small and distant creature, shells make a good start to pondering life's mysteries. Add them to household altars, your writing room or studio, your garden or any other kind of creative sanctuary you like to visit. Personally I like to keep them all over the house in various nooks and crannies. 
Shells have always fascinated me, but that's no reason to take them literally and hide out inside one of my own. The drawing challenge for July is to draw green leaves. I'm so fired-up by the prospect I'm going to start and base an entire art journal on the subject. No hesitation, no holding back, just going for it. Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme! 

Tip of the Day: One of the things I love about drawing is how it relaxes and pulls me into what I could almost call a different dimension. Memories; new ideas for writing; the book I'm currently reading: my mind seems to just float along with the tide. While I was working on my seashell piece I was reminded of one of my favorite books that I hadn't thought of for a long time: Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. If you've never read it, or haven't read it for a long time, I can't think of a better text to check out for summer inspiration. Enjoy!

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16. Writer Wednesday: Broadening Your Reach


As authors, one thing we are constantly trying to do is broaden our reach. You need people to know you and your books exist. So how do you do that? Here are a few ways you should take advantage of:

  • Interviews ~ Never say no to someone who wants to interview you for their blog, newspaper, podcast, etc. I recently did an interview on Super Teacher Worksheets, and it was great. This gets your name out there to readers you may not have otherwise met. (If you're interested, you can read my interview here.)
  • Guest Blog ~ Again, this gets you a new set of readers if the blog you are appearing on has a different following than your own. So reach out to some blogs that you love and see if you can do a guest post for them.
  • Multi-author Giveaways ~ These are fantastic because readers love giveaways. When authors join forces, they join readerships too. That's a very good thing.
  • Blog Hops ~ There are some big blog hops out there. I mean BIG. Getting involved with those will get your book and your name in front of tons of people.
  • Follow Other People's Followers ~ That was a mouthful! What I mean is check out authors you admire and see who they are following and who is following them. Then start following those people too. This is a great way to meet new readers. (This works for Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • Use Different Blog Tour Companies ~ We all have those tour companies we love to work with, but they have a base of bloggers they work with. That means using them repeatedly only gets you in front of the same pool of readers. Try other companies as well to find new readers.
These are just a few ways to broaden your reach. Do you know of others? Please share in the comments so we can learn from each other.


*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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17. Aloha

A small friend is turning 6 in two weeks.
She lives across the country,  
and we can't make it to the luau party.
We can't come for cake and balloons and birthday hugs,
but we can send pineapples
and kitties
and fancy toothpicks.
 They're like tiny, paper aloha hugs.
 

So, in shuttling wildebeests to soccer camp lately, 
I have discovered a few good surprises 
in being the carpool soccer mom.

 Books on CD. 
Car-goofy kids.
And sketchbook time
 while all my soccer players 
do their runs and drills.
Big chunks of sketchbook time 
help when working out new ideas.

 It's funny that I can sketch happy around a crowd, 
but I can't write a drop.
My thoughts turn to stone and my stories sink.
 But then, that's kind of a theme for me with words anytime lately.

I know some writers who scribble serious magic 
in coffee shops and airplanes. 

What about you?

When do you do your deep story work?
Can you create masterpieces with everyone there?
Do you thrive with hum and buzz?
Or do you like a hush when you create?

 


Wherever you find yourself this week,
I wish you peaceful breezes, sweet surprises, and
aloha.


Books {and CD books} we're enjoying this week:

Captain Cat by Inga Moore
Dream Friends by You Byun
Ling and Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin
Ling and Ting: Together in All Weather by Grace Lin
A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, ill. by Catia Chien
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin 
Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt 
 
 







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18. Monday Mishmash 6/27/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. After Loving You  Things are coming along quite nicely for my October 3rd release, After Loving You (an Ashelyn Drake NA contemporary romance). I love the cover so much and can't wait to share it later this summer.
  2. Reading  I've been sneaking extra reading time lately and I'm loving it. I'm reading two books right now, a mystery and a thriller. Really enjoying both. :)
  3. New Planner!  My old day planner ran out of pages. The horror! But I've replaced it, and I'm loving the new one. The inside is so pretty. It has pockets, color-coded sections, plenty of space for notes, and each month starts with a list of important dates for me to fill in. 
  4. Blogging Break Coming Soon  I've decided to take a blogging break. One week off, starting July 8th. Why? It's summer and we all need a break every once in a while.
  5. Summer injuries  I was proud of myself for all the exercise I've been getting between running, walking, tennis, and swimming. But I got a terrible calf cramp on my last run and haven't been able to run since. It's a huge knot in the muscle. And…I have tendonitis in my ankle too. *Sigh* So I'm walking and swimming for now since those don't hurt too much.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?


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19. Writer Wednesday: Revising Through Difficult Times


I've been quieter than usual online for the past few days because my great-uncle passed away. While the death of a loved one is never easy, it came at a peculiar time for me. I've been proofing the print ARC of Visions of Mockingbird Point, and while I was doing this, I realized my uncle is all over this book.

The grandparents' house in the story is actually my uncle's old house in Maryland (though in the book, the location is not Maryland). The details of the long driveway and the house with a sitting room in back that looks out over the sloping backyard leading to the dock… They're all from my memories of visiting my uncle. I have a lot of great memories of him, and I was able to get some comfort in rereading my book that was full of those good times. I had forgotten how many things from my time with him slipped into this story.

It wasn't easy to proofread through tears, but they were tears of joy. Happy memories that I'll allow to help me through this difficult time. He will live on in my heart, my memories, and this book. So thank you, Uncle Jerry. This book wouldn't be what it is without you and neither would I.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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20. Monday Mishmash 6/20/16


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. After Loving You  I'm getting my Ashelyn Drake NA contemporary romance ready for it's early October release. I've gone through edits and now I'm proofing. 
  2. Visions of Mockingbird Point  The final installment of the Curse of the Granville Fortune series is now available. Find out if J.B. and the gang find the fortune and break the curse. Grab your copy here
  3. Father's Day  I hope all the dads had a great Father's Day!
  4. Exercise  I've been running, walking, playing tennis, and swimming. I love that I'm getting so much exercise, but my bedtime has gotten out of hand. I can barely stay awake until nine because I'm exhausted!
  5. The Secret Sister  My daughter is hard at work on her book, The Secret Sister. She's on chapter sixteen now and already has a cover! I can't wait to see the finished product.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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21. Writer Wednesday: The Line Between MG and YA


Today's topic comes from Sheena-Kay, who asked how to keep the line between your MG and YA works separate, especially when it comes to knowing to what extent you can go with MG vs. YA.

Okay, so we all know the age difference for MG vs. YA. YA is targeted at teens and the characters tend to be fifteen to eighteen. MG is targeted at the nine to twelve age group with the characters typically around the age of eleven to fourteen. (Keep in mind there are exceptions to every rule, but this is a good rule of thumb to go by.) Voice and content are the other two big distinctions.

One of the biggest differences I see is that middle grade is typically more hopeful with happy endings while young adult tends to have a lot of angst. While it's true that many middle grade readers might be cursing and doing things we ourselves didn't do at that age, you don't typically see that in MG books. The stories focus more on the adventures and the character's immediate surroundings—their relationships with family and friends. YA is more about finding your place in the world. There's a lot more self-reflection by the characters, and profanity and even sex can have a place in the story.

I like to think of middle grade as more innocent. A time when you believe the world consists of you, your friends, and your family. YA, on the other hand, is more realistic. You know there's this big world out there and you are struggling to fit into it.

Sheena-Kay, I hope that answers your question. If anyone has any tips for distinguishing between MG and YA, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  


*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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22. Interview: 2013 New Voices Award Winner Sylvia Liu

A Morning with Grandpa cover

May 2016 signified the opening of Lee & Low Book’s seventeenth annual New Voices Award contest! To kick off the season, we interviewed New Voices Award winner Sylvia Liu about her writing process and how she prepared her winning story, A Morning with Grandpa, for the New Voices Award. Learn more  about our New Voices Award here.

What inspired you to write A Morning with Grandpa? Did you write it specifically for New Voices, or was it something you were working on already?

I was inspired by my dad, who was doing qi gong (a mind-body practice involving moving “qi,” or energy, around one’s body through breathing techniques), while we were vacationing together. He taught my daughters his breathing techniques, and that inspired the story of a grandfather teaching his granddaughter both qi gong and tai chi.

I wrote the draft as part of a year-long challenge, 12×12, where the goal is to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. After I wrote this story, I realized it was a great fit for the New Voices contest.

What did you do to prepare your manuscript for submitting to the New Voices Award?

My critique group gave me excellent feedback that improved my story. I also got invaluable feedback from an agent as part of a critique that came with a Writer’s Digest course.

While writing your story did you encounter writer’s block? What did you do to overcome it?

This was one of the few stories I’ve written where I didn’t experience writer’s block. The initial story came to me very quickly, though it was different than the final form. The first draft was told mainly in dialogue, and one of my critique mates encouraged me to incorporate more lyrical language.

A Morning with Grandpa interior spread

 

A Morning with Grandpa is a story about trying new things. When was a time you tried something new and how did it turn out?

About seven years ago, some friends and I took a women’s surf camp. It was so much fun that we kept going back for several years. At some point, I realized that surfing was not my sport, but my friends and I still occasionally get our boards and go out into the water. Last summer, our beach had several shark sightings so I stayed out of the water for the most part.

Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Are there any books or writers that inspire you now?

Growing up, I loved reading science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers. My favorite series as a child was Lloyd Alexander’s Book of Three series. In my teens, I inhaled the entire oeuvres of Agatha Christie, Robert Ludlum, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Stephen King.

Nowadays, I’m inspired by author-illustrators who tell stories in intriguing and beautiful ways, like Shaun Tan and Gene Luen Yang.

Finally, what advice would you give new writers interested in writing children’s books?

Read as much as you can, both in and outside the genre you are writing in, and read recently published books. As the head of my daughters’ school recently said, good readers make good writers; great readers make great writers. And knowing what is being published today will help you gauge where you are on your writing journey.

Take the time to learn the craft of writing, connect with other authors, and have fun.

 

Sylvia LiuSylvia Liu was inspired to write this story by the playful and loving relationship between her children and their Gong Gong. Before devoting herself to writing and illustrating children’s books, she worked as an environmental lawyer at the US Department of Justice and the nonprofit group Oceana. She lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two daughters. This is Sylvia’s debut picture book.

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23. Where Have All the Narratives Gone?

I've been thinking about why young writers struggle with personal narrative and realistic fiction writing.

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24. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e June 24th, 2016


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

10 Fun Writing Ideas to Help You Get Creative This Summer (Jessica Lawlor)
www.thewritelife.com/10-fun-writing-ideas-help-get-creative-summer/

The Very First Page (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/27240/

When You Don’t Want to Write (Heather Webb)
www.writerunboxed.com/2016/06/23/when-you-dont-want-to-write/

Vonnegut’s Rule #5 (Joe Moore)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/06/vonneguts-rule-5.html

If We Wrote Men Like We Write Women (Jim Hines)
http://jimhines.livejournal.com/846150.html

When Less Is More on Social Media (Chris Syme)
https://janefriedman.com/less-is-more-social-media/

Should You Self-Publish or Traditionally Publish? (Jane Friedman)
https://janefriedman.com/should-you-self-publish-traditional/

Social Media Etiquette (Clare Langley-Hawthorne)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/06/social-media-etiquette.html

The Doctor Will See Your Novel Now (James Scott Bell)
https://killzoneblog.com/2016/06/the-doctor-will-see-your-novel-now.html


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, 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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25. Common Writing Errors

We all make these errors occasionally, but it's worth trying to avoid them.

http://groggorg.blogspot.com/2016/04/turn-that-picture-book-page-by-patricia.html

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