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Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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, Nancy Paulsen Books
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By: Stacy Dillon,
I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring. If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny. She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life. Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep. Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next. So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.
I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz. Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift. We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life. From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.
I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students. It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you. I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag. And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.
Thanks to the kind stranger who took this picture for me at the Toronto airport.
I confess I had mixed feelings when Simon & Schuster Children's told me I was going on a book tour. Excitement because oh my gosh, MY FIRST BOOK TOUR.
But also terror because holy cow, MY FIRST BOOK TOUR.
But most of all, I so appreciated the fact that my publisher believed in me and the book enough to send me out on their dime. I know how rare that is these days, especially for a relative newbie like myself.
Thanks to my sister, Kevin Sylvester, David Diaz and other experienced presenters whom I consulted for advice before the trip. Your words of wisdom and encouragement helped boost my confidence levels.
NAKED! in Central Park. Again, grateful to the stranger who didn't run screaming when I asked them to take my photo. :-)
In this Book Tour report, in addition to giving the highlights, I'll also do my best to tell you anything useful I've learned plus things I would have done differently if I could do it again.
Before the book tour began, my publicist at S&S (Katy Hershberger) reached out to bookstores in the selected areas. When those came on board, she began approaching schools in those areas as well. The idea, I believe, was that the bookstores and schools could work with each other.
Sadly, we didn't get any schools to sign on at first. Major reasons: It was spring break for many of the schools in the selected areas, and standardized testing week for others. Minor reason: the title ("NAKED!") was making some of the schools nervous. I so wish these latter schools could have seen copies of our book so they'd know they had nothing to fear.
It's one of the reasons I hired Marcie Colleen to do a Teacher's Guide for NAKED! (and she did a fantastic job). I knew from the beginning that the title of the book would be both a blessing and a curse -- while kids seem to universally love the title, it makes some conservative parents a wee bit skittish, at least until they actually read the book and see how innocent and fun it truly is.
Free Teacher's Guide to NAKED! PDF.
When the bookstores were confirmed, I set up a NAKED! Book Tour Page as well as interviewing indie booksellers Sarah Rettger of Porter Square Books (Cambridge, MA) and Rachel Person of Northshire Bookstore Saratoga (Saratoga Springs). I was in direct contact with the indies, which was fun; we talked about what I'd be doing and the children that would come to my bookstore presentations. My publicist was in contact with Barnes & Noble.
With Katy Hershberger, my Simon & Schuster Children's publicist.I decided to arrive in NYC on the Monday so I'd have a full day to acclimate and do last-minute prep before the first event, and stayed with some friends. They took me to a fantastic restaurant called Hospoda, yummmm. I will spare you all the food photos I took. :-)
During this extra day, which also happened to be the official LAUNCH DAY for NAKED!, I checked out the Barnes & Noble venue ahead of time:
B&N at 86th and Lexingston in NYCand was thrilled to see the book on the shelf:
and an Events sign in the children's section as well as on the main floor behind the cash registers:
Another reason I was sooooooo excited about the B&N event -- I'd get to meet Michael Ian Black! Michael and I had already talked on the phone about what we planned to do in our presentation and had also emailed in the past, but we had never met in person before.
One of the photos that Michael sent me for our presentation. Photo: Ruthie Black.
What if I went into über-fangirl mode and started babbling about how much I loved his book YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT or his tv series STELLA or THE STATE? What if he decided, after meeting me, that he NEVER WANTED TO WORK WITH ME AGAIN? After I all, I had just discovered that he could draw:
One of the photos that Michael sent me for our slideshow.I was distracted from all my angststress, however, when I checked into the hotel that Simon & Schuster Children's (or rather Katy Hershberger) had arranged for me, because there was a fishtank in the lobby of Dream New York:
and a tortured pastry:
I have no idea, seriously.
a moon in front of the elevators:
and my room had a glowing blue desk!
But best of all, JEFF had taken time off work to fly to NYC so he attend our event at B&N YAAAAAAAY:
YAY, JEFF IS HERE!I have to say that having Jeff around for the first bit of the book tour made a HUGE DIFFERENCE in my confidence level for the B&N event, and that good karma stayed with me the rest of the trip. THANK YOU, JEFF.
Hotel restaurant where we had dinner.
We had dinner together in the hotel restaurant, which had a fascinating decor with lots of shiny bits. It was pretty empty, but I suspect the place filled up later in the evening. Not being a late-night person AND being nervous about the following day, I decided to crash early.
I have no recollection about what Jeff and I talked about that evening. Having been in superstress/urgentwork mode since before the Christmas holidays (when I auditioned for the Judy Blume project, and that was followed by work projects and travel, then prepstress for the book tour), I knew I had not been the best company for a while. :-\
Which is all the more reason I was so grateful to have Jeff there, the night before my book tour started. He helps keep me sane. And the next day -- THE NEXT DAY -- I'd be doing a presentation for kids at BARNES & NOBLE. In NEW YORK CITY. With MICHAEL IAN BLACK. (!!!!)
Really wish I could have put that moment in a time capsule and sent it back to myself in the lean years when I was just getting rejection letters.
To be continued...
Framed picture hanging in our hotel room. Very, um, SPARKLY.
Anyone in the NYC area, or if you’re in town for Book Expo America, this is your chance to party like it’s 2014! Saturday May 31st I’ll be joining a whole bunch of other authors for an evening of games, signings and general book zaniness. It’s the first ever Kids Author Carnival!
This is a new endeavor, so I hope you all can come out and help us make it a success! And I’ll be giving out free high-fives. Free high fives!!
Hope to see you there!
Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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, arc from publisher
, Scholastic Press
, arc 8/13
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By: Stacy Dillon,
Gordon Korman isn't exactly a newbie in the realm of children's literature. As Canadian kids, we all read This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall and as a librarian I know that he's been publishing solidly all along. But here comes my confession...I hadn't read his books for a long, long time. I am very happy that I picked up the first book in The Hypnotists series. Not only is this book a page turner, but it has humor, big ideas and suspense all rolled into a great story.
Jackson (Jax) Opus is a seemingly regular NYC kid. He's just trying to get to basketball with his best friend Tommy Cicerelli, but the bus just passes them by. In a fit of desperation, Jax jumps out into the bus lane in front of the next uptown bus and stares the driver down until he stops. Jax apologizes upon boarding the bus and implores the driver to get them to 96th Street as soon as possible. The bus takes off and is soon speeding through red lights, passing stops, and terrifying everyone. Once at 96th Street, the driver stops, lets the boys off, and resumes his regular route.
Then comes the basketball game. Jax is not evenly matched against Rodney, but somehow he is managing to hold him off. And when Jax wants him to miss, he does.
What is going on?
After a series of seemingly unrelated events, Jax ends up being recruited Dr. Elias Mako, founder and director of The Sentia Institute as a part of their New Horizons program. Dr. Mako seems to come with his own tagline - "Dr. Elias Mako has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us." Anyone who comes into contact with Sentia seems to repeat these same words.
But Jax's parents are all for it. Jax learns that he comes from some very powerful bloodlines. Both of his parents families had the gift of hypnotism, and Jax seems to have inherited a rare command of his gift. After spending every extra hour at Sentia, Jax is getting uneasy with the whole thing. He has questions and nobody seems to want to answer them. Being able to hypnotize people seemed like no big deal when it involved extra gravy and hopping up and down, but add some political intrigue and scandal and throw in computers and blackmail, and Jax's abilities could take a very different and dangerous turn.
Korman has written a thriller that will get kids thinking big. How are our opinions formed? How are we influenced? Where would you draw the line when it comes to sticking by your values? The relationship between Jax and Tommy is perfect and laugh out loud funny. Their dialogue is authentic and readers will definitely want more from these two!
By: Stacy Dillon,
I told myself that while I was at ALA, I wouldn't pick up arcs. Then a school marketing person handed me two arcs, and publishers gave some to me, and you know how it goes! The result is that I've been reading a bunch, and now that it's summer and my commute is simply from my bed to the lake, I actually have some time to blog.
The first up, is Ellen Potter's new book Otis Dooda: Strange But True
. Potter has stepped out of her wheelhouse with this illustrated novel for the younger set, but since Potter is writing it, you know the writing is tight.
Otis and the rest of the Dooda family are making a move to NYC. They are moving into the 35 story Tidwell Towers, which impresses Otis since it looks like it's made up of LEGO blocks! Otis notices the automatic door and thinks that moving is "kind of cool, like we were moving into a Price Chopper Supermarket!" (p8) The automatic doors aren't the only thing that is different from Otis' old place...there seems to be a kid skulking in a potted plant in the lobby. It turns out that he gives everyone the shakedown for candy and other goods when they come into the building, and if you don't pay up he curses you!
Otis finds this out the hard way, refusing to sacrifice his homemade LEGO lie detector. Otis gets the details when he befriends Perry, a kid on his floor with the strangest looking and smelliest dog you've ever seen. One of the great things about Tidwell Towers is that there are lots of kids, and before long Otis is hanging out with Perry, Cat and Boris and they are hatching plans to put the kibosh on the plant guy.
What follows is an often hilarious tale of the often dysfunctional apartment slash big city life. As I said, this isn't what I would necessarily expect from Potter, however, I know at my library I have daily requests for "something with lots of pictures, like Wimpy Kid
", and this fits the bill. Strange parents, a creepy older brother, rats and poodles, friends with parents with odd jobs, and trying to dodge the inevitable summer enrollment in classes all come into play. The humor is sly and horse read oriented at the same time, and readers will likely laugh out loud along the way.
The Blizzard came and transformed the city.
Before the snow ploughs and the footprints and the salt and the dirt could arrive, I got up early to capture it.
I stepped out of my apartment—and into Narnia. Complete with lampposts.
Everywhere, everything was brimming with light. Beauty that catches in your throat. Sudden brightness—shining in the air, in the trees, in the skies, at your feet.
Every moment a new landscape. The early pink skies and the gentle light on the snow cushions on benches. The afternoon sunlight that turns trees to crystal, and a park into an enchanted forest.
Snow making everything beautiful. Covering over the ugliness, making everything look new. Almost as if the world has been made again and we are coming upon it for the first time.
Is it the world—or our eyes, that are made new?
A friend reminded me of a lovely C S Lewis quote about children and snow -
"Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Haven't you ever noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children—and the dogs? They know what snow's made for." [C S Lewis, The Hideous Strength]
Children’s eyes are new. They can see what we have become blind to.
Snow reminds me.
I would like to live every day with the eyes of a child.
I would like to unlearn what I’ve learned.
I would like to step out of my apartment every day with new eyes to see what is always all around me, shining at my feet.
Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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, Wendy Lamb Books
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, job loss
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By: Stacy Dillon,
After downsizing and moving to an apartment with his family, Georges (yes with an "s") and his dad are in the basement throwing out garbage when they see a sign posted on a door. "Spy Club Meeting -- TODAY!". Much to Georges' chagrin, his dad writes "What time?" on the sign, setting off a series of events that will occupy Georges' days for the next while.
Georges himself, is a big of an awkward kid. He puts up with the daily microbullying that his mom says aren't part of the big picture. The big picture of life is kind of like the Seurat print they have in their living room. If you look at it close up, it's just a bunch of dots, but back away to see the big picture and everything comes into focus. Thinking about the big picture doesn't make school any easier, however. The sarcastic clapping at his volleyball moves, the renaming him Gorgeous, the fact that his friend Jason came back from camp completely different -- these things all pepper Georges days. Add onto this the fact that his nurse mom is always at the hospital, and his dad works plenty as well, and you get a sense of what Georges is going through.
So when somebody answers on the Spy Club sign that there is a meeting at 1:30 and Georges' dad encourages him to go, nobody is more surprised than Georges to find a kid waiting in the basement room. He first meets Candy, then Safer and their family from the 6th floor. Safer says that he's a spy and that he's got his eye on one of the building's tenants. He's creepy -- always wears black and is constantly hauling big suitcases in and out of the building. Safer teaches Georges some of the art of being a spy, and before he knows it, he is in over his head.
Rebecca Stead has written what could be called the perfect tween/middle grade novel. She gets kids, and the situations the characters get into as well as their voices are spot on. Each setting rings true, and the slow simmer and reveal are plotted precisely and perfectly. Stead manages to pay close attention to detail without slowing the pace of the story. There is a message in Liar & Spy about empathy and bullying and being an ally, but it doesn't feel the least bit didactic. Liar & Spy has quickly risen into my top five for the year.
KidLitCon is in NYC this year, September 28 and 29. If you're a blogger who posts about children's books, come and join the fun. The conference will be held at the Public Library's main branch at 42nd Street. Saturday's events are free--that's right--free, so you can't beat the price.
Elizabeth Bird gives you all the details and a link to the registration form at A Fuse #8 Production
Hope to see you in September!
Consider this your warning. I am going to give away the ending of this book. And that’s probably a bad thing, because the big twist ending is kind of the point of The Cinema Murder, and I’ve yet to decide out whether there’s any other reason to read it. I actually did guess the surprise ending pretty early on, but I ignored my instincts and trusted E. Phillips Oppenheim to do it right, as he has done on other occasions.
That was a mistake.
In retrospect, of course, I realize I was meant to sympathize with impoverished art teacher Philip Romilly. And when he showed up to visit his girlfriend, Beatrice, and realized that since he’d last seen her she’d become his cousin Douglas’ mistress, I did. It’s just that when he murdered Douglas and dumped his body in a canal, I stopped.
Conveniently, Douglas was all set to flee to the United States that very day with money embezzled from his failing shoe factory. All Philip has to do is impersonate Douglas until he gets to New York. On the boat, Philip is introduced to a famous actress, Elizabeth Dalstan. She reveals that she was passing by in a train when Philip and Douglas walked under a bridge over the canal and didn’t come out. And then they have a nice technical discussion about writing plays. She doesn’t seem to have a problem with the murder thing at all.
That was when things started to get weird for me. It wasn’t so much when she was all “the heroine of the play you’re writing is so courageous and strong, while not being at all masculine. I’m just like that.” It was more the way she unhesitatingly accepts a man she knows to be a murderer as her new best friend and keeps reassuring him that murdering his cousin was totally fine. That was the point at which I started wondering if Elizabeth was mentally unstable, or perhaps planning some kind of long con. There seemed to be some support in the text for the former theory, but alas, it was not to be.
Anyway, Elizabeth tells Philip to rewrite his play and promises to produce it in New York, so after arriving as Douglas Romilly, Philip disappears, dons a new identity, and gets to work with the assistance of a cranky but sympathetic stenographer named Martha Grimes (no relation to the mystery writer, obviously). She falls a little bit in love with him, of course, but he’s not any more of an ass about it than he can help.
The play is a huge success, but on the opening night Philip recieves a visit from a detective named Dane, who can prove that Philip is the Douglas Romilly who disappeared from the Waldorf the day after he arrived in New York. Why he doesn’t immediately arrest him for embezzlement or whatever, I’m not quite sure. I mean, Dane explains why, he’s just not convincing. He’s decided that the next step in his investigation is to go to England. Maybe he just wants a vacation.
Theoretically, Philip has little to worry about. He can’t be proved to be Douglas, since he’s not Douglas, and the decomposing body that was pulled out of the canal was identified as Philip himself. Still, he’s increasingly worried, and really I have no objection to Philip becoming a nervous wreck.
Things are complicated further when a midwestern millionaire named Sylvanus Power returns from along sojourn in China. He and Elizabeth have a history: during an earlier, less successful portion of her career, he built a theater and promised her that she could act in it if she would became his mistress. She agreed, but Power left for China almost immediately and she never had to follow through. Now he’s back, and really not happy to find that she and Philip are
Caldecott-winning illustrator Erin E. Stead and debut author Julie Fogliano will be on the road at the end of this month to promote their first collaboration and new book, And Then It's Spring
Here are the dates and times so far:
February 23 at 10:30 AM at Politics & Prose
February 25 at 1:00 PM at Bank Street Books
If life brings you to DC or NYC on those dates, please stop by to meet these talented women!
by John Rocco
Disney / Hyperion 2011
On a hot summer night New York City encounters a blackout, bringing out the best in people. A far cry from the blackouts a few decades back!
All the little girl (or long-haired boy) wants to do is play a board game with her family. His/her sister is too busy talking on the phone. His/her dad is up to his elbows in oven mitts in the kitchen. His/her
of the trip to New York City to spend a day shadowing a real live editor at Simon & Schuster, and some time hanging out with me, is...
WAIT. First, I have to say something, and it's from the heart:
I was absolutely blown away by all of you who entered. It made me happy that there are so many of you out there who love to write as much as I do. I am really proud of each person who put a little piece of him or herself out there for others to see. That's really hard to do.
Narrowing the entries down to the top ten was really difficult. There were so many great stories. Our team of judges had a really tough time deciding! We had a variety of reasons why these ten were chosen, including writing ability, style, creativity, plot, voice, and uniqueness in coming up with an idea that others haven't thought of.
Choosing the winner out of these ten great stories? One of the most difficult choices I've had to make in a while. A long while. I want to congratulate again the nine finalists, and I want you to hear me -- you are talented. You have great potential. If you enjoy writing, you should keep doing it, because you are good at it.
Being a writer, getting published, winning prizes when you're up against hundreds or even thousands of others is a hard mountain to climb. If you have the stamina and can handle the rejections, the near-misses, the not-quites, you will succeed eventually. You have to keep going, and going, and going. I had over a hundred rejections for the first novel I wrote, and it never got published. Nor did my second novel. But I kept writing, and I kept going, and I kept looking at rejection in the face and saying, "You are only making me tougher. You are only making me want to fight for this more."
I want you to keep going too. Everything you write is valuable. Nothing you write is a waste of time. Every word you write makes you better at the craft of writing. So keep going, knowing that you have what it takes.
Thanks for reading this (even though I know you all skimmed that bit, I hope you went back and read it again). :)
And now, for the moment you've all been waiting for, THE WINNER of the Wattpad/Pulse It story contest is... *drumroll*
CRAVE THE RISK, by lucille0912.
CONGRATULATIONS!!! I chose your story because I loved the way you approached the prompt. I love that you made the long-haired main character a boy. I love that you added the hint of a paranormal element with this boy having the strength similar to Samson (and I LOVED that you didn't name him, but made that story sound ominous, and it made the reader wonder what kind of society they lived in), and I liked the twist at the end. Your idea was fresh and different. The thing that clinched it for me, though, was your sense of voice in the story. It was strong and distinct, and I could feel his attitude, I could hear him speaking and thinking in my head. Voice is so difficult to learn to write well -- some writers have it naturally and some have to work very hard to achieve great character voice. Whether you had to work at it or it came naturally, it was there, and it was excellent. Additionally, some of your phrases were really stunning. I remember thinking "I wish I'd written that" a few times as I read your story.
lucille0912, I look forward to meeting you! I’ll be emailing you shortly so we can arrange your awesomely awesome trip to NYC.
Congratulations again to the winner and to all the writers who entered the contest. You are amazing! Keep going. :) And please stay in touch -- you can find me often on my facebook fan page and twitter.
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, Law & Politics
, fifth avenue
, michael bloomberg
, Naked City
, new york
, Occupy Wall Street
, Sharon Zukin
, Zuccotti Park
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By Sharon Zukin
Until the early morning of November 15, a few hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters spent the chilly nights of a glorious autumn camping out in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. Despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s disapproval with their politics and under the New York City Police Department’s anxious eye, the occupiers captured public attention in a remarkably peaceful way. Regrouping for the winter, they will take stock of what they have achieved so far and the work that remains.
Though the occupation was initially ignored by mainstream media after it began in September, the protest movement attracted favorable attention both nationwide and internationally. Arrests flared in other U.S. cities, notably Oakland, California, where protesters tried to recall a famous general strike of 1946 by marching to the port. But unlike in Oakland, and Portland, Oregon, the encampment at Wall Street survived the constant threat of being rousted by police action on the one hand and cold weather on the other without death, disaster or dishonor.
An official order to clear Zuccotti Park was squelched in October by the intervention of local city council members and other politicians—some of whom, not coincidentally, plan to run for office in the 2012 elections. Many local labor unions support the movement, suggesting that alliances may be possible across “police and firefighter” lines. This kind of alliance recently won a referendum in Ohio overturning a state law that would have limited public unions’ collective bargaining rights.
In Zuccotti Park protesters formed a tiny city within the city. Food, clothing and books were donated and handed out. Electric generators that were confiscated by the fire department were returned after volunteer attorneys complained on the protesters’ behalf. For public safety the occupiers relied on volunteer security guards who used nonviolent techniques to confront, isolate and occasionally expel troublemakers. Women and transgender protesters could, if they wished, sleep in separate tents. Before November 15, few people were arrested by the police for allegedly committing sexual or physical assault.
New Yorkers quickly became accustomed to this remarkably peaceful microcosm of urban life. On sunny weekend afternoons tourists thronged Zuccotti Park and its celebrated neighbors, the World Trade Center site on one side and the financial district on the other. I have never seen Lower Manhattan look more vibrant.
But Occupy Wall Street was only one of Manhattan’s tourist attractions. To put support for the movement’s proposed reforms in a realistic perspective it is suggestive to look at other sites in the city and the desires that they apparently fulfill.
Nearly 50 million men and women are visiting New York City this year. Nearly 50,000 of them ran in the recent New York City Marathon sponsored by ING Bank .
While protesters occupied Zuccotti Park in tents, the average price of a hotel room in New York City is $250 and the hotel occupancy rate is
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Where will you be on January 27, 2012?
I’ll be in New York City, hoping that the weather is warm!
MARKETING FOR PROFESSIONAL WRITERS INTENSIVE DEBUTS AT THE 2012 SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE
Registration opens today for the 13th Annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators International Conference. SCBWI will hold its first Marketing for Professional Writers intensive on Friday, January 27, 2012 which, along with a Marketing for Illustrators intensive that day, kicks off a jam-packed conference weekend. The Marketing for Writers intensive brings today’s market leaders together to talk trends and marketing tactics in social media, websites, ebooks, mobile & games, apps, book trailers, publicity, working with publishers, Amazon, the education market and more.
The 13th Annual SCBWI International Winter Conference is held January 27-29 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City and brings together publishing professionals, including agents, editors, publishers, and other experts in the field to conduct workshops, panels and presentations for writers and illustrators. It’s a unique networking opportunity designed to help new and published writers and illustrators have their careers soar to the next level.
Registration opens at 10am Pacific Daylight time on October 17th .
Watch for conference announcements and updates at: http://www.scbwi.org and follow us on Twitter #NY12SCBWI and Facebook http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com/.
Book Trailers and Social Media Events
I’ll be speaking about book trailers and social media events.
Available August 15
As the author of the ebook, The Book Trailer Manual
, I’ve studied what works and what doesn’t for book trailers. Drawing from a wide variety of research about video marketing, I’ll dispel some myths and make solid suggestions on the content of your book trailers.
Drawing on the experience of Random Acts of Publicity, especially the Random Acts of Publicity event on Facebook, we’ll discuss social media for special events. The Random Acts of Publicity saw about 500 people join us in promoting their friend’s books for a week.
You know those mystery novels that are preoccupied with time and alibis and maps, where you’re constantly being asked whether a suspect could have made it from one place to another in however much time? And how it’s more like a word problem in a high school math textbook than a story, and you keep having to flip back to the map in the front of the book, and every time you do that you lose the thread of what’s going on, and the characters are like puzzle pieces, and it just never really works, even when Dorothy Sayers does it?
I’m exaggerating, but I do get really irritated when mystery novels give too much space to maps and alibis and such, because so often authors focus on those things to the exclusion of the characters. I’m okay with train schedules and clocks, I just want the people in the book to be the most important thing about the book. I get that that’s hard, but one cannot live by plot alone.
Geraldine Bonner, however, doesn’t seem to have a problem keeping her people and her plots balanced. I’m very much indebted to Cathlin for recommending her, because this is the first time a mystery author has made me like flipping back to the map in front of the book (and by flipping back to the map in the front of the book, I mean saving the image of the map from the ebook and having it open in a different window). Also, the narrator reminded me of Nancy from In the Bishop’s Carriage, and that’s always a plus.
Molly Morgenthau narrates all of The Girl at Central, about half of The Black Eagle Mystery, and maybe a third of Miss Maitland, Private Secretary, and I’d like to say that the more she narrates, the better the book is, but Miss Maitland is kind of better than The Black Eagle Mystery.
When we first meet Molly, she’s the switchboard operator in a small town in New Jersey. She’s got an enormous crush on Jack Reddy, who owns a fair amount of land in the neighborhood, but Jack is in love with Sylvia Hesketh, who would be everything a wealthy young lady in a novel should be if only she weren’t an incorrigible flirt. Molly starts eavesdropping on calls to Sylvia’s house in hopes of hearing Jack, and so when Sylvia is found dead, she’s able to bring forward some useful information. Soon she and Soapy Babbitts, one of the reporters who arrived in town after the murder, start investigating the case together. And eventually solve it, of course, although that’s sort of an accident.
During the Sylvia Hesketh case, Molly meets Wilbur Whitney and his son George, both lawyers, and it’s through them that she gets her next two cases. The Black Eagle Mystery involves a financier hurling himself out of the window of an office building, and it’s the least good of the three, mostly because of the contrived romance plot. You know how teachers are always exhorting their students to show, not tell? I’d be the first to admit that telling rather than showing can be good, too — just look at the collected works of Anthony Trollope — but romance is not the place for it. I did really enjoy the twist at the end, though.
The ending of Miss Maitland wasn’t so cleverly twi
Welcome summer! I know summer starts for a lot of you the day after school ends. Or after Memorial Day. But for me, summer always begins on the first day of summer. Which is the summer solstice. Which is tomorrow. I will try to focus on the happy fact that sunset is at 8:30 instead of getting that sinking feeling I always have when daylight hours start decreasing. We have the greatest amount of daylight hours all year on the summer solstice (about 15 hours in New York), which means that the day after tomorrow...nope. I will not think about that. I will think about getting my summer on.
Actually, I've already begun the funtivities. Section two of the High Line just opened. I was so there. As if more High Line in my life isn't enough, there's an outdoor art installation right at the end called Rainbow City with all these interactive balloons. Balloons! Plus more High Line! These are the days, yo.
You know how some offices have summer hours? Well, I'm the boss of a one-person corporation over here, and I say my only employee Susane gets to enjoy summer hours, too. Sort of. If it's a sunny morning that's not, like, a thousand degrees, I'm allowed to lay out on the beach volleyball pier instead of being online. It's this new thing at Hudson River Park where volleyball courts are fenced in on a pier - with sand! My entire floor is now covered with sand. Looks like summer. And, um, time to vacuum...
Normally, I would avoid such close proximity to balls zinging in all directions. But they have these cool curvy chairs to lay out on and a sweet summer breeze off the water and it's just too awesome to resist. I watched some fierce Chelsea boys playing a highly profesh game this weekend. It was good to desensitize myself. Back in junior high and high school, I was terrified of getting smacked in the head with any type of ball - baseball, kick ball, dodge ball, basketball, and especially volleyball. Because when you're playing volleyball, you are under attack from overhead. Scary much? Now that I'm (technically) a grownup, I think it's time to be a bit less afraid of volleyballs. So I sat right there and read my book and didn't get hit. Small steps, people. Small steps.
I have to say that I was shocked by how many people borrowed my sunblock. If you're going to be outside for a while, bring protection! One new product I'm loving is Neutrogena Wet Skin.
You know how when you're laying out and sweating and even if your sunblock is waterproof, it still comes off sometimes and you burn? And then you're furious because, hello, you spent half an hour putting on sunblock before you left and you even reapplied it and now look? Or is that just me? Well, if you can relate then you'll love Wet Skin. It's sweatproof, waterproof, and you can spray it right on wet skin. I'm using SPF 85 and loving it. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
In online news, The Guardian
has come to my attention with this piece
on authors' responses to that ridiculous WSJ article about how teen novels are all corrupt a few weeks ago. Then When It Happens
got a sweet review
. "It's like Twilight without the vampires!" I'll take it. Also, the Book Blog Experience is running a giveaway of So Much Closer
to go with