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Results 26 - 50 of 590
26. Picture Book A to Z’s: Plotting in Picture Books

sudiptacroppedBonus Critique: Register before September 20, 2014 and receive a free picture book manuscript review and 20-minute Skype session with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, redeemable within six months of the course’s completion.

Four Week Online Class starts October 6, 2014

Cost: $250

Author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is proud to offer the first in this series, a course on Plotting in Picture Books.

The Picture Book A to Z series is designed to be a collection of master level classes that cover all of the fundamentals of picture book craft. While each class is complete on its own, taken together, the series will teach you everything you ever wanted to now about picture books — and a lot more!

What You Will Learn

The ability to craft a strong picture book plot is one of the factors that separates unpublished writers from those who consistently sign publishing contracts to see their work in print. This course will teach you the essentials of creating compelling plots, starting with Arcs, Beginnings, and Climaxes — then literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at plotting the same way again!

How the course is structured:

  • Lessons will be posted daily Mondays-Fridays during the four weeks of the course. They will remain online for four months (until February 28, 2015) so students can work at their own pace.
  • ​​A weekly webinar will address topics related to the class. Webinars will also provide an opportunity for personal feedback from the instructors. They will be recorded and available for students to access for four months after the completion of the course.
  • Students will be able to interact with the instructors and each other via an organized, private message board hosted just for each class. This will be an excellent resource to form critique groups, to freely ask questions, and to support each other as you launch into your projects.​

Optional Add on Critique: Add an in-depth picture book manuscript critique with an hour-long Skype session with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen at a special class-only discounted rate.

Bonus Critique: Register before September 20, 2014 and receive a free picture book manuscript review and 20-minute Skype session with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, redeemable within six months of the course’s completion. In addition, you will be entered to receive a free written critique of a picture book manuscript (up to 1,000 words) from Agent Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency. 

Click this link to register: http://www.kidlitwritingschool.com/picture-book-a-to-zs–plotting.html

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, children writing, demystify, How to, opportunity, picture books Tagged: Online Writing Course, Picture Book A to A series, Plotting in Picture Books, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

6 Comments on Picture Book A to Z’s: Plotting in Picture Books, last added: 9/14/2014
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27. Researching Fiction

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

Researching Fiction

Umm, excuse me. You know what FICTION means, don’t you? It means it’s not a true story. I can’t research something that isn’t true. So fiction books can’t require any research.

That was how I felt at my very first writer’s group, before I was even involved in SCBWI. I was discussing how excited I was to be really getting into my first children’s book process. And someone asked me “So, how’d you do your research?”

I blinked a few times… and tried to pretend I understood the question. It’s not historical fiction, I thought to myself. So I squirmed around in my seat a bit and mumbled something like, “Well, it didn’t take much,” hoping that would change the topic.

But it led into a very valuable conversation that I will never forget.

ALL books involve research. (with the exception of some picture books)

If your book has more than 1000 words (and even many that don’t), some level of research is almost always necessary in order to develop the tangible reality of the characters. Does your character live in San Francisco? You need real street names, and even just some quick research of the city will show you that references to the hilly roads would add relatable layers to your story.

Is your character’s mother a nurse? Look into nursing schedules and rotating shifts, or some terminology that they may use.

Is someone preparing for college? What universities might they visit? What dorm names will they tour?

In order for your characters to be as alive to your readers as they are to you, there needs to be facts about them interwoven in the story that are laced in reality.

Obviously there are exceptions. Science fiction books or fantasy books create their own reality, and are more focused on sticking to the rules in the reality they have constructed.

But no matter the story, as writers, we are really jacks-of-all-trades.

Does our character fall in love with a gear-head? We have to become the mechanic. We have to know what that rough-edged muscle car lover knows. What he’d talk about, even if it’s while she’s rolling her eyes.

Does someone in the story ride horses? We have to fall in love with horses as well. We have to know if she rides Western or English, what class her horse competes in, and how many hands high the withers are.

And it’s not just facts. Human behavior is often the most important part of any story and we have to be in touch with the many facets of psychology. How actions and experiences shape personalities from all different perspectives.

We may have to understand the psychology of a child whose mother is in jail, or perhaps divorced parents that use them as a pawn. We may have to understand the subtle symptoms of how an overactive child might act, the struggles the parents might go through, and how it can affect the siblings as well.

The first time I thought about this, my initial reaction was… but I just want to write!

It seemed like a hindrance, another consumer of my precious time.

But as I’ve developed in my writing, I have come to really appreciate and enjoy the research side of any story. It brings the story off the paper, and links the creation into the tangible world.

In fact, I find myself constantly looking for ways to do MORE research. Maybe my character’s sister is off at college. Sure, I could make up a fake college name. But why? Why not use a real college, real dorm names and streets in the area?

Not only does this add a layer of reality, but it can add interest for marketing as well! People like to see their town name in print. Got a character who loves sports? Use real teams. Other fans will cheer right along with them.

The characters we paint have more than just the story we put on paper. They have a past, and a future. Part of our job is to do the research, to delve into everything in their lives and in the lives of those around them. This is just one of the many ways we add tangible, relatable layers to our story.

Because simply put, our manuscripts are worth it!


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thanks Erika for another valuable, well written post.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, children writing, inspiration, Process, reference Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Blogger, Jersey Farm Scribe, Researching Fiction

0 Comments on Researching Fiction as of 9/10/2014 1:30:00 AM
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28. Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel

For my next manuscript I plan to write a thriller, so I bought
How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-by-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters by James N. Frey to study.


I thought you might be interested in James Frey’s list of what to pledge before starting your novel.

A thriller is a pulse-pounding supsense. In the US, mysteries are not considered thriller, though they share some common elements.

In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.

To write a damn good thriller, you need a killer attitude. Pledge to yourself to do the following:

  1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene.
  • Decide you will have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation.
  • Decide to write quickly when drafting. Fast is golden.
  • Give yourself production quotas of at least a thousand words everyday, even if you have a tough day job like kissing up to bad bosses. Three or four thousand would be better.
  • If your significant other complains your thriller writing is taking up too much of you time, get a new significant other.
  • Commit yourself to this: You will not have any major characters that are bland and colorless. They will all be dramatic types, theatrical, driven, larger than life, clever.
  • Create a step sheet for the whole novel or screenplay. You might start your first draft if you know your opening and have an idea for the climax.
  • Trick the expectations of the reader and create nice surprises from time to time.
  • Have your character in terrible trouble right from the beginning, and never let them get free of terrible trouble until the climax.
  • Have powerful story questions operating at all times.
  • End each scene or section of dramatic narrative with a bridge, a story question to carry the reader to the next one.
  • Always keep brainstorming and think about what’s happening off scene.
  • Make charts for the major characters that tell you what they’re doing when they’re not on scene.
  • Try to be fresh. Don’t use the same old cliches.
  • Be sure your prose is colorful and sensuous.
  • Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting right to the climactic moment.
  • Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Advice, Author, Book, demystify, How to, list, Writing Tips Tagged: How To Write A Damn Good Thriller, James N. Frey, Writing a thriller novel

    0 Comments on Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel as of 9/9/2014 2:23:00 AM
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    29. Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel

    For my next manuscript I plan to write a thriller, so I bought
    How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-by-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters by James N. Frey to study.


    I thought you might be interested in James Frey’s list of what to pledge before starting your novel.

    A thriller is a pulse-pounding supsense. In the US, mysteries are not considered thriller, though they share some common elements.

    In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

    In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.

    To write a damn good thriller, you need a killer attitude. Pledge to yourself to do the following:

    1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene.
  • Decide you will have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation.
  • Decide to write quickly when drafting. Fast is golden.
  • Give yourself production quotas of at least a thousand words everyday, even if you have a tough day job like kissing up to bad bosses. Three or four thousand would be better.
  • If your significant other complains your thriller writing is taking up too much of you time, get a new significant other.
  • Commit yourself to this: You will not have any major characters that are bland and colorless. They will all be dramatic types, theatrical, driven, larger than life, clever.
  • Create a step sheet for the whole novel or screenplay. You might start your first draft if you know your opening and have an idea for the climax.
  • Trick the expectations of the reader and create nice surprises from time to time.
  • Have your character in terrible trouble right from the beginning, and never let them get free of terrible trouble until the climax.
  • Have powerful story questions operating at all times.
  • End each scene or section of dramatic narrative with a bridge, a story question to carry the reader to the next one.
  • Always keep brainstorming and think about what’s happening off scene.
  • Make charts for the major characters that tell you what they’re doing when they’re not on scene.
  • Try to be fresh. Don’t use the same old cliches.
  • Be sure your prose is colorful and sensuous.
  • Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting right to the climactic moment.
  • Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Advice, Author, Book, demystify, How to, list, Writing Tips Tagged: How To Write A Damn Good Thriller, James N. Frey, Writing a thriller novel

    1 Comments on Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel, last added: 9/8/2014
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    30. Darlene Beck-Jacobson – Book Give-a-Way

    darlenepicnewDarlene’s Debut Historical Novel WHEELS OF CHANGE launches on September 22nd. I am only too glad to be part of Darlene’s Blog Tour.

    Darlene gave me an advanced copy and I loved the book. It is a middle grade book, so YA readers don’t expect to find steamy and edgy. What you do find is a well-written book that everyone will enjoy. I like that she based it on some real life events that happened in her Grandmother’s life.

    We are very lucky. Darlene has agreed to give one lucky visitor a copy of her book. All you have to do is leave a comment below to have a chance to win. Want to up your chance? Then twitter about it, post on facebook, or another social media site, and let me know. I will add your name on a piece of paper for each thing you do. On September 18th, I will announce the winner and have Darlene mail out your copy. Please note: Darlene will pay for US shipping and any other reasonable shipping, but she may have to refuse shipping to every country around the world.

    Three Fun Facts About Darlene:

    1. Even though I can’t swim, I snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia thanks to a life jacket and swim ring. It was magnificent…and scary. Without the swim ring there was NOTHING to hold onto.
    2. I like trying new food and have enjoyed the following:
    • Frog legs (tastes like chicken wings) and Escargo (garlicky and melts in the mouth) in Paris.
    • Ostrich (like filet mignon) in Lambertville, NJ
    • Crocodile (chewy and fishy, like clams) and Kangaroo (like ground beef only better) Both in Australia
    • Buffalo (leaner and more tender than beef) in Western Canada
    • Passion Fruit (sweet and delicious) in Hawaii
    • Conch (heavenly) Florida keys
    • Panga Fish (BEST fish I’ve ever eaten, bar none) in Vollendam, Netherlands

    Food you couldn’t pay me to eat again: Poi (wallpaper paste tastes better) and Vegemite (way too salty)

    1. I love learning new things and have taken classes in:
    • Flint napping
    • Navaho rug weaving
    • Origami
    • Crazy quilting
    • Pisanki (Polish egg decorating)

    Three Fun Facts About Darlene’s Grandmother – the real Emily Soper:

    1. She was a debutante in Washington DC Society and travelled in the same social circles as Alice Roosevelt.
    2. She lost her standing in society when she married my grandfather for love instead marrying for money and status.
    3. She was 4 feet 11 inches tall.

    Filed under: Author, Book Tour Tagged: Blog Tour, book give-a-way, Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Wheels of Change

    10 Comments on Darlene Beck-Jacobson – Book Give-a-Way, last added: 9/8/2014
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    31. Player Profile: Kaylene Hobson, author of Isaac’s Dragon

    Kaylene Hobson decided at the age of ten that she wanted to be a writer. But it took her till she was ”much older” to act on it, she claims. Writing was always just for pleasure.   Now she has released her first chapter book, Isaac’s Dragon, an amusing and captivating story about a boy […]

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    32. Laurie Wallmark – Writing Books for Children


    Do you have an idea for a children’s book? Would you like to share your story with children around the world? Well, Laurie Wallmark is teaching
    WRITING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN at Princeton Adult School.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThurs 7:00-9:00pm

    October 2 – November 6

    In this course you’ll explore: the many joys of writing for children; types of children’s books; elements of a great story; tips to make your writing sparkle; traditional vs. self-publishing; printed books and e-books; avoiding scams, and much more.

    Here is the link to sign up.

    Share it with your friends who may be starting out on their path to publishing.

    Most of you already know Laurie, she was a wonderful Assistant Regional Advisor while I was Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI.

    Here is a little bit about Laurie you might not know:

    Laurie is pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has written numerous articles and stories in children’s magazines (Highlights, Spider, Cricket, and others). Her debut picture book, Ada, will be published by Creston Books in 2016.

    Visit Laurie’s blog entitled “All News, No Schmooze: News and Notes for Busy Children’s Book Writers” at http://www.lauriewallmark.blogspot.com.

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Author, children writing, How to, need to know, opportunity, Process, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing Tagged: Laurie Wallmark, Princeton Adult School, Writing Boooks for Children

    4 Comments on Laurie Wallmark – Writing Books for Children, last added: 9/7/2014
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    33. Susan Whitfield

    Award-winning, multi-genre author Susan Whitfield is the author of five published mysteries and Killer Recipes, a real cookbook with mysterious names featuring recipes from mystery writers across the country. Her first women’s fiction novel, Slightly Cracked, was published in 2012.

    Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Susan.

    SusanWhitfieldSusan: A life-long native of North Carolina, I’ve lived in both the eastern and western parts of the state. I taught high school English for thirteen years before moving in high school administration for the remainder of my career. I retired and began my second career, writing. I have five published mystery novels: Genesis Beach, set along NC’s Crystal Coast;  Just North of Luck, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hell Swamp, set along Black River in Pender County, Sin Creek in Wilmington, and Sticking Point in Beaufort. I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Coastal Carolina Mystery Writers, and North Carolina Writers Network. My husband and I live in Wayne County just a few miles from our two sons and their families.

    Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

    slightlycrackedSusan: I’ve been writing the Logan Hunter Mysteries, publishing the first novel back in 2007. As much as I have loved Logan, I knew as an author I wanted to write other stories and perhaps other genres. When I wrote Slightly Cracked, women’s fiction, I knew I wanted to write more in that genre, so I ended the Logan Hunter Mysteries with Sticking Point, published in February of this year. I think I left Logan in a good place after putting her through some horrible ordeals in Genesis Beach, Just North of Luck, Hell Swamp, and especially Sin Creek. While I did enjoy the series, I also have a fondness for stand-alones like Slightly Cracked. I am currently trying my hand at historical fiction. More on that later.

    What’s the hook for the book?

    Susan: Tying this into the last question, in Sticking Point, Logan investigates the death of a fifteen-year-old bully whose death was ruled natural causes.

    Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

    sticking pointSusan: In Sticking Point, Logan must work with another investigator whom she thinks she despises. They are uncomfortable and it shows, but as the investigations rolls along, they begin to understand and appreciate how the tragic past has affected each of them. My favorite character in this book is the bed and breakfast owner, a British lady with strict rules and secrets of her own, but the novel moves from a mystery into a love story that I’m quite proud to have written.

    Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

    Susan: I hate outlines so I start without one and then at some point I reach a roadblock and build an outline to get me straightened out. As much as I hate them, I have to admit they’ve fixed a multitude of problems for me.

    Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

    Susan: I call my own writing “elementary” because I don’t use big words. It’s just easy everyday writing. I prefer first person but I wrote the women’s fiction in third person because it’s important for the reader to get into the heads of four characters.

    How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

    Susan: I grew up in North Carolina and have lived here all my life. It makes sense to set the books here. While I don’t exaggerate my Southern background, I try to use local and regional dialects and showcase different areas of the state. Setting is almost always a feature in my books.

    Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.


    “Sin Creek by Susan Whitfield, is an eye-opener and a heart-breaker, but with the sweetest redeeming ending.

    Having had a long-standing friendship with a detective, when reading Sin Creek, I felt a sense of déjà vu about events I know to be true. These foul crimes do exist and are proliferating all over the world, both promoted by and brought to law enforcement attention by the Internet. Whitfield portrays the underpinnings of one man’s vile world of pornography with researched accuracy.

    Though this story is fiction, the very same types of exploitation continue to happen and escalate. If you never understood how lewd and dangerous the world of porn is, read Sin Creek. It’s fiction but true to life. It’ll make you shudder.”

    What are your current projects?

    Susan: I am currently writing an historical mystery, titled Sprig of Broom, about an ancestor who was a Knight of the Bath. This is by far the most challenging project I’ve ever done because I’m traveling back to medieval times. Research is on-going and I want to represent my ancestor as accurately as possible while filling in the gaps with fiction that seems to be true. It’s a slow process and I anticipate a lengthy amount of time before it’s complete.

    Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

    Susan:  I blog at www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com
    My web site is www.susanwhitfieldonline.com
    I’m also on Facebook and a member of Booktown at www.booktown.ning.

    Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

    Susan: Thank you for the interview.

    Bookmark and           Share

    0 Comments on Susan Whitfield as of 8/27/2014 9:21:00 AM
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    34. New Website Address for Danette Haworth!

    Hello all!

    Somehow, my dot com domain name got swiped a few weeks ago. I'm trying to get the dot com address back, but now Danette Haworth is dot net website!

    Yay! I'm back online!

    0 Comments on New Website Address for Danette Haworth! as of 7/28/2014 5:20:00 PM
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    35. Price Drop – Revise Your Novel in a Month

    jillandmarthaSince, agent Jill Corcoran is such a good marketer, I am sure most of you already know about the video series that author of the PLOT WHISPERER, Martha Alderson and literary agent Jill Corcoran released three months ago.

    You can watch the first video in the series for free, which I did last week. It was very good and since I watched it, I’ve been wondering how I could come up with the money to rent the rest of the series.

    Today, Martha and Jill lowered the price to $75.00 to rent the 8 part series for a whole year, so now I can afford to buy the series and learn from what they have put together.

    If you are a picture book writer, they even have something for you. You can pre-order: How to Write & Sell A Picture Book- Pre-Order and SAVE $25 https://vimeo.com/ondemand/writesellpicturebook

    Here is the information for the Revising Your Novel in a Month: http://vimeo.com/ondemand/reviseyournovelinamonth

    In this 8 Video (5.5 hours) Series, Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson and Literary Agent Jill Corcoran provide step-by-step instruction on how to revise your
    • Concept
    • Structure and design
    • Tension and conflict
    • Character growth and transformation
    • Pacing
    • Cause and effect
    • Meaning
    • Hook
    • Polish
    • Prose
    in preparation for a major rewrite of your novel.

    To complete the course in a month, watch two videos a week. Or, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. You decide your revision pace as you explore and complete each video exercise based on your own individual needs in preparation for a major rewrite.
    • 8 videos (available for viewing as many times as you would like for 1 year)
    • 30 writing exercises- one for each day of the Revise Your Novel Month


    a. Introduction
    • Welcome
    • How to Approach Revision
    • Organization
    • Concept
    • Characters
    • Story Titles
    • Review
    • Layers of Plot
    • Transformation / Change
    • Goals
    • Review
    • Concept
    • Energetic Markers
    • Plot Planner
    a. Video #4: SCENES AND THEMES
    • Review
    • Scene and Summary
    • Themes
    • Character Motivation
    • Antagonist
    b. Video #5: CLIMAX
    • Review
    • Preparation
    • Anticipation
    • Event
    • Reaction
    • 3 Major Plot Lines
    • Antagonist Crisis
    c. Video #6: BEGINNING & END
    • Review
    • Beginning
    • Traits, Skills, Knowledge, Beliefs
    • Cause and Effect
    • Antagonists
    • Voice
    • Transformational Journey
    • Backstory Wound
    • Subplots and Theme
    • Crisis

    b. Video #8: FIRST PAGES + FINAL TEST
    • Every Word Perfect
    • Sentence structure
    • Dialog
    • Prepare for Rewrite
    • Rewrite
    • Concept
    • Structure and design
    • Tension and conflict
    • Character growth and transformation
    • Pacing
    • Cause and effect
    • Meaning
    • Hook
    • Polish
    • Prose
    To complete the course in a month, watch two videos a week. Or, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. You decide your revision pace as you explore and complete each video exercise based on your own individual needs in preparation for a major rewrite.
    • 8 Instructional videos (available for viewing as many times as you would like for 1 year)
    • 30 writing exercises- one for each day of the Revise Your Novel Month
    Who will benefit from PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month:
    • Writers seeking to write a great novel
    • Writers with a draft of a novel and uncertain how to proceed
    • Writers with story problems
    • Writers who feel blocked
    • Writers who wish to move from where they are to where you wish to be
    • Writers committed to improving your craft
    • Writers interested in digging deeper into your story
    • Writers needing help organizing for a major rewrite

    Dolly D. Napal watched the series and said, “Don’t let the title fool you. This is not only a revision course. It’s a fully comprehensive writing course for PB, MG, YA, and Adult writers, at any point in their career.”

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Advice, Agent, Author, opportunity, Process, reference, revisions, video Tagged: Jill Corcoran, Martha Alderson, Novel Revsion Video series, Plot Whisperer

    3 Comments on Price Drop – Revise Your Novel in a Month, last added: 7/25/2014
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    36. Women In Nature Books: Call For Submissions

    Women in Nature: An Anthology, is the first book in the WIN-Women in Nature Series.  The WIN series are collections of stories from women all across the North American continent… and beyond!  These are true stories about the varied ways in which these women relate to ‘nature’ and our natural environment.  Each book also contains complete chapters by prominent and passionate women, experienced in related aspects of ‘nature’.  Subsequent WIN books will include: WIN on Dwelling; WIN on Indigenous Ways; WIN on Food, WIN on Adventure; WIN on Water;  WIN on Healing; WIN on Children; and more!


    We have received some amazing stories for our first WIN – Women in Nature book.   

    We are looking for good fun engaging stories!  Inspiring, uplifting, adventurous, funny, stories … of your relationship with ‘nature’!


    CALL FOR  Your True Nature Stories!!!



    From wilderness living to urban gardening, we want your personal stories that reflect a transforming or transcending connection to ‘nature’.  We are looking for stories that can open our perspectives conceptually, or ‘show us how’ to do something experientially.  We’re talking about living with the earth, not on her.  How do women connect with nature, and the reciprocal and essential relationship with the earth and all that is in it?


    1. Your story must be true.
    2. Your story should be told in first person
    3. Good quality writing is as essential to your story, as is your story.
    4. Your story should relate to a personal experience that then translates into insight, advice, creative ideas, or transcending awareness!
    5. Your (funny, somber, endearing, emotional or otherwise) story should be between 750 – 2000 words
    6. If your story is chosen, you will be given author exposure, as well as varied options for compensation including copies of the book, discounts, (and other monetary and non-monetary rewards to be further specified.)
    7. We are currently accepting stories from women (as this is a women’s anthology) from ages 18 and on…. however, we are open to stories from men… about women.

    Submissions should include: Your story and a brief (50 word) author bio..


    The objective of the WIN – Women in Nature on Food book, is to generate an awareness of the food we eat, where it comes from, and how what we eat affects all life on this planet.
    We are looking for your true stories about food, particularly stories that celebrate sustainable and organic food and food sources as they relate to our natural environment.  We also welcome stories that reflect the emotional relationship humans have with food, as well as stories that encourage an awareness of connection.


    SUBMIT YOUR STORIES ON FOOD TO    carly.womeninnature@gmail.com     DEADLINE foe submissions 1 September 2014


    The objective of the WIN – Women in Nature on Adventure book is to encourage awareness, respect and intimacy as we seek out adventure.  We are looking for your true stories about your adventures in, and more significantly ‘with’, nature.  Adventures – hiking, climbing, deep sea diving, dog sledding, kayaking, spelunking, wilderness research, horseback riding, swimming, mountaineering, skiing, surfing – can unfortunately sometimes become an activity of disregard and disrespect.  We are looking for experiences that celebrate and appreciate the beauty and awe of the natural environment – and instill an intimacy and awareness of reciprocity – while experiencing all of the challenges, adventures, and inspiration nature has to offer!


    SUBMIT YOUR STORIES ON ADVENTURE TO    carol.womeninnature@yahoo.com      DEADLINE foe submissions 1 September 2014
    The objective of the WIN – Women in Nature on Children book is to encourage the engagement of children with the natural environment, and to nurture an understanding of their existential and intimate relationship with all living things. We are looking for your true stories about children and their relationship with nature. We welcome stories about your childhood experiences in nature, as well as stories about getting children into nature, and your experiences observing children in nature. All stories should move beyond children merely playing an activity outdoors and should focus on the interaction with nature.
    roslyn.womeninnature@gmail.com       DEADLINE for submissions 1 September 2014
    The objective of the WIN – Women in Nature on Healing book is to encourage an understanding of our reciprocal relationship with the nature, and how the health of the earth and our own health are intimately intertwined.  We are looking for your true stories about healing, both the healing of nature and how nature heals us.  This includes both physical and emotional healing through anything from plants and animals, to the healing power of simply being in nature’s bliss.

    SUBMIT YOUR STORIES ON HEALING TO    carol.womeninnature@yahoo.com        DEADLINE foe submissions 1 October 2014

    GENERAL – For stories that do not fit into any of the above categories, please submit through our standard contact form below.
    And, watch for more WIN titles and varying submission deadlines.

    IDEAS… to get you started
    We are looking for any  personal story that connects you to ‘nature’.organic or urban gardening  FOOD
    foraging for wild edibles  FOOD
    camping under the stars  ADVENTURE
    live trapping bugs and setting them free outside
    kayaking and white water rafting  ADVENTURE
    rock climbing and mountaineering  ADVENTURE
    nurturing a wounded critter  HEALING
    painting your house with natural pigments  DWELLING
    natural everday living stuff  CHILDREN
    hiking and backpacking  ADVENTURE
    mushrooming  FOOD
    natural horseback riding  ADVENTURE
    collecting rainwater  FOOD
    passive solar heating  DWELLING/ENERGY
    getting fire from friction  DWELLING/ENERGY
    building a natural shelter  DWELLING
    cooking on an open fire  FOOD
    hunting and fishing  FOOD/CHILDREN
    creating an outdoor labyrinth  HEALING
    braintanning hides  DWELLING
    working with animals  ANIMALS/HEALING
    water – rivers, snow, streams, oceans  WATER/HEALING
    shearing and spinning wool  ANIMALS/DWELLING
    teaching children about nature  CHILDREN
    research field work  ADVENTURE/HEALING
    building a sweatliodge  HEALING
    sleeping outside on your back deck  CHILDREN

    etc…. etc
    A story about anything that
    connects you
    to the earth!

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Author, Book, need to know, opportunity, Places to sumit Tagged: Anthology, Book Series, Call for Submissions, Get published opportunity, Women in Nature

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    37. Website Down, The Mouse, and School Visits

    Hello all! It's another dreary day here in the Sunshine State. I like to tell people we have only two seasons: hot, and hot and rainy. Do not visit THE MOUSE in summer! You'll likely be drenched to the bone, then frozen by the AC. (That's when they swap you out for an aminatron, ala Stepford Wives). And when it's not raining, the heat and the humidity will press you right down to a smear on the concrete, which The Mouse's minions will wipe up and dispose of before anyone notices you're missing.

    Now to the subject at hand: My website is down. This is a problem for me because I wanted to update my school visit schedule. Because I don't know how soon the site will be back up, I wanted to let you know I have begun to book visits for next school year. Twenty-minute Skype visits are free to groups who've read my work. If you'd like me to visit in person, I have a variety of presentations and I also provide writing workshops for students who want to polish or publish their work.

    If you're interested in having me visit, send me a message! My email address is dhaworthbooks at yahoo dot com.

    0 Comments on Website Down, The Mouse, and School Visits as of 7/16/2014 4:05:00 PM
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    38. Author Spotlight: Barbara Wersba

    Barbara Wersba is the only child of a Russian-Jewish father and a Kentucky Baptist mother. Growing up, she wanted to be a musician, or a dancer, or a poet, thinking that becoming any of these would take her out of what she believed to be a sad life.
    "I grew up in almost total solitude," she once said. "I thought I was lonely when I was simply a loner--and spent much of my childhood daydreaming, writing poems, and creating dramas for my dolls."

    When she was 11 years old, in answer to a family friend's inquiry, she impulsively declared her intent to be an actress one day. Soon after, Ms Wersba landed a part in a local play. Though she came to decide she didn't actually like acting, she stuck with it because it gave her purpose, and helped her not to feel alone.

    She continued as an actress through college and then professionally, until she fell ill in 1960 and was forced into a lengthy recovery. On the advice of a friend, she turned to writing to pass the time. The result was her first book for children, The Boy Who Loved the Sea, which was published in 1961. From then on, she continued as a writer.

    Her breakthrough novel came in 1968, with the publication of The Dream Watcher. She went on to adapt this novel into a script when her childhood acting idol, Eva Le Gallienne, had read Ms Wersba's book and wished to play the role of the elderly woman from the story. The play opened at the White Barn Theatre in Connecticut in 1975.

    Two of her most popular novels are Tunes for a Small Harmonica: A Novel (1976) - which was a National Book Award nominee, and The Carnival of My Mind (1982).

    Ms Wersba has written more than two dozen novels for both children and teens/young adults. She has also reviewed children's literature for the New York Times, written play and television scripts, and taught writing. In 1994, she founded her own small publishing company, The Bookman Press.

    Born in Chicago on August 19, 1932, Barbara Wersba later moved with her family to California. After her parents' divorce, she moved with her mother to New York City. She now lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

    Barbara Wersba - Goodreads
    Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags
    Barbara Wersba Biography - Bookrags 
    Dreaming of Broadway - Collecting Children's Books
    Barbara Wersba - Answers.com
    Barbara Wersba - Alibris
    The Dream Watcher - Amazon.com

    0 Comments on Author Spotlight: Barbara Wersba as of 7/11/2014 8:07:00 AM
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    39. Book Review for "Cold Hard Cash"

    Hi! It's Louisa again. Today I'm going to review the book Cold Hard Cash, part of the Sammy Keys series by Wendelin Van Draanen. :-)

    Not very many people take the expression "scared to death" literally, so Sammy Keys must have been pretty surprised to find out that she had literally scared someone- to death! And when this guy, an old guy too, pulled out bundles of cash from his pockets and begged Sammy to "get rid of them", she pretty much had to oblige, so she threw it out the windows of the fire escape. Nothing could stop Sammy from going back later to see if anyone had found the cash. And taking it. And spending it. And while she naturally felt guilty spending a dead guy's cash, she was so excited about finally having pocket money, she didn't wonder much about where it came from, and why someone was carrying thousands of dollars around in their pockets. This book has the perfect balance of old lady disguises, pool parties, bratty little brothers, dramatic mothers, excitement, police cars, charmingly sneaky old men, colorful cowboy boots and scruffy hotels.This is one of the many wonderful books in the Sammy Keys series, by the lovely Wendelin Van Draanen.
    I recommend this for sixth grade and up, after a particularly scarring incident in third grade (let's just say I wasn't used to murder).  If this story sounds interesting, be sure to check out the rest of the books in this series, starting with Sammy Keys and the Hotel Thief.

    0 Comments on Book Review for "Cold Hard Cash" as of 7/10/2014 7:45:00 PM
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    40. Book Give-a-Way & Interview With Shannon Wiersbitzky: What Flowers Remember

    Shannon_Wiersbitzky_Author_Photo_2012Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author, a hopeless optimist, and a lover of the outdoors. The Summer of Hammers and Angels, nominated for the William Allen White award, was her first novel.

    Born in North Dakota, Shannon has called West Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Michigan “home” at some point in her life.She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, one rather dull fish and her always entertaining dog Benson.

    I interviewed Shannon about her new book WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER, and asked her if she would do a give-a-way of the book for anyone who leaves a comment. If you tweet or post something about the book on facebook or your blog, you will receive an extra entry to increase your chances to win.

    Book Notes: What Flowers Remember

    shannonflowersMost folks probably think gardens only get tended when they’re blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That’s why I enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best.

    Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker’s Ferry, because here they come.

    But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he
can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for
no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save
as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her.

    What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

    *Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

    In addition to win and read a good book, I think you will find Shannon’s answers to my interview questions below interesting.

    I see you have published two middle grade books with namelos. Did you sign a two book deal when you sold  THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS?

    No. My initial contract with Namelos only included my first book. I didn’t even know there would be a sequel!

    Can you tell us the story behind how you sold your first book and the journey you took to get there?

    Writing IS a journey isn’t it! I’ll say that it was a ten year path of discovering my voice and what kind of narrative suits me best. When I began writing books for children, I focused first on picture books. Then I began to dabble in novels. I met my editor, Stephen Roxburgh, at a picture book workshop at Highlights in 2009. He had just started Namelos earlier that year. We hit it off and after the workshop I sent him the manuscript for THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS. We’ve been working together ever since.

    Was that your debut book?

    Yes. While I’ve had a variety of picture books garner significant interest over the years, HAMMERS was the first book I had published. It was a real thrill to see it in print. I’ve got a copy hanging on the wall in my writing studio. My husband had it framed.

    How well did the book sell?

    The book has sold well. I don’t know an exact number of copies. It always helps when a novel gets noticed by organizations and award committees, and THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS did. It was nominated for the William Allen White award, and was a recommended title by the Kansas NEA Reading Circle. Scholastic bought copies for its book club too. Anytime a story is recognized, it’s an honor.

    Has the publishing of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER, increased the sales of THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS?

    Yes, I think the benefit of having multiple books out is that people naturally see or seek out your other titles. At least they do if they like what they read!

    Had you written WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER when you sold the first book?

    No, I hadn’t. In fact, after HAMMERS came out, when asked if there might be a sequel, I confidently said that Delia’s story was finished. Ha! That just shows you that characters are really in charge, not the writers.

    How did the idea of the book come to you?

    In terms of the actual time and place when I realized Delia had another story to tell, I was literally on a flight from PA to CA. I’d written a novel dealing with Alzheimer’s several years earlier (it was terrible and I never tried to publish it) and all of a sudden, I realized that I’d given the story to the wrong character. It was Delia’s story to tell. I plotted out the entire novel on the back of a single sheet of paper and about six months later I started writing it.

    The inspiration to write about Alzheimer’s came from my own life. My grandfather had the disease and ultimately he forgot me. He and I were very close and it broke my heart to realize I had been erased. I wanted to capture the truth of that in a story.

    Sadly, dementia is so common, and we have a real lack of stories that deal with it in an honest way. For some reason, we don’t talk about Alzheimer’s as openly as we do other diseases. Kids (and adults) need to be able to have everyday conversations about what they might be experiencing with their own grandparents or others in their life. My hope is that books like FLOWERS can help.

    Do you have an agent? If so, who? If not, would you like to find one?

    I don’t have an agent. I’ve worked directly with Stephen and his Namelos team for both books. I would like to find an agent, but it hasn’t been my focus lately. It’s so difficult to find someone that exactly fits your personality and writing style!

    I have some picture book and early reader manuscripts I’d love to see published, and down the road, there may be other novels that aren’t right for Namelos, but are right for another publisher. Reviewers have compared my writing to Chicken Soup for the Soul and Patricia MacLachlan. If you know of any agents that might lean that way, let me know!

    What type of things have you been doing to promote your books?

    I have a full-time job that is fairly demanding, so I try to pick and choose things I can tackle in odd hours or that don’t require a full day. I regularly do web interviews with bloggers or write guest posts. I’ve visited local schools and done Skype visits with classrooms. There have been radio interviews. I’ve done a few book signings too.

    Did namelos help market your book and get reviews?

    Absolutely! They work the official reviewers and send copies out to various awards committees and all that usual stuff that publishers do. Stephen Roxburgh is highly regarded in the industry, so books he publishes typically do get picked up for review by folks like Kirkus. That’s a big plus.

    What are you working on now?

    Right now I’m working on a few things. I’m editing a new novel which is totally different from my first two. High action, high comedy, high levels of exaggeration. I think I needed a break from the realistic fiction. I’m working on a few picture books as well. I’d love for them to find a good home. And I’m jotting notes for a novel that I haven’t started yet, but that I’ve been thinking about for two years. As soon as I can get the action manuscript out the door, this one is next in line. I like to have a host of projects in the hopper. My brain seems to work best that way. 

    Review Excerpts

    “There are echoes of Patricia MacLachlan in the book’s period flavor (the story seems to be set thirty years or so in the past), the tenderness, and the deft writing that keeps a heart-tugging plot lovely as well as brimming with sentiment. Delia’s move from grief for what she’s losing to a deeper understanding of her old friend is smoothly depicted…. The story will bring new perspective for readers struggling with their own beloved elders, and the liquid joy of a serious tearjerker to anybody who likes a poignant human drama.”

    –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Recommended

    “Wiersbitzky organizes the book gracefully by naming the chapters after months of the year. …The ebb and flow of life is shown, grief is addressed, and the power of what one person can do is celebrated. Teachers may wish to consider this book for reading lists in middle school.”

    –Children’s Literature

    “What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys.” – Kirkus Reviews

    “Fans of wholesome, uplifting stories similar to Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, will best enjoy this gentle reminder of the goodness of life and people.” — Voice of Youth Advocates

    Shannon Wiersbitzky Links:

    Website: www.shannonwiersbitzky.com

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

    Twitter: @SWiersbitzky

    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

    Shannon thank you for sharing your journey with us and introducing us to your book.

    Talk tomorrow,



    Filed under: Author, awards, Book, children writing, Contest, inspiration, Kudos, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity Tagged: book give-a-way, Leave Comment, Shannon Wiersbitzky

    14 Comments on Book Give-a-Way & Interview With Shannon Wiersbitzky: What Flowers Remember, last added: 7/10/2014
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    41. "Behind the Curtain" book review

    red is Ingrid's favorite color

    Hi everybody! I'm Louisa, Tatjana's daughter. I am 11 years old, almost 12. Today I am reviewing Behind the Curtain, a book by Peter Abrahams.

    Behind the Curtain is a mystery novel full of excitement, suspense, and humor. It all
    starts when Ingrid Levin-Hill, a spunky, curious 13 year old, gets kidnapped, and stuffed
    into the trunk of a car. From there, Ingrid is launched straight into the middle of a ring of 
    kidnappers and drug dealers. I really liked this book because it was so exciting. I didn't want
     to put it down. In fact, I was so captivated  by Abrahams' intriguing characters and complex 
    plot, I ended up finishing it in an afternoon well spent. I recommend this 
    book for teens, pre-teens, and even adults looking for a marvelous tale filled with 
    ransom notes,  con artists, and soccer balls. Well done Peter Abrahams!

    Thank you for reading, and I hope you  enjoyed it. Also, don't forget to check out the first book in this series, Down the Rabbit Hole, by Peter Abrahams. Look out for another review next week!


    0 Comments on "Behind the Curtain" book review as of 7/3/2014 6:05:00 PM
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    42. Creating a Sympathetic Character


    This exciting illustration was sent in by Amal Karzai. Amal was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the Link.

    Food for thought:

    As writers, one of the questions we ask ourselves when we are reading our first draft is, “Is my main character sympathetic? What we are really asking is, “Have I written a character that the reader will want to root for?” “Will the reader feel what your character feels?” Will the reader understand the difficulties that face the MC and will the care?”

    The goal is to create the fictive dream, to immerse the reader into the story’s world, but if we make our protagonist too snarky or whiny, even if they will grow during the book, the reader may not want to spend their time with the little brat and put down your book. You need to give the reader a glimpse of some redeeming quality. The MC could be in the middle of a meltdown, but the writer could show the MC unconsciously doing something nice during that scene. It could be as little as just stopping a glass of juice from falling off the table or keeping their little brother from slipping on the juice that has spread across the floor. By doing this you have shown the reader something good about the character and given them a reason to want to stay on the journey with him or her.

    Just be careful not to go too much the other direction. If your MC is too perfect, the reader probably will not like him or her. Making your protagonist too perfect will make it almost impossible for reader to identify with them. Plus, it does not give the MC any room for a character arc and no need to grow and change. There needs to be flaws that the character can overcome.

    The problem is not to go overboard. No one wants to read about a stupid person. No one wants to read about a major sad sack. Award winning author, Alicia Rasley says, “A passive victim doesn’t struggle – just suffers,” and “Defeat isn’t sympathetic. It’s pathetic.”

    There are many ways to create sympathy for your characters, but just try to keep it fresh. Use a combination of strengths, struggles, and sacrifices. There are outer strengths, like physical and skills, and there are inner strengths, like perseverance, self-control, optimism, wit or humor, and integrity. Try to avoid old tired troupes.

    Remember, you can show your character as lonely, disadvantaged, unpopular, unfulfilled, sad, and confused, but the reader doesn’t have to pity the character to identify with him.

    Do you have any “food for thought” to add, that might help create a sympathetic character, while not making them feel stale? Any tips on making your characters interesting and someone the reader would like to spend time getting to know? We’d love to hear.

    Talk tomorrow,


    Filed under: Advice, Author, Character, Process, reference, revisions, Tips, writing Tagged: Amal Karzai, Sympathetic Characters

    4 Comments on Creating a Sympathetic Character, last added: 6/13/2014
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    43. Santa Barbara's Shelly Lowenkopf

    Shelly Lowenkopf

                Shelly Lowenkopf's numerous roles in the book world continue to flourish. He is the rare author who the knows the ins and outs of the publishing world from his early days working as the Editor-in-Chief at Sherbourne Press in 1962. The 82-year old writer taught in the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing Program for 34 years, where he was given a Lifetime teaching award, and he currently teaches at Santa Barbara City College and UCSB's College of Creative Studies. In Santa Barbara, he's best known for his longtime writing workshop with Leonard Tourney and his Pirate Workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Although he is no longer teaching with Leonard Tourney or the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, students can find Shelly at UCSB, SBCC, or his Saturday workshop at Cafe Luna in Summerland, CA. Shelly has seen former students, such as Catherin Ryan Hyde, rise to the ranks of best-sellers. He's also had a hand in seeing over 500 books through the editorial and production process.
                The closing of bookstores, publishing houses, and the continuing evolution of the publishing world hasn't stopped Shelly from staying in the game and pushing his students to stick to their passion, produce the best book they can possibly write, and then sell it to a publisher. One can say love for craft and his students keeps Shelly enthusiastic about helping writers meet their goals. He has taken on the students of his late wife Anne Lowenkopf, who shared his love for writers who put words on paper.  
                In fact, the elusive concept of love figures in the 12 stories that make up his new short fiction collection, Love Will Make You Drink & Gamble, Stay OutLate at Night (White Whisker Books 2014). Of Lowenkopf's new book, bloguero Manuel Ramos says:
                "Lowenkopf unveils Santa Barbara's passion with clever tales about men and women (and cats and dogs) that surprise and delight. Subtle humor mixes with the loneliness and desire, but we laugh with the characters, not at them, because we see ourselves in these people. In the stories of Shelly Lowenkopf, we remember that love is life--long live love."
    Love Will Make You Drink & Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night

                Originally from Los Angeles, Shelly has fond memories of riding the bus with his deaf grandmother to visit the Kosher Butcher shop in Boyle Heights. He later moved to Santa Barbara and the city remains dear to his heart. He's had opportunities to return to the bustle of New York City, but prefers sleepy Santa Barbara, the backdrop for his short stories. "Santa Barbara reminds me of L.A. when I was growing up," he said, "That L.A had no smog, an ocean, and relatively little traffic, and people were awfully nice."
                I asked Shelly what makes a student stand out as the one who might have a breakthrough book and his answer involved three  'r' words: reading, rewriting, and revising.
                "The ones who made it were readers. They read everything, not just books in their fields. They don't mind rewriting. Most actors don't mind rehearsals."
                His own love of reading is present in the ways he brings a poetic quality and an excitement to archaic and anachronistic phrases, such as a hair shirt. In his story, "Coming to Terms," the author describes his character Charlie as:
    "Charlie began to slog about as though his soul wore a hair shirt. Vulnerable, flinching at the merest confrontation, his viscera would wrench up on him at the sight of borrowed books, notes and correspondence, concert ticket stubs, or any trace of the confetti of his failed relationship (Love, p.161)."
                Shelly's next books include a mystery novel and a writing handbook that uses acting techniques to reveal a story's subtext. Check out Lowenkopf's, The FictionWriter's Handbook, a resource for both readers and writers. He is also a regular blogger at www.lowenkopf.com.

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    44. I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird)


    The author in repose.


    I tried retail for a while, and that was fun, in the way that puking on yourself at a family gathering is fun: you have a story. After a time, though, it stops being a story you laugh at and starts being one that you cry over. Usually into a beer. Next came moving furniture. For a time, that was good, physical work. I genuinely enjoyed it. And the stories I heard there, man, the meat of my second novel is mostly that. My imagination’s not that good. But then here comes nature and that heavy time and all of a sudden my back is in ruins and I got sick of carrying marble armoires up three flights of stairs. Then came restaurant work. That was fun.

    Through all of this, I wrote. My first novel dropped in that weird interim before I started the moving job, when I was living in my car. The second hit and I was getting these royalty checks, but aside from the first one (which paid my rent), it wasn’t paying my rent. It hit me: “I’ve gotta find a way to make a living off of words or I’m going to die.”

    I’ve been a fan of crime fiction since before I can remember. It started with Ellroy. I read White Jazz and threw my hands up and hollered. You can say this much with so little? I was hooked. I got the classics in, then I got voracious with it: Mosely, Sallis, Willeford, Pelecanos, Westlake, Parker, on and on.

    I loved the opportunity crime fiction presented to peer into the human condition, and the (usually) clipped, no-bullshit delivery. What I didn’t like were the formulas, the staunch sexism, the rampant racism. I really wanted to carve something out that could represent everything that makes crime fiction beautiful, minus the stuff that made me cringe. That, and I didn’t want to sell hot dogs anymore.

    I gathered a nice group of brilliant writers, who for whatever reason decided to hook me up with some manuscripts. I started a Kickstarter (pause for groans) in which I detailed five books my new indie press would put out, and—wonder of wonders—people thought it looked cool. I got the money and I was off to the races.

    Sort of.

    The books were edited and designed and off to the printers. They dropped, and then there I was. Floating.

    There were many times I’d go out to my porch and smoke a cigarette and my house would shake as the trains rolled by out across the road, and I’d wonder what I could do to actually get people to look at these titles, to pick them up. I’d gotten a massively talented artist (Matthew Revert

    ) to do all of the covers for them, and they really popped. I’d sent out some review copies to places I thought would dig them.

    Still waiting to hear back from most of those places.

    I got tired of sitting on my hands. I took the books and grabbed a friend and hit the road. We went from Oklahoma to Wichita to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise to Seattle to Portland to Sacramento out to the Bay to Los Angeles to El Paso. We performed in punk squats and abandoned warehouses and bookstores and back alleys. At one performance we lit a mannequin head on fire while I paced the floor with paint on my feet, tracing a chalk outline of an eye, rambling about a cyclops. At another I read the audience the end of my first novel and ripped out each page and burned it as I went. Though I didn’t sell copies at every stop, I talked to as many people as I could about the books. And I noticed an uptick. We live in an age of social media noise and rampant void screaming. There’s only one way to get things going, especially if you live in Oklahoma: you have to get out there and talk to people.

    You have to ask them to dance.

    There are other things you have to remember, too. Running a small press, it’s important to utilize social media, despite my prior assertion that it’s a dying medium. You have to be a person online, first. I see folks every day, inviting me to their “book releases,” which are really just Amazon launches of e-books. That’s annoying. You’re more likely to see me posting pictures of my dog, or complaining about how I could really go for a cigarette (quitting is tough, but, hey! nine days) than you are to see me talking about the books or writing or editing. The first reason is that places like Facebook and my blog are my escapes. The second is that you just turn into a spambot and fade into the background, and good luck swimming out of that lagoon.

    Another thing: finances. Be careful. Keep your receipts. Where I live, there are crazy tax breaks for small businesses. Make sure you know exactly what you owe your authors. If you don’t pay them right, everyone will know, and you will be ostracized. And rightly so.

    On the topic of writers: they are, for the most part, a funny bunch. They care about this stuff. So they’ll have things to fix, last-minute requests, bizarre neuroses. You have to learn to bend, to understand that your voice is not the voice. And if they want changes, you make them. Mark Twain once said that a novel is never finished, only abandoned, and I think that’s true, but Broken River authors abandon their children with a packed lunch (complete with smiley face note written on napkin), surplus army jacket, mace, a Swiss Army knife, and one of those flashlights you put on your head. And a ‘mommy loves you’ and a peck on the cheek. God love them for that. They care. And you have to, as well. If you don’t, well … you know.

    I’m not a father so I don’t really know what I’m talking about here, but I’m assuming there’s a feeling you get when you hold a baby for the first time. Does it get real? I figure it gets real, then. When you spend months and months eating tuna from a can and pecking at a keyboard and making sure the kerning and keeping and hyphens and headers look right in InDesign, and then you send it to a printer and they send you copies and they are physical, real objects, resting there, looking up at you, you can almost see these big blue cartoon eyes, these helpless things that need you. So, you start to feel an obligation.

    When you start a small press, you lack resources, usually. And that should make you hungry. You need to provide for these babies. Your authors, they spent years writing these things, invested their lives into them. Now here they are. Your responsibility. You’ll want to quit, lord I know you will, because the whole thing is so big, like pressing your body up against the edge of everything. But you have to get out there, you have to keep your mind right, and you have to make people sit up and take notice. You didn’t pull a sword out of a stone; no one ordained you the Chosen One. You chose you. It’s your responsibility. So go do it. If you love something, take that big Christmas dinner in your heart and break it down into MREs and dish it out to every person you meet, in small, manageable doses. They’ll feel it. They’ll know you’re down.

    And then, you ask them to dance.



    J David Osborne lives in Oklahoma with his wife and dog. He’s the author of two novels, a freelance editor and the editor-in-chief of Broken River Books. Please query at jdavidosborne@gmail.com.

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    45. Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

    Italian Bean Salad

    This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.


    Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

    Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix


    Sundried tomatoes

    Chopped fresh parsley

    Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

    Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

    Still working on the last few chapters of my young adult novel. It’s slow-going, but I do think I’m getting somewhere.

    And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

    For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.


    2 Comments on Super Quick Italian Bean Salad, last added: 4/10/2014
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    46. Author/Illustrator Interview: AJ Smith and Even Monsters

    I'm really excited to share this interview with author/illustrator AJ Smith. His picture book, Even Monsters, came out earlier this month and it chock-full of monsters, cooties, and a silliness that kids and grownups alike will really love. So let's get right into the wit and wisdom, shall we?

    G: I love the rich, layered look to your art for Even Monsters. What is your process like?

    A: My process involves a hodge-podge of mixed media: pencil, ballpoint pen, sometimes technical pens or brush pens, acrylic paint, cut paper, a shoddy laptop (donations welcome!), lots of caffeine, with a dab of old school Crayola crayons! I work different depending on the client but the common denominator is always rough pencil sketches on 8.5 x 11" copy paper.

    G: What came first for you with Even Monsters: the words or the visuals?

    A: Mostly the words came first for Even Monsters (way back in 2006). As I revised it, I began to ping pong ideas back and forth: a written idea would become a sketch and then that would ignite some new writing brainstorms and 'round and 'round we go...

    G: Could you share one sparkling nugget of advice for aspiring author/illustrators?

    A: First, have a sound foundation in drawing and/or in writing. Practice often and always. If you want to write and illustrate picture books,you should be reading picture books! Beyond that, I think you have to bring something new to the table. Have a unique voice, unique style. Be yourself. Be different. Do the art you want to do. You will meet rejection at every stage of the game (I'm always surprised to hear how much Jane Yolen is STILL rejected) so be doing the art you want to be making, not what you think publishers/editors want to see.

    G: You are one busy guy - speaking at events, creating fun videos, and throwing awesome monster book parties. What has been the best part of promoting Even Monsters so far?

    A: To me promotion is something an author/illustrator HAS to do. It's part of the job. And that is not always something that's easy to grasp. The tricky part is that you don't get paid to promote your book. In fact, it's been quite the opposite in my empty-pocketed experience. That said there is a reason I do it: To help the book do well (I'm terrified and convinced that this cannot happen on its own unless you are already a bestselling author/illustrator) and to network: meet new people -- educators, librarians, parents, KIDS. Promotion is not just promoting your book. It's promoting and fostering literacy. And if that didn't answer your question, I'd say making videos where I dress up like this has been the best part:

    G: What's your next project? And does it involve having the readers spot cooties? (I do love the cooties! They are little orange puffs with silly eyes. Can you spot 3 in the illustration below?)

    A: My next book is Even Dinosaurs, which comes out in 2015. There might be cooties. If there are, they'll be Cave Cooties. Still toying with that idea, but I really like the idea of adding an "Easter Egg" element to the book that kids can hunt for on a second read of a book. I hope kids really like them... Really like them or say "eww, gross -- cooties!" Either would be perfect really.

    *FYI: My kids LOVE finding the cooties. Like it's their job. And everyone at the book launch loved the way AJ kept 'finding' cooties.

    Many thanks to AJ for his thoughtful answers and insight. Be sure to visit www.evenmonsters.com to see where you can buy his book, see more silly videos, learn how to draw Skeebu and Glubb, have your kids enter in his Monster Art Contest, and even design your own silly underpants. I know what my kids will be doing after breakfast!

    0 Comments on Author/Illustrator Interview: AJ Smith and Even Monsters as of 4/22/2014 8:43:00 AM
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    47. Thanks, Penns Manor Elementary!


    0 Comments on Thanks, Penns Manor Elementary! as of 4/24/2014 5:05:00 PM
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    48. Putting Words on Paper

    erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here, on….

    Putting Words on Paper

    Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re writers. That’s what we do.

    But most of us have been there… struggling to get to that next thought.

    I may know what I WANT to happen, but I don’t know HOW to get there. I may know the tone I need to create, but can’t grasp the words to create it.

    Or with no explanation I’m just… stuck on being stuck.

    When clearing my mind isn’t enough… 

    It’s time for plan B…. 

    Instead of letting my lazy-instincts take over and killing an hour or ten on Twitter or (insert your own social-media black hole here) I have a few things I do to break the cycle.

    Review critique partners’ work: This keeps me in creative-mode, without focusing on whatever project is freezing me out.

    Okay. Check.  

    Hmm… still nothing? No problem! There’s no greater excuse to curl up on the couch and….

    READ READ READ! Important for ALL writers, I find it even more key for writing for children.

    Reading for the target age group for my manuscript, keeps my brain thinking in the right rhythm. There is undeniably a pace, meter and natural ebb and flow to the way children’s brain’s take in their world. Reading the genre I’m writing, puts me in the right frame of mind.

    Okay. I don’t think I can avoid it anymore. I have to go back to “that spot”.

    Sigh. Okay. Fine! (slooooowly reopens the manuscript)

    If I’m still hesitant to jump back in the first thing I try is….

    Retreat. Regroup. And RE-WRITE:

    Maybe the reason I’m stuck is because somewhere along the line, I took a LEFT when I should have gone RIGHT. I re-write the last section and make as many changes as I can think of. (I can always change them back later!)

    If Bradley had pancakes, now he has cereal. If he rode the bus, this time missed it and was late for school. If Katie was after school for detention, this time it was because she forgot her math book.

    A new lead-in can smoothly take me in the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

    And other times….   Ugh. I’m right back where I started.   

    Okay…. deep breath.  

    First, I remind myself that thunking my head on the table will most likely not actually help. 

    Time to buck-up, straighten my shoulders and JUST WRITE!

    Write anything.

    Ignoring my next plot point, I’ll throw my character in a completely random situation. It can help with character development, and gets my pen on the paper!

    I wrote an entire chapter about my character randomly being told the family was moving. It got pulled, but I learned more about how he reacts in stressful situations, and actually came up with some funny lines I worked into other places.

    Does this break me out and spur an idea of what how to bring things together? 

    Well…. Sometimes.

    If not… and I’ve done everything I can think of and gotten NOwhere…

    Well then, I’m back to thinking that thunking my head may just be my best bet!  

    (Honestly just picturing it is frustrating!!)


    This is incredibly discouraging, horribly painful, and unfortunately… just part of being a writer!!!

    So what NOW???  

    There’s really nothing left to do accept…. FORGE THROUGH!

    Time to write badly!!!

    I use this when I know WHAT I need to write next, I just can’t figure out HOW. I know where my plot line needs to take me and I’ve done all the free-writing I can. I pick up the pen, and I write horribly (and I mean HORRIBLY).

    I don’t worry about voice, or style. I don’t think about flow or if the reader will be confused. The more awkward, out of place writing, the better!

    I’m like a Super-Villain from a new line of DC Comics. (oh yeah… I said it)

    She uses run-on sentences and self-indulgent language to laugh in the face of all that is good and professional writing! 

    She’s — The Agent Repeller!   MwaaahahahahaHA! 

    I KNOW that I can’t write well all the time. So sometimes, I just don’t even try!

    I write through it. I put words on paper.

    Eventually, often without me even realizing it, things have smoothed out and I’m back to my natural style and flow of words.

    Everyone’s process for how to work through these situations is different. All that really matters is that we have SOME way to deal with it, and don’t let it get us down.

    What we do is HARD. Whether it’s picture books or YA, we’re creating entire realities that children have to believe in and CHOSE to visit.

    No easy feat for sure.

    We have to trust ourselves. Know that the story is in there and we will find it.

    If we don’t put words on paper… sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing words that we’ll never show another soul… then there won’t be anything to work with.

    Anything written, can be fixed. (Even if that means deleting 99 percent of it!)

    It sounds so simple, but sometimes putting words on paper, is the toughest part of the job.


    Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

    Thank you Erika for another great post.

    Talk tomorrow,



    Filed under: Advice, article, Author, How to, inspiration, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jersey Farm Scribe, Putting Words on Paper

    3 Comments on Putting Words on Paper, last added: 5/6/2014
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    49. Researching Agents – Erika Wassall


    Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

    Researching Agents

    A completed, polished and ready to be submitted manuscript is a beautiful thing. Now it just has to find a home! But not just ANY home. It has to be just right.

    You want the world to see this manuscript! See it’s creativity, it’s uniqueness and the joy it will bring others!

    You’ve written your query letter and you’re ready to track your submissions.

    But who should you submit to?

    If you’re like me, the first thing you think to yourself is…


    Then I have sit back… rein in my crazy… and remind myself… absolutely nothing is for everyone.

    Plus, agents want to know that I’m submitting to them for a reason specific to my manuscript and not feel like I’m just going down a list sending to everyone who popped up when I Googled “Picture Book Agent”.

    And wouldn’t you?

    Some agents receive 100s of queries a DAY! That’s a LOT to shift through. It’s important that they immediately know that you are submitting to them because there is something special about THEM that makes the manuscript a good fit.

    Okay, okay. So I’ll only submit to agents who are a good fit. How do I find that out??

    Research!! Research!! And more research!! 

    Newsletters like Publishers Lunch and sites like Publishers Weekly contain valuable information about deals being made and what’s going on in the industry. This can keep you in the loop about what specific agencies are looking for, or where they think the industry is trending.

    Websites like Writer’s Digest have all kinds of agent lists to give you a good starting point of who to look into.

    Social media like Twitter or Facebook are excellent ways to learn a bit about the agent personally. You can learn a lot from reading through their posts. You may even find them talking about their MSWL (manuscript wish list)!!

    Blogs like this one! Kathy frequently has wonderful posts about what an agent or publisher is looking for. You can also check out blogs like Guide to Literary Agent, and Literary Rambles.

    GOOGLE THEM! (Did you know Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary officially listed “Google” as a verb in 2006? Crazy!!)  

    Before submitting to ANY one, I do a THOROUGH Google stalk… I mean search. I read and re-read every interview I can find with them it. I look at what conferences they attend and what organizations they are a part of. I look up who their past and current clients are and read interviews of them.

    And it’s worth it. Being able to say in my query letter that I was drawn to their definition of literary development in their 2007 interview with such-and-such is a great way to show that I’ve done my research!

    Which leads me to my last…. And possibly most important point:

    BE HONEST! Most of this is obvious. Don’t say you attended a conference they were at if you didn’t, don’t say you were referred to them by someone if you weren’t.

    But it’s more than that.

    You don’t want to portray yourself as someone you’re not. Don’t say you align with their thoughts on where MG novels were trending towards if you really don’t.

    Oh why not? What’s the harm of buttering them up a bit? It doesn’t REALLY matter.

    But it does.   In this relationship, trust and honestly MATTER.

    While there is obviously no need to tell them you do NOT agree with a comment they made, or hated the last book deal they signed, it can be detrimental to the future relationship to say anything that is not an accurate representation of who you are, as both a writer a professional and a person.

    The relationship with your future agent will be a give and take that will rely on trust and mutual respect. As innocent as it may seem, you do not want this connection to start off based on a bait and switch tactic.

    When you DO land an agent, it will become an important relationship in your life.

    Like other important relationships, not everyone is the perfect match and there is some vetting out that is done on both sides before coming together.

    You and your agent will join forces and present your manuscript — your blood, sweat and tears, your creation — out into the world. You don’t want that to be a person you just picked off of a list!

    It’s worth it, to do the footwork, see who’s out there, and truly find the place your work will be happiest to call home.


    Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

    Thank you Erika for another great post.

    Talk tomorrow,



    Filed under: Advice, Art Exhibit, Author, How to, inspiration Tagged: Erika Wassall, Guest Blog Post, Jersey Farm Scribe, Researching Agents

    4 Comments on Researching Agents – Erika Wassall, last added: 5/14/2014
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    50. Agent – Author Revision Tips – Book Giveaway

    literary RamblesHeader2 copy

    Skila Brown  (author of CAMISAR a novel in verse) and agent Tina Wexler  of ICM team up on Casey McCormick’s and Natalie Aguirre’s excellent Literary Rambles Blog and share Five Tips on Revising after getting Feedback from an Agent. Here is an excerpt:

    1. Drop your defenses. Think the agent doesn’t get what you were trying to do? Maybe that’s because it wasn’t clear enough. Think the feedback was overly-critical? Maybe that’s because you’re thinking this is about you and not about your story. Either way, you’re on the right track if an agent connected with so much of your story that s/he wants to help make it stronger. Celebrate that.

    Tina Wexler: This is a great first step. I know it can be disappointing to receive an offer to revise instead of an offer of representation, but if a writer can shake off that disappointment and welcome the creative feedback, oftentimes an offer of representation will follow. My relationship with several clients started this way, and I’m grateful they were able to drop their defenses and let me share my thoughts on their work.

    2. Listen. Before you begin revising, listen to what the agent is suggesting. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one person weighing in, search for commonalities in their feedback. At first glance, it might seem contradictory. One agent says, “I think the romance needs to be stronger,” while another says, “I think you should lose the romance.” The commonality? Both think that your book is teetering on romance without deciding if it is or it isn’t. Which means you need to make a decision – cut it or enhance it. Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.

    Tina Wexler: I often try to suggest solutions when pointing out problems in a manuscript, mainly because they
    help illustrate what my concerns are. But I’m not a novelist, and it’s not my story. As such, I really appreciate it when an author is able to come up with their own way of fixing a problem. It’s almost always a better solution than the one I’ve proposed.

    3. Don’t lose (the) heart. Think long and hard about what is sacred for you in this story. This can sometimes be the spark that initially drew you to the piece. Maybe it’s the relationship between two characters or the setting or the fact that you’re telling it in a specific way – like verse or multiple points of view. These sacred seeds might not be something you’re willing to alter. And that’s okay. If this story, in your heart, is really about a girl on the brink of suicide and an agent tells you, “I think you should lose the suicide bit,” this might not be the right agent for this novel. But be careful labeling something as sacred. Most things shouldn’t be.

    4. Give it a try. You might not be on board with the agent’s suggestions right away, and that’s okay. But what’s the harm in trying? If you spent time researching an agent, if you felt s/he might be a good match for you and your work, then you must already respect this person, right? So keep that in mind as you read over the feedback and have some faith in the professionals. Give these suggestions a try and just see where it leads. You might be surprised that things work out better than you hoped.Tina Wexler: Yes! I love this advice, especially for writers who are asked to change the story’s point of view. (It’s more common than you may think.) A rather daunting task, with or without an offer of representation in hand. So, you take baby steps. Rewrite the first page. Is it working? Yes? Rewrite the first chapter. Still like it? Keep going. As you say, there’s no harm in trying.

    Here is the link to read the full post and make sure you don’t miss the book give-a-way they are offering. http://www.literaryrambles.com/2014/04/agent-tina-wexler-skila-brown-guest.html
    Talk tomorrow,

    Filed under: Advice, Agent, Author, Book, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Caminar, Literary Rambles, Skila Brown, Tina Wexler

    2 Comments on Agent – Author Revision Tips – Book Giveaway, last added: 5/21/2014
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