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Due to the holidays, I’ll be taking a break from posting author/illustrator events until January. Along with celebrating Christmas with my family, I’ll be working on revisions for my WIP. It’s currently out with readers, but comments are already arriving. I’ll continue to update the conference pages daily. (Okay, maybe not on Christmas Day!)
The list for children’s and YA literary agents attending conferences in 2015 has exploded! I’m not sure if there are more conferences this year or if the conference organizers are just getting organized sooner, but the info is rolling in faster than I can keep up. I’m adding conferences as quickly as I can, so keep checking back. I’m seeing a lot of new names among the agents at these conferences, too. Some are new agents, but there are others who just haven’t been attending conferences in the last couple of years or so.
When I first posted the list of online writing classes and workshops, it was pretty skimpy. Now it’s up to thirty-six and I predict that number will keep going up. There are all ranges of cost, genres and skill levels, so it’s likely you’ll find one that’s right for you.
In 2014, I had the honor and pleasure of critiquing manuscripts by five wonderful writers I met through the SCBWI Discussion Boards. One of those manuscripts has been sold and will hit the bookstore shelves late in 2015! I’ll shout about it here when the author gets to reveal her cover.
2015 will be starting off with a BANG! for me. In January, I’ll be attending the Florida SCBWI conference in Miami. This is only the third out-of-state conference I’ve attended, and it is a very special one. This will be my first opportunity to meet several of my co-moderators and administrators of the SCBWI Discussion Boards, including the board’s founder Verla Kay! Verla is one of the speakers for the conference, so it’s a double bonus; I get to meet Verla AND hear her speak on “Making Words Sing: How and why your choice of words can make or break a story.”
Then in March, the Seattle branch of D4EO Literary Agency is having their first agency retreat, which I hope will become an annual event. We’ll be at a beautiful, rustic location in Washington. I got to meet my agent Kristin Vincent and agent Mandy Hubbard at the SCBWI Western Washington conference last year, and I can’t wait to meet agent Bree Ogden and all their authors and illustrators in person at the retreat.
In April, SCBWI Houston will be having our conference, and I’ll share those details with you soon.
You don’t want to miss this book. Seriously. Got get it, and pick up Distraction first if you haven’t read it yet. Addiction made me bawl my eyes out. Multiple times. This is a heart wrenching story you don’t want to miss. I love Tristan and Elle.
Despite denying their love for years, in the end no distraction could keep best friends Tristan and Elle apart. Passion and heat explode as the two finally discover what they’ve been missing, needing, wanting for so long.
When Tristan and Elle return home for Christmas break, the two are gifted with a few unexpected surprises. Heather, Elle’s sister, has come home and even better, she’s now clean and sober. During this time, Tristan and his dad manage to work through their strained relationship, finding compromise and understanding. For the couple, everything is coming together—until circumstances change, threatening their newfound happiness.
Love is an addiction both craved, but when devastating secrets are revealed, Elle pushes Tristan away. He won’t let go. She can’t hold on. Is their love strong enough to keep them together? Falling in love was never an issue, but for Tristan and Elle, falling apart may be.
Book 2 of the Distraction Series is a new adult/college romance short novel.
Born and currently residing in Midland, Texas, Angela shuffles three busy children (not including her husband) all over the place. She works in a busy pediatric doctor’s office as a nurse during the day, and writes at night. She is addicted to coffee–who isn’t? And firmly believes chocolate can fix all–especially chocolate ice cream. She laughs a lot, often at herself and is willing to try anything once (she thinks). When Angela isn’t rushing kids around, working or writing, she’s reading. Other than life experience, Angela turns to a wide variety of music to help spark her creative juices. She loves to dance and sing, though her kids often beg her not to.
We didn’t talk much during the drive back to our hometown, but words weren’t necessary. The soft smile on Tristan’s face as he drove with his left hand while holding mine in his right screamed louder than any words ever could. He was mine.
Turning to watch the scenery pass by, I let my thoughts drift back to the start of this year. At the beginning of the semester when Tristan told me about his engagement to Kellie, the psycho, I couldn’t breathe from the disappointment crushing my chest. Topping that, he also divulged he’d transferred to Tech, making sure my life remained as miserable as possible. Even though I loved him, seeing Tristan with another woman tore me to pieces.
Before their relationship ended, thinking we’d ever find our way to one another seemed impossible. So, what did I do to get over my hot, football star, best friend? I dated someone completely opposite of Tristan… Eric Green, a handsome baseball player. Eric was super sweet, but at the end of the day he was never who I wanted.
I didn’t intentionally set out to hurt anyone. The way I strung Eric along, knowing I was in love with someone else, left me feeling like a self-centered jerk. Ironically, when Tristan was injured, our relationship started to come together for us while Eric and I fell apart.
Who’d have thought a broken collarbone and a concussion would’ve made us get our heads removed from our asses. But God, the brunt trauma Tristan suffered was bad. Just thinking about it brought tears to my eyes.
I shifted in my seat, removing myself from the past, looking forward to our future.
Peeking over at Tristan’s profile, my chest tightened. The fact that he was able to pull off looking so incredibly sexy that early in the morning awed me. The gritty stubble shadowing his strong jawline and the way strands of hair framed his warm eyes quickened my pulse.
Tristan glanced my way and grinned. Lifting our hands, he brushed a feathery kiss across my skin. “What’s got you so quiet, Spud?”
My knuckles tingled where his lips touched. “Oh, you.”
His smile deepened. “Well, then carry on.”
I fought to keep my eyes open during the rest of our drive. Tristan ran his finger along my cheek, the enamored glint in his eyes made my insides jump.
“You look tired. Get some sleep.” Those perfect, full, kissable lips formed into a sexy, hell-bent grin. “You’re going to need plenty of rest.”
He tore his eyes away from me and back to the road. Sliding the back of his hand down my arm, he then laced our fingers together. “We’re leaving after dinner tomorrow. We haven’t finished making up for,” he turned back to me and winked, “lost time yet.” Tristan squeezed our hands, sending the normal thumping inside my chest into hyper-drive.
I stretched out the soreness from my arms and legs. After the early morning surprise in bed, we woke up and finished another round of lovemaking in the shower. Years of listening to Alyssa prattle on and on about her sexual escapades, I finally understood her, um, enthusiasm. Speaking of which, she was going to flip the next time I talked to her. Man, I missed our late night, or morning talks, although being with Tristan felt right. Perfect.
Tension pulled at the corners of his eyes.
I squeezed his hand. “Hey, what’s wrong?” I balled my other hand, worry settling in my shoulders.
He brought our joined hands to his lips and kissed the inside of my wrist. “Nothing you need to worry about.”
Um, I don‘t think so. I attempted to free my hand from his, but his hold remained strong. I gave up. “I can take it, whatever it is. Just spit it out.” My stomached knotted, betraying the lie.
“I’m telling my parents about us.” He glanced down, and the tension cornering his eyes moments ago fell. The side of his mouth pulled up in a cocky grin. “I’m almost hoping my dad kicks me out.” He winked. “Then I’d have an excuse to stay with you.”
I frowned and pulled my bottom lip between my teeth. Shit. His dad hated me. As much as I loved Tristan, I didn’t want to be an added cause to their problems, especially since Tristan and his dad never got along in the first place.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t want to ruin this. We’re together so there’s no use in creating a potential problem between you and your family. I love you, Tristan. I’m not going anywhere. Spend time with your parents and we can tell them about us once we’re back at school.”
Tristan gazed ahead, concentrating on the road in front of us. He remained silent for quite a few minutes, making me worry my bottom lip even more. Finally, he glanced over at me.
“No, I’ve waited to tell them you were mine for years now. No way am I going to pass up the first chance I get in order to make my dad happy.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but he cut me off.
“I’m not playin’, Spud.” His eyes darkened and wrinkles crested his forehead.
Stubborn ass. “All right, fine. I’ll leave my window unlocked,” I grinned, raising a brow, “but only if you’re lucky.”
Tristan chuckled softly, resting our hands in his lap. With his attention back to the road, I closed my eyes and prayed nothing terrible would happen between him and his dad. I used to think Mrs. Daniels didn’t approve of me, but after Tristan’s stay in the hospital, her behavior had changed. She’d been nice. Maybe his dad would do the same.
My throat dried–this time from not knowing if I’d be able to see my sister, Heather, this year. Hopefully this Christmas would be different for both our families. Tristan and I were due for a little peace.
Losing the battle with my eyes, I ended up falling asleep the rest of our way home. Tristan reluctantly dropped me off at my mom’s house. Once my bags were unloaded in my room, he kissed me. His kiss lingered, making my legs weak and my heart ache when the sweet embrace ended. Intensity and heat blazed in his eyes when he backed away.
Clearing his throat, he said, “I’m having a hard time leaving you.”
Hi everyone! Because it is crazy town in Angela’s house as she tries to keep up with deadlines and prep for Christmas, she’s giving a past Seekerville post some new love. Please read on to better understand why compelling Heroes (and Heroines!) MUST have flaws!
When we see the word Hero, we think heroic, which is ironic because our protagonists are usually anything but at the start of a story. Instead they are often jaded, lost or incomplete in some way, toting along a collection of flaws and false beliefs about the world and themselves. But that’s okay, because characters that fascinate readers most are layered, complex, and most of all, human. Brainstorming flaws can be difficult—which faults to choose, how many to give them and why, but here are ten reasons why all heroes need them.
1) TO CREATE REALISM AND EMPATHY:
In real life, people have faults-no one is perfect. It stands to reason that for a character to be believable, he also must be flawed. Readers are people too, ones who are as prone to poor choices, mistakes, and overreactions due to their shortcomings as our hero is. When they see the fallout created by a character’s faults, they empathize, knowing just how it feels to screw up. And as the character learns more about himself and works toward overcoming his flaws to reach his goals, the reader will cheer him on because the desire to achieve self-growth is universal.
2) TO UNDERSTAND BACKSTORY:
To write a compelling character, it isn’t enough to slap a few attributes and flaws into their personality and then throw them at the story. Fascinating characters come about by understanding who they are at their core. If you know a character’s flaws, you can brainstorm their past to better understand what experiences made these negative traits form. Backstory is valuable to know (for you as the author, not to dump into the story) because it helps you plot out what motivates them, how they will behave (their choices, mannerisms, pet peeves, etc.), and what they avoid to keep from being emotionally hurt. Knowing these details means you’ll be able to write them authentically, making them real to readers. (If you would like help brainstorming your character’s past, I recommend trying the Reverse Backstory Tool.)
3) TO CAUSE RELATIONSHIP FRICTION:
When everyone gets along, a story flat lines. Flaws act as sandpaper in a relationship, rubbing characters against one another to create delicious friction. A flaw vs. flaw (sloppiness pitted against a perfectionist) or a flaw vs. an attribute (inflexibility vs. free-spiritedness) both build tension and conflict which draws readers in, quickens the pace and raises personal & relationship stakes. For more detail, here’s an article on How to Create Friction In Relationships.
4) TO CREATE CONFLICT:
Flaws mean blind spots, biases, pet peeves and irrational emotional reactions to name a few. All of these things cause the hero to mess up along the way, creating conflict. A story road paved with mistakes, misjudgements and poor choices amp up tension at all levels, and make it even harder for the character to succeed. The antagonist can turn the hero’s mistakes to his own advantage, becoming an even greater threat.
5) TO PROVIDE A BALANCE:
If a hero has too many strengths (positive attributes), not only will he come across as unrealistic, it will be too easy for him to succeed. This makes the story predictable because as conflict pops up, there are no flaws to hamper the hero’s efforts or create setbacks, and he will always win. Readers want to see a hero struggle, because it makes the victories so much sweeter. Failure is also important to a character’s arc: he must hit bottom before he can succeed.
6) TO REVEAL EMOTIONAL WOUNDS:
Flaws bloom into being as a false protective measure when a person suffers an emotional wound. Why false? Because while they appear to “protect” a person from bad experiences (emotional pain), they actually hold back growth and damage relationships. Take a girl who grows up with parents who have high standards. They only bestow affection when she proves herself to be the best and so later in life, she equates anything less than perfection as failure. She may become a workaholic, inflexible, and overachieve, all to protect herself from feeling low self-worth at not measuring up (thanks for that, Mom and Dad!). Flaws are guideposts to these deep emotional wounds, something every author should know about their characters as it ties directly into Character Arc (see below).
7) TO GENERATE INNER CONFLICT:
Inner conflict is the place where the characters faults (flaws) and negative thoughts (I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never find love, I’m not worthy, etc.) reside. Good story structure dictates that a protagonist’s flaws should be counterproductive to achieving his goal and that his negative thoughts should sabotage his self-worth. These things are what the hero must face about himself and change. Only through subduing his flaws will he have a chance at achieving his goal.
8) TO BE A FORCE FOR CHANGE:
Flaws get in the way at the worst times, pressuring the character to act. Let’s say our hero is determined to take control of his family’s struggling company, but he’s notoriously irresponsible. To keep the business afloat, he must apply himself. His desire to not disappoint the people counting on him force him to take a hard look inward at his own irresponsibility, which he must change to succeed.
9) TO ENCOURAGE SELF-GROWTH:
As I mentioned before, one of the core needs of all people is to grow as a person. Growth is tied to happiness and fulfillment, so if your characters has flaws, small ones or big ones, showing him overcome them allows him to feel satisfied and happier, and will resonate with readers who are on their own journey of self-improvement.
10) TO COMPLETE THE CHARACTER’S ARC:
Flaws shouldn’t be random—each flaw forms from a negative past experience. In Character Arc, there should be at least one core flaw that stands in the character’s way (see inner conflict) of achieving his goal. For the character to win (his outer motivation) he must face his fears, deal with the emotional wounds of his past, and see that achieving his goal is more important that the risk of suffering another emotional wound. Only by subduing his core flaw and banishing his negative thoughts can he be free of fear. This necessary self-growth will help him find the strength needed to achieve his goal.
What types of flaws do you burden your character with? Is it a challenge for you to find a way for him to overcome these flaws?
Do you often field gift book questions from patrons around the holiday season? I’ve had my share of parents ask me for the best new picture book of the year for their daughter or a grandparent who wants to gift their tween a book but has no clue where to start. If you have also had these experiences, check out ALSC’s updated booklists! These are a great resource to help parents, grandparents and caregivers of all sorts purchase great books for the children in their lives during the winter holiday season- or any time of year.
Image from http://www.ala.org/alsc/building-home-library-2014-update.
The CBC Committee has included two printer-friendly versions of the bibliographies for four specific age groups. You will find suggested titles of exemplary content and quality for children from birth to age 3, children ages 4-7, children ages 8-11 and even for tween-aged children 12-14. The brochures are great for putting out at your desk for interested patrons. Does your library receive donation gifts for area shelters, churches or other organizations? You can place these brochures next to your donation bin for easy suggestions the busy patron can bring to their local bookseller when shopping.
Some of my favorite choices from the lists that would be perfect gifts are:
Carle, Eric. La oruga muy hambrienta/ The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Philomel/ Penguin, 2011.
This classic story from beloved author and illustrator Carle is indeed a great gift for babies birth to age 3. This publication is particularly great because it will introduce both English and Spanish words to your little one.
Snicket, Lemony. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. The Dark. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013.
The Dark by Lemony Snicket. Image from www.hachettebookgroup.com.
Children ages 4-7 are sure to enjoy this wonderful picture book that gives a voice to the dark. This is an especially fun read-aloud with two readers and a perfect opportunity for caregivers to participate in their preschooler’s reading time!
Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Knopf/ Random House, 2012.
8-11 year olds of all reading levels will appreciate this heart-warming story of a 5th grade boy with facial abnormalities. It’s realistic tone and kind message make it a lovely holiday gift choice.
That hiatus I mentioned last post might not be as over as I thought. I have a serious case of blogging and reading fatigue, and the S.A.D. certainly isn’t helping. So I’m closing up shop for now. I wish everyone a very happy holiday season, and a bright start to 2015!
Looking for a motivational gift this holiday season? Inspire the sports-minded reader on your list with a Maggie Christmas! Maggie Vaults Over the Moon is the story of a courageous teen, Maggie Steele, who finds the strength to overcome a … Continue reading →
Holiday gift buying season and Richard Scarry is a safe choice, but for good reason. When I started my Library career it was during a time when most of Scarry’s work was out of print. Libraries were holding on to tattered copies of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, Busy Town, Busy People and Busy, Busy World Book and the like because although the books may not have been purchased in a while, people were still sharing them with their children. Finally, someone figured out that these well- loved copies of Richard Scarry books were not enough. New people were being born, needing an introduction to the world from Huckle the Cat, Bananas Gorilla, and Lowly Worm. So recently, much of Scarry’s book has been put back into print.
The Best of Lowly Worm is actually a new addition to the Scarry canon that Scarry’s son completed after finding the start of the book in Scarry’s unfinished works. In true Scarry fashion, the pages are packed with details, each double page spread featuring another concept important to early childhood development including counting, letters and getting dressed. Children and adults will love looking at the pages many times over, watching new subplots unfold with every viewing among the characters and situations featured in this book. Scarry’s books are a perfect way to introduce young preschoolers to new vocabulary as they will find the art so appealing, they won’t be able to stop looking and wondering at all of the new words and situations.
Pick up some of Richard Scarry’s work at the Library, choose your favorite and buy it for the young child in your life to keep this classic children’s illustrator’s books alive and well on your shelves at home and in the Library.
Christmas is full of time honored traditions and always tucked into the mix are some family adventures; going to pick out the perfect tree, a trip to see Santa or, if you live near New York or even visit this time of year, a peek at the WINDOWS! If you haven’t seen this year’s display of holiday windows and can get to New York City, you and the kids are in for an adventure. Tons of kids AND parents can be seen pressing cold noses up to glass windows of dazzlingly themed department store fronts. I have included a link below to an article on just some of them, but they include Lord and Taylor, Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and Macy’s.
But Lord and Taylor’s are sure to please with windows that are filled with whimsey. It’s theme is an enchanted mansion complete with “The Hall of Wisdom” wherein an army of mice see to the books in the library! In the “Fairy Tale Garden,” Tinker Bells and a host of butterflies spread their wings under bell jars and red cardinals that have donned scarves and caps against the cold, take flight over tiny houses.
Something called “The Heritage Gallery” has portraits done in the style of the Old Masters of dogs and cats and a stray giraffe!
There is a video running that shows LIVE dogs and cats that are pretty sweet and some of the hounds, if a recent article I read on the exhibit is correct, could pass for the famous weimaraners of William Wegman!
Perfect segue to a a whimsical picture book on those delightfully serious weimaraners called “Flo and Wendell” by none other THAN William Wegman.
These doggie siblings are a study in contrasts as are many a sibling, no matter their species! Flo is, well a bit assertive and self directed, and other directed too, as in directing WENDELL. He’s a fairly laid back easy going type where Flo is a bit of an A type personality. And when they go on a family vacation and try the art of camping, adventure ensues. Off they go on a RV called “Windingo” that belongs to their Uncle Mervin.
Flo has a great time during the trip, while Wendell gripes that HIS idea of a grand time is not merely driving around. Translation: He wants a chance to use his souvenir hatchet. Flo is a fixer and promises Wendell an ADVENTURE at their OWN campsite.
What follows is a good story of cooperation between siblings where Flo initially takes charge, but learns that EACH of them have their own skill sets that, when used collectively, make camping fun.
Kids will get a kick out of these two young weimaraners, pitching a tent, fishing, carrying a canoe in tandem and even braving a waterfall! Is that a bear up ahead, or merely a rock formation in disguise? Good thing Wendell has his trusty souvenir hatchet on hand, as Flo cedes the lead to Wendell, post bear contact. Holding hands as they find their way back to mom and dad at their campsite (home), you can almost hear the crickets chirping in the night sky as they trudge back. Love that picture!
I like this book because Flo and Wendell are two siblings that ARE different, like each of the ones you may have at home. AND, your young readers may even recognize a bit of a pattern of subtle interplay with their own siblings. Just maybe they might learn that happiness depends on being yourself AND letting your brother or sister be that too!
Consider, if you will, the strange relationship that exists between a book jacket created in America vs. a book jacket created in the United Kingdom. Both are appealing to an audience that speaks primarily English. But the perception of what will sell/appeal in one country can vary widely from that of another. Over the years I’ve seen a whole host of British covers translated (so to speak) for Americans, and American covers translated for the British. Today we’re going to look at a couple of these and then I shall reveal a new book jacket that makes me inordinately, enormously happy.
First, we will consider the most popular books and how they’ve fared. For example, there was Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
British Adult Cover
Then there are authors like Laura Amy Schlitz who have done very well on both sides of the pond with her covers.
Harry Potter is a series with book jackets that experience quite a lot of scrutiny. Recently the books got new American and British jackets. Which do you prefer?
And today, ladies and gentlemen, it is my greatest pleasure to announce that I am allowed to reveal the American cover for the Frances Hardinge fantasy novel Cuckoo Song. I recently finished the book and it is everything I ever wanted in a new Hardinge novel. Released as a children’s book in the UK, it will come out here in the States as YA. With that in mind, it is a perfect companion to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone as well as the works of Holly Black, Laura Amy Schlitz, and others. Indeed I kept thinking of Splendors and Glooms as I read this book.
So here we go. In the spirit of this post, here is the British cover:
And here is the American:
If that isn’t the finest creepiest book jacket you ever did see I’ll eat my proverbial hat.
2014’s Gold Award winner, Benjamin Chaud for The Bear’s Song (Chronicle Books)
Each year, the New York Society of Illustrators hosts The Original Art, which showcases the exquisite work of children’s book illustrators in the previous year. If you live in the Northeast, the show, which is in its 34th year, is an absolute must-see.
“In 1989, The Original Art found a permanent home at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. It also became a juried event, with a committee of art directors, editors, publishers and illustrators selecting the best books from among hundreds of submissions and awarding Gold and Silver medals to the top pieces.”NY Society of Illustrators
Monday, December 8th was the Society’s fourth annual Reading Pictures event, a sold-out afternoon and evening seminar for librarians and children’s book lovers alike. Three amazing illustrators (Melissa Sweet, Barbara McClintock, and E.B. Lewis), all with pieces in the show, spoke at length about their backgrounds and creative processes. Melissa Sweet and E.B. Lewis even gave demonstrations of their techniques! Then art directors led groups on tours of the show, which fills two galleries with 166 works, to speak at length about the creation and successes of the art. Check out this year’s amazing artists!
Gary Kelley won the Silver Award for Harlem Hellfighters. This book was also a NYT Best Illustrated Book!
The show began on October 22nd and runs through December 20th. If you happen to be in New York in the next few weeks, I cannot recommend this experience enough! For anyone who loves picture books or art, the chance to see such exquisite work up close- to examine the minute pieces of paper in a Steve Jenkins picture or be overwhelmed by the size of a painting from Neighborhood Sharks- is a rare and wonderful thing. It’s also an excellent reminder that among the many attributes of the picture book, when you give one to a child, you are letting them hold a piece of art in their hands.
Oh hello…been a while hasn’t it? I am back to see if I can get into the swing of blogging again – I do miss it.
While this blog has been sleeping, behind the scenes there have been new experiences, some travel and a couple of books illustrated and published. I look forward to sharing what I have been up to on a more regular basis.
Montreal has been hit with its first big snowstorm of the year. Everything is hushed and soft and it really looks quite magical. Perhaps this is a perfect place to begin again – everything sparkling and full of promise, a new chapter….so let’s turn the page….
Each year we gather with a few hundred of our closest friends to celebrate James Thurber’s 120th Birthday. Thurber House friends and supporters gathered at The Westin Columbus around for drinks and appetizers, followed by dinner, and of course, birthday cake. Our wonderful host, Wayne Lawson, made sure that the “laughter” portion of our mission was a big part of the evening with his charm and wit. As the role of the host is often to make sure that everyone knows each other, he asked our new Executive Director, Jennifer Gregg, a series of questions to give the crowd an idea of who she is and what she likes (yes, cheesy chips came up… more than once). She also had a surprise for the audience in the form of Golden Tickets that a handful of lucky guests found under their chairs, each of which held a gift certificate to the upcoming series of our 2015 Evenings with Authors.
The evening moved forward with our featured guest, Dan Zevin, the winner of the 2013 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Zevin’s book, Dan Gets A Minivan, Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad, is the hilarious account of how he discovered and coped with the changes in life that come with being a father. His stories were accompanied by hilarious home movies, and passages from his book.
Last but not least, a party is not a party without gifts! Thanks to the generous contributions from organizations and businesses around the city, many guests took home prizes that ranged from wine, to hand made ceramics, to a great adventure at the Columbus Zoo.
Special thanks also to our corporate sponsors (listed below), The Westin Columbus,
The Ohio Arts Council, GCAC, and The Columbus Foundation!
Friends of The Ohio State University Libraries
Huntington National Bank
Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter
The Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University
Park National Bank
Phi Kappa Psi, In Honor of Norm Spain
State Auto Insurance
Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease
Earlier today I was having a discussion with friends about a highly touted YA novel just nominated for the Morris Award. We all agree that the book is beautifully written and engaging but we are scratching our heads at exactly who the intended or appropriate audience is for this book. The narrator’s voice feels adult, and the word choices and phrasing feel adult. In the end, the consensus was that this book was more in line with an adult novel that select teens might enjoy than a proper novel for teens.
As a bookseller/buyer, the question of audience in some of the books I read & am presented frequently arises. Who is this book written for, and who can I sell it to are often two very different questions, being able to answer these questions when writing is key to finding readers.
I love reading kids/YA books, but I am keenly aware that I come at them from a different place than kids/teens do. I bring adult experience and ideas to the books and while I do my best to put myself in the head of the target reader, I know that there are books I appreciate that the average kid probably won’t. I love complex ideas and language. I love it when an author does something completely mind-bending (such as Patrick Ness’ More Than This) and leaves you with your jaw on the floor thinking “Wow!” when you reach the last page. I can’t always find a mass number of readers for these books, but I firmly believe that there is a reader. There are some books however that completely miss the mark for a variety of reasons.
A book full of adult language and scenes with child/teen characters does not automatically make it a book for kids/teens. Adult books can have child protagonists (Oceans at the End of the Lane, Room or Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night for example) and be appreciated by teens, but they are not marketed to a juvenile/teen audience. Even when the age of the characters are on point, if the general tone of the book is way above the heads of the readers, it is also guilty of not knowing its audience. Consider who is telling the story. Is the narrator recounting something that has recently happened to them, or are they an adult reminiscing about events from a long time ago? Who are you hoping to appeal to with your book? What kind of reader are you trying to reach? There’s something to be said for appealing to the clever, sophisticated kid- you know the one- 10 going on 50- capable of reading far above their age group but not emotionally ready for YA- but don’t get so caught up in being clever that you write yourself out of your market. L Why is Harry Potter so universally loved? Because J.K. Rowling knew exactly who her audience was and she proved that you can provide kids with a rich reading experience while hitting all of the buttons for a wide variety of readers.
Now I turn the question to you- what in your minds causes a book to “miss the mark?” and have you read anything lately that fits this description?
Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for EduReference Publisher’s Direct Inc. in Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.
Maybe the only way you may remember this classic Christmas tale of animals that reflect the giving spirit of O’Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi”, is through Jim Henson’s Muppet version. It too captured in word and song the husband/wife team of Russell and Lillian Hoban and their story of these endearing wintry animal inhabitants of Frogtown Hollow struggling to make ends meet before Christmas.
And for the fatherless Emmet and his mother who takes in wash that is soaped and cleaned in a wash tub, these are hard times indeed. Yet there is a sturdy hardiness and cheer about these animal folk who could teach us a thing or two about resilience in the face of deprivation.
If this picture book sounds like a downer, it’s anything BUT!! Emmet uncomplainingly rows in his little rowboat, in hat and scarf tied tight, up and down the river gathering laundry for his mother to wash. He hauls water, chops firewood, and goes out with his dad’s tool chest determined to find the odd job to help out at home. Emmet is the soul of tenacity when he hears that The Merchants’ Association is putting on a talent show with a $50 prize!
Gathering pals Wendell Coon, Harvey Muskrat and Charlie Beaver who individually can play a kazoo, blow on a jug and strum a cigar-box banjo, he’s full of hope. What’s missing is a WASH TUB bass! Guess who has the wash tub that Emmet borrows and puts a HOLE in for a chance to win the prize and gift mom with the piano he dreams of giving her? And mom has to sell Emmet’s tool box to give him..well, you get the picture. Mom is determined to give her Emmet the gleaming guitar with mother-of-pearl inlays he longs for in the store window.
Impossible? Success in life often involves sacrifice the Hoban’s tale tells us and our dreams may come true in very unexpected ways. The important thing this rich story imparts is the ageless truth that love, friendship and community are the real Christmas gifts. They are the glue that binds us together AND sustains us when the times and our lives become difficult. And never giving up on hope and the tenacity that fuels our dreams that make life bearable is another. I’d say if you can get that message across AND entertain in a picture book that lasts, it’s a classic!
Please share this classic picture book and its comfy message with your young ones this Christmas. We, and they, need to hear it again and again and again!!
Here’s the complete version of The Muppet 1977 made for TV movie.
In the words of Emmet’s mom, “Emmet, that’s about the nicest present anybody ever TRIED to give me.”
Today we’re taking a field trip to touch on something all writers struggle with at some point: story doubts. It might come about because of a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from a beta reader, or after requests for fulls go nowhere. Maybe you have rewritten your opening 9,000 times or have three drafts of your novel, all told from different points of view, and still feel uncertain which version is the right one.
Doubt – soul crushing worry that we are not capturing our story well enough – can not only snuff out a novel, but the writer’s spirit as well.
Jenny Nash has some excellent insight into this pool of doubt, and how to swim through it to write deeply from passion, telling the story as only the author can.
I’m a book coach, and all day long I have writers coming to me who want to work out the Where and What and How of their story. Many of them are in the midst of some kind of writerly anguish: they have a pile of agent rejections, or they are 2/3 of the way through their 23rd draft and they’re still not sure the book is working, or they got to the last scene and suddenly realize that nothing has happened in the last 150 pages so there’s nothing to resolve. They are not sure how to move forward or even if they should move forward. They are, in other words, full of doubt, and somewhere along the line, they have come to believe that the way out of that doubt and that anguish is to focus like a laser beam on these Where, What, How questions:
Where should my story really start? What needs to happen in the middle? How is the best way for it to end?
Nine times out of ten, they are asking the wrong questions. Instead of Where, What, and How they should be asking Why? – and not even about the story itself, though that is an extremely powerful exercise, too*, but about themselves as writers.
If you’re anything like me and almost all the writers I work with, your story has been haunting you for quite some time. It keeps you up at night. It nags at you when you are reading other people’s stories. It pops into your head at times when it is least welcome. It wants to be told.
It can be extremely useful to know why you think it’s haunting you. I actually believe that not knowing the answer to why is one of things that holds a lot of writers back. They know they like to write, they know they’re good at it, they know they have a story to tell, but they don’t know why it matters to them, or what, exactly, it means to them.
As a result, they write a book that doesn’t ever really get down to anything real and raw and authentic. They write pages that skate along the surface of things. And if there’s one thing readers don’t need, it’s to skate along the surface. That’s what the Internet is for. And cocktail parties. And the line at Costco.
Listen to Simon Sinek’s TED talk on how great leaders inspire action. It’s 18 minutes long, but even if you listen to the first 6 minutes you’ll get it. The main point of the talk is this: “People buy things because of WHY you do them, not because of WHAT you do.”
Writers want someone to buy something from us as much as the folks over at Apple and Nike. We do! Even before we talk about dollars and cents, we want readers to buy that we have something important or entertaining or illuminating to say. We want agents to buy that our idea is generous and alive.
So all this work you’re going to do on WHAT your book will be?It often all hinges on WHY you want to write it — on why it is haunting you, on what captivated you from the start, on what the spark was, on why you care so much. If you can articulate that, it will probably unlock the story in very powerful ways.
In 2002, literary agent Ann Rittenberg gave a speech at Bennington College that sums this up beautifully.
What kind of writer can make characters [you care about]? I think the kind of writer who is not afraid to access the deepest places in himself, and is not afraid to share what he comes up with… I see plenty of writing that has kernels of good in it, but it’s hedged around with so much tentativeness, or uncertainty, or excess, or stinginess, that it doesn’t allow the outsider — the reader — in… Yet when I read something that speaks to me, that absorbs me, that remains vividly in my head even when I’m not reading it, I’ve been intimate with the person who wrote it before I’ve even met him. This isn’t to say I know anything about him. I only know he or she’s the kind of writer who’s willing to explore the deep essence of character….
That’s the kind of writer I am guessing you want to be. So how do you get there? Ask yourself the following:
Try to recall the moment your story came into your head. What took root in that moment?
Why does it matter to you? What does it mean to you? It wouldn’t have stuck in your head if it didn’t mean something and matter to you – a lot.
Have you been shying away from the truth of that moment – out of fear of how raw it is, or how powerful it is? Let yourself to get closer to it.
Let that truth inform your story from beginning to end. Let it be the engine that drives your narrative forward. A story that has a single driving force tends to be a story that has a solid beginning, a gut-wrenching middle and a satisfying end.
*Ask why of your characters, as well. Why do they care about what they care about? Why will it hurt them not to get it? Why are the afraid? Why can’t they do what they know they should? Why did they do what they just did? Why did they cry? Why, why, why. It can be the key to great writing.
I bet “a new bike” is on plenty of Dear Santa letters. Whether Santa agrees or not, every child should have a copy of New Red Bike. It’s a deceptively simple story of friendship—an even greater gift. Join James in his studio to understand how it evolved. Listen. Isn’t that Get the Funk blasting on his playlist?
In the beginning . . .
As a young child, I recall coloring with my stepsisters, spread out on the living room floor of an apartment building overlooking a park in Passaic, New Jersey. There, I envied their ability to create masterpieces with the crayons they chose. Their talents seemed so natural and effortless.
The Influence of comic books . . .
This, along with television cartoons, was my first exposure to art. Just a few years later, while living in a small home with my grandmother in Rich Square, North Carolina, my own artistic abilities began to blossom. It could have been the quiet, rural setting or maybe it was simply boredom that found me day after day, curled up on a couch with wads of paper, pencils and my favorite comic books. I used these comics as reference to copy again and again, while the television rambled in the background.
In my work as an illustrator creating books, I continue to use a simple technique. The only difference is that now I create in my studio in upstate New York. Instead of a television, I create to the strains of my favorite jazz station or Parliament Funkadelic music.
Dear Santa, please . . .
New Red Bike is in many ways a throwback to my youth. A simpler, uncomplicated time where summer days were spent outdoors, exploring and playing with friends in the woods behind my home. I feel that many of the books today are geared more toward adult tastes. And often there are few books with African American characters for very young readers. New Red Bike was my attempt to offer a fresh take on children’s classics featuring an African American character.
New Red Bike . . .
The first part of story focuses on spatial movement, when Tom, a young boy who receives a bike as gift from his parents, rides, up, down, back and forth, round and round. The second part of the story touches on the importance of sharing. I was striving to create text that could be easily deciphered by a younger child, and, to that end, I owe a good deal of credit to my editor, Mary Cash, who helped me shape this story into one that manages to keep it’s appeal to a younger audience.
Professor Ransome . . .
The act of illustrating and writing
are very separate processes that each require a specialized and individual approach. As a professor of illustration students, I often tell my students that at some point you need to go in a corner with your materials and figure things out. In writing, it is the same. You need the space to tell the story you want to tell in the way you want to tell it. When I complete the writing process, often between other illustration projects I am working on, I then turn my attention to the pictures, and just as if I were illustrating a book submitted by a writer, I comb very carefully through the manuscript to develop a unique way to tell the story with images.
Why James creates art . . .
Whether it is spread out on a living room floor, curled up on a couch, or at a drawing table in a studio, creating a
James Ransome’s Studio at Night
book has always provided me a sense of solace and a way to express myself artistically.
This past Saturday I hosted a Children’s Literary Salon at the main branch of NYPL that discussed the past, present, and future of children’s book publishing. It was a stellar line-up, moderated by author Jane Zalben. To kick off the panel discussion, the panel was asked a question that has been posed many times before but not always in this context. Let us consider the case of Goodnight Moon. Here we have a book that is often considered right up there with Where the Wild Things Are in terms of picture book popularity. So the question is, could it be published today?
What made this discussion so interesting to me was how it examined the publishing history of Goodnight Moon himself. I was aware that it wasn’t a hit when it came out. It just didn’t make the sales, which seems ridiculous at first glance. What could the public have had against it? But Leonard Marcus made it clear that the book was, itself, a bit of an anomaly. It was a pre-schooler / toddler title in an era when that market simply didn’t get books of their own. Public libraries, the major buyers, weren’t set up to cater to the very young, and books for that age range just didn’t exist. So Margaret Wise Brown’s book came out and missed its mark. It wasn’t until at least five years had passed and a columnist recommended it that the sales started to take off.
The takeaway from all of this is the difference in how long books were allowed to stay in print back then vs. today. These days if you don’t make back your advance in two years (at least) it’s to the out-of-print dustbin with your remainders. Back then a book had a bit more of a chance to find its audience. And as any children’s librarian who has had to deal with summer reading lists from schools will attest, five years is sometimes precisely how long it takes for folks to discover a book.
All this is a roundabout way of saying that the question is impossible to answer because when we are discussion a genre, like picture books, it’s not as though they are published without owing something to their forbears. Goodnight Moon set the tone for all the “quiet books” to come. Bedtime fare was forever changed, and continues to be affected, by its presence in the marketplace. The same could be said if we tried to consider if children’s books as diverse as Where the Wild Things Are or Harriet the Spy or The Phantom Tollbooth could be published today. That said, it’s still fun to ask. And then to look at books being published now, one wonders what books they’ll be saying this about in the future.
Well folks, it’s the big one: Becca’s 29th-plus-or-minus-a few birthday. Feel like passing on some cheer to one of the kindest and most supportive writers on the web? Say hello to her on Twitter, Facebook or right herein the comments!
Becca and I have enjoyed many odd twists of fate (like both planning vacations at the Grand Canyon at the same time and discovering this fact only days before) and I feel ever so lucky to count her as a friend and mentor.
We met online through a critique group, but I thought it fitting to link to the story of how we met in person for the first time, so you can get a better feel for how the universe has so awesomely pushed us together.
Wishing you a huge and squishy fun HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Becca!
This morning at Kirkus, I write about a Christmas story, straight from Sweden and originally published there in 2012 — Ulf Stark’s The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits, illustrated by Eva Eriksson. It’s available in the States now, thanks to Floris Books.
Since I wrote here last week about the anniversary edition of two of Robie H. Harris’ excellent books for children about puberty and sexuality, I’m sharing some illustrations from them today. Michael Emberley, who will visit 7-Imp soon for a breakfast interview, illustrated them. You can click on each spread to see it in more detail.
Until Sunday …
Two spreads from the 15th anniversary edition of It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families (Candlewick, August 2014) (Click each spread to enlarge)
Two spreads from the 20th anniversary edition of It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (Candlewick, August 2014) (Click each spread to enlarge)
As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story.
Knowledge of Explosives
Alexandre Dulaunoy @ Creative Commons
Description: Having knowledge of and experience with creating and detonating explosive devices
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: knowledge of chemistry, steady hands, dexterity
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: cautious, patient, alert, calm, focused, meticulous, sensible, passionate
Required Resources and Training: Many amateurs in the field of explosives are self-taught, garnering information from the internet and from books on the subject. Others gain experience through an apprenticeship of sorts, learning about explosives in a hands-on fashion by watching and working with an expert. For those seeking a more credible education, courses are offered by government agencies, mining corporations, and other professional organizations.
Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: terrorists, anarchists, paranoid types, SWAT team members, military and ex-military personnel
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
when a building needs to be demolished
when one needs to cut off access to an area (by destroying a street, establishing an immediate roadblock, etc.)
when one wants to kill large numbers of people
when one needs to disarm or disable an explosive device
when a diversionary tactic is needed
for a career in mining
for blasting rock in a quarry
for building roads (blasting through hills and mountains)
You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.
…and so is my voice so you really don’t wanna hear me sing!
But what you do want is snazzy stuff for your favorite writer friends, maybe even for yourself. So I’ve combed the Internet for some unique and writerly gadgets, gizmos and gifties you’ll be proud to give or own this holiday season. Grab a cuppa cocoa, shop and share!
1. USB Warming Things (Mug warmer, foot warmer and writing gloves)
If you’re attached to your computer all day, why not take it literally by plugging in and warming up? Keep your coffee hot, your tootsies warm and your fingers flying across the keyboard.
4. My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
Before you take out a second mortgage, let me clarify: I’m not suggesting you buy a bookstore, but rather a book. Eighty-four authors tell tales of their favorite independent bookstores–with witty, heartfelt and inspiring words.
This is for the guys, if you want to be “checked out”.
Silk-screened library due date card tie available from Etsy seller Cyberoptix.
9. BookBook for MacBook
A sophisticated, leather-bound book cover for your more modern “book”.
BookBook available from twelvesouth.com. (Thanks for the suggestion, Mary Zisk.)
10. Boogie Board Sync
No, we’re not catching waves. We’re catching ideas! Ever lose those scraps of paper onto which you’ve scribbled what MUST be a NY TIMES BESTSELLER idea? Well, fret no more. Capture your thoughts on the Boogie Board and then sync it up to your smartphone or computer.
As a gift to other authors around Christmas, I like to print some of my favorite quotes about writing. This is the third grouping of quotes to make it on my blog. Enjoy!
“The fact is that almost everything that almost everyone has ever done to make money from the arts—including the old ways of making money from the arts—mostly didn’t work. We always look back on artistic incomes with what economists call survivor bias. We look at the people who succeeded and not the people who failed.” — Cory Doctorow
“What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” — Stephen King
“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” — Mary Heaton Vorse
“I think the difficult thing with learning how to write is not learning the style or rules, but figuring out what story you want to tell.” — Ransom Riggs
“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” — Agatha Christie
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.” — Virginia Woolf
“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that’s not true.” — Professor Robert Wilensky
“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” — Flannery O’Connor
“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest people of past centuries.” — Descartes
Writing for me has always been about personal empowerment, not about fame or fortune. That’s how my writing career started, and it is still my main goal as a writer: let the words out and see where they take you. As Robert Frost said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
In the beginning I wrote to discover what I knew. Then I wrote for myself and my best friend, Dave. I grew up next door to Dave in Queens, New York, until he turned five. His family moved away. Our parents stayed great friends. The friendship survived because on Thursdays the men met to play cards in the kitchen and the women to sew sweaters and chat in the living room. They took turns visiting one another with lifelong friends.
As teens, Dave and I would always spend part of the summer together. We shared important interests: playing baseball, chasing girls for dates, blue ribbons on the track team, and a Regents diploma. During the school year, it was frequently more satisfying to write long letters to one another about girls, sports, school, and our domineering fathers than to do anything else. Our moms faithfully exchanged our letters every Thursday. We called it the “Pocketbook Mail Express.” No stamps needed, just the trials and tribulations of life-and-death teenage issues. We wrote volumes. The writing was extremely cathartic and highly invisible. Only our eyes ever saw what we wrote.
Our fathers were card carrying members of the Greatest Generation ever—hard workers, honest and loyal. They worked for the future of their kids, but their kids were supposed to be seen and not heard. We had a roof over our heads, food on the table, mothers who believed in us, and fathers who wanted us to be near-perfect. And we weren’t.
If we earned B’s, “Why don’t you have all A’s?” If we won a red ribbon in a race, “Why didn’t you win a blue ribbon?” Our best was never good enough. We didn’t feel like our fathers believed in us.
When I became a high school senior, we had to write a weekly essay. My English teacher, Ms. Starr Hacker, always scribbled an “A” on my compositions. Only the size of the “A” varied. I worked very hard in class. She wrote in my yearbook, “Good luck to a very interesting student and personality.” What made me interesting? I think that I was emerging as a writer, thanks to David and Ms. Hacker.
I decided to give back to others like Ms. Hacker did by becoming a teacher. When I told my father, he asked “Why a teacher?”
“I won’t be happy unless I’m a teacher.”
He asked, “Why do you have to be happy?”
I had no answer. I was flawed with the possibility that my father, a plumber, might not be happy with his work. He had fooled me.
My guidance counselor warned my father that I might not be college material. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to take English and Education courses. I knew at least three people believed in me: Mom, Dave, and Ms. Hacker—and writing played an important part in it.
I graduated from a community college, and transferred to a state college. I met my true love and we both graduated with teaching degrees. The two years that Marilyn and I were engaged, my father was worried that I would flunk out. Dad didn’t know that Marilyn made me a better student. Before mom met Marilyn, Dad said, “I don’t want you to like Marilyn.” But they did anyway.
Two weeks after graduation we married. My brother once noted that “Dad isn’t smiling in your wedding photo.”
He’s right. Before the shot was taken, Dad leaned over and said, “You should have gone to graduate school first.”
I was a successful teacher for thirty-three years. During and after my teaching years, I wrote essays for parents and teachers, and poems for children. It was never about making money. It was about corralling my experiences and making sense of them.
When my mother was dying in the nursing home, I sat down and wrote a tribute about her life to capsulate what a great mom she was. It was my last gift for her, a gift of words. At her funeral in church I read my tribute. To my amazement, the congregation stood up and clapped.
Shopping at holiday time is not high on my list of favorite things to do. Unless it involves being in a book store. I’m always happy in a book store :) Chronicle Books has an annual challenge for people like me. #GiveBooks this holiday and they’ll donate books to a child in need through First […]