Friday, August 19, 2011

Fess Up Friday: I'm Giving Twitter Another Shot

At WriteOnCon, the importance of establishing an online presence was a recurring topic in some of the live chats with industry professionals. Back in March, I learned the significance of an online presence at the Big Sur Children's Writers Workshop, which was why I took a GIANT leap to put myself out there as a writer and started this blog. 

A few of the agents at WriteOnCon referred us attendees to their Twitter accounts. I had a Twitter account awhile ago, but I ended up deleting it because (and now I'm dropping my voice) I didn't know how to work the functions. Like someone would leave a note for me and I wouldn't know what to do. Seriously. Another reason I did away with my old Twitter account was because (and I'm whispering again) I simply couldn't think of anything to post. That's right- me, a writer not knowing what to write. I mean, I doubt the world is sitting at the edge of its seat waiting to hear about what I had for lunch,  how my trip to the DMV went,  what I dreamt last night, or what I think of today's weather....unless there's a  tornado going on outside my window and in that case, I'd have bigger things to worry about than logging in to tweet about my house getting uprooted from the ground.

Anyhoo, I decided to start a new Twitter account today. It took me a solid ten minutes to do my first post. I also "followed" some industry professionals. I haven't posted a picture yet so right now, I'm the Shadowy Faceless Egg Follower (let's play  Sting's "Every Breath You Take" for this post's soundtrack). I have a hunch that I'd spend more time reading people's updates than posting up a storm for the time being. But I'll post my Twitter addy  here once I've built up some momentum. 

WriteOnCon 2011 was Fab

I was busy most of this week participating in WriteOnCon, an online writers conference I could attend from the comfort of my office chair.  I participated in query critiques, live chats, and forum chats and I  rubbed virtual elbows with super cool agents, editors, and writers.  Lots of info packed into three days.

What's great about WriteOnCon is that if you missed it, you can go back and revisit the forums, chat transcripts, and articles. Being that this was a free event run by volunteers, I offered a lil' donation as a way to say "thank you" to all the parties involved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rejected Authors in Kidlit

Last week, I wrote about an author for adult lit who received sixty rejections before she got published. I thought it'd only be fair to discuss some kidlit authors who received their share of NO NO and NO before they went on to get published and lead very successful writing careers. Keep in mind ALL writers experience rejection and here are just a few of them:

Judy Blume received rejections for two straight years.

Madeline L’Engle's Newbery Award-winning A WRINKLE IN TIME was passed over for two years before it was published.

J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE was turned down many many times before it was published.

Beatrix Potter self-published THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT after receiving some rejections. The book did so well that a publisher eventually took on publishing the Peter Rabbit books.

Stephen King's first novel CARRIE was rejected many times. One publisher wrote to him, "We are not interested in science fiction with negative utopias. They do not sell." (Okay, so Stephen King isn't really a kidlit author but I often see CARRIE in the YA section of the library.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fess Up Friday: I Like Feel Good Stories Too

Yesterday, I read an article on Yahoo's Shine section about Kathryn Stockett, an author who wrote THE HELP, currently on my to-read list. While I read books written for adults too, I don't usually mention them here because this is a kidlit blog. However, Stockett's story would inspire writers for all age groups and genres.

Stockett received 60 rejections before she was published. With her 40th rejection, she received the note, "There is no market for this kind of tiring writing." And she cried.  

But this determined writer kept plowing on and continued  putting herself out there. With five years of writing and three and a half years of receiving rejections under her belt, Stockett hit it big with number 61. An agent signed her on and sold her book right away, and now THE HELP is playing in a theater near you. Woot-woot!
Stockett's story inspires me, motivates me, and helps me see that one rejection, or 60 rejections, is not an end-all to anyone's writing career. As an unpublished author, the light at the end of the tunnel is not on the GPS. A story like this reassures me someone out there has gone through the same tunnel and made it out okay, or in Stockett's case, more than okay. 

While I'm into a lot of stuff that's dark and edgy, I also have a soft spot for feel good stories. Especially if they're real stories about authors who struggled and struggled and then got published.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Revision is Like Nailing a Song on the Piano

Piano Player by Michael & Inessa Garmash

"Early drafts and wrong choices in a story are like the manure spread on the field so that the right choices can later flower." ---Margaret Bechard, YA novelist

Recently, I finished the first draft for my YA novel. I've been busy revising my manuscript. To revise effectively, I need to remove my affection for my writing and try to re-examine it from the perspective of someone else, be it an agent, editor, or critical reader. I toss out the parts that serve me but not the story.  I review my story's character development, plot, voice, dialogue, and setting, and then I inject more details where it's needed. Sometimes I comb through the manuscript a few times to make sure these details are consistent with each other. I reflect on aspects of the story  that are less credible or too predictable and fix them. I cut, add, and cut and add some more. I review notes and handouts from classes and conference workshops for guidance and inspiration.  

Then I repeat the above steps. It's like shampooing half a can of hair spray off after a school formal- rinse and repeat, and rinse and repeat some more.

Revising a novel takes A LOT of work. But it needs to be done. Whenever I think,  "Oh bother, here we go again" with my revising, I remind myself that few things worthwhile to attain are ever 100% perfect the very first time you try to pull it off. Revising my writing is like learning a new piano song. I've played the piano for many years although I'm not a sight reader.  So I get good at a song through the boring, obvious way- by playing it and replaying it some more.  My most favorite songs to perform are the ones I've practiced and practiced and practiced for quite a stretch of time before the piece reached performance-level quality. The audible quality between the first time I attempt to play a difficult piano song and the time I perform it for real should be as distinguishable as the screeching blender versus the nature sounds played through my spa massage. 

Same thing for writing my novel. After sending out my manuscript to critique buddies and reflecting on their feedback, I plan to revise yet some more. (Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.) While my first draft was meh, I'd like my final draft to come with invisible glue so the reader can't put it down.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Author Interview with Jennifer Holm

Jennifer Holm, or Jenni Holm, has really spread her wings in kidlit. She has written many books for the middle grade audience including three Newbery Honor books- OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA (Harper Trophy), TURTLE IN PARADISE (Random House), and PENNY FROM HEAVEN (Random House). She is also the co-creator of the BABYMOUSE (Random House) graphic novel series. 

Holm was born in California and raised in Pennsylvania. Having studied at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Holm calls herself "the happy product of a classic liberal arts education." She studied International Relations and believes everyone should learn a little bit more about diplomacy. After graduating from college, she produced commercials and music videos for clients like MTV and Nickelodeon before she became an author.

How awesome is it that you received a Newbery Honor for your first book, OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. I see May Amelia as this untamed tomboy with an untapped maternal side, which she reveals after her sibling is born. How were you able to cultivate her character and voice?
Have I mentioned I'm one of five children? And the other four are boys? I guess you could say I longed for a little sister when I was growing up.

Being that OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA was inspired by the story of your great-aunt, what would you talk to your great-aunt about if you could have a conversation with her today?
I think I would probably ask: "Outhouses? No toilet paper? How did you do it?"

How did your experience as a former producer of commercials and music videos help you in your writing?
It has really helped, especially with BABYMOUSE. My brother Matt, the co-creator of BABYMOUSE, and I actually use a storyboard to write and lay out BABYMOUSE. Filmmakers use storyboards to lay out scenes shot by shot.

In your BABYMOUSE graphic novels, you capture a lot of the angst a young girl goes through while making her predicaments funny at the same time. What is your strategy for crafting humor?
I try and tap into my elementary school self and remember every humiliating and frustrating thing that ever happened. Trust me-I have plenty of material!

Because your brother, Matthew Holm, illustrates BABYMOUSE, do you have an influence over how the illustrations go?
I'm the older sister—I always get my way! (Just kidding.) I lay out the spreads (how the cells are arranged on the page), but when it comes to the actual illustrations, I pretty much leave him alone because … I can't draw.

What were your favorite books/authors to read while you were growing up?
My favorite novel was THE BLACK CAULDRON by Lloyd Alexander, and my favorite cartoon strip was PRINCE VALIANT by Hal Foster.

Are there any current projects or upcoming book releases you'd like to mention?
I have a new novel out right now called THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA. It's the sequel to OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. Ten years in the making! And we have a new installment of BABYMOUSE hitting the shelves this fall—A VERY BABYMOUSE CHRISTMAS.

Thank you for thinking of me.

You’re welcome, Jenni!