Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Coming in April: Blogging A to Z Challenge

I just signed up to participate in the Blogging from A to Z challenge, a month-long blogging event hosted by Arlee Bird from Tossing it Out and some other lovely people on the writers blogosphere. So in April, I'm going to be blogging almost every day. On April 1st, I will post about something that starts with the letter A. On April 2nd, I will post about something that starts with the letter B, and so forth. Other participants will be doing what I'm doing, and we'd get to check out each other's blogs during this time. The purpose of this challenge is for writers to stretch their blogger muscles and get to know one another. I've never participated in such a challenge before, but this sounds like it could be fun.  In fact, I've already started working on some posts to be published for this particular event. For more information, click here.  On a recent blog post, Arlee mentioned he and his team are hoping to have 1,000 bloggers registered by March 1st (though the deadline to register isn't tomorrow). So I'm hoping we can make this happen. 

If you've participated in Blogging A to Z before, feel free to let a newbie like me know what to expect.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I've Been Tagged

Recently, I've been tagged by Sher A. Hart, a fellow campaigner from Rachael Harrie's Platform Building Campaign. She answered 22 questions from 2 separate tags in the original post and said we could mix and match to answer just 11 of her questions if we wish. So here it goes:

1. How old were you when you started writing? I've been writing for as long as I could remember, but I didn't make an honest effort to pursue a career as an author until recently.

2. If you could talk to a dead person about writing, who would that be? Just one person? That's tough. Alright, Edith Wharton.

3. If you were the main character of a book, what genre would it be? I'd love to be an action hero in a comic book series or a graphic novel.
 
4. What genre do you write in? I've written in mystery/suspense, fantasy, magical realism, and contemporary fiction.
 
5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why? I want to add a few more hours to the 24-hour day. There never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want to do.
 
6. What do you like to read? I read whatever interests me. 

7. What is something unusual that you've done? I don't know if I would call this unusual, but awhile back, I performed in a local stage production of The Vagina Monologues for V-Day.
 
8. How do you get names for your characters? I run them through my head for awhile and see if it fits the character's behavior and personality. Sometimes at the very end of writing a story, I'd go back and change a character's name just because the original name never quite gelled with me.

9. What one thing in the grocery store do you always want to buy? I like fresh fruit.

10. Besides reading and writing, name two other hobbies you have.  I enjoy trying out new recipes. I also like looking at art.

11. Where in the world would you like to go? There are so many places I'd like to travel to, so much I want to do. Here are just a few things: go dancing in Barcelona with a flower in my hair, climb the Great Wall of China, be mesmerized by the ancient pyramids in Egypt, all while getting to know the locals, doing non-touristy stuff, and munching on yummy international food. (I don't get why anyone would travel to the other side of the globe just to ask for the nearest McDonald's.)

Here are the writers I'm tagging so they can answer some or all of the above questions. So ladies, TAG, you're it!  I'm tagging you because I want to learn more about you!

Amber at amberafterglow
Cortney Pearson at Writer by Day, Mommy Always

Friday, February 24, 2012

CONTEST: Daisy Carter's Favorite-ish Friday Giveaway

Daisy Carter, a YA author I met recently through Rachael Harrie's Campaigner Challenge is hosting a Friday Giveaway, and I'm going to enter. The book prizes are:
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
LOVE STORY by Jennifer Echols
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson
THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

For more details, check out Daisy's blog post while chuckling over some Big Bang Theory-themed humor.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rachael Harrie's First Campaigner Challenge (for the Fourth Campaign)

Here are the instructions for Rachael Harrie's first campaigner challenge copied and pasted straight from her blog:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “Shadows crept across the wall”. These five words will be included in the word count. 
If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), do one or more of these:
·         end the story with the words: "everything faded." (also included in the word count)
·         include the word "orange" in the story
·         write in the same genre you normally write
·         make your story 200 words exactly!

So I began and ended SPITFIRE with the language provided, my story is exactly 200 words, and I worked “orange” in there somewhere. I haven’t nailed the genre that I “normally” write in yet. For the time being, I have been working on projects focusing on magical realism and fantasy, and this story reflects that.
_______________________________________________________________________________

 SPITFIRE

 Shadows crept across the wall inside the bank as the men grabbed the money lying 
 out. Something hot tingled inside Elle’s chest as she knelt with her co-workers, their 
 hands and feet bound.

 “Take us to the vault.” Goatee cut Elle’s rope and yanked her from the ground.

 With the barrel of Neck Tattoo’s gun poking her back and the stench of Goatee’s  
 alcohol and cigarette breath stinging her nose, Elle led the two men downstairs and 
 unlocked the vault.

 “Get on the floor, bitch,” Neck Tattoo ordered.

 “Better watch your mouth,” Elle spat back.

 Neck Tattoo lifted his gun. “Let’s see who’s in charge.”

 Summoning the strength in her lungs, Elle hacked a cannon ball of orange fire straight 
 into Neck Tattoo’s chest. As his dying, gurgling screams filled the sound-proofed room,   
 Elle swiftly picked up the gun he dropped and shot Goatee in the temple.

 There would be no witnesses.

  After willing the flames to snuff out, Elle took a lighter and flask from Goatee’s coat and 
 dropped them next to the dead men.  Her story would be simple- one man got greedy.

 Before returning upstairs, Elle remembered to wipe her prints from the gun until
 everything faded. 
_______________________________________________________________________

 You can read the rest of the entries by clicking here. Feel free to "like" my story on  
 Rachael's Linky List- I am #124.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rachael Harrie's Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Writer and blogger Rachael Harrie was one of the organizers of Write Hope, an online auction benefiting the relief efforts of Japan's tsunami last year. Right now Rachel is hosting the Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. This campaign brings together writers who blog so we can get to know each other through staying in touch and the upcoming Campaigner Challenges. Campaigners can also help each other build their online platforms by supporting one another. I'm excited about trying this out.  Seems like the Campaigner Challenges will include a lot of online activity, including Twittering. I actually haven't been tweeting much since I opened my Twitter account a few months ago, so maybe these challenges will get me to be more active there.

And of course, I look forward to meeting more writers. It's always cool to see who else is out there, and what they're doing.  So for any of you writers and bloggers who are participating in the  Writers Platform-Building Campaign, feel free to drop me a line and tell me about who you are and what you're doing! 

For those of you who want to join the current List of Campaigners, the deadline to do so is tonight! I would have posted about this sooner, but I had JUST found out about this awesome opportunity. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Author Getting a Negative Review

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but lately, I've been noticing some posts in the kidlit blogopshere discussing negative book reviews. I have a lot of thoughts on the world of book reviews, from those who write them to those who read them to the glowingly positive reviews to the hypercritical negative reviews  to the authors' morale on the receiving end of all this. For today's post, I'm going to focus my thoughts on    negative book reviews of the creepier variety. I think we've all seen them- they usually run along the thread of After finishing this sorry excuse for a  novel, I wanted to put the book in a paper shredder. The author is going to hell because he writes about teens having sex. Anyone who likes this junk needs to get a life.

I've sat in on enough workshops and lectures hosted by published authors to know that a negative book review can torment even the most talented of writers. After all, they probably had to sweat it out through endless butt-in-chair late night writing sessions, endure revision after revision, receive a number of rejections from agents and editors, endure more revisions, have a meltdown here and there, all before  ever holding the advanced review copy of their book in their hand. Then, after all this, for someone to brush off their hard work in a blog or on Amazon with the swiping of the keyboard...that must hurt. 

For any author whose cheeks are burning from a mean and nasty  book review, I have some comforting words to share:

Nasty book reviews reflect on the reviewer, not the book. I usually glance at reviews only after finishing a book. On the random occasions when I read reviews before starting a book, I find that positive and negative reviews don't influence me much. When I come across a review  written in a particularly abrasive voice, the reviewer might strike me as  jealous or insecure, and therefore not someone whose opinion I could trust. 

Negative book reviews can still help sell books. Sometime last year, I read a few news stories spotlighting a self-published author's negative book reviews on Amazon. This author wrote an adult book about a fictional town based on  observations of her own town. The book would not have achieved the notoriety that it did had the residents of the author's town not gone online to blast the author and her writing. I'm not usually aware of what's going on in self-publishing, but after skimming this book's online reviews, especially the negative ones, I actually found myself curious to see what the fuss was all about.

Even well-liked books get negative reviews. I've noticed a book that is sitting on a bestseller list or having a movie made from it or  is the  recipient of a big award sometimes gathers quite a number of negative reviews alongside its positive reviews. A book getting big-time exposure will attract more fans and inevitably, critics. Some people eager to show how they're sooo not a bandwagon jumper may write biting one-star reviews of a popular book as a testament to their "individuality."



A negative response to a book is still a response. Many fiction writers liken themselves to artists, with their book as their art. So imagine that you hung a painting you  had labored over for years at a museum. Two groups visit the museum. The members of the first group glance briefly at your painting and without a second glance, they move on to the next piece. The members of the second group gasp at your painting, then stick around to point out its perceived flaws, and then they stomp their feet bemoaning how your work is exhibited in a museum instead of theirs. Do you prefer your readers to address your art with bored apathy or passionate criticism? Even if someone didn't like your book, the fact they invested time to write about it shows  your writing still affected them in some way.

To the author still bothered by nasty or negative reviews of your book, I leave you with a bunch of book covers pasted to this post of some very well-written books, many of  which are classics. Each book here currently has over 1,000 one-star ratings on Goodreads. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Author Interview with Michelle Meadows

The first book written by Michelle Meadows that I read to my daughter was PIGGIES IN THE KITCHEN (Simon & Schuster). My daughter and I enjoyed the rhyming story of these young pigs baking up a storm in the kitchen for their mother, and my daughter especially liked finishing up the rhyme for me at the end of each page. My daughter and I also liked PILOT PUPS (Simon & Schuster), another book written by Michelle Meadows, which is a story about toy puppies exploring their house by piloting a toy plane. Recently, I contacted Michelle for an interview.

Born and raised in Washington D.C., Michelle resides in Maryland today. She attended Syracuse University where she earned a B.A. in magazine journalism.
 


How did you decide you wanted to be a children's book author?
I remember being very young and thinking about writing books. But I really got into it seriously after I had my son. I loved reading to him all the time and sold my first book when he was around 2.
 
I enjoy the rhyming in your books. How did you develop your rhyming and poetry skills? Is there a specific meter you use when you write?
I love rhyming! I really enjoy reading poetry and find it very relaxing. I was in a poetry club when I was younger. I can't say that there is a specific meter that I use; I tend to go with the rhythm that pops into my head.

What are the benefits of using animals as your main characters?
I tend to use animals as main characters because they are cute. And I think it's funny to imagine animals doing things that people do. I find that kids think so too. So the benefits include encouraging kids to stretch their imaginations and imagine things like animals in pajamas or toy pups riding motorcycles.

What advice do you have for aspiring picture book authors?
I strongly believe that authors should write what they love to read. For example, if an author doesn't really enjoy reading poetry, it may not be the best fit to write poetry.

Who were your favorite authors growing up? What are/were your favorite rhyming books? 
My favorite authors were Judy Blume and Shel Silverstein. I have a zillion favorite rhyming books! I especially love the work of Judy Sierra and Eileen Spinelli. Eileen Spinelli's HERE COMES THE YEAR has the most lovely language and I enjoy reading it
again and again. And I love Judy Sierra's WILD ABOUT BOOKS.   

Any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I am very excited about my next picture book—ITSY BITSY BABY MOUSE. ITSY BITSY BABY MOUSE (Simon & Schuster) is a rhyming story about the drama a little mouse experiences when he gets lost in a big house. I have an awful sense of direction so there is a lot of me in this mouse. And just like the mouse, I have gotten lost and had moments of panic. This book will be released on March 6 and I hope kids like it. 


Thanks for doing the interview. 

You're very welcome!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where to Get Feedback for Your Writing

Once upon a time, when I was a very new writer,  I was not too picky about who read my work-in-progress. I wanted feedback for my writing but was intimidated by the idea of joining a writers group. So I'd just ask random people who were mildly interested in what I was doing to read my stuff. Needless to say, their feedback, if they ever got  back to me, wasn't very helpful. 

Flash forward to present time. For my current YA novel, I worked with some wonderful people who read either my whole WIP or a few chapters of it. Their feedback helped me a lot in my multiple revisions. I am so very grateful for these people who took the time to read my work and give me an honest and constructive critique with the intention to help me be a better writer.  

The person who reads your WIP should be someone you trust, someone whose opinions you respect. It would help if your critique provider actually likes to read, is a writer, and/or is someone knowledgeable about the industry. While you can certainly share your work with your children, their feedback alone would probably not be enough to steer you towards an effective revision. 

For those of you who are working on a book and want feedback, but don't know where to look, let me offer some tips on what has (and hasn't) worked for me:

Enroll in a fiction writing class or workshop.  Many fiction writing classes and workshops are structured such that members can take turns critiquing each other's work.  My take on receiving critiques in group settings is that you don't have to utilize each and every piece of feedback you get- it is up to you to distinguish between useful feedback and feedback that came with good intentions but not something you necessarily need to adhere to. Someone super cool I'd stayed in touch with after a writers workshop later critiqued my WIP.

Attend a writers conference. I've also stayed in touch with some awesome people I've met at conferences who have offered to look at my stuff and/or have asked me to look at their stuff. At conferences, I've also rubbed elbows with industry professionals- published authors, illustrators, agents, and editors. Sometimes I am able to sign up for one-on-one sessions where an industry professional critiques a chapter or a few chapters I've written. It's nice to get feedback from more than one industry professional to see where opinions of my work are similar and different. For example, at the Book Passage Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference last year, I was able to meet separately with two faculty members to discuss one WIP.

Seek out industry professionals offering critiques. If you can't attend conferences, there are still opportunities to find industry professionals offering critiques. Sometimes  authors, agents, and editors offer critiques in online auctions. I have found out about such auctions simply by visiting other kidlit blogs or going on Twitter. An online auction that has offered critiques from industry professionals is Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes.

Go online. With anyone you meet online, you should proceed with caution before you decide how far to take a connection, if there is one. That said, there are sites out there where writers can post on forums to search for a critique partner. Two sites that come to mind are  SCBWI and WriteOnCon. I do not recommend that you immediately forward a 50,000 word manuscript to any person you initially connect with. I do recommend exchanging  first chapters. Decide if the nature of the feedback you receive for the first chapter is what you're looking for, and give the other person a chance to decide the same thing about your feedback. Check out this person's blog and Twitter posts to get a better feel for their personality, and see if it meshes with what you are looking for in a critique partner. My disclaimer: Though I have done a chapter exchange or two, I have not yet offered anyone I met in an online forum a critique partner relationship.

Make friends with other writers. Find out about local events in your area- SCBWI seminars, author visits at the library, and events at the bookstore are just some places where you might meet some writers. 

I feel very fortunate that one of my critique buddies who recently gave feedback on my WIP also happens to be a friend and a published author too. A few years ago, after a friend of a family friend introduced us, we met for lunch to get acquainted, and years later, she and I still maintain a correspondence. 

Feel free to share how you met the people who critique your work.