December 31, 2009

Highlights 2010 Fiction Contest

Do you have a terrific story from your childhood lurking in your head? Well, this is your chance to be published in Highlights Magazine and win $1,000! Highlights is offering three $1,000 prizes (or a scholarship to their fabulous workshops) to the top winners in this contest. Submissions must be true stories from your family, maximum 750 words and postmarked between Jan.1-Jan.31, 2010. Need a writing resolution for 2010? Here it is! Check out details on the Highlights web page. Good luck to all!

December 27, 2009


The annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in NYC will take place at the end of January. Only two more weeks for early registration. This meeting is chock-full of editors, agents and established children's authors. This is your chance to have your manuscript critiqued, rub elbows with the "go to" folks in the industry and get inspired! Check out the SCBWI website for registration information and the terrific faculty.

December 26, 2009

Everybody is a winner!

Lots of excitement in the schools, with the raffle for a gift certificate to Trappe Book Center. Eligible students must visit my website and complete a Q & A. On the day of the author visit, the fun begins! Students already know a lot about my writing and hands are in the air, eager to answer questions. School visits are a blast!

December 16, 2009

A Mamistad Winner!

Mamistad moms Priscilla and Tricia are the winners of the Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift contest! Thanks to all the mamis who entered the contest and joined in with lovely comments. Special thanks to Cynthia for coordinating the grand event! If you are interested in buying a book, it's available at, and many independent book stores. May you all have a wonderful Christmas with your little ones, and may 2010 be filled with blessings for all!

December 12, 2009

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, MAMISTAD!

Such fun! The replies from the Mamis are flying in and everyone is trying to guess the magic number to win a signed copy of Tonight You Are My Baby. Will you be the lucky one? Scroll below this post and click "comments". Leave a note and your guess. Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift is the perfect gift to give yourself. Snuggle with your little one and read of the oldest love story - a mother and her baby.

December 11, 2009

School Visits Galore!

Wow! This has been a month of fun school visits. I'm meeting new friends at schools every day until December 22nd. Each school has been organized, welcoming and gracious. The kids are full of fantastic questions. Talk about high-tech and well-read! The fun doesn't end there - each school has generously presented me with a donation to our foundation, At Least Kids. This is a shining example of kids helping kids - in the spirit of the season. Fantastic!

Mamistad "Mother and Friend"

Another great giveaway! MAMISTAD is a fantastic group designed to bring first-time pregnant women together to share the struggles, joys and beauty of motherhood. In Spanish, Mami means "mommy" and Amistand means "friendship". This support network places moms together in a circle of friends to share their journey of motherhood together. MAMISTAD is offering a chance to win a signed copy of Tonight You Are My Baby. The perfect book for this wonderful group of women! You must be a member of MAMISTAD, leave a comment on my blog, and guess the secret number. The two closest guesses will win. One will be a signed copy of the book. Good luck to all!

December 1, 2009

Interview and Book Give Away

Check out Clara Gillow Clark's fantastic blog - and it's not just fantastic because she interviewed me for the December 1st entry. Clara has great guests and terrific information. She writes historical fiction for kids ages 10 and up. I'm in awe of anyone who can write historical fiction. I think it's fascinating, but the research alone is monumental. Clara and I became friendly through Twitter. Just goes to show that social networking can certainly be valuable, and also introduce you to new friends. If you leave a comment on the blog, you are eligible in a raffle for a signed copy of Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift.

November 24, 2009

Perfect Holiday Gift For Writers!

If you are an aspiring author or already a published author, add this fabulous item to your wish list. Bill Quain, Ph.D, is the author of 17 books. He has sold 2.3 million copies in 20 languages - now, that's success! In addition to being a best-selling author, Dr. Quain is obviously a terrific marketer. He is also in the business of creating marketing programs for authors who want to sell more books. And he can help those that would like to publish a book. We all know in today's world, successful authors must be successful marketers. Gone are the days writers could hide in the attic, alone with their thoughts. Just reading this blog, demonstrates the importance of marketing, web presence and name recognition. Check out the creative packages that Dr. Quain is offering for the holidays. Print and leave the list where your secret Santa will find it! Or treat yourself ! With all the books Dr. Quain will help you sell, you can treat your loved ones to something special too!

November 20, 2009

What Is Your Voice?

The awesome Tara Lazar continues to inspire us with her blog, Writing For Children While Raising Them. As this is National Picture Book Idea Month (affectionately called NaPiBoIdMo), Tara's blog is chock-full of great information from guest bloggers. (see below). Recent posts include inspiration through volunteer work, whistle while you write and the idea catcher. To up the ante, Tara has also arranged for three agents to critique the winners in the grand prize raffle. Wow! Check out the fantastic agents on her blog. And while you are there, check out my stint as guest blogger with my title, "Do You Hear Voices?". Happy writing!

November 9, 2009


Hear ye! Hear ye! Picture book writers! November is Picture Book Idea Month on Tara Lazar's blog, and she has a fantastic line-up of picture book authors who are sharing their secrets. Guest bloggers include Karma Wilson (Bear Snores On), Tammy Sauer (Cowboy Camp, Chicken Dance), and a host of others. Tips include: how to find ideas, where is the voice, and other tasty tidbits that will keep you inspired. I'm guest blogging on November 19th, so be sure to tune in. Happy writing to all!

November 5, 2009

Katharine Paterson, Author

"I like to write about people whom the world neglects or forgets. I've known so many brave people that most of the world would count as nothing. I love to give them their due." - Katherine Paterson, author

Wow! Talk about inspiration! From The Institute of Children's Literature, a fantastic interview with Katharine Paterson. Katherine won the Newbery Medal for two of her books: Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved. She also won an Honor Book Newbery Medal for The Great Gilly Hopkins.

The entire interview is delightful, as it seems Ms. Paterson is herself. But to have the noble goal of writing about people that would otherwise be forgotten, is outstanding. Ms. Paterson draws upon her experience of her son's childhood friend in Bridge to Terabithia, and her time as a foster parent in The Great Gilly Hopkins. She gives hope to the struggling writer, as she wrote while she was raising four children under the age of five!

As with many writers, her children gave her the inspiration to write. Asked about her busy years as a young mother struggling to find free time she notes, "But I've always maintained that the people who took away my time were the same ones who gave me something to say. If I had to chose between those four and my books. There would be no contest. The children would win hands down."

Bravo to Katharine Paterson. Check out the interview - it will make your day!

October 27, 2009

Care to Query?

Mary Kole, Associate Editor at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has a fantastic post on Overthinking the Query. Mary explains that the query is to tell her about your idea and make her care. This isn't the time for fancy marketing or gimmicks. In another post, she outlines the bare bones of the query. If the query seems too complicated - it is. Check out Mary's blog for her query contest. She'll post the best query and what makes it work. Deadline is October 31st. Care to query?

October 22, 2009

Wrtie a Novel in a Month?

This November is the tenth anniversary of National Novel Writing Month. Affectionately called "NaNoWriMo", writers in every genre hope to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Have a great idea, but can't seem to find the time? A few scribbled notes stuck in your desk drawer? This is your inspiration!

"Thirty days and nights of literary abandon " is the quote on the official NaNoWriMo website. Join your peers as you write furiously into the night. Need just a tad more inspiration? Ann Gonzalez wrote her debut novel, Running for My Life, during Nanowrimo 2007.

Ready, set, go!

October 16, 2009

Highlights Magazine - Current Needs

Highlights Magazine for Children just released its list of current needs. This magazine is a great publishing credit for writers. Highlights has a current circulation of over 2 million , which places it as the largest paid subcription, general interest magazine for children. That means a lot of folks will read your article! Interested in writing a non-fiction piece for Highlights? Be prepared for lots of homework. The editors demand high-quality pieces, and this requires expert reviews of your article, quotes, a thorough bibliography (not internet sources). And you may likely be asked for revisions. I had one article acquired by Highlights, and another currently under revision. It's not an easy process, but the result? A better article with a tight focus and an interesting twist for kids. Highlights pays well, upon acquistion of the manuscript. A bonus -other publications may have permission from Highlights to use the article, and the author receives additional royalties. Check out the Highlights list of current needs and good luck!

October 7, 2009

Query Letters - are you telling too much?

Ah, the query letter. How tempted we are to jam the entire book into a query letter. How can we possibly resist? YOU MUST RESIST! The query letter is meant to give the editor/agent a brief overview of your book and what makes it different than the hundreds of others they have seen with the same plot. Consider it your one-minute elevator pitch. If you are telling too much in the query, you have not practiced your pitch. Impress the editor/agent with your brevity and ability to write succinctly. If you query letter just won't stop telling, they will assume that your manuscript just won't stop telling either. Check out this article from Query Shark for a great example.

September 30, 2009

Authorless Book Tours?

An interesting article recently appeared in Business Week titled, Kid-Friendly Book Tours (Author Not Included). The article cites that some publishers are still doing the tours, promoting the books, but leaving the authors at home. The tours focus on the characters in the book, with the thought that they attract children more than the author. Random House launched the authorless tour six years ago. Barbara Park's wildly successful Junie B. Jones series was promoted in the Stupid Smelly Bus Tour.(an actress posing as Junie B.) This summer, Amulet Books took an ice cream truck to 31 city libraries. The publicity was for Jeff Kinney's latest book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Publishers note that the bus tours cost more than author readings, but sales are better. Increased book sales + more time to stay home and write? Sounds like an interesting proposition.....

September 21, 2009

Where do all the used books go?

If you are reading an author's blog, chances are you are a bibliophile. You buy books, lots of them, and collect them. Many of us have jammed bookshelves that can't possibly fit one more book. Some books are like old friends, you simply can't bear to part with them. But with other books, you might be willing to help find a good home. Where to donate? Well, your local library may be happy to accept, and sell the books for a few dollars. Definitely a bargain for the next reader - particularly if it's a hardback, and you are supporting a local resource. If the library doesn't accept donations, not to fret, there are plenty of other opportunities for books in good condition: brings books to needy schools and libraries across the US pays shipping costs to developing countries send books to American troops overseas

So, feel free to read on, my friends. Just remember to pass along!

September 15, 2009

Who Needs a Running Buddy? You Do!

Need to clear your head after a long day of writing? The Rx for me is often a long run. The fresh air, exercise and change of scenery often inspire me and get the creative juices flowing. Most of my writer/runner friends are nervous about hitting the trails without a partner. For many, the buddy system makes us accountable and feels safer. If you have a big dog like mine (a former pound hound), a running buddy is ready to go at a moment's notice. But for those runners who long for a furry bodyguard, the answer is as close as your local animal shelter.

In the October issue of Runner's World magazine, a terrific piece titled "Pace A Pooch" highlights SPCA and human societies with running programs. Runners have a buddy, and the workouts help the dogs find a new home. Overweight dogs lose lbs. and increased exercise often means less behavioral problems. Runners can pick up a dog for each mile, or train one friend to go the distance. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Programs currently exist in Seattle, Washington D.C. and Tulsa or contact your local animal shelter (enter zip code at

September 12, 2009

Not in love anymore?

Via Twitter, I recently came across a very funny article titled, "You Aren't The Book I Married Anymore" by Courtney Summers. The article makes the analogy that the relationship with your manuscript is like a marriage.

Oh, those glorious first weeks/months. The giddiness of new ideas, fresh pages, the "I can't get you out of my mind" feeling. The endless possibilities. Aren't we all thrilled with our new manuscripts? You can't wait to make the introductions. Everybody will love him...I mean "it", the book. You want to spend all your time together.

But, alas, like all relationships this one needs work to remain healthy. Very slowly, you begin to notice flaws. Things with the manuscript all not all good. Sure, you can deny it for a while, but what about those characters that need more development? The dialogue is not quite its best. Really, what makes this book different from the others? You beg the manuscript to cooperate. Change for the sake of your relationship. The honeymoon is over. This relationship needs work.

Now comes the hard part. Revising, commitment, editing. The willingness to admit that some parts aren't working, but you are open to change. For the sake of the relationship. You two can get through this together - and walk the I am published bookstore aisles in wedded bliss.

September 10, 2009

Back to School? Good idea(s) !

For many of us, "back to school" means more writing time. Summer nourishes our soul, and allows a break from demanding schedules. Everything is more relaxed - and our writing often languishes also. But back to school means fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils and new ideas. This time of year is full of ideas for a manuscript. Publishers are always on the lookout for new back- to -school books. Observe your kids, listen to their conversations. What concerns/fears/excitement can you hear? Chances are, your kids are not the only ones talking about these issues. New kid in the school? Scary teacher? Lunchroom food fight? Someone change over the summer? Funny bus driver? New principal? Electing class president? Don't have school age children yourself? Remember how you felt as a child. The butterflies in the stomach and the anticipation. If you need more ideas, borrow a friend who has young children. Treat her to a cup of coffee at the local coffeehouse. Now she has more time too!

August 30, 2009

If your critique group always tells you the manuscript is perfect - RUN!

I often write about the importance of critique groups, and the valuable effect on one's writing. A SCBWI New Jersey group put their writerly heads together and blogged their Top 10 Tips For A Great Critique Group. The list included tips such as

Go positive before going negative - choose several good aspects of the manuscripts before showcasing the negatives. For example, great concept, distinct voice, puts the reader in the scene. No one likes to first hear a laundry list of what is wrong with the manuscript.

Show respect for other's work - realize that the heart/soul of a writer goes into their manuscript. It can be intimidating to release one's work into the hands of others. As we are all writers in a crit group, each person can empathize.

If your crit group is always telling you the manuscript is perfect - RUN! - This is my favorite tip. Even if you are J.K. Rowlings, there is always room for improvement in a first draft. As the writer, we become so wrapped in our own work that we often fail to see the big picture. This is especially true for rhyming picture books. We make the meter work for us. It's only when we give it to others that we see it in a new light. Realize that this is your first draft and when you develop a thick skin, you will thank your group. As I always tell my group, "I would much rather hear it from you than an editor."

To the Top Ten List, I would like to add A Sense of Humor. We have a lot of laughs in our group, and it makes us all look forward to meeting. Writing is a solitary pursuit, and full of rejection, but that doesn't mean we have to lose our humor. Our group laughs about our first drafts, making meter rhyme and the absurdity of picture books. We laugh at our ourselves, and the difficult pursuit we have chosen. A good laugh cements the bond between you all and eases the sting of how much work lies ahead.

I'm frequently asked how one writes a publishable picture book. My answer, always, is join a critique group. If you belong already, hooray! Take the top 10 list to your next meeting. If you don't belong, join or start a group. And make this Top Ten List - first on your list.

August 11, 2009

SCBWI LA Conference: Yes, You Can Attend!

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has two fabulous conferences each year. Winter finds SCBWI in NYC and summer finds SCBWI in LA. The meetings are chock-full of agents/editors/authors and INSPIRATION! Wish you were there? Well, so do I, but we can feel the excitement and gather valuable information through the SCBWI Team Blog. Don't miss the chance to visit the blog and the fantastic team that attended various sessions. You'll feel as if you are sitting right in the front row. Thanks to all!

Back from Vacation

Returning to blogging after two weeks of R & R, but mostly fun times with family. Stay tuned for a post about the SCBWI LA conference, with lots of valuable info.

July 24, 2009

Bedtime, Kittens and Grandparents - Oh My! Picture Book Topics to Avoid.

Author Darcy Pattison has a great article on "Picture Book Topics to Avoid". Dial editor, Liz Waniewski spoke on this topic at an SCBWI Arkansas conference in 2007. Darcy asked Liz to update the list for 2009. Lucky for all of us - she did. Liz W. states that these topics aren't necessarily bad topics. It's simply that your writing must rise above the competition to be noticed - and ultimately acquired. Be aware that other children's book editors are probably seeing the same topics in their slush pile. Hoping to get noticed? Avoid these topics and write about something unusual. On a personal note, I'm delighted to see that Christmas stories and barnyard tales have dropped from the list. Good news for me, as Tonight You Are My Baby is a Christmas book and currently under editorial consideration is a barnyard tale! What to do if, like me, your topic is also on the popular topics list? Give it a twist, end with the unexpected, surprise the reader, give it a new voice. Put your creative hat on!

July 13, 2009

If the shoe fits....finding the right critique group

A good critique group can be counted among a writer's top ten tools. For some writers, it may take a few tries to get just the right group. Others are fortunate to find a lifelong alliance with their comrades. Critique groups can be online or local. I have a wonderful online buddy who is professional, timely and excellent at identifying the weak spots in my manuscripts. She is honest about the readiness of the manuscript and challenges me when she feels I can write better. Our only face-to-face meeting was our first meeting. We hit it off and have been happily critiquing ever since. I also belong to a local critique group - we met through a SCBWI conference. The joy of a local group is the challenge of a deadline. We meet every six weeks and this demands revised/new material. We also enjoy the interaction of hearing the other comments, which often leads to additional brainstorming. Sprinkle in a lot of good laughs and you have a great critique group. The July/Aug. SCBWI Bulletin included a wonderful article written by Jolie Stekly and Sara W. Easterly comparing critique groups to dating. These authors included some valuable tips:

The SCBWI is a great way to meet other writers who may also be looking for a critique group. Ask at meetings, network or post on the SCBWI boards.

Community classes through the library and community colleges are also a networking opportunity.

Put the word out on Twitter.

Be proactive and dedicated. Finding the right group doesn't always happen immediately.

Be clear about your goals and commitment. Your group will having more staying power if you all have the same expectations. Some groups are more casual - meeting occasionally. Others like to have a firm date. Be honest about your time, experience and needs before joining.

The search can be difficult, but certainly worth the wait when you find a trusted group to share frustrations, have some laughs and challenge you to write better. The road to publication is a long one - we can always use more friends along the way.

July 6, 2009

kids + vacation = no writing (No Sweat)

Many members of the writing community worry when their writing world is turned upside down by summer activities. Kids are home from school, vacation homes with no wireless, visiting friends/relatives, and the temptation to spend all day outside (okay, this one is actually mine). What's a writer to do? Journal! Author Kristi Holl offers a number of great suggestions in her blog. Be sure to read Part I and II. Kristi suggests journaling your experiences, feelings and dreams during this time. We may lack the time to work on our manuscripts, but we can take a few moments to capture our feelings. It's cathartic, rejuventating and also gives us wonderful material when the crisp autumn air hits us again. What other helpful tips? I've used this summer to finally finish several articles. It's easier for me to focus on one, smaller piece than the overwhelming revision of an entire book manuscript. Research and have fun! Where are you visiting with your children? I'm writing an article about marsupial animals. Off to the zoo we went! Had a great time with the kids and some wonderful research. Does your manuscript involve a museum? A water park? The Liberty Bell? Fourth of July celebrations? Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the day. Another helpful tip is to use this summer to try your hand at different marketing techniques. Don't have a blog yet? Make that a summer goal. Give Twitter a try. Need a Powerpoint presentation for school visits? Have your kids help you. Last summer, my kids showed me the ins/outs of creative Powerpoints. With the school year full of homework, sports and packed schedules, it can be difficult to find the time. Summer is about relaxation and rejuvenation - both will be a huge boost to your writing. Set a few easy goals, journal and look at creative ways to improve your writing. Enjoy!

June 29, 2009

The Write Way to Run

Among my top ten favorite activities: running and writing. On Twitter, the worlds have collided. I was recently introduced to #momsrunning on Twitter - thank you TimeOutMom. The popular series of books, Chicken Soup for the Soul posted a call for submissions on Endurance Sports (running, biking, swimming). The submission deadline is September 30th, 2009. The guidelines ask how do you fit your sport into your life? Tell them about your races, your experiences - whether you are an amateur or a pro. No question, running makes me a better writer. Nothing like a trail run, on a beautiful fall day, through Valley Forge National Park to get the creative juices flowing again. On more than one occasion the dog and I have come home exhausted. But I am smiling - the writer's block is gone. How about you? Love to run? Love to write? Submit your story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. If your story is published, you can celebrate with a run.

June 26, 2009

Living a Life of Rhyme....

Rhyming picture books are more fun to read aloud - right? Talk to any teacher, librarian or parent and they will tell you the same. Kids also agree. But what about writing in rhyme? My critique group is under strict instructions to stop me if I attempt another rhyming manuscript. They have been given full permission to throw themselves in front of me screaming, "Don't do it, don't do it!" And yet, I've done it again - and they didn't stop me. (Hello ladies - you know who you are) No one loves their rhyming books more than me. However, I practically danced with joy when revising my prose manuscript. Change that scene? Sure, no problem! Delete an entire sentence? Okay, done! Why the angst about writing in verse? The popular notion (among people who have never actually published a children's book) is that rhyme is easy. It is - if you don't mind agonizing for hours (days? weeks?) over one word AND you already have an actual story behind the rhyme. A stand-alone story, complete with a story arc and conflict. Some sage advice from the blog of children's author Jane Yolen - "The trick of writing a picture book- so far as there is a trick- is to be a prose writer with a poet's sensibility. Or a poet who is comfortable with the story. " Wow, this is a wonderful summation of what editors/agents are telling us at workshops. Yes, reading in rhyme is fun. Yes, everyone thinks they can do it. Yes, you must have a true story behind the rhyme. Yes, rhyme is often forced. Yes, you may have a great story, but the editor can't see beyond the poor rhyme and meter. Your manscript may be terrific without the rhyme. Why not give that a try also? You may save yourself countless hours of unnecessary work. And when it's revision time? A heck of a lot easier. Think carefully before embarking on a life of rhyme.

June 23, 2009

Publishing execs on Twitter

Check out this excellent video:"Twitter Publishing at the 140 charactersconference". Publishing execs discuss Twitter, the value of social networking and how the publishing world is/will be affected. At a recent NJSCBWI conference, all the marketing buzz was about Twitter and blogs. I've jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, and learning my way around the network. It doesn't take long to understand the limitless marketing possibilities. I found this video on Geoffrey Fox's blog.

June 21, 2009

Just in time for Father's Day...

I know a lot of great dads out there (top of the list - my husband and my own dad) and I bet you do also. Chicken Soup for the Soul has a call for submissions. Book title "Thanks Dad." Give your favorite dad a well-deserved pat on the back and submit your story. Lovely way to be published. Just do it quickly - stories must be submitted by June 30th. Mine is already in....

June 18, 2009

Vampires, Princesses and Bullies....

You meander into the children's section of your local bookstore. You are surrounded by books about vampires, princesses, wizards and bullies. "Wow," you think to yourself. "These books are the hot sellers. This is what I should be writing." STOP! We have all heard it before, but the thought is difficult to resist when you are struggling with a historical fiction manuscript. At the NJSCBWI conference we heard it straight from the mouths of agents/editors: Do Not Follow A Trend! These books may be popular now, but this is an equation you need to remember: 1 (year to write) + 1 (year to find publisher/agent and contract) + 1 (at least one year if it's a PB to illustrate) = 3 1+1+1= 3 Three years is the approximate number of years before your picture book manuscript will appear on the bookshelves. Guess what? The trend is over. Gone. Completely overdone. Kaput. The answer: write what you love. You will be spending a lot of time with this manuscript. Your passion will shine through. Two good posts on this same subject: Nathan Bransford, agent, Curtis Brown and Tara Lazar, excellent review of agent panel at SCBWI conference.

June 13, 2009

SCBWI-NJ Conference - More Fabulous Writers

The NJ -S.C.B.W.I conference was chock-full of terrific debut authors. Below are some folks, and their books, that I had the pleasure of meeting:

Cynthia Willis wrote Dog Gone and will release shortly her new novel, Buck Fever. Cindy and I met through a mutual friend and became Facebook friends. She is a lovely person and if you like dogs, you'll love her book!

Albert Borris wrote Crash Into Me.
Albert faced enormous physical challenges this year and he is truly inspiring. Albert is a school counselor, working with teens.

Nancy Viau wrote Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head.
Nancy is a real marketing whiz and very popular for school visits.

Cyn Balog wrote Fairy Tale. She has two more books and a baby on the way.
Now that's busy!

June 10, 2009

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

Hooray for the coordinators of the NJSCBWI conference this past weekend! Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark did an amazing job. Approximately 250 attendees and 25 editors/agents. Author Richard Peck, Newbery winner and E.B. Lewis, Caldecott winner, were inspiring, magical and above all, simply nice people. I frantically scribbled, in an effort to catch some of their amazing quotes as they spoke. Below are some of my favorites. Hope they inspire all you writers as well:
"We are growing older while our readers remain the same age."
"All stories turn upon epiphany - when everything changes and you can't go back."
"Establish the narrator's voice on the first line. The first line captures the reader." example:
"Where is Papa going with that ax?" (Charlotte's Web)
"Knowledge that does not come through the heart is dangerous."
It takes 10,000 hours to perfect your craft.
"Artists should never be aware of their style. Dead in the water. Should be fun, not work."
"You gotta love the doing."
"Artists are the critical thinkers of society."
Stay tuned to my blog for more information about other fabulous people at the conference.

June 5, 2009

NJ SCBWI Conference

Off today to the NJ SCBWI conference in Princeton, NJ. If you aren't attending this year, be sure to note it on your calendar for 2010. The NJ coordinators are a fantastic group of folks who never fail to organize a fantastic conference. The two days are chock-full of workshops ranging from a debut author panel and their first book experiences to agent/editor discussions. I'll be a speaker on the First Book Panel along with three MG/YA authors: Cynthia Chapman-Willis (author of two books: Doggone and Buck Fever), Albert Borris and Cyn Balog. We hope to offer inspiration for attendees, as we recall our experience of how we finally landed a contract. Keynote speakers include Newbery Award winning authors, Richard Peck and EB Lewis. An incredible 25 editors/agents are attending. Houses represented include: HarperCollins, Random House, Dutton, Dial and Highlights Magazine. Be sure to check back on Monday for a recap of this exciting weekend.

May 29, 2009

Are Writers Crazy?

Well, my critique group has had a lot of laughs, and a very lively discussion, about the idea that writers are crazy. Our group's self-imposed 3 manuscripts in 3 weeks deadline has convinced us that craziness does lurk underneath. It has further confirmed, however, that manuscripts cannot be written in a day/week/month. Sure, you may have a good gem of an idea or a great outline, or sketchy personality traits of the protagonist. But a well-written, ready-to-submit manuscript? Definitely not. Part of the craziness for a writer is listening to all the voices in your head, and determining which one is book-worthy. Now, voices in the head are not always a positive thing, but for writers, it's our profession. These voices make us put pen to paper (or fingers on the keyboard) and write. What do a French Poodle, a kangaroo, a dog that reads and Teddy Roosevelt have in common? They have all been speaking to me these last two weeks. Crazy? Perhaps. These voices competed for attention in my already cluttered head. But as a result, I have finished two magazine articles and an outline for another book. Listen to those voices - they may just give you the idea for your next book.

May 25, 2009

Hobby or Career?

An interesting article this week in the Children's Writer eNews , Rx for writers, by author Jennifer Lynne Barnes. The focus of the article: is my writing a hobby or is this a career? I loved Jennifer's quote, "This is what I want to do, and if I'm not good enough now, I'll find a way to make it better." Sometimes, a children's author will have the not-so-envious task of not only convincing yourself that this is a career, but convincing others as well. It's easy to treat writing as a hobby, particularly when so many writers hold other jobs as well. And it's often those jobs that pay the bills. But advancing in a writing career is the same as any other career. The more experience you have, the better you will be. As a mom, I can tell you that the writing can be set aside for a long list of errands, volunteering, carpooling, coaching, dinner and homework help. For those with very young children, it's nearly impossible to find an hour of uninterrupted time. Other jobs require continuous education, making contacts, learning new technology and experience - so does your writing career. Explain to yourself (and others) that this is your investment in your future. If you are fortunate enough to be published, you have a career that you love. Maybe that's why we call it a hobby. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you also.

May 19, 2009

Critique Group- Three in Three

Last week, my local critique group was inspired (thanks Joan!) to write three children's books in three weeks. Naturally, these are rough drafts - ideas that have been floating about for months or years. They are no where near submission standards, but may show a glimmer of hope. The critique group will choose the best two from each member. The writer will learn why we think these manuscripts have the best potential. A niche in the marketplace? The voice is different? The illustrative potential is huge? The idea is to get our ideas down on paper. Inspire us to write something new. A bit daunting, but a sure motivational tool. Those of you who are in critique groups (and if you are writing, you should be in a critique group)- fire up your group! What challenge can you design? Get your engines started...

May 11, 2009

Moms - A Writer's Cheerleader

The beauty of having a blog, is the ability to write whatever one chooses. And, today, I would like to give a shout -out to all the wonderful moms who bless our lives. We just celebrated Mother's Day, and I had the luxury of being spoiled all day. But this blog is really about writing, and this author's journey. I would like to mention a few pieces by local authors that gave me a good laugh, and a tear or two. These two female authors spoke of their mothers and how proud they were when their daughters were (finally!) published. Lisa Scottoline, best-selling mystery writer, also writes a weekly piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She recounted her mother placing a placard in her car's rear window declaring "LOCAL AUTHOR!". When Lisa told her she hit the NY Times best-seller list, her mother was equally impressed with the thought that New Yorkers read her daughter's work. Treat yourself and read Lisa's article - Ode to Hallmark. Equally funny is the YouTube video of Kelly Corrigan (author, The Middle Place) describing her mother's weekly trip to Borders Books. Once a week, Kelly's mother marched upstairs to the obscure shelf where Kelly's book was placed. Gathering up all the copies, she would strategically distribute them throughout the store. I guess it worked - Kelly's book is a hit! See the video at Kelly's blog and check out the Meet Mary Corrigan link. Writers know that the road to publication can be a long and sometimes, painful, one. I can't let my blog on mothers of female authors finish without mentioning my own mother, Kay. My mom, also an author herself, taught me the joy of writing and the tenacity to be published. She passed away six years ago; yet, there is not a day that I don't think about her and smile. Mothers are our best cheerleaders and unflagging in their enthusiasm. A friend sent me the Kelly Corrigan video and said, "Can't we picture your mom moving all your books to a better spot?". Yes, I most certainly can. That's what a good mom does.

May 6, 2009

The "Hook"? Put your marketing hat on!

The March issue of Children's Writer had a great article, written by Sue Bradford Edwards, titled "Create Depth In The Picture Book Market." The article discusses book themes and how sales are affected. Jill Santopolo, Balzar & Bray Senior Editor, states "Some of the best children's picture books have stories that can be boiled down to a universal truth." Love is a universal concept. Fear of the dark. The new kid at school. The manuscript gains additional sparkle for the editor when the theme brings instant marketability. If love is the theme - great! It can be sold any time of year, but gains extra attention for Valentine's Day. First day of school fears? Always a popular theme, and these book sales spike in August/September. The Children's Writer article mentions that sometimes the editor helps define the theme. "We added a subtitle to Lisa Wheeler's Hokey Pokey," said Little, Brown editor Alvina Ling. Hokey Pokey: Another Prickly Love Story launched it into Valentine's Day promotion. Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary's Christmas Gift is naturally a Christmas theme. However, the book also speaks of a mother's love. This makes it a popular book not only at Christmas, but also for baby showers and newborn gifts. Marketing/promotion angles are not only helpful for book sales, but equally helpful in a query letter. A clear promotion pitch will make your query letter shine. Show the editor that you understand the value of marketing. In this economy, instant marketability is vitally important for the book sale.

April 30, 2009

National Picture Book Writing Week

Author Paula Yoo has created a fun contest for those who have plenty of picture books ideas, but need the inspiration to actually write! Paul has created National Picture Book Writers Week, affectionately called, NaPiBoWriWee, May 1st - May 7th. The challenge is to write a complete picture book each day, for seven days. As Paula states, this contest does not imply that writing a picture book is easy or that a PB can be written in one day. As we know, writing for children is a serious challenge. I recently listened to a radio interview with actress Brooke Shields, who published her second book. I was thrilled when she stated that writing a children's book is one of the most difficult challenges she ever faced. With this contest, however, Paula gives writers to opportunity to develop ideas, with a clear story arc, and win a copy of her book. You may find yourself writing a real gem (and about one hundred revisions later) will be ready for an editor's eyes! Good luck.