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.