Friday, September 28, 2007

Just Too Funny

Last week, Greg Pincus pointed out to our local writing community, a YouTube videoclip that he spotted on Anastasia Suen's blog, Create-Relate. I just about rolled off my chair laughing. I had saved it and just watched it again (this will definitely be my "laugh fix" list).

For those of you who haven't seen the Mitchell and Webb clip, take a look here. If you've ever had to deal with editorial revision letters or requests, you might find this quite amusing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SHEEP: A Doggone Good Children's Book

Get ready, dog-lovers (especially if you’re partial to Border collies). Meet Jack. He’s a proud Border collie who was born on a farm from a long line of sheepherders. Jack’s sole purpose in life, in his mind, is to become a master sheepherder, but he had a few obstacles to overcome first.

Jack immediately paws his way into readers’ hearts with his frankness, charm and childlike curiosity. He sets his story up by letting us know that he’s had a hard life, having too many days with an empty stomach and too many nights in the rain; and on occasion, gone without a friend; but his trouble begins when a lightning strike burns down his farm. The sheep are sold off and the dogs taken to a pet store. Jack is adopted by a family, forced to suffer the humiliation of being dressed as a baby and pushed around in a stroller. When Jack can’t tolerate life with his new family any longer, he runs away in search of sheep.

In his days on the run, he meets up with a goat herder who befriends him. Herding goats isn’t the same as herding sheep, but it would do for the time. The goat herder takes care of Jack, until he passes away, when once again Jack becomes a stray in search of his life’s purpose—herding sheep.

Jack’s quest leads him to temporarily live with two con men, and then become an act in a two-bit circus, where he is mistreated by the circus owner. After being physically abused to near death, Jack manages to escape, where he meets a young orphan who lives in a nearby town. It was here that Jack ultimately finds his place in life.

Valerie Hobbs writes a well-paced, emotional story that gives readers a look at the world from a dog’s point of view. While writing in the voice of an animal isn’t new to children’s literature, Ms. Hobbs adds a distinction in choosing a breed that‘s known for its work value, bringing home the point that dogs have needs that drive their behavior.

This middle-grade children’s novel was a book nominee for the 2006 Dog Writer’s Association of America. Valerie Hobbs is the award-winning author of many children’s novels, including her latest work, DEFIANCE.
Sheep by Valerie Hobbs/ ISBN-0-374-36777-9/2006/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shrinking Violets Promotion

Those introverted ladies at Shrinking Violets Promotions sure know how to recognize a good title when they see one. I just found out that little old me won their most recent contest. Yippee! Oh, the joys of feeling validated! The contest was to use a book or song title and rewrite it from an introvert's perspective. What was my entry? Ahh, you must click here to find out!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yo-Ho-Ho: It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Shiver me timbers, today not only be me dad’s birthday, but tis also “Talk Like a Pirate Day!” Grab yer eye patch, put some swagger in yer step and swig down a bottle of ...hmm, this is a children’s writing site...uh, apple juice.
To celebrate, here are some of my favorite pirate-related books and movies:

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.
Peter Pan by by J. M. Barrie.
Pirateology by William Captain Lubber and Dugald A. Steer.
Pirate Mom by Deborah Underwood.

Treasure Island
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (the only one of the trilogy that's worth a pirate's weight in gold, but ah, it be a grand one at that!)

And for all ye scalliwags who need a refresher course in Pirate-speak, here be some glossaries that only be a rope’s throw away: Pirate Glossary and the Brethren of the Coast.

Now git to yer talkin' or walk the plank!

Monday, September 17, 2007


Last weekend my husband and I went to the Pantages Theatre to see WICKED. What a treat! I hadn't read the novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, so all I knew was that it was the backstory to The Wizard of Oz. And what a great story it was, not to mention the acting, singing, coreography and sets. I was reminded of the flood of fractured fairy tales in the children's book market not too long ago. This was like one of those stories tenfold. If you get a chance to see it, don't pass it up. It's worth every penny.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What’s This You Say?: A Glossary of Children’s Publishing Terms

The first SCBWI conference I attended made me realize that I had a thing or two to learn (okay, maybe more). In particular, I had to learn the lingo.

Imprint? Isn’t that what happens when you adopt a flock of ducklings and assume the role of their mother? SDT? Is that a social disease writers get when they don’t get to write often enough? And don’t even get me going on F & G’s!

I quickly learned that like any profession, field, sport, or community of people, there are certain words and terms that only those “in the know” understand. Here are a few terms that might help folks who are new to the kid-lit biz:

· Advance: Money paid to an author before the book is published. The amount of the advance must be earned back in royalties from book sales.
· Agent: Someone who acts on your behalf, selling your manuscript and negotiating your contract with the publisher.
· Antagonist: The villain of the story.
· Anthropomorphism: Giving human characteristics to animals.
· Acquisitions Editor: The editor who acquires or signs up manuscripts.
· Cover Letter: A letter sent with your manuscript to briefly explain your story and introduce yourself.
· Dummy: A manuscript that is laid out in book form, with one or two pieces of finished art.
· E-book: A book that is read only in an electronic format, instead of printed format.
· E-zine: A magazine that is read only in an electronic format, instead of printed format.
· F & G's: Folded and gathered loose sheets. The unbound pages of a finished book.
· Fiction: Writing from the imagination ("made-up" writing).
· Format: The physical appearance of a book.
· Genre: The type of writing (i.e. board book, picture book, young adult...)
· House: As in "publishing house."
· Imprint: A small, subdivision of a publishing house that usually publishes a distinct type of book(s).
· ISBN: International Standard Book Number. This gives each book a unique identification number.
· MS(S): Manuscript(s).
· Masthead: The place in a magazine where the staff is listed (usually near the front).
· Multiple/Simultaneous submission: When an author sends the same manuscript to more than one publisher at the same time. Some publishers DO NOT like this practice, therefore always check publisher's guidelines.
· Non-fiction: Factual or informational writing.
· Personification: Creating characters out of non-living objects.
· Protagonist: The hero of the story.
· Query: A letter sent to a publisher to inquire if they would be interested in reviewing your work.
· Regional publisher: A publisher who specializes in books about certain areas of the country.
· Rejection letter: A letter from the publisher declining to accept your work.
· Royalty: Money paid to an author, based on a certain percentage of the price of the book times the number of books sold.
· SASE: Self-addressed stamped envelope.
· Self-publishing: When an author publishes his own book, assuming all production and marketing costs.
· Show-Don't Tell (SDT): A common term used by editors meaning that you need to show what is happening in the story (rather than tell the reader what is happening).
· Slush pile: All of the manuscripts that a publisher receives that he did not request. It takes editors months to review the slush pile submissions.
· Unsolicited manuscript/submission: A manuscript that the publisher did not request from the author.
· Work-for-hire: When an author is paid a flat fee for their work, usually giving all rights to the publisher.
*Note: The book featured in the photo, "TheComplete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books" by Harold Underdown has an even more extensive list of terms.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

TWTF: Tigger Was The First

Early Sunday morning thought. My cat woke me at 5:00 to remind me to get up and work on my novel—and give him his morning treats—which I did, like any obedient cat slave--I mean, owner. Now, light has filtered in to my office and my left-brain is too awake to novel-write anymore, which led me to think on other things.

Yesterday I attended a “critiquenic” in Bakersfield, CA, with a group of fellow SCBWI members. We got to talking about teen-lingo and activities, such as text messaging. Someone brought up the fact that there is a book series by Lauren Myracle, called The Internet Girls. The book titles are “TTYL,” “TTFN,” and “L8R G8R” (I'll let you figure them out ;-).

On my drive home, I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that the text-messaging thing isn’t all that new. Well yes, the means to do it is, but abbreviating words to convey messages was started long ago. By Tigger, of all people (yes, I look at Tigger as a person).

Our beloved Tigger, who was created by A.A. Milne, as one of Winnie the Pooh’s friends, and later took on an even grander life with the help of the early Disney geniuses, was ahead of his time. It was Tigger who bounced away, hollering back to his friends of The Hundred Acre Woods, “TTFN!”

What a cat! Let’s here it for Tigger, a feline well ahead of his time.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

PEAK: A Pinnacle of Reading

I love a good adventure novel, and when I’d heard about PEAK, by Roland Smith, I had to read it. The story is about 14-year old Peak Marcello, the son of two divorced mountain climbers. When Peak is caught scaling (and tagging) a NYC skyscraper, he finds himself facing the NYC courts.

In an effort to avoid having her son serve time in juvenile detention, Peak’s mother agrees to let his absent father of seven years (and world famous mountaineer) take Peak to Thailand, where he owns a climbing company. Ah, but the plot thickens when we discover that his father has an ulterior motive. This is the catalyst that launches Peak into every serious mountain climber’s dream—to summit Mt. Everest.

I was most impressed in the story's details. Smith obviously researched this book at great depths, and I wouldn’t doubt that he's climbed a mountain or two himself (he does reside in Oregon, after all). His descriptions of high altitude climbing were thorough and informative, without feeling forced.

Like any good climb, the plot takes some interesting and unexpected twists and turns, particularly the ending (which I won’t give away here—you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out that little gem). The story has all the things that make for a great adventure: an awesome setting, human drama, tension, friendship, sacrifices, unexpected twists, heroes, a villain and a satisfying ending. I will say though, that while I loved this ending for a teen novel, I would find it unbelievable had this been this written for the adult market. Good thing that didn't happen!

PEAK by Roland Smith
ISBN 978-0-15-202417-8