Thursday, November 29, 2007

THIRTEEN REASONS WHY: A Book You Cannot Put Down

With all of the recent buzz about THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and the fact that its debut author, Jay Asher, is from my SCBWI region, I had to give this book a read. I admit that I don't usually go for YA novels about such serious issues, but from what I'd heard, there were way more than thirteen reasons to pick up this book. And I'm so glad I did.

Clay Jenson’s classmate, Hannah Baker, had committed suicide just days before he received a mysterious package in the mail. He never expected that Hannah’s voice would be what he heard next. On seven cassette tapes, Hannah chronicles the thirteen reasons—the thirteen people—who contributed to her decision to take her own life. Clay, who had a slight crush on Hannah and worked with her at the theatre, listens to the tapes into the late hours of the night, traveling to the designated locations she directs him to, desperately trying to figure out why he was on her list. He ultimately discovers a horrible mistake he made, that he is sure never to repeat.

Jay Asher uses a unique approach to telling this powerful, compelling and heart-wrenching story of teen suicide. The book is full of emotion based on Hannah Baker’s voice from the past and Clay Jenson’s struggle to hear her story. Typical happenings in the lives of high school students are what propel an otherwise average girl into the ultimate state of hopelessness and desperation. When Hannah is caught up in tawdry rumors and cruel behavior from her classmates, her life slips out of her control and she too becomes guilty of the very sins that were committed against her. Clay is an average “nice guy” who can’t understand why he is included on her list, but as he hears Hannah’s story, he is torn apart inside.

This book deals with serious issues such as suicide, drinking, and rape. However, because Asher so intricately lays the groundwork for the underlying message of the importance in how we treat each other, and he leaves the reader with hope, I feel not only teens, but also parents and high school staff should read it as well.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher/ ISBN-10: 1595141715/ ISBN-13: 978-1595141712/2007/Razorbill (The Penguin Group)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stretching More Than Your Imagination

As writers, we’re constantly stretching our imaginations, but for as many hours--no wait, days--no wait, weeks--no wait, months-- no wait, years--no wait, decades that we spend at our computers, we really should be stretching our muscles as well. All that typing can lead to tight shoulders, neck and back strain, and headaches (and that’s before we’ve submitted our work and are stressing over what will come of it!). Here’s what I do to help with this problem:

I keep a list of stretches in my computer desk drawer that are good for the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. These particular stretches come from Bob Anderson’s book, Stretching.

I keep a timer nearby, for when I know I’m going to be at the computer for hours. I set the timer for every 45 minutes or so, then I stop and do my stretches (right there at my desk. I don’t even need to get up and it takes less than five mins—no sweat suits necessary).

I know what you’re thinking—it disrupts the creative flow, and yes, it can. However, I find that when I’m more relaxed and take care of myself, the creativity is going to come out anyway. And if I’m right in the middle of something “big”, I can reset the timer for another five mins.

I highly recommend buying Stretching, but if you can’t get a hold of a copy right away, check out this website.

Happy stretching!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Wishing you all a bountiful season filled with joy and laughter. And on that note...

Which is correct?

"A turkey's teeth is white"


"A turkey's teeth are white"?

Neither; Turkeys don't have teeth! :-}

Tuesday, November 13, 2007



Why can’t dogs dance?
Because they have two left feet!

What do you get when you cross a feline and a metal detector?
A cat scan!

On Saturday, December 8, from 12:00-3:00, I’ll be signing my joke and riddle book, PET JOKES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HOWL! (co-authored with Ruth Musgrave) at a fundraiser benefit for D & S LOVING ANIMAL RESCUE (an honest-to-goodness no-kill animal shelter). One hundred percent of all proceeds are going to this wonderful non-profit organization.

Can’t make it? No need to get howlin’ mad! If you still want to purchase a book just call the number below to place your order. I’ll happily sign your copy/copies and the store will ship it to you. Your cost would be $4.95 + shipping (paperback edition) or $14.95 + shipping (hardback). PET JOKES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HOWL! would make a doggone great holiday gift for that pet-loving child or adult in your life and you’d be helping care for homeless cats and dogs.

My goal is to sell 100 books. The city of Ridgecrest has donated property for D & S to build a new full-service adoption facility, but funds are still needed for construction. This organization is the same one that brought my “furry children” into my life and I’d love to give something back to them and help them with their cause.

Here’s the kitty scoop:
Saturday, December 8, 12:00-3:00
Pet Integrity Pet Supplies
128 North China Lake Blvd.
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
INFO & BOOK ORDERING : (760) 375-0140

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Kendra Levin is an assistant editor at Viking Children’s Books (an imprint of Penguin Putnam USA), where she has been for two years. Prior to that, she interned at Scholastic Trade Paperbacks and worked for their Book Club Department. Kendra is an award-winning playwright whose work has been produced off-Broadway. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the 2007 SCBWI Ventura/Santa Barbara Writer’s Day in Thousand Oaks, CA.

What is the most common mistake you've seen in manuscripts from the slush pile?
A really common mistake many slush pile writers make is trying to capitalize on trends in the hope that editors will be attracted to whatever is “hot”. But I always tell people that even if I signed up your book tomorrow, penguins or pirates or any other trend will be long gone by the time the book comes out. The best books are timeless, and nine times out of ten, whatever is lurking around in your own imagination is more interesting and original than a Harry Potter or Eragon imitation.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just getting into the field or writing for children?
My number one piece of advice to beginning writers is do your homework. That could apply to anything from finding out whether there might be a market for the kind of book you want to write to making sure there isn’t already something just like it to figuring out which publisher or editor would be a good fit for your manuscript. You can save yourself a lot of headaches and heartaches by doing the research that will serve you and your manuscript.

What's your favorite children's joke?
This joke used to crack me up so much when I was a kid that I told it to anyone who would listen:

A cop stops a lady driving down the freeway with six penguins in the car. The cop says, “Lady, what are you doing? Take these penguins to the zoo!”

The next day, the cop stops the same lady on the freeway. She’s still got six penguins in her car, but now they’re all wearing sunglasses. The cop says, “Lady, I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo!”

And the lady replies, “I did, and we had so much fun, today I’m taking them to the beach!”

(hee-hee-hee! Thanks, Kendra)

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Roxyanne Young is a freelance writer, novelist, photographer, graphics designer, and co-founder of 2-Tier Software, Inc. She’s the Editorial Director of, which unites her two loves: building Web sites and writing for kids. She's a co-author of TALES OF THE CRYPTIDS: MYSTERIOUS CREATURES THAT MAY OR MAY NOT EXIST. Roxyanne oversees the SmartWriters’ annual W.I.N. Competition (Write It Now!). With her knowledge of children's writing, contests and website expertise, I knew she would have some great advice.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to someone entering a children’s writing contest?
Besides making sure your writing is stellar, make sure your entry fits the category. One of the most common comments I've made to people who entered the W.I.N. this year and who also requested a critique on their entry is that it is better suited for a different age group or market. There are many picture book entries, for instance, that are really magazine stories in that they are either too complicated/text heavy, or don't have enough scenes to support an illustrated story for 32 pages. Some of them would be much better expanded and aimed at slightly older kids as an early chapter book or young mid-grade novel. Still others really belong to the YA category, even though they were entered as Midgrade novels.

Pay attention to the intended market and how your work will really fit there. Is your main character one that your targeted young reader will relate to? If not, aim your book at older readers.

What is your number one piece of advice for a writer in regards to his/her website?
I have two: keep your content updated frequently and exchange links with other writers. Actually, here's a third: add your Website address to every piece of communication you put out there, whether digital or print. I know a writer who slips her business card into her bill payment envelopes because you never know when that woman opening the mail at the power company is also on the PTA committee that is looking for a children's writer to visit her kid's school.

What's your favorite children's joke?
Q: How do you catch the Easter Bunny?

A: Hide in the bushes and make noises like a carrot.

(Hee-hee. Too cute!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Check Out These Blogs

I wish there was a clever verb to describe reading through blogs. Slogging the blogs? Jogging the blogs? Leap-frogging through the blogs? Anyway...

I really enjoy Anastasia Suen’s blog, Create-Relate. I recently found a post on it referring to literary agent Nathan Branford’s blog, where he interviewed his colleague Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Ltd. The topic of her interview is what she expects an author to do once she’s made an offer for representation.

If you’re in the market for an agent, I’d recommend you pop on over and give it a read. And give Anastasia’s site a visit too. All great stuff!