Monday, April 30, 2007

A Recipe for Success: Every Writer’s Secret

I have writer friend, Lee Wardlaw, who signs off her emails with "Behind every successful woman is a cat and a fridge full of chocolate." Last January I attended a plotting workshop given by Robin LeFevers where she rewarded (okay, bribed) attendees with chocolate (she even thought to bring dark and light). My co-author, Ruth Musgrave, won't even have coffee unless it's a mocha. And it seems that every year I’ve attended the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles, those folks at the Century Plaza Hotel send all thousand of us attendees into chocolate oblivion with a decadent chocolate work of art at the Golden Kite Awards luncheon.

So...the secret’s out. Writers love chocolate (okay, not a news flash if you're a writer). They cherish it. They worship it. They can’t live without it. Ask the average writer what she would choose to be stranded on a desert island with—a pound of Scharffenberger’s dark chocolate or her spouse—and I guarantee every one of them will hesitate before answering.

In honor of my chocoholic colleagues, I’m sharing a recipe that I saw demonstrated by Chef Paula Deen, on the Food TV Network. It’s delicious, sinful and ohhh-sooo-good. It's sure to inspire many late night writing sessions and bursts of creativity!

* Molten Lava Cake

6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Grease 6 (6-ounce) custard cups. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur. Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.

To create the ultimate sweet sensation, I serve it with a small scoop of Breyer’s ice cream on top.

Bon appetite!
* For those who are sensitive to chocolate (like me), proceed with caution :-)
P.S. For a chocolate poem, skip on over to GottaBook and scroll down to Greg's April 29 post.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Friday Funnies: Howling with Laughter!

Why can't dogs dance?
They have two left feet.

How many cats does it take to screw in a light bulb?
One. He holds the light bulb while the rest of the world revolves around him.

These are just a couple of jokes from PET JOKES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HOWL! co-authored by Ruth Musgrave and yours truly. If you'd like a chance to win an autographed copy of this or any of my other joke books, send me your best original joke for my "Belly Laughs on the Blog" joke contest (as simple as adding a comment to this post).

Scroll down to last Friday's post for contest details.

Deadline is May 1--so pull out that feather and start tickling your funny bone!

Monday, April 23, 2007

How Do I Get Published?

This is a common question authors get from writers who dream of being published someday. The problem is there’s no magic bullet. And no simple answer. Getting published takes tremendous work and dedication, and sometimes even a bit of luck. A writer and his/her work needs nurturing and time, like planting a seed, caring for it, and watching it grow into a healthy beautiful plant that gives oxygen back to the world.

Asking a published writer the name of their editor won’t help you (and is not included in “Miss Manners Etiquette Guide for Children’s Writers”—okay, I just made that up, but isn’t it a great idea?). Neither will being pushy with an editor, or mass-submitting your manuscript to every children’s editor you can find. The fact is it all takes time. You didn’t step from high school into your current job position you’re in today. It took time to develop your skills through education and experience.

So what’s the best piece of advice for a new children’s writer? It’s your lucky day, because I’m going to give you a “two-for” (two for the price of one, which in this case, is free).

First, learn your craft. Take classes, read how-to books, read the genre you want to write. Write that first draft then revise it until you can’t change one more word. Put it away for a month then see if you still feel the same way.

The second piece of advice—and this is the yardstick I use for serious writers vs. those who dream about it—join the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). When you join, you’ll receive a fabulous handbook filled with so much information it will make your head whirl. They have two annual conferences (summer in LA, winter in NY). They provide a terrific networking opportunity for their members, guidance on writing, and realistic information on the marketing your work, once you’re at that point. Regional chapters offer workshops, retreats and one-day events, all related to writing for children. You can be involved as much or as little as you choose, but there’s something to be said for participating and developing camaraderie with other children’s writers.

The road to publication has its potholes, turns and detours. We all have to find our way through, but first learning how to drive (developing the craft) and having the SCBWI as a roadmap will make your trip much more pleasant!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Funnies: Joke and Riddle Writing ContestS (yes, it’s plural!)

A certain wonderful writing friend of mine with a wicked sense of humor has been complaining to me that the joke writing contest on my website, “Make Me Laugh! It’s National Humor Month” is only for kids. She wants to play too. Age discrimination, she calls it. I guess I can’t blame her.

Well, Rebecca, this one’s for you. I’m now running a joke and riddle writing contest through this blog, in celebration of National Humor Month. I’m calling it, "Belly Laughs on the Blog!"

Here it is, in a nutshell...or should I say, a nuttyshell:

April is National Humor Month. Are you a Jerry Seinfeld at heart? Do you secretly wish you had Jay Leno’s gig? In your private moments at home, do you watch the Johnny Carson collection and think, If only... Well, here’s your chance. Exercise your funny bone then post your funniest original joke or riddle (please—nothing you’ve read or heard elsewhere).

The rules are simple:
1. Nothing dirty or vulgar. No exceptions. Period.
2. All formats are open—jokes, riddles, knock-knocks, wordplays, puns, etc.
3. Non-kidlit topics, such as politics, are fair game, but keep in mind this IS a children’s literature-related blog run by a former pre-primary teacher, writer and cat-lover (okay, I love all animals, I have to be honest).
4. Entries must be ORIGINAL.
5. One entry per person, so make it count!
6. I will moderate comments so your post might not appear right away.

Winners will be judged based on originality and where they rank on the “laugh scale” (ranging from a smirk to rolling on the floor—and yes, I do laugh so hard at times that I end up on the floor).

The winner will receive an autographed copy of one of my joke books (hope you like corny kid jokes!). Other entrants will have the pleasure of knowing their creativity has brought joy into the hearts and minds of my many readers (all three of them ;-).

Contest deadline is May 1, 2007. Good luck!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

National Library Week

This week is National Library Week. Here are a few interesting facts about libraries:

The first “lending library” in our country was started in 1731 by a book-lover, avid reader and printer named Benjamin Franklin. You might have heard of him before. At that time, books were expensive and not easily available to the general public, so he and a group of fellow printers decided that if they pooled their financial resources, they could buy books from England and let community members borrow them.

The first municipally supported public library in the U.S. was the Boston Public Library, which was established in 1848 and is now a historical national monument.

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world. It was founded in Philadelphia in 1876.

Visit your local library this week and take advantage of all it has to offer!

Friday, April 13, 2007

FRIDAY FUNNIES: Typo Nightmares

Mistakes happen in this business. I know, shocking, isn’t it? Even in a business where professionals obviously strive toward perfection (and I mean that in all sincerity), mistakes still happen. For example, I recently saw a book on with my name listed as a co-author. A book I'd never heard of and certainly hadn't contributed to in any way. I could see this was a simple mistake (a company I’m already published with—someone accidentally got the wrong name), but it got me to thinking about mistakes in our business.

If someone could make a mistake with an author's name, surely other mistakes could be made. What about book titles? What if a book title had a typo? How would that change the persona of that book? Here are a few examples I’ve come up with-- please feel free to exercise your own funny bone and post your own Typo Nightmares.

The Higher Power of Ducky
Walk Two Goons
Beauty and the Breast
The Earth, My Mutt and Other Big Round Things
The Fairy Queen
Goodfight Moon

You get the idea... Care to post?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What's YOUR Word?

Yesterday I was conversing with a writer friend, who was telling me about her daughter's weekly spelling tests. The conversation turned to how it seems that everyone has "a word" we recall from childhood that really stumped us on those weekly spelling tests.

My "word" (I put it in quotation marks to make it seem more ominous) was "continent" (quotation marks again, because just thinking about it in terms of the fourth grade makes it seem ominous). For some reason, I always switched the "i" and the "e." Every week, for what seemed like decades. My teacher and parents were dumbfounded at how I could make the same mistake over and over. Then one day I finally spelled it correctly and received my gold star on the class spelling chart. My teacher's face lit up and her blue eyes sparkled so much that I thought she might call the office and have the principal make an announcement to the entire school. My parents took me out for ice cream!

My writer friend's word was "recipe" which she read as "re-sipe" (which makes perfect sense if you compare it to "recite"). My husband's word was "poem" which he consistently spelled as "peom". He still complains about how our language makes no sense.

And the irony I've found in this is that when my son was four years old and in his second year of Montessori school, he could easily spell "continent". Thank goodness for Montessori education, as spelling never was a problem for him!

So, what's YOUR word? Which "word" was your biggest obstacle with spelling tests?

Friday, April 6, 2007

FRIDAY FUNNIES: Spring Break Poem

It's spring break, humor month and poetry month. Here's what's on my mind:

Spring vacation,
Cannot write.
Hubby's home,
No time in sight.
He's my buddy,
He's my dear.
But when will he get outta here?

For a feast of poetry, head on over to Gotta Book. Greg Pincus is posting a poem every day in April.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Catty Riddle

Why can't cats get married?

Because they cantaloupe!

Okay, that was a weak excuse to post this picture of my cantaloupe-loving cat, but hey, it's humor month and everyone comes up with a few groaners now and then!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

National Humor Month

April is a great month that honors many things, including National Poetry Month and National Humor Month ( I sense a funny poem coming on?).

In honor of National Humor Month, I'm running a joke-writing contest for kids. Please visit my website for details. If you know any kids who like to create jokes and riddles, please steer them to the contest. It's going to be a lot of fun and the top three "comedians" will receive autographed joke books as prizes.

Kids are amazingly creative at making up jokes and riddles, and there is nothing more joyful than hearing a child tell a joke (whether it's funny or not). Telling jokes gives a child confidence and helps to develop his social skills. And we all know how valuable humor is to human spirit.

So let's welcome in April with laughter, just like the woman pictured in the photo (taken at the 2006 Oregon Small School Association conference). She had been reading PET JOKES THAT WILL MAKE YOU HOWL! (co-authored with Ruth Musgrave, pictured on left). She couldn't stop laughing--and you know how contagious laughter is!