Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy, Happy Holidays & Adieu til 2009!

Before signing off until the first of the New Year, I wanted to give holiday wishes to all.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Hanakkah!
Happy Kawanzaa!
Feliz Navidad!
Buone Feste!
Joyeux Noël!
Mele kalikimaka!
Milad Majeed!
Frohe Weihnachten!
And Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us!

May the upcoming year bring you much happiness and success in all of your publishing endeavors!

See you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cool Blog Happenings

Here are some fun things happening on other blogs right now:

Shrinking Violets Promotions is doing a 12 Days of Christmas-Introvert Style (a little something to do for yourself).

Elizabeth Dulemba is offering holiday-related coloring pages every Tuesday (perfect to print out and have on hand for little ones).

My Readable Feast has a nice list of children’s books on Hanukkah.

Stories for Children has three Christmas-related crafts.

Jill Corcoran Books is having a great discussion on dialogue, for those of us who refuse to give up our writing focus during the holidays.

Season's readings!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Self-Inflicted Suffering: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

This past weekend I attended a workshop on book promotion. One of the things attendees had a choice to do was either 1) give a pitch to the group and have the facilitator review your performance, or 2) give a reading to the group and have an acting coach give you feedback on your performance. Despite what many of my friends might think (because I hide my introvert tendencies pretty well), both of these choices struck fear in me. However, I came to “play” and since Blackberry Banquet has been out for a few months and the Sylvan Dell publicist is a PR phenomenon, I forewent the pitch session and opted for the reading.

What on earth was I thinking? Really. Why didn’t someone just smack me upside the head with a snow shovel? I know me. I don’t regularly read Shrinking Violets Promotions because of their clever photo selections. It’s because I’m an introvert and I totally get what they say!

Okay, back to the workshop... I watched four other authors go before me and get tortured--I mean, scrutinized in such a way that could only be described as painful. But there I sat. Thinking about times when I’ve let my “introvertedness” kick in and I'd chicken out. I thought about that agent at a conference, who was just standing there, all alone, just waiting for someone to approach him to pitch a story, but I didn’t have the guts. I thought about when that editor and I were the only ones in the restroom washing our hands, and all I could garble out was, “That’s a pretty sweater.” So, I sat there, watching my fellow authors undergo their readings, continually being interrupted by the acting coach, mostly to hear all of the wrong things they were doing, then given suggestions for improvement, then trying again, then being interrupted a news clip of a bad accident shown over and over again (mind you, I applaude their efforts and felt their pain).

But there I sat. Thinking about how a person grows from stepping outside of his/her comfort zone. And when the facilitator asked who would like to be next and all hands shot beneath the tables, I raised mine. Again, what was I thinking? Where was that snow shovel?

Now, I’d like to say that it wasn’t so bad. That I learned a lot. But honestly, I can’t. It was a blur. I was light-headed. I felt my face flushing to a color that would rival Santa’s suit. The acting coach tried giving me advice. And I’d fail. And she’d try again. And I’d fail. I just didn’t understand what she wanted. My head was spinning. She might as well have been speaking to me in Urdu. Perhaps partly because she wasn’t expressing herself clearly. Perhaps because I was not in any condition to follow.

What’s the point of all this? Well, it got me to thinking. I’m always telling my writer friends that you have to step outside your comfort zone. But I think I learned something this weekend. Stepping outside the comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean taking off all your clothes and jumping into the Arctic Sea. If you really don’t like cold water but know you need to learn to like it, start with putting in your big toe. In other words, you have to use your head and do what you can manage. Yes, push yourself to go beyond what’s comfortable, but don’t go so far that you’re completely out of your element. That’s just no fun.

When I sat down after my reading, my mind reeling, the writer next to me asked me if I was okay. I said, “No. I need a cookie...and a shot of whiskey.” Luckily, I don’t drink. But the cookie was delicious (okay, I had two!) and I think I learned something. And isn't that what pushing yourself is all about?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Stress: Take 10:14 and Relax!

Okay, it's time for my annual "stop and relax" post. This has nothing to do with writing--well, maybe except that on top of all our writing responsibilities, we try to do everything under the Christmas Star to make it a wonderful holiday for our family and friends, often at the expense of our own sanity. And we know how stress can affect our writing, right? (see how I'm trying really hard to make this related to writing--even though it really isn't!).

So, here's what I propose you do. Just like I recommended last year (but don't bother going back to that post, for some reason the video link went kablooey), go get yourself a glass of wine. Red or white. Your choice. Go on...I'll wait. Got it? Okay, now hang the "Writer at Work" door hanger on your office door and lock the door behind you. Now, light one of those holiday candles you've got sitting around. Any scent will do, whatever works for you--pine, cinnamon, hollyberry, whatever. Turn on your computer speakers, put your feet up, take a sip of wine, and click HERE. Ahhh...enjoy...

Did that help to relax you a bit? I hope so! Maybe it's because I saw this performance in concert, or maybe it's because the first time I heard "Prelude" (the first part of the video) was shortly after a good friend died of cancer (thus its haunting tone and sadness still sends chills down my spine), but this music has special meaning to me. It always touches that inner part of me, like music and words do to people on a very personal level (see how I related it back to writing--I'm trying here!).

So, don't forget to take these moments during the hectic holiday season and r-e-l-a-x... You'll be so much happier if you do!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

And the Winner Is...

"I LOVE to play Hide & Seek! They'll never find me here . . . ."

Sent in by Joan! Congratulations, Joan! If you could email me offline, I'll get your copy of Pet Jokes That Will Make You Howl! sent out right away.

And to everyone, thanks for playing!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Photo Caption Contest Deadline

Just a reminder: Tomorrow (Monday, 12/8) is the deadline for the photo caption contest (scroll down a bit for more info), so keep those clever posts coming in! Don't let this opportunity to win one of the funniest animal joke books ever written pass you by (hmm...was that a bit over the top?).

Winner will be announced on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Thanks for entering!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
MEREDITH MUNDY WASINGER has been a Senior Editor at Sterling Publishing since 2005, following eleven years with Dutton Children’s Books. A Colorado native, she is a big fan of pugs, poetry, and gardening (guerrilla and otherwise). She is currently looking for character-centered picture books; original non-fiction with pizzazz; and unusual activity books for children of all ages. Sterling does not publish original fiction (aside from picture books) or non-fiction that would be geared purely toward schools and libraries.
I had the pleasure of meeting Meredith at our recent Ventura/Santa Barbara SCBWI Writers' Day and am so pleased that she agreed to do an interview for us!

What does your job entail as an editor at Sterling Publishing?
It’s a job filled with variety—never a dull moment! I spend much of my day writing and answering emails from authors, illustrators, and agents to keep projects that are already in process moving along. Part of each day is devoted to requesting contracts, reviewing catalog and jacket copy, compiling editorial notes for authors whose manuscripts have been accepted, or reviewing and commenting on sketches/final art that have come in for particular books. Our editorial team has an acquisitions meeting every two weeks to discuss future projects we hope to acquire, and we meet every month or so to read new submissions that have arrived. The mail is very hard to keep up with—so many manuscripts!—but we do everything we can to avoid making authors wait interminably.

Could you give an overview of Sterling's list and its philosophy?
Our list is quite eclectic, and reflects the interests of our small staff. Our range is from board books for babies to sophisticated biographies for older readers to puzzle-and-game books to picture books of all kinds. We are publishing our first middle-grade chapter book series next year (The Doyle & Fossey Science Detective series, by Michele Torrey, illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman), and if that is well received, we may consider acquiring more chapter books. But for now we are not accepting any chapter books or novels.
Our philosophy is simple—we want to publish only the very best books to be read by the widest possible audience. This makes reading submissions pretty easy, really, since we can rule out anything that’s too generic, or too slight, or too specific in terms of its topic, or too much like anything that’s already out there. We look for originality, excellent writing, unforgettable characters, clever twists on familiar themes, and humor.

I'm reading more and more about the economy affecting book sales and the publishing industry. Is the economic downturn affecting Sterling in any significant way?
We have been asked to be exceptionally careful with our budgets, as has everyone in publishing. We are cutting costs everywhere possible—from sending out electronic Christmas cards instead of paper ones to avoiding using overnight mail unless absolutely crucial. We know how tough the retail environment is right now, and we are hopeful that next year will bring brighter news to all retailers, not just booksellers. It does seem that the children’s book market has more resiliency than other sectors. People tend to buy for their children (and their pets!) even if they are not buying for themselves.

On the lighter side, what is your favorite children's joke?
One morning a traffic cop is directing traffic in a busy intersection. A guy pulls up in a fancy convertible filled with penguins.
“Hey, mister!” the cop calls out. “I want you to take those penguins directly to the zoo!”
“Sure thing, Officer,” says the driver.

Later that day, the cop sees the same carload of penguins pull up in the intersection.
“Hey, mister!” he yells. “I thought I told you to take those penguins to the zoo!”
“I did,” says the driver. “We had a great time. Now we’re going to the movies!”

Thanks so much, Meredith!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Good News!

Yesterday I received two nice bits of news from the publicist at Sylvan Dell. First, I'm the featured author this month at Stories for Children online magazine. Click HERE to read the interview (and surf their website--they have tons of great things, all kidlit related).

And, Blackberry Banquet has been listed live on the USA Book News website!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Photo Caption Contest!

Wow--where did November go? I just realized that I haven't posted anything for a few days now (let's blame it on the tryptophan!).

Well, now that we're into the holiday season, I've decided that it's time for some outright silliness. So, I'm having a photo caption contest. Below, you'll see a picture of my cat---well, sort of. Part of him, at least. I'm giving folks until Dec. 8 to send me a funny caption (please post your entries--yes, multiple entries are welcome--in the "comment" section below). The winner will receive a signed copy of "Pet Jokes That Will Make You Howl!" (makes for a great holiday gift!) So, put on those silly thinking caps and let's see what you can come up with!

Oh--and I suppose that even though I ADORE my cats and have been known to fuss over them in ridiculous ways, I should say that no animals were harmed in the photographing process. In fact, my cat did this of his own accord. I just happened to grab the camera once I stopped laughing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is Your Book a Dummy? It Should Be!

Book dummy. Kids laugh when I say this. New writers might think I’m insulting their story. What exactly is a dummy? And where, I wonder, did the flattering term come from? In the publishing world, it’s a manuscript that's laid out in book form, with one or two pieces of finished art. It’s an important tool for author/illustrators who want to show their story with some of the art. But dummies can help us non-artistic, picture book and easy reader writers as well.

I think dummying out a manuscript is one of the best tools at a writer’s disposal. I frequently dummy out my stories after that initial feeling that it’s finished (usually around the third or fourth draft). Once the story has gelled and I have a strong sense of the plot, I know I need to work even harder on word choice, pacing, flow and finding those defining page turning moments. And that’s where a dummy can help.

How do you make your manuscript a dummy? Don’t send it to school! (ha-ha). Okay, seriously... It’s simple. All you need are eight sheets of blank paper, a stapler, your manuscript, scissors and removable tape (sounds like art class, huh?).
1. Collect the 8 pieces of paper (doesn’t really matter what size, but I use 11 x 14” legal size).
2. Cut them in half (midway down the long side).
3. Staple them together. You know have a mock-up for a 32-page picture book (standard length for most picture books--the exception being 48-page books for older readers).

Now comes the fun part. Take a hard look at your manuscript. Try to envision it in scenes. Remember, a picture book has 13-15 page spreads, so you’ll have to have at least this number of scenes in your story. Okay, back to envisioning... You can either play around with where the scenes fall by marking it with a pencil, or you can start cutting.

On your dummy...

4. The “cover” of your dummy is where the title page of the actual book would go, so cut your title out and tape it there.

5. The next page is where the copyright info and dedication usually go (on the left-hand side of the page spread), so I just note © on that page.

6. Then, depending on how you envision your story beginning, you can begin cutting and taping your manuscript. If you have a short, snappier start, you can start it right there on page 3. If you see it as a scene that requires a full-page spread, then go to page 4-5.

7. Continue cutting and taping, playing with it until you've worked it into the full dummy. I guarantee you’ll find spots that scream they need more revision, and others that will fit perfectly. Wordy scenes will stand out, sparse scenes will too. You’ll discover some great page turning places that will carry the suspense and add to the tension.

8. Once you’ve make changes to the dummy, add the changes to your manuscript.

Okay, now here’s the hard part. As much as you now looooove your dummy, DO NOT send it to an editor. This is a learning tool for your eyes only (or your critique group). Editors do not want to see our cut and tape efforts (unless they specifically ask for it). Really. Cross my heart.

After I've made the changes to mymanuscript, I put it away for a few days. Then I go back and start over (read, make changes, dummy it out again). I usually end up with 3-5 dummies per story I write.

I hope you find this as useful of a tool as I have. Happy dummying!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Sandy Yoon has worked in all kinds of libraries for almost 34 years. Her master degrees are in English (CSUB) and School of Library and Information Management (USC). Her current occupation is Coordinator of Library Media Services for the Bakersfield City School District. She’s also adjunct faculty for Fresno Pacific University in the Teacher Librarian graduate program. Currently, she is president of the California School Library Association and an Area Director for the California Reading Association.
Traveling is a great excuse with two children who are Navy aviators. Reading is a passion that has endured since she gave her oral book reports in first grade. Her love of storytelling is an offshoot of the reading bug and a family chock full of interesting stories.

I thought Sandra could offer writers and illustrators a unique perspective in regards to school visits and networking.

You are involved with one of the largest California author fairs in the state (Kern Reading Association YAF), so you've had much experience in observing authors in action. What advice would you give to authors/illustrators who are starting to do school visits?
I coordinate the author selection and financials for the annual Kern Reading Association’s Young Authors’ Fair ($100,000 for authors, book sales, and school payments). The event is actually a combination of committed volunteers who assist with every aspect of the schedule and timing.
The advice I would give to authors/illustrators who are starting to do school visits—communicate! Once you have the booking then you need to ask for schedules (autographing, lunch, breaks), transportation details, honorarium (how will it be paid), AV possibilities (most schools do not have state-of-the-art microphones, etc.), and physical description of the speaking area (is it a classroom, auditorium, library). How big is the audience? What ages/grade levels will be in the same presentation? How many presentations does the school/library expect for the honorarium that is being paid?

What are some advantages that writers/illustrators could benefit from by joining state reading and library associations, and attending their conferences?
Advantages of joining state reading and library associations: exposure! The author/illustrator may have to pay their own expenses but the contacts made at state conferences are invaluable. I’ve selected numerous authors and illustrators because I saw them in action at a state event. It also provided a venue to talk to other people who have had the presenter at their school/library in the past.

What is your favorite children’s joke?
I love knock, knock jokes!

Sandra asked me to post a knock-knock joke for her, since she loves them all. So, I thought this one might work for her, especially when mid-May rolls around ;-)

Who’s there?
Harvey who?
Harvey done yet?

Thank you so much, Sandra!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cinderella Writer Goes to the Ball

What a week it was! My every day life is usually about as exciting as watching paint dry (which is just fine by this little ol' introvert), but last week I made two school visits, to the high desert city of Apple Valley (home of Yucca Loma Elementary--a gem of the high desert) and the Central Coast community of Santa Maria (home of Liberty Elementary). The latter event was part of the San Luis Obispo California Reading Association's Central Coast Author Fair.

On Saturday, I visited the Santa Maria Valley Children's Discovery Museum (more on that later--awesome place for kids and adult who are kids at heart), Dandelion Wishes Children's Boutique and B Wise Supply. I was able to hobnob with fellow authors Teri Sloat, Alexis O'Neill, John Archambault, Sherry Shahan and Greg Trine.

Yes, I felt a bit like a Cinderella writer getting to step out of her normal work routine of sharpening pencils, tidying stacks of manuscripts that consume her office, pouring through piles of books, and madly scribbling down story ideas and working on those pesky revisions, and getting to dress up in her finest authorly clothes and spend time at the finest ball in the land (well, central coast California land) and spend time with royalty (although there was no ballroom dancing, I'm sure to Sherry Shahan's disappointment, but Alexis O'Neill, the Recess Queen was there :-).

It was indeed a joyful weekend. I really do believe that time spent with children and authors does not count against one's life on earth. It only adds to it!
PS: Photo courtesy of Alexis O'Neill :-)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Don't Let Their Efforts Be Wasted...Vote!

It’s hard to imagine the periods in our history when certain people did not have the right to vote based on their race or gender. The right for all to voice their opinion has been something I have taken for granted for most of my life.

Yet this year, this landmark year in American election history, has reminded us of the many people who sacrificed their health, well-being and even lives in order to assure that those who came after them were secured the right to vote. These were the true unsung heroes of America.

Hillary Clinton’s historical bid for the presidency and Sarah Palin’s vice presidential nomination have reminded us of how far women have come since the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the creation of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Barack Obama’s historical presidential nomination reminds us of the long and painful path in which African-Americans have marched, from the creation of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1865 until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (to learn more, click here).

We cannot let the efforts of those who have come before us go unnoticed. People suffered and died for the right to step into that booth and cast their vote—to let their voice be heard.

Author Ayn Rand once said, "Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote a way the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from the oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual."

So, for those who came before you, and for the future of those who will come after you, get out there and VOTE!

Visit BLOG THE VOTE for more non-partisan readings on the importance of voting.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Why do witches make for good writers?
They're very good at spelling!

How do you compliment a witch?
Tell her she's charming!

What do you get when you cross a witch and the Easter Bunny?
Someone who wishes you a Hoppy Halloween.

Have a safe one!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Writers' Day...Aahhhh...

Well, I did it again. I had so much fun at Writers' Day that I worked myself into a post-event migraine. It was just too much fun for this writing introvert! After all that social fun, I needed some serious withdrawl time. And yes, in light of my recent migraine posts, I should say that I wore my pink-tinted glasses when I was inside the auditorium (though I couldn't quite figure out what kind of lights they were).

Anyway, the day was terrific! I got to meet up with my critique group buddies from the area (Rebecca, Lynn, Siri and Dawn--so sorry we missed Jean), and I was able to meet some fabulous industry folks (Patrick Collins from Holt, Meredith Mundy Wasinger from Sterling, and Jamie Weiss Chilton from the Andrea Brown Agency). I especially enjoyed being Meredith's "shadow" for the day. No, not as in a creepy, stalking kind of way--it was my duty as one of my region's advisors. She is absolutely delightful and was able to give an in-depth look at Sterling Publishing. I hope to have an Mini-View from Meredith in the near future, so stay tuned.

Another highlight of the day were the "Spotlight Speakers", those authors who are given ten minutes to talk about something related to their path to success. This year's speakers were Caroline Hatton (you might remember her Mini-View from August), Tim Egan (Author/Illustrator), Siri Weber Feeney (one of my critique group buddies), Dan Hanna (another Mini-View interviewee), and Andrew Smith (author).

The true HIGHlight of the day came when Dan Hanna demonstrated how to REALLY launch a book into the world... Way to go, Dan! (yes, that's an actual copy of The Pout-Pout Fish flying through the air--even though the story is not about a flying fish!). What a day!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Writers' Day!

Tomorrow I head off to Thousand Oaks, CA for the Ventura/Santa Barbara SCBWI annual Writers’ Day (my local SCBWI chapter). I love Writers’ Day! It’s a one-day event but we pack it with great speakers, such as editor Meredith Mundy Wasinger (Sterling Publishing), agent Jamie Weiss Chilton (Andrea Brown Literary Agency), and creative director Patrick Collins (Henry Holt). Additionally, we feature a handful of newly published regional authors, our “Spotlight Speakers” who give a ten-minute talk on some aspect of how they became published (wow--what a great way to hear how others maneuvered on the road to publication). And, if that’s not enough, there are manuscript and portfolio critiques, plus a “first pages” panel where anonymous first pages (submitted by attendees) are read to our speakers followed by their reactions and comments.

C’mon, how cool does this day sound??? This is WHY you should join the SCBWI, if you haven’t already. Each regional chapter offers fantastic events, such as the one I described above. It’s a great way to hear real, live editors and other professionals in the children’s lit business, and network with other writers in your area.

I hope to see some of you there! More later...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Search Me!

I was just surfing the web, reading some of my blog faves, when I read about "branding" on Anastasia Suen's blog. I thought this new site that she pointed out, "Search Me", was so cool that I wanted to point it out. What a great way to see how the web defines you! Not only does an assortment of categories come up when you search your name, but when you click on a category, a series of web shots come up, which show where you've been featured. Very cool--I'm so glad Anastasia blogged about "branding" and this new site!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Migraines Are a Pain II: The Writing Life

Okay, here is where I share some observations I’ve made during my life as a writer. Note, there is nothing scientific about this—these are just observations made by little ol’ me ;-).

Conference and retreats: For some reason, the day after I return from a conference or retreat, I get a migraine. I can count on it. Even my husband knows to expect it. And sometimes, at longer events (like the SCBWI summer conference), it will sneak up on me on the last day of the event. One bit of knowledge that has helped me figure out how to “cope” with all the excitement of a conference or retreat came from the Shrinking Violets Promotion site. After reading Mary and Robin’s blog, I realized that I’m an introvert and introverts need—no, make that REQUIRE quiet time. I realized that I couldn’t stay plunged into the hubbub of conference events. Unless I wanted a headache. So, I take a break in the middle of the day. I go to my room and I listen to soothing music.
I also have found that I MUST be disciplined and get to bed at a reasonable time. No staying up past midnight chatting with my writer friends any more. I’m in my room by 9:30 at the latest. Lights out by 10:00. I also use earplugs and sometimes an eye mask, to insure that I get a good night's rest.

What do you do when attending conferences and such, to keep your migraines at bay? Anyone care to share?

Book Signings: Last May, I signed books at Book Expo America. On day one, I was in the hall where I signed books for about four hours. The next morning, I woke up with a whopper of a migraine. I attributed it to the stress of the event (driving down, finding the booth, etc.). The following month, I was at the ALA Conference, where I signed books for about three hours at my publisher’s booth. I started getting a headache, and by the time I was heading home on my three-hour drive, it was in full swing (and the prescription meds I take for migraines makes me sleepy, so I can’t take them and drive).
There was no weather, hormonal or dietary event to have caused these migraines. On my drive home, I called my husband. He said, “You know, I was talking to someone a couple of days ago about migraines, and they said that fluorescent lights can trigger them. I’ve never seen a convention center that didn’t have fluorescent lights. Maybe that's the cause?”

Wow. I'd never heard of that. So I did a Google search and read that there are special glasses to prevent migraines. Amazing. But to good to be true, the skeptic in me said. So, I asked my eye doctor about it. He explained that fluorescent lights can trigger migraines in two ways; either the micro-flashes from a single light source (like in your office) or from the lack of light rays from multiple lights (like in a convention hall, classroom or store). Specifically, it’s the red light rays. Apparently, cheaper lights, like those used in a convention center, lack the red rays (Note: There are more expensive ones available, but they cost a lot more). He pointed to his office and said, “This is why my office walls are pink. I want to cast enough red light into the room to avoid triggering migraines in my staff and patients.” Hmm. And I thought he just loved pink! He continued, “If the lack of red light rays is the trigger, all you have to do is paint your walls pink, or wear pink-tinted glasses.” Well, that's all I had to hear. I ordered a pair of pink-tinted glasses right there on the spot.
In the month of August, I had four book signings scheduled. I went into each store armed with my pink glasses. And guess what happened? Or shall I say, “Didn’t happen?” That’s right. I never got a migraine. I’m still being cautiously optimistic, at least until I try them out in a large venur, but I think they work. Now, when I walk into a fluorescently-lit room that I know I’ll be in for more than an hour or so, I pull out my pink-tinted glasses. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll continue to work for me.

Has anyone else found this to be effective?

Sorry if I’ve rambled, but I really do hope this might be of interest and possibly help other writers. I’ll say it again; I’m no expert, just a writer who wants to pass the word about possible migraine solutions.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Migraines Are a Pain

It recently occurred to me that I haven’t made any “Healthy Writer” posts for quite some time, so I thought I’d talk about a subject that’s near and not-very-dear to my heart. Migraines.

A few months back I saw, on a writer’s discussion board, a thread about migraines and I was stunned to see how many writers are cursed with them. Yes, I said cursed. I'm normally a "glass half full" kind of girl, but when it comes to migraines, I just can't see any upside to them at all. So, I thought that I'd share some of my own experiences here and hopefully, some of you will share, and maybe together we can help others. First question: Are you plagued with migraines? If the answer is yes, then you have my sincere sympathy.

Now, I’m not going to try to explain what a migraine is medically because well, I’m not sure the medical profession knows the truth behind migraines (but if you want to read up on them, you can read this Wikipedia article or go here). I won’t profess to be an expert on them, despite their frequent visits for the past eight years of my life. What I will share though, is what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. So here we go...

For those of you who don't get them, you might wonder, what is a migraine? Well, remember high school woodshop? You know those steel vises anchored onto the worktables? Well, imagine putting your head into one of those, lining up your temples just even with the vice and then asking someone to crank the vice down as hard as they can. That’s a migraine. It is NOT a headache. It is not under the victim’s control. It is not something one can just “push through.” It is debilitating pain that causes vision problems, painful light and sound sensitivity, nausea, dizziness and a throbbing pain in your head that personally makes me glad that I don’t own any guns. I am not exaggerating. It is THAT bad.

What triggers a migraine? I first started getting them a year after a car accident, when I was hit by a drunk driver (please folks, don’t EVER drive even after having a couple of beers). This unfortunate life-altering event also happened to coincide with peri-menopause (Oh, lucky me! I got a two-fer). Through the years though, I’ve realized that I have a variety of triggers for my migraines (I find the word “trigger” so fitting, as some migraines do feel like someone has shot me in the head). Okay, so here is a list of my triggers:

Hormone imbalance (you know what that means ;-)
Certain foods at certain times (very dark chocolate, alcohol)
Barometric pressure drops (as in, storm fronts moving through—a biggie in the fall and spring)
Fluorescent lights (this is a new discovery for me)
Sleep deprivation

What are yours?

Now, the last three things tie into my writing life and can be quite problematic for me. Fluorescent lights (like those in convention halls or in classrooms or in meeting rooms at hotels) can certainly offset a migraine (and what a drag it is to be hit with a migraine at a conference, or worse, during a school visit!). Sleep deprivation can also occur at conferences, writing retreats or other writing-related events. And stress. For Pete’s sakes, just planning for and getting to an event can be stressful for some of us!

Have you noticed any writing-related things that trigger migraines for you?

My post is getting a bit long now, so I’m going to stop here (but not because I don't care). Later this week, I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve found that have worked for me to control my migraines (See? There's a little hope).

I hope some of you will join in and share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

One More Marketing Book!

I almost forgot to mention one of my favorite marketing books!

How to Promote Your Children's Book: A Survival Guide for Published Authors by Evelyn Gallardo.

This one is a great reference for newly (and not so newly) published writers who are interested in doing school visits, signings, and other forms of PR.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marketing Books

Here's an observation. Last month, when I asked folks what their favorite books on writing were, I received a large number of responses. This month, when I asked about favorite books on marketing, I received a handful. Hmm...I think this reflects what many writer feel (this one included)--that they LOVE writing and HATE marketing.

With that in mind, here is a list of some recommended books on marketing.

1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer
An Author's Guide to Children's Book Promotion by Susan Salzman Raab
The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
The Complete Guide to Book Publicity by Jodee Blanco
The Shy Writer by C. Hope Clark
Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen
Publicize Your Book! by Jacqueline Deval
The Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market Guide by Alice Pope.
It’s a Bunny Eat Bunny World by Olga Litowinsky
Plug Your Book! by Steve Weber.
Any of the marketing books by Seth Godin

Friday, September 26, 2008

Authors & Illustrators Stand Together for Children

Over one thousand authors and illustrators (and counting) taking a stand.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recommended Books on Marketing

If you recall, last month I asked folks about their favorite books on the craft of writing, with the promise that I'd ask about marketing books at a later date (because like with our work, we need to focus on the craft before we even think about marketing).

Well, it's later. Not a lot, but enough to where I'm ready to ask the question: What's your favorite book on marketing?

Here are some of my favorites:

The Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market Guide (okay, that was a no brainer) by Alice Pope.
It's a Bunny Eat Bunny World by Olga Litowinsky.
Plug Your Book! by Steve Weber.

Okay, I told you mine. Now, what's yours?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrrr! It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Ahoy, me buckoos, once again it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! So pull out yer pirate dictionaries and be ready to gab in pirate-speak or walk the plank! Need a little sword tip to move ye forward? Try these pirate puns on fer size:

What did the pirate's dog say?
What did the pirate do when it rained for forty days and forty nights?
He built an arrrrrk.
What's a pirate's favorite subject in school?
Really, ye seadogs, ye must pull out the Chase Calendar of Events and discover more treasures of fun worth celebrating!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New CYBILS Award Category!

The CYBILS (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Award) has added a new category to their list of contest genres: Easy Readers. Yea for easys!!! I love seeing easy readers added to the contest. I've always said it's the most overlooked genre in children's literature and this is another step in recognizing their significance. And guess what? I'm a judge for this year's contest! Yowza! I'm so looking forward to reviewing the finalists and working with the other judges.

If you want to read more about the CYBILS, click here. Nominations begin Oct. 1, so start thinking about your favorite books of 2008 so you can nominate them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Trailers, Etc.

The ladies (that would be Laura Purdie Salas and Fiona Bayrock) over at Bubble Stampede ran a nice post today about children's book trailers. I absolutely delighted that they mentioned Blackberry Banquet's trailer, amongst others. And a little bird told me that they're going to do a follow-up post about creating book trailers too, so be sure to look for that upcoming post.

On the note of making book trailers, if you're interested in making your own, please feel free to read my previous post on how to create your own book trailer. If you're just too busy or don't feel you have the creative knack to undertake such a project, my writing buddy Tina Nichols Coury can help you out. You can check out a sample of her most recent work on her website by clicking here.

Happy trailer-ing!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
DAN HANNA lives high in the treetops of the Brazilian Rain Forest where he illustrates (and attempts to write) children's picture books. He periodically lowers his work to a devoted monkey-like companion who then submits it to various editors throughout the world. His first book, THE POUT-POUT FISH (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) was launched in March 2008.
Mr. Hanna doesn't have any children of his own but he does have a BOYish grin, he's YOUNG at heart, has CHILDish tastes and two KIDney stones.

How does it feel to have your first book (and author Deborah Diesen's first book) be on the NY Times Bestseller's list for children's books? Did you ever imagine it would be this successful?
It feels like a hot air balloon ride. But not like one of those rides where the basket catches on fire or the balloon hits a power line or something.

My imagination was all over the place. At the low end, I imagined it showing up in the 99 cent stores. At the high end, I imagined it becoming the basis for a world-wide religion where true believers would genetically alter themselves to resemble characters in the book. So getting on the NY Time's List was right about in the middle.

I'm just kidding of course. It was like a dream and it never occurred to me as a possibility. I still don't understand how it could have happened. I think maybe my fairy godmother went around buying tons of books and now she has about a zillion copies in her fairy garage.

You're a wonderful illustrator with an extensive background in animation; now that you've illustrated your first picture book, do you have any advice for aspiring picture book writers? How about aspiring illustrators? (okay, that's really two questions, but I have to give equal time to each craft :-)
Buy one thousand parrots and place them in a room with a looped recording saying something like: "Dan Hanna can sure draw fish!" Then release the parrots, using a helicopter, over each of the major publishing houses. When the editors leave for lunch they'll hear the parrots in the trees screeching "Aaaaccck, Dan Hanna can sure draw fish!" Now I know this scheme seems rather elaborate, but it worked for me.

Deborah and I were very fortunate to be included in Alice Pope's 2009 edition of CWIM (Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market). In my interview there's an extensive list of equally dubious "how to get published" advice.

What’s your favorite children’s joke?

My favorite is actually the "Interrupting Cow" joke but somebody [Jay Asher] already - MOO!

Q: Why doesn't anyone play poker on the Serengeti?

A: Because there's too many cheetahs.

Very funny! Thanks, Dan!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Get Out and Vote: For Blackberry Banquet!

Can't wait til November to vote? Then head on over to the New Covey Book Trailer Awards and cast your vote for the Blackberry Banquet book trailer! It's entry #3, so you'll have to scroll down a bit (and check out some of the other "steamy" looking trailers--nice work!).

My sweet little Blackberry trailer definitely is different, but I don't think anyone could find a juicier pick!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sound Advice from A Real, Live Publicist

Sara Dobie, publicist for Sylvan Dell Publishing, was a guest blogger last week for All Book Marketing. Sara gave authors some sound advice on how to promote books and generate buzz about its release. If you dig even further into the site, you'll also find lots of other good information and tips on book promotion. Check it out!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's Official: Blackberry is Launched!

I had a nice book launch on Saturday. Not a huge turnout, but lots of fun with the wee folks and their parents who did attend (next time, will someone please remind me when Labor Day is!). The kids (and grown-ups) all seemed to enjoy squeaking, tweeting, slurping, yipping, and chomping along with me as I read the story. Blackberry cookies and candy abound, and there were bear bracelets created and works of art in progress.

And of course, the highlight was the actual "launching" of a stuffed bear into the crowd (didn't want to take any eyes out with a real book), with the catcher of the bear receiving a free book in addition to getting to keep the bear. (thank you, Dan Hanna, for the launching inspiration).

And then, to keep the magic of my launch weekend going, this morning I opened my email to find that Blackberry Banquet received a lovely review on Stories for Children Magazine. If you haven't seen it before, please check it out! It's a great online magazine for kids that has editors with impeccable taste in books ;-).

Thanks again to those who could attend the launch and a HUGE BEAR HUG to those who contributed to the Women's Center book donation drive. I think there will be a few berry happy kids thanks to the generosity of others.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I hope you'll "bear" with me, as I send out one last reminder about my book launch for Blackberry Banquet, this Saturday at 11:00 AM at Red Rock Books in Ridgecrest. I hope to see many of my friends and professional colleagues there! We'll have refreshments, activities for the kids, I'll chat a bit and do a reading (not to worry about time--the book is under 500 words!).

If you can't make it, please remember that you can still purchase a book to be donated to the High Desert Women's Center, where the books will be given to children who come into the center with their mothers as they embark upon on a new start in life. That's like getting a bear hug with pages!

All you have to do is call Red Rock Books at (760) 375-3454 and request to buy a $10.00 gift certificate for the Terry Pierce signing for The Women's Center. This will allow children at the center to get their own autographed copy of the book. It's as easy as pie (blackberry pie, of course! ;-).

If you have any questions, you can email me but all donation orders must go through the bookstore.

Here are the bear necessities:

What: Blackberry Banquet Book Launch
Where: Red Rock Books, 206 W. Ridgecrest Blvd., Ridgecrest, CA 93555
When: Saturday, Aug. 30 at 11:00 AM.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sylvan Dell Publishing's "Book Beat"

Sylvan Dell Publishing (publisher of Blackberry Banquet) puts out a bi-monthly newsletter called Book Beat that's filled with all kinds of interesting things about reading, their company, books, authors and illustrators. This month I'm proud to say that they have included the winning recipe of my recent contest, "On Top of the Stove Blackberry Cobbler." You can see the current issue of Book Beat by clicking here.

This was such a great and easy recipe that I wanted to share a little bit more about the recipe and the winner, Jean Ann Williams. The recipe has been passed down for three generations. At age twelve, she began making "On-Top-of-the-Stove Blackberry Cobbler" from berries her siblings picked by the pond, enjoying the dish hot or cold at every meal. She now serves the dessert with vanilla ice cream to her family. Jean Ann has published many healthy eating articles for the teen audience and has a blog at

And guess what? I've been experimenting, and you can make it with other fruit as well. Yummmmy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blackberry Banquet to Help Women/Children Charity

One of the things I love about being a writer is seeing my books used for good causes, and I recently read about an idea that just about knocked my socks off because I loved it so much (thank you, Mary Hershey!). Mary had the terrific idea to use her latest book launch as a means to donate books to Girls, Inc., a local girls' organization in Santa Barbara, CA.

When I read about this, I called my local bookseller and shared Mary's idea. She loved the idea too, so together Red Rock Books (in Ridgecrest, CA) and I are going to be donating books to The High Desert Women's Center, as part of my book launch. The Women's Center is a non-profit organization that helps women and their children who have left abusive home environments, and helps them get started on a fresh, new life. Because that kind of a situation can be so uncertain and a bit scary for young children, we thought that having each child receive a new book of their own would perhaps offer them a little comfort (and on a separate note, a quilting local club donates homemade quilts, so this way each child will receive a new quilt and a new book).

Red Rock Books is making available to the public a chance to purchase a gift certificate in the amount of $10.00. The certificate will be designated to buy one copy of Blackberry Banquet and that copy will be donated to the Women's Center. You can call Red Rock Books at (760) 375-3454 and request to buy a $10.00 gift certificate for the Terry Pierce signing for The Women's Center. This will allow children at the center to get their own autographed copy of the book. How easy is that?

And of course, if anyone wants to join in the festivities of the launch, the date is Saturday, Aug. 30 at 11:00 AM. I'd love to see you there (and of course, if anyone wants to buy copies for themselves, that's okay too :-).


Monday, August 18, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

CAROLINE HATTON is a scientist and a children’s writer. She has accumulated knowledge of drugs in sports and expertise in anti-doping science since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles when she went to work for Don Catlin, a preeminent champion of drug-free sports. Her idea of a fun 100-meter race is barefeet on the beach without prize money or recorded times. In 1996, she began pursuing her life-long dream of writing for children. The Night Olympic Team is her fifth children’s book. Her first novel, Véro and Philippe, made the Los Angeles Times children’s bestsellers list. You can read the beginning of all her books by clicking HERE.

With the Olympic Games in full swing this week, I thought this would be the perfect time for us to get to know Caroline a little better. I’m very grateful that this very busy author was able to do a Mini-View for us!

Could you please tell us about The Night Olympic Team. When did you get the idea to write a children's book about doping in the Olympics?
It was at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, after we found a prohibited drug in athletes’ samples. During a discussion with other scientists in the lab, bright ideas were flying around like sparks. A rush of excitement made me jump up from my chair and pace all over the room, feeling ready to burst. That’s when I thought, “Some day, I will write this story for children.”

How did you come up with the idea to make it a "science sleuth" theme?
I didn’t. Life did! The book simply shows how the drama unfolded and reflects my emotions.

Do you have a favorite tip for someone interested in writing children's nonfiction?
Look for story. Like fiction, nonfiction can take readers on the emotional ride of their lives. Look for engaging elements: likeable, real-life characters; conflict; high stakes; the clock ticking; suspense; and surprises. Then spin a good yarn.

What is your favorite children's joke?
Q: What do you get if you cross a chicken and a T. rex?

A: A Tyrannosaurus pecks.

Thank you, Caroline!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Recommended Books on Writing

Okay folks, here is the list of favorite books on writing. I was happy to see that many writers (thank you, fellow V/SB SCBWI listservers!) shared books that I already have on my bookshelf along with some others that I haven't read yet. I hope you'll add some to your book list. Happy reading!

Writing in General:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.
The Plot Thickens by Noah LukemanSave the Cat! by Blake Snyder.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
“Winter Room” prologue called "Tuning" by Gary Paulsen
On Writing by Stephen King
The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri The Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand
The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand
Aristotle's Poetics
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas
Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard Marcus

Children’s Writing:
How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published by Barbara Seuling.
Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen.
The Art of Writing for Children by Connie Epstein.
You Can Write Children's Books by Tracey E Dils
The Complete Idoit's Guide to Publishing Chidren's Books by Harold D Underdown and Lynne Rominger
Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
Poem Making by Myra Cohn Livingston

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What's Your Favorite Book on Writing?

Happy summer, everyone!

Summer is a great time to catch up on reading, and while I always have a stack of children's books nearby to read, I also use this time to read books on the craft of writing. I know I have my personal favorites that I've read and re-read, and I wondered if any of you would like to share your favorites too. So how about it? What's your favorite craft book on writing (or writing and illustrating) for children (not marketing--just craft).

I'll start with my three most favorite (and I'm not counting The Elements of Writing by Wm. Strunk and E.B. White since it's a given that we all own a copy). Oh wait, I just checked my bookshelf and realized it's impossible for me to narrow it down to three! I'll try five.

Hmm...okay, this won't work either. Too tough! I'll break it down into two categories; Writing for children and Writing in General, and I'll keep it at three titles. Here they are:

Writing in General:
1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King.
2. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.
3. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder.

Writing for Children:
1. How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published by Barbara Seuling.
2. Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen.
3. The Art of Writing for Children by Connie Epstein.

Some of these are the books on which I cut my writer's teeth and have much special meaning to me. Some are a bit more recent, but they all provide wonderful information for how to get started and how to fine-tune your work.

Oh, I could go on and on, and after I receive some of your suggestions, I will! I'll post a full list of everyone's suggestions after a few days.

Thanks for leaving a comment with your favorite writing books. I'm looking forward to seeing your recommendations!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back from Vacation

I'm back from vacation and boy, am I ready to get back to work! Don't get me wrong, I loved visiting my son and daughter-in-law, seeing New Hampshire and Maine for the first time, and getting to spend time with my grandcats. I saw so many cool new places--both historical and natural--and I fell in love with Pemaquid Peninsula in Maine, where at the lighthouse are some outstanding gneiss formations (for you geology geeks like me). But you know how it is--us writers get a wee bit grumpy when we can't write for a few days, so I'm eager to get back to real life.

Now I can focus on my novel revisions plus a brand new project, and I have three book signings for Blackberry Banquet this month, the first being at the Barnes & Nobel in Palmdale, CA on Saturday, Aug. 16. Yikes! I'd better get to work!

Happy writing!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'm taking a few days off from blogging in order to recreate (or shall I say,"re-create"). I'll be catching up on reading, writing and relaxing, but please do join me back in August.

Happy summer!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Blackberry Recipe Contest Winner!

Drumroll, please!!!

We have a winner! The winning contribution for the Best Blackberry Recipe came from writer Jean Ann Williams of Santa Maria, CA. Jean Ann’s recipe, On-Top-of-the-Stove Blackberry Cobbler, has been in her family for three generations and originated in Oregon, the birthplace of Blackberry Banquet. It's one of those old-fashioned recipes that doesn't require many ingredients or measuring because you suit it to your own taste.

Congratulations to Jean Ann and a huge thanks to all of the other entrants. It was fun baking, assembling and tasting the various recipes; and it truly was a difficult decision to make. In fact, I couldn’t decide alone—I ended up soliciting a “panel” of judges for their opinions. What was one judge's comment on Jean's winning entry? "It's like blackberry pie in a cup!" So, without further ado, here is the winning recipe:

By Jean Ann Williams

1. As many blackberries you managed to pick.
2. Sugar to taste and added in before dough strips.
3. Favorite pie dough recipe made with shortening or lard, not butter.

Prepare pie dough for either one or two crust pie, depending on how many berries.

Wash berries in a colander, careful not to squeeze berries and therefore losing juices. Dump into a pot, not filling more than 2/3 full. DO NOT ADD WATER! Simmer on low to medium heat. Stir occasionally. Add the sugar to taste.

Pull an apricot-sized ball of pie dough and roll thin on a cutting board. Cut long strips like for lattice weave about ¾ inches wide. Then, cut the lattice in half to accommodate layering into pot of berries.

Once berries juices flow and thicken and boil slightly, add first layer of dough strips. Let simmer for five minutes to set the dough, and then stir into berries. Repeat the rolling of dough and continue this until all dough is gone or you have enough dough to suit you in cobbler. After last layer of dough is stirred in, let simmer for five more minutes. Take off stove and let cool to warm in the pot or in bowls.

This cobbler is very tasty warm and with a side of ice cream. IF you have leftovers, refrigerate. Eating cold is another treat, but if you wish to reheat, then add a bit of water to stir into bottom of pan so as not to scorch.

I make this for at least twelve servings and use the double pie dough recipe (with maybe a little leftover). We’ve never measured our ingredients, except for the dough and it always comes out tasty. Did I say never add water when making? That is a sure way to lose some of your rich berry flavors. Enjoy! Our family has for three generations.

My own notes: (from Terry)
Because I’m one of those people who likes things in measurements, I'll share the amounts I used:
four 6-oz. containers of berries (fresh berries are unavailable where I live)
½ cup sugar
Also, I kept a lid on the pot while it simmered to retain the heat and “bake” the piecrust pieces.
I served in custard cups with a choice of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for my judging team.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blackberry Banquet's Youngest Fan

Children's author Debbi Florence sent me this photo. I think this little cutie pie has got to be Blackberry Banquet's youngest fan (or maybe she's just fascinated by her foot ;-).

It just goes to show that you're never too young to appreciate a good book!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Children's Book Council News

The Children's Book Council has featured Blackberry Banquet on its 2008 July/August "Summertime Fun" list! Check it out--the ten books are about all kinds of summer fun. Pick yourself a reading treat from the list, pour yourself a frosty glass of lemonade, and settle down into a shady spot for some fun and relaxation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SCBWI Summer Conference Tips

More Tips for Sailing Through the SCBWI Summer Conference

It’s almost that time again—the SCBWI Summer Conference is rapidly approaching. Unfortunately, I have to miss it this year, but since I’ve been a few times, I thought I’d offer up some tips from my own past experiences.

1. Take a sweater or jacket. While the hotel is lovely, the meeting rooms and ballroom can be freezing! Of course, they can be stiflingly warm too. Take a cue from the Boy Scouts. Be prepared.

2. Map out your sessions. I like to determine my breakout sessions in advance, highlighting which ones pique my interest, but I also keep my ear out for other people who might have heard the speakers in other sessions. That way, if I get a sense that the speaker doesn’t offer what I’m looking for I can change plans. I usually have a first and second choice highlighted on my conference flier. I’ve also found that it helps to read the books of the speakers you know you’ll be hearing.

3. Wear comfortable shoes. Even though we’re in the same hotel all day, there are three levels for conferencing, plus the treks to our rooms and dining opportunities. No one wants his or her piggies to be crying at the end of the day.

4. Food: IMHO, there are slim options for eating at the hotel: one nice restaurant—overpriced in my opinion, a poolside café, and the lounge/bar. For lunch, usually there’s a sandwich cart in the hotel lobby (sandwich, chips, soda/water), except on Sunday, due to the Golden Kite Luncheon. Last year, both my roommate and I found the sandwiches dry and overpriced ($7.50 for a sandwich, $3.00 for an apple, $4.50 for a small bottle of water). Oh, and speaking of the Golden Kite Luncheon (or as it’s affectionately called, “the parade of chicken breasts”), the dessert is always to die for! I’ve never been disappointedJ.

For dinners, my pals and I hoof it down the street to the mall (less than ten-minutes) where there is a variety of eateries at the food court. Saturday night we nosh at the poolside gala (a fun munch and mingle kind of thing—live music and a costume contest).
The only eating issue I’ve had is on Sunday night, but what I’ve found to work is that room service, while a bit spendy, offers large enough portions to share with my roommate. Plus, I usually take some snacks with me (fruit, granola bars), so there’s enough to tide me over.

I honestly don’t know much about the breakfasts, other than the muffins, etc. that I’ve seen sold at the lounge/bar. I usually bring some homemade muffins/scones so I don’t have to waste my morning time standing in a line. Last year, the coffeemakers were removed from the rooms (this in new since Hilton took over) but there’s free coffee in the lobby until around 11:00 or so.

5. Bring a book bag and money. Of course, there will be books sold and after hearing all of the fabulous authors, you’ll want to buy their books. Here’s a hot tip: the “cash” line is always shorter than the “credit card” line, so if you’re comfortable with it, bring some spare cash with you (hotel rooms do have safes for locking up your valuables).
Additionally, there are usually freebies (catalogs, posters, writing guidelines from various publishers, promotional materials from authors/illustrators).
Now, I have to say that “freebies” doesn’t mean taking an author’s book from the display table. Eh-hem...yes, one year I took a copy of my new joke book to proudly display and by the end of the first day, someone had stolen it. Yep, stolen it! Can you believe that? And I’ve known other authors who had the same thing happen to them. I’d like to imagine a child somewhere is enjoying that book, and doesn’t know that how it came to land in his hands.

6. Take care of yourself. This is a personal one, because we’re all different, but I’ve learned to allow some “down time” for myself because four days of listening, learning, schmoozing and just plain hanging out with my writer and illustrator pals is fantastically exhausting. I bring a swimsuit for the Jacuzzi. Some folks participate in the yoga class. If you read my post on getting a good night’s sleep while traveling, you know that I bring a headset with quiet music. In essence, take care of yourself! It’s so very easy to overdo it.

7. Step out of your shell (if you have one). I know this is tough for a lot of people. The second conference I attended I didn’t know a single person. It was quite intimidating. I roomed with complete strangers who also didn’t know another soul in attendance. But I immediately discovered that children’s writers are some of the friendliest people on the planet. One way to break the ice with people is to notice where they’re from (it’s on the nametags they give us) and strike up a conversation about that. If you’re waiting for a session to begin, chat with the person next to you. Ask them what kind of writing they do, if they’re published. Heck, you could even ask if they’ve read any good books lately! Remember, we all have a common bond of writing/illustrating for children, so there are a many interesting things to talk about.

8. Parking: If you carpool with a friend, drop the friend and all the luggage off at the hotel front then park the car. It’s a bit of a haul to lug all your bags from the hotel to the parking structure in the back. Or you can use the valet parking (for an extra fee).

9. Etiquette: Please don’t shove your manuscript under a restroom stall at an editor. It makes us all look bad. Manners, manners, manners! And I’m serious.

10. Expectations. Don’t expect to come home with a book contract in hand. That just doesn’t happen. What you will come home with is 1) newfound knowledge and insight, 2) new friends/colleagues, 3) editorial hope. By this, I mean that you will have heard editors speak and have the hope that because you better understand what their needs are, your work might find a place with them. This takes time—time for you to go home and re-evaluate your work (now that you have this newfound knowledge), time to further polish it, time to compose a well-thought out cover letter, and time for the editor to read it. That’s your hope.

Notes from last year:

11. Coffee-aholics: Request a coffeemaker for your room, or bring you own (I have a small single-cup coffeemaker I got from Brookstone that I love). Last year, there was a Starbucks in the hotel lobby, but if you don’t want to leave your room for your morning cup o’ joe, then you should plan in advance.

12. Manuscript Critique. If you’re doing a paid ms critique, bring an extra copy for you to make marks on as your reviewer is making comments. And write down in advance any questions you have. It’s easy to forget questions when nerves get a stranglehold on you.

Enjoy and happy conferencing!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Catching Up: Recipe Contest Reminder + More

Time is sailing by during my visit to Oregon. I had a fun reading of Blackberry Banquet last weekend at the Hood River Library, followed by a book signing at the Waucoma Bookstore, a fabulous indie located in downtown Hood River. The folks there are terrific and I’m happy to say the store is going strong. They have a nice children’s section and are they’re very supportive of local educators. It's my kind of bookstore!

I also wanted to remind folks that only two days are left to enter the Blackberry Recipe Contest I’m holding here on my blog. The deadline is July 10. Please scroll down to find the contest details. I’m salivating just thinking about all of the delicious recipes I get to make in helping me determine a winner; and for those of you who are waiting to the last minute (perhaps adding a final touch to that perfect blackberry cheesecake recipe), I’m looking forward to receiving your recipes soon.

Happy baking!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Review: The Night Olympic Team

“Night falls on the Olympic Village. Lights go out one by one. The Olympic flame bounces alone in the cold, the only movement till dawn. Or is it?”

It’s winter, 2002, in Utah. In a remote laboratory, tucked in the snow-covered foothills away from the Olympic Village, a team of scientists are gearing up to do what few people think of as part of being a scientist. These real-life crime fighters are out to catch cheaters.

THE NIGHT OLYMPIC TEAM is a true story of how a team of UCLA scientists worked through the nights of the 2002 Salt Lake City games to figure out which athletes, if any, were taking banned drugs. The story shows in detail how the scientists came to arrive at their conclusion: someone had indeed cheated. All-night work sessions, secret meetings in the nearby wilderness and racing with the clock were all part of what the team had to do in order to catch the wrongdoers before the games were over.

Author Caroline Hatton not only tells how these science sleuths successfully identified the dishonest athletes, but she also gives readers an up-close look at the history of doping in athletics, the health risks involved with taking blood-boosters and performance-enhancing drugs, and how and why athletes resort to using them.

This book is a must-read for young athletes. Photographs of the Olympic Games and the scientists at work enhance an already fascinating story. The book concludes with “Sports Smarts: Healthy Ways to Enhance Performance” (tips for kids to compete in a healthy manner), a glossary of terms and an author’s note that discusses the ongoing debate about these drugs and the legislation involving them. The School Library Journal says, “Teachers and young readers will appreciate Hatton’s personable manner and her keen perspective on this timely subject.”

In addition to being a best-selling children’s author, Dr. Caroline Hatton was a scientist at the UCLA Olympic Lab and a member of “the night Olympic team.” She has carefully created a story that addresses a mature and controversial topic in a clear, truthful and intriguing manner for kids. You can learn more about her and her books by clicking here.

The Night Olympic Team/ ISBN 978-1-59078-566-9/2008/Boyds Mills Press

Friendly Reminder: Recipe Contest

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline for my blackberry recipe contest is two weeks away. For all of the juicy details, click here.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oops! Missed a Stop

How does that old saying go? Well, slap my face and call me silly! Yesterday, it was pointed out to me that Valarie Giogas, author of In My Backyard (Sylvan Dell Publishing), had hosted me on her blog as part of my book blog tour a few days ago. Thank you, Valarie, for bringing it to my attention! :-}

Valarie had asked me some really fun questions for the interview, so please hop on over to her blog for a look (scroll down to June 13)!

Thanks, Valarie!

Monday, June 23, 2008


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

JAY ASHER is the author of the New York Times Bestseller's list young adult novel, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. He got the idea for THIRTEEN REASONS WHY at a museum. While taking an audio tour, he was struck by the eeriness of the voice in his ear—a woman who described exactly what he was looking at, but wasn’t there.

Jay lives on the central coast of California. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is his first book. Find out more about him at

Thirteen Reasons Why has had huge success in its young life. Did you ever foresee the kind of attention it has received and how do you keep grounded with all of the attention it (and you) have gotten since its release? And possibly related to that, what project are you currently working on?
If the book found its audience (which required the help of booksellers and librarians), I thought it could be a real word-of-mouth success because of its mix of suspense, a unique structure, and the issues it discussed. I just didn't think the initial audience would be so big. From there, the teens took over and began recommending it to their friends. I definitely didn't expect to see it on the New York Times Bestseller list, though. When it first appeared on that list, it was such a shock that I actually started crying.

As far as staying grounded, a full-time job definitely helps. But, more than that, the letters I receive from teens are so heartwarming and inspiring. Many of them open up about their own lives and tell me the ways in which the book positively affected them. I can't feel anything but honored by that.

I'm working on my next novel for teens right now. There will definitely be more humorous elements in this book than Thirteen Reasons Why...but hopefully just as engaging.

Do you have a favorite novel-writing exercise, tip or piece of advice that you find most useful, and are willing to share with other writers?
Thirteen Reasons Why
was the first manuscript I wrote without anyone looking at it (other than the first 12 pages) before it was finished. Since I was writing such a personal story, I didn't want anyone swaying the emotional aspects of my words yet. But I did hold several brainstorming sessions with my wife and two writing friends (and co-bloggers) Robin and Eve. After it was finished and polished to the best of my abilities, then I let other people read at a time. After each person critiqued it, I made alterations and then passed the manuscript on to the next person. That way, the story was seen through fresh eyes each time as opposed to the same people critiquing every stage of the revision process.

What's your favorite children's joke? (I know as a frequent winner of the SCBWI summer conference joke contests, you've got to have a few jokes on hand ;-).
Knock knock!

Who's there?

Interrupting cow.



Thanks, Jay!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kid-Friendly Blackberry Recipe

Mmm-mm-mm! Check out Mary Ann Dames's website. Today she's posted a very kid-friendly recipe, Bear's Crunchy Blackberry Treat, to go with Blackberry Banquet!

What a great way to start the summer~ reading and preparing food with kids!