Friday, May 29, 2009

Off to Ventura for Some "Easy" Living!

I'm packing up to head down to Ventura for my SCBWI workshop on Saturday, "The ABCs of Writing EZ Readers." We've got a good number of folks signed up so it should be a fabulous afternoon on learning, interacting and reveling in our craft!

And yes, this desert girl will definitely breathe in some of that moist ocean air!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Book Bites the Dust...

I just got word that my very first picture book, Two Tales of Hawai'i (Island Heritage Publishing), is going out of print. I'm saddend, but I know I shouldn't be surprised. Given the current economy, book publishers are forced to take a much harder look at what they're keeping in print and what they're letting go. And Two Tales has been in print since 2003, so it's outlived many other picture books.

But was my first "baby" in print and I'm left with a hollowness inside, as I envision it taking wing and joining all the other out-of-print titles in "book heaven."

Monday, May 25, 2009

VC Journey: Application, Acceptance, Absorption

I promised I'd chat a bit about my experiences thus far with the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Since my studies don't officially begin until the July residency, I thought I'd give an idea of the things that happen before that time--the "pre-residency" phase of enrollment. By the way, if you're not familiar with the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, click HERE to read a very nice overview of it, by former graduate Erik Talkin.

I applied in the fall of '08 (the deadline for fall 2009 wasn't until March 2009, but I'm the kind of person who likes to get things turned in early, if at all possible). The application packet consisted of an application, two letters of recommendation, college transcripts, writing samples and two essays--one personal essay that addresses questions posed by the college, the other being a critical essay on some aspect of writing for children.

I found out in mid-February that I had been accepted. Yea! Snoopy dance time! (quickly followed by a big, "Oh my gosh--what have I gotten myself into? Can I really do this?" moment. ;-)

The folks at VCFA have been incredibly friendly, generous with answering my endless questions/concerns, and helping me in many ways. And when I say, "folks”, I mean the administrators and students (current and past). Everyone immediately suggested I join the student forum (online) where I could ask questions and introduce myself. There is also an extensive FAQ page, packed with tons of info about everything from academics to housing. The students I've cyber-met on the forum have been so nice, and very helpful! I can't wait to meet them this summer; my fellow travelers on the VC MFA journey.

I have to say though, that I've relied on three of my regional SCBWI buddies, and former VC students, (Sherry Shahan, Dianne White and Mary Ann Dames) to chat with about the program, answer questions and give me a very real sense of what the experience will be like (thanks, ladies--you all rock!). I must admit though, this feels eerily similar to my pregnancy experience, where everyone smiled, told me it would be life-changing, generously offered words of wisdom—but none of it *really* prepared me for it until I was right there in the trenches actually living through it. And both experiences seem to involve extremely hard work, lack of sleep, exhaustion at times and hopefully not too much crying!

Next, I'll talk a bit more about the next decision I had to make--what to do about the fall semester...

Monday, May 18, 2009

A New Path

Beginning in July, I'll begin a journey down a new path in my life, as a part of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Master's in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. I'm very excited about this! I've dreamed of enrolling in this program since I first heard about it, many years ago. Now, with my son out of college, it's finally my turn!

Am I thrilled? Yes! Excited? Oh yeah! A little nervous? Absolutely! Terrified at times? You betcha! (but just once in a while and that's when Mary Ann and Dianne talk me down :-).

But it was time. Time for me to move on to something different--something that could take me to places I've never been before with my writing. New levels, new commitments, a whole new world.

And for anyone interested, my hope is to focus my blog on my VC experiences (which would entail the next two years). I have a feeling I won't have a lot of time for posting, maybe once a week or so, but for anyone who is interested in the program, maybe it will give you some insight.

So, there's my big news... Next week I'll give a little more details about what's happened up to this point. So please, stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just a quick bit of shameless self-promotion here...

I'll be presenting an SCBWI workshop on Easy Readers on Saturday, May 30 from 1:00-4:30 PM in Ventura, CA. For anyone interested in attending, or learning more details, please click HERE. It should be a fun (and informative!) afternoon. My goal is for attendees to leave feeling like their heads are overflowing with information. And the packets I'll provide...ah, the packets!

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

VALERIE HOBBS did not set out to write novels for young adults, but ever since critics praised her 1995 coming-of-age story, HOW FAR WOULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN IF I HADN’T CALLED YOU BACK?, she has been a respected author of fiction for teens. At the rate of approximately one book per year, Hobbs has crafted character-driven tales about young people on the verge of adulthood, forced to make serious decisions about the direction their lives will take. Often the young protagonists are confronted with circumstances beyond their control--the death of a guardian or a boyfriend, parental divorce, or physical disability. How they deal with these challenges forms the core of Hobbs's works.

By receiving this year's California Young Reader Medal in the Intermediate Category for your middle-grade novel, SHEEP, you've added another award to your extensive list of honors. You say, "Writing is the hardest work I've ever done, but by far the most fun." With so many award-winning novels and such a positive attitude, can you share with us how you keep the writing flame burning so brightly?
Oh, were it always bright! I do a good deal of butt-in-chair with no lights burning, believe me. But a terrific award like this one elevates the chair quite a bit, that's for sure.

I have to ask a question on craft. Could you tell us a little bit about your story creation process? Do you have any tips/advice for someone who wants to write a novel but doesn't know where to begin?
I always begin with a character and that character is invariably me, though I never intend it. These characters were once the young ones, now they're getting old. So I identify with Pearl in Defiance, but the cow and Toby, too, and with the grandmother in The Last Best Summer (Spring 2010). I've mined a lot of things from my own life. I always recommend fictionalizing events drawn from our own lives because getting in touch with what we remember and know really deepens what we're writing, gives it an authenticity that's harder to create when a story is entirely made up. Or so I think. "Sheep", for example, is based on having a homeless Border collie for three weeks, "Sonny's War" came out of having a brother who went to Vietnam, and my first novel, "How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn't Called You Back" is pretty much a rip off of my 16th year.

So my advice would be to dig into the past, even the "awful" stuff and freewrite about it without judging the person who you were or the writing you do now. The stuff that makes your heart beat harder will usually do the same for a reader.

What's your favorite children's joke?
Well, right now anything with "butt" or "poop" in it because that's what cracks my six year-old grandson up, and anything that cracks him up cracks me up.

Thanks, Val~ and congratulations on winning the California Young Reader Medal!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Unexpected Vacation...

As some of you might know from my past blogs about migraines, I suffer from these deplorable, head-hammering demons. Last week was a bad one (will the spring winds EVER go away?), as I spent most of my daylight hours sacked out on the couch (seriously, I fear I've actually lost brain cells from watching so much daytime TV).

But, I hope to get back on track soon.

I'll have a new Mini-View posted within the next few days, so stay tuned for that (ah-ah-ah--you'll have to stay tuned to see who will be my featured guest). And I've got some good news to announce as well! (more on that later).

So please, stay tuned!