Saturday, December 7, 2013

ReviMo 2014!

Author and illustrator Meg Miller is offering the perfect follow-up to PiBoIdMo! From January 12-18, 2014, Meg will inspire writers to spend a week revising one of their picture book ideas. Click HERE for details.

There's no excuse now. No more finding reasons to put off developing your most intriguing picture book concept. Meg is giving you a way to commit to working on that idea for just ONE week. And really, sometimes isn't that all we need is just one swift kick-in-the-pants commitment to get going on a story?

I'm all signed up! I hope to see you there :-).

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Writing Gods Giveth and They Taketh Away...

This past week, the universe imposed opposing forces upon me. First, it giveth... Last month, for PiBoIdMo , I got a story idea and worked on it quite a bit. The only problem--I could NOT figure out how to start it. Everyday, I tried, but nothing came. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I wrote the middle and the ending, yet there sat my blank lines designated for the beginning, staring back at me.

 A couple of days ago, I was digging around in my nightstand drawer looking for some Chapstick. And there, pushed under some other things, scribbled on a notepad were four barely legible lines. I was amazed as I read them. It was my opening! I do not remember ever writing those lines down except to say that it was not anytime recently. I must have done it in the middle of the night or early one morning while still half-asleep, months ago. But somehow those four lines stuck in my subconscious and the rest of the story came to light under the inspiration of PiBoIdMo. Isn't it oddly serendipitous how a writer's brain can work? I was quite pleased with this turn of events.
But then the universe, in its constant working of the yin and yang, tooketh away... One morning last week, I was lying in bed with my cat snuggled down on my lap, sound asleep. I got a story idea but had no paper and pen within reach (if only my arms were a foot longer!). But I did have my cell phone! On it's Notes feature, I typed out the basic outline of the story, along with some strong opening lines. Again, I was quite pleased with things. A couple of hours later, long after the cat had woken up and freed me, I went to retrieve my notes off my phone so I could add them to my PiBoIdMo notebook. But my phone wouldn't work. Well, the phone worked but the screen did not. Long story short--I had to replace my phone. Luckily, still under warranty, the manufacturer sent me a replacement. All I had to do was keep my cards and put them in the new phone.
Do you see where this is heading? When I went to retrieve my fabulously brilliant notes, they weren't there. When my phone screen fried, I lost my notes! I've been trying to recall my wonderful beginning and overall structure, but it's just not coming back to me. I know, maybe I should look in my nightstand drawer, where serendipity seems to thrive!
Sigh...the gods of the writing universe giveth and they taketh away, but my lesson learned is to never trust technology and always keep pen and paper within reach!

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Interview...with Moi!

Children's author Robin Dobson interview with me this morning! Click here to read about Blackberry Banquet and writing in rhyme. Robin is also giving away two signed copies of my book!

What I found to be delightfully surprising is that Robin created a math activity to go with Blackberry Banquet, where she uses the Montessori Division Board. Why was this surprising? Robin had no idea that I hold an AMI (Montessori) Teaching Diploma and taught Montessori preprimary classes for twenty-two years. Now, that's serendipitous!

=  FUN!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I Got My Literary Agent--Part II

In my previous post, I shared the part of my journey that led to receiving an offer of representation. Before I finish the story, let me first say—and I cannot stress this enough—take your cue from the Boy Scouts and BE PREPARED (figure out why you want an agent and what you’re looking for in an agent before you start submitting).
If you recall, I left off with three agents holding multiple manuscripts (Agents B and C, plus Tricia Lawrence). This made me become rather “OC” (obsessive-compulsive) about checking my email. So, around 6:00 one Friday morning, still blurry-eyed and half-asleep, I checked my phone for any news. There was a message from Agent C.
I slumped. “Darn it! I got my first rejection from one of the three agencies,” I said to my husband. He asked me what it said and I told him I didn’t know, that I hadn’t read it yet.
“Well, read it! Don’t assume the worst!” he said. 

But remember, I’d received 69 rejections prior to this so I’d gotten used to bad news. I was convinced it was a “No.” But of course, I opened it.  And I was stunned to see it was an offer of representation!

 Have you ever seen someone win at Wimbledon? You know, when the best tennis player in the world wins match point; then falls to her knees, face in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably? 

Yep, that was me! Words couldn’t express the overwhelming joy and relief I felt, that finally, FINALLY, someone made me an offer. That someone really liked my work. It truly was surreal.
Agent C wanted to talk! I wrote her back right away and then stressed all day waiting for a response. By late that afternoon, I was convinced it was a mistake and that she’d accidentally written to the wrong Terry; that she meant to write another Terry who had subbed work to her (I know that sounds neurotic but this business can seriously mess with your mind). Finally, that evening, she wrote me back and we set up a time to talk.
I spoke with her by phone two days later* and we hit it off well. I was excited about the prospects of working with the agency. Even though it was a new one, it sounded wonderful and I personally connected with them. And there were benefits to working with a new agency (eager to sell my work, being a showcase author). She wanted to email me a contract that day but I told her I had two other agencies that had requested my work and I needed to give them a chance to respond.  
* Note: Before the phone call, I did my homework and was prepared. has a fabulous article on what to do when an agent offers representation. Not only did I understand how to handle multiple offers, but for the phone call I had the prepared questions in front of me, two pens, water, and I dressed as if I was going to an in-person interview just to keep me on my “professional toes.”
As soon as I got off the phone with Agent C, I emailed Tricia and Agent B to let them know I had an offer. Agent B wrote back that afternoon with a pass but wished me well. The next morning, Tricia wrote me and thanked me for letting her know. She asked for a week to review my work. I let Agent C know this right away and thanked her for her patience as I considered this highly important career decision.
Five days later, Tricia emailed me that she loved what I’d sent her and wanted to talk (more tears, but since I was eating breakfast at a restaurant at the time, I managed to contain myself). Tricia and I spoke two days later and she was amazing too. I was so impressed with her professional yet personable and friendly manner. Best of all, she was so enthusiastic about my work! My work! Nobody had ever seemed that excited about my stories. It truly felt like a dream. But--she wanted me to think on it a while, since I had another offer, so I would be certain to make the right decision.

So there I was, spinning in circles in my office, about to burst! Never in my life did I EVER think I’d have to choose between two fabulous agencies with agents whom I’d connected with personally and professionally. Needless to say, I did not sleep well for two nights (you would be amazed at how many things can happen that prevent a contract from being signed—at least in my dreams!).

I knew what I wanted in an agent going into my search—someone who offered editorial input, gave career guidance, communicated regularly and was accessible, and someone with a track record. Both of these agents satisfied the first three criteria, but Agent C was new and didn’t have a track record. Also, Tricia’s agency, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, brought a lot to the table that I hadn’t anticipated (their own client forum and their own annual retreat—it sounded similar to the Vermont College community). In my heart, which I had now learned to trust, I knew Tricia would be a perfect fit for me. So, even though it was painfully saddening to have decline Agent C’s offer, I was elated to accept Tricia’s offer and sign on with her and the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Talk about the yin and yang of life!  

Now, I’m anticipating getting to work with Tricia. I love feeling that I have a partner in my career and I will do everything in my power not to disappoint her. Onward ho!

So that’s my journey to finding an agent, which was more like a trek across the Himalayas… 

For anyone who is looking for an agent, here are some of my favorite online resources: 
SCBWI’s “TheBook” (Agent Market) 
Verla Kay’s Blue Boards (now merged with SCBWI Blue Boards)
Publisher’sMarketplace ($25 per month membership or you can subscribe to the Publishers’ Lunch, a free daily newsletter sent by Publishers’ Marketplace  

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Online Writing Course Open for Registration!

My new online writing course, "Writing in Rhyme for Young Children" is now open for registration. This is the third course that I'll be teaching for UCLA Extension Writers' Program and I'm most excited about it! Being a bit of a rhymester, I love the idea of immersing students in the world of rhyming picture books (and easy readers) for this 8-week course. And I promise I will refrain from using cheesy rhymes! (and that's not easy, not to be cheesy! Oops...sorry!)

Please click HERE for more details. 
Happy writing!

Friday, November 1, 2013

PiBoIdMo Starts Today!

Today is Day One of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). I'm so looking forward to this event! And just based on the Day One post by the fabulous Tammi Sauer, I can tell it's going to be a great month of brainstorming and feeding the picture book monster within (of course, because it' a picture book monster, it's a cute, pink, endearing monster).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How I Got My Literary Agent—Part I

I recently announced that I’m thrilled to have signed on with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Tricia is a fabulous agent and I cannot express how excited I am to work with her! I truly feel honored and can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get started. 

Many “How I Got My Agent” blog posts exist on the web but because each person’s journey is a little different (and many of my writer friends want to know the details), I’ve decided to launch one more “agent journey” story out into cyberspace.

Before I get into these past few weeks, a whirling dervish of events, I wanted to share what led up to getting an offer. Let me start with some numbers. 

12. I started submitting my work to agents twelve years ago. And I had no business doing so! I had only been writing for two years so I hadn’t had enough time to fully develop my skills, learn the craft, or even find myself as a writer. Oy! What was I thinking?  

69. This is the number of agent submissions I made before receiving an offer of representation. I had subbed to 22 agents prior to getting my MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and subbed to another 47 after I had graduated in July 2011. Did I mention how persistent I can be? 

Yep, it had been a very, very long journey. I had so many “downs” that I can’t begin to explain how I kept going, other than to say I didn’t see any other option. What was I going to do? Not write? Also, I couldn’t disappoint my family and friends but most of all I could not disappoint myself and give up on doing something I love so much. 

What did I learn along the way? 

1)   Do not listen to “them.” “They” (those voices that claim to understand how things work in this business) are not always right. General guidelines and opinions are helpful but not meant for everyone. For example, after I graduated “they” kept saying that picture books were a hard sell and that the only way I could get an agent was to sell a novel and then later approach my agent about my picture books.  

So, I spent almost a year and a half subbing my novel (I would submit it in spurts, letting my ego heal after each wave of rejections). The biggest problem with this plan was that my novel wasn’t my strongest writing. Picture books were my strength.  

The other problem was that while at VCFA, I found myself as a writer. I discovered that my true passion lies with picture books and easy readers. I knew this to my core. So, for that year and half I was trying to sell my novel, in a sense I was betraying who I truly was as a writer. I should have blocked out what “they” were saying and followed my heart.  

2)   The second thing I learned was to submit smarter. Because I had multiple picture book manuscripts, I made two sets of mss to submit—those that went to agents and those that went to editors. Admittedly, I focused most of my energy on agent submissions, so agents got “my best stuff” but I did use a couple of mss for editorial submissions (the idea behind subbing to editors was that if I got a contract offer I could use it obtain an agent). Also, if an agent requested to see more of my work (because that’s what they do with picture book writers), I would have other polished mss to send them. 

3)   The third thing I learned is to BEND THE RULES. This was hard for me because I’m a rule-follower. Always have been. I squirm and sweat if I know I’m breaking a rule. My heart rate increases. I become physically uncomfortable. So in a business where making even one mistake can be cause for immediate rejection, breaking rules was out of the question for me. But I did learn to bend them. 

So, after a year and a half of novel rejections, I decided to do something different—not break a rule, but bend a rule. I’d read somewhere that Tricia Lawrence (of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency) was building her picture book client list. The problem was EMLA was a closed agency and I’d never met or heard Tricia speak. I decided to write Erin Murphy (whom I’d met in person at two SCBWI events) and ask her if I could send a picture book manuscript to Tricia. Erin kindly wrote back and said yes. You see, this is why I call this “bending a rule.” I didn’t just send an unsolicited manuscript to Tricia (that would be breaking a rule); I approached Erin first (out of respect) and hoped like heck that she would grant me permission. I’m so glad she did! (Thanks, Erin!) 

The next rule I bent came when Tricia asked to send more of my work. She wrote me a few months after my initial submission and asked to see 3-4 picture books. Little did she know that I had fifteen completed manuscripts! Choosing which ones to send was so hard, so I bent a rule (the rule being, do exactly what an agent requests) and I sent her six manuscripts. Okay, please don’t take that as meaning you should flood an agent with all your manuscripts! I had a full body of completed work from my MFA, plus I had written and revised more stories since I graduated in 2011. These were all highly-polished stories. I researched Tricia online even more and sent her the six I thought would appeal to her the most. 

The next day, I sent a status query to another agent who had been holding a manuscript for three months, whom I will call Agent B. I mentioned that another agent had requested to see more of my work (not an offer, just a request to see more). He wrote me back the next day and asked if he could see two more PB mss. Instead (there I went again, bending another rule), I sent him an “elevator pitch sheet” I’d created that listed all my mss with a 1-2 sentence description of each. That afternoon, he let me know which two mss he wanted to see. 

A few days later, another agency (I’ll call them Agent C) asked to see more of my work. They wanted a couple more picture book manuscripts so once more I bent the rule and sent them five. The reason I bent this rule so much was that I thought it was critical to show my range (because I write fiction, nonfiction, verse, and prose picture books).  

At that point, I had three agents holding multiple mss. I didn’t get my hopes up too much (because this business loves to chew up writers and spit them out!), but I had a feeling something big was about to happen. And boy did it!

Stay tuned for Part II…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Big News!

I am now represented by Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I am thrilled at the prospects of working with Tricia. I feel as if I now have a climbing partner on my writing journey! Woohoooo!!!

More details to follow...

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Online Writing Course!

I feel a bit like Steve Martin's character in The Jerk when he was elated that the new phone book came out.

The new UCLA Extension Summer Quarter 2013 catalog is out! 
The new UCLA Extension Summer Quarter 2013 catalog is out!

Why am I so excited? Because on page 124 you will find the listing for my brand new course, Intermediate Picture Book Writing. The idea behind this course is to provide an opportunity for students who have taken either a beginning picture book or easy reader course (through UCLA Extension) and want to learn even more about picture books and have a chance to work on another manuscript. I'm thrilled to have the chance to teach this class!

If you didn't get the summer quarter catalog, you can learn more about the class by clicking here.

I hope to meet you in cyber-space again!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Introduction to Writing Easy Readers...Coming soon to a computer near you!

My, oh my, how times flies! My upcoming UCLA Extension Writers' Program online course, Introduction to Writing Easy Readers, is on the spring schedule. It seems like I just finished my fall course! If you're interested in learning more about the upcoming class, please go to:

And look for the upcoming summer course catalog to discover a brand new course I'll be teaching for experienced writers for young children (how's that for teaser?).