Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do you have to Blog?

The answer is, maybe.

If you are unpublished -- maybe.
If you are a picture book writer -- maybe.

What about developing platform? That's mostly for nonfiction writers.

Along with the information we gave at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI conference recently, here's more blogging info from agent Mary Kole, at who is holding a conversation about this very thing.

There are many good ideas in the comments, pro and con.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waking up in the Middle of the Night

Don't you hate it when you wake up, can't go back to sleep, have to get up and go to --
To write down that book idea/ paragraph/ chapter that came to you while you were supposed to be sleeping?

(and me with a morning program at the library today plus working the evening shift, which means I'll be working 9 am to 8 pm.)
Maybe I can get another 10 to 20 minutes of sleep, now, before I have to really wake up and get going.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- The Little Brainwaves investigate Animals

The Little Brainwaves investigate... Animals by Caroline Bingham. London: DK (Dorling Kindersley, Ltd), 2010

This is evidently one of a series of "The Little Brainwaves investigate..." books in production by DK.

The Little Brainwaves are little cartoon people with big ideas. The book contains photographs of various animals, the usual DK short paragraphs of information (this time confined in rounded white rectangles), plus these cartoon people crawling, climbing, jumping, etc. all over the pages. It reminds me of the National Geographic Magazine for Kids or parts of Cricket Magazine.

The reason it's on my Nonfiction Review Page?
Because the reading level is much lower than the average DK Eyewitness book, making it easy for a first or second grader.

Does it seem like your usual DK book? Yes.
There is no in depth information, just the usual DK tidbits. Each type of animal is covered in ONE double page spread. Mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects (and spiders -- eeeuuu). If your young reader wants to read more about them, a good children's librarian can help him or her find other books on the subject.

The Brainwaves were created by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar and are an original cartoon property owned by their company, Last Lemon Productions, which originates, produces, and licenses cartoon properties which convey the vibrancy and humour that is at the heart of all their work. (Their description of their company.)

Some other Brainwaves book was given the 2009 Parents' Choice Award Winner for The Most Explosive Science Book in the Universe. This blurb on the back cover carefully does not say which one of the Brainwaves books won this award. Unwary book buyers may think that whatever book of the series they hold in their hands is the award winner.
or not fair advertising?
You tell me.

Other Nonfiction Monday posts can be found at the blog, Shelf-Employed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Branding yourself -- good or bad?

Greg Pincus (the bloggers' expert on Social Media) over at the Happy Accident is talking about writers and Branding.
No, not putting a hot iron to a cow or horse's skin to burn off the hair. Not THAT kind of brand.

Branding as applied in the business world -- and should writers try to Brand themselves?

Go read the post and then follow the link to the Twitter discussion.
What do you think?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Alligators and Crocodiles

Alligators and Crocodiles by Gail Gibbons. NY: Holiday House, 2010. Available now.

Gail Gibbons is well known for her beautifully illustrated nonfiction books for preschoolers and the early elementary grades, and this is no exception.

With her usual detailed pen and ink plus watercolor illustrations, she shows the many things about Alligators and crocodiles are the same, AND the many ways that they are different.

I had always thought that Alligators lived in the Americas and Crocodiles were Europe/ Africa, but that is no longer true. There now are Crocks in the southern United States! Two maps show their habitats.

Additional factoids and a Web site suggestion for further research complete the package.

More Nonfiction Monday reports can be found at In Need of Chocolate. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday, SCBWI Conference, Day 2

Welcome Bloggers !
More to come....

For those of you readers who are wondering what the above note is all about -- Mary Bowman-Kruhm and I were giving a Very Basic Introduction to Blogging at a SCBWI writer's conference this weekend, and planned to have my blog up on the screen as people walked in. BUT. As will most plans of mice and (wo)men, it went a rye.
(okay, you spell it, my spellcheck can't.)
No matter what we tried, the computer projector wouldn't project our computer screen to the large screen. Luckily we had both our computers. We ended up inviting the group to gather around them and look at the small computer screen, instead, as we showed them various types of blogs. Then Mary created someone's new blog on Wordpress and showed off the bells and whistles there. We just winged it.

Day 2 of the Conference only had breakout sessions in the morning. The afternoon was all lectures, ending with the First Page critique by the editors and agents there. (and one author)

Two people from HIGHLIGHTS magazine group, Debra Hess and Kelley Cunningham kicked off the day with "Imagination is Just the Beginning" They discussed what the magazine was looking for and how they handled submissions and took questions from the audience. Yes, the buy all rights. But when they sell those rights to others, like textbooks, they send money to the author. Sales the author could not have gotten themselves.
GEM: We are in the business of nurturing new writers. (and they always need nonfiction.)

The wonderfully funny Carolyn Crimi discussed "Baking Chocolate Cake: All the ingredients You need to Make Your Picture Book Delicious.
GEM: There's a place online where you can find out how many words in your favorite books. (so you can compare the length of your own manuscript.) It's an online store at

Since we presented our own Blogging breakout session next, I didn't get to visit the others. So no GEMs to offer from them.
Our own GEM would be -- YES, you too can blog. It's easy to learn and doesn't have to be every day. Once a week is fine. Why Blog? it gets your name and your books OUT THERE, and you can build platform.


After lunch, Joyce McDonald spoke: "The transformative Power of Fiction: How real-life stories Inform and Shape our own."
This refers to the fact that newspaper stories get her creative brain wondering -- why did that person do that. She writes to find out.
GEM: Her stories all begin with the question, WHY? Then she finds Universal Truths.

Next, editor Louise May from Lee and Low spoke about "Creating Books Featuring Diversity: How Do I Leap In?"
GEM: They no longer publish "Multicultural Books." They publish books "About everyone, For everyone."
Good books with Universal Appeal, authentic to that culture. (good research)

Agent, Elana Roth, helped us discover "The Scoop on High Concept"
GEM: High Concept is commercial -- a story with a premise that any number of character stories could be inserted.

The worst criticism from the First Page panel was, "I waited and waited for the story to START."
Instant reject.

Then came the worst part of the conference -- saying good-bye and driving home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SCBWI Conference, Day 1

The annual summer conference of the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia section of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is in session now.

There are so many good speakers that people are objecting to the fact that three and sometimes four workshops are scheduled at the same time -- and they wanted to go to at least two of them. (at the same time)

I thought I'd post some gems that I've collected from each speaker:

The first thing you notice as you enter the conference center is the room for book sales. At least two books for each speaker are being offered. I know I'm going to go home with a bag of them.

First off, the charming agent, Stephen Fraser -- Leaping into ACTION: How an Agent sells your Book. This was a basic session to any published author, and to any person who has read agent's blogs, but quite informative to those beginners there.
GEM: you must create an Elevator Pitch! What's that? It's a one minute summary of what your book is about.
2nd GEM: Three things to remember that every writer should have
Creativity -- ideas are everywhere, Catch them!
Bravery -- Don''t be afraid to submit. You haven't copied anyone -- no one has ever told your unique story.
Joy -- Be alert to good ideas with a Joyful awareness and be excited about working with it.

Author (and RA) Edie Hemingway (That IS my real name) and her editor, Michelle Poploff showed the steps Edie's book, ROAD TO TATER HILL, went through after the contract offer. Revision and more revision. Edie had all the versions there for everyone to see.
Michelle's GEM: Every Character has to pull their weight.

Next up -- Marc Aronson discussing Trends in Nonfiction. This was depressing and hopeful.
Series books reign. But there is a place for a Nonfiction book with Passion. Nonfiction books that are FUN.
He also discussed the new trend in classroom visits -- virtual visits using SKYPE.
Even nonfiction should have illustrations -- he likes them to be every other page and he writes with an eye toward their placement.

There were three other sessions during this same time period. I made a vow to try to hit all of them in the afternoon.


Keynote Speaker, Margaret Peterson Haddix. -- Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where your Imagination Takes you.

Afternoon breakout sessions:
1. Kelley Cunningham and Karen Nelson did Illustration critique, flipping through illustrations on the computer that attendees had brought. Their comments were illuminating. I hope they helped the illustrators there to see where they had succeeded or had missed.
2. Editor/ Agent Panel where all the agents and editors there answered questions from the audience.
GEM: It's the writing they judge. All other things in your query letter are often ignored. Let your manuscript speak for itself. (But, yes you do need a cover letter with that Elevator speech and comparisons to other books showing you know the market. But skip the long chunk of information about yourself. It's interesting but not pertinent to their decision.)
3. Elana Roth -- The Great Query Caper was a fun workshop where Elana handed out a packet of real Queries she had received. (names removed to protect the senders) The audience was to judge whether to reject or to ask for the complete manuscript to be sent for consideration. That was an eye opener to the group

The final speaker was Marc Aronson, again. The Truth is... A Question.
GEM: Behind every answer lurks a new Question. Knowledge continues to change.
2nd GEM All World History is tragically interconnected. There is no American History. Everything that happens/ happened here is part of what is happening all over the world. (lots of examples)

Then I got to drive Marc (and my co-writer, Mary Bowman-Kruhm) to the train station. What did we talk about? Nonfiction, of course. Research. Mary's trips to Africa. My trips to verify facts for my own books. Marc's views about the interconnectedness of things and his own various researches. It was nonfiction heaven.
-wendie old

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A packing we do go

Busy busy Thursday. Once I'm done with my third program this week at the library (Beach Fun), I'll be able to focus on what's happening this weekend.

The 10-year-old is going to Girl Scout away-camp for the first time this weekend. I'd forgotten about all the work of putting names on every piece of material she brings. But the 14 (just a little exaggeration -- it's probably 5. or 6. or...) pieces of paper/ information she has to carry with her is many more pages than I remember doing for my first two kids. Since I'll be away at the local SCBWI conference, she has to be completely ready for camp before I leave on Friday so that my husband can take her to the bus on Sunday.

The plans for the workshop on blogging that I'm doing at that SCBWI conference with my writing partner are pretty well set. (She's very organized.) Now I just have to do the family wash and packing for myself.

See you at the conference. -wendieO

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Funnies

I was checking blogs I had never read before, going down the wonderful list on Anastasia Suen's Blogroll, when I found something called "An Awfully Big Blog Adventure." created by a group of British writers.

Several of the posts gave me giggles, including the one where she has to keep a bed for her cat beside her computer or else there will be complaints, but I thought you'd enjoy most the post called "Five Forms of Howler."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Heat break

You people over on the West Coast, freezing in your cold summer weather, might not appreciate how happy we East Coasters are that an all-day rainstorm has finally moved over us.

Our area has officially been declared a drought area. Crops are suffering. (not to mention the plants in our yard.) WE've been suffering under above 100 degree temperatures. That may be normal in New Mexico and those states where they have dry desert heat. But I'm talking about 100 degrees with 98 percent humidity. Where people scuttle from their air-conditioned houses to their air-conditioned cars to their air-conditioned workplaces, crossing their fingers that the electricity grid can handle the load. (one day we hit 105 !)

But we made it. The rains came and our lows tonight will be out of the 80s and down to 70 or below. Tomorrow it will be in the 80s and low 90s again, but it is July in Maryland, and we know to expect that.

Now back to 'normal' summer temperatures.
Do you think we'll have any local corn this year? Or was it all burned up in the drought.
I'm addicted to corn on the cob in the summertime.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

The best place to connect with a group of nonfiction writers is over at the I.N.K. blog -- (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids). During July they're posting the best of the best posts from the past year.

Also, check out all the great Nonfiction Monday book reviews over at Anastasia Suen's 5 Great Books blog.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

SCBWI MD Conference coming up

If you live anywhere near Maryland, our SCBWI Summer Conference is coming up featuring the great nonfiction writer/ editor, Marc Aronson!
(My writing partner and I have a bit part in it, as well.)
see info below
-wendie old

Two Weeks to Go!
Posted by: ediehemingway (RA)

Our 2-day SCBWI conference, "Leaps of Imagination: Fact, Fiction, & Fantasy," is just two weeks away (July 17 & 18, 2010), but there's still time to register.
Go to our regional blog and scroll down to find full details, as well as a downloadable registration form.

We are excited about our great line-up of speakers and our new location at The Bishop Claggett Retreat Center. I think you'll love the modern facility in the midst of Maryland's rolling countryside.

Come prepared with a "first page" of your manuscript (up to 250 words on a double-spaced page) for our First Page Panel on Sunday afternoon. No names, please.

The planning committee and I hope to see you there!

~Edie Hemingway
Regional Advisor for MD/DE/WV