Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Writer's Quotes - David Lubar

From the guy who writes seriously funny books.
And is a master of puns.  (click on over to his website to see what I mean)
David Lubar

In six words, tell a complete -- no, wait. Better idea. Much better. In six words, or fewer, or more, write an interesting sentence. Write another, related to the first. And another. Keep going until you have a story, an essay, or a novel. Repeat, as needed.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

Inspiration from Jane Yolen:

Three writing rules I live by. 
- Write something every day. (BIC). 
- Revision is your best friend. 
- A manuscript in the drawer or on the laptop that isn't sent out cannot be bought. 

And two rules that even well known writers stumble over: 
- the editor is your colleague, not your enemy. 
- And a rejection is not the end of a dream. 
- Rowling had over 30 rejections and when finally published it was in a very small edition by Bloomsbury in the UK. 
L'engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME had 29 rejections. 
Suess's first book book well over 30 rejections. As I understand it, he was ready to self-publish it. (enter editor, Bennett Cerf.)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Saul Bellow

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. 
They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I Voted



I Voted -- Did you?

This was the first election that my teen voted in - the primary election in California.
Most of us mail in our ballots or take them to a nearby library to place in the portable ballot box.
The poll watchers made a nice fuss over my teen when she deposited her own ballot.
California puts the top two primary winners on the fall ballot, which means it might be a Democrat running against a Republican - or - it could even be two Democrats dukeing it out.

In 2016, we had two Democrats who won the Senate race which meant that California ended up with no Republican representatives in the US Senate in Congress.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Richard Peck

The award winning author, Richard Peck, died last week.
He said, in a speech to the Library of Congress Book Festival in 2013:

"I'm a writer because I never had a teacher who said, "Write what you know."
If I'd been limited to writing what I know, I would have produced ONE unpublishable haiku."
He added:
"Beatrix Potter never was a rabbit.
J.K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School."


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thoughts from a Southern Lady

One third of the writers who wrote with me under the pen name of C. W. Bowie was Claudine Wirths.
(If she were alive today she'd be in her 90s if not reaching 100 years old, so you know she remembered how things were from a long, long time ago,)

When I was writing the biography of Marian Wright Edelman, I pondered about word use.  Because of what Claudine told me, I opted to use the terms for people of color being used in each time period - her youth, her young married life, and 'modern times' (the 1990s).

This is what Claudine told me were the 'proper' ways, at least in the south where she grew up:

"I went from Colored people
to Darkies
to Nigra
to KneeGrow (Southerners had to mentally write it that way in their heads to say it right)
to Black
to African American
to People of Color  -- which was circling back to where I started -- almost!

Sigh, I try to be PC, but am despairing"
           Claudine G. Wirths

Well
Did my editor appreciate how careful I had been to use the correct terms for each time period?
Nope.
He insisted that everything be African American, even though Marian Wright Edelman preferred to use the term -- People of Color.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's time to talk about rejections

The publishing world has changed from the days when writers would type up their manuscripts, slip them into large manila envelopes, complete with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for the response from the editor or agent, and mail it to the agency or publisher of your choice.

Now everything is done electronically and some writers flood multiple editors with copies of the same manuscript and they felt so overwhelmed that they decided to close, to not accept submissions anymore, except maybe from agents.  And the few who accepted submissions decided that, if you have't heard back in X amount of time, it's a rejection.  (leaving the writer to wonder if they even received it)

Even multi-published authors have been trapped by this closed door policy.

Laura Backes, editor and publisher of the Children's Book Insider newsletter and now involved with WritingBlueprints.com, has written a letter to editors and agents discussing this problem.
An Open Letter to Editors & Agents, It's Time to talk about Rejections.

Click on the link.  It's good.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Good Rejections

Wow. My fastest rejection ever. 
Yesterday, with high hopes, I sent (emailed) a manuscript to an agent who had come several times to talk with our local SCBWI group. This morning I woke up to a rejection. 
Fastest. Time. Ever.
The nicest thing about it was that she actually responded instead of simply deleting my email and leaving me hanging. I appreciate that.


Last week I got another good rejection. 
What was it?
It was a hand written letter from an editor.  

We writers appreciate people in the business who go that extra step to Let Us Know what's happening.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

You need to make a WILL

Yes, YOU.

You need to make a will.
To make sure that your partner/ spouse/ children/ etc. understand what your wishes are so they can make decisions.

Especially, if you are a writer, you need to have a will that spells out who should handle your literary estate.  You probably will still have royalties coming in.  Your executor needs to know who to contact to inform them of your death and where to now send royalties.  Yes, some of your books will still be earning income long after your death.

Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, published in 1947, is still gathering royalties. Yours might not stay popular that long, but still - there will be rights and royalties that have to be handled by your executors.

Neil Gaiman has suggestions for you, plus a link to a PDF of the form you will need.
Click and read and learn.

And Make A Will.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Writer's quotes - Marquand

John Phillips Marquand once said (or wrote):
When I'm writing a novel, I'm dealing with a double life. I live in the present at the same time that I live in the past with my characters.
He continues:
It is this that makes a novelist so eccentric and unpleasant.

Yes to the first sentence.
but
I don't find that writers for children and young adults become unpleasant at all.  It must be older male writers who write books for adults?  (yes, I've run into some of those.)

Writer's Quotes - William Somerset Maugham

A good rule for writers:  Do not explain overmuch.  - Somerset Maugham.

Over and over again I hear from published writers that you have to leave room for the reader.  It's the reader who paints the scene in his mind from the writer's broad strokes.

Also true for picture book writers.  The illustrator is the other half of the story, so you must leave room for the illustrator to take what you have and show the world you've hinted at.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Writer's quotes - Paul O'Neil

From twentieth century American writer, Paul O'Neil:

"Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line."

I first heard this when Bruce Coville gave a speech to our SCBWI conference and I credited this quote to him until he pointed out that he was quoting Paul O'Neil.  Oooops!

What's the 'tag line?"
GOOGLE only gives information about its use in advertising, but one definition I found says it's the conclusion of the action.  Hmmm. The conclusion of the scene?  Or the conclusion of the book?
Take your pick.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What courses do you need to be a writer.

Almost every year I'm invited to a Career Day at a nearby school.
One of the questions they have to ask each professional there is -- what education do you need for your job?
I always say, Train for something that interests you. Keep your day job and write in your spare (HA!) time.
For example, many great writers of science fiction actually work with physics or chemistry in their day job.

Writers Write.
Writers can't NOT write!



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Laura Purdie Salas and creative nonfiction and fascinating facts and

Laura Purdie Salas wrote an interesting take about how writing nonfiction is often a creative process on the Celebrate Science blog today.

I agree with Laura the robots don't write our books.  That would be boring.

I remember one day when I was giving a talk at a school about writing nonfiction when one upset student jumped up and shouted, "How can you write stuff like that.  Nonfiction is boring!"

That stopped me cold. My immediate response was, "Well. If it's boring, I can't write about it.  I ONLY WRITE ABOUT THE INTERESTING STUFF."
Think about it.  The Interesting stuff.
It got so that I included this bit in every talk I gave from then on.
I look for the FASCINATING FACTS.

Where we differ from creative fiction writers is that nobody is desperately waiting for the next book by that famous author... (whoever)   People are looking for a certain subject,  If they're lucky, they find one by a good author who is passionate about the subject, which makes the reader excited about the subject.

Librarians, on the other hand, when they discover a writer who can present nonfiction in interesting ways will always look for other books by that same author, no matter the subject, and will purchase them for their library system instead of books by less talented writers.  (and publishers get a reputation among librarians when they consistently publish either dull or fascinating books.)


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Serendipity

It's amazing the people and events you discover when you are researching a book, especially biographies.




 I call it serendipity:

When I was writing about the Wright brothers, I got connected to
1) the Wright brothers' paper boy,
2) the nephew of a man who was one of the boys who SAW the first flights,
3) another person who pointed out that the actual house the brothers had grown up in and first lived in as adults had been moved to a northern midwest display of old houses. (Wisconsin? Michigan?)
and 4) was driven around Dayton, Ohio by a fellow writer to visit Wright brothers' sites, including a stop at the mansion where Orville Wright lived and died.
And this was with just one of my biographies. For each of them, people came out of the woodwork, or showed up on the Internet, or knew somebody who knew somebody - to help me tell my subjects story.
AMAZING.


Oh, about those boys who 'saw' the first flight?  Actually not exactly true.  It turned out that he and a few friends were peering over one of the sand dunes overlooking the Wright brothers' campsite at what later became the town of Kill Devil Hills.  (yes, they often stayed at a boarding house in Kitty Hawk before setting up camp by the Dunes.)  The boys had never ever heard a gasoline engine before. (this was before cars were common - only cows and horses on the Outer Banks at that time)  So  -- when the brothers started up the engine on The Flyer, popping and sputtering, the boys were so scared of the noise that they ran like hell. (away)
And that's why I didn't take the next step to interview his uncle, since he didn't actually see it happen.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Nonfiction Monday - on Wednesday today

Understanding—and Teaching—the Five Kinds of Nonfiction




Melissa Stewart has another marvelous article about the different types of nonfiction available to children, in school and out, today.  In School Library Journal magazine.
Click on over to read it in entirety.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Buying a bureau causes disruption.

Quite a disruption around our house this weekend.  The teen, now that she has a job and is RICH, decided she wanted to replace her bureau (a 100 year old maple highboy) (still very sturdy) with something new, something larger, something Not Brown. So off to IKEA we went.
(Actually, what she said was that she needed something to put a new fish tank on. Something small, like a bedside table.)
I shopped in Costco while she searched IKEA.
She found what she wanted, so I drove back to IKEA to see.  After much discussion (but you went to IKEA to get a bedside table to hold a fish tank and now you want a bureau, instead?), she decided which one she wanted.
So -- we did what those who go to IKEA do, we went downstairs to find the box(s) of bureau parts. But all we found were empty boxes in the bin which should have contained the parts.  So, off she went to get help.  The helpful lady found the last 3 boxes containing all the parts for her pretty white bureau -- but one part was damaged.
So -- off we, and the lady, went to the land of replacement parts.  Where she not only talked the replacement parts man into replacing the damaged part with something he had on hand, but talked him into giving her a Reduced Price.
SCORE!
Once home with the 3 heavy boxes (which she loaded into the car by herself!!!), she and a girlfriend began putting it together.
But wait.  What to do about the now unwanted maple bureau?
After much discussion, (yah, you've heard this before.  It means she talked me into...) it was decided (by her) that they'd move a small, four cube IKEA bookcase from my bedroom into the living room to hold children's games and they'd move the maple bureau into my room.  "Look Grandma - it looked hideous in my room, but looks great in Your room."  (actually, she's right, it does.)
So -- the new bureau is almost put together (will be completed today, or tomorrow) and I now have more storage space in my room.
SCORE for both of us.

And how was your weekend?



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Should an author come to your school for free?

This was just posted today by author, Martha Brockenbrough:  (click on through to find out more about her)

Please stop asking us to work for free. Please stop saying, “It’s for the kids.” 


If you work at a library or a school, every professional who walks through those doors is paid. You wouldn’t call a plumber and say, “Unclogging this toilet is for the kids.” It is, of course. So are the lightbulbs. The napkins. And so on.

Most writers don’t make a living wage. Most have day jobs. Many supplement their income with school visits and the like. We don’t have paid leave from our jobs. The time we spend on this comes directly from the time we have to create. 

(for example - I worked 30 years as a children's librarian in a public library system and took vacation time to research and write my books and also spent more of my allotted vacation time to do school visits. I very seldom actually took vacation.  I was literally working two jobs.)

So when you are manipulating people’s emotions to get this for free, you are taking time from someone who already makes less than minimum wage. You are also taking opportunities from someone struggling to get by. 

It’s crappy that schools and libraries are underfunded. Let’s not further undermine the professionalism of people writing and illustrating for them.

Oh, and writers: You don’t have to say yes to these gigs. People who aren’t paying you also do not value your time and are likely to be ill-prepared to make the most of this—something I say from unfortunate personal experience.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sharon Darrow - Worlds within Words

One of my favorite faculty members at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults department, Sharon Darrow, has published a book of her lectures.

When I offered a picture book manuscript in a workshop at VCFA run by her, she told me that it read more like the outline of a middle grade novel than a picture book, which changed my whole view of it.  And I spent the next few semesters enlarging it and building the world where those characters lived.

So, if you'd like to get a taste of the kinds of things we learn in this graduate course about writing, I highly recommend her book, Worlds within Words, Writing and the Writing Life. 

You can read a smidgen of it here on the Cynsations blog

Friday, February 16, 2018

Dr. Seuss Trees


One of the first things I noticed when I moved to San Diego (as I nearly ran off the road noticing them) were the trees that looked like Dr. Seuss trees as illustrated in his books.

It was a few years later that I discovered just why trees here looked like those crazy trees in his books.

1.  He lived in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego.
2.  San Diego is actually a desert/ chaparral area, not normally suited to trees.
3.  Therefore trees in San Diego need to be watered.
     3A - trees take up water with their roots and expire them through their leaves.
     3B - in order to use less water watering trees, the people in San Diego constantly trim their trees to create less branch and leaf area.
     3C - ERGO -- Dr. Seuss trees.


(for a description of how and why trees were imported into the water-parched San Diego area, I refer you to the book, The Tree Lady, The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever  by H. Joseph Hopkins.) 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What happened to your Book Today?

For all of us writers who are Not going to hear our name or book title announced on Monday morning when the American Library association announces their list of Award winning books, Kate Messner has offered this poem:
What happened to your Book today?

Read it on her blog - click on through the above link

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Picture book author - Eric Pinder

"Wait a minute... It's a humbling career moment when you suddenly realize you're actually the stuffed animal's sidekick."

Read more from this interview with picture book author (and college professor), Eric Pinder.
Where he talks about writing picture books, doing school visits, and teaching writing.

Just follow the links.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Groundhog Day is Here






Will Spring be early or late?  

Punxsutawney Phil  saw his shadow, so 6 more weeks of winter.
Good!  That should mean that the rains might finally come to San Diego.