BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND TWITTER BACKGROUNDS

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You’re a writer? Then Write



What do say when someone asks you what you write? YA? Middle Grade? Picture books? Magazine stories? Newspaper articles?

I would argue that you should explore at least two or three genres/mediums. More, if you can manage it. Not only will writing in more than one medium help shape your writing and your craft, it might also get you published quicker, and give you more credentials. 

I started writing picture books (well, the text for picture books) about ten years ago. That morphed into writing a short story, which later became my first completed YA novel. Around the same time, I started to explore nonfiction. And then middle grade. I’m also a freelance copy writer. And my day job is grant writing.

I write. A lot. It’s just not always on the topic or project on which I’d prefer to be working at any current moment. But that doesn’t matter (unless I’m on deadline. LOL). I’m honing my craft. I’m working on word choice. I’m practicing brevity—or depending on the project, I could be practicing the art of descriptive story telling.


Lo and behold, it was the nonfiction that stuck first. I was able to transfer my attention to detail and research skills into Work-for-Hire nonfiction. That gave me the confidence to keep working at my real love, which is YA and Middle Grade.

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered the art of writing. Of being a writer. I spend far too much time on social media to be the productive writer that I know I could be. But by diversifying my writing style, working on a lot of different projects, I feel more confident in my work. More confident in my ability to take on a project and see it through to completion. I’ve also found that it has given me a comfort level to hear criticism of my work, whether from a critique partner or an editor.

What genre or medium do you wish you could tackle?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our 2014 Summer Recommendations

This list is compiled by Kate (11) and Kris. Some of our favorite (recent) Middle Grade reads.

At Your ServiceWe're excited about AT YOUR SERVICE by Jennifer Malone -- due out in August 2014

from Goodreads.com

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Turner wants nothing more than to follow in Dad’s footsteps as a respected concierge in a posh NYC hotel. After all, living at a hotel is heaven, and perks like free concert tickets and all-access passes to boutiques, restaurants, and attractions aren’t too shabby either.
When the spoiled brat child of an important guest is only placated by some quick thinking on Chloe’s part, Chloe is awarded the role of Junior Concierge. But she might be in over her head when tasked with tending to the every whim of three royal guests: a twelve-year-old princess who can’t stand Chloe, a cute fourteen year-old prince(!), and their ten-year-old sister, who has a nasty knack for getting herself lost. After the youngest princess slips Chloe’s care, Chloe and the remaining royals must embark on an event-filled hunt for her through NYC’s best tourist spots.


The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)This is a fun, seat-of-the-pants adventure. 

THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stephens

from Goodreads.com 

 Called “A new Narnia for the tween set” by the New York Times and perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series, The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unfo
rgettable, enchanted world.

These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.


The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., #1)From the author of Artemis Fowl, a great new time travel adventure. 

THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN by Eoin Colfer

from Goodreads.com

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run.

Riley has been pulled into the FBI's covert W.A.R.P. operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.


The Time Travelers (The Gideon Trilogy)One of our favorite time travel novels (are you sensing a theme?)

THE TIME TRAVELERS
(also known as GIDEON THE CUTPURSE) by Linda Buckley-Archer

from Goodreads.com

Gideon Seymour, cutpurse and gentleman, hides from the villainous Tar Man. Suddenly the sky peels away like fabric and from the gaping hole fall two curious-looking children. Peter Schock and Kate Dyer have fallen straight from the twenty-first century, thanks to an experiment with an antigravity machine. Before Gideon and the children have a chance to gather their wits, the Tar Man takes off with the machine -- and Kate and Peter's only chance of getting home. Soon Gideon, Kate, and Peter are swept into a journey through eighteenth-century London and form a bond that, they hope, will stand strong in the face of unfathomable treachery.




Better Nate Than EverWe love this contemporary Middle Grade...lots of Broadway Show name dropping! 

BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle

from Goodreads.com

 Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom

 
Disney after Dark (Kingdom Keepers, #1)We love Disney, so this adventure around the parks is a favorite.

THE KINGDOM KEEPERS (DISNEY AFTER DARK) by Ridley Pearson 

from Goodreads.com

In this fantastical novel, Disney's Magic Kingdom suddenly becomes a bit eerie. Finn Whitman and four other teens have been hired as Disney World guides, but with an odd twist: With cutting-edge technology, they have been transformed into hologram projections capable of leading guests around the park. What begins as an exciting theme park job turns into a virtual nightmare as Finn and his pals attempt to thwart an uprising by a menacing group of Disney villains.

The Wig in the WindowA fun mystery, with a twist ending. I love the friendship in this one.

THE WIG IN THE WINDOW by Kristen Kittscher

from Goodreads.com

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.


The Dirt Diary (The Dirt Diary, #1) We haven't read this one yet, but we love Anna's other books, so we're really excited to pick this one up!

THE DIRT DIARY by Anna Staniszewski  

from Goodreads.com

 

WANTED: Maid for the most popular kids in 8th grade.

Cleaning up after the in-crowd gets Rachel all the best dirt.

Rachel can't believe she has to give up her Saturdays to scrubbing other people's toilets. So. Gross. But she kinda, sorta stole $287.22 from her college fund that she's got to pay back ASAP or her mom will ground her for life. Which is even worse than working for her mother's new cleaning business. Maybe. After all, becoming a maid is definitely not going to help her already loserish reputation.

But Rachel picks up more than smell socks on the job. As maid to some of the most popular kids in school, Rachel suddenly has all the dirt on the 8th grade in-crowd. Her formerly boring diary is now filled with juicy secrets. And when her crush offers to pay her to spy on his girlfriend, Rachel has to decide if she's willing to get her hands dirty..

Monday, May 19, 2014

NESCBWI Conference Wrap Up



I can’t believe the NESCBWI 2014 is over. Since being asked by Joyce Johnson at the end of the 2011 NESCBWI in Nashua, New Hampshire, I have been anticipating the weekend of May 2-4, 2014. 

There were times, it seemed like it would never arrive. Despite a few unexpected bumps along the way, I can safely say that this year’s conference matched EXACTLY the vision I had for it when we started planning. We all know how often that happens. So the only explanation is that it must have been magic!

In choosing the theme, CREATE BRAVELY: MAKE YOUR MARK, the idea was to encourage and inspire new writers and illustrators, as well as veterans. I’ve talked to enough people to feel like we achieved this goal! I’ve talked to seasoned professionals as well as those brand new to the SCBWI who told me they attended life-changing sessions.

The weekend kicked off with nine concurrent workshops, including a Pitch Practice session and a new incarnation of our mentor roundtables, called #AskAMentor. After a break for dinner, the conference officially kicked off with our opening ceremonies hosted by the incomparable Jane Yolen—who never ceases to inspire.

Pitchapolooza was a huge success, hosted by the Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, joined by Kendra Levin of Viking, Alexandra Cooper of Harper Collins, and Sarah Crowe of Harvey Klinger Agency. Random names were drawn to give a one minute pitch of their book. The three winners (Shawn Anderson, Meg Thacher, and Melanie Ellsworth) had all participated in the pitch practice in the afternoon, so they were well-versed on how to give a great pitch! We wish them the best of luck with their books! We were so happy to see how this new program was received by everyone. The weekend started with such a positive energetic feeling. And such bravery!

Saturday opened with a fabulous keynote speech by Peter H. Reynolds, author, illustrator and entrepreneur. Peter motivated us to continue to be brave in our craft, and make our personal marks on the world. He shared his inspiring life story with the group—and left us all pondering ways to Make Our Mark.

Saturday’s workshops totaled thirty, including two industry panels in the ballroom. Ranging from hands-on workshops for illustrators, two hour intensives for advanced writers, craft oriented workshops for new writers, and business-related workshops for all skill levels, Saturday was a full day of information overload.

A special part of Saturday’s formal luncheon was the annual announcement of awards. Awards included Mary Cronin for the Ruth Glass Award, Sarita Rich for the Ann Barrow Award, Tamara Ellis Smith (prepublished) and Dana Meachen Rau (published) for the Peg Davol scholarship, Jen Betton for the Portfolio Showcase, and Kevin Barry and Renee Kurilla for Portfolio Showcase Honorable Mentions, Kevin Barry for the Michelson Prize, Marlo Garnsworthy for the Michelson Prize runner-up, and finally, Jo Knowles for the 2013 Crystal Kite.

Saturday night’s open mic night attracted a large crowd, by now we were all finding our Brave. In addition, for artistic types, we offered a Self Portrait party, opportunities for peer critique, and genre roundtables. It was impossible to go to bed not having learned or sampled or experienced something on Saturday

Sunday’s keynote speaker, middle grade and picture book author Laurel Snyder, told us how to write for our imaginary best friend and first reader. She shared her personal super powers and talked about how, as creators of content, we need to tap into our OWN super powers—and let go of the things that are not our stories to tell. Laurel left us all moved and inspired by her story.

Sunday—typically a day of rest—gave attendees 36 workshop choices, bringing our total workshop offerings to a record 75 for the weekend.

We welcomed two art directors, ten literary agents, and ten editors—all of them worked their magic-- finding time to critique, mentor, serve on panels, be a part of the bravery posse, and be visible and accessible for the weekend.

Sometimes it takes a push, or a nudge, to remember to take a risk and be Brave. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement. I want to personally thank the keynoters, the industry faculty, and the workshop faculty for taking the theme to heart—and for encouraging us all to be brave. It worked so well because it was underscored at every turn. We rewarded people for their brave acts, whether asking a question, going first for Pitchapalooza, or approaching an agent with a polite greeting.

The weekend ran with precision because of a number of amazing volunteers, including Joanie Duris with door prizes, Heather Kelly with volunteers, Jean Woodbury with faculty transportation, Val Giogas and Laura Pauling with critiques, Sandy Budiansky and Shirley Pearson with registration, Josh Funk and Alicia Gregoire-Poirier with the Open Mic, Jennifer Malone and Dee Romita with the #AskAMentor roundtables, Trish Leaver with the Pitch Practice session, John Bell for his amazing moderation of panels, Sally Reilly for creating all our signs, Denise Ortakales and Ruth Sanderson for making sure illustrators are taken care of, Susan Garrett with the Bookstore and countless other who worked the event onsite. 

Natasha Sass, my fearless co-chair, suffered phone calls from me virtually daily for the last year. Marilyn Salerno was my rock—stepping in when needed, but not micromanaging. Along with 120 other volunteers who took onsite roles, this organization runs on our amazing and tireless volunteer team.

Thank you – all 647 of you – for making this conference magical for me. I’ve had a lot of people thank me—and while I was instrumental in the administrative details, it was truly our energetic, friendly, and brave members who make the New England SCBWI conference a magical experience for everyone involved.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour


I'm taking part in My writing process Blog Tour! 

Thanks to Sarah Schmitt for inviting me to participate -- You can check her out at http://sarahjschmitt.com/ -- Sarah and I are both part of the Fall Fourteeners. You can check out ALL the fall fourteener books at: http://www.fallfourteeners.com.

Here's a bit more about my writing process:

1) What am I working on?

I'm working on final revisions for ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT, my YA contemporary coming out in the fall from Bloomsbury Spark.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think my work will complement the other books out there in its genre. It's YA contemporary romance, but has a sporty girl feel. Lately there have been a few books with hockey as the sport of choice. I hope my book (pitch: MYSTIC PIZZA meets THE CUTTING EDGE) will be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of girls who love this type of story.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I love YA contemporary -- and I think there needs to be more books for girls who love sports. All sports.

4) How does my writing process work?

This is a hard one. I found that my writing process was really different for this book than its been in the past. I fast drafted this book by getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning until I hit 50K words. Then I started the revision/refining process. I love being able to be free of my internal editor, so the fast drafting process worked for me. At least it did this time. :)

I've tagged the following people:

Jen Malone (posting on March 24) - Jen’s debut middle grade AT YOUR SERVICE publishes on August 26, 2014 with Simon and Schuster and is available for pre-order now. She lives north of Boston with her three children and (as soon as she wears down her husband) a pet hedgehog. Blog link: www.jenmaloneblogs.com
Trisha Leaver (posting on March 25) - Trisha Leaver is the author of THE SECRETS WE KEEP, a YA Contemporary coming winter of 2015 from FSG/ Macmillan and Creed, a co-authored YA Psychological Horror coming fall 2014 from Flux. Her blog is here: http://trishaleaver.blogspot.com/
JOSH FUNK (posting on March 26). Josh lives in New England with his family. He is the author of the forthcoming picture books LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling) and DEAR DRAGON: A Pen Pal Tale (Viking/Penguin). He writes picture books, not bios. Sorry. Find out moderately more information at www.papajfunk.com.