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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We've come a long way, baby

Around this time last year, I started dreaming about how awesome it would be to attend the SCBWI annual conference.  At first, I never expected it to come close to reality.  Why on earth would I travel across the country, alone, leaving my husband and two young children for almost a week just so I could indulge in a big conference, which would undoubtedly be at least as much fun as it was informative?  Well, you all know how that turned out.
I don't know if it's just this time of year or what, but the dream has returned.  I want to go back to that conference.  I want to go badly.  The hubby is on board so it's time to start planning and saving up the $$$.
In the meantime, you may also recall that I was brilliantly happy with my writing strides in 2010.  I completed a full draft of my YA novel, which had started as a bizarre dream all the way back in 2001.  I attended a regional SCBWI conference that assigned NYT bestseller, Jay Asher, to critique the first chapter of my novel.  His feedback was amazing.  He encouraged me.  He made me feel that my work really does have merit and that I need to pursue it.  I attended the SCBWI annual conference.  I met unpublished authors who I'm working with to perfect our craft and break into this crazy business of kidlit.  I met wildly successful published authors who were also very encouraging and kind.  I met my critique partner.  I learned that I'm totally capable of traveling all by myself.  I learned a lot about my novel and the work it will take to get it from that completed draft to a version that I can show an agent or editor with pride and confidence.
I entered my picture book manuscript in a contest for MeeGenius.  The results are yet to be announced.  (sigh) But I'm still holding out hope that I could be the winner, and if not, that I will get a small ebook deal with them out of it and be actually making some money for my writing.
I have been grappling with the revision of DREAM GIRL.  It's a hard row to hoe, let me tell you.  I thought it was a struggle to get the first draft out, I will tell you with confidence that it's harder to make that draft into something engaging, intelligent, suspenseful, polished, compelling and coherent.  Thus, after many attempts to get through a revision of the entire draft (which I have not done,) I have come back to a title recommended by editor Ruta Rimas at that same regional SCBWI conference where I met Jay Asher.  The book is WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK by Donald Maass.  I had checked the book out from the library after that conference, but I wasn't ready for it.  I was riding high from completing the first draft.  I just knew it was brilliant as is.  (if you're a writer, you know that feeling, let's take a moment to laugh about it now.......ha.....ha.....ha....ok, let's continue.)  So, zoom forward to tonight, I bought that book 5 days ago from Amazon.  It arrived on my porch this morning.  (pretty impressive since Christmas has occurred in between purchasing and receiving).  We got the kids to bed by 8 tonight and I did the exercises in the first two chapters.  This involved answering 8 questions/ doing some brainstorming and I stopped after those 2 chapters because it's draining but incredible work!  I think I'm already on track for a heck of a lot better book just from those 8 questions alone.  And let me tell you, there are 34 chapters!
Working through this workbook, which I highly recommend for any of you out there who want to write better novels, is helping me to polish this manuscript better than I could myself.  I wouldn't know about this book if it wasn't for that regional conference.
    Besides that, all of my current revision work is reminding me of the talks I attended by Rachel Vail on character development at the SCBWI annual conference.  I didn't want to admit it at the time but I didn't know everything there was to know about my character.  In fact, here's a dirty secret, I hadn't spent much time thinking about her before I threw her into my story, let alone the other characters.  So now, I'm putting in the hard work, or starting to.  These conferences I've attended, these connections I've made to the writing world, have helped me tremendously, even if it takes me a few months to process it and apply it to my project.
   So, in closing, I suppose my point is that even though this is really hard work and the conferences are a lot of fun, they are so valuable to this dream I have of publishing books.  This past year has been my most successful as a writer even though I have not even advanced to sending out queries yet.  The devil is in the details, and right now, I'm striving to make the details of this novel as good as I can so I can fashion a product that will make myself and my potential readers proud.
    I can only imagine what 2011 will have in store, but if I can continue reaching and growing even slowly, it's going to be another amazing year.   Thanks for being part of this journey.     

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christy Raedeke Interview

 I told you it was coming and here it is!   Christy Raedeke is another author I admire.  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, she's also my 'friend'.  Let me tell you, not only is she a talented writer, but she's really nice too.  

I couldn't wait to read her young adult novel, PROPHECY OF DAYS.  It was another book that I desperately wanted to finish in one sitting but couldn't because it was after midnight and I have small children.  Having never been a morning person, I highly value sleep.  So I stayed up too late two nights in a row to finish this book.  "Wow" is about the first thing that came to mind after reading it.  There are so many fascinating characters, many who aren't what they seem to be.  It's set in Scotland, what's not to love about that?  There's a hot Scottish guy for the protagonist to fall for.  Yummy.  There's conspiracy...good, good.  There's the intrigue of the ancient Mayan calender and the year 2012...exciting and intelligent.  And thrown into the mix, for good measure, is hope.  After reading this book, I felt like I could make a difference and that there is still a reason to have faith in humanity.   (After the recent elections that have left many feeling hopeless and without any faith in humanity...I highly recommend picking up this book.)  It was fast paced, exciting, intelligent and fun.  Book 2 is due in May 2011.  I can't wait!  
So, without further ado, Christy Raedeke!




RW (Restless Writer):  I truly believe Mr. Papers is one of the greatest literary characters of all time. How did you come up with the idea for an origami folding monkey and name him Mr. Papers? It's brilliant!

CR (Christy Raedeke): First of all, I have to tell you that I printed this out, cut out the part about Mr. Papers being one of the greatest literary characters, and taped it to the top of my monitor so I can look at it all the time. For a librarian and writer to say that means so much to me!
I have always thought it would be amazing to have a helper monkey - the origami part was folly at first and then it made some sense! I wanted an animal that could communicate and with what Capuchins are trained to do, Origami is not that far out of the realm of possibility.

RW:  PROPHECY OF DAYS draws heavily on the ancient Mayan calendar. Your characters speak of it very intelligently. Had you previously studied the Mayan calendar or did you just start researching it for this book?
CR:  I read about the Mayan calendar back in 1999 and was instantly enchanted by it. The knowledge the Maya had about astronomy and math was unbelievable! The more I looked into it, the more captivated I was by it. The book took a lot of research but since I am so interested in the subject it was fun, not work.
RW:  For an adventure story of this magnitude, you could have chosen anywhere in the world for the setting. What made you chose to set it in Scotland?
CR:  Because I love Scotland! It just feels so old, so softened by time and weather. Also I wanted the setting to be very far culturally and physically from the Mayalands and Scotland fit that bill.
RW:  You have traveled extensively. Have you visited all the places mentioned in the book?
CR:  I have been to many of the places that I use in both the two books, and a couple still remain dream trips I hope to take (like the Dunhuang Caves in China). Travel is my absolute favorite thing, so even writing about travel is fun.

RW:  Your book packs adventure, travel, conspiracy, romance and ancient wisdom into one fast-paced and enjoyable package. You make it seem easy. How long did it take to write and how much research did you have to do?
CR:  I can’t believe it seems easy! What a great compliment. No, the book took a few years, but I also had a very young child when I started and had another child a year into writing it, so time I could spend writing was spotty. The most enjoyable and yet most time consuming part was the research. But like I said, when it’s a subject you love it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like following a super interesting trail you’ve never been on.

RW:  Your book is the first in a trilogy. How did you approach agents/publishers as a debut author with a proposed trilogy? The book is incredible but did you encounter any resistance from the industry?
CR:  It’s actually just a two-book series, a “Duology”. My agent signed me after reading the first one and a one-page synopsis of the second one. We talked about breaking it into three books but right about that time the market really changed and all of a sudden publishers felt like it was a risk to take on a series – they wanted books that could stand alone but had series potential – so we scaled it back to two books. My book deal was based on a finished manuscript and a three-page synopsis of book two.
In terms of resistance, I did get some at first. When it first went out on sub, many of the New York editors had not heard of the Mayan Calendar or 2012 (this was 2008). Then last year at a writer’s conference one of the editors who gently passed on it made an open plea for anyone who had a 2012 book to please send it to her!
RW:  Unlike the more mainstream perceptions of 2012, which focuses on destruction, your book offers hope. Did you make the decision to inject the story with hope or did you find evidence for a less destructive interpretation in your research. (doomsday vs. a new beginning)
CR:  In all of my research I never came across one piece of information that said the world was ending, or that said what was coming was cataclysmic. It’s all about transformation, about the end of an era and the beginning of another.
I really detest fear mongering, and that’s what most of the media focuses on so naturally they’d twist this into an apocalyptic thing. Everyone is always looking for the next apocalypse!
RW:  On your website, you list an app. for the Mayan Calendar. Do you, like Caity, use the Mayan calendar in your daily life? Have you found that readers are using it now?
CR:  I use it all the time. There’s a great iPhone app called Tzolkin Explorer that’s easy and fun to use. It’s very helpful in setting an intention for the day and looking at each day as a unique and special piece of a never-ending spiral, not just another day on a linear yard stick.

RW:  What do you hope teens will take away from your books?
CR:  I really hope they get inspired by the adventure, the mystery, and the travel. There is so much wonder in this world, so many things to see and ways to live. I’d like teens to get a sense that they can change the world – never before have so many people under 20 been on the planet at once. They have the numbers, now they just need to get organized! Change the paradigm, please!
RW:  Do you have any favorite books that you keep coming back to?
As a kid I liked to re-read books (obsessions included Herman Hesse’s Demian, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and Steinbeck’s East of Eden) but as an adult there are very few I enjoy re-reading. I am currently in love with Meg Rosoff’s What I Was (I actually adore all her books, but this one really got me) and Jennifer Eagan’s The Keep.
RW:  Book 2 is coming out in May 2011 (YAY!) have you completed writing it? Can you give us a teaser?
CR:  I’ve done the majority of the work on it, and have been through one round of revisions. I still have some more to do, but at least it’s close I actually like it better than Book One, which is surprising since it was so much more difficult to write.
In Book Two you get to see more of Mr. Papers, including some previously hidden ninja skills! The stakes are higher, Justine is with Caity the whole time, and some very interesting places are involved. Let me pull out a little teaser (this is from page 173):
Silently, we walk back down the way we came up and then over a small bridge from El Palacio to a group of three temples that face each other. I was drawn to the smaller one today, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, because it was tiny and wonky and a little overgrown with weeds. But it’s the more spectacular one across from it that we climb.
In the back corner of one of the chambers at the top there’s a small chink in the rock. I cannot bring myself to sick my finger in it, so I use the end of one of the long candles I bought in the gift shop. When Justine sees it crumble, she pushes me away. “I’ll do it,” she says, sticking two fingers down in the dark hole. After feeling around for longer than I ever would, she manages to move something. One of the thick stone panels that I thought was a wall, rotates just enough to reveal a very skinny, very dark  staircase.
“Mr. Papers?” I say, handing him a flashlight. “Would you?”
He looks at me and rolls his eyes. Instead of taking the cheap tourist flashlight I was offering, he reaches for my big metal flashlight and shines it down. No snakes, no critters—so far so good. 
Since Justine bravely stuck her fingers in the hole, and Papers is going first, I suck it up and follow. I have to turn sideways to even fit, and once I get a few feet down I can no longer see my feet because the staircase is so narrow and steep. I just feel for each step. Justine has her hand on my shoulder and is feeling her way behind me. After about twenty stairs, we reach the ground. We are under the Templo del Sol, the Temple of the Sun.
The space widens just a bit, enough for Justine and me to walk side by side. I had memorized the map and know we have to follow this tunnel almost the whole distance of the base of the pyramid to reach the hidden room.
Neither of us is talking, we’re both just breathing heavily and walking as quickly as we can. The farther we get, the more panicked I’m feeling about getting stuck down here. Just as I fear I might start hyperventilating, the tunnel turns. Right after the turn is a stone door. Mr. Papers gives it a push and it rotates open, this time to reveal another door covered in silver and decorated with glyphs.
 I pull on the handle, shocked to find the room behind it already glowing with light.




Great cover art.  It even looks thrilling, doesn't it? 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing and not writing, that's life.

Well, I've put up two author interviews here this month.  From the overwhelming lack of comments, I don't know if you're impressed or ho-humming.  I prefer to think you're stunned speechless because Susan and Michael are pretty awesome.  Feel free to comment and let me know what you think of them too.  Up next will be Christy Raedeke, who is another wildly awesome author.  She has written a book called THE PROPHECY OF DAYS which I'll tell you more about when the interview goes up. 

In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to shine the spotlight back on myself.  Not because I'm that vain but because there are some things happening that are of note. 

1.  Sean Ingvard Ashby, my utterly talented illustrator has completed his work on PAJAMA GIRL.  All that's left is to submit the manuscript to Meegenius.com and wait a couple months to see how we fare in the contest.  Regardless, it was a fantastic experience to collaborate with Sean and to actually 'see' how my little Pajama Girl looks through someone else's mind.  She looks incredible and Sean was a joy to work with, so if you're looking for an illustrator and you dig his style, hire him.  Don't delay.  He's crazy talented and fun too.  Hooray for Sean! 

2.  DREAM GIRL is currently kicking my ass.  If I gave birth to this manuscript in March, then she's turned into a snotty teenager now and will not cooperate.  Chapter 18 refuses to be written properly, thus effectively putting revisions in a firm standstill.  Well, sort of.  Convinced that I did not lay the groundwork properly in chapters 1-17, I've gone back to the beginning, again, to sort out what the problem is.  I'm back up to ch. 8.  So far, so good...if I say so myself.  So the problem must be between 9-17.  However, the kids and I are sick with a hideous virus, my poor daughter the worst of the lot, and frankly, I don't want to revise right now.  I really want to be querying, but one step at a time.  And the author interviews are a whole lot of fun too.  (Hint, if anyone needs to hire an interviewer, I'd love to do it!)

Well, I guess that's all the news there is for now.  Please let me know if you're enjoying the interviews.  I certainly am!   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Michael Lawrence Interview


Michael Lawrence and I go way back.  Like 5 or 6 years back.  I read his book A CRACK IN THE LINE, the first of the Withern Rise trilogy while doing book reviews for www.myshelf.com  I was so impressed with the book that I decided to interview him for Myshelf's author of the month feature.  I contacted him via email, unknowingly starting a regular correspondence that would last approx. 18 months.  At that time, I became a mom and dropped off the face of the earth for awhile.  But let me back up a bit.  
     Michael's book combined with my subconscious, which had been simmering a story idea for 2 years.  It hit me like the cliche ton of bricks.  My book had to be a paranormal YA novel!  Well, over the years, that book became DREAM GIRL which I know you are all anxious for me to finish revising and get published.  
     After A CRACK IN THE LINE, I waited impatiently for book 2 to come along, SMALL ETERNITIES.  It was every bit as amazing as the first, and, luckily, it came out in the UK shortly after I read A CRACK IN THE LINE.  The final book, THE UNDERWOOD SEE made me wait longer, as he was writing it while we were corresponding.  As a result of the correspondence, Michael included a small homage to yours truly in that last book.  Those of you who've known me since before 2005 must drop everything right now, buy all three books and tell me when you've discovered what it is in THE UNDERWOOD SEE that I'm referring to.  For those of you who didn't know me, buy the books, read them and I'll tell you what it is.  Go ahead, the links are right here.  The interview will still be here when you get back....
Ok, now we can get on with things.  
    A CRACK IN THE LINE was up for a Printz award.  Let me tell you, I was thoroughly disappointed that it didn't win.  It should have.  It should have won a great many awards.  If I had anything to do with it, it would have.  
    Michael is such a talented fellow that he writes books for all age levels.  He's done an adorable series for babies, Baby Loves.  He's written the Jiggy McCue books for elementary school kids. He wrote his own memoir for adults which I really enjoyed, MILKING THE NOVELTY, which is only available through Michael.  And those are just the ones I've read.  There are more.  Buy them.
     So I'd like to introduce you to Michael Lawrence, someone I admire greatly as a brilliant author and a really great person who tolerates numerous emails from an American wannabe author.  
On location doing research for his book, JUBY'S ROOK


RW (Restless Writer).  It seems that the YA genre is full of trilogies and series these days.  How did you approach editors with Withern Rise?  Did you know it would be a trilogy when you started writing it?

ML. A Crack in the Line, volume one of the Withern Rise trilogy, was a slightly expanded rewrite of my first published book for children, When the Snow Falls, published in England (but nowhere else) in 1995. Some time after publication of Snow Falls I began to get an itch to further explore the premise of life alternatives thrown up by chance and circumstance, but for older readers. I only approached two editors with the proposition, and the second of them accepted it, probably because she had already published other books of mine. Although I intended The Aldous Lexicon (my English title) to be a trilogy I had no idea what would go into the second and third volumes until I came to write them, but I dropped little things in the first volume (and the second when I came to it) that seemed to have no business there, which meant that I had to find a reason for their presence in the next volume or volumes in due course. The story was thus a sort of unfolding puzzle for me, but I liked that process. It meant that I couldn’t write on automatic.


RW.  You write for very young children through adult.  Do you prefer writing for one age group more than the rest?

ML. I’ve always liked variety, though writing for children can be both limiting and frustrating as there are times when I want to use language and plot devices that would be beyond the young reader. 


RW.  The first time I interviewed you, I asked if you thought you'd tire of writing.  You said "I seem to change interests and professions every ten years or so. 2005 is my tenth year as a published writer, so I’m a bit restless at the moment, wondering what I can do to spice things up a bit."  So, 2010 marks year 15 as a published writer.  Have you found a way to 'spice things up' or are you searching for a new direction?

ML. Five years ago I put up a shelf that fell down. So I’m still writing. But the restlessness has not gone away. Far from it. Ever feel that you’ve strayed into the wrong reality? If so, you might be in mine.


RW.  Since you've been publishing for 15 years, how do you continue to generate ideas for your books?  What moves you along when the muse isn't smiling on you?

ML. I’ve never needed a muse, smiling or scowling. I’m one of those unfortunate individuals who has too many ideas to sleep through more than three nights a week. There are times when I long for writer’s block. What peace!


RW.  You've written many great books with memorable and quirky characters.  Is there any character that has remained with you or do they 'go away' when you've finished their book(s)?

ML. When I finish a book I’m out of it immediately and working on the next one. My characters are creations, that’s all, and disposable. Plenty more where they came from. I recently lost a close friend from childhood. He was real. He stays with me.


RW.  BABY CHRISTMAS has become a holiday classic in my house.  Did you find any major difference in selling a seasonal book?  Would you want to do more seasonal books?

ML. It took about a decade to find a publisher for Baby Christmas. Publisher after publisher turned it down, but after it came out I was asked to write a sequel. This I did – setting it on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. It was turned down on the assumption that buyers of Christmas books wouldn’t be interested in an after-Christmas book. Pity. It was a fun idea.


RW.  I think many people are drawn to writing and publishing because they want their words to live on and touch other people.  Which of your books are you most proud of? 

ML. Proud of? Tricky. I get absolutely no buzz out of seeing my books in shops, libraries or anywhere else. I might think fondly back on something I’ve written, but that’s about as close to ‘proud’ as I get. The book I think most highly of is the one that will be in my head next week, or the week after.


RW.  Where is your favorite place to refresh and rejuvenate your mind?

ML. I have a wooden lodge on the coast of North Cornwall, about an hour and a half’s drive from where I live. I go there for a week or so at a time, to work. It’s very quiet there. There’s no telephone and I receive no mail there. My view is of a field of grazing cows, hills dotted with walkers, and a small rocky bay. At night the sky, when not heavy with cloud, is filled with stars. It suits me very well.


RW.  What is the worst advice you've ever been given, about anything.

ML. ‘Don’t do it.’


RW.  What is the best thing that's happened to you because of your writing?

ML. Being able to give up sleeping on park benches under newspaper. For a while anyway...


RW.  I confess that I often procrastinate when I could be writing.  Facebook is a fabulous procrastination tool for me.  Do you procrastinate when you should be writing?  What is your diversion of choice?

ML. Facebook holds no allure for me. My preferred diversion? I write music of various kinds, including songs. No one hears these things. They’re for me alone, but hugely satisfying to produce and record. 


RW.  The publishing world is in an uproar over the future of publishing and digital rights.  Has any of this affected you and the work you're currently doing? 

ML. Book sales are way down at present for most authors, including me, though I doubt the reason is entirely the digital market. Ebooks could be the thing of the future, however, and accordingly I have just signed a contract for sixteen of my books to be made available in that format over the next year. These include the three Withern Rise books (the English version, as The Aldous Lexicon).


RW.  Do you have a favorite book that you find yourself coming back to?

ML. Nope. Tons of music, though.


RW.  You used to work as a photographer, do you think the artistic process of photography has influenced the way you write?  Do you still do photography for fun?

ML. These days I have no interest in taking pictures other than to record things or places I wish to remember or as an aid to my writing. When about to start work on a novel that requires a vivid setting I go to some lengths to find a real location for my characters to inhabit. I’ve just finished a comic novel about a murder weekend that goes wrong. Before starting it I searched quite widely for a house to set it in, and eventually found a likely prospect and wangled a guided tour by the owners. It was a huge dark place, with ivy over much of it, and a bell tower, and battlements, rambling grounds, and so on. I took a stack of pictures, which I spread over my desk in order to feel in touch with the place while moving my characters around its various rooms and parts. I did something similar during the three years in which I wrote The Aldous Lexicon. Withern Rise, the house in the trilogy, is the house I was born in, which overlooked a quiet stretch of English river. During the writing I revisited it often, photographed it and made notes through all the seasons, to ensure that every description was as precise as I could make it.


RW.  Are you ever in the States?  If so, how could I wrangle you to Michigan for a pint?

ML. The Big Invite has yet to arrive, and I doubt that it will. You need to hit the best-seller lists for that kind of interest, and I’ve only sold a couple of million books or so. Peanuts.





Thursday, October 14, 2010

Susan Heyboer O'Keefe Interview

 If you follow my Facebook page, you know that I was contemplating doing author interviews here on the blog.  Susan Heyboer O'Keefe just released FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER this month, so I thought it was a good starting place for interviews.  This is her debut adult novel, but she's no stranger to publishing.  She's done tons of children's books, among them, DEATH BY EGGPLANT.  (Isn't that an awesome title?)
If you recall the Mary Shelley version of Frankenstein, you know that the monster is alive at the end.  So what happened to him?  Susan answers that question her book.   Even though this has nothing to do with Susan's writing, you have to agree that the cover for the book is phenomenal.  Doesn't it just beg you to pick it up and read it?
Congrats to Susan for the publication of FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER, and extra congrats for getting a great cover design! 
Without further ado, my interview with Susan Heyboer O'Keefe. 

RW: (Restless Writer):  Everyone knows Frankenstein whether they’ve read the original book or not. What drew you to the character and made you decide to write a new book about it?

SHO:  I was always amazed at how the movie was so different from Mary Shelley’s book—most notoriously, in the nature of the monster. The movie monster grunts and lumbers and exists on a purely physical level. Shelley’s monster is an articulate creature, intensely aware of its isolation from humanity and why that’s so. Plus, Shelley’s monster doesn’t die at the end of her book, which naturally invites the question, “What happened next?”

RW: Were you ever apprehensive to tackle such a well-known character?

SHO:  It never even occurred to me and thankfully so. Sequels are often written by other authors. If I had known that someone would say it took guts to tackle not just a classic but an iconic figure, I might never have attempted it.

RW:  How long did it take you to write the book?

SHO:  I started it in a previous life around the year 1700, which means it's taken about 300 years. However, it also means that I didn’t write the sequel to Frankenstein. Mary Shelley wrote the prequel to Frankenstein’s Monster.


RW:  What kind of research, if any, did you do for the book?

SHO:  I researched everything because I know nothing. Afterward, I put as little of it as possible in the book. Realistically we don’t mentally recount the whole history or workings of something that we pass. Usually—or at least, it’s usual for me—we note only what’s important to us at that moment. So I try to just suggest a place or an event.



RW:  Do you have a new project in the works?

SHO:  Always. Picture books being written and submitted (and rejected). Also two novels. One is adult historical fiction about an alcoholic daguerreotyper, who ran away from home as a boy and has finally returned to save his sister from the same horrible circumstances. The other is a contemporary middle-grade comedy that refuses to give me a full first draft. Now that Frankenstein’s Monster has been published ahead of it, and the other adult book is in full swing, and I’m up to, like, the twelfth full draft, maybe it will be jealous and eventually come around.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Coming together

The revision process for Dream Girl trudges onward.  I won a critique from Becky Levine for the first chapter, which I recently got back.  At first, I was totally frustrated because the things she honed in on were different than the things Jay Asher honed in on, were different from what Cynthea Liu said.  I'M SICK OF CRITIQUES!!!!  I screamed to myself.  So I started reading a book about writing called, The First Five Pages by Noah LukemanThe First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.  The beginning was mostly about formatting.  I was about to put it down until I made it to the end of chapter 2 and found revision exercises.  They seemed sort of bland:  look at all the adverbs and adjectives on your first page and put them in a list.  Then list all the nouns and verbs.  Are they commonplace?  Rewrite the first page without using any adverbs of adjectives.  Blah blah blah, I thought.  Nice idea but it's after 11pm, I know the baby will be up too early in the morning so I should just go to bed...but then I felt the hand of the Muse upon me.  "Look at your first page" she said.  You can't argue with that.  So I took out a printed copy of my first chapter...from a couple revisions ago, just to glance at the verbs and whatnot.  Well, I didn't exactly follow the exercises Mr. Lukeman suggested, but something happened.  I did list some of the words I used and generated some replacements.  I got fired up about the replacements.  I changed the first line.  Things that Jay Asher mentioned back in May, clicked.  Then they tied in with things Cynthea Liu had mentioned.  And I think I got at what Becky Levine was talking about.   And, seriously, it only took changing a few words and rewriting a few lines and I feel like I tightened the entire first chapter, perhaps setting myself up to overhaul the entire manuscript.  I will share with you some of these astounding changes.  See what you think....

The opening lines from a couple revisions ago:  I didn't know it then, but I was scudding into work five minutes late on a day that would totally change the course of my life.  Everything had been so normal.  I didn't have the slightest clue.

Now, I've held on to that first line for a loooong time.  As in, that's pretty much how it started 5 years ago...until last night.  When the hand of the Muse led me to try this instead:  I slid into work on a Monday afternoon that disrupted the course of my life.  For seventeen years, everything had been as normal as the Cheerios I'd eaten for breakfast.  There was no indication that the Gothic adventures I so loved to read were about to become more than fiction.

Which one would make you read further?  What do you know about the narrator after reading each opening?  What kind of story are you in for?

I'd like to think that if Jay, Cynthea and Becky read this post they would nod their heads and say, "Yes, now you're getting it."  However, I'm content with thinking it of myself because a writers life is a lonely path and you have to rely on your own confidence to get through it.

PS.  I want that book for a Christmas present.  Hint hint to hubby.  ;)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Becoming Real

I feel like I have arrived.  No, I don't have a book deal in hand.  No one has offered to publish anything of mine but I have made it to a step that many aspiring authors never get to...a real, live, talented, artist has done some sketches for my picture book.  This awesome artist being, Sean Ingvard Ashby...go check out the sketches for yourself.  The best news of all, besides seeing a real face for my little character?  The best news is that Sean nailed it.  This excites me for two reasons.  1.) Because it proves that Sean is talented.  2.) It proves that I am talented. 
What a minute...you say.  Isn't that 2nd point a little narcissistic?  Well, yes.  But from my point of view, I've written my story in such a way that it could be illustrated the way I see it.  I left it open for artistic interpretation but the feeling I wanted to evoke is right there in the sketches from somebody I don't even know.  What an awesome experience!
Now here's the insider scoop for all of you.  I've read about illustrators who put things into their illustrations that are part of the author's life, but not known to the illustrator.  When I look at those sketches on Sean's blog, a couple things jump out at me.  Note: NONE of these things are in the text. 
1.  The story is based on my daughter.  I hoped that the illustrations would at least have the same hair color as her.  Thus far, it seems that they will.  Cool!

2.  There is a cat in the illustrations.  I like cats.  We have a cat.  Cool!

3.  The BIG thing for me, in the bathtub sketch, what is the little girl holding?  Go on...go take a look.  A mermaid.  Yeah, my daughter has a mermaid just like that for tub time.  Do thousands of girls have a mermaid like that for the tub?  Yes.  But this is my daughter and my character we're talking about, so I can be as excited about this as I want.  And, have you guessed?  I'm really excited. 

Besides these fun coincidences, I'm just relieved that my two hopes have been realized.  I wanted the character to look cartoon-y but cute.  I know these are just preliminary sketches, but that was already nailed.  I can't wait to see more! 
This is a happy moment in this author's life. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Schmooze & Flash Fiction sample

Last Sunday, I attended an awesome local event hosted by Shutta Crum.  I do not appear in the photos on her website because I was sitting on a trunk in the corner.  It was a great time with food and more writer networking.  Seriously, children's writers are the friendliest group of people you could ask for.  You're never alone in a crowd of children's writers.  Although, my bud, Jody was there too and we had a conversation about the angst of revising.  Our conversation led me to email Jay Asher, since we're so tight, and ask him about critiques and revising.  He responded, promptly, and gave me some fantastic advice.  Basically, if the advice doesn't match up with the vision you had when you started writing, don't pay it any mind.  It sounds simple enough but that point can easily be muddied when you start throwing paid critiques from professionals into the mix.
The Schmooze was a great event to follow the LA conference.  Helped me to stay focused and energized about what I'm doing, despite the lapse of revision angst.  Now, I find myself gazing longingly at the SCBWI-MI fall conference which is taking place next month.  So many awesome events, so little time and money. 
Anyway, I've also been thinking that I should get some writing samples up on this page.  I recently entered a flash fiction contest with this little piece I call, DORIAN.  The rules stated that the first line had to be, "What were you thinking?"  and the piece could be no more than 400 words.  This isn't the greatest piece of writing I've done and I could definitely polish this more but I like the concept I came up with and I thought you might enjoy a brief read.  So here you go.  Let me know what you think.


Dorian


What were you thinking?  The words echo in my brain even as my vision starts to get fuzzy. 
I know what I’d been thinking.  Everything is so clear now.  I knew all along that I should have stayed away from Dorian.  Everything about him put me on edge, especially his eyes.  Looking into his eyes, even for a second, had made me feel like all my secrets were transported into his mind.  It was a terrifying sensation, but it also had the effect of making me want to be near him.  Maybe I just wanted to know the guy who seemed to steal my secrets, and, against my better judgment, I chose to get involved. 
I never expected to trust him.
Sure, we hung out, we even kissed, but it never made him less creepy.  He would say the right things and I would answer the right way but I always stayed a little on guard.  After all, he was the weirdo of the entire high school, probably of all the high schools in the nation.  I needed to be able to drop him if things got too weird.  
Today, after school, he’d asked if he could take me somewhere special.  To my credit, I hesitated.  “That’s ok,” he’d said quickly.  “You don’t have to, it’s cool.” 
“No,” I’d replied, suddenly feeling like I’d offended him.  “I’d like to go.” 
“Are you sure?” he asked.  “I don’t want you to feel like I’m twisting your arm or anything.”
“No,” I assured him.  “I’m sure it’ll be fun.” 
That was the first time I’d ever fully trusted him.  I let my guard slip and it turns out that I won’t have an opportunity to make that mistake again.
When Dorian stole my secrets, he would have learned that, even though I’m seventeen, I’m still afraid of monsters.  I know, it sounds stupid, but there’s always a moment at night, just after I turn off the light, that I hold my breath and brace for the worst.  Nothing happens and I feel silly, but I still do it. 
“You were right to fear monsters” he’d said when he brought me here.  Now, I’m lying on the forest floor watching all my blood flow from my body.  It’s almost reassuring to know that my nighttime ritual wasn’t in vain but I’m sorry I’ll never be able to warn anyone.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

SCBWI Annual LA Part II

Yes, I've been slacking off.  Well, not really.  I've been filled alternately with angst and rapture while I continue the revising process. I redid the first 3 chapters.  Overall, I think they're getting pretty well polished now.  My new critique partner has them now...we'll see what she thinks before I get too carried away.
Anyway, back to LA!

DAY 3
Having been exhausted from the party and jet lag and the general disrupted sleep of motherhood, I slept in and skipped out on most of the panel discussion on "Why narrative nonfiction is hotter than ever".   I didn't feel cheated since researching for nonfiction isn't my thing.

Next was the keynote by Carolyn Mackler, which was totally awesome.

I went to another breakout by Rachel Vail because she was so great at the first one.

Lunch was the Golden Kite Award Reception.  It was amazing...think the Oscars without the glam dress code and self importance. Only this was for MY people.  It was so inspiring.  Tears were shed, not just by the people on stage.  So who won?  Yeah, remember up there when I said researching for nonfiction isn't my thing?  I could look it up for you, but I hear the little guy stirring on the baby monitor so blogging time is at a premium here.

Breakout by Deborah Halverson on how you know your manuscript is ready to submit.  Very informative.  Loved it.

Keynote by Gennifer Choldenko.  She's the author of
Al Capone Does my Shirts.
Keynote by Rubin Pfeffer about the future of children's publishing.  Wow.  It was heavy but it was awesome.  Leads me to a question for all of you reading this.  Rubin told us not to worry about books because they will always be around, but I'm not so sure.  Don't get me wrong, I don't want print books going the way of the Dodo, but I'm not a child in the digital age.  I haven't had the experience of being a 2 year old with a computer mouse in my hand.  When I did a book discussion a couple months back for a group of 5th and 6th graders, I asked them if they would mind if print books went away.  One girl was adamant that she'll always prefer a print book but the other kids weren't so sure.  One boy said he'd prefer e-readers and couldn't care less if print books were gone.  Interesting.  The other kids were too tweeny to want to speak up with an opinion of their own, so that was that. 

After that, we were left to our own devices for the rest of the night.  Jody and I grabbed some dinner at the mall across the street.  Then, we decided to finally do a little sightseeing before we came home.  We heard Rodeo Dr. was not far away so: Viola!

Isn't this lovely?  Reminded me of Europe.  The building with the columns is Versace.
It was so much fun strolling Rodeo Dr. that we considered ditching something the next day to do one of those bus tours.  However, when we got back to the hotel, we discovered the the first keynote of the day was addressing middle grade, which is what Jody is doing, so our brief dream of skipping out was brought back to reality.  Next year, Jody, next year.

DAY 4 - Last day
First keynote was Rachel Vail...3rd time I'd heard her speak at the conference and she was amazing every time.

Second keynote by Paul Fleishman

Editors panel...very insightful!

Gail Carson Levine workshop.  You know, she's an awesome lady but not the best presenter.  I went to see her though because I love her work and wasn't feeling compelled by the other workshops.

Final breakout I attended was by Coleen Paratore and it was so awesome.  I arrived a good 15 minutes early and no one was there, except Coleen.  So I took the opportunity to chat with her, she's super nice!  I asked if I could help her set up anything and she allowed me to be her DJ.  She wanted the song, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield to play continuously while people strolled in so I got to be in charge of that.

Finally, everything came to a close with Ashley Bryan.  Wow.  Have you heard of him?  I hadn't.  He's an 87 year old African American poet.  He made us recite poetry with him and you haven't heard poetry until you've heard Ashley perform it.  Check him out on Youtube.   And that isn't even a fraction of the passion he put into it at SCBWI.  It was a life-changing event just to see him.

Finally, Stephen Mooser and Lin Oliver sent us off to our homes around the globe and the conference was complete.  I started the long trek home but let me tell you, there is a large portion of my brain that is still in LA, still processing everything I learned.  If there's a way I can get back there again next summer, you bet I'm going.  Next summer and every summer for the rest of my life, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

SCBWI Annual LA

I knew things were going really really well when I found myself at the baggage claim in LAX with Carolyn Crimi and Kelly DiPucchio.  Ok, so I didn't recognize them.  I had met a fellow conference attendee on the plane, Jacqui Robbins, who has the hook up, so she introduced me to the others.  I played it totally cool.  "Excuse me, did she say you're Carolyn Crimi?"  "Yes."  "I LOVE your work!  You're so funny!  My daughter and I have read all your books and they're so funny I love them all...blah blah blah."  Smooth operator, that's me.
Anyway, we all took a shuttle to our hotel together.  Also on the shuttle, we met an editor from Scholastic books.  (before you get too excited, she only does nonfiction books, which isn't my bag, baby).  So the ride from LAX to the hotel was pretty awesome.  I waited in line to check in with Carolyn and Kelly, so I figured I wasn't doing too bad for myself.  I headed up to my room, realized I was now alone and starving.  Room service looked pretty awesome, so I got it.  What do you think?
Since pictures and blog posts go together really well, here's another one.  The view from my hotel room.  I thought it was pretty cool. 
 DAY 1

Conference proceedings started on Friday morning.  We were welcomed by Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser, the founders of SCBWI and prolific writers themselves.  They were pleased to announce that 1,139 kidlit folks were in attendance at the conference, the largest number ever!  Their first conference, in 1972 had 55 participants.  You've come a long way, baby!
Following them was Jon Scieszka.  If I have to explain who he is, you're reading the wrong blog.  Jon is like a god of kidlit responsible for brilliance such as The Stinky Cheese Man, the Time Warp Trio, and Trucktown.  His presentation was so funny and inspiring, I vowed to meet him during the course of the conference.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  Better luck next time.
Next up was M.T. Anderson.  The man is, and I'm not exaggerating, a literary genius.  In addition to that, he's an awesome speaker with a great singing voice.  He treated us to a performance of the state anthem he's written for Delaware.  Why Delaware?  You'll have to read his work.
Next I went to a workshop with Ginger Clark, literary agent.  Followed by lunch a panel discussion with 4 editors, and another workshop with Josh Adams, a literary agent.  The mind expansion for the day was brought to a close by illustrator Loren Long then we were off for the wine and cheese party.  Who should I run into there?





Yes, you're correct if you guessed my BFF, Jay Asher!  Jay, the man, the myth, the legend, Asher, (who is still on the NYT bestseller list at...oh, is it 67 weeks now?) remembered me and gave me a hug.  Yeah, Jay and I are cool like that.  Anyway, my awesome photog for these pictures did the posed one first, and then snapped a candid as we were chatting, to "prove that we had a conversation".  God bless her, whoever she is.
So Jay, and I, did chat for awhile...maybe 10 or 15 minutes, which is ridiculously awesome when you're talking to a NYT bestseller.   

When Jay wandered off to find some cheese before it was all eaten out from under him, I decided to head out.  But on the way out, I ran into Kathleen Duey, who is my FB friend and an amazing fantasy author.  I chatted with her and a group of her followers for close to 20-25 minutes until I felt so hungry I thought I might soon expire.  Rather than doing that, I found someone to have dinner with.  Elisabeth Aikins and I had dinner together on the patio and had great conversation.

All in all, not a bad way to spend the first day in LA.  Can you believe there's more to the story than that?

DAY 2

In the interest of sparing you from a blow by blow of everything, I will highlight the speakers I heard for the day and skip on to the next bit of awesome.
Speakers:
Gordon Korman  (again, another god of kidlit)
Panel of literary agents
MY CRITIQUE was done by Cynthea Liu  All I will say about that is that she's the 3rd person to say the the manuscript  is very marketable (a great thing).  She illuminated that I have a lot more work to do before I can get on with the next phase and I don't want to wrap my head around that yet, so there you have it.
Marion Dane Bauer
E.B. Lewis illustrator (breathtaking presentation)
Rachel Vail she has a theater major, fantastic presenter!

After an emotionally charged day with this phenomenal presenters, it was time for the Heart and Soul Gala.  Yes, a gala!  I spent much of the gala with my new friend, Jody Lamb.  Jody is awesome so check her out.  So Jody helped me accomplish the goal of being photographed with as many of the literary celebs as possible.  Here's what happened:
Here I am with M.T. Anderson.  Note how he's got a good inch of space between us.  This is probably because I led with, "You look so much like my uncle."  Jody found it "cute" that I said that.  M.T. clearly found it a little psychotic.  I explained to Jody, "This is the type of shit I come up with when I talk to celebs."  Luckily, I wasn't as stupid with anyone else.  Good thing I saved it up for the literary genius, huh?

This is me with my BFF again.  Yes, that's Jay Asher in his first prize winning costume.  Heart and Soul was the theme.  Jay looks pretty hot as cupid, don't you think?  Discerning blog readers will note that I am wearing a Rubber Soul shirt.  I also wore a red skirt with hearts pinned to it.  Dressing up doesn't scare me.  Packing a suitcase with an elaborate costume to take across the country does scare me, so that's why I'm low key.

Here I am with afore mentioned kidlit god, Gordon Korman.  You can tell I didn't frighten him as there is no space between us.  Whew!  Jody and I probably chatted with Gordon for at least 20 minutes and he was the kindest most encouraging lit. celeb I met.  (Don't worry, Jay and I are still tight).  Gordon was really awesome and assured Jody and I that even though our critiquers had made it seem like we had a lot of hard work left, that we probably weren't as far off as we imagined.   On that note, we hauled ourselves off to bed.  Believe it or not, each day was more emotionally draining, yet more exhilarating than the last.  Reliving it here with you is also a big task so I think I will break here and give you PART 2 tomorrow or this weekend.  This should keep us all happy until then.  But I will leave you with this until the next installment:  KIDLIT PEOPLE ROCK!!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The verdict is in...

and it's slightly disappointing.  DREAM GIRL, is not actually finished.  Revision is on hold because I have to write a new ending.  It's frustrating because, I'm sure you've noticed, I was incredibly excited to get this wrapped up so I could start querying agents.  Now, I'm no longer sure how far away from that goal I am.  I'm back to outlining and plotting. 
Even though this is a disappointing setback, it's not all bad either.  I'm proud of myself for realizing there is more work to be done and that I'm committed to doing this project properly.  I hope the payoff will be a stronger finished product that will hook an agent. 
The next phase is not as close as I imagined, but it's also not a far off distant dream.  I just have to get through a foggy patch and I'll be back where I wanted to be. 
In the meantime, I'm enjoying my fan page on Facebook:  Sarah Perry, Children's and Young Adult Author.  There's a contest there that ends tonight at midnight.  Check it out for a chance to have one of my DREAM GIRL characters named after you.  Since I have to rewrite the ending, there's a pretty juicy, yet nameless character who is now in the mix.  Could be your namesake!  :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Oh no.

Revising is going along beautifully now.  I have 3 chapters to go and then I'll be able to send it to my critique team...or do I?  As I was working on my revisions last night, a horrible thought seeped into my brain.  "Perhaps," it said, "it isn't a good idea to leave Dream Girl as you do and continue in a sequel.  Perhaps you should continue on and make it into one larger book...to the tune of around 90,000-100,000 words."  There was a moment of panic before I answered this rogue thought.  "No, no no no no!"  I said.  "That's too horrible.  I'm continuing with the plan."  Whew, crisis averted. 
 I had recently read an agent blog post about great books with poor endings.  One of the commenters said how much they hate endings that don't wrap things up and obviously leave an opening for a sequel.  Hmmm.  I had the first sneaking suspicion that I might be guilty of doing that very thing.  I hastily retreated from that thought and back to the safety of revising. 
But today is a new day.  As I was rocking the baby for his morning nap, the thought came back to me.  My ending isn't good enough, but is there any way to do it right, given the circumstances of my story, and still have a sequel?  I used to think there was way too much information left to contain in one debut novel, but now I'm wondering if that's true.  Are 90,000-100,000 words too much?  Which option would be more appealing to an agent or editor?  Can I be honest with myself and put off the excitement of querying and write the rest of the story as one novel?  Could I rework my current ending and leave things as is and go ahead and query?  Would an agent be interested enough in the project to take me on and give me their expert answer about the ending?  Could I ask any more questions about this? 
As our friend Joseph Conrad so brilliantly said in HEART OF DARKNESS, "The horror...the horror." 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

All ya gotta do is complain

Well, after the angst and suffering of my last post, I broke through the wall and successfully continued the revising!  If I'd known the only way to dislodge the fuzz in my brain was to publicly complain about how difficult the revisions were, I would have done it a long time ago.  I'm now on Ch. 35 of 43.  I have either cut or combined 6 chapters and I'm feeling good about things again.  (and in case you were overcome with worry about how I handled the party invitation, I cut it and made the party a much smaller scene.  I also trashed all the filler chapters.  Why were they there in the first place?  I don't know, but now they're gone forever.  Whew.  Now we can all rest easy.)
I hope to be done with these first round revisions by the end of this month.  Then it's off to my team of trusted individuals for their brainpower and then I'll revise again based on their comments.  After that, I expect to be agent ready and then the query process will begin.  I have already selected the first 10 agents I want to query.  In a perfect world, at least one of them will be chomping at the bit to snatch me up and then we'll wait for the inevitable book deal.  If not, you'll have a lot of posts about rejection.
In the meantime, I've put another pot on the fire and have resurrected my picture book manuscript, PAJAMA GIRL.  I read an article in the SCBWI Bulletin about MeeGenius.  They publish picture books, in a digital format that can be read online or downloaded to your Iphone, Ipad, etc.  Is this the wave of the future?  Is it a fad?  Is it career death or a career starter?  I'm not sure yet.  I'd love your comments on it.  I'm considering submitting PAJAMA GIRL to them and see what they say.  Could be interesting, could be fun, could be a bad idea.  Time will tell. 
I'd love to see a ton of comments on this one, so get to it!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On and on I go

So I discovered that my own personal hell has a first name, it's Revision.  You thought I was complaining and struggling when I was just finishing the first draft but there was a special ring of Dante's hell waiting.  It is the ring of revisions that will not come.  Seriously, things were going pretty smoothly, too smoothly, until I got to chapter 30.  Things came to a grinding halt as I realized the chapter was merely filler.  So, merrily, I gave it the ax and moved on to chapter 31.  A sinking feeling hit me when I came to the same conclusion about 31.  Scarcely daring to look ahead, I glanced at 32 and discovered there were several small things that had to happen to get us from 29 to 32.  And that is where I've been sitting for a couple weeks now.  A few paltry things to get us from point A to point B, and yet, they won't come. 
As my entire family napped this afternoon,  I decided I was going to push through and get through this so I could finish up the revisions and move on with my life.  No more procrastinating, I was determined to figure it out.  So you know what I did?  I wrote.  What was the result?  More filler.  Nothing more than trite filler to slowly move along to the next exciting bit.  This will not do.  I have been thinking about this, agonizing over this dilemma for the last couple weeks and this is what I discovered.  To get from chapter 29 to 32, I need 2 weeks of largely uneventful time to pass and the protagonist needs to get an invitation to a party.  Put that way, it seems laughable that I'm struggling with this so much.  "Seriously?"  you're thinking.  "You're that hung up about a party invitation?"  Unfortunately, my answer is 'yes'.  (unless I cut the party as well...hmmm...arrgghhh!  Now you have a tiny clue of the nightmare in my brain.)  My beautiful story has fallen apart roughly 3/4 of the way through.  How sad is that?  Sadder still, is the fact that I have to fix it.  It's all up to me. 
Sure, Jay Asher and Paula Morrow think I have a very marketable story here.  They're right.  But you can't market something that isn't finished.  I can't wow my dream agent if I'm not impressed myself.  Believe you me, I have a severe case of not impressed.
I know what I need to do.  I need to tap into the voice of my characters and let them tell me what they need to do next.  Unfortunately, it seems they're taking a vacation together and they haven't left a forwarding address.   

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hope

The SCBWI-Michigan spring conference took place yesterday and it was incredible.  Jay Asher was the keynote.  His book, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is currently #4 on the NYT Bestsellers List at 60 weeks!  (if you don't quite get what that means, trust me, it's a big deal).  (if you click on his name up there, you will be taken to his blog post about the SCBWI-Michigan conference.  Quite entertaining, even if you weren't there.)
Jay gave a tremendous keynote, entitled "How to Sell a Book in 12 years or less!"  He said a lot of interesting and inspiring things about the big conference I'm going to which gave me a lot of hope for networking and really making some professional strides through attendance.  I'm actually more excited to go than I was before and I was already pretty giddy.
I attended a great breakout on character development by Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray. That proved very valuable as I continue the revision process.  I also attended Jay's breakout on injecting suspense into your work which was also fantastic.
All of these great talks led up to the pinnacle of the day for me...a 4pm manuscript critique with Jay Asher himself.  What I was promised was 10 minutes of Jay's time to discuss his thoughts on the first chapter and 3 page summary of my novel.  However, there are advantages to being the last critique of the day, but more about that in a moment.  Jay wrote on my critique worksheet, "Fascinating premise!"  Who wouldn't be excited to hear a successful author say that the very idea of your work is fascinating?  But what really hit home was the portion marked 'notes on marketability'.  Jay's comment there:  "No problem with a premise like this."  Hmmm, where had I heard similar words before?  Oh yes, from Paula Morrow, former editor from the Cricket Group and currently an owner of her own publishing business, Boxing Day Books.  She also told me that DREAM GIRL was highly marketable.  These are the words that make a wannabe author's little heart go pitter patter.  So I now have two professionals who think my idea is unique and cool.  Jay actually said, (and this part is only from memory) that my novel sounded like a great story about really cool characters.  To say I was happy with his critique is the understatement of the year.
     But this isn't where the bliss runs out.  Oh no.  Recall that I said there are advantages to being the last critique of the day?  Well, the critique rooms were way on the other side of the hotel from where  the main action was happening.  When my critique was over, Jay and I had no where to go but back to the other side of the hotel...together...whilst chatting.  The final breakout was already half over and as we approached the room, I asked Jay if I could ask him a question about his book.  He said sure and we proceeded to talk about his book and a few other fun literary things until the other breakout was finished.  All in all, I had Jay Asher all to myself for about half an hour!!!  People who sat at his table for lunch had to share him.  I didn't!  It was totally awesome!  I'm even fairly sure that I managed to carry on intelligent conversation and not be a rambling fool.  That's a big accomplishment! 
     Should you ever find yourself in the position to hear Jay speak, I recommend you do it.  He is such an approachable, funny, genuine, humble person.  His talks were exciting and fun and his advice in my critique was thought provoking and great.  As a result, I'm all Jay Asher, all the time at present...except that I'm fired up to polish DREAM GIRL into the jewel I know she can be.  After all folks, I've got a marketable story here and, after five years, I still love her.  Things are looking good.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

At last! (and yet we're still not there)

Well, I'm sure most of you know from my Facebook page (Sarah Perry, Children's and Young Adult Author), I finished the first draft of DREAM GIRL.  Surprisingly, after 5 years of on and off writing, there was no fanfare, no blast of trumpets, no earthquake when I keyed in the final word.  In fact, I couldn't even celebrate with anyone because it was going on midnight and the rest of the household was asleep in their beds.  Even Facebook was a desolate place.  So I watched Youtube videos for the songs I'd listened to while writing and ate a victory bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Then, with nothing better to do, I crawled off to bed myself.  Can you stand the drama?
So when is the book coming out? you may well be asking.  Ah, my friends.  Now is when the real journey begins.  I am now revising, as best I can, in between work, mothering, and a negligible amount of housework.  (Ask my poor husband.  A good housekeeper I am not!)  The struggle of revising has also been put a bit on the back burner as conferences approach.  In a mere 4 days, I'll be attending a conference.  The main attraction, for me, is that Jay Asher will sit down with me for 10 minutes to tell me if my first chapter has any merit.  He is the bestselling author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY, which is, last time I checked, on the NYT Bestseller list at 59 weeks.
I also signed up for the big conference this summer and booked myself a manuscript critique for the first 15 pages + 1 page summary.  This will be another chance to get the work in front of an agent, editor, or other industry professional who can give me advice which will help me from looking more foolish than necessary when I'm really ready to query.
Oh, and did I mention I won a free agent query letter critique from Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Literary?  That was already enormously valuable.  Thanks to her, I now know that the part of my query that I thought was intriguing and compelling was actually vague and generic.
The bottom line is I feel things are going well with revising and that I'm enormously happy to have access to all this good advice before I start sending it out.  The more mistakes I can correct now, the better my chances of piquing someone's interest and moving to the next step.
In the meantime, let's all read THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and hope Jay has at least one nice thing to say before he rips into my chapter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coldplay knows

"Nobody said it was easy.  No one ever said it would be this hard.  Oh take me back to the start." -Coldplay  This song, "The Scientist" came into the rotation as I was writing.  I have a soundtrack carefully assembled to help me keep the mood and momentum of my story.  I have been struggling all day with this chapter, #43 and when this song came on I knew I had to take a break and blog my way through it. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I am in labor.  Labor in all senses of the word.  This book is nearing delivery and we're both struggling hard to get it here. 
I recently read on an editors blog that a mistake newbie authors make is trying to sell a book they haven't finished writing.  This happens because a new book is all consuming, energizing, amazing.  It grabs you in a passionate embrace that doesn't fade until...oh...say, several chapters in.  Once the blush of infatuation has worn off it can be hard to stay with your new book.  There are a lot of break ups.  It's been five years now, but Dream Girl and I have held on to our relationship.  Other potential books and I have flirted, even dated a bit, only to find that we just didn't have the same goals.  We had to part ways.  I've suspected for a long while that Dream Girl is "the one".  We're together and we're going to stay that way.  The only problem is that Dream Girl is the caterpillar in the cocoon and she needs me to get her out.  Let me just state, for the record, that it is a hell of a lot easier to build the cocoon than to extract the butterfly.  Yes, I'm mixing metaphors but you see how this is all swirling around in my brain.  It is harder to write the end of a book because it's sort of like getting the results of an experiment.  (Sorry, a different metaphor)  Throughout the experiment, you're adding elements getting everything set up and then, at the end, you have to make sure those elements lead to the proper outcome.  Did the foreshadowing in chapter 7 actually come to fruition by chapter 15?  Did the set up in chapter 25 give me anything to work with logically by chapter 43?  I know, I know, that's what revising is for but the business of not adding any more elements, tidying up what was already thrown out and making sure that it makes sense, is still worth reading, and satisfying is HARD work. 
There is no epidural for this kind of labor.  It's 100% all natural.  I'm feeling every word.  I love it because I know what I get at the end.  I hate it because the end still feels forever away. 
Oh for those heady days at the start when Dream Girl and I couldn't get to know each other fast enough.  I looked over chapter 1 today...where it all began.  I'm entering it in a manuscript critique for a conference this May, so yes, it's a useful diversion from finishing up.  Looking it over drove home the point that revising is easier than finishing up the course we've set.  (we = the characters and I)  However, it also made me feel that I'm doing well with this.  It's a long, slow, difficult labor, for sure but I am seeing steady progress.  Keep up the cheerleading.  It's time to birth this book!