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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.


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!

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


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?


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.
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!!!!