Friday, May 28, 2010

Girl Athletes: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner

As you may know, Kate Messner's The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z won the EB White Read Aloud Award this past week at BEA.  So of course, I must profile Gianna Z this week as one of my girl athletes!  Gianna Z is a middle grade novel - great for grades 5-8 and beyond.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kate at the New England SCBWI last week, and she is a lovely and talented person.  I'm thrilled her wonderful book has been honored.  Ok, I'll stop gushing. :)

 Summary from Kate Messner's website.

Gianna Zales is a star runner with one more hurdle to jump before she goes to cross-country sectionals – a monster leaf collection project. To get it done, she’ll have to survive a rival who desperately wants to take her place at sectionals, a grandmother who leaves her false teeth in the refrigerator, and a best friend whose feelings about her are changing like the leaves. Gianna Z needs a stroke of brilliance to make it work!

The book isn't necessarily about Gianna being a track star, it's about her relationships with her friends and family and coming to terms with her grandmother's health, but she is a track star.  It's part of her -- and that's what I like about this book.  It's not an unusual thing for Gianna to run - it's just what she does.

I'm anxiously awaiting Kate's next book - Sugar and Ice.  Visit Kate's website for more information.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Congrats to Kate Messner - winner of the EB White Read Aloud Award

I'm so excited that Kate won the EB White Read Aloud Award last night.

I wanted to pass along a link to her thank you letter to the Association of Booksellers for Children:

Thank you: An Open Letter to the Association of Booksellers for Children

Posted using ShareThis


Finishing my work-in-progress.  Finishing.

Finishing is relative, really, because it's never finished.  There can always be more revising, more tweaking, another line of dialogue, another description. 

But, it feels finished.  I typed a line on Monday - I didn't expect it to be the last line - and it just felt...right. That's the end, I said.

I've got the manuscript out to a few "fresh" eyes right now.  I hope to have it ready to query in two weeks (always good to have a goal, right?)

So, how do you know it's finished? 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Google Alerts

Who loves Google Alerts?  Not that I'm getting hits everyday...

But this afternoon, I found out that the Grand Forks Public Library just acquired Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs. How cool is that?!?

I'm not even sure where Grand Forks is...Michigan?

Update: Correction, North Dakota. ;)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My first interview as an author

Thanks to Heather Kelly at Edited to Within an Inch of my Life for profiling me yesterday in her Friday Feature series.

It was so much fun to answer everyone's questions at Heather's blog -- if you haven't had a chance to check it out, please stop over at Heather's and review all the past writers featured in her archives. She has a great resource of authors in various stages of publication.

Also, I'm excited to have won the fabulous blogosphere game, WIBIJ this week. Hosted by the aforementioned Heather Kelly, Jonathan Arnston, and Tina Laurel Lee, this is a great way to get to know children's writers by racing to solve clues hidden in their blogs. (And, just to be clear, my interview w/ Heather was completed before the game this week!)

My winning medal is now proudly displayed in my sidebar. 

It's been a busy week for me in the blogosphere, and now I need to concentrate on writing.  I'll be trying to unplug this week and give myself some room to finish the revisions on my WIP.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Girl Athletes: Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock

Welcome to my first post profiling a novel that features a girl athlete as a protagonist. I've also got a dedicated page with a running list of books. Let me know if you've got something to add!

I wanted to profile Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock first because it's a realistic contemporary sports romance (sort of) for young adult girls.  The sport is different, but that genre describes my WIP as well.  

This synopsis is from Bookbrowse. 

          When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.
(Isn't that a great synopsis?  I wonder if it's what Catherine used in her query letter or if it came later??)

I read this book last summer when I was doing research on comps for my WIP.  I really liked DJ Schwenk.  She's not your "typical" YA protagonist.  She helps her family business, she works hard, she's not stick thin, and she loves football.  She busts the stereotypes.  I also love this interview of Catherine talking about writing DQ.

I haven't read the two sequels yet, but they're on my list.  If you've read Dairy Queen, I'd love to know what you thought.

Read more about Catherine Murdock.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writing to your strengths

I attended a great (and funny) workshop with Lisa Papademetriou, author of Accidentally Fabulous and Sixth Grade Glommers, Norks, and Me (among others!) on Saturday, May 16 at the New England SCBWI conference in Fitchburg, MA.

She talked about maximizing your potential.  The thing I wrote down and underlined was this:

Write to your strengths, Revise to your weaknesses

I think Lisa means you should focus on the things you're good at while you write a first draft.  Focus on your story, focus on getting words on paper, focus on the positive.

So, what does it mean to me?  It means I have permission not to revise as I write.  Not to be perfect at the skills that aren't my strongest while I'm first drafting.  Not to stress that it's not perfect.  Because a first draft (or second, really) isn't perfect.  It sucks actually.  Focus on what you're good at.  If you like dialogue, work on that first.  If you like description or character analysis, do that.  Write to your strengths.

When you're done writing your first draft, put your manuscript away.  Leave it alone for at least two weeks.  Then you can start revising, but not before then.  Go back and fix the things that don't work.  Fix the things that you missed the first time through. Fix the rough patches. Work on stuff that's not your favorite, work on the things you thought you hated, work on what doesn't work.  Revise to your weaknesses.

My hat is off to Lisa Papademetriou - I want to thank her for her words of wisdom.  She's a very busy, smart, talented and funny lady.  And I want to be just like her when I grow up!

What good advice have you received lately?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Something new

I'll be revealing a new weekly (or bi-weekly) series this coming Friday.

As a hint of where I'm going with this, if you have a favorite middle-grade or YA novel with a sports theme (specifically targeted at girls), let me know!  Any sport!

If you have written a sports themed book, even better...

Monday, May 17, 2010


Conference was great -- congrats to the organizers Anindita and Greg and all the volunteers who worked so hard to put it all together.  Having been involved in the behind the scenes of conference planning in another life (anyone familiar w/ the National Association for Campus Activities?), I know how complicated the planning process can be.  But, it's also rewarding and I hope they know that the attendees appreciate it.

I met a lot of great people (have to sort through all the cards I exchanged) and reacquainted with others.  I spent face-to-face time w/ my online critique group (totally love these ladies!).  I met some blogging friends "in person." I attended great workshops.  I heard motivating keynotes (Cynthia Leitich Smith was awesome).  I met w/ two agents and received great feedback.

I am exhausted.  But motivated!

Here's our group - Laura, Jen, Natasha, and me!
And here I am w/ some blogging friends, Heather, Karen, Anna, and Laura!

Now, get writing.

Actually, no, go to work first.  Then after school activities.  Then write. 

*Sigh* Back to real life.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Maggie Stiefvater - Linger Book Trailer

Who loved Maggie's Shiver ?  I see all those raised hands.  Me too.  Maggie's sequel, Linger is coming out later this summer and I can't wait.  Maggie is hosting a contest to share her book trailer on her blog.  I'm doing my part!  Good luck, Maggie!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Secret Agent -- My friend Laura

I want to direct you all to my friend Laura's blog -- She's hosting a contest to solve a mystery in five days.  It started Monday, and runs all week.  The contest commemorates our local SCBWI conference which starts on Friday.  Check it out and win a prize!  And, enjoy talented Laura's awesome and funny writing.

Head over there and good luck! 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Balancing act

Does it ever feel like you're doing this?  Balancing things that aren't easily balanced?  Like family responsibilities, writing, work, writing, volunteering, writing.  

I can balance two golf balls pretty easily.  We did this on my dining room floor in a few minutes.  I've been able to balance three before...but I didn't have the patience today.  According to a quick google search, Don Athey of Bridgeport, OH holds the Guinness World Record by stacking nine golf balls (without adhesives).

Nine.  Try it, I dare you.  You'll find balancing your life much easier.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reading Out Loud

I read out loud almost every day. I have a first-grader, and we read a lot. But, I don't usually read my own work out loud. I've meant to, but it's just so darn *weird* to read it out loud when there are other people around.

Today, home alone, I started reading my WIP. Specifically, the first two chapters. And, you know what? It's pretty good. I like it. I'd like to read the whole thing. LOL.

Wow. Who knew?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Q&A with Kris

It’s been an interesting day. This morning, Laura, presented me with my first ever blog award. I’m still reeling over that one. Laura is an awesome friend and critique partner, and her award meant a lot to me. Then, this afternoon, Dena tagged me on a chain blog as someone she’d like to know better.

Wow. Me?

If you know me, you know I don’t normally do these. However, I thought I’d give the answers a try in the spirit of reminiscing about the ups and downs of my so-called writing career.

The question is where were you five years ago? Not really writing in a significant way. So, I’m amending it to read, Where were you four years ago?

1. Four years ago, I had just written my first picture book manuscript – very first query (to a small publisher) got personal feedback, which I know now doesn’t happen as often as we all would like. Got me motivated.
2. I was about four months away from writing the short story that would turn into my YA novel after a conversation with a friend jogged a memory.
3. Six months from joining my first critique group after posting some stuff on Critique Circle.
4. A year away from attending my first SCBWI conference as a bright eyed newbie.
5. Sixteen months away from sending writing samples and resume to Capstone Press which would eventually lead to my first non-fiction freelance book being published.

In other words, just starting on this journey. Not sure where I was going. Lots to learn.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

1. Working as a full-time writer with a couple of YA or MG novels already published.
2. Agented for sure.
3. Scheduling a fancy European book tour during which I visit London and meet JK Rowling.
4. Living in a bigger house in the same town I live in now.
5. Mentoring new writers and hopefully inspiring them the way I’ve been inspired by others.
6. Fifteen pounds lighter and ten years younger. Or at least look that way. :)

What is on your to-do list today?

1. Reading some of my WIP out loud
2. Completing the assignment for the online writing class I’m taking through Writer U.
3. Thinking about what to pack for the NE-SCBWI conference next weekend during which I’ll meet some blogger friends for the first time. (I want to look thin and cute, what shall I wear?)
4. Chat w/ my CPs via email at least two or three times.
5. Check Query Tracker and see if my agent list has any alerts.
6. Check WIBIJ blog and see if I’ve won any prizes. ;)

What five snacks do you enjoy?

1. Chips and Salsa and White Zinfandel
2. Salt and Vinegar potato chips
3. Dentyne
4. Diet Coke
5. Moose Tracks Ice Cream (any brand, I’m not fussy). Just chocolate and peanut butter. Yum.

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire? See some of the things on the list for what I’ll be doing in five years. ;)

1. Let’s see, plan my own book tour to visit JK Rowling in London
2. Pay off my the mortgages of family members
3. Start an endowment for the arts at my alma mater
4. Hire someone to cook and clean my house
5. Buy a house with an office in which I can write, write, write.

Tag Five people. I sort of hate tagging people, cause I don’t want folks to feel compelled. So, I'm breaking the rules here. Thanks again to Dena for tagging me -- this took way longer than I thought it would, so now my to-do list is only half completed. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I love the title of Tina Laurel Lee's blog. It's Watch Me Practice. I've been thinking about practice a lot lately.

It takes years to get good at something. And years more, to get great. So, why do we think we can wip out a novel without the same standard? Not that I haven't been writing this thing for years. But still.

I've been through my Work-in-Progress at least three times overall. But, in looking at it critically through the lens of a new class I'm taking through Writer U, I see that it could be stronger. In some places, a lot stronger.
And I thought it was almost done.

How do you practice your craft?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


When did you first feel like a "real" author? The first time you took pen to paper? The first time you wrote a cohesive story - with a beginning, middle and end? The first time you let someone else read your work? The first time you had your work critiqued and were able to absorb the feedback and make changes? The first time you attended a conference? The first time you queried? The first time you took a work-for-hire assignment? The first time you got paid for your writing? The first time your work was published?

I think each of us has a different threshold. Some writers are never published, and that's fine with them. They write because they have to, no validation needed. Some writers dream of being published from the very first word. Others won't feel validated until s/he holds her book in her hand.

I had a phone conversation with an industry professional this week and received some great feedback on my book. The person treated me like a real writer. It was a wonderful feeling because, of course, I am a real writer. Have been since college. No matter that my first work-for-hire book just came out this past January, twenty years after graduation. Or that my novel is not quite ready to leave pre-query stage.

I am going to the NESCBWI conference this year because I am a writer. Writer's need networking opportunities, and workshops to enhance our skill-sets. I'll say it again, I am a writer. It is my career. It is not just a hobby.

I feel like I should be confident enough to not need the validation. But it feels darn good. What kind of validation do you need to feel like a "real" writer?