Monday, December 19, 2011

Breaking for the Holidays

Between the holidays, a new freelance project, revisions on the novel, and my to-be-read pile, it seems like the blog has been suffering. So I'm owning it and taking an official break.

I apologize to all of you who are diligent about reading and commenting! I promise I do read all of your lovely comments. I also promise I'll get back on the blog wagon in a more productive way in January.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE CASTING, a middle grade novel by Joyce Shor Johnson


Joyce Shor Johnson joined me a few weeks ago to talk about the kick off for her new small press, Pugalicious Press. Link here. As one of the first projects, Pugalicious Press will be publishing Joyce’s middle grade novel, THE CASTING. I invited Joyce to come back to talk about her book.

Synopsis for THE CASTING:

In The Casting meet Robyn, a twelve-year–old girl living in 350 A.D. Ireland, who must choose her future path before her coming-of-age ceremony at Samhaim.

In her time, most girls chose the more traditional roles of healing, midwifery or farming. Others less frequently chose to be warriors or go into Brehon law, but none of these choices appeal to her. Instead, Robyn yearns for red-hot crucibles full of molten bronze and the roaring fires of her father's foundry. She seeks the acceptance of the bronze casters, and the traditions of her father.

Unknown to Robyn, making the choice to be a bronze caster is the easy part—becoming a bronze caster will be the greatest challenge of her life. The biggest obstacle is Gilhey, her sister Lianna’s betrothed and her father’s top student. Gilhey convinces Lianna to turn away from Robyn, causing a rift between the sisters. Without the support of her sister, Robyn struggles to find her place among the other apprentices.

Robyn’s life changes forever the day she accidentally sets fire to the foundry, nearly burning it to the ground and causing great injury to her father. Unable to face the consequences, Robyn decides she must leave the community. Before Robyn has the chance to run though, Gilhey has her kidnapped by wandering Roman soldiers. 

When Finn, an unexpected ally, comes to Robyn’s aid, she finds it within herself to face the challenges ahead and survive the fight for her life. At the end of her journey, Robyn learns to accept herself for who and what she is: a bronze caster at heart, a girl learning her trade, a life just beginning.

K: I’m so excited for Joyce’s book, it’s a middle grade historical novel set in a time we don’t usually see for middle grade. You’ve recently decided to publish your Middle Grade novel THE CASTING as one of the first projects for the new small press, Pugalicious Press. Tell us a bit about THE CASTING’s journey to publication.

J: THE CASTING started with a conversation about the Bronze Age with some friends about 10 years ago. Then it became my MFA thesis. I sold it once, but that fell through and now I’m publishing it through Pugalicious Press.

K: I only recently found out about Kickstarter.com—I love the idea of giving people the opportunity to preorder your book while, at the same time, helping you get the project off the ground. Why did you decide to use this venue?

J: Unfortunately, I’m not independently wealthy, so being creative when it came to raising capital to print my book was critical. By offering copies of the book to those who pledge to the project, to me, is really just them preordering a copy. If you research a little, other publishers have done the same thing. Even TU books, now an imprint of Lee and Low began using Kickstarter
So if anyone would like to pledge $15 to preorder a softcover copy of The Casting you can do so at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joycejohnson/the-casting-an-ancient-adventure

K: When people support you through Kickstarter, they are also supporting the kick-off of a small business and many other great middle grade books to come. Can you tell us a bit about what else Pugalicious has in store?

J: Well we just signed Kell Andrews and her debut middle grade novel Deadwood. I’m very excited about this deal.

K: Congratulations to Kell and to you! How exciting. What made you start to write seriously?

J: I wasn’t any good at stand up comedy!
      
K: I beg to differ, I think you're very funny. But where do you find your inspiration?

J: They’re everywhere. You just have to be receptive, listen to the whispers, and trust yourself. Liking research helps.

K: Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?

J: I’ve been a full-time writer, a part-time write, a sometimes writer, and an oh-my-gosh-I-have-to-find-the-time-to-write writer. I hope that in the next few years, I’ll be full-time four hour a day writer. My non-writing life is mother, wife, Learning Skills teacher, and publisher.

K: I can totally relate to that! There are so many distractions and "life" challenges that get in the way of our writing. What is your biggest challenge with your writing? 

J: Time, there is just never enough.
      
K: What are your favorite books?

J: I’d like to rewrite this question, it should be – what is your favorite book of the moment? I just finished Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, loved it!

K: And lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you want to share?

J: A two-hour massage. To die for!

K: What did I miss? Anything else you’d like to share?

J: I just wanted to thank you for supporting me with your pledge for THE CASTING and for this interview. Come on everyone, kick me! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joycejohnson/the-casting-an-ancient-adventure

You're welcome, Joyce! Good luck to you and Pugalicious Press!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Harry Potter Holidays

I love my Brownie Troop. I love making silly and creative things with them. This is a holiday tree the girls designed. Yes, we made tiny snitches and broomsticks. Parents donated other supplies and decorations. The tree is on display at the Reuben Hoar Library in Littleton, Massachusetts until Friday. If you're in the area, you can bid in a silent auction for this and other trees, all to benefit the library building fund.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Middle Grade Author Anita Laydon Miller


I’m welcoming self-published middle grade author Anita Laydon Miller to the blog today. She is the Colorado Springs GAZETTE book columnist, the mom of four and an author of kids' ebooks (EARTHLING HERO's a sci-fi and A SCARY GOOD BOOK's a mystery). 

You can visit her at her at http://www.anitalaydonmiller.com/

K: Thanks, Anita, for being here today. You’ve recently e-published two MG novels, EARTHLING HERO and A SCARY GOOD BOOK. I’m fascinated about the decision that goes into self publishing. How did you come to that decision?

A: I had a well-respected agent and I liked her (still do), but I thought the whole publishing experience was so humiliating…jumping through the hoops of the agent querying process, and then listening to the subjective opinions of editors (some thought my books were too scary, some thought they weren’t scary enough). And the worst part about it, the thing that made me feel like dirt, was that I had no other viable option. If I couldn’t find a publisher, the stories—and I thought they were good stories—would end up under my bed forever. With only dust bunnies as readers.

And then epublishing came along, started to get big. I thought, “Heck. I’ll give that a shot.” And I did. Politely parted with my agent, figured out the formatting stuff and took those babies live. I’ve enjoyed myself. Had a lot of fun. Have sold several hundred books, and just keep selling them. It’s cool.

If I ever go the traditional route again, I don’t think it will feel humiliating to me, since I now have options. I’m currently revising a YA and am at the decision stage of whether to query agents or prepare the book for epubbing. I’m still on the fence…I’ll keep you posted.

K: Good luck as you make that decision--I love YA and can't wait to hear about that project. What made you start to write seriously?

A. About 20 years ago, I started writing greeting card and catalog copy for a greeting card company. Then I got freelance work writing for regional publications. I’d always been a big reader, so after I’d gotten some freelance writing under my belt, it was a natural progression to try writing fiction.
      
K: You mentioned your current work-in-progress, a YA? Can you tell us about it?

A. My YA is about hope, forgiveness, love. My main character, Olivia, is 15-years-old. She moves to Colorado with her mom. They move into the home of Olivia’s recently-deceased grandfather, which is located next to a cliff. Over the years, people have come to the cliff to commit suicide. Olivia’s grandfather talked many of the jumpers off the edge, but some of them jumped, including the brother of a guy Olivia falls in love with.

There are lots of twists and turns in the story. It’s heartfelt, but there’s humor there, too. It’s written in first person, present tense, which is interesting.

K: I love the sound of that--sounds so haunting and beautiful. Have you been surprised at all by anything that’s happened since you decided to self-publish?

A. I’m actually surprised by how many strangers have bought the book. I thought blog followers and friends would be the ones to purchase it, but, frankly, I’ve only recently gotten family members to get the books (that’s been like pulling teeth, and then they’ve called me afterward and told me how they love the books, like they’re surprised I can write J) and only a couple handful of blog followers have purchased the books. So, mostly, it’s been strangers who’ve purchased. I think they find the books on Amazon. Maybe they search by price, lowest to highest?

K: It must be such a lovely feeling to know that you're reaching your readers. I know I plan on buying both of your books as soon as I get my e-reader--in another week or two. Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?

A. I’m the mom of four kids. I also volunteer a lot. And I write a weekly book column for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE. Readership is around 100,000. I should really tap that market better.

K: And lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you want to share?

A. I love long hikes and bike rides. But I don’t feel guilty about them at all.

Thanks so much for being here today! Good luck as you finish your YA. Have a lovely holiday season! Buy Anita's books here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reminder--Children's Lit Meet Up

Reminder about the NESCBWI Meet Up on Tuesday, December 6!

When: Tuesday, December 6, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Aprile's European Restaurant in North Chelmsford, MA
Who: Anyone interested in Children's Books--authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, Agents, Editors, Readers...you get the idea. All are welcome!

We'll be in the bar area--order from the bar, eat dinner, apps or dessert, or just come and chat. No formal program.

Please help spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Hope to see you there!
Heather, Lynda, and Jean from Meet Up last Spring

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Be a Tacky Tourist

If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Tacky Tourist Photos, you’re missing one of the funniest websites out there. We’ve all taken them (see mine here). (Don’t lie, I know you’ve taken them, too.)
Even the president poses for tacky tourist photos...this photo, from the site:

Darren Garnick is the curator of these silly travel photos from all over the world. On Wednesday, December 7, a month-long gallery exhibition of some of the best photos from the site kicks off at the Tewksbury, MA Public Library. As a side note, Darren has been making people laugh for a long time. I've known him for over 25 years--he made American History our junior year bearable and much funnier than it should have been.

In honor of Darren’s presentation and the Tacky Tourist gallery opening on Wednesday, he has graciously offered to answer a few questions for the blog.

K: First of all, thanks for being here, Darren. I love the idea of Tacky Tourist Photos. It's laugh-out-loud funny and clever. How did the idea for the website come about?

D:  Ever since I was a kid, I've always loved offbeat roadside attractions like obscure museums and the World's Largest Ball of Twine. I also love to see how different communities strive to market themselves and can't resist at least browsing at every souvenir stand. The rising popularity of "photo of the day" websites, some of which we credit in our "Cyber-Inspiration" sidebar, convinced me to get together with my friends Ilya Mirman and Peter Koziell and create a tribute to "tourists not ashamed of being tourists."  There's also an anti-snobbery aspect in play here. So many people who like to travel treat the word "tourist" like it is an insult. The reality is that no matter how much you try to blend in for an "authentic experience," you're still an outside observer.  May as well have fun doing it.

K: Words to live by! What’s your favorite picture or theme on the site?

D:  My favorite TTP submission of all time is called "Military Make-Believe," and I still cannot believe that special operations soldiers in Ecuador would just hand over their weapons to pretty American college students for a photo-op!

K: I guess a picture really is worth 1000 words! As a writer, I guess I can sort of relate to that--and now that I think of it, there must be a story there...Do you take tacky tourist photos everywhere you go?

D:  Absolutely. You don't need to be on vacation to take a Tacky Tourist Photo.  There are so many quirky places and things in our own communities that are worth documenting. Cell phone cameras mean that there are no more missed opportunities.

K: I know I take way more pictures now that I have a camera on my phone. I'll have to start looking for more Tacky opportunities! What tips do you have for anyone looking to start taking their own tacky tourist photos?

D:  The most important thing to keep in mind when taking a Tacky Tourist Photo is that people like to look at pictures of people more than things. So if you see a funny road sign or crazy souvenir, it's better to photograph it twice. Once by itself and once with you reacting to it.  The best photos on our Website come when there is someone interacting with the tourist environment -- so then we can vicariously experience the oddball moment with you!

One thing I'd like to add is that most people already have a treasure trove of Tacky Tourist Photos sitting in shoeboxes or the family vacation albums from the pre-digital era.  We love it when TTP fans raid their childhood archives and give these memories a new life.  Please check out our submission guidelines.

***

Thanks again Darren! As the website indicates, visitors on Wednesday (December 7, 2012) are encouraged to bring contributions from their childhood vacation albums and their latest creative cell phone pics for group discussion and possible inclusion in an offbeat coffee table book.

And also, bring your cameras for bonus “Tacky Tourist” photo-ops throughout the evening.  Can’t make it?  No worries: Check out our Submission Guidelines and be there in spirit!

This event is held in the Meeting Room at the Tewksbury Public Library.  Doors open at 6:15pm.  Talks begin at 6:30pm.  The room is handicap accessible.  Light refreshments will be provided.  A door prize will be awarded.  Pre-registration is strongly recommended.  Register by stopping by the Reference Desk; calling 978-640-4490 ext. 205; or by clicking “register” below.  Talk is FREE thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Tewksbury Public Library.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feeling like a Writer

What makes you feel like a writer?

I watched this episode of The Simpsons yesterday on Hulu--not sure if the link will work, but if not it's called THE BOOK JOB.

https://apps.facebook.com/huluapp/watch/302535?c=0%3A0

Homer and a brain trust of friends decide to write a tween novel. Lisa thinks she can do a better job. But she proceeds to get distracted by computer games, reorganizing her CD collection, cleaning her room. There are lots of great parts to the show (Neil Gaiman, anyone?) but my favorite part is when Lisa is in a coffee shop and has to set up her wifi ("in case she needs to research") but then needs to buy coffee because she's using their resources. Sound familiar. Yup.

The fact that I can totally relate to the cliches of writing as represented on a cartoon had the odd effect of making me feel like a real writer. Do I write everyday? Nope, wish I did. Do I spend a lot of time thinking about writing. Yup. Did I spend two hours last night working on an outline, only to add 17 words to my WIP. Um, yeah. That and getting distracted by twitter.

What makes you feel like a real writer?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reading Electronically

So I'm finally thinking about jumping on the ship that pretty much has already sailed. I sort of feel like I'm jumping from the dock with arms outstretched, hoping to grab the rail as the ship passes...

I'm getting an e-reader.

Yes, you heard me correctly. I'm fairly sure that I've convinced Santa that I've been a good girl this year.

So now the question is what to get. Kindle? Nook? Touch? Color? Earth, Wind or Fire? I  think I've settled on Nook, because of the epub library functionality. And the fact that it's compatible with my Android. But my husband is trying to convince me to go color. I'm resisting a bit, though, because I don't want or need a redundant device. I really just want to read. Although Angry Birds in a larger format would be nice...

No. No, I really just want to read.

What are you guys getting for Christmas? Anything I should know about an E-reader? I really want to be able to read manuscripts, and all my friends' who are e-publishing. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just call me Professor

In spring 2012, I've been asked to deliver a three hour workshop for beginner writers at Mt. Wachusett Community College called "Intro to Writing for Children."

Here's the description: In this three-hour workshop, participants will learn the basic framework for starting a writing career in children’s literature from one author’s perspective. Participants will leave with a comprehensive reading list, a hand-out of recommended websites and writers’ blogs, and an action plan for how to get started in the writing industry. Intended audience: beginners.

We're running it twice, once in February and then repeating it in April.

Call 978-630-9525 to register
Thurs Feb 16 6 – 9 PM
CRN 11346 $39 Devens Campus
Thurs Apr 26 6 – 9 PM
CRN 11348 $39 Devens Campus

I'm just starting to develop the workshop. If anyone is interested in taking it, please let me know if there are any specific points you'd like addressed. I don't see it as a writing class per se--though I may introduce some writing exercises. It's mostly going to be an introduction to the business side of writing. Platform building, self v. traditional publishing, twitter v. facebook, etc.

Monday, November 21, 2011

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins

Yes, this is a repeat of my review for Afterglow Book Reviews.

The blurb, from Goodreads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.


***

I know, I know, I just reviewed a book on Friday, but I had the wonderful good fortune to read AFTERGLOW books back-to-back. 

I loved LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. I finished it at 12:30 last night after reading it in one sitting. I think I might have even loved it a little bit more than it's companion book ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (which I also loved). Here's my review of that from June.

So, what did I love about Lola? Well, I'm a child of the 80's and she reminded me forcibly of Molly Ringwald's character in PRETTY IN PINK. And this time, the character ends up with her best friend, not the wildly inappropriate guy. Which I love! Not that the storyline is at all the same, but the characters share some characteristics. Lola makes her own clothes, and she has a very eclectic style. Cricket (the boy next door) is quirky, nerdy, hot, and brilliant, all at the same time.

I loved her gay parents. I loved Anna and St. Clair from the other book are a part of this book. I loved her friend Lindsay. Oh, and I want to be Stephanie Perkins.

If you love contemporary YA (or even if you don't) read this book. It's perfect.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Central Mass Kid Lit Meet Up

Never underestimate the value of networking, socializing, getting to know others. It CAN help your writing to get out of the house, up off the couch, and meet others who share your passion.

Last spring, I envied another region's writers because they were having a Meet Up in Atlanta. So much so, that I decided to host my own, in my own region. And as Kevin Costner says (or was is Ray Liotta?), if you build it, they will come. Anyway, someone said that once. And it's true. 

We now have a core group of about 15-20 folks from Eastern Mass, Southern New Hampshire, and a few who drive further to join us. We'd love to see you on Tuesday, December 6!

When: Tuesday, December 6, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Aprile's European Restaurant
Who: Anyone interested in Children's Books--authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, Agents, Editors, Readers...you get the idea. All are welcome!

We'll be in the bar area--order from the bar, eat dinner, apps or dessert, or just come and chat. No formal program.

Please help spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Hope to see you there!

Alicia Gregoire, Ansha Kotyk, and Julia Bourque from a Meet Up in 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Attitude

I've always been a glass half-full kind of gal. But hitting a crappy shot into the water on a short hole is enough to bring out the worst in the best tempered person. Let alone anyone with a short fuse. I've seen guys bash the ground, throw their clubs, and generally get pissed off.

But here's the thing. It. Doesn't. Help.

It doesn't help to get mad at yourself, or jealous of the other guy's shot, or talk about quitting the game. You just have to move onto the next shot. Practice. Practice. Practice. Take a lesson if you have to from a Pro. Practice some more.

Think you can transfer this advice to other things? Writing maybe?

It's about having a positive attitude. Finding (or making) the time to practice your craft. Take a class. Write some more. Read.

I know it's sometimes hard not to get pissed off. And we all slip. I've slammed the club on the ground too, and cursed myself, my ability to focus, my swing. (My dedication to my writing, my inability to string two words together sometimes, etc...) But you've got to get back out there and practice.

Now, off to hit some balls. Or, um, revise my manuscript.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Does YOUR Hair?

This is just a fun post today, not related to writing. Enjoy. :)

***
“Who does your hair?”

It’s a question every woman has been asked, whether on the playground or on the way to a board meeting. People usually ask because they are not happy with their current hair style and are looking for a change. I’ve been asked this question many times in my life—is it too weird that I’ve never asked it?

When someone asks me where I get my hair done, it always makes me pause. Not because I don’t love my hairdresser. Au Contraire! It just always takes a few minutes to explain. And it’s a little unusual. You see, the same person has been cutting and/or styling my hair my whole life. Since I was eight. 

And he’s not a relative.

When Tony Rosetti was a young stylist, my mother discovered his shop. He did a great job with her thick curly hair. Even though his shop was in Reading, MA, it wasn’t a stretch for her to make the drive from a few towns away.

Some of my earliest memories are of sweeping the shop floor for Tony when my mother had her hair done. At eight, my long hair had enough split ends to start a punk rock band. It was time for Tony to cut it (<= 4th grade picture over there). Call me a creature of habit. Call me unadventurous. But over the years, I  continued to make the 40 minute drive to Reading with my mother and sisters for haircuts. Because Tony was our hairdresser, that’s why!

He styled my hair for my high school prom. Gave me perms against his better judgment in college. Cut it for my wedding. Colored the gray when it started to sprout in my thirties. And now he cuts my daughter’s hair. Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of people who have cut my hair in my lifetime. 

I make the drive every month or so from my home along the Route 2 corridor all the way to Reading. Not that it’s hundreds of miles. But it’s never a spontaneous decision. 

Why? Because Tony is my hairdresser, that’s why. 

How many people can say they have a lifelong relationship with their hairdresser? 

Love you Tony!
The little one's first haircut a few years ago.