Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Relax

Google "golf tips" and you'll get millions of hits (23,800,000 to be more precise). Try to follow a fraction of those and you're stomach will be in knots before you swing the club.

If I were to start playing golf now, I'm not sure I'd be able to turn off my brain. It's virtually impossible to shut down the part of my head that's thinking about after school programs, writing a book, what to have for dinner, what tomorrow at work is going to be like...

When I was playing golf actively, in my teens, I didn't have all that stuff floating around. I could concentrate on my swing, the direction of the breeze, the angle of the sun. And possibly the cute boy that just walked up the fairway. In other words, I could relax. Focus. Not be thinking about where I was going next, because I didn't need to be somewhere. And yes, I totally know I didn't appreciate that then!

The point of this post is to remind you, and me, that no matter what's going on in our lives, you can always relax. Drink in the sun. Feel the breeze waft past. Inhale the aromas around you. In short, stop and smell the roses.

Relax and swing the club! (or write the book, or take that chance you've been avoiding.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Writers Block

Do you believe there is such a thing? It's tossed around so frequently, you might think  you could catch it like the swine flu. "Oh no, there's a serious case of writer's block going around. Make sure you use the antibacterial keyboard."

Did you know Writer's Block is an actual condition which was first described in 1947 by psychoanalist Edmund Berger (thank you Wikipedia*).

Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite. 
When I heard Lois Lowry and Kathryn Lasky speak a few weeks ago (along with Jackie Davies and Bill Thomson at an NESCBWI event), a question was asked about how they work through writer's block. Not one of them agreed that writer's block really existed. To paraphrase Lois, "It's an excuse."

We've all got other things going on in our lives. We've all got "more important things to think about." I could be cleaning the house right now. Making breakfast. Surfing the internet. Sure, but I'm writing a blog post.

Or I could be fleshing out characters. Writing an outline. Working on a revision.

When I get stuck on a particularly difficult scene, it's so easy to procrastinate. Sometimes I call that writer's block. I do have a million other things going on. But I've found if I have a deadline imposed by an editor, or my agent, suddenly I'm able to push through those difficulties. Amazing what a little incentive like getting paid will do.

Sometimes just giving myself permission to write crap on the page is enough to push through.

Self-imposed deadlines are harder for me. Cause I know that I can be bribed with a little chocolate to extend the deadline. How do you work through "writer's block."

*As a freelance nonfiction writer, I need to disclose that Wikipedia is generally not thought to be appropriate academic resource. So take the citation with a grain of salt. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Choice In Publishing

I'm honored to be a part of this one-time blog ring about publishing options. My crit group has been discussing this topic for months.And I know it's been a topic for writers and agents (and editors) for longer than that.

First of all, I'd like to say that I think the "right" choice for anyone might change depending on the day. The book. The moment. It's amazing that writers have so many choice these days--we can self publish, we can e-publish, we can freelance, we can publish the traditional route (i.e., publish with a traditional publisher, either by pitching directly or through an agent). Within the traditional route, there are small presses as well "the big six" and other larger publishers. And I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

That said, at this moment, my choice is to pursue traditional publishing for my young adult and middle grade fiction.

Having an editorial agent (Vickie Motter from Andrea Hurst Literary Management), who vets my work and offers significant recommendations when and where they're needed, for me, is priceless. She works with me to polish the book, she pitches the book to editors. She will work to make sure any offers we receive are fair. It really becomes a team approach--how can we make the product the best it can be. And we're both invested in making the book the best it can be.

Unfortunately, getting the agent is often the hardest step--once I started querying, it took almost 10 months. But, for me, it was 100% worth it.

I can't imagine doing this without her. But then again I do my best work as part of a collaboration. So it's the right choice for me.

Some might prefer the challenges offered by self-publishing, or e-publishing because of the opportunity to create a project of their own, on their own.

I've also been very fortunate to have the opportunity to do do a fair amount of work-for-hire (freelance) for the school library market with Capstone Press. Working closely, on assignment, with an editor has been a priceless experience for me. To see my name on the cover of beautifully produced hard cover books has done wonders for my self-confidence, helped to hone my writing skills, and given me great assets to my writers toolbox.

Other folks blogging about their personal choices:

Heather Kelly: Edited to Within an Inch of My Life

Lynn Kelley
Lynn Kelley: LynNerd's Random Acts of Writing.

Ansha Kotyk
Ansha's Blog - A Writer's View of the World

Tina Laurel Lee
Tina Laurel Lee: Watch Me Practice

Anita Laydon Miller
Anita Laydon Miller's Blog

Tom M. Franklin
Franklin, Ink

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Proceed With Caution

Okay, so this isn't really a tip. I saw this signpost yesterday and had to stop to snap a pic. When in doubt, always proceed with caution, golfers (and writers) are a strange breed.
Stop back tomorrow as I'm participating in a blog ring with some blogger friends to talk about My Choice in Publishing.We'll each be sharing our personal decisions and talking about it under the Twitter hashtag #MyChoiceInPublishing. See you tomorrow!

Monday, October 17, 2011


From Goodreads:

You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies."—Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it's a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She'd almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature! When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn't think she can win.


There are lots of things to love about this middle grade book. First, it has a feisty and opinionated protagonist--I mean, c'mon people, she fights unicorns. And strange talking magical creatures. Second, she's a golfer. Well, mini-golfer. But still. It's a fun read--perfect for your middle-grader who's sick and tired of the traditional fairy tale. Or not!

Anna Staniszewski is getting fabulous reviews for her debut novel -- I would suggest that perhaps it's a great holiday gift for your favorite middle grader.

And if anyone is interested in meeting Anna, she's doing some appearances for her book--I think I'll be going on November 18 to the Barnes and Noble in Burlington, MA.

Me, reading an ARC of MY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE, on the beach this summer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand

My review of UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand cross posted at AfterGlow Book Reviews.

The Blurb:
In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

The Afterglow:
So, seriously, I finished this book a few minutes ago. And then I googled Cynthia Hand to find out when the next one comes out. (January 2012). I've never read an Angel book before. But this had such a great mix of contemporary romance and paranormal coolness...I loved everything about it. The boys are real. Clara's angst and confusion feels real too--even though it totally annoying that she's so angelic-ly perfect and doesn't have a clue. And there's even a little twist at the end that makes you scream--I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL JANUARY TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!

And just so you know, I'm totally Team Tucker. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lots of Luck to the Lucky 13s

I just discovered the Lucky 13s!

Check them out over at the new blog as they navigate the world of publishing for children and young adults leading up to the release of their books.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

World Building

I talked about the importance of setting last week. Now that I've sent my contemporary realistic novel back to my agent for her review, I'm getting back to business on my middle grade fantasy. So that means world building. Setting on steroids. The key to making a fantasy feel real--an oxymoron, I know. If the world feels real, the story will feel real.

I've got about 20K written, but before I do more, I need to build the world a bit. I googled "world building" and came up with a great article by Patricia Wrede. She has a list of fabulous questions to ask when you're coming up with your world--http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

So what questions do you use when you world build?

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Focus

Like a lot of things, golf is as much a mental game as it is a physical game. Distractions, noises, an itch on the back of your leg...all these things can effect your game as much as twisting your arm in your back swing.

Try doing a bit of yoga breathing. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Swing when you're ready. Follow through after you hit the ball.

If you're a writer, try doing the same thing if you get stuck on a scene. Amazing how a little deep breathing can help.

Also--there's still time to enter to win Jackie Davies THE LEMONADE WAR--just click on my facebook link (and like) and comment on the post for the contest -- click here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Win a signed copy of THE LEMONADE WAR

So I have an autographed copy of Jackie Davies' LEMONADE WAR. Because I met her last Saturday.
Have you read it?

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
As the final days of summer heat up, so does a sibling showdown over a high-stakes lemonade stand business. Jessie and Evan Treski compete to see who will make $100 first off of their respective lemonade stands. Full of surprisingly accessible and savvy marketing tips for running a stand (or making money at any business) and with clever mathematical visuals woven in, this sensitively characterized novel subtly explores how war can escalate beyond anyone's intent.
Great story. Lots of cool math. Amazing Middle Grade contemporary story. To win my autographed copy, you just need to do two things: 1. Comment on this post. 2. Like my author page on Facebook (click on that linky thing on the right hand sidebar).

That's it! You'll be entered, and I'll use random number generator to pick a number from those who comment below (but I will cross check Facebook). Feel free to Tweet, but that won't get you any extra credit.

Contest will run until next Friday, October 14, 2011.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Importance of Setting

Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else... Fiction depends for its life on place. Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of, What happened? Who's here? Who's coming?--Eudora Welty
I found this great quote on the Annenberg Media blog about literature. I liked it so much, I wanted you all to read it.

I've been thinking a lot about setting lately. In fact, over the summer, I wrote a script for a vlog (video blog), but unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess) I've misplaced those notes.

The thing is, setting, world building, whatever you call it--is as important as your characters, your dialogue. As Ms. Welty says above, your story wouldn't be your story if it happened somewhere else. Or rather, it would be a different story.

So, really, you need to spend as much time on your setting as you do any other part of your book.

As some of you may know, my book takes place primarily on a golf course. I group up on a golf course, but it's been a long (long) time, so I went and sat at a driving range, watching golfers. Played a round of golf. Sat on a bench and drank in the wind, the clouds, the sounds, the shape of the building. I pulled out old score cards, and looked at old pictures.

One of the best compliment I've ever received? When I brought my friend Ansha to the old golf course my parents managed when I was a kid. She said, "Wow, this is exactly how I pictured it." She'd never seen a picture. Just read my book.

Setting matters. In contemporary fiction as well as fantasy. In some ways more. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Remember the Mayonnaise Jar

I've had a version of this story in a notebook for years. I cannot find the source. If anyone knows, please let me know and I'll cite it. Enjoy.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions–things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. “The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else–the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. “Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Inspiring Mentors

Nothing like an inspiring panel of legends to get your creative juices flowing. Or at least, make you believe that they were once sitting where you are in the trenches. And that it's hard work, but worth it in the end.

On Saturday, I attended Overcoming Challenges, an NESCBWI and PEN New England jointly sponsored event at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Massachusetts. The esteemed panelists included Newbery Award Winners Lois Lowry (THE GIVER) and Kathryn Lasky (GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE). AND, if that's not exciting enough, Jacqueline Davies (THE LEMONADE WAR) and Illustrator Bill Thomson (CHALK) also spoke--Yes! Really!

Each panelist talked about overcoming challenges to pursue their careers, make a living, and write for children. They also each talked about a specific challenge in a current project. It was fantastic. Lois was wise and inspiring. Kathryn was funny and real. Bill told several emotional stories that put things in perspective. And Jackie was realistic and amazing.

And get this: None of them tweet. None of them have Facebook pages. None of them are on Goodreads. Except for Jackie, none of them have literary agents. The only social networking each of them regularly uses, are websites and blogs.

Of course, both Kathryn and Lois started their careers before the days of internet and computer access. So times have changed since their beginnings. And Jackie talked about having quit all her listservs when she realized they sucked her creative juices.

The most important thing that I took away from the panel--aside from just taking the work seriously and not as hobby (but I already had that)--is when the panel was asked how/when they know when their work in progress is "done".

(Paraphrased) The work is done, when it's done--when your deadline hits or when you can't do anything else. Just let it go.

Since I'm working on a big revision right now, this was timely. And very profound, as far as I'm concerned.

So thank you to Jackie, Lois, Kathryn, and Bill.

And to Melissa Stewart for putting it all together.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Launch Day for Greg Fishbone's GALAXY GAMES: THE CHALLENGERS

It's October 1, 2011! That must mean it's launch day for Greg Fishbone's GALAXY GAMES: THE CHALLENGERS!

The Challengers, the first book in his Galaxy Games series, was released on September 15th from the new Tu Books imprint at Lee & Low Books. In this hilarious middle-grade romp through space, eleven-year-old Tyler Sato leads a team of kids representing all of Earth in a sports tournament against alien kids from across the galaxy. For ages 8 to 12, available in hardcover and also as an ebook.

You can play Greg's month long puzzle--here's Puzzle Piece #1 of 31 and his Launch Day contest.

Check out Greg's website for all things GALAXY GAMES! And Check out Greg's blog tour schedule--you'll definitely want to catch up with Greg this month!

Congratulations to Greg!