Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blog Break

I'm going to be taking a break from the blog for a few weeks. Realistically, I'm thinking the first of the year for a target date.

Rest assured, all is fine! Everyone is healthy. There's just a lot of stuff going on right now personally and professionally, and I'm finding I don't have time to focus on the blog.

I will still be blogging at YA Stands every other Wednesday. And I'm still on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kristinecarlsonasselin) and twitter (@KristineAsselin), so reach out and say hi if you get a chance.

I hope to back with good news and new blog content early in 2013.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NaNoLite

I've never done NaNoWriMo before (for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month -- www.nanowrimo.org). I don't feel like I'm particularly prolific and writing 50K words in a month completely overwhelms me.

On the other hand, writing something every day has power. There's an energy and a momentum you gather by working on a piece every day. And the feeling of accomplishment--and having something to revise--must be priceless.

So a few of my friends committed to doing a "lite" version of NaNo. Pick your daily word count. Make is something you can achieve. Mine is 500.

It's daunting to see the word counts that some people are racking up. Thousands and thousands of words. But we all have different schedules, different responsibilities, different writing styles.

So far, since Thursday, I've written about 2000 words. And feeling very proud of my word count.

Anyone want to join me in NaNoLite? I'm even using a hashtag on twitter. #NaNoLite.



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Scary Writing

I blogged about writing scary at YA Stands yesterday.

Write outside your comfort zone!

http://yastands.blogspot.com/2012/10/writing-scary.html

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding Motivation

The plate is full, people. The plate is full.

So how do I find the time to write? To keep up with the blog? To read the blogs of friends? To read books? To exercise? To NOT overload your brain.

For me, it's do the thing that MUST be done. The commitments to colleagues and my family. Commitments to myself take a back seat.

But I WILL find the time to outline that new story. Revise the YA. Write new words. I WILL find the time. After I eat that last piece of Halloween candy...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mass & So. NH--Kid Lit Meet Up

I've finally scheduled the next Meet Up for anyone interested in children's literature in North Central Massachusetts. 

When: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 @ 7:30 p.m.
Where: Aprile's European Restaurant, Chelmsford, Massachusetts (http://www.aprileseuropeanrestaurant.com/index.php)

Who: Anyone interested in Children's Books--authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, agents, editors, readers...you get the idea. There's no formal program, just a chance to chat in person.



If you're interested and/or have any ideas for future locations, please let me know!

Walk-ins are welcome, but if you know you're coming, ping me! I like to give the restaurant a heads up on our count, if I can.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's So Important about POV?

I'm over at YA Stands today talking about Point of View.

http://yastands.blogspot.com/2012/10/whats-so-important-about-pov.html

Monday, October 1, 2012

More Kissing in the Rain



Clearly, we like kissing scenes. :)

My post popular post on this blog is called Kissing in the Rain, from Valentine's Day, 2012. It gets about 50 hits a week, presumably from Google searches. The excerpt is from my YA novel THE SWEET SPOT, which is under revision with my agent.

Soooo, I thought you might like the following excerpt, from "Stella's Hero," a short story in TIMELESS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE (from Pugalicious Press) written by me and my writing partner, Ansha Kotyk. It's also a kissing-in-the-rain scene. Enjoy!

 ***

She would never see Jie again. She would never see his smile or touch his beautiful face. Knowing these things made her steps even heavier. For a brief moment, she thought about walking to the waterfront. It would be easy in this weather to just keep walking. Into the harbor. No one would miss her. All the pain would be gone. Her dress, heavy and wet, would help her sink into oblivion. She began to cry tears of frustration, anger and remorse. Someone grabbed her arm from behind.

Fear gripped her heart. She wrenched free and ran as fast as she could in her sopping skirts.

“Stella!” Jie's voice. Desperate and hoarse.

She stopped but couldn't turn around. A million emotions coursed through her. Relief. Joy. Anger.

His warm hand rested on her shoulder as he turned her to face him.“Stella.” He was out of breath, but he looked determined. “I couldn’t live without...”

She searched his eyes. He leaned toward her and kissed her softly on the lips. An explosion of emotion seared her brain as she pressed her body against his.

He pulled away. “You understand what this would mean?” His eyes met hers, asking her.

“Sometimes you have to give up comfortable living for your dreams,” she said, putting her arms around his neck and pulling him close. She kissed him again, his arms closing around her waist. Nothing in this world was going to take him away from her again. She wouldn’t let anyone tell her this wasn’t right.

And when the kiss ended and the rain fell between them, Jie held her hand tightly. “My whole neighborhood will know about this in an hour’s time. There is no going back. Are you sure this is what you want, Stella Thompson?”

She nodded. “Always. This is what I’ve always wanted. I just didn’t know it until now.” 

***

You can read the whole piece and six other short stories in TIMELESS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE.  Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Using Pictures from the Web

I'm not sure what the odds are of someone suing me over pictures on my blog. On the other hand, I'm sure that Roni Loren never thought it could happen to her either. I read her story about being sued over the use of pictures on her blog last week.

Click here to read Roni's story.

It scared me. I've never used a picture with anything but the thought of adding to my own content. I've always credited the website where I grabbed it. But that's not necessarily crediting the photographer. Or getting permission to use it.

As a creative person, I thought about how I would feel if someone used something I created without permission. And I decided to go through and take down any blog pictures that I couldn't credit or use with the creators permission. I opted to leave up book covers and head shots.

I'm not quite done yet. I have over 400 blog posts, so it's taking a bit of time. Many of my blog posts don't have pictures or images, but I'm viewing each and every one.

I've started to keep a library of my own pictures to use on my own blog.

What do you think? What pictures do you use?


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Musings on Revision

So I started my formal revision last night of a new middle grade novel. It's actually not particularly new. I started this piece more than two years ago, but it's been floating around in my brain longer than that. It feels really good that it is finally in a semi-finished state.

Semi-finished?

It's been a jumble of scenes, then it was a jumble of scenes with a loose plot. Finally, it was a jumble of scenes in a novel writing application (YWriter by SpaceJock).

For a long time it was 21K words--not long enough for a novel, even for middle grade. But last spring, I signed up to attend Sarah Aronson's Novel Writing Academy at the NESCBWI conference and I needed to finish it. My personal goal was getting it to 30K. Short, but respectable Middle Grade length.

At the Novel Academy, we did some storyboarding. I'd like to say my story board was lovely and beautiful. It wasn't. But it did give me some ideas to strenghthen my plot--do it, if you haven't. Here is a great post on Story Boarding for novelists--http://cathyday.com/2011/11/27/storyboard-class-at-wci/

This summer, I did some more polishing and finally had it ready for a beta reader. Anna Staniszewski (of MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE fame) offered to read for me! (duh, YES!).

So when I say "formal revision," I mean basically diving into the notes Anna did for me. But, um, it looks like this little book has already had a lot of work, right? I wish I could say I was prolific and fast. But the reality is, this is a slow  process, no matter how you slice it. Throw in some real life, a day job, volunteer commitments, and some other professional writing (I do some freelance nonfiction writing), and it's hard to find time for unfinished projects.

I'm hoping this little novel will be in my agent's hands sometime this fall. In the meantime, I've got to reread this Revision check list by Talia Vance to make sure I get it right.

Whenever I think of giving up, I think of one of Dori's quotes from Finding Nemo. "Just keep swimming."

In this case, I guess it's "Just keep revising."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11

This is a repost from last year...Hug your kids today.

***

Of course I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I spent the day comforting new and returning students at Brandeis University, where I worked at the time.

But I wanted to remember my one and only visit to the World Trade Center.

In January 1987, I had just turned 18. Colleen and I wanted to visit the city. I don't think either of us had ever been. My dad drove us down during Winter break. It was our freshman year in college.

 I had to sit down to take this picture. I think Colleen had to support my back.
 View from the top.
I remember that day so clearly. We had the best time. Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Seeing the Statue of Liberty. My stomach flip-flopping as we rode the elevator all the way up to the visitor's center in the World Trade Center.

And it still absolutely floors me that it's no longer there.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Write with Purpose

I'm one of the leaders of a fifteen-girl Girl Scout troop. We often tell our girls to 'walk with purpose' when we're going somewhere. Head held high, shoulders back, striding forward.

When you walk with purpose, you show the world you mean business. You look people in the eye. You exude confidence. And that's important in today's world.

Do you write with purpose? Do you use words that are strong? Or do you write like a wet noodle using words like was, like, and start.

He started to walk across the street. He was walking across the street.

No. He either walked or he didn't walk.

He walked across the street. Maybe he walked across the street dragging his backpack. Or maybe he dragged his feet as he walked across the street. Or maybe he strolled, or strutted, or marched. Maybe he crawled. Maybe he shouted a curse word as he stumbled into the street. Think about the words you use, and use the ones with purpose. Use the ones that show the emotion of the character.

Every word you use should have purpose. Head held high. Shoulders back. Fingers on keyboard.

Write with Purpose. Using words that are strong. Words that mean something. Words that show your story in living color in black and white on the page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NESCBWI 2013

There's still a few more days to submit your session proposal for the conference next May (May 3-5, 2013, to be exact). Deadline is Monday, August 27. We've started to glance at the proposals we have and we're so excited. It's going to be a rock-solid conference with lots of great sessions on craft and the business of writing.

Here's the link...http://www.nescbwi.org/2012/06/2013-cfp.php

We'd still love to see some more proposals on craft for beginners, master level sessions for published authors, and sessions specifically for illustrators.

If you're going to be in New England next May, put the conference on your calendar. We'll have an excellent roster of editors and agents, great sessions to help hone your craft, fabulous keynote speakers, and a large network of writers.

Laura Pauling, Jennifer Carson, Heather Kelly, Erin Manack, Ansha Kotyk, and Alicia Gregoire
If you're interested in volunteering, stay tuned. We'll have a call for volunteers in early 2013.
Stephen Fraser, Chris Brodien-Jones, Jennifer Laughran, Kate Messner, Vickie Motter, and ME!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Point of View

After reading this great post--here--on point of view on the SF Signal blog, I wanted to blog about it myself.

This is a great article describing the three different points (first, second, third) of view in writing: http://suite101.com/article/points-of-view-a24900

I've just finished a complete rewrite of my WIP, taking it from third person past tense, to first person present tense. While the plot remained basically the same, the POV shift required me to touch every sentence.

When I started the story, I couldn't write it in first person. It was too close to my personal experience. Too personal. Too much inside my own head. I was so afraid it would be too much like baring my soul.

But you know what? The story really needed to be told in first. And once I had the story out of my head in third person, I realized I could write it in first.

And I didn't realize it until I started this rewrite. I'd dragged my feet until it was absolutely clear. Staring me in the face. Kate needed to tell her own story.

To my surprise, it also came out in present tense. That part wasn't my intention, and I'm less confident about it. But sometimes you have to go with what your gut is telling you to do. I hope I've been able to make the story more immediate. More relevant.

How do you know? You don't always. I got my agent with the story written in third. I know plenty of people who've revised to first after getting an agent or contract on a book written in third.

Write the story the way it comes out of you. You can always revise. And while it IS daunting to stare down a 75K word rewrite, you do it one word, one sentence at a time. Until you're done.

What POV do you like to write in?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Kid Lit Meet Up

I know summer is a busy time, but I'm scheduling a Meet Up in August.

Date: August 14, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Aprile's Restaurant, Chelmsford, MA

For writers, illustrators, agents, editors, librarians...anyone who loves kid lit and wants to chat in person! No program, just hanging out with a glass of wine or a beer.

Let me know if you plan to attend, so I can give a count to the restaurant.


Monday, July 30, 2012

School Visits: What I've Learned So Far

At this point in my career, I've written twelve books for the nonfiction school library market. Makes me an ideal candidate for school visits, right? Except that I don't consider myself an expert in any of the topics about which I've written.

So? I talk about writing. Research. How a book Gets Published. And I've just added some creative writing topics to my repertoire. Up until now, I've done all my school visits for free. What? Yes, Free.

I've wanted to get it right. Make sure I feel like I'm worth the money that someone is going to pay me.

Things I've learned:

1. Expect any question. How old are you? How much do you get paid? Things like that. Be prepared to answer what you want to answer or defer what you don't.

2. Be prepared with writing exercises if there are NO questions. Probably won't happen, cause the kids LOVE asking questions, but just in case.

3. Come w/ props. Visual aids, etc.

4. Be self deprecating. This works for me--I'm not a natural comedian, but if I use myself as an example of something, it's almost always worth a laugh. For example, when talking about the definition of constructive criticism, I'll sometimes say "it wouldn't be constructive for you to tell me that my shoes are ugly." Or something like that.

5. Go see the experts at School Visit Experts--they are a great resource and I can't give you better advice than they can. http://schoolvisitexperts.com/

6. Lastly, if you're familiar with school looking for inexpensive author visits, send them my way! I've recently updated my school visits information page -- http://www.kristineasselin.com/school-visits.html

Good luck!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Free Chapter Download AND Contest Results

I'm pleased to announce that Diana Murray and Jaye Robin Brown were the winners of the free copies of Timeless from Ansha and my blog posts on Monday. Congrats you guys! I hope you love it!

AND, I just found out from our lovely editors at Pugalicious Press that we have a really cool personality quiz about Timeless. Answer ONE question, and you can win a free download of one of the stories.

Click here for the Quiz.

Hint: If you pick the answer that refers to a Chinese-American laundry boy, you MIGHT find yourself reading "Stella's Hero" by me and Ansha.

If you like what you read in your free download, you'll LOVE the rest of the stories. At under $4.00 for the collection, it's a great deal.

Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Researching Fiction

I posted about research on YA Stands today! If you're interested in a few of the facts Ansha and I discovered while writing "Stella's Hero" Check it out here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Timeless: Interview with Kip Wilson


Timeless, an anthology of young adult love stories, is now available as an ebook. The story “Stella’s Hero” that I co-wrote with Ansha Kotyk is included in this wonderful anthology of great love stories.






Today, I have the extreme pleasure of interviewing Kip Wilson, author of “And the Nightingale Sings,” the second short story in Timeless: An Anthology of Young Adult Romance from Pugalicious Press. Kip and I first met through the Verla Kay Blue Boards, and then realized we live in the same state. We’ve met at Meet Ups and Conferences, and I’m so proud to call Kip one of my writer buddies. It makes me even more excited to be a part of Timeless with her, and to share her story with my readers.

Kip’s wonderful story is based on a medieval poem. For the second part of this profile, Ansha Kotyk (my writing partner for Stella’s Hero) asked Kip about how the poem inspired her story. 

Comment on this post and tell us why you love YA romance to have a chance to win an electronic version of Timeless. (Tell us if you prefer, Kindle, Nook, or a .pdf version.)

Without further ado...

Kris: You’ve recently published your first YA short story in the Pugalicious Press Anthology Timeless. What made you decide to submit your story to PP?

Kip: Yes—I’m so excited about the anthology! I saw the call for submissions on twitter and knew immediately that I wanted to write a story for the anthology because it combined three of my favorite things to write: YA, historical fiction, and romance.

(Kris: you can follow Kip at @kiperoo!)

Kris: What made you start to write seriously?

Kip: When I finished my doctoral dissertation after working on it for two years, I didn’t quite know what to do with my “free time.” The first thing I wrote was a musical with a musician/director in Austria—where the play was produced—and then I began to write fiction and non-fiction for kids.
      
Kris: A musical with a director in Austria? That is so cool and deserves a follow up question! Can you tell us more about how that worked? Where you met and how/when it was produced?

Kip: The musical was a lot of fun. It was called A Midsummer Nightclub and was basically a modern twist on A Midsummer Night's Dream (in a nightclub instead of a forest, and the magic was delivered in the form of a drugged drink). My partner was the high school music teacher at the same school in Austria where I taught English on a Fulbright, and the production was put on for and by young adults, with the actors and stage designers a combination of high school and college students. We did all original music for the show as well (I did the lyrics). Working on this right after my dissertation definitely got my creative juices flowing!

Kris: It sounds amazing! What about now? Do you have a current work-in-progress? Can you tell us about it?

Kip: I have a few works-in-progress! I’m currently querying a WWI-era historical for young adults about the ballerina who inspired Rainer Maria Rilke to write his Sonnets to Orpheus. My in-progress drafts include an Icelandic Sci-Fi adventure and a thriller set in modern-day Germany. Both of these are for young adults as well.

Kris: Those sound amazing, Kip. Where do you find your inspiration?

Kip: For most of my work, I have to admit that I’m inspired by the great works of German Literature I studied for my Ph.D. My story for the Timeless anthology has its roots in German poetry as well, since it was based on a poem by the medieval troubadour Walther von der Vogelweide. See my interview on Ansha Kotyk’s blog for more details about the poem!

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

Kip: Right now I juggle writing with raising my small twins, and it works really well. I used to work crazy hours as a project manager in the software industry, so I feel lucky to have the freedom to be able to divide my time this way instead of just collapsing at the end of the day.

Kris: I think many of us can relate to juggling our writing with our families. Besides being a fantastic juggler, what is your biggest challenge with your writing?

Kip: Patience. I depend a lot on my wonderful critique partners to catch things that aren’t working in what I write, but I’ve also come to realize that I need to set my manuscripts aside for as long as humanly possible to be able to come back to them with fresh eyes and make them shine. I am not a patient person, so this isn’t a lot of fun. A trick I discovered recently is to work on more than one manuscript at a time so I always have something that needs my attention.
      
Kris: Ah yes, the art of patience. We all have to learn to do that—great advice to use your waiting time by working on other things! What are your favorite books?

Kip: My favorite all-time YA books are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, and The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  Favorite recent reads are Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I definitely have fairly literary taste, so for fans of literary YA, these are all great books to read.
      
Kris: Nice book recommendations! I admit I haven’t read any of those, but they just went on my TBR pile. Lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you want to share?

Kip: Most of my pleasures aren’t that guilty! I love reading, traveling, and eating foodgasmic meals. I guess the only thing I love that’s a little naughty is a good beer. I’ve dabbled as a homebrewer and really appreciate a good stout or IPA.

Kris. My new favorite word is foodgasmic. J What did I miss? Anything else you’d like to share?

Kip: I hope everyone loves the anthology!

Thank you so much, Kip, for answering my questions! I loved your story, and I’m so proud to be a part of the book with you! To my readers: if you love YA romance or YA historical fiction, I really think you’ll love the stories in Timeless. They cover an interest range of eras as well as genres. And for under $4.00, you get 7 great short stories.
Timeless is currently available through all major outlets as an ebook.  Look for more blog interviews with the authors from the anthology in the coming weeks.Click here for Ansha Kotyk’s discussionwith Kip about the poem that inspired “And the Nightingale Sings”


Available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Love stories that transcend time. From a thousand years ago to the unknown future, Timeless will show how love is timeless. This anthology of love stories contains “The Storyteller’s Daughter” by Gayle C. Krause, “And The Nightingale Sang” by Kip Wilson, “A Light Of Victory” by Jennifer Carson, “The Angel Of The Bastille” by J.R. Sparlin, “Stella’s Hero” by Kristine Carlson Asselin & Ansha Kotyk, “In This Moment” by D. E. Atwood, and “It Lies Beneath” by Magda Knight.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Timeless, post a comment below and we’ll choose a random winner.  Good Luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Timeless Promotion Preview

I'm going to have Kip Wilson on my blog tomorrow! She wrote the second short story in Timeless: An Anthology of Young Adult Romance. It's called "And the Nightingale Sang" and it's based on a medieval poem by Walther von der Vogelweide

Check back tomorrow for my interview with Kip and your chance to win Timeless from Pugalicious Press!

If you can't wait to see if you win the book...you can buy Timeless from Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $3.51--the best bargain in YA historical romance this week! Links are on the right side of my blog.

Whoo-Hoo!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Timeless: YA Historical Anthology

So by now, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably heard my exciting book news. See the gorgeous cover below? Timeless is a YA Historical Anthology of short stories. And "Stella's Hero," the short story I wrote with my friend Ansha Kotyk is included.

It all started when our friends Joyce Shor Johnson and Jennifer Carson announced their call for submissions for an anthology for their new small press, Pugalicious Press. Ansha and I were both working on other things, but we wanted to write something together. And we wanted to write something for Pugalicious. Stella came out of a marathon brainstorm session. She and Chang Jie came to life over the course of about a week. And then three more weeks of revision. Yup, from start to finish, about four weeks.

We love Jie and Stella. We hope you will, too. And the rest of the stories are fabulous also! Stay tuned for contests and blog hopping as we promote. If you're interested in reviewing a copy of the anthology, let me know and I'll put you in touch with Joyce.


Timeless for Kindle and Timeless for Nook


Love stories that transcend time. From a thousand years ago to the unknown future, Timeless will show how love is timeless. This anthology of love stories contains "The Storyteller's Daughter" by Gayle C. Krause, "And The Nightingale Sang" by Kip Wilson, "A Light Of Victory" by Jennifer Carson, "The Angel Of The Bastille" by J.R. Sparlin, "Stella's Hero" by Kristine Carlson Asselin & Ansha Kotyk, "In This Moment" by D. E. Atwood, and "It Lies Beneath" by Magda Knight.

These are a few pictures that inspired us as we were writing. 





Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing Club: Character

Tonight, my kids' writing club has its inaugural meeting. We're talking about character.

As in, what makes a good one?

I'm going to have the kids name their favorites, and talk about the things their favorite characters have in common. We'll learn a little bit about archetypes, and cliches--and how to use them to make your own characters memorable.

My favorite characters of all time include Anne Shirley, Harry Potter, & Ender Wiggin. What are yours? Other faves we'll be talking about are Despereaux, Charlotte (of Charlotte's Web), and Judy Moody. I'm sure the kids will come up with others.

I can wait to see what they create! Next week's class? Setting & World Building.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Social Network

Sometimes I need a jolt of energy to get my juices flowing. It might mean caffeine. Or it might be a phone call to a good writing bud. Sometimes it's nice to get together with like-minded friends and talk writing. Not critique group formal, but good-buddy hang out time.
We might or might not drink something that looks like this:
Right now, I'm working on a rewrite. And it's a slow process. I'm at a sort of cross-roads with it. I really need a jolt of my writers network. So I'm meeting some friends on Tuesday. 
But...I'm planning a bigger Meet up in August. August 14 to be precise. Not sure of the location yet. I'm thinking about the British Beer Works in Westford. I guessing a few of us could use that jolt of energy from a group of like-minded friends.

If you're in the central/eastern Massachusetts area (or southern NH), and want to be on my contact list for Meet Ups, let me know in the comments!









Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Critique Groups

 Are you a writer? Are you in a critique group?

If not, stop reading and go find a critique group!

I can't imagine what my writing would be like if I didn't have my group. They have cried with me, shared my successes, and taught me so much. And we almost never sit in the same room. Yes, that's right, we share online and through email. We chat on skype once a week.

Online critiques are great. You get specific feedback about what's working. You get grammatical and word choice ideas as well as passive voice suggestions.

It's much easier to find positive things to say than this woman is having! But it's a good rule of thumb.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a "live" critique group. I've been to a couple of meetings, and it's so different. You get to hear your work read aloud. You get immediate, gut reaction. It's no better or worse than the online group. Just different--you can focus on different things. You can ask directed questions.

Depending on  your personality, you might feel more comfortable with one over the other. Whichever type of group works for you, I can't recommend having a group high enough. You become a better writer when you critique others. You become a better, more well rounded critiquer when your work is critiqued by multiple people.

Now finding the group is a whole other matter...



Graphics used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing. In Tandem

I posted this on YA Stands this morning, but it's too important to me not to repeat here...

Recently I co authored a short story with a friend. It’s been accepted in an anthology and is due out later this summer.


Usually, upon hearing this, writers ask, “Oh my gosh, how did you do it?”


Funny, at the time it didn’t seem weird at all. Ansha Kotyk and I are really good friends, talk about writing often, brainstorm our own pieces with each other. It seems only natural that working on a joint project would be cool. And it was.

I wrote an initial scene. Prologue, let’s call it. I didn’t even know who the main character was. We met to brainstorm and came up with something I never in a million years would have come up with myself.


The end result? About 7000 words in less than a week between the two of us. A finished short story about two weeks after that. The story accepted into an anthology coming out of Pugalicious Press this summer.


Tips on co authoring: 
  •  Be open-minded. Even more so than you already are. ;) Two minds are better than one, and the piece belongs to both of you.
  • Talk through things that need compromise. The phone is your friend—some things you can’t do over email.
  •  Make sure you have the same goals and can agree on the outcome. (i.e., royalties, format, copy-edits, contract stuff, where you’re going to submit, etc. We wrote the piece specifically to specifications on the Pug Press website.)
  •  Be able to let it go if it doesn’t work.
Stay tuned for our release, “Stella’s Hero,” in the Timeless Anthology at Pugalicious Press. We can’t wait to share our heroine, a plucky shop-girl from the 1890s, and the love of her life, as they escape the confines of a society that tells them they aren’t supposed to be together. 


Ansha and I will both be talking a lot about this story, the anthology, and the process of co-authoring in the weeks to come.
http://theinvisibleagent.wordpress.com/tag/tandem-bike/
This is not me and Ansha on a tandem bike. Nor is it our characters. Though I do think it illustrates the concept of tandem quite well. :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA: The Future of Blogging

Today is the final day of Armchair BEA. I've only been posting since Wednesday because I joined late. And I won a prize yesterday--so Thank You to the organizers! It's been fun. I've had some great comments, met some cool people. Note to self: register earlier next year!

As far as the future of blogging goes...I'm not really sure. And I know that answer makes a terrible post. I guess for me, personally, I'll continue to blog as long as I have something to say. I love that I've met some of my best writer friends online--and that's because of my blog. I love being able to talk about books, writing, and life on my blog in a completely different way than I do on Facebook or Twitter.

I'm interested to see what other people say about the future of blogging. Thanks again to Armchair BEA for giving us a place to participate!

Inspired by the post at Stuck in YA who has some simple tips, I thought I'd brainstorm and come up with a few of my own.

1. I think the most important thing about blogging is to be yourself.
2. Keep posts short enough so that people will read them.
3. Don't overwhelm people with personal information--like the classic "info dump" in a novel, too boring. Pepper your posts lightly with the personal.
4. Commenting on other people's blogs will get them to visit yours--this is hard to do especially if you're busy, I have times when its all I can do to post, let alone comment. But I try.
5. Participate in twitter games, twitter parties--and be appropriate. As you get to know people, you'll create your own community.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA: Beyond the Blog

Today on Armchair BEA, the topic is Beyond Your Blog. We're discussing ways to make money with your writing. I started writing before I started blogging--really the blog was a way to connect with other writers, and reach out beyond my living room.

Like many writers, I started writing picture books for my child. However it soon became clear that selling a picture book was going to be an uphill battle and I really wanted more immediate gratification. If for nothing else, so my fragile ego could more easily take the rejection from the PB publishers.

I've been a freelance writer of nonfiction books for kids since 2008. This spring marks my tenth contract with Capstone Press--and it's been a wonderful thing for the ego and my writing. Working with a variety of editors on numerous topics has been amazing. This year, I've also started working with a book packager (basically an intermediary who connects writers with publishers).

How did I do it?

Query, baby, query. I didn't have any connections. I didn't have any insider information. I looked at the submission guidelines and I submitted. Writing samples, resume, cover letter--just like applying for a job.

My best advice for writers is to diversify your writing. Love writing YA? Try writing picture books. Try writing nonfiction. Try short stories. Try a book review. Don't pigeon hole yourself into one genre--be flexible. And once you feel comfortable, apply for a freelance writing gig. You can't get a freelance job without applying for one.

Good luck! (And I'm  happy to answer questions, either in the comments or privately.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Armchair BEA

What's Armchair BEA you ask? Well, straight from their website, "If you're a book blogger who can't attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention in New York this June (June 4 - 8, 2012), you don't have to miss all the fun - this virtual convention is the place to be!"

And since I'm totally jealous of my agent-mate Taryn Albright -- I signed up to participate again this year. You can choose your level of involvement--from giveaways, to interviews, to vlogs, to just watching and/or commenting.


Today, we are talking about networking. Live networking. How do I network?

Well, I started coordinating meetups in my local area a year ago. I've met some great fellow writers that way. The next one will be in July -- stay tuned if you live in the Metro West Boston area, we'd love to see you!

I also volunteer at the SCBWI regional level (New England). In fact, for 2013, I'm the co chair. GREAT way to meet writers, agents, and editors.


Also, I try to introduce myself to librarians, booksellers, and readers whenever I can. I've started running workshops for kids and adults about writing, but that's still sort of new.


How do you network in person?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Meeting Up in Massachusetts

It was a dark and stormy night...

Ok, well, it was. But we met anyway. Only one loud crash of thunder disrupted our conversation, and then only for a quick second.

Sometimes all you need to do to recharge, is meet with some writer types. This is from last Tuesday night. From the left, Donna Woelki, Michele Litant, Pam Vaughan, Jenny Bagdigian, Me, and Linda Mullaly Hunt.

We'll be doing another meetup in July, so stay tuned if you live in the metro West Boston area.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wrap Up: Gay Parents in YA Lit


So I wanted to write a wrap up post for this week, explaining why the presence of gay parents (or gay characters) in books for kids is so important to me. And I’ve been thinking about it, and thinking about it. It’s more than just an underrepresented group not getting their due attention. I love a good book, and I love when a good book highlights “real” characters in believable situations.

I think, partly, my interest in gay rights dates back to a time in my career about 15 years ago. I was a fledgling student affairs professional at a prestigious university in the greater Boston area, enjoying my daily bantering with students. 

At the beginning of the year, a young man named Robert spent a few afternoons with me planning the annual GLBT Halloween Party. It was going to be a huge bash, and it required tons of paperwork, police detail, DJ, decorations, costumes, food requisitions. The whole nine yards. But Robert worked through all the bureaucracy with an earnest dedication. He walked across campus and got all the signatures he needed. He loved a good party and was excited about the event—and I loved working with students with his kind of energy and follow-through. The GLBT dance always attracted hundreds of kids; gay and straight and transgendered and undecided. I was looking forward to it myself.

In hindsight, Robert had an edge. There was always a hint of self-deprecation about him. But I was young and didn’t see anything more than an attractive, confident young man with loads of friends. The university where I worked was very liberal—tolerant of different lifestyles, fashions, & religions. Maybe there was bigotry under the surface, but I didn’t see it. 

About a week before the big dance, Robert’s roommate found him hanging in his dorm room. I could not, nor could anyone who knew him, rationalize the smart, good-looking, kind-hearted boy with one who would take his own life. But obviously there were troubles in his life no one knew. And one day, it must have just gotten too hard to hide it.

I knew many other gay students in my time as a student activities professional. And for some reason, I always felt much more protective of them than I did with their straight counterparts. Maybe, in part, because of what happened to Robert. It’s not easy, but I’ve actually asked people if they were thinking about suicide—I’d rather embarrass myself than know I could have done something but didn’t. Sometimes they're grateful you care. Sometimes they never speak to you again.

It makes me so angry that our society can’t guarantee basic rights for the gay community that straight members of our community take for granted. I’m so happy to see that books for young people are finally starting to reflect real lifestyles, real cultures, real families, and real kids.

I think about Robert occasionally. I hope he found a place where he doesn’t have to pretend to be something he’s not. And I hope that the books that we profile in this series find their way into the hands of kids like him, and help make a difference in their lives.

If you've missed our week--please click here to link back to Tuesday for the list of bloggers participating in the week.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where are the Gay Parents in YA: Lola and the Boy Next Door

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.


***


This might just be the perfect book. 

I loved LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR. I finished 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 2011.


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 dads. They were quirky, and lovable. They were not stereotypes and they weren't pushovers. She respected them, and disobeyed them, and loved them. It wasn't weird or troublesome and the book didn't dwell on any "issue" with Lola's dads. They just were her dads.To me, that's key. They were just her dads. End of story.

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

(disclosure--I rehashed some of this review from a previous blog post, as I'd already read this book. But, as I say, it was so good, it was worth another look and I really wanted to pass the recommendation along.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

King of the Screwups--Guest Post by Jonathon Arnston

Thanks to my friend and co host Jonathon Arnston (@JonathonArntson) for his guest post today!

Here's Jon:

***

When choosing the book to read for our second series run, I made my selection more out of convenience than out of interest. I visited Lee Wind's blog and used his list created to highlight books with gay parents/caretakers. I went down the list and plugged titles into the search field at the website of my public library. Sadly, very few books came up, and the ones that did are old looking. We all know those books are probably of quality, but they are from twelve years ago and more - most kids are not interesting in those.

In the end, I chose King of the Screwups, by K.L. Going. Here is the Goodreads description of the novel:

Liam Geller is Mr. Popularity. Everybody loves him. He excels at sports; he knows exactly what clothes to wear; he always ends up with the most beautiful girls in school. But he's got an uncanny ability to screw up in the very ways that tick off his father the most.
 
When Liam [is] finally kicked out of the house, his father's brother takes him in. What could a teenage chick magnet possibly have in common with his gay, glam rocker, DJ uncle who lives in a trailer in upstate New York? A lot more than you'd think. And when Liam attempts to make himself over as a nerd in a desperate attempt to impress his father, it's his "aunt" Pete and the guys in his band who convince Liam there's much more to him than his father will ever see.
When Liam first heads to his Uncle's trailer, he focuses on how poorly decorated and kept his uncle's house and town are. Liam notices the things that set his cross-dressing uncle apart from the average man. But, since Liam has been travelling the world with his retired, supermodel mother, he has already encountered men and women of all walks of life. Liam's observations of his gay uncle (and his band of friends) are subtle. He makes mention when his uncle kisses his boyfriend, who ends up being Liam's English teacher. Liam's mentions are not judgmental and they show how one can be curious without being rude or assuming.

Liam stands up for gay people throughout the novel. He gets kicked off the bus by the man who used to bully Liam's uncle's boyfriend in elementary school. Liam also stands up for those who are not popular, but he does this in a round-a-bout way. He creates a plot to become unpopular, which will help him to succeed just like his dad. As his scheme unfolds, he finds himself digging many, deep holes. As he starts to fall into all of them, he begins to realize he is loved. Going does this in a non-sappy and subtle way. As Liam starts to feel loved, he begins to be himself again.

As Liam fails to impress his father, which is his ticket back home, he abandons his plan to become a nerd. He figures he'll just quite school and join the army. It may sound trite, but Going sets up the close of the story with a lot of tension and emotion. I found my heart broken as Liam realized what he'd thought was his family never really was. But, I found a patch for my heart as Liam began to realize family is not defined by the dictionary.

Hundreds of miles from his New York mansion, Liam finds a huge family within the friends and neighbors he made in the five weeks away from home.

King of the Screwups is a great novel. I am thankful I came across it, even if it was not through the most-desirable process. I hope my public library will expand its collection of gay parents in YA, but I will mention this book to my librarians and give it a recommendation. King of the Screwups is a wonderful addition to any personal library, and creates an opportunity for many family and/or classroom discussions.

I hope you'll pick up King of the Screwups soon!
 
***
 
Thanks Jon for your post today! Great review!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where are the Gay Parents in YA Literature


Welcome to the second annual Where are the Gay Parents in Children’s Literature. This year, we’re focusing specifically on YA. My co-host, Jonathon Arnston will be guest blogging here at my blog tomorrow (Wednesday, May 30).

I’ll be posting my own review of Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door on Thursday, May 31.

Check out our other participants, posting today:

Shoshana Flax at http://walktheridgepole.blogspot.com/2012/05/where-are-gay-parents-in-ya-lit-on.html about Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy, particularly the first book, The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Alexandra Hudson at www.restorez.blogspot.com about Love Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle.

Kelly Polark at  http://kpolark.blogspot.com/2012/05/gay-parents-in-ya.html about Pearl by Jo Knowles.

Stephanie Lawton at www.StephanieLawton.com about her own work in progress.

Thanks to all of them for participating! Please check out their blogs and their reviews of these great titles.

If you’d like to check out our book list, click here.