Monday, March 26, 2012

Make a Mark: Meeting Peter H. Reynolds

On Saturday, I attended Draw On Day at the Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA. The Blue Bunny is an adorable independent bookstore owned and operated by author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds and his family. I took my wee artist and a friend--they are huge Judy Moody fans (the middle grade books that Peter illustrates) and they love to draw. And I wanted to meet Peter. It was a win/win.

The girls spent an hour on the floor drawing with Peter and a few other kids. What a wonderful experience to spend such quality time with a favorite artist. He showed them how artists can create art wherever they are (and on whatever they can find!). They drew on napkins, cardboard, the floor. He even had an orange that he'd created a character out of.

I chatted a bit with Peter about writing and agents--and how great they are for brainstorming and vetting your work (I couldn't agree more--shout out to Agent Vickie!). We also talked about how kids shouldn't ever stop creating, cause when they do, it's sometimes hard to get it back as an adult. He made the girls promise to "always make a mark" -- which is a wonderful philosophy for kids, as well as adults.

Thanks to Peter and the rest of the gang at the Blue Bunny! We'll be back!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Write Dangerously

My crit partner, Laura Pauling, coined this phrase recently (she's awesome, go read her blog and then come back...I'll wait...)

Ok. So if you know me at all, you know I don't do anything dangerously. I look both ways. I drive the speed limit (more or less), I don't drink to excess, I avoid the thrill rides.

But Writing Dangerously. Hmmm. What does that mean? Here's what I think it means...

Taking chances with your writing. Writing outside the box. Changing characters personalities. Eliminating characters. Cutting out stuff you love. Killing the darlings. To make it better. Stronger.

I heard Cynthia Leitich Smith speak once--and she talked about writing the first draft of her whole novel. And then deleting the whole thing (yes, on purpose) and starting over again when she knew her characters better. Now that's writing dangerously.

I still don't think I could do that. I have to save the previous, oh, twenty or so drafts. But I did start writing on a clean, white page yesterday. Writing in first person. And trying to write my MC a little less naive. A little stronger. Same story, slightly different twist.

I'm only 1000 words in. And who knows how much of it I'll keep. But I'm trying. Not that I'm riding the roller coaster any time soon, but who knows?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Diving in again...

So I'm diving back into my YA novel...yeah, the same one. I love it. I'm committed to it. I'm ready to revise again to make it the best it can be. I really want you all to have the chance to meet Kate and Scott and the gang.

I've revised the first chapter. It starts in a different place. I'm eliminated a main character (boy, was THAT hard) and I'm re-envisioning many scenes. Trying to up the tension, make the supporting characters more real, and make the plot more seamless, rather than split into three sections.

I'm in the middle of chapter two. I've got a long way to go. But it feels good. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The All Important First Line

I'm blogging over at YA Stands today about first lines in YA...

Check me out over there!


Congratulations to author, Karen Cioffi for earning the Literary Classics Seal of Approval for  her book WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

See the trailer at the illustrator's (Aidana WillowRaven) website.

My book THE WORST CASE OF PASKETTI-ITIS will be coming out from the same publisher (4RV Publishing) next spring. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The all-important Elevator Pitch

Or log line.

Or pitch line.

Or whatever the heck you want to call it.

Yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, someone asked me what my novel is about. I stalled. I stammered. And finally I blurted out..."it's about a girl who plays golf."

Really, Kris? After all this time? And that's the best you can come up with?

The NE-SCBWI conference is in 40 days. I really need to be able to describe my novel better than that. Yes, I have an agent. No, I'm not querying. But it's vital that I can describe my book better than that! Because, people WILL ask.

Back in 2010, I won an agent pitch contest with the following:

With the family golf course on the verge of bankruptcy, Kate Anderson decides she's going to be the first girl to win the Junior State Championship to draw the crowds back, but her plans are derailed when her best friend and crush is accused of vandalizing the course with a blowtorch.

Yeah, that rocks. But it's hard to say to someone out loud. It's great written pitch. It worked great in queries, but not so much in person. 

I'm thinking about: 

Kate Anderson has to win a local golf tournament to save her parents failing golf course. Along the way, there are blow torches, British boys, and kissing.

Of course, I've got nothing for the middle grade novel. Best start working on that one...

Do you have an elevator pitch?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Balancing Busy w/ Busy

How do you do everything you have to do?

Some days I feel like there are so many balls in the air, there's just no way they are all going to stay up. But they have to. No choice!

I did a school visit this morning. I worked on a revision for a work-for-hire project. Picked up a sick kid at school. Grocery shopped, made dinner, talked to a friend on the phone. I've got a deadline next week, and one two weeks after that. Oh, and then there's the NESCBWI conference (did I tell you guys that I'm on a panel with my Vickie Motter, Kate Messner, Jenn Laughran, Stephen Fraser and Christine Brodien-Jones? Well, yeah, I'm not freaking out about that at all.) And that's not counting the novel revision I'm dying to get back to. You know, the novel. The dream.

I'm not complaining. I love that I've got stuff going on--I've always wanted to be a writer. And, I'm writing. But tomorrow's a work day. A real work day, as in "the day job." If only there were 25 hours in the day. No, then I'd just sleep longer. Maybe another day in the week? A third hand? I know, a clone!

Maybe I need an intern?

Well, how do you guys get everything done?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gay Parents in YA Lit

In August 2011, Jonathan Arnston and I were debating the lack of gay families represented in Kid Lit. 

We did some research, read some books, and sponsored a series on our blogs. (Click on my link at the top of my banner for the series from last summer).

This year, we’re doing it again. Bigger, Better, and More Organized. We’d also like to focus it exclusively on YA. And we’d love to include our favorite bloggers and writers.


Can you commit to reading at least one YA book featuring (in some fashion) a gay parent or guardian? We’d love the book to have been published in the last five years.

Can you commit to a post (or two or three) in May 2012?

If you want to participate, leave your name and contact information below and one of us will get back to you with details.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A visit from Author Deborah Kops

I’d like to welcome my friend Deborah Kops to the blog today. I met Deborah about a year ago at the first NESCBWI Meet Up I coordinated—a great side benefit to Meet Ups is that you get to make great friends! As it turns out, we live about five miles apart and regularly enjoy a cup of coffee together at a local coffeeshop.

Deborah’s new book TheGreat Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 came out several weeks ago—and I was so excited when it did. I’ve always been fascinated by this bizarre tragedy.

K: Thanks for being here Deborah! First of all, where can people find you? Do you have a website?

D: Yes, finally ( It went up about half an hour before an interview with me on WBUR’s Here and Now aired on February 21. There’s a link to the interview on my website.

K: The interview on WBUR is fantastic—congratulations! The link is here: 
Your book The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 is based on a tragedy that isn’t widely known; how did you become interested in it?

D: I was surfing the Web and came across an article in Yankee magazine about the flood. It was such a bizarre disaster, and I was pretty sure it would interest kids. But I was having trouble finding enough information about the flood to write a book. Then Stephen Puleo’s book for adults, Dark Tide, was published in 2003. In his acknowledgments, Puleo noted the forty-volume transcript of the court hearings that took place after the flood. The transcript contains the stories of the victims of the flood—from the fireman who lost his life to nine-year-old Antonio DiStasio, who survived. When I learned about the transcript, I knew I could write the book.

K: While Deborah does a great job telling the story, the Puleo book is fabulous and much more in depth for adults—if you want even more info about this bizarre event, I strongly suggest you read it. Ok, back to the interview, What made you start to write seriously?

D: I began writing freelance articles for Vermont Life magazine, the Connecticut section of the New York Times, and other publications decades ago. Later, I worked as an editor at Blackbirch Press, a children’s publisher in Connecticut. I enjoyed the editing work a lot, but I envied my authors. So I decided to try writing children’s books. I discovered that researching a kids book isn’t all that different from researching a magazine or newspaper article. But I found writing a book much more satisfying.

K: A freelancer after my own heart. J Do you have a current work-in-progress? Can you tell us about it?

D: I’m retelling a folktale with American and European roots that I hope will be a picture book. I’m also researching a longer work about a woman who was active in the women’s suffrage movement and should be better known than she is.

K: It sounds wonderful—good luck with both of those projects. Many people are currently pondering whether or not to query agents or go it alone. You’ve got an agent—can you tell us a bit about that relationship? How long have you been together, etc.?

D: I’ve been represented by Stephen Fraser, of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, for almost five years. Steve is very experienced and knows a lot of people in the children’s book publishing industry. He’s also an insightful reader and a lovely person. It’s wonderful to have access to someone who can give such well-informed advice. When Steve sends out a manuscript, he gets responses much more quickly than I would on my own. And getting the inevitable rejections secondhand is easier, too.

K: I can relate to the second hand rejection emotion—it does feel less harsh when deliverd by someone who loves your work. Where do you find your inspiration?

D: I keep a notebook of ideas for books. They come to me at random moments. I may be washing dishes or looking at kids books at an exhibit.  If I find that my mind keeps drifting toward a particular subject, I begin researching it and thinking about how I might shape it into a book. Reading children’s books sometimes gives me ideas, too. So does talking about the craft of writing with other authors.

K: Some of my favorite times are talking about craft with other writers. It’s always nice to vent about successes and challenges. On that note, what is your biggest challenge with your writing?

D: I find it hard to stick with a writing routine. Twitter and the Internet in general are temptations that are difficult for me to resist. Jane Yolen’s famous advice—BIC, or butt in chair—still applies. I would add, And eyes on the WIP. Time management is crucial for me because I juggle writing with freelance editing work, which involves frequent deadlines. The daily and weekly To Do lists are helpful, unless I decide to ignore them!

K: Oh my goodness—yes, BIC and EOTWIP. What are your favorite books?

D: I have a lot of favorites. Among the books I’ve read recently I love Barbara Kerley’s picture book Those Rebels, John & Tom and Thanhha Lai’s book for older kids Inside Out and Back Again, which won the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. I think Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell, a  picture book about Jane Goodall, is terrific.  I read books for adults, too, especially literary fiction. Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth knocked my socks off.

K: You just gave me some books to add to my TBR pile. Lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you want to share?

D: I like to read a gossipy article in People magazine when I’m stuck on a long line at the supermarket checkout.

K: LOL. Um, me too. What did I miss? Anything else you’d like to share?

D: A reporter from Channel 5’s Chronicle came to my home to interview me the other day. That was pretty exciting! I’ll be included in a show devoted to local authors, which will air in a couple of weeks. When I know the date, I’ll note it on my website. Then I’ll be talking about The Great Molasses Flood and signing books at the Concord Bookshop on April 1 (no fooling!) at 3 p.m. My friend Heather Lang will be there, too, to talk about her new picture book Queen of the Track.

K: Congratulations on the Chronicle interview! That’s big news! Can’t wait for that to air.

D: Thanks so much, Kris, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog!

K: You are very welcome. I wish you the best of luck with the book. Deborah can be found on twitter @DeborahKops and on her website