Friday, February 25, 2011

American Idol - When the Journey is Over

I'm a fan.  There, I said it.  I loved Simon--I didn't think the show would survive without his brutal honesty.  But, you know what?  Who knew Steven Tyler (who, by the way, I saw in concert in 1988 with Aerosmith--that doesn't date me too much, does it?) would be so warm and fuzzy.  And nice.  But honest.  I love J.Lo.  And Randy.

But really, do they have to tell the kids "your journey ends here"?  Seriously, the journey is just beginning for some of these singers even if they're not moving forward.  Granted some of the early contestants won't be pop stars.  They should sing to their kids or in the shower and move on.

It's great the way they've been telling some of the contestants who are going home to keep singing.  And to come back again next year. But every single time they said "your journey ends here" last night I cringed.  Because there are so many times that I could have stopped writing. With every rejection, I could have thought "my journey ends here." 

With a picture book contract in my pocket and some exciting new nonfiction freelance work, I'm feeling like my journey is just beginning.  I couldn't have predicted the direction my writing career would take a few years ago. And I know there is more to come.

My advice today for aspiring authors (or anyone aspiring to do anything)--don't let anyone tell you your journey ends here. There might be a twist in the road that you haven't anticipated, but the journey isn't over until YOU say it's over.

Now seriously, any predictions for AI winners?  I'm going with Jacob Lusk or Casey Abrams.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MY Picture Book...Yes, I said MINE!

I can now officially announce that I've signed a contract with 4RV Publishing for my picture book THE WORST CASE OF PASKETTI-ITIS.  Scheduled for publication sometime in late 2015, the story was written as a result of my three-year-old daughter's refusal to eat anything except pasta.  I took it a step (or two) further and gave my MC THE WORST CASE.

As a bit of background, the original text was written in 2006, revised as a result of two separate critique groups over three years.  In 2009, it was revised again as a result of an editor critique at the 2009 NESCBWI conference in Nashua, NH.  It's been a long road for this story.

From my query letter:
Pasta is the perfect food to Petunia! There are so many different varieties! Why should she eat anything else? Her mother, her teacher, and even the lunch-lady, warn her that she might turn into pasta if she doesn’t try something else. Could she really turn into pasta? Would it be farfalle? Or maybe fettuccini? Petunia finds out, to her dismay, that “you are what you eat.”

On a whim I sent it to 4RV during their submission window in October 2010--I knew of several people who had published with 4RV and I thought THE WORST CASE might be a good fit.  On a snow day in early February 2011, I got an email saying they were interested in it.  First I hyperventilated.  Then, I composed a calm and professional email about how excited I was about working with them.  I had a contract in my inbox later that afternoon.

Reading the contract took a few days.  I had a few people help me decipher some of the legal language.  I asked some questions of the editor.  I signed it, notarized it, and sent it back to Oklahoma.

Today, I received my executed contract.  My first contract that isn't work-for-hire.  My own work.  My own character.  My own idea.  I'm going to have an illustrator bring my character to life.

::SQUEE::  !!!!

My daughter is now 8 and eats slightly more than just pasta, but the story still resonates. She'll turn 13 just after the book is published--I hope she's won't be mortified!  On second thought, hopefully her culinary palate will be broader by then.  :)

For those of you wondering, I'm still working on my work-for-hire.  And I'm still querying my YA novel.  And, yes, I've got a few more picture book manuscripts up my sleeve.  You never know what's coming next!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Central Massachusetts Kidlit Drink Night--Take Two

The last central Massachusetts Meet Up went so well -- click here for pictures.  So many people asked if we can do it again and I was going to wait until after the NESCBWI conference, but really, why wait?

So I'm thinking about Tuesday, April 26, 7:00ish until whenever.
Same place--because it's easy for me.  Westford Grille in Westford, MA.  If anyone has an idea for another location, let me know for future events.

We had 12 writers last time--feel free to spread the word.  Just let me know if you're planning on being there so I can tell the restaurant.  Tweet away, blog away!  All are welcome--writers, illustrators, editors, agents, booksellers, bloggers, librarians...

Making connections face-to-face was so exciting. And motivating.  I want to do it again!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Contest Winners

Well, my followers contest didn't generate the overwhelming enthusiasm I thought it would. :)  I think I need to work on my marketing strategy for next time.

At any rate, I used to pick three winners.  And they are:


None of you indicated your preference for prizes, so I'll be emailing you to ask what you prefer!  Thanks for following!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Central Massachusetts Kidlit Drink Night--Wrap Up

A few weeks ago, I decided to pull together a meet-up for writers and other folks interested in children's books.  I'm excited to say that on Tuesday night, twelve writers gathered for drinks and appetizers in Westford, Massachusetts.  We had a great time chatting, comparing experiences, and generally enjoying the company of like-minded friends.

I need to be better about taking pictures, but here are a few (and thanks to Heather; there are a few more on her blog)

Heather Kelly, Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Jeanne Munn Bracken
Martha, Deb, and me.

We'll do it again, probably after the New England SCBWI conference in May.  Stay tuned if you'd be interested in joining us then.

And to the ladies who came...It was so nice to meet you on Tuesday.  I really look forward to seeing you all again really soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interview with author, Amy Sue Nathan

I am thrilled to introduce Amy Sue Nathan today.  Amy and I met through an online class offered through WritersU  in the spring of 2010.  While we were comparing our writing backgrounds, we realized we both had recently been finalists in a pitch contest offered by We’ve stayed in touch ever since.  Read our winning pitches, here.

Kris: Thanks for joining me on my blog today, Amy!  I’m so excited to have a chance to showcase you to my readers.  

Amy: You’re sweet, Kris!  It’s hard to think of myself as “someone to be interviewed”!

Kris:  You're totally worthy of being interviewed!!  You recently signed with an agent.  I know you had an interesting journey getting there.  Can you talk a little about that process? 

Amy: Absolutely!  I spent about four years getting my book to the point where it was actually ready to be seen by literary agents. I sent 127 queries in 10 months, with about a 27% request rate. (I know writers like to know the numbers).  To me, the more queries I sent, the more chances I had I’d connect with the right agent.  In the middle of the process I entered that same QueryTracker contest you did. We were both winners – and I signed with Jason Yarn of the Paradigm Agent, who served as the contest judge, seven months after that.  I always say I could’ve had a baby in the time it took me to get an agent!

Kris: I love success stories where people were persistent!  Congrats on signing with Jason!  Can you share a bit about what you and Jason are working on right now?  Is your relationship with him what you expected?  Or completely different? 

Amy: My novel went out on submission and I’m not embarrassed to say that there were rejections.  Based on the little bit of feedback received, Jason and I found a thread, and I’ve been making changes to the manuscript based on that.  I just finished those revisions and will get the manuscript back to Jason soon – and I hope it will be circulating among some agent again this spring. My relationship with Jason is exactly what I’d have wanted from an agent.  He’s hands-on but he doesn’t hover.  He’s honest but diplomatic.  He has been instrumental in helping me kick up the book a few notches.

Kris: Good luck with your next round of submissions!  Exciting!  How long have you been writing?  What made you start to write seriously?  What genres do you write?

Amy: I wrote a book about Barbies when I was in elementary school, took pictures with a black and white camera, developed them in my dad’s darkroom and made my own book.  My work has always included writing – but it was corporate and non-profit organization writing – yes, before the days of the internet!  I didn’t write for a long time when I had my kids and then started again about eight or nine years ago. I started publishing about five years ago after I read a column in the Chicago Tribune and thought “I could write that.” I wrote essays and articles for about three years before I tried fiction – and it wasn’t an easy switch.  Now I write almost exclusively women’s fiction – with a bit of a literary slant, which I think means it’s accessible, but smart.  I can live with that!

Kris:  I also did a lot of black and white developing as a teen--something I didn't know we had in common.  Cool!  Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?

Amy: Well right now I’m re-reading all my revisions to THE GLASS HOUSE, which is my novel that will go back out on submission.  I wrote a second novel that’s now living under my mattress, so my third novel is in the first draft stage.  At the moment (because these things change) it’s about a divorced mom (all my protags are divorced moms) who lies about being in a relationship so her friends and family will stop nagging her to date.  Then she’s asked to become an online relationship expert and has to live the lie for much longer than she intended.  Of course in the end she has to come clean and doesn’t know if she’ll end up more alone than she was before because of her lies.  Like I said, it’s VERY first draft!

Kris: My book club will definitely be reading your book.  Where do you find your inspiration? 

Amy: Around me.  The inspiration for THE MARRIED HOUSE, which is the working title for novel #3, came from the 1945 movie Christmas in Connecticut.  In general I take one thing – like a lie about what someone’s home life is really like – and build a story around it. 

Kris:  I love classic movies--also great inspiration.  Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?  

Amy: I’m a full time writing-related professional.  I freelance write and edit and I work for Backspace ( which is a writer’s organization. I have a son in college, a daughter in high school and two dogs – I’m a divorced mom like my protags, but my life is much less complicated than theirs!  

Kris: What is the biggest challenge you find with your writing? 

Amy: Organizing my thoughts.  Sometimes they get jumbled, especially in the beginning stages.  I’m working on that!   

Kris:  I think we can all relate to that.  I know I can!  What are your favorite books or movies

Amy: How much time do you have? I’d say a movie I can watch over and over again is Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.  Also in that category is Who’s Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. My favorite book is much harder!  Two books that really affected me were Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood and Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner.  I was either late teen’s or early twenties when I read Cat’s Eye and that’s when I became conscious of wanting to write well.  I read Good in Bed only about four years ago, but I realized that fictional characters can be “really real”.  I also was blown away by a turn-of-events mid-book and knew then that I wanted to be able to do that for my readers.

Kris:  I haven't read either Cat's Eye or Good in Bed, they're going on my "to read" list !  Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share? 

Amy: CHOC-O-LATE!  I am a non-repentant chocoholic.  I don’t even share chocolate with my characters, I have them enjoy things I don’t enjoy – it’s much more interesting to write! Evie, the main character in THE GLASS HOUSE, loves to bake.  I do not like baking.  It makes too much of a mess, and who needs cookies drowning out perfectly good chocolate chips?

Kris: Now I know why we get along!  LOVE Chocolate, HATE to bake. If people would like to get to know you better, do you tweet?  Blog?  

Amy: I tweet, I blog, therefore I am.  ;-) I blog at  and at where I’m a contributor and the coordinating editor.  I tweet as @AmySueNathan and @bksp_org.  

Kris: Amy, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  I wish you the best of luck with THE GLASS HOUSE and with the new WIP.  I can't wait to see both of them in my local bookstore!  And readers, don't forget to check out my 99 followers and counting contest--here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

99 and Counting AND a contest

My first blog post was on September 14, 2007--not a very awe-inspiring first post.  But there it is.  Most of my followers, though, have arrived in the last 12 months.  My intentional blogging really started this past year.

I started the blog to keep a record, for myself, of my writing journey.  My writing has evolved since then, as has the blog.  And the focus of my writing has changed too.  I've gone from writing short stories for my daughter, to picture book manuscripts.  Then I moved to writing nonfiction and Young Adult.  My writing career has come full circle as I've recently had some professional interest in a picture book manuscript I wrote several years ago (check back soon for something official).

I want to celebrate my followers.  I'm almost at 100--which seems like an incredible milestone.  I want to pay it forward.  I've had so much support and encouragement from the blogging community.  I loved Amie Borst's recent 150 followers celebration.  Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious!

Here's what I have to offer:

1. An ARC of Holly Cupala's TELL ME A SECRET
2. An autographed copy of Stacy DeKeyser's JUMP THE CRACKS
3. My own TAURUS VIRGO & CAPRICORN: ALL ABOUT THE EARTH SIGNS (autographed, of course)

And for anyone who wants it: a critique of your query letter--I'm not an expert, but have had some interest from my own YA query letter, so I like to think I might have something helpful to offer.  Leave the text and your email address in the comments.  Or if you'd rather not leave it publicly--let me know and we can exchange email info.

The Rules:

You have to be a follower (new or old!).  And please put your preferred order of prizes in the comments.  Contest closes at midnight on Friday, February 18, 2011.

Tweet, Facebook, or Blog -- and please put each link in a separate comment box for an additional entry.  I don't know how to use the fancy points system.  I'll use simple random number generator, so each entry needs to be in a separate box.

And thank you to everyone for the support and community I've found through my blog!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Sounds like one of the trainings I coordinate for corporate clients at work. It is also important to people who freelance, or work from home, or write novels...

I have a job in real life. But as a writer who has written for the educational market and published a hand full of nonfiction books, I consider my writing a real part-time job.

It can feel very solitary. And it is hard for me to self-motivate sometimes. That's usually when I call or email my critique group, or arrange to go sit in a coffee shop next to my sister, or reach out through the internet to other writers. 

It's important to be accountable to yourself, whether you're writing a newspaper article, your first novel, or a work for hire assignment. What are your writing goals? What do you want to be "when you grow up?" Are you hoping to be a full-time writer? Or are you content writing for yourself or your children?

After myself, I feel accountable to my writing group. I trust them--we consider the successes of each other as successes for ourselves. I feel accountable to my spouse and child--after all, the time I spend writing is often time I spend away from them.  I'm accountable to my editor. Thinking those to whom I'm accountable sometimes helps me pull myself off the couch or away from twitter to get back to the work of writing.

Who are you accountable to?  And does it help?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Facebook or Not to Facebook

As an aspiring author--even though I've published a few non fiction Work-for-Hire books, I still consider myself aspiring--I struggle with how much promotion I need or want to do.

Over the weekend, during a conversation with my sister and mother, I decided to start my own "fan" page on Facebook. This will allow me to keep my own personal page separate from a more public persona. 

I've also taken the leap into Twitter. 

I'm not required to promote my work-for-hire books, but why wouldn't I want to?  I love making connections with fellow writers/authors, and it would so cool to connect to readers. 

Please feel free to "like" my Facebook page icon on the left hand sidebar.  I'd love to get comments from others who have taken the leap.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Interesting Week or How to Ignore the Distractions

It's been an interesting week.  One and a half snow days threw my schedule off completely.

But here are some of the writing-related things I did this week:

I wrote about 200 new words on a fiction WIP (not a ton, I know, but still)
I started an outline for a nonfiction work for hire project
I communicated with my new editor for same nonfiction project
I received a contract for a picture book manuscript (squee!)
I talked to an agent (not about representation, but it was a great convo)

So I just realized I had interaction with an editor, an agent, and a publisher--all in the last three days.  Hmm.  Not at all what I expected at the beginning of the week.  The three interactions were all really different--but all of them were generous with their time and genuinely cool people.  While I can't talk details, all three are sort of milling around in my brain competing for energy.

And distracting me from the actual work I should be doing.  Writing.  But in a good way.

OK, so the title of this post sort of suggests I'm going to explain how to ignore the distractions.  Honestly I have no idea.

How do you tune out the distractions?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

THE RED PYRAMID by Rick Riordon

From Goodreads:
Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

I seriously picked up this book as I started some research about Ancient Egypt.  Not that it IS research, mind you, but I thought it would be good inspiration.  I didn't really expect to love it like I did.

This story tells the story of Carter and Sadie Kane, children of famed Egyptologist Julius Kane. They witness their father open a portal which releases five major ancient Egyptian gods. In the ensuing explosion they are each possessed by one of the gods. Carter and Sadie discover that they are descendants of pharaohs and their possession is a powerful magical event. This kicks off the action which takes the Kane children to Paris, Washington D.C., Graceland in Memphis, New Orleans, England, and Phoenix. They must defeat the god of Chaos, Set, before he destroys the world.

This was a great book--full of mystery, adventure, and a really cool premise. I loved every minute of it. The story is told alternately by Sadie and Carter, through a "transcription" of a recording the kids make about their experiences. I really liked the idea of the transcribed recording. There are even little asides to each other as they are "recording" their parts of the story.

I've already got my name on the list for the next book in the series from my local library!

Read any good ancient myths lately?

The Best 150 Followers Contest. Ever.

The Best 150 Followers Contest. Ever.

Cool contest by Amie Borst. I entered, did you?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Getting Organized with THE WRITE PLANNER

Back in December, I was the lucky winner of THE WRITE PLANNER on Michelle Teacress' blog.  It was an early Christmas present--and oh so fun to win something just for me!!

I told her I'd write a review, but I've hesitated because, um, my husband got me a smart phone for my birthday (a few days after I won the planner).  The planner is soooo cool.  The phone is cooler.

BUT.  I need to get organized.  Need. To. Get. Organized.
I've got two nonfiction contracts for books in an Ancient Egypt set due this spring.  I've got an article to write for a friend of a friend's blog.  I have an itchy-scratchy feeling that another round of revisions might be an order on my completed novel.  Oh yeah, and I've got two WIPs that need some attention.  It's awesome to be busy with writing, but how do I multitask?

So back to the WRITE PLANNER.  It's got a space to fill in your daily word goals.  And space to write quick notes on each day.  And great inspirational quotes.  And a monthly calendar for quick reference.  It's a perfect [smallish] size--so it's not meant to get cluttered up with all your other activities.  You can get you own here at the Writer Remedies website.

Now I just need to use it. 

Anyone have any other tips for getting/staying organized?