Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feeling like a Writer

What makes you feel like a writer?

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

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

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

What makes you feel like a real writer?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reading Electronically

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

I'm getting an e-reader.

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

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

No. No, I really just want to read.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just call me Professor

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins

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

The blurb, from Goodreads:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Central Mass Kid Lit Meet Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who Does YOUR Hair?

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

“Who does your hair?”

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

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

And he’s not a relative.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Interview with Joyce Shor Johnson of Pugalicious Press

Pugalicious Press is one of the newest small presses to come onto the children's literature scene. They make their home in New Hampshire, where there is a rich history of iconic literary voices. Both Joyce Shor Johnson and Jennifer Carson are Acquiring Editors. Together they make up Pugalicious Press.

K: I’m honored to welcome Joyce Shor Johnson to my blog today. Hi Joyce! You've already announced your first book, HAPENNY MAGIC by New Hampshire author, Jennifer Carson, available March 21, 2012. (Note: Jen's one of my crit partners, and I've read HM--it's wonderful! For an interview with Jen today, visit Laura Pauling's blog.) 

K: Can you tell my readers how and why you decided to start your own press?

J: We wanted great books! There are so many wonderful manuscripts that are not being published because they may not fit into the catalogs of the typical big publishing houses. These are the books that we want to make available, the books that large publishers won't take risks on. We started Pugalicious Press in order to reach out to readers: kids, parents, teachers, and librarians, and give them stories full of well-developed characters, adventure, fun and heart. With world turmoil and hard economic times still ahead, we believe that children need to be able to enjoy positive themes that have a positive impact on the world we live in. Not just focusing on death and zombies.  Don't get me wrong, I love zombies, my heart bleeds for their inability to be human.

K: What a great philosophy--I think I'm going to love your books. What has your response been like so far? Any surprises?

J: The most terrifying moment was actually opening up for submissions and dreading that no one would submit to us. Then seeing the time stamp on the first query being 12:02 AM was our oh yeah, this is real moment. So far, we have requested a dozen full manuscripts and have two authors we are extending contracts to just as soon as I hit the send key. As for surprises, initially we received an enormous number of submissions from Australia. I guess they love the pug down under! Ahh... that sounds kind of dirty-minded but I think you know what I mean!

K: LOL--love it! How long did it take to get the press off the ground?

J: Once we made the decision to do this and had the complete backing of our families, it seemed to all fall into place rather quickly. Both Jen and I had been seriously researching and considering launching small presses on our own. When I heard from a mutual writer friend that Jen was thinking about launching a press as well, I called her to see if would be interested in combining our talents. We've been in the dog house together ever since.

K: I think you both made a great decision--knowing you both, I think you're going to do great work together. By the way, where does the name come from?

J: We are both dog lovers. She has big yellow dogs and I have a goofy looking pug. We chose the goofy one because it is fun and everyone remembers the name. It has recognition and that is half the marketing battle.

K: As a MG/YA writer, I love that you're dedicated to MG and YA--are you looking for anything in particular in those genres? Anything you're expressly NOT looking for?

J: Our main focus is on fantasy, high adventure, historical fiction, and (a very small number of) dystopian (but only if it has a fantastical element). We are not accepting picture books, chapter books, poetry or non-fiction submissions.

K: Sounds like a lot of my readers will like your variety! Can you give us a little preview of what's coming up next for Pugalicious?

J: Next up is THE CASTING, A middle grade historical adventure about a girl in 350 AD Ireland who wants to be a bronze caster. We are also planning a historical themed anthology of short stories for young adults. We will be putting out a call for submissions just after the new year. So keep checking the blog for the announcement.

K: We'll be on the lookout! Thanks for the heads up! Anything I've missed that you want to share?

J: We hope that writers continue to submit to us. One of our goals is to give feedback with all correspondence, particularly rejections. Just because we reject a manuscript doesn't mean that it won't someday warrant merit. It might just not be ready and we want the writer to keep working at their craft. With our various levels of involvement with SCBWI, we repeatedly hear writers voice the frustration of not getting feedback on why something was rejected. As writers ourselves we understand this need and hope to be able to give some modest feedback on big issues we may find. There may come a point where we can no longer do this as the volume of submissions increase.

Please understand that we are truly a publishing company, but a small one. So if you are looking for big $$$ upfront, we can't offer you that. What we can offer a solid contract and a truly unique publishing experience where you can be an active participant in the creative process of bringing your book to market.

K: Thanks Joyce! I love that you're so diligent about wanting to give writers feedback. Good luck with everything you're working on--I know you're super busy! And thanks for taking the time to join me today!

If Pugalicious Press sounds like the kind of publisher you want to work with see their submission guidelines at You can also visit Joyce at her own blog.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Golf Tip Tuesday: Keep Your Head Down

This sort of goes along with Keep Your Eye on the Ball, but Keep Your Head Down is almost as important.

When you're playing golf, if you're worried about the other stuff around you, it's MUCH harder to play well. Don't look at the guy next to you, don't look at the bird that just flew by, don't look at the pretty lights.

Keep Your Head Down. And hit the ball.

And if you're a writer, you need to do the same. Don't get distracted by twitter, don't get bogged down by the market or changes in the industry, don't look at the pretty lights. Keep Your Head Down. And write the book.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Launch for Anna Staniszewski's MY VERY UNFAIRYTALE LIFE

I had the opportunity to attend Anna Staniszewski's book launch last night for her middle grade novel MY VERY UNFAIRYTALE LIFE. I haven't been to many book launches, so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. All I knew was that Laura Pauling was driving down to my house (two hours) and we were driving into Boston together--I wasn't going to miss it.

Like a very smart parent, I arranged for my child to bring a friend--warring DSi's in the back seat meant that Laura and I could talk uninterrupted about writing, agents, plot lines, etc.

We met Heather Kelly for an early dinner--and as fate would have it--the kids all got along beautifully. I have no idea what they talked about. But we grown ups talked about writing in the digital age, and agents, and NESCBWI conferences, and writing.
Anna's book signing was at the Children's Book Shop in Brookline--absolutely the most adorable book store I've ever been in. Here's a picture of Anna in front of the display of her books. And yes, she glowed with that same beautiful smile the whole time!!

Anna reading from her book.

Signing a young fan's copy.

Me, Heather Kelly, Anna Staniszewski, Kip Rechea, Laura Pauling
Of course we ended up running into other writers. Kip Rechea stopped by. Anna's fabulous agent Joan Paquette was also in attendance--she actually took the picture (thanks Joan!).

Anna had little origami frogs, mini-golf (yes!), a nice array of themed cookies. Kids and adults loved it. So wonderful to see such a nice turnout.

I was fortunate to have had the chance to read this ARC back over the summer--Read my review here--so it was even more exciting to be at the launch. Congratulations to Anna!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things we take for granted...

I'm pretty sure this is the first time in over a year that I've gone more than a week without posting. But I have a good excuse! From Saturday night until Tuesday morning, we didn't have power at the house. While the generator kept the furnace and fridge running, we didn't have power to run luxuries like the laptop or the TV, much to the chagrin of my daughter.

It's a good lesson in the things we take for granted. Like hot coffee and hot showers. Warm house. Cold milk and frozen popsicles. Turning on the TV to watch the news.

With my smart phone, I was able to keep tabs on my neighbors through facebook and track who had power and who didn't. We arranged to shower at a friend's house. But three days passed without working on the revisions, without turning the tube on, without sleeping particularly well. And the worst thing? Halloween was canceled. Well, postponed. For Friday, November 4. Which isn't Halloween. Weird.

We learned the third grader can kick our butts in Monopoly. We learned that as long as we're warm and have hot coffee, we can survive almost anything. We learned that we have exceptional neighbors.

I feel like I've missed a week of my life. But I'm thankful for my community, my family, and the power of a hot cup of coffee.

View from my front door. Did I mention we got a foot of snow?