December 2009 Archives

Great opening scene - The Middle of Somewhere

middle of somewhere.jpg Because the squirrel got in the house and Mama had to have surgery on her knee, Ronnie has to take care of her younger brother, Gee, who is ADHD. When their only living relative, her grandfather who lives and travels in an RV, shows up. He agrees to take the kids on a trip. But she knows Gee will ruin the trip, which he does. But if you want to know how, you'll have to read J.B. Cheaney's The Middle of Somewhere (Knopf, 2007), which she herself describes as a "road trip from hell."

The Middle of Somewhere was named a 2008 Kansas Notable Book by the Kansas State Library. Ms. Cheaney's book has recently been nominated for the 2010-2011 Young Hoosier List. She also writes good historical fiction. Read more at her website.

genius.jpgI am a GENIUS of UNSPEAKABLE EVIL and I want to be your CLASS PRESIDENT by Josh Lieb (Razorbill, 2009) is as funny as the title. It's also a story of revenge, manipulation, and sadness, although the main character, 7th grader Oliver Watson, would never admit to the last. The former two, yes. Winning, yes. Oliver is rich and as the title says--a genius, although he works very hard to keep both facts under wraps.

I kept reading snippets of this story aloud to my husband as they HAD to be shared. The text is embellished with pictures Oliver wants you to see, but only those as he is in control!

Read about author Josh Lieb, his day job, and the writing of this book at:

I cannot judge my work

I cannot judge my work while I am doing it. I have to do as painters do, stand back and view it from a distance, but not too great a distance.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Meet Editors and Agents - Online

It used to be hearing an editor or agent at a conference or event was the only way to discover what he or she was like personally. That's not true anymore. These days you can also learn about an agent's or editor's personality, pet peeves, likes and dislikes and more on the web. Many editors and agents are active with blogs and/or on twitter. Some of the blogs are personal blogs; some are official agency blogs.

Last spring on her blog, Editor Martha Mihalick talked about some of her favorite places in books.

This summer both Agent Kate Schafer Testerman and Agent Elana Roth tweeted about their frustrations of going through queries. Kate shared on twitter after posting requirements on her blog. Elana reposted her tweets as a collection on her agency's blog afterwards. One of the biggest complaints both had was that people don't follow submission directions.

Agents and editors have pet peeves, too. Look at these agents' comments. Jennifer DeChiara tweeted, "Never say 'in regards to.' Just say 'about.' 'I am writing about' instead of 'I am writing in regards to.' Please. I'm begging here." From Barry Goldblatt's Query Lessons: "'Word-jockey' Is an idiotic euphemism for 'writer.'" Lauren E. MacLeod tweets, "Am getting *really* tired of pre-query emails. Just query. If I don't want it, I'll reject."

Do agents ever purchase manuscripts from unpublished writers? Of course! Colleen Lindsay tweeted, "The first project I sold was an unpublished writer. Got her a two-book deal at Pocket. The writing is what matters."

Meeting an editor or agent at a conference helps you realize they are just people like you are. A recent tweet from Agent Jennifer Laughran illustrates that concept, "Faced with 2 equally good choices. To pick either disappoints somebody. What to do? What to do? Horns of dilemma. Ow. OW. QUIT IT, DILEMMA!" As does this one from Editor Ruta Rimas "EEEEp. Has anyone ever been too afraid to read an ms? I really want to love this one and am scared to be disappointed...!!!"

Some tweets may be rather mundane, like comments on the weather, but still give a taste of personality. In the summer Editor Sarah Shumway tweeted, "is there a snowy, chilly book you can recommend that will take me far, far away from the muggy afternoon?" By contrast Editor Kristin Daly tweeted on another day, "But the REAL excitement: Mailroom just brought me advance copies of two fab fall books. Hooray! This rainy, gloomy day is def. looking up."

They all worry about whether their books will do well. Here's a tweet from Editor Elizabeth Law, "Now that G-Force is a hit, I am hoping that guinea pigs will ride a wave of uber-popularity, in time for our own Guinea Dog." Or have hopes for their books. This blog shares some comments from Editor Nancy Mercado on Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle.

Interviews of these figures are often online, too. On this site Editor Laura Arnold discusses editing and publishing book. Sometimes the interviews are directly on the publishing house's site as is the case for this one for Editor Louise May.

So interested in an editor or agent? Of course, you'll read books they've edited and agented, attend conferences where they are, but also find out as much as you can about them on the internet.

Some Useful Resources: Bloggers Who Interview Agents and Editors

Alice Pope's CWIM Blog -
Cynthia Leitich Smith -
Cynthea Liu - in her "Take the Dare" challenge
Wordhustler by John L. Singleton and Anne Walls

You have to write a

You have to write a lot. And you have to rewrite what you wrote a lot more.

Holly Black

If I haven't written it,

If I haven't written it, I can't fix it. The real fun part of writing is revising.

Graham Salisbury

You thought you had it tough? - Sweetgrass Basket

sweet-grassbasket.jpgTry early 1900s when you are forced to leave your father and go to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where people look down on you!

In Sweetgrass Basket (Dutton, 2005) Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, are sent away after the death of their mother. This novel is told in verse and from both girls' viewpoints. It's hard for them to have to think in English and to give up their culture, but it's harder knowing they can't see their father.

Thanks to Readergirlz for introducing me to this historical novel!

Marlene Carvell was inspired to write this story based on her husband's great-aunt's experience. Read more about the author at Readergirlz and her own site.

Powerful Book - Hate List

hate list.jpgHate List (Little, Brown 2009) by Jennifer Brown is one of those "must read" books. Valerie Leftman's school can't decide if she is a hero or a villain. It was her boyfriend who opened fire in the school commons killing and wounding students last May. Is she a hero for taking a bullet for another student when she tried to stop Nick? Or did she plan it with him with their "Hate List" and discussions about suicide? Now she's going back to school after the summer. Her counselor says she can do this, but Val is not so sure.

Watch the book trailer here.

Check out the first chapter on Jennifer's website:

Change is not made without

Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.

Richard Hooker

We must wake up knowing

We must wake up knowing we have work to do and go to bed knowing we have done it.

Audrey Lord