August 2010 Archives

Writing is long periods of thinking and

Writing is long periods of thinking and short periods of writing.
Ernest Hemingway

justincase.jpgBe prepared to laugh out loud when reading Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters (Feiwel and Friends, 2010) by Rachel Vail. The story is told in diary style and has fun illustrations by Matthew Cordell.

3rd grader Justin Krzeszewski gets nicknamed Justin Case because he's a worry wart. He's afraid of "The Way-Back in the Basement," robbers breaking in, dogs--especially the dog he begged for--his new teacher, classmate Xavier Schwartz, and more. Here's a sample of Justin's perspective on third grade: "I figured out why it is called cursive: because of the bad words you think when you can't draw the dumb letters right."

Rachel Vail is a prolific author, and, as I found out at the LA SCBWI conference, a good speaker. She shared that she wrote this book for one of her sons. A month later I still find myself grinning over part of her talk. Go to the SCBWI blog for some snippets: Standing Room Only and Keynote.

Lean more about Rachel and her books here. Check out the Fun Stuff link. See more o Matthew Cordell's art here. Read his blog and find out about work he's doing for a book by Gail Carson Levine!

My aim is to put down on paper

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and feel in the best and simplest way.
Ernest Hemingway

7th Grade - no laughing matter - Mackenzie Blue

mackenzie blue 01.jpgUnless you're getting to read about it! Yesterday, I got caught laughing out loud in a waiting room as I finished reading Mackenzie Blue by Tina Wells (HarperCollins, 2009). I laughed so often that others commented that I must be reading a good book.

Mackenzie's got the common fear of starting 7th grade, plus her BFF has moved away. Jasper--recently moved from England--is her friend, but she's supposed to be helping him. Of course, there's a mean girl . . . or is she? A crush interest. A new teacher whom Zee likes, but someone's trying to get fired. Mix in embarrassing events (I'm not just talking parents), a lost diary, a rock band, a Teen Sing competition, and life is pretty much hopping at Brookdale Academy.

thesecretcrush.jpgBut wait, when you get done with the book, you don't have to leave Mackenzie Blue's life. Next up is The Secret Crush (2010). Science projects, homework, parties, and best yet a Rock and Roll Musical that is more important to Zee than anything. Well, except her relationship with her BFF (why can't Ally be here to help her out?) and the confusion about one certain boy, complicated by two new kids joining the music class, and a note from a secret admirer.

Just out is Friends Forever? What could be better than a week at camp with allfriendsforever.jpg your friends? Well, not having to worry about bugs and wild animals and weird bathrooms . . . or the mysterious MOUNTAIN MAN! And how come Mackenzie's friends are arguing? What's a girl to do?!

I'm still smiling from reading these two books this afternoon--yes, I'll confess, I read them straight through one after the other. Looking forward to the next book scheduled to come out in December, as well.

You also won't want to miss the Mackenzie Blue website where you can check out Kathi's closet, take a quiz to see which character you are, see the lost diary, get green tips from Jasper and money tips from Marcus. Oh, and you can even read about the author, Tina Wells!

Keeping Track


Do you ever have trouble keeping track of your submissions? Or wonder how to maintain an organized set of records? I've had problems, too. (Especially when I've had 30 plus submissions out at a time!)

Or are you a beginning writer wondering what records you should keep? To begin with you might not need all the following, but keeping accurate records now avoids a big job later.

Here are a few things I've learned over the years:

First, when I submit a piece I update my records before sealing the envelope or hitting send on the email. This way I don't forget to enter the information and am less likely to make mistakes. I also have four ways submission data is recorded:
• by manuscript
• current submissions
• financial, and
• by market.

Each story or article has its own record. I prefer to do it on individual 3x5 cards, but obviously it could be done in a spread sheet or database. The information I enter here is basic: date and where I've sent the piece, what the expected report time is, what response I received and when I received the response. Other useful information is noted on the card as well. See below.

Title of Story
Date Sent to: Reports: Received: Date:
1/5/04 ABC Magazine 4-6 weeks personal rejection 2/28/04
3/1/04 Magazine DEF 2 months standard rejection 5/15/04
5/20/04 G's Magazine 8-10 weeks -- --
9/2/04 inquiry letter sent re: status (SASP included) note: didn't receive - please resend 10/1/04
10/6/04 resent manuscript encouraging rejection 12/1/04
12/6/04 Magazine of HJ 12 weeks $125.00 3/13/05
SOLD all rights, will appear in the November '05 issue

With this system it takes seconds for me to see how many times a manuscript has been out and what type of response it has had. I staple the 3x5 card or cards to a manila folder which holds a copy of the story or article and any research information, correspondence, photo releases, etc. These manila folders are filed in a drawer in alphabetical order. If I need to write to the editor regarding the status of the manuscript, I add a paper clip to the folder tab so at a glance I can locate pieces in that stage.

I also have a computer record of all manuscripts currently "out." On the left are magazine/publisher names. Next I show what I've sent to each one. Besides a specific story title, the column could indicate a query letter about a proposed article, or a request for a sample copy, guidelines and theme list. The right columns are for "response time" and the expected response date based on when I sent the manuscript. It might also include a note that the manuscript is being "held for possible future use." I use a symbol to show I've sent an inquiry letter (>) regarding status of the manuscript.

I also use symbols to indicate type of markets, i.e. religious (+), and to differentiate between magazine (*) and book publishers. Recently I've added color coding. Magazines for teens are highlighted in one color, middle grade another, etc.

A blank in the "manuscript" column indicates this publisher is "available" for me to submit something else. Though I might also put a note in italics reminding me that this house or magazine only takes queries.

In the same file I keep a list of pieces not sent out. Some may just be waiting for a specific market to open. Others may be marked "revise." A word processor table is handy for keeping these records, though again it could be done in a database, spread sheet or on paper. Again, here's what I keep:
When the market REPORTS

For example:
H , Inc. Granny and the Pet Warfare 1 month 4/10/05

Of course, financial records of submissions are necessary, too. How much postage did it cost me to send that manuscript? Did I enclose an SASE for their "reply only" or an SASE for return of the complete submission? Paper and envelope costs, phone calls, mileage to writers' meetings or speaking engagements, etc. are also recorded. I use a spreadsheet in Excel.

Besides the day to day account of money spent or money received, I also have a summary page broken down by month. I use a spreadsheet, which makes totals by month or by year very easy. But even if you record this information in a notebook, I suggest you total each month when it's over, so tax time will be easier.

Here are my headings: Date, Expense Item (what it was), Publisher/Magazine, Manuscript, Miles, Car Expense, Postage, Supplies, Bank Fees, Utilities, Trip Expenses, Other. I also will include how I paid, i.e. check number, cash, debit. Of course, I keep copies of receipts in a file labeled Writing Expenses and the year.

In addition, I keep a record of each magazine or publisher. I have two separate files: one for magazine submissions and one for book submissions. I note what I've sent and when. This makes it easy to see what type of submissions I have been mailing to a particular market and how often those mailings have gone out. It can eliminate my accidentally resending something to an editor. It also shows me if a market frequently doesn't respond. Here, I also note sales or other pertinent information, such as name changes or unsolicited manuscript moratoriums.

P___ Magazine
Stick 'Em Up - 1/04 - sent inquiry letter re: status 5/04 - no response 8/04
Born in the Wrong Family - 2/03 - suspended publication
S___ L___ (formerly H_______)
sent for new sample copy and new guidelines - 11/04
Jesus Boy - 1/05
T_____ P_____
A Good Example Gone Bad - 4/03 - SOLD, will appear in sister publication F__W__
The Reluctant Helper - 11/03 - SOLD one-time rights 3/04
Space Case Luke - 8/04 - sent inquiry letter re: status 12/04
A Horse for Hallie - 3/05
sent for sample copy, guidelines and theme list/editorial calendar - 10/04

Whether you use my methods or some other, keeping accurate up-to-date records has a variety of benefits. It makes submitting easier; it's encouraging to see how many pieces are "out;" it helps you be aware of lagging responses; and, it's useful at tax time. But what I consider most important--an organized method induces me to get those submissions done and get back to writing.

There’s a difference between getting money

There’s a difference between getting money for what you do and doing it for money. If you don’t do it for love, or because you think it needs doing, get out and let somebody else do it. If nobody else does it, maybe that means it shouldn’t be done.
Emma Bull

This writing business. Pencils and what not.

This writing business. Pencils and what not. Overrated if you ask me.

The living language is like a cow-path

The living language is like a cow-path: it is the creation of the cows themselves, who, having created it, follow it or depart from it according to their whims or their needs. From daily use, the path undergoes change. A cow is under no obligation to stay.
E.B. White