***UPDATE 3/28/14: “Fiction Magic” is now fully funded! Thanks to everyone who contributed. You still have 9 more days to get some fabulous pledge packages, too!***

Sometimes writers need a good kick in the pants.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal writing coach by your side every day to get you moving? She could whip the sheets off you each morning, bugle reveille in your ear, even toast  you an Eggo while you shower.

Eh, who am I kidding? Writers don’t shower!

Anyway…

Author Deb Lund brought together her 20+ years of teaching experience in a magical way—with 54 surprising writing prompts, tips and tricks for you to apply to your work-in-progress whenever you’re feeling stuck. It’s like having that writing coach right there with you, only a lot less annoying. It’s “Fiction Magic”!

Fiction Magic Title screenshotMagicalDebLund

For years, Deb taught 4th- and 5th-grade students how to write, and she wanted to make it cool for them, so she developed these cards. Her real “aha” moment came when she realized that she could teach adults the same way she taught children, using the same FUN strategies. ABRACADABRA! These “magical” cards act as triggers to pull something out of your head that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to coax out.

At the Oregon Silver Falls SCBWI Writing Retreat, star agent Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency attended Deb’s session and then exclaimed, “I want all my writers to have your cards!” Yep, she was that impressed. The only problem? Deb’s cards were a prototype that cost her $200 to produce. How could she make them for a dozen writers? A hundred? A THOUSAND?

Enter Kickstarter. Deb’s Fiction Magic campaign is on right now and it’s 94% funded already! But with just 10 days to go, she needs your help. And believe me, you want her help, too!

Let’s do a few tricks right now, shall we? Whip out your WIP and see if these magical remedies help!

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AGREE TO A BAD DEAL
Your characters must make some bad choices along the way. They may even have to negotiate for something they need or want with people they loathe. Characters may know they’re agreeing to bad deals but feel they have no choice. Or the deals appear good, but fall apart later. Or time factors make the deals even more ominous. Make the stakes of bad deals so high it’s difficult for your characters to back out of them.

When you feel stressed by all that’s on your plate, be gentle with yourself. Let your characters agree to bad deals, but the only agreement you need to make with yourself right now is to write, no matter how bad the writing may seem.

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REVEAL A SECRET
Secrets can be powerful tools or sources of trouble. Or both. What information could your characters unwittingly slip out to the wrong people? Characters could be in danger because of secrets. Other characters could reveal secrets that affect your lead characters, whether the secrets were theirs or not. In trying to cover up secrets or escaping from those trying to conceal secrets, what could go wrong? Who will be angry? Hurt? Feeling betrayed? Put in life or death situations?

Do you keep your dreams secret? Sometimes they need protection, but when you’re ready and the time is right, reveal them to others who believe in you.

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THROW IN AN OBSTACLE
If you’re lucky, you’ll pick this card over and over, because this is Key. Your characters are on quests. Delay them. Interrupt their journeys. Who or what could step in to make your characters stop in their tracks? The interruptions may be people, objects, circumstances, thoughts, feelings… Send your characters merrily down the road, and then run them into roadblocks. Keep tossing them unending hardship. Warm up your pitching arm and let it rip. Throw after throw after throw.

As a writer, you have plenty obstacles. For each one you throw at your character, remove one from your writing life! Where will you start?

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There are 51 more Fiction Magic tricks for you to try. But only if you help Deb reach her goal.

Check out her Kickstarter and create your own magic! (Even if that includes the bugle call. But that’s not for me. I am NOT a morning person!)

kickstarter

 

110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0136by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

As an author, I look forward to my next book release the way parents look forward to the birth of their child. After all, the release date is a birthday of sorts—the day my creation is real to everyone, not just me! If you’ve ever known someone expecting twins, the excitement is even higher—though, the fear associated with the event is also heightened.

This year, I’m having the publishing equivalent of quadruplets:

duckduckmoose orangutangled

snoringbeauty tywrecks

Like I said, I’ve got 99 problems, but a book ain’t one.

I get it. To have her problems, you might be thinking. After all, too many things publishing is a far better problem than too few. Or none at all. But there are problems created by my multiple birthing. Here are a few things you might not consider when praying for a year like this:

  • The whirlwind of marketing becomes a tornado.
    Since January, I’ve done three blog giveaways (the first was a DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE package of a book, a book, and a package of magic erasers, the second was a piece of Aaron Zenz’s original art, and the third is the autographed book we will give away here on this blog) with a fourth one coming up. I’ve done 42 Skype classroom visits—not including the 14 I have scheduled for the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS launch. I’ve flown to a conference in California and done a bunch of signings. I’ve revamped my website, I’ve had educator guides created, I’ve read the books so many times I have them memorized. And on the 7th day I rested…except, not really. Remember, all these marketing things are in addition to my regular job of writing, revising, preparing workshops, creating professional development. Oh, and raising all my kids.
  • orangutangsbyaaronToo much of anything is good for nothing.
    As much as we want to see our books in print, publishing is about more than just personal accomplishment—t’s about sales. While my ego might be excited by multiple books out at the same time, the market is another story. Have you ever heard of market saturation? Economic theory says in a given market, only so much growth can be supported. For authors, that means there are only so many new books a consumer will buy at a given time. Having too many books at once can actually reduce the probability that a fan will buy all of them, just because he may not want to buy more than a certain number of books within a short time period. This principle also extends to recognition. It’s highly unlikely that you’d have multiple books nominated for a given award in the same year. So you’ve increased your overcall competition by competing with yourself.
  • The “what have you done for me lately?” problem.
    Let’s face it—people are basically raccoons, distracted by whatever is new and shiny. And if you have a bunch of books come out at once, chances are, that will be followed by a long gap until your next release. But a book only keeps it’s “new car smell” for a finite amount of time. When something else new and shiny comes along, you won’t be able to compete and the raccoons will move on.

So, who still wants to have lots of books published at once? And who doesn’t?

Well, let me tell you a secret—it’s not up to you.

For the most part, publishers work on their schedule. And their concerns aren’t your concerns. So books may come out slowly at regular intervals, or they might appear all at once. As authors, we don’t have much say in this.

So how do you deal with this? How can you turn all these negatives into something positive for you?

I’ve given you the problems, so let me propose some solutions:

  • Find your overarching narrative.
    Whenever I have a book release, I take the details of its inspiration and craft a storyline that matches to a theme. For example, every night at bedtime in my house, my kids go nuts. My son, especially, when he was younger, he refused to sleep—no naps, no bedtime, no nothing. He was absolutely convinced I was going to do something awesome. This became the backstory for CHICKS RUN WILD, and I’ve introduced the book to hundreds if not thousands of readers by telling this story. With each of your books, you should be creating a narrative as well—but when you have multiple books at once, think of an umbrella narrative that talks about all the books. For example, DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE and ORANGUTANGLED are both about having bad days (though they resolve that issue differently). When I talk about them together, I tell my audience about taking bad days, mistakes, blunders and turning them into inspiration. They’re also both about friendship, and the different ways your friends can help you get through a rough patch. When you have one narrative, that message starts to represent you as a brand instead of the individual products/books. And at the end of the day, you want fans of your brand, not just your book.
  • Coordinate efforts.
    When you start marketing one book, leave yourself openings to market the others. For example, when I was booking release day virtual visits for SNORING BEAUTY and I had too many requests, I offered the folks I couldn’t schedule in March a spot on the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS release day. So instead of having to start from scratch for the next release, I’ve got some legwork done already.

sudiptabookmarkUse this principle in your marketing materials, too. Having bookmarks printed? Think about designing something that works for all your new releases. Making postcards? Create a “New for 2014” card instead of individual designs.

Just breathe. As I said before, in the grand scheme of things, having too many things published at once is the better dilemma to have. Because if you’ve got to have 99 problems, at least a book ain’t one.

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Thank you, Sudipta! This is all good to know since I will be having two books released in 2015! Yikes! TWINS! Somebody boil some water!

Do you have any questions or comments for Sudipta? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of one of her 2014 books, YOUR CHOICE! (And a tough choice it is!)

Also be sure to visit Sudipta’s awesomely nerdy blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule.
 

Hey, look at that! I finally got Sara Zarr on my blog! Let me introduce us: Tara Lazar, Sara Zarr. Sara Zarr, Tara Lazar. Woo-wee, that’s fun to say!

OK, enough fooling around. Let’s get serious. Well, maybe that’s not the right word. Let’s get mischievous. Because today we’re breaking rules!

breaktheserulescoverThe YA anthology BREAK THESE RULES explores the flip-side of those nit-picky little rules you’re supposed to follow when growing up. What would happen if you didn’t “grow up” and “be serious”? So what if you daydream, skip college or talk about religion? Must you really pick a side between jocks and geeks?

Well, 35 authors tell you to ignore “the rules”, just go ahead and break ‘em. Because they did. And it didn’t kill them. Heck, they even came out on top. Check it out. (Even I’m in the book! I can’t believe they asked me. Maybe they knew I’m a scooter-ridin’ rebel.)

To celebrate BREAK THESE RULES, I thought it would be fun to learn what WRITING RULES some of the authors have broken. You know, we hear the rules all the time—rules about content, length and showing-not-telling. And in picture books: no rhyming, no art notes. We’re bombarded by rules at conferences, in craft books and even on this blog! (Yeah, sorry ’bout that.)

So today we’ll hear from Wendy Mass, Josh Berk, and of course, that author with the awesome name, Sara Zarr!

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wendymassWendy Mass

When I talk to kids at schools about writing, I always tell them to be sure to keep their eyes and ears open when they’re out in the world and to closely observe what’s going on around them. The thing is, when I am out in the world, say at a busy shopping mall, the people around me may as well have three eyes and two heads for all I notice them. I never study people, I never notice what they wear, how they move, how their voice sounds, all those things you are supposed to do when you are trying to create believable characters. It all just makes me uncomfortable. That said, I do get inspired by things I see in the world, or hear, or read, just not people. So there you have it, my dirty little secret. On the positive side, if we cross paths you’ll never have to worry if you have spinach in your teeth because I’ll never notice .

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JOSHBERKJosh Berk

I quite possibly owe my entire writing career to the fact that some years ago I decided to break the first rule of writing: write what you know. I had a crazy idea to write a YA mystery novel about a deaf teen solving a murder. I knew nothing about writing mysteries and less about being deaf. But I was curious. And so I learned.

You can write about anything—or anyone—you care to. Curiosity and empathy are your greatest tools as a writer, not the limited scope of your own experience.

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sarazarrSara Zarr

The rule I break most often is “write a crappy first draft.” I work much better if I revise as I go. Which isn’t to say that my first drafts aren’t crappy. Because they are. As are my second and third, I’m pretty sure. But what I try to avoid is blindly thrashing through and pushing ahead no matter what, just to get the words in. For one thing, I don’t want to write myself into a corner or dead end and then have to throw out all the pages that got me there. For another thing, I get this unpleasant feeling of anxiety if I write forward knowing there are big problems behind me. If I feel my idea of a character changing as I write, I want to go back and at least patch up the previous version of that character before I get too much further. It’s like knowing I left my wallet at the restaurant or something. I have to go back. There’s always more revision to do, but I try to keep the crappy to a minimum along the way.

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Thanks, daring edict-evaders!

So get out there and start breaking rules. Be different. But most importantly, be WHO YOU ARE. (I’m Tara Lazar, not Sara Zarr. But maybe we could switch for a day?)

What writing rule have you broken?

Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of BREAK THESE RULES, available now from Chicago Review Press.

When I was but a wee thing, our family would often drive past a restaurant sign in town: “Good Food and Grog”. So I pestered my parents, “What is GROG?” My father replied, “Grilled frog.”

grog

HORRIFYING! Cooked Kermit!? Envisioning swaths of crisped, green skin beside a sobbing Miss Piggy, I vowed never to eat there.

Well, today I have put that childhood nightmare to bed. I have learned that GROG actually means GROUP BLOG. And, I’ve got a new kidlit grog to share with you.

Welcome author Todd Burleson, GROG spokesperson (who assures me he’s never roasted an amphibian over the coals).

grogheader

The term GROG evolved out of a desire to gather a group of writers and form a new blog about children’s literature. There are several phenomenal group blogs in the literature world. Many gave us inspiration, but none of them met the specific needs of our group. And, in the spirit of all things creative, we came together to form this GROG.

Our aim with this blog is to provide:

G: Guidance and support
R: Resources on the craft of writing
O: Opportunities to expand our skills
G: Great folks who support readers and writers of all ages!

Each weekday we will be focusing on a specific topic. Here are the daily foci:

Mondays: Mentor Texts
We will look at how mentor texts and other approaches can help teachers and writers of all ages to develop writing skills. We envision doing book reviews here too.

Tuesdays: Tools & Technology
We’ll look at tools, often technological, that can help us as writers.

Wednesdays: Craft
We’ll focus on the craft of writing. Sometimes it will be a writing lesson, other times it might be a review of a book on writing.

Thursdays: Submissions
On Thursday’s we’ll focus our thoughts on submissions, contests, query letters and more.

Fridays: Finds
These will be a smattering of awesome discoveries that we want to share with you.

Now why start a group blog instead of just an individual one?

  1. Being practical, we knew that sharing the load would help us remain faithful to posting while also maintaining our writing, teaching, family lives.
  2. We believe that the power of the group is to harness our connections.
  3. We know that each of us has a specific passion. By harnessing the power of the group, we get to share many more ideas and hopefully will reach and benefit many others.
  4. We enjoy being together. When we chat or meet via Google Hangouts, the ideas and passions flow.
  5. Finally, its a way to make the world ‘smaller.’ We have group members all over North American and even one in Seoul, South Korea. We may not be in the same time zone, but we all are dedicated to supporting one another as GROGgers and reaching a larger audience.

We have some phenomenal contributors at all stages of publication, but all eager to share. They are: Jan Godown Annino, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Todd Burleson,
Tina Wheatcraft Cho, Kathy Halsey, Suzy Leopold, Christy Mihaly, Janie Reinart, Sherri Jones Rivers, Patricia Toht, Leslie Colin Tribble, Pam Vaughan and
Jackie Wellington.

Thanks, Todd! And good luck to you all!

So please go visit these fine folks at Groggorg.blogspot.com.

They will be giving away a boatload of prizes in the beginning of April, including a signed copy of THE MONSTORE by yours truly. You can also like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.

Kermit will thank you.

kermit2

chieuby author Chieu Urban

Thank you Tara, for inviting me to spread awareness of Books and Smiles for Haiti to this talented group of authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and children’s book enthusiasts.

For the past few summers, I have shared my books with the children of Haiti, and the pictures and smiles and thankful notes I’ve received remind me of why I enjoy creating books for kids. I think that it would be fantastic if they were to receive even more books from our community.

Please join me in sharing your wonderful books for the sweet children of Haiti. Although their needs are much bigger, these gifts will bring smiles to their faces and joy to their day.

I am thankful to President Steven Mooser of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for kindly donating two boxes of books and jump starting the campaign! The amazing people of Life Connection Mission are dedicated to getting the books to the children. They are a non-profit organization serving the poorest children in the Western Hemisphere. A special thank you to the generous authors, illustrators, and children’s book community who have already contributed to this project.

lifeconnectionmission

Photo courtesy of Life Connection Mission

We are collecting board books, picture books, beginning readers, and information books with pictures of animals, science, space, and more.

Our goal is to have a really great collection of books by the end of the school year, when they will be crated up and transported to Haiti. I am very excited about this project and look forward to partnering with our talented children’s book community.

lifeconnectionsmission2

Photo courtesy of Life Connection Mission

If you would like to participate in Books and Smiles for Haiti, please email me at chieuurbanstudio (at) gmail (dot) com for the mailing address. Together, we will see our efforts grow. Please join our Facebook group page for updates.

Thank you, Chieu!

And now for the giveaway…

If you pledge to donate to Books and Smiles for Haiti, I will enter you into a drawing for a picture book critique from me, Tara Lazar. I will keep the comment thread open through the month of March. Just leave a comment stating you’ve donated in order to be eligible for the critique. And thank you for supporting this wonderful cause!

Today we’re lucky to have Peggy Robbins Janousky visiting to share highlights from SCBWI FL’s Picture Book Intensive. Take it away, Peggy!

peggyI have attended many picture book intensives over the years, but this one topped them all. Participants were treated to an all-star panel that included: agent Deborah Warren of East West Literary, editor Laura Whitaker of Bloomsbury, author and editor Andrea Davis Pinkney and author Toni Buzzeo.

The presentations were practical, but powerful:

  • Always bring your “A” game.
  • Rhyme is not taboo, but bad rhyme is.
  • Picture books are getting shorter and are being targeted for younger audiences.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Hook me and keep me hooked.
  • Be passionate about your book and be able to pitch in just a few sentences.

One of the best things that was presented was the HOT list. These are the topics that editors and Barnes and Noble want now:

  • Moments of the day
  • School stories
  • Learning concepts
  • Holidays (MLK, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, St. Patrick’s Day)
  • Friends and family
  • Biographies
  • Character-driven stories
  • Original stories that every kid will love
  • Interactive picture books
  • Finding the new in the old

If you haven’t taken an intensive before, I strongly urge you to consider it. Intensives are exactly that, intense. They give you the opportunity to delve in deeper and they also give you the opportunity to get to know the presenters on a more intimate level. I came away from this intensive with a new sense of purpose and drive. I also came away with a few good friends. All in all, it was money worth spending.

I have to admit, I almost did not attend the Miami conference. I was having a pity party and I wasn’t really up for the company. I had broken my leg in three places. Needless to say, getting around was a wee bit difficult. I was ready to bail. I am glad I didn’t. The first page of my manuscript was read during “first page reads”. Much to my surprise, the panel loved it. One editor wanted to know who wrote it, an agent wanted to read more, and another editor wanted to acquire it. I have to admit, I was in shock. By the end of the weekend, thanks to the help of a good friend, I had signed with that agent. Just one month later… My bio and picture are up on the East West Literary website. The editor that I mentioned is considering three of my manuscripts. And I am still pinching myself.

I will tell you that this was not an overnight success. I have attended many conferences and taken copious notes. I have revised, cut, and revised some more. I have also had moments where I was so rejected that I thought I would never put myself through another critique again. So what’s the moral of the story? Never give up. Never let pity or self-doubt get the upper hand. Believe with all your heart that your day will come. Then get off your butt and get to that conference. Your happily ever after is waiting for you to show up!

Peggy Robbins Janousky uses her offbeat sense of humor to write offbeat picture books. When she is not writing, Peggy uses her time to rescue stray animals. Much to her family’s dismay, she keeps them all.

kristenfultonAnd thanks to Kristen Fulton for adding this summary of Andrea Pinkney’s workshop: The Write Stuff.

  • Writers write every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.
  • Find your “twinkle”—what makes you sparkle around others?
  • Establish immediacy—using voice, characterization, mystery and drama.
  • Ask yourself, “Why does the reader want to come on this journey and what makes the reader stay on this journey?”
  • Writing is fun—and hard work.
  • Writing is re-writing at least 10 times.
  • Just get started and keep going.
  • Read every day, whether it be a holiday or vacation.

Kristen Fulton writes non-fiction picture books and is running an amazing non-fiction picture book retreat with loads of agents, editors, and authors on July 7-12. Check out her website for details!

Let’s welcome Mindy Alyse Weiss back…she’s got the scoop from the recent SCBWI FL Conference. And boy, what a scoop it is! It’s chocolate fudge with rainbow sprinkles!

Ever wonder about an editor’s wish list? Wonder no longer! In the Editor Panel, Stacy Abrams, Kat Brzozowski, Aubrey Poole, Laura Whitaker and Andrea Pinkney discussed what kind of projects they’re seeking—and not seeking. There seems to be a trend away from dystopian and paranormal novels in YA.

A Wonderful Editor Panel

Stacy Abrams, Executive Editorial Director of Bliss and Entangled Teen
Contemporary (no paranormal or dystopian). Can have an issue in it, but the book can’t be about the issue.

Kat Brzozowski, Associate Editor, Thomas Dunne Books, MacMillan
Dystopian is hard. Would love a good YA mystery. Comes across as loving dark but does love girl meets boy and they kiss, light romantic contemporary stuff for girls.
With social media, if you do one thing well but don’t like another, don’t force it.

Aubrey Poole, Associate Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Fire
Loves sci fi, YA, not looking at genre really—it’s the stories that stand out within a genre. More experimenting with format. Read more about her wish list here.

Laura Whitaker, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books
She’s tired of dystopian and paranormal YA. She wants to be immersed in a story so much that she’s physically removed from her own issues. She wants to read about real people. Contemporary, original voice. With MG and YA, networking is important. Do a lot of digital marketing initiatives. You can get a huge impact from doing a blog tour. “Help me help you.”

Andrea Pinkney, Vice-President and Executive Editor, Scholastic
More diversity, African American boys, adventure, mystery, fun. Contemporary stories. *You need to normalize and not make it about the problem, even with something like bi-polar.” She’s interested in a novel with a character who has piercing or a lot of tattoos.

A Laura Whitaker

Laura Whitaker, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury

Besides writing a well-crafted story, how do you catch an editor’s attention? Laura Whitaker presented “Dating 101: What Makes YOU Desirable to an Editor”.

Tell her something interesting about your writing journey. What drew you to telling this story? Let her know any cool things you can share about yourself—show what makes you vibrant and unique.

Title—come up with something original that represents your work. If the title is the same when you’re published and there’s a story behind how you arrived at the title, marketing will want it later for a blog/Tumblr piece.

She’ll look at a query for 30 seconds to a minute. First thing should be the hook, then a two sentence synopsis (three if you have to), then info about yourself.

Your website is your calling card—especially for picture books.

Do you tweet out interesting, dynamic tweets? It’s the best way to build connections with other authors, agents, and editors. Twitter is more important for MG and YA.

Interact! Do you write about the process or what you’re working on? Marketing and publicity want to see your social media platform. The more social media, the better—but it is not a substitute for the craft.

Thanks again, Mindy!

Come back on Friday for the rest of the scoop from SCBWI FL. We’ll have vanilla and strawberry for those who don’t like chocolate. (Don’t like CHOCOLATE? Who are you people???)

MindyThis week I’m doing something special–bringing you a boatload of notes from Florida’s recent SCBWI conference in Miami, courtesy of author Mindy Alyse Weiss. Why a boatload? Well, it’s freezing here in NJ, so I imagined Mindy on a catamaran, sipping a piña colada with the captain as she wrote this. (We all have dreams, and my dream is to attend a WARM conference! Or maybe that should be a HOT conference?)

I was thrilled when Tara asked me to blog about the 2014 SCBWI FL Regional Conference in Miami. She always gives so much to the kidlit community through her yearly PiBoIdMo challenge and thoughtful blog posts, and I hope this will help all of you, too. Since workshops are often repeated, I can’t share all the secrets…but I definitely have some juicy info, plus insight into what some agents and editors are hoping to find…

I attended the Agent Panel with Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Deborah Warren of East*West Literary Agency and Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, where they shared wish lists and do’s/don’ts with aspiring authors.

agentpanelflscbwi

Jen Rofé

  • When sending a query, make it clear you’re personalizing it to that agent.
  • When asked how many editors she sends a manuscript to at a time and when she considers giving up, she said she won’t stop until she’s exhausted every opportunity.
  • The fastest she sold a manuscript—three hours! The longest it took was four years.
  • Wish list: commercial character-based picture books. A country song book for YA. Books based on childhood, like a girl who is getting into stuff she isn’t supposed to do, but nobody would expect that.
  • If you write picture books, she would want at least four she could try to sell right away.
  • Write the thing that scares you. It usually comes from some raw, painful place and that’s where the good stuff comes out.
  • So many people say that it only takes one yes. But it’s not just one yes—you typically need lots of yeses, including the editor, publisher, marketing, etc.
  • Don’t EVER write to the market!
  • A personal note from an agent is a good sign! They don’t have time to send that to everyone. It might be the project/first page/query letter that isn’t quite right at the moment.

Deborah Warren

  • Specializes in picture books. She’s known for building brands and loves finding new talent!
  • She loves working with author/illustrators—it’s her sweet spot. She’s having trouble with chapter books (they’re usually franchises). Realistic fiction is really coming back and she’s excited about that.
  • The client/agent relationship is like a marriage. She’ll never give up on a client—once you’re on the team, you’re there!
  • Wish list: Author/illustrators, multicultural, books based on childhood, a book about singing, or kids overcoming their obstacles.

Ammi-Joan Paquette

  • She looks for a strong opening in the sample pages and is especially drawn to precise pitches in a query that are snappy and compelling.
  • She usually takes three to four weeks to respond to queries. For longer requested manuscripts it was two months, but she’s backlogged right now.
  • When working on promotion, authenticity and what feels natural to you is important. An awkward presence is actually worse than no presence. In the pre-published stage, the focus should be on craft.
  • Wish list: books that do something really different, a different narrative structure, different POV. She loves unusual projects, books based on childhood—travel, unusual vacations, anything to do with food or baking or French food.

Thanks for the agent tips, Mindy. See you back here on Wednesday with more from the SCBWI FL Conference!

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s Twitter, Facebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Not every book is meant for every reader, but try telling that to an author. We cringe at bad customer reviews of our titles. After years of hard work, it’s difficult to hear that someone dislikes your story. It’s even harder to swallow when your book gets a one-star review for glacier-speed delivery and schmutz on the cover. Yep, these days the old adage is truer than ever: “Everyone’s a critic.”

No one’s immune to the anonymous online rant. Not even Pappi’s Pizza Parlor.

meatballreview

(They had no problem swallowing that review.)

If you’ve spied Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets”, where celebrities read devastating Twitter exchanges about them, you know that these criticisms can be hilarious and even, I dare say, cathartic to read aloud.

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So in the same spirit of poking fun at ourselves and our detractors, author Marc Tyler Nobleman collected videos of children’s authors reading bad reviews of their books. The first installment included three deliciously derogatory episodes. And now the next three episodes have been released, with a mightily attractive screen shot of yours truly gracing the “cover” of Episode 5.

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Enjoy, and feel free to share your worst review below!

It’s as healthy for ya as a meatball sandwich.

Let me take you back to the first year of PiBoIdMo—2009. (For those unindoctrinated, that’s Picture Book Idea Month. Wait, can a picture book writer even use a highfalutin word like unindoctrinated? Or highfalutin?)

Well, it’s 2009 and my good friend Corey Rosen Schwartz is having trouble meeting the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. She despises her ideas. Corey takes her frustration out on Facebook, where all passive-aggressive complaints go to get their wings. She shares several titles on her idea list which feature the precocious blondie:

  • Goldifox and the Three Hares
  • Tawnylocks, Goldi’s Little Known Twin
  • Goldi-Rocks and The Three Bear Band

She posts these same titles on her blog under the caption “Goldi on the Brain” (a serious affliction for fractured fairytale writers). And you know what? Everyone on Facebook and the blog LOVES the third idea. (Remember the Rule of Threes?) One person, Beth Coulton, even offers to collaborate. They write it together and it gets bought by Putnam in 2010.

And so, a book is born. Isn’t it adorable? Don’t you just wanna pinch its cheeks?

goldirocks

The concept is clever—the Three Bears form a band but they can’t find a lead singer who can hit the high notes.

goldiint1

They hold Idol-like auditions and the fairytale characters just don’t cut it. Sorry, Little Red, you’re not going to Hollywood. No golden ticket for you.

goldiint2

(I wonder if Papa Bear is supposed to be Simon? But Simon wouldn’t dare don a bandana, right? V-neck tees are much more his style. Maybe Papa is Keith Urban.)

Meanwhile, Goldi wreaks havoc in their studio.

goldiint3

She even drools on their keyboard!

goldiint4

What are the Bears to do? They have to get rid of the golden-haired menace!

Or do they?

Well, you can find out right here. Because I’m giving away a signed copy of GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS to one lucky winner! Just leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected in one week. Good luck, music fans!

And congratulations to Corey, Beth and Nate on the release of their new book!

Follow Me on Pinterest As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the road to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books


Available now at:

Coming Soon:

I THOUGHT THIS
WAS A BEAR BOOK
illustrated by Benji Davies
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
August 2015

LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
illustrator TBA
Random House
October 2015

7 ATE 9: THE UNTOLD STORY
illustrator TBA
Disney*Hyperion
2016

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