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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

bookstack$Slapping a book on a blog is not all it takes to sell it. I know you know this, but I had to explore this book-marketing-101 concept further.

I mean, it seems like a logical idea, right? Create a blog, develop a loyal following, and they’ll buy your book. Easy, peasy!

But being the curious type, trapped in Post Book-Launch Stress Disorder, I decided to don my gumshoes. (BTW, thank you for all the awesome comments on PBLSD. I want to reply to each and every one, just gimme some time. Remember, PBLSD cannot be cured with two aspirin and a morning call.)

I opened my WordPress stats. In the last six months, this blog has had approximately 75,000 visits.

Wow, right? Amazing. I can’t believe it myself.

Six months ago is when I inserted links to pre-order THE MONSTORE in my blog column (so it appears on every page on this site) and on my books page. And guess how many clicks those links have had?

7,500? That would be about 10%—not too shabby. But no.

1,500? That would be about 2%. Still pretty respectable. When I was working in marketing, a 2% response to a direct mail offer was considered average. But, nope. Not even close.

Out of 75,000 visits, links to order THE MONSTORE have been clicked on only 355 times. That’s [almost] 0.5%.

But, I have no idea how many of those clicks turned into purchases. If it’s 2% like my direct mail experience has shown, then I’ve sold 7 books.

Kinda humbling, isn’t it?

75,000 visits = 7 books sold.

Now, I realize this is very unscientific. Any statistics professor would knock my knuckles with a ruler. People have other ways of purchasing books, and I know I’ve sold more than 7 books!

But, I wanted to demonstrate that slapping a book on a website is not all it takes. That don’t do diddly.

Boy, I’ve just realized this post is really not helping the PBLSD! (But maybe it will help you!)

BTW, if you do want to crawl inside THE MONSTORE, you can by clicking below. Ya can’t blame a girl for trying!

monstorefrontcover

IndieBound.org
Amazon.com
BarnesandNoble.com
BooksAMillion.com
Chapters.Indigo.ca

“My two boys (3 and 6) loved this book. They wanted me to read it many times. Then they played Monstore games all afternoon. They made their own monsters (pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes). They built Monstores with blocks. Then they made booby traps and trap doors with couch cushions. I can’t remember the last time reading one book led to such prolonged creative play.”

~ Amazon customer review

If you’re an un-agented writer, you might be thinking—do I even NEED a blog? What content should it contain? How often should I post? What SHOULDN’T I blog about?

Well, relax. Deep, cleansing breaths. I asked a few agents what they thought of writerly blogs. Their responses may surprise you.

Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:

“I don’t have any strict rules or do’s and don’ts. I find blogs are perhaps less useful than they used to be, with the exception of those with large followings. Mostly I go to them, when considering signing someone new, to get a sense of their personality and how they present themselves (whether to fellow kidlit folks, gatekeepers or kids).”

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency:

“A writer’s blog wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me unless it was wildly unprofessional. First and foremost, when I’m looking at a potential client, it’s all about the writing. But beyond that, a blog or website gives a sense of who that person is, how our tastes and interests might mesh, etc. So make sure your web presence reflects who you are, and that it looks clean and tight and polished. I don’t think they’re essential, but it is nice to put a face and background to the voice I’m reading on the screen.”

Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency:

“I don’t care if an author has a blog or not. But if they DO have a blog, I hope it is lively, interesting, informative, fun to read, and gives a sense of their “voice” and a glimpse into their lives.

Turnoffs: Lots of word-count posts. Constant self-promotion. Complaining about blogging, complaining about the publishing industry, complaining about specific people (your agent or editor, for example)—or “Humblebragging.”  Overly political or “sexy” posts (unless you are a political or sexy writer).

If an author HATES blogging and is struggling to find the time or energy…if it is taking away from their work or making them miserable…then they should absolutely not do it. An unused blog, or a blog that is just complaints or self-PR, is so much worse than no blog at all.”

Teresa Kietlinski, Prospect Agency:

“Blogs are absolutely important in my decision making. When submissions come in, I tend to visit blogs first because they give me a taste of the writer’s (and illustrator’s) personality, voice and interests. It also lets me see how dedicated they are to the craft of writing or illustrating. Do they post frequently? Do they talk about topics of interest in the children’s book world? Are they honing his/her skills? What books is he/she reading? Would I like to join him/her for lunch or tea? (the last question for me is the most important). If I do not instantly connect with a blog, chances are I will not connect with the blog’s writer.

My goal as an agent is to work with clients who I like working with. Clients who are funny, interesting, and interpret the mundane stuff in a surprising way. Blogs can give me insight on these qualities. And while websites are important, especially for seasoned authors, they are not always personal.

I would suggest not limiting your blog to “kids stuff only.” Talk about what interests you—but keep it professional in tone. Readers are looking to connect with your personality. Who are you?

Do remember that anyone can read your posts so keep them professional in tone. Do update your blog regularly.”

So it’s clear: if an agent is interested in your work, they WILL Google you. So avoid posting:

  • Samples of works in progress (they might be considered “published”)
  • A tally of submissions/rejections
  • Complaints about rejections, the industry or specific professionals
  • Long, rambling posts
  • Overly political, religious or controversial topics (unless that is the focus of your professional writing)

Before you start a blog, realize there’s millions of them out there already. What are you bringing to the table? Do you have a unique perspective? Just like thinking of the hook before you write the book, you might want to think of the hook for your blog before you launch into it. (Relatively-newish blogs with compelling hooks: Literary Friendships by Audrey Vernick and Design of the Picture Book by Carter Higgins.)

Or, you can just go for it and post whatever you like. After a few dozen posts, you might discover your niche. Check your blog stats and determine which posts bring in the most visitors. Work in that direction.

And remember, the story’s the thing. No blog will snag you a book deal if your submission is sub-par. So get the manuscript right first, then worry about blogging later…

Or, maybe, not at all.

I just got back from a FABULOUS 1st grade school visit! I was so excited about it that I immediately had to vlog.

While this isn’t my first vlog (that was for EMU’s Debuts), it is the debut vlog for this blog.

If you want to start doing school visits as a pre-published author, I explain the way to go about it. I think. *Warning: DO NOT APPEAR AS CRAZY AS I DO IN THIS VIDEO.*

Apologies for the ethereal lighting. I was sitting in my breakfast nook with the blinds opened. But I rather prefer the Cybill Shepherd “Moonlighting” look, don’t you, dahlings? (What, you don’t know what that means? Oh, you young whipper-snapper, go Google it.)

More apologies for the mirror writing. If I knew how to flip a video, I would. Anyone know? Help?!

And hey, wanna know more about my school visits? I’m going old-school with a CLICK HERE. (Really. Click there.)

And please remember to leave me a comment about what we should name “vlogs” instead of “vvlawwwgz”. It’s an ugly word for an exciting medium.

“Oh, reading…what they did before fun was invented,” says Candace Flynn (on Disney’s Phineas & Ferb). Candace’s grandmother persuades her to read Sherlock Holmes but Candace scoffs. But the next morning, Grandma finds Candace bleary-eyed and hunched over the book. Candace hasn’t stayed up reading it–she’s stayed up reading the ENTIRE COLLECTION! “Before fun was invented, indeed,” snarks Grandma.

Plenty of kids know that reading is fun. And blogging, too! Like Erik the Great. (Great name, huh?) This nine-year-old bibliophile began a book blog to share his favorite titles with other kids. Erik the-story-loving-3rd-grader piqued my interest, so I invited him to talk about children’s lit and blogging.

Why did you want to start a blog?
I wanted to because I LOVE books. I read all the time (I even get into trouble in school sometimes for reading so much). My grandmother told me about a time when she was in a book store shopping for a book for me. She said she didn’t know what to buy for me and a kid in the store recommended that she get “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” by Tom Angleberger for me. He told her he was sure I would like it (and I did). So I thought that if she would take book advice from a kid, maybe other people would too. At first I wanted to write reviews for newspapers but my Dad suggested a website. I thought a blog was a good idea because I could talk to people all over the world about books and then people could also tell me what they think about the books I write about and suggest books for me to read.

How did you get started?
When I had the idea to make a blog, my Mom and I went on the computer to find the best place to make a blog and we liked WordPress. I looked at other book review blogs and websites to kind of get an idea of what I’d like my blog to look like. Then I just started writing. I started writing about some of my favorite books and then readers started suggesting books and then I started watching for new releases. My school let me pass out flyers about my site and I left flyers at books stores and libraries and that helped me get more readers. Then I started to read other book blogs (like yours) and commenting on the posts they have and the other bloggers started to visit my site. I really like to see what other people are reading and what they think about it.

What did you hope to accomplish with the blog?
I wanted to not just review books, but I also wanted to talk with other kids and adults about books. I just wanted to find people who love reading as much as I do. Then I started asking authors and illustrators if I could interview them about writing books and making pictures for books. It’s really interesting to talk to the people actually creating books.

Do you know what you want to do when you grow up? Do you want to be involved with books, or something totally different?
I really want to be an inventor when I grow up. I already have some ideas for inventions like a refrigerator that you don’t ever need to open the door so that you save energy (and it’s voice commanded, too). I think being an inventor, I will have to read (and write) a lot. My Mom is a scientist and she writes a lot of books and articles and is reading all the time. Right now I am actually writing my first book called “The Adventures of Tomato and Pea”. It’s about aliens getting stranded on Earth and trying to get back to their home planet (planet -Oarg).

Sounds like a fun story, Erik! Thanks for talking to me about blogging. And thanks for blogging about books!

You can find Erik at www.thiskidreviewsbooks.com, most recently reviewing MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, to which he gives 4 out of 5 bookworms.

And check out the monster Erik wishes he could buy at The Monstore!

It’s Valentine’s Day! Time to profess your love! (For children’s books, that is.)

If you love kidlit, what are you doing to support it?

Buying lots of books? Reviewing them? Volunteering at the library? Donating to a literacy program? Writing new stories?

Last year I began “Write a Review Wednesday” as a way to support children’s literature. I’ve heard that many people won’t buy a book unless they see positive reviews online, and there’s tons of fab books that haven’t been reviewed.

So if there’s a book you love, shout it from the rooftops! Write about it on your blog, Twitter, Facebook or submit a review to a bookseller’s website.

Let’s hear your ideas for supporting kidlit in 2011. What are you doing to profess your love?

Three things happened to young adult writer and teen librarian Bridget Zinn in February:

  1. She got an agent for her novel.
  2. She got married.
  3. She found out she had Stage Four colon cancer.

It’s unbelievable that a young, vibrant woman with absolutely ZERO of the risk factors has been struck with this form of cancer. But it is pretty incredible that the kidlit community has come to her aid with The Bridget Zinn Auction.

Authors have donated signed copies of their books, editors have offered critiques. All to benefit Bridget’s treatment and recovery. 

There’s lots of fabulous goodies to be had. Just take a look:

There’s lots more marvelousness to be had. Jewelry, crafts, books, journals and custom items. (I’ve got my eye on that custom cookbook.)

So what are you waiting for? Start bidding! The auctions will close on May 30 at 11pm EST.

Rarely do I stray into my mommy life on this blog, but if I’m writing for kids while raising them, then a little parenting humor has its place. Enjoy, mommies! (P.S. This article may or may not be based on actual events!)

flyingclockThis is for all the stay-at-home mothers who are exhausted at the end of the day only to be greeted by the words:

“What did you do all day long?” 

I realize our husbands work hard so that we may stay home and care for our families, and I appreciate their sacrifices.  They sit in traffic jams, discuss process and procedure at redundant meetings, and stress over outsourcing and layoffs.  They eat lunches of bland, bark-dry chicken and imagine the blissful hours we spend in the safe, comfortable confines of our own home, children playing happily at our feet while we page through the latest romance novel. 

Umm…no. 

To dispell the  soap-opera-and-bon-bon-eating-couch-dweller myth of stay-at-home mothers I present to you an average day in husband perceived time (herein referred to as HPT, not to be confused with home pregnancy test) versus actual time.*

Task: Wake children and get them bathed
HPT: 30 minutes
Actual Time: 60 minutes

First child wishes to remain in the bed she so desperately tried to avoid the night before.  While removing second child’s diaper, she pees all over herself, your pajamas, and the floor.  Throw pajamas in the wash, scrub floor with antibacterial yet environmentally-friendly cleanser, and place children in bath.  Second child makes poop-ready face, so she immediately must come out of bath water with shampoo still in hair.  Wrestle new diaper on, rinse hair, clothe her, bathe first child.  Slip on floor, ice sore ankle, let first child run around wet and naked.

Task: Feed children breakfast (and yourself if you have the chance)
HPT: 15 minutes
Actual Time: 45 minutes

First child refuses to eat and throws food on floor.  Sit child in time-out.  Clean floor.  Second child spits food out like a machine gun.  Clean floor.  First child returns to table, lifts cereal bowl to drink like cat, spills milk.  Calm tears.  Clean floor.  Remove second child from highchair, half the breakfast you thought was eaten falls to the ground.  Slip on floor,  ice sore ankle, let baby lick crumbs off ceramic tile. 

Task: Take preschooler to school
HPT: 10 minutes (even though school is 15 minutes away)
Actual Time: 70 minutes

Spend 15 minutes getting shoes and jackets on children and buckling into Houdini-quality childseats.  Drive to school.  Wrestle stroller out of car, get baby into stroller, carry backpack, lunchbox, stuffed animal du jour and walk (limp) child to classroom.  Get stopped by parent #1 requesting an RSVP to their child’s birthday party.  Get stopped by parent #2 requesting a playdate.  Get stopped by parent #3 requesting you chair a PTA fundraiser.  Preschool director says you did not sign a precious piece of paperwork.  File into her office and wait 10 minutes while she finds crucial document: a pledge to provide a peanut-free lunch.

Task: Put baby down to nap
HPT: 5 minutes
Actual time: 30 minutes

Baby fights sleep.  A cough appears out of nowhere, causing her to awaken just as she is about to fall asleep.  Get in car and drive around neighborhood.

Task: Free time while baby naps
HPT: All day long
Actual time: 37.2 seconds

Chores done in beat to William Tell Overture: sort clothes for laundry, run a wash, put this morning’s soiled jammies in dryer, empty the dishwasher and reload, make yourself a sandwich, go through mail, schedule a doctor’s appointment, return phone calls to your mother-in-law, your babysitter and the YMCA for swim lessons that have been cancelled and rescheduled for a day and time that is most inconvenient for you.  Sit and eat lunch.  Thirty seconds of bliss.  Bite into sandwich as baby wakes from carseat flashnap.

Task: Pick-up preschooler from school
HPT: 0 minutes (you mean she doesn’t take a bus?)
Actual Time: 45 minutes

Preschooler is starving when you arrive.  Examine lunchbox.  Entire lunch remains.  Sit at school while child eats lunch that should have been consumed three hours ago.

Task: Play with kids
HPT: 60 minutes
Actual Time: 60 minutes

Draw with chalk on driveway.  Skip.  Roll on grass.  Blow bubbles.  Have tickle contest.  Giggle and make goofy faces.  Collect acorns; plant them.

Task: Make dinner
HPT: 30 minutes
Actual Time: 60 minutes

“Hey honey, how come Rachael Ray can do it in 30 minutes?”  Like Jane Jetson, you press a button on a little silver box and dinner magically appears in a cloud of steam, hot and ready, on a table already set with placemats, forks, knives, spoons, napkins, plates, glasses and everyone’s favorite beverage.

Task: Prepare for tomorrow
HPT: 0 minutes (what, can’t you do that tomorrow?)
Actual Time: 60 minutes

Make lunch and pack it.  Check weather report and take out clothes for tomorrow, jackets, gloves, hats, boots, gloves.  Throw out junk mail, sort bills, tack invitations on the fridge and check calendar.  Make grocery list.  Fold laundry.  While helping first child go to the potty, baby grabs pile of laundry.  Refold laundry.  Put laundry away.

I’ll skip bedtime and instead point you to this poignant little ditty on YouTube.  This husband’s inner HPT clock is working perfectly.

So, let’s add it all up for the day…drumroll please…

Husband Perceived Time of All Tasks: 1 hour (only playing with the kids counts)
Actual Time of All Tasks (including 30 minutes potty time): 7.7 hours

Hmmm, out of an eight-hour day, that gives us exactly 18 minutes to blog.

*Please note that HPT exists in households where mothers work outside the home as well.  In this case, the HPT may be even more distorted.

Have you tried the Typealyzer? Just plug in your blog address and the typealyzer will tell you just what kind of blogger you really are.

istpWho am I? The independent and problem-solving type.

They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

That was all pretty accurate until the risk part. I’m not interested in jumping out of airplanes. I prefer both feet on terra firma, thankyouverymuch.

So what blog type are you?

And now that I have your attention, don’t forget that “Love Children’s Authors” month begins on February 1st. So if you’re not whoopin’ it up at a SuperBowl party, come on over and enjoy the author interviews, book reviews and giveaways! (Who am I kidding? Not busy with the SuperBowl? I’ll see you February 2nd.)

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

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COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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