Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions From The Revisionist

I always worry about New Years Resolutions. I mean, they are in that barrel of monkeys called category. I mean, if you resolve to be more patient, does that mean that the universe is going to send you lots more opportunities in which you HAVE to be patient? If you resolve to lose weight, do you end up with a tapeworm or something which MAKES you lose weight?

Be careful what you wish for.....

Last year, I resolved to stop using the word DUDE. Just stop. Cold turkey. And I did pretty well...except that then there were so many experiences thrown at me that simply REQUIRED the use of the word DUDE (in a bit of a disparaging way....naturally.)

And I resolved to eat more vegetables, not realizing that the state would cut the education budget in a way that will pretty much force teachers to start their own victory gardens if they want to feed their families. (Okay, yes, I am exaggerating some....but be careful what you wish for.....veggies will soon be all many of us can afford.)

So this year, I am resolving to laugh more. Just laugh. A lot. And then some more.

I am trying to figure out a way the universe can spin this one....maybe I'll go all mental and end up laughing about pots and pans in some padded little room somewhere....ugh.

I sign this post The Revisionist because that's what my writing goals revolve around. Revision. A lot. And then some more.

But more on the writing goals next time. Right now I have to go and laugh at all of the dog poop my daughter's sleepover pals are tracking into my house......ha.....ha.......(it's not coming out right....) ha......ha...

The Revisionist

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Space Between

What I got for Christmas:

No, not actually Harry....just Harry's wand. Oh, I have wanted a wand for such a long time. I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over the summer, but the wait to get into Olivander's was four hours or something equally absurd. Four hours? In Florida? In July?

No. I think not.

But my wonderful kiddos decided that it was just plain wrong for me to remain wandless. So far, I have stupified everyone in the house....and disarmed them.....and, conjured countless patronuses (or is the plural patroni?). Now I just need to wave it over my revisions:


Deleto junko

Reworko chaptero sixo


I also got this:
And folks, this is so ultimately cool. You are not going to believe this, but on the lightsaber page, the lightsabers actually light up!!!

Now I just need to use the sabers to whack off about 2 chapters in my book......

Sensing a theme here?

Yes, I am revising.

And not on my own, but with the help of a very smart, very pointed, very helpful editorial letter.

Except that it is not easy. I keep having to remind myself that I need to look through future readers' eyes this time...not just my own. Future YOUNG readers.

And sometimes less is more....but the word count keeps creeping up.....

Hence the need for wands and lightsabers.


P.S. I also got chocolate, lots of it, you know, to recover from dementor attacks and such. I find that chocolate with salted caramel does the trick amazingly well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things I Love: The Christmas Vacation Edition

1. Any Christmas book by Robert Sabuda. I wish I could have one tenth of his talent. I collect pop-up books and his are the best. (And his Christmas ones are better than the best.) Love, love, love.

2. The first taste of the first home-made Scottish Shortbread of the year. Easiest (and best) cookie ever. I still remember the recipe (which I had to copy out of a book when I was in sixth grade and I did a report on Scotland and we all had to make a food from our country.)

Here it is:

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar

Seriously. Does it get any easier than that? Oven at 300. Roll out the dough, cut into shapes (I like to cut mine into Scotty dogs usually, but I couldn't find the right cutter so we have stars...lots and lots of stars.) Cook until they are that lovely shade of golden.

3. Listening for the sound of that last drop of rain on the skylight. (I think...yes...last drop! No, wait...still one more......) It's been raining for days on end. Can't wait to hear the last drop.

4. The loveliness of an uncluttered brain. Sure, I've relatives coming and cooking to do and presents to wrap, but my brain has that lovely time to flit away and imagine stuff about the story I am revising and, wow, it's just so nice to be able to do that. Having time to think is the best, people, the best!

5. Getting to go to the bathroom whenever I want to. Ah, the simple pleasures. You know, I read somewhere that teachers have more UTI's than most people because they can never get to the bathroom....I know, TMI. (But sometimes I just go when I am home not because I NEED to, but just because I can...whenever I worries about if it's recess or not.)

6. Lights on the tree late at night.

7. Lights on the tree first thing in the morning.

8. The knowledge that I'll have time to clean up any mess that anybody (including myself) makes.

9. Making menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve:

Red chile enchiladas
Green chile enchiladas
Lettuce, tomato for garnish
(Don't you love all the red and green!)

Christmas Day

Appetizers: The Thomas Girl Cheese Ball (an old family recipe...naaahh...I really just invented it a few years ago with my girls and now it's a tradition.)
Shrimp cocktail

Prime Rib with cabernet sauce (if I remember to make it this year!)
Mormon Potatoes (Not a Mormon myself, but the recipe is courtesy of my brother, who is.)
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Artichoke and mushroom salad
Clementine, pomegranate, bleu cheese and pecan salad over baby greens
Sauteed Spinach (Ewwww...but other people like it and Sean will make it, so who am I to ruin their holiday spinach eating fun....but really? gross.)

Trifle (with angel-food cake, in honor of the birthday boy....Baby Jesus.) Okay, it's not really trifle, but it's in a big trifle bowl, with cake bits and whipped heavy cream and strawberries and raspberries....and it looks so pretty.! Yum.

10. I love that I have time to read blogs and catch up. Yeah, I know...perfect timing....just when everyone else is going on blog holiday!!! But at least I can catch up a bit.

Wishing you the happiest Christmas ever!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons from Charles Dickens or From the Mouths of Fourth Graders

I spent the week telling some of my favorite tales, even though I had the MOST miserable cold in the world. Thankfully, though the nose was stuffy, the voice never left altogether. It's hard to be a storyteller with no voice.

So, there I was, telling about ninety fourth graders Dickens' Christmas Carol. I've got my retelling down to about forty minutes, which includes a brief prologue about Dicken's life as a child, so they can get a glimpse into what might have influenced him as a writer.

Truly, it is a great story that keeps children on the edge of their seats, even if they've seen a version or two of it on TV. At then end, I asked the students about what they thought the theme of A Christmas Carol might be, you know, just to be literary and all.

What do you think Dickens' message to people was? Do you think he has a secret meaning in his story?

Ben's hand popped into the air.

Me: (handing microphone over to adorable, freckled fourth grade boy). Yes, Ben? What do you think that Charles Dickens was trying to tell people?

Ben: He was trying to tell people that if you are greedy and don't share, ghosts will come back from the grave and haunt you!

Yeah, I think that pretty well sums it up.

Sharing is caring!


P.S. Yes, I have seen the very scary version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. I think it went a little over the top....what with the demon horses and all. I prefer the Muppet version with Michael Caine....and Kermit and Piggy as the Crachits.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evidence That the Universe Has a Sense of Humor

Here's the thing: My family has a Prius. Yes, it's a hybrid and yes, it's tiny. So, it gets Phenomenal Cosmic Gas Mileage, but itty-bitty living space (to quote Aladdin.)

Did I mention there are five of us? Did I mention that the youngest is almost twelve, and oh yeah, my older daughters are 5'7" and 5'10"?

Okay, so there we are, getting ready to drive back home from a dance competition in Palm Springs (which was unseasonably hot even for Palm Springs, I might add). The car is loaded to the tippy-tip-top with dance stuff, suitcases, golf clubs (don't ask) but we have to wait for the raffle to be drawn.

The raffle.

"And the winner of the 6 foot teddy bear is.......(wait for it)..........CALI THOMAS!"

Oh, the screams of joy (from Cali, who wanted the bear more than anything. All day she said, "I am just visualizing me getting the bear. I can see it in my mind....")

As for me, I wasn't holding my breath. I mean, the Thomas family doesn't really win stuff. One of my daughters has actually considered becoming a professional Cooler (like those guys in Vegas who walk around bringing bad luck to people.)

So, um, yeah.....I had to ride for two and a half hours home with a big bear's bum under my chin.
I can't even remember how we managed to fit the blasted thing in, across all of us. And why I ended up with the bum.....

Very funny, Universe.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Books I Loved in 2010 Part 3: The Late-to-the-Party Edition

I'll be the first to admit I am most often late to the party on popular books. (In truth, being part of the blogging community really keeps me on top of the new releases, which is awesome!) So, I know when books are coming out, and I know which ones intrigue me, but what I don't know is when I'll feel like reading it.

I'm an emotional reader.

No, that's not the right word....I don't even know what the right word is. Perhaps self-indulgent is better. Simply put, I read whatever pleases me to read at the time, depending on my mood. I wish I had more time to read, but I don't. So when I actually get to read, it's GOT to be something I really feel like reading.

Heavy books and dystopian books are kind of hard for me to read sometimes, especially when I am super busy. They require a brain-power investment and usually an emotional one as well. And sometimes there just isn't enough of me to go around.

But then the hand of fate stepped in, as fate is wont to do, in the guise of Target. Sure, I had heard of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games series and was intrigued by the idea, but I hadn't felt like reading it yet. However on this perfect summer day, the kind where there is nothing that HAS to be done, I walked by the Hunger Games paperback on display for about 8 bucks.

"Okay," I said to myself, "I've heard about this. I feel like giving it a whirl today."

And the next thing I know, I'm counting the days until the midnight release of Mockingjay.

These books made me think. A lot.

And cry a little.

But mostly think.

They made me stay away from the internet so I wouldn't accidentally read a spoiler. They made me want to TALK with anyone/everyone else who had read them.

That's what makes a good story. One that stays with you.

For the record: I am Team Peeta and my favorite of the three was Catching Fire.

Anyone else late to the party on this one?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Blur That Was 2010

More books I loved next post.

I promise.

My parents just left. They came for a pre-holiday visit all the way from Albuquerque to see my kids in their various holiday concerts, which miraculously fell in the same week. (That will NEVER happen again.) They brought ornaments (of the garden gnome variety....don't ask) and New Mexican food (of the green chile variety.) It was a crazy busy wonderful week.

They said things like, "It's been quite a year."

And you know, it really has.

This time last year, I was trying desperately to figure out how to keep the writer part of me alive, while my job threatened to take over. Now I love my job don't get me wrong, but it is hard, HARD to work full time and get the writing done. It just is. Add to that the fact that I was in the middle of trying to discover how to query agents, since I figured all of my years of schlepping my manuscripts to editors on my own was just not going to cut it with a middle-grade novel. But querying is hard. It just is. (And my first few queries were kind of lame...Hi, I'm an author already.....blah, blah, blah.....I've written lots of stuff.....blah, blah, blah.....don't you want to rep me?)

Okay, not quite that lame, but probably pretty close. I am choosing not to look in the files to see exactly how lame they were.

But the more the rest of my life threatened to take over, the more the writer part of me squeaked its little head up, No! I will not be conquered! I will not be ignored!

And so I wrote late into the night. And at my lunch time. And in the car whilst waiting for kids to finish their activities. I revised. I queried. I revised my queries.....And within the last year, I finished a couple of books, got an agent, sold a book....and, well, wow.

On top of that, two of my daughters went to China to perform Irish dance, my youngest graduated from elementary school, I met great authors at some tremendous events, I got to see the galleys of my new book....and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

It's been quite a year.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't always carry around with me the attitude of gratitude. I'm no Grinch, but I do my share of complaining that there just isn't time to do all that needs to be done.
There just isn't enough time.

What I think I long for is the time to appreciate how lucky I am. I mean, it was a great year really. But I am always rushing to the next thing....rush, rush, rush......too much to do and way too little time. And sometimes I just need to stop.


And remember to savor the moments, because otherwise they will become a blur.

So I am wishing you this week, before holiday craziniess takes more than just a foothold in your life, a few moments of quiet pondering.

May you find much richness and lots of roses to stop and smell when you think back on the blur that was 2010.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Books I Loved in 2010 Part 2

First off, thanks for your kind wishes about the book signing. It was awesome. I'll post a picture soon of the unbelievable crowd....we sold out of books! Well, not all of the books in Barnes and Noble...of course they had more books....just my books. Which was cool, except that we could have sold way, way more. Oh well. I was just happy that I was very busy and not having to direct people to the biography section or something.

It does happen sometimes.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know about another book I loved in 2010. This book has been around for a while. Actually, it has been in my house for a while. My daughter who is in college read it back when she was in 6th grade and I found it while going through the book case.

This is such a fun, sweet, and touching book. I recently found out that it is a movie, which is on video already, but I am not certain if I want to see it or not. You see, to me the brilliance of this book was its subtlety. This is a book that slowly warms your feet, your hands, all the way up to your heart and soul.

Wendelin Van Draanen masterfully weaves a story told from different perspectives, that of a boy and a girl, and how their lives intersect....and how they feel about it.

Just such a special book. I asked myself several times as I read it, "How did she do that? How did she do that?"

And the shift from boy to girl and back again just really worked. The setting is middle school, and Van Draanen captures the essence in such a unique and wonderful way.

Well done, Wendelin! (Say that three times fast if you can!)

Already in the comments, people are leaving me their favorite reads of the year, so keep them coming!

More soon!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Books I Loved in 2010

I thought I'd take some posts to talk about some books I really loved this past year. Some books have been around for a while, some are new this year, and some are so new they come out next week. Like this one:

I was lucky enough to get to read Stephanie's book this past summer. And I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. No really, I just can't tell you. There aren't words fun enough to describe the awesome-swoonworthiness of this book. Anna's adventure in Paris is just the kind of adventure I imagined for myself about a jillion times over as a teen-ager.

I really just loved it.

This book touched my heart and reminded me a bit about the hopes and dreams of my teenage self. It is not just the way she describes things (like Paris) that made me fall in love, but it is the voice of Anna herself. (And this book will make you hungry, too. Seriously.) I know Steph is busy at work editing her next book, and she just sold her third one, so I get to look forward to more Steph-stuff in the future. Yay!!!

And Stephanie Perkins is a lucky duck. Finally, her baby releases to the world on December 2. That's less than a week away. Which makes you a lucky duck, too, because you can buy it as a Christmas present for that special teenage girl you know.

Go ahead. Be the person who is cool enough to give a book as a gift.

Speaking of buying books, if you are in the SoCal neighborhood, (as in Oceanside) on November 30th, I'll be doing a signing from 4-9 at Barnes and Noble. I'll have special guests with me, of course. There will be children's kazoo performances, and a hula-a-long (to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) and I'll be doing a couple of readings, at 5:30 and 7:30. Seriously, it will be more fun Christmas shopping than should be legal. AND 20% of all purchases will benefit Jefferson Elementary School.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Overheard in the Revision Room

Deep in a Kasbah in Marrakesh (or somewhere equally exotic...)
Indy is bent over a beautiful woven rug. He is grimacing.

This is not good.

Harrison Ford: Okay, I've been looking at your rug* and you see where you used pink? Well, the pink looks a little, uh, I dunno, lame. I think you should change that thread to green.

Me: Through the whole rug*?

Harrison: That's what I said.

Me: The whole rug.*

Harrison: Is there an echo in here?

Me: But then I'll have to unweave the rug*, find green thread (I don't even know if there is any around here) and re-weave the rug*.

Harrision: I never said it was gonna be easy. But if you want your rug* to look good, then you're going to have to make some changes.

Me: But if I change the pink to green, then it's going to look stupid next to the orange. You realize I'm going to have to change that too, right?

Harrison: Well, since you're unweaving it anyway, kid, it should't matter.

Me: *blushes*

Harrison: What? WHAT?

Me: You called me "kid" instead of "ma'am." *blushes more*

Harrison: Are you gonna get started, or are you just going to sit around here looking goofy at me?

Me: Do I get a choice? I mean, because I'd probably rather sit around looking goofy at you than unweave and reweave this entire rug*.

Harrison: *shakes head in disgust* Listen, you need to get busy. As in now.

Me: Fine.

Searches for plants to crush and make green dye for thread.........

* if I needed to tell you. And that's what it's like right now. Unweaving, reweaving, tightening, loosening, raising fist to the sky, shaking head in despair.....ah, revision.

Harrison: Now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 could I NOT know about this?

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, there really is a World Quidditch Cup and it just happened!!! Last weekend!!

How could I not know about this?

I mean, I once refereed a Quidditch game. We bought the brooms at the dollar store, used a big ball for the quaffle and flat-ish balls for the bludgers. And for the Golden Snitch, we had a yellow balloon that we released when one of our prefects yelled, "GOLDEN SNITCH!" and ran through the field.

Okay, so it was at Cali's eight birthday...and it was nowhere near as rough as some of the video footage I've seen. But the truth is that even though these college boys didn't inform me of their Quidditch Cup, I am still totally jazzed.

I mean, I live in a world where people play Quidditch.

Earth just became a tad cooler.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cover Love!!!!

Okay, first things first.

I am blogging at Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo today so go and check it out if you want to. I go over the one and only rule for writing a picture book. But you won't find it have to go there!

Secondly, I got to see the cover for my new book which releases on June 9, 2011. Since Amazon already put it up, I suppose it's okay for me to do the same. it is....


Didn't Jennifer Plecas do an amazing job! I am so pleased. I adore the little water wings on the third little dragon.

Jennifer, you rock!

June seems so far away.....sigh.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Confessions: The Star Wars Edition

1. Yesterday I wore a sweater that looked like I ripped it off from Obi-Wan Kenobi's closet...and I didn't notice it until the END of the Day! (If I had, I might have worn a lightsaber.)

And we're not talking Alec Guiness Obi-Wan

We're talking Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan:
Not that it would have mattered.

Still oh-so-dorky.

2. My husband recently bought me a coat which we have named the Chewbacca.

As in, "Hey, did you see where I put the Chewbacca? I need to wear it. It's cold."


3. And I wanted to buy one of these:

the Chewbacca button, to be exact. So I could keep it in the pocket of the Chewbacca coat and make the special Chewbacca noise at will. (Although the C-3PO button which wails, "We're doomed, DOOMED!" is strangely compelling.)

4. I secretly want to put my family's faces on this:

to make our Christmas card this year.

Yeah. I know.

5. I've got to get off the Star Wars Kick!! It's almost time for Harry Potter!!!

Less than 2 weeks!!!

I'm all a-quiver.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

November Goals

I don't even know what happened to October...but November is here and it is will be in double digits before I know it.

And, so far, the month has hectic for words...and not in the good-I-have-a-new-book-deal-agent-whatever kind of way, more like the bad my-water-heater-just-broke-on-Halloween-and-at-work-there-was-dog-in-my-office-on-Monday kind of way.

Don't even ask.

Anyway, before the month slips away, I thought I'd better grab on to it and make some goals. No matter how crazy the writing gets, it always makes me more sane just to have it around, you know?

So, the goals are sparse (for me anyway) but they exist.

1. PiBoIDMo- That's right, I am not NaNoing this year...but I am trying to write a picture book idea down every day. So far, I am 4 for 4...and I REALLY like all of them! This is just the kind of thing I need right now. No commitment to any particular idea....just a bit of a flirt session with the muse. If you want to join up, check out Tara Lazar's blog.

2. First Revision of Keelie of the Lake. The first revision consists of hammering out the structure of the book. When I write a novel, I don't write in chapters. I write in "parts", like maybe 4 parts, or 5. Then, when the first draft is done, I go back through and decide where the chapters should break...and what the actual structure of the book might look like. It's also the time where I revisit the manifesto (kind of like the bible of the book) and see if I am staying true to the plot...the characters....the theme....or anything else that applies. Once the first revision is done, it starts to feel more like a viable manuscript. (I imagine that I am Dr. Frankenstein and I have all the parts sewn together, but now I need throw the switch, attract some lightening and yell, "It's Alive!!!")

And that's kind of it.

and the reality is I probably won't even get it done......sigh.

But every step along the path gets me closer....


Sunday, October 31, 2010


When I was little, the Halloween story that scared me the most was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

I could not handle this story for some reason, which is probably why is has become my favorite ghost story to tell at this time of year.

My next door neighbor had a record (those were little black, round things that played songs and such when you struck them with a needle.....think of them as prehistoric CD's) with the story of the Headless Horseman on one side and a goofy little song on the other. Whenever my friend played it, I had to go home. I just couldn't hear it and not have it play in my brain, over and over again at bedtime.

Tooooooo Scary.

And then, when I was in middle school, I went to a Haunted House (something I HATE TO DO) that was hosted by the National Labs where my dad worked. Yeah, Scientists put it on. I am going out on a limb here, but let me just say that it is my opinion that Scientists should NEVER be allowed to create Haunted Houses for Little Kids. Never.

Naturally, it was terrifying. There were rooms for each scary thing....a Frankenstein room (with those electrode things zapping across the room as if they were being hit by lightening....nice job, Scientists), a vampire room, a wolfman room (the werewolf actually chased us into the next room, some mad Scientist/human experiment room that I still can't think about (yeah, nice going, Scientists!)

But I survived them all, because I was the ONE kid out of hundreds that made their dad go inside, too.

But then, in the parking lot, as my dad dropped his car keys and was fumbling around on the ground for them, I heard the distinctive clip-clopping that could only be horse hooves. I was afraid to turn around, but somehow I did anyway.

And there he was. Clip-clopping his way across the parking lot on a black horse, black cape, no head, carrying a jack-o-lantern carved into a hideous smile. The Headless Horseman.

Yeah, nice going, Scientists. It's not enough that you scare the pants of little children INSIDE the Haunted House, you have the keep the fun going on the OUTSIDE. (and we were the only ones in the parking lot because I wanted to leave early....all the other kids were still inside having, err, um, FUN I guess you would call it.)

I probably didn't sleep well for months....maybe years.

So now, each year, I treat my fifth graders to a retelling of the classic tale. I mean, there are those things which you just HAVE to pass on to the next generation.....





what's your favorite scary story?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fixed Computers, Bad Dreams and Postponed Dystopia

1. Yay! Husbands rock!! Sean unlocked the secrets of the crashed hard-drive, saving over 50 precious pages of my last WIP!! (Of course, I haven't read them over again yet...I mean, what if they stink and I made Sean spend the entire weekend searching for a way to save a way that I could access easily?) I'll look at them soon...I promise.

2. I dreamed I was still in college but I couldn't find my class because I didn't know what the class was, but I knew I had to be there. And then I was by a river, and people were parachuting down into that river....but they didn't have parachutes so they were just plummeting.....and then my car was on the railroad tracks and a train was coming but I couldn't get the car to start.

Stress much?

3. One of the cool things about reading reviews on Amazon is how it reassures the reader that our dystopian future is a long way away. I mean, when I go and look at reviews of a book that I LOVED and other people give it a one-star-wonder, it actually makes me happy. What a fabulous world we live in! We all don't love the same thing! How sad it will be when we all love only one kind of thing. (Of course, I am also thinking...."Did we even read the same book?" I especially think this about reviews of books that made me think "meh," and people gush over. "DID WE READ THE SAME BOOK??")

But it's not the books that are different.

It is the people.

And that is the best thing about our planet, I think.
People are still allowed to be different.


Friday, October 22, 2010

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

My inner editor is Harrison Ford. Usually he takes the form of Indiana Jones. Afterall, you need someone rough and tough (and hopefully with a whip or machete if necessary) to whack their way through the first draft.

However, Harrison/Han Solo paid me a visit just the other day. There I was, feeling oh-so-cocky about finishing my book in an almost 9,000 word marathon push to the end. I remember thinking to myself, "Self, you should back up your document when you get home from work. You forgot to do it yesterday."

But when I openned the computer to do just that.........
I can't even type the words.

my hard drive crashed.

"Don't get cocky, kid."

Yeah, Han, I hear you.
We are working to fix it.....think good thoughts for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Results.....I finished the BOOK!

The weekend was a wild, whacked-out writing-stravaganza!

And I finished the book!!!Yay me!

I started it back in April and really thought I'd finish it by the end of the summer, but it had other ideas. (The other ideas being the fact that I had no idea how to get to the ending, even though in hindsight, I was just worrying too much...which is something I never do. Really.)

Anyway, the timed writing worked well at first. I mean, 2000+ words in a day for ME was huge. I mean, when I get about 1,000 in a day I am flying high. But I knew I'd never get to the end by Sunday evening unless I kicked it up.

And I REALLY needed the first draft of this book to be done.

So Saturday, I tried some more timed writings, racking up 2,500 more words, which was awesome. I was really getting into the zone. I could sit down and just start cranking out words.

By Sunday, I didn't need the timer. I just sat in the chair in my pajamas and refused to get up until I was finished. 4 and 1/2 hours later, I WAS DONE. (I typed the last words at 12:00 noon, lalalalala.)

The grand total on the book is 47,317. I reckon some will be cut and some will be added to the final draft, so it will probably end up at about the same length, which is good I think for middle grade.

My total for Fri, Sat and Sun was 8,869 words. Sheesh. That is a bunch.

But I am sensing a pattern in my work. When I get to the end, it seems like I get to a point where the only thing to do is sit in the chair and push all the way through to the end. I get so scattered in balancing all the different aspects of my life (teacher, coordinator, mom, wife, writer, whatever) that weaving the strands of the story together to create the end takes more concentration than I have most of the time. I must sit in the chair and type away.

Two things you might want to know:

1. When I was worrying about how to get across the Grand Canyon I had created for myself in the book, I discovered that I had indeed packed all of the necessary information to get across within earlier bits of the story. Yay for rereading!!

2. I hate my chair right now.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Live Blogging Friday

Okay, so I am trying to finish a book this weekend. Taking a page from blog friend and awesome author Beth Revis, (who got the idea from PJ Hoover) I decided to try a series of timed writings.


So, first I am going to count up and see exactly where my word count is right now, so I can figure out how many word I get written in each session. The sessions will be 3o minutes, I think.

My current total is 38, 448. This is a middle grade book that I think will come in at around 48,000, however, I'd take anything form 45,000 to 52,000. Just depends on where the story goes.

So, I'm going to refresh my tea and get going. See you in half an hour.

Timed Writing #1

30 minutes

Word count- 430 (lame)

New Total-38,878

Comments: Hmmm. It was really hard to get started. Don't think the voice was where it needs to be, but I got all freaked out that I wasn't starting that I just starting typing kind of cruddy sentences...but the flow came after a bit.

Realized that I have recently introduced a character that I NEVER, EVER described. Good thing Joanna (my agent) hasn't read it or she'd kill me.

I am going to eat the breakfast burrito Sean just brought me, wash last night's dishes, row on the rowing machine and make a batch of banana bread. I think I'll try another timed writing in about an hour.

11:05 The bread making and kitchen cleaning and rowing and burrito eating took a little longer than I thought, but oh well. At least if I have nothing but 430 words and some banana bread to show for the day, it will be a day well spent. And here's a tip: Don't leave dishes for the next day...ewwww.

About ready to start, but am stifling a HUGE urge to net-surf....need to check hotwire for a hotel room price....*points finger at self* NO! Today is not a surf day. It is an industrious day!

Going off to set timer.

Timed Session #2

30 minutes

Word count: 646 (better)

total: 39,542

Comments: Flowed faster this time. Wrote up the description but not quite certain where I am going to put it. Am tempted to go again, right now while the fingers are feeling festive. However, I do have to get to the grocery store....and shower still.....Heck, I'm going for it!

Timed Session #3

30 minutes

Word count: 636 (Maybe I can't get much more than this in half an hour...?)

Total 40,163

Comments: Yikes! The back! Too much time in chair in same position!! Definitely time to get up and move around. I am not sure about the pace of the story right now. Am I going to fast? am I dragging it out? I need to think a bit before I rush ahead. Shower and grocery store, then I'll try again.

Timed Session #4

15 minutes (Real Life has reared its demanding head...quiet house gone. Must pick up children.....only a quickie)

Word count: 233 (And lucky to get it!)

Total: 40, 396

Comments: Wow...the afternoon totally escaped from me. And the evening won't ease up until after 8. Going to bring my notebook with me and do a by-hand-timed-session and see how it goes.

Timed Session #5

15 minutes

Word count: 187 (Was it really worth it?)


Comments: so tired.......probably shouldn't have tried this last one....might just be crud. Will check in the morning.

Total for day: 2,132 (Not bad, but tomorrow will have to be higher if I plan to finish this weekend.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Captain's Log

This is an actual journal entry, dated October 5, 2010. It is for my sisters and brothers out there who teach.

When I was very little, I thought the worst job in the world was to be a ship's captain. I mean, if the ship went down, wasn't there a law or something that said the captain had to go down with it?

The image haunted me. The picture of a captain standing on the deck of his ship and the waves rose and closed over his head.

Oh, Captain.

My Captain.

But like many childhood fancies, this thought submerged beneath the waves of my consciousness. Until now.

The Captain and his Ship have resurfaced.

But this time, I am the captain.

The ship is our current education system.

Now, I am not a political person at all. At all. But what am I supposed to do?

I am on this ship with children, our children, for godsakes, and their ship is going down. There is little money to keep it afloat, but if I don't teach them how to swim and swim fast, they will go down, too.

I should get off this ship. Others have. Others look at those of us still standing on the decks of our ships and shake their heads at our foolishness, our cockiness....thinking that we can still make a difference. I should get off while I can, before it kills me. Before the waves crash over my head and take us all down.

But there are Children on my ship. And if I don't teach them how to build a raft out of deck chairs or how to swim ('cause some of them don't know for cryin out loud) and there are sharks out there and if I don't teach them where the soft spots are (on the nose) they will never know.

They will get eaten.

And then I understood.

The captain doesn't stay on the sinking ship because there is a law that makes him.

The captain stays out of personal honor. Simply put, it is the honorable thing to do.

We must be there for the children, because they are the most valuable resource we have.

(Wait...that makes them sound like somethings instead of someones.)

They are all we have. the rest of the crew out there, I am waving to you, from the deck of my ship. No wait, I am saluting you.

I am not sure how to keep our boats afloat, but I stay because someone has to.

Because kids are worth it.

Because it is the least I can do.

End of journal entry.

On Friday, October 8, a gunman hopped the fence at the elementary school next to mine and began firing on the children at recess. Due to the brave efforts of the teachers (who protected the kids) and the construction workers (who tackled the shooter) no one died.

Folks, I'll admit I don't get out much, but teachers are some of the best people I know. We are dealing with a crisis in education, and teachers are on the front lines. With your children. Trying to do what's right for them and, in the case of the teachers at Kelly, protecting children with their own lives.

So go out and hug a teacher. Tell them that what they do makes a difference.

it does.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Imaginary Conversation Between Me and Richard Dreyfuss

Okay, so on Saturday (tomorrow) I am appearing at the San Diego Library Book Festival at the Encinitas Branch, at 11:00 a.m. on the children's stage.

And guess who else is going to be there? That's right....Richard Dreyfuss. THE Richard Dreyfuss. Want to see? Click here. See, there's Richard on the top....then scroll down....more....more....and there I am!

So, here's how I imagine it.....

Me: Hello Richard. I mean Mr. Dreyfuss. It is an honor to make your acquaintance.

Richard: It's cool, it's cool. And you don't have to kneel down like that or anything. It's kind of embarassing.

Me: *gets up, dusts off knees* It was a curtsy, but whatever. Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your work. I mean, The Goodbye Girl....... Jaws, just awesome.

Richard: Well, thank you. Um....I enjoy your work, too.....just remind me again who you are....and why you are dressed like that.

Me: Oh, I'm a kid's author and I'm dressed like a queen because....I um.......I like it, I guess.

Richard: Interesting.

Me: What's that supposed to mean? *feels the steam starting to rise.....interesting? seriously?*

Richard: It just means interesting.

Me: *tosses crown on the ground and raises fists* You wanna go?

Richard: Go where?

Me: No, I mean go, like throw down.

Richard: What do you want to throw down?

Me: Fists. Like fighting. Sheesh.

Richard: Now why would I want to get into a fight (with a queen, no less) when my message today is about helping to educate children to create a better, more peaceful world?

Me: Oh.

Richard: What's your message today?

Me: Um, it's kind about dragons that won't sleep....and there's a Good Knight....and um.....

Richard: Interesting.

Wish me luck!


Edited to include:


Okay, so the event was yesterday and it was such fun. Richard and I were both in the green room at the same time. However, he was having Important Conversations with people and I was just trying to grab a sandwich before I fainted. (People loved talking with, totally monopolized him...I had to try and sneak a picture from behind my sandwich....which only turned out to be the side of his head when he was turning....I felt like a total stalker.)

And I got to see D.J. McHale!! (But just from the audience when he was speaking.) Very cool.

Thanks to everyone that came out. It was hot out there! (Yes, the children's stage was in the park and the grown ups and teens had the nice, air conditioned auditorium. Not complaining, mind you, just ultra-appreciating those that braved the heat!)

The Encinitas Library could win an award for the most awesome library EVAH!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Grand Canyon of Writing

(I was going to insert a picture here....but I haven't been to the Grand Canyon in about seven years and I can't find my pix easily. AND I am trying to squeak a post in before work.)

Anyway, imagine the beautiful, majestic Grand Canyon. Okay, good. Now, imagine that you are standing on the edge and you need to get to the other side. That other-side-place is exactly where you need to be. It is the end of your journey. It's where your car is. It is the only way you are going to get home.

But that Grand Canyon in WIDE! You can't really jump across and not die.

And you don't want to take the time to ride all the way down to the bottom and back again on the back of a donkey. I mean, it's a DONKEY.

What to do?

Don't look at me for answers. I was hoping you'd help me figure it out.

See, this is exactly where I am with my WIP. I KNOW where it needs to go. It needs to go across the Grand Canyon.

But I cannot figure out how to get there. And WIP and I have traveled so far together. We've just got to make it to the other side.

So, I sit on the edge, dangling my feet over the side, hoping some inspiration will come....or that maybe I'll magically grow some wings.


P.s. Any suggestions are welcome...except that I don't really want to go all Thelma and Louise.....

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've noticed something strange when reading YA and some MG lately.

Some of the blurbs on the back kind of......fib.

I mean, I pick up the book, read the back and think it's going to be a such and such kind of book (because that's what the blurb says) but it ends up being a very different kind of book.

And, not that there's anything wrong with the book it ends up being, but I feel disappointed that it is not the book I was expecting.

Hence, the flurb (fibbing blurb).

Usually, the flurb makes the book sound more exciting, intense, etc, than the book actually is. I wonder if agents see this in queries sometimes, too. A great hook, great description, but the book just doesn't live up.

I am struggling with a flurb a bit myself. I wrote a fake query about a book I was beginning a while ago....the blurb is the kind of book I want it to be.

The book itself has some other ideas.

And I don't want to be a flurber...especially to myself.


(Of course, the answer is always the same.....get back to work!)


Sunday, September 26, 2010


A sister is a person who......

-tells you that icecream is really made with broccoli.

-gets mad when you wear the same outfit as she is wearing...(Hey, I couldn't help it....we owned the same clothes because mom made us matching outfits.)

-stays up at night telling you stories about what life would be like if you were really rich (we called it richety-rich). I would have had a blue canopy bed, in case you were wondering.

-tells you things NOT to do in Junior High before you start.

-gets up with you early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons.

-stays up with you late on Saturday nights to watch the Creepy Creature Feature.

-holds your hand after a particularly bad boyfriend break-up.

-sits next to you in college and draws pictures of boring professors being surrounded by sharks.

-helps to usher all three of your babies into the world and loves them as if they were her own.

-even though she lives far away from you now, you know she is always there for you.


I think the bonds of sisterhood are so beautiful....sometimes completely warped, but magical nonetheless. Some of my strongest childhood memories involve my sister and me.

How lucky my girls are to each not have ONE sister but TWO.

I wonder what their greatest memories of each other will be.


P.S. My favorite literary sisters were the March girls from Little Women. Any other well-loved sisters (literary or otherwise) out there?

Happy Birthday, S.C.M.D.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September by Numbers

Number of weeks of school completed: 4.5

Number of words written on the WIP: 5,000 (Ugh...not enough)

Number of birthdays: 2

Number of days I wore the wrong shoes and ended up with blisters: 2 (one of those days being today...but the shoes were cool so it was worth it.)

Number of crock-pot uses: 3 (shredded beef, pulled pork, Greek chicken)

Number of books I fell in love with: 1 (the Strange Case of the Origami Yoda!!!)

Number of times I completely doubted my new mg novel: 1

Number of trips to Disneyland: 1 (hopefully one more on Sunday)

Number of almost freak-out neurotic e-mails to agent: 1

Number of back-to-school night/mandatory parent meetings attended- 5 (how can that be? I only have 3 kids...and one is in college!1!)

Number of ants killed in kitchen: too many.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

THAT book

In every readers' life, there is that book. The one that made them into a reader. The one they couldn't put down at the dinner table. The one they read instead of playing.

Yeah, that book.

For each of my children, that book was different.

Noel found her book in third grade. Ghost Dog. How she loved this book. Her relationship with reading changed from something she should do to something she could-not-wait-one-more-second to do.

Isabelle found hers in sixth grade. Isabelle was never much of a reader before she picked up this book. As a matter of fact, she was the kind of kid that, if they saw a basket full of beautiful new books with gorgeous covers sitting next to a ratty looking old jump rope, well Issy would pick up the jump rope every time.

Enter The Clique.

Issy loved the Clique books. Begged me to buy each new one as it came out (which was quite an unusual thing for Issy....begging for a BOOK!)

My youngest, Cali, just found her book. Her English teacher made an evil rule (which I thought was brilliant) that the students had to read 100 pages each week.

That's a lot of pages, mom.

So, Cali was pretty picky about finding a book she wanted to spend that much time with. And, as much as Issy loved to run around, Cali has always been my player. You know the type...if there is nothing to play with they create something out of nothing. Chicken nuggets become princesses and the tater-tots are the terrible trolls that try to get the princesses into the ketchup hot-tub, which is really hot lava....

Why read something that someone else imagined when you could imagine your own stuff?

But then Cali found her book:

Cali loved WhenYou Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I'd find her curled up on the couch, nose deep in the pages, occasionally looking up to ask a question, then nose back down again.

She loved the fact that there were pieces that she had to put together. This wasn't just a story for her, she was a active participant in creating the meaning.

All three books are so different, yet each touched my child in the same way. Each gave them the golden key to the world of books.

So I offer up my most heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation for the variety we have out in the children's book universe.

All children are not the same.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Inside of a WIP

The inside of a WIP is a pretty good place to be.

I like when I get into a rhythm with the writing--when I can pull out the notebook or open the doc. and the words just trickle out oh-so easily.

But as I approach the final third of my WIP, I find my writing pace slowing down. Perhaps it is because when I finish a major project, I always feel kind of sad. I will miss my WIP friend. (I mean, even though I'll see it again in revisionland, we are rarely so friendly with each other as we are during the first draft.)

What I love about being in the middle of he first draft is that for me, the first draft is the Discovery Draft. It is where the story reveals itself to me, in its entirety, for the first time. (A very magical place to be...the middle of the first draft is.)

Now, granted, it's the FIRST draft. I know there will be lots of other drafts to come. Lots of revision. Lots.Of.Revision.

But that doesn't mean that I am not trying as hard as I can to get it right the first time. I try with every once of my being to get the first draft perfect, even though I know it never is.

I think that's sometimes a misconception about us pantsters (okay, that word does not look right). There's a thought that we can just let the draft be cruddy because we know we are going to go back and revise. And I guess this is true about me....except that it is always my secret hope that I won't have to.... It is my secret hope that I would get the story out right the first time.

I mean, a girl can dream can't she?


P.S. The current number of drafts for The Seven Tales of Trinket (pre-agent) was 14. Some of the changes were very small between drafts, and some were huge, sweeping structural changes. But I saved each draft in case I thought I made a mistake in some of my revising and wanted to go back to an earlier version. (Happened twice.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Club Envy

I don't belong to a book club....but it seems like everyone else does.

I love asking my mom what her book club is reading, or my sister what her club is reading, but though I live vicariously through their book clubs, I just can't seem to join one.

Am I just too oppositional?

I mean, the minute something seems like a reading assignment, I go completely Moby Dick. (That is to say, my brain cannot focus because this is now something I HAVE to read, like in Junior English, not something I WANT to read, even if I wanted to read it at one time or another.)

And, there is also the fact that if there is a bunch of hype about a book, it is just really hard for me to pick it up. Hence I have been late on the bandwagon for many amazing books....Graveyard Book, Book Thief, Hunger Games trilogy...hello! I struggled with finally deciding to read these books because "everyone else has read them" and that made me feel like I HAD to....and I hate feeling like I HAVE to.

The flip side is that I love talking about books that I love....or struggled with. ...or books that I can't stop thinking about. A book club would be perfect for me.


And yet I can't.

My solution: Force (nicely, of course) my daughter(s) to read books that I have read and want to talk about. (Of course, they might go all Moby Dick on me from time to time, but at least I get to read what I want to when I want to....and then talk about it later!)


P.s. I finished Surfiesta!! Before the I-must-eat-it deadline! How ironic. I post about how I hate to be forced to READ something, but can only finish a deadline if I force myself to WRITE the final bits.

What odd, odd creatures we writers are.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is it....

I HAVE to finish my collection of animal surfing poems by Monday night at 12:00 or I vowed to eat the one poem that is giving me fits.

I don't really want to eat the poem.

So, I will be nose down this weekend, trying to be funny, witty and rhymey. (The only problem is the fact that I am soooooo tired!)

In other news.....I will be celebrating the burning of Zozobra (a Santa Fe tradition) a week in tonight, because it seemed like the Thomas house needed a small celebration.

In Santa Fe, they make this giant puppet called Old Man Gloom (aka Zozobra). He is stuffed with newspapers.

Then they torch him.

I heard once that it is an attempt to burn away all of the bad news from the past year and start anew.

That may be.

But for us, it's a time to eat great New Mexico green chile and have fun with friends. (I usually make a little Zozobra out of a toilet paper roll for the fireplace. It's not like being in Santa Fe, for nothing is like being in Santa Fe, but is signifies to the Thomas Fam the beginning of Fall. I love's my favorite!)


Monday, August 30, 2010

Q and A

Okay, so I am working on a page of Q and A for my website. I have a few that I know I want to include....but I could use a little help. Imagine you are a kid (I know...most of us on this blog still are in one way or another!) Think about the kind of stuff you would like to know about an author. Let your inner kid out and help me think of some interesting factoids that people might want to know.

Of course, I am toying with the idea of just making up a bunch of lies.

But then I would feel bad.

However, it would be fun......


P.S. And if you have stuff that your inner adult wants to know, you can ask that, too. I'll try to have my inner adult answer, but she doesn't come around here too often. Cramps her style.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Painting Myself Into a Corner

I don't really have an office. Not at all, actually. I have a wooden folding tray upon which my laptop sits and a lovely large brown leather executive type of chair. It looks strange, giant chair, tiny desk, but oh well. The desk and chair were not the problem.

The corner was the problem.

I put my desk in a corner that was last inhabited by my husband's golf clubs. You know, those long, steel (or titanium) things that hang out of the top of a funny looking bag that scrape up any painted thing that they touch? Yeah, those things...well, my new office-corner (or should I say corner-office) was gross. I am not a picky person, but it looked like Beast (from Beauty and the Beast...coming out on DVD this fall!) had his own personal clawing festival on my walls. With dirty, muddy claws. Gross.

I washed the wall but it didn't help much.

So I got some lovely blue paint, kind of turquoise-tiffany blue and I painted my corner. It makes me so happy when I sit down to write to see this lovely HUGE splash of color.

What else makes me happy? A chile relleno burrito brought to me by my husband so I could get a little writing done.

You know, when you have a blue corner and a burrito, there's really no writing task you can't tackle.

So, what about you? Any little indulgences that make your writing life happier?


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Goals-Year in Review

For me, this time of year is really more of the "new year" than the whole December/January thing. I tend to look back at my year and see what I have accomplished and what I still want to accomplish. But first, I need to check in with my Summer Goals. (I am counting Labor Day as the deadline).

1. Keelie of the Lake, MG. My goal was to finish the first draft. That is SO not going to happen. I am halfway there. I am adjusting my goal to finish a draft by November (when I get my Trinket edits). It would be really nice to have a draft done before I start to work with my editor.

2. Wren Faire-I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do with this. Did I want to keep it YA? Did I want to revise it for more of a tween audience? I still don't know. I finally got brave and opened the file. I was truly scared to do it. I was terrified it would stink to high heaven. But it didn't stink, which is good. However, I was unable to reach a decision, so......time will tell.

3. Surfiesta, PB-I vowed to eat a page of this book if I couldn't write the last poem. Guess what? I am going to have to look up recipes for how-to-eat-bad-poem if I don't hurry up and finish!! Two weeks! Yikes!!!

4. Nix the Naughty, Chapterbook revision-YAY! Done!!!

5. Area 51 Elementary, Chapterbook-Didn't touch. Not even once. (Will probably back burner this for a while.)

6. New PictureBook Idea-Yeah, as if.

7. Chicken Wizard (Was I going to brainstorm a second adventure for him? I don't even remember....)

So, what happened StoryQueen?? Not exactly dismal, but, well....I had higher hopes for my time off. HoweverI did do a lot in the past year:

I revised The Seven Tales of Trinket, finished the draft of Wren Faire, learned how to query an agent, got an agent, revised Trinket a couple of times, wrote two brand new picture books, wrote two easy readers, wrote and revised Nix the Naughty (chapterbook) and wrote synopses for other books in the Nix series, made my first vlog, appeared at six author events, taught a children's writing workshop....oh, and did my other job.

Now I am feeling better. I am going to cut myself some slack on the summer goals.

How about you? How are your summer goals coming along? Yearly accomplishments?


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why a Query is like a Poem

I've been thinking a lot about queries since Write On Con. Well, actually, I was thinking about them even before that. I've been wondering what makes a good query.

I've come to the conclusion that a good query is startlingly like a good poem. Somehow, somewhere inside, it resonates with your soul. It makes you feel. It makes you wonder. The purpose of a poem isn't just to exist, but to make that connection between reader and poet.

The purpose is the connection.

When I read through the queries on Write On Con, I found the comments very interesting. And I found myself disagreeing with most of them.

Because there is not just ONE way to write a query, much like there is not just ONE way to write a poem.

And people, anyone who tells you there is only one way is wrong.

I think there is a tendency towards creating some kind of generic query that follows all of the rules like a good school boy. And then guess what happens? All of the queries end up sounding the same.

Generic writing is not compelling writing.

I know of which I speak. For I, too, once wrote a generic query.

I followed all of the rules....or the rules I thought existed out there and squeezed (hammered, chiseled, stuffed) my thoughts into a recipe for what seemed to be a successful query template. And I made it all fit.

Kind of like a too-tight sweater that pulls in the wrong places and isn't really that flattering.

I mean, just because you can wear something, doesn't mean you should.

(Sorry, metaphor switch. At first the query was a poem, then a schoolboy and now it is a sweater?? I'll get back to the poem part, I promise. I just can't help but sometimes put in a little motherly advice. And the just because you can doesn't mean you should line is one spoken often in the Thomas house. I mean, I have teenage daughters.)

So, anyway, after a bit of time (and very little response to my little query,) I looked at it again and realized that I followed all of the rules but that my query did NOT reflect very well the book I had written. As in not at all. I mean, I wouldn't even want to read the book I described. And I wrote it.

Then I realized that the query doesn't need to be the best query. It does not need to be the best little school boy. It just needs to make the best connection it can between my book and the reader.

And connections of any kind are magical. Everyone knows that.

So, I sat down and thought like a poet. I let the words flow out of me, allowing the voice I had so easily let loose on the page when writing my book have a turn at describing the book. I tried not to think about the agent or editor who might read my words, but rather that a friend might actually have to read it. I took all of the pretentious stuff out, since I hate sounding pretentious to friends. I allowed a more genuine take on my book to fill my heart and spill out.

And I thought what the heck? At least this represents my book better than the last, dry, generic query did. If an agent is going to reject my book, at least they will know what they are rejecting, right?

Now I am not saying that I actually wrote a poem and sent it in as a query. There were no rhyming words. There was no iambic pentameter. (But it would be funny to try some day.....) But there was an attempt to write a query that provided an electric connection between my book and whoever read it. I let my query sound like it was written by the same person who wrote the book.

And the first agent I sent the query to is now my agent, the wonderful Joanna Stampfel-Volpe.

So, I guess what I am saying is that when you write your query, remember that its sole purpose is to create a connection. The only rule it has to follow is to make the reader go dang I want to read that book. Now.

A beautiful poem is remembered not for its words (though they may be lovely or haunting or achingly perfect), but for the chord it strikes within the reader's soul.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Withdrawals. Presents. Food.

1. I am in serious withdrawals over the end of WriteOnCon. I mean, for the past three days, I've woken up to find three hours worth of workshop posts that I get to catch up on (Yay West Coast!) And then, throughout the day, every hour there was something new and cool to read and absorb.

And it was all in one place! Talk about one stop shopping.

I cannot imagine the work that went in to organizing it all.

It was amazing.

And I miss it, sooooooo much.

2. I did a storytime at Yellow Book Road in San Diego on Tuesday. It is an awesome independent bookstore (and if you need books signed by me, they can arrange for that and ship them too you.) Anyway, one family bought about 7 copies of Happy Birthday, Good Knight. 7 copies?

"That's a lot of copies," says I.

"Well, they are party favors for a royal birthday party."

Wow. What a great idea. I mean, I give books as presents a lot. A LOT. But what a great idea to give books as party favors! I mean, those of us with little ones KNOW how much we spend filling little favor bags with crumby* little plastic crud that everyone just throws away so that the younger members of the family don't choke on it. Books are the party favor that keep on giving!
(And you don't have to give hard covers or anything! But imagine how cool it would be if your child came home with a paperback book instead of plastic crud.)

I can see this working for pre-teen/teen parties, too. Imagine a slumber party where everyone gets a copy of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting or some similarly adreneline-rush worthy tale. (If you can, watch Kimberly's vlog on WriteOnCon, Thursday. She is the master of building suspense!) Far more fun than just watching a scary movie.

So, give books as favors (and they don't have to be mine.)

3. After the storytime/signing, my husband took me out to lunch. We went to Point Loma Seafood. We split a halibut sandwich. It was 15 bucks. Seriously. 15 bucks. I mean, is there any sandwich in the world worth 15 bucks?

Yes. There is. And if I had a choice of eating lobster or having the 15 buck halibut sandwich, I'd pick the sandwich. The sourdough bread was so fresh and warm, and the fish just melted in your mouth.

But luckily is was 15 bucks (and I am cheap) so we just split it because then we drove by Five Guys burgers which have the best burgers in the world. Really. The best. so, we split a burger and brought some burgers home for the girls. They had bacon and mushrooms....OMG so good.
My husband is a burger fanatic. Everytime we visit a new city, he must search for the perfect burger. Five Guys is way up on his list.

So, what a week! Anyone out there do anything besides hang out at the con?


*my preferred spelling is crummy, but I decided I ought to read The Catcher in the Rye, you know, since I never did in school, and he uses crumby a LOT. (But in my head, when I spell it crumby, I always hear the "b" which cracks me up.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where I'll Be....

Yay! It's Write On Con Week!

I am so excited that some fabulous blogger pals have put this event together. Who would have thought they would have so much response! Over 1400 people registered to take part in the forums. WoW!

One of the reasons I really wanted to be a part of this is because I have never really been able to go to one of the Big Conferences. You know the ones....the ones that keep you glued to your laptop, wondering what the next crumb of amazingness to be posted on somebody's blog who is lucky enough to be there will be. It's not that I didn't want to go to one. It's more that the scheduling gods have been against me each year (sometimes they duked it out with the recession gods.....or the giant-looming-project gods). Either way, same result. No conference for Shelley.

But I GET TO GO! And you do, too!

So, head on over starting tomorrow. I will make an appearance on Thursday afternoon at 3:30 (but I am not sure if that is Eastern Time or what. I'll keep you posted.)

Also, I think I'm going to be at Yellow Book Road in San Diego on Wednesday at 11:00 for storytime....knights and dragons welcome!


P.S. Thank you for all of the nice comments on my blog last week. The support of the blogging community is the absolute best thing about the internet. The best.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Which I Make This Noise: Wooohoooooooo!!!

So, those of you that read this blog from time to time know that I write not only children's picture books, but that I have been trying my hand at middle grade novel writing as well.

Even though I had published nine books without an agent, I knew that times had changed, and that if I wanted to sell my middle grade, I needed the help of an agent. Last spring, I signed with the amazing Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (who is magic) and today, we get to tell you about this:*

Middle grade

Picture book author Shelley Moore Thomas's debut THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET, about a young bard named Trinket, an old tattered map, Thomas the Pig Boy, and the quest to find Trinket's father, pitched as WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON meets Gail Carson Levine, to Beth Potter at Farrar, Straus Children's, at auction, by Joanna Volpe at Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation (NA).

Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! er, um....oops, I said I would make this noise: Wooohoooooo!!!

I am soooo happy. If ever there was a book that was close, close, close to my heart, it is this one. (And to be compared to two Newberry medal winners in the description totally floored me!) And I can't wait to work with Beth (she laughed at my jokes on the phone.....or maybe that was nervous matter, she's stuck with me now.)

And here's the thing, I never would have known about Joanna without my participation in the blogging community (having read her name bandied about from time to time, always in the most awesome circumstances) thank you, blog friends! For being there, for posting about writing stuff, for posting about stuff that has nothing to do with writing but makes me smile, for having a blog! (And JSV case you were wondering....)

You are all awesome.

So...cake anyone?

I am thinking chocolate with chocolate buttercream icing......
or maybe a flourless chocolate cake....



*they left out a word in the announcement and it didn't make sense, so I added the word on my blog....just so you know.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why Writing a Book is Like Teaching School AND Having a Baby

I forget every time I start something new just how hard it can be down in the trenches of a book.

I remember it differently, of course. I only remember that it must have been easy. (It could not have been this hard, could it?)

I look back on finished projects and remember typing the last words and a feeling sadness in my soul that my time with it is over. I remember working on the book like I was in love with it and all we did for the months that it took to get written was dance in fields of daisies (cushy daisies, of course) and make lovey-dovey eyes at each other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I know this because in addition to writing my books and blogging, I play around in journals a lot. I also keep a document for each book in which I just free-write a lot about how the book is going, where I want it to go, why I can't seem to get there and all that. Oh, the angst!!! You would think I was a new teacher with the roughest class ever (been there, done that) or having a three day labor trying to pump out a giagantic baby (been there, done that). It's so hard. Why? Why? Why?


But I did. I went back and taught more kids (more than 20 years of teaching) had more babies (3 daughters altogether) and wrote more books (lots).


Because our minds are kind and we forget the hardest parts. We forget the self-doubt, the wondering if we have been fooling-ourselves-and-perhaps-we-shouldn't-be-doing-this-at -all
thoughts. We only remember the wonderful feeling of looking into the faces of children who couldn't read before they came to you, or holding your baby for the first time, or typing the last words on a story and knowing it is the best thing you have ever written.

So, the forgetting is great. It allows us the time, distance and hope to try to do it again.
It must not have been that hard, right? Daisies and lovey-dovey looks and all.

But then, there are days like today. AAAUUUGH! It was never this hard before! What am I doing wrong?? What? What? It was easy writing the last book, right?

I am glad for the journal entries which remind me that it was and is hard work to write a book.

Hard work.

But I made it through that book, which is now something I really love.

I can make it through this, too.

(So can you, even if you have never taught kids or had a baby....I promise.)