Sunday, March 28, 2010


I should have updated my progress back at the end of February...but alas.  And now April is looming and I need to figure out where I am and what direction I need to go.

First, the latest stats:

1.  Icky Chicky-a VERY short picture book (less than 100 words) that cracks me up.  (Get it?  Cracks me up?)  DONE

2.  Bob the Slob and the Wobbly Blob-picture book, rhyming, silly.700 words. DONE

3.  Nix the Naughty-chapter book, DONE

4.  Seven Tales of Trinket-middle grade, editing with agent IN PROGRESS.

5.  Chicken Wizard-easy reader, 850 words, DONE

6.  Wren Faire-teen/young adult, REVISING.

7.  Surfiesta-poetry/picture book, still working on.

So, um, at first glance, it seems kind of good, right?  Lots of DONEs.  But the thing is, I'm not used to having a lot of pieces finished at around the same time.  Usually, I have more WIP's going.  (I don't recommend it for everyone, but I know it works for me.Maybe a middle grade or two, a couple of picture books..that kind of thing.)

Meaning: I have to start some new things (a new middle grade would be nice....)

And I am struggling.

Which to choose, which to choose?  WHICH TO CHOOSE!!??

Here is my plan:  I am going to write the queries of the 4  middle books* I cannot decide about, start in on them a bit and see where it takes me.  Hopefully, I'll have it narrowed to 2 by Thursday.  (I can handle 2 brand new ideas at a time, but no more than that......)  If have not sufficiently narrowed my focus by then, I am going to post one sentence descriptions of the stories in question and YOU can tell me what you think.

*Do you hear that, little ideas?  If you don't hurry up and decide amongst yourselves who gets to go first, I'm going to let the blogosphere decide...and you'll just have to live with it!!!

So there.


Edited to include the fact that I have been working on these pieces for a long time...since can see the titles over and over again in my progress reportsI seriously didn't write them all in one month!!!  It's just weird that I've finished them at around the same time...

Seriously, I don't really get THAT much done....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Backwards by Design: Query

^This was some kind of business theory which got applied to education in the not too distant past....the whole outcomes-based-learning kind of thing.  The gist being that if you decided where you wanted to go, or what you wanted to learn,  you could then figure out how to get there (or something far more filled with important jargon-y words, but you get the idea.)

How does this apply to writing (she asked rhetorically)....well, glad you asked.

First off, let me tell you two things about my process:

1.  I  never outline.

2.  I always have some idea what the finished product might be like before I begin.  (It is not always accurate, but it is a vision of sorts, which helps me navigate through the writing.)

So, I thought I'd try a little something....because I'm wild like that.

Usually, when I start a book, I open a "fake" document about the book that I call "the manifesto" in which I write all things pertaining to said book that I am not ready to put in the book yet.  Or it might be just me dreaming about the characters and such in the fake document.  So I thought I'd try a little trick....what if I wrote the query BEFORE I wrote the book (in the manifesto, of course).  I mean, if I have a title, an idea and a voice for the writing, who needs all the details?

So, I wrote some queries for some books before I wrote them and you know what?  That little paragraph of description really helped me figure out a lot about my book.  It made me think, "Dang!  I want to write that book!"

So, if you're stuck, try writing the query.  It's a lot more fun to write a query when you don't have to than when you do.


Monday, March 22, 2010

When your inner editor is Harrison Ford

Okay, really, it could be worse, right?

I mean, I always thought my inner editor was a very proper lady with a tight bun or a crotchety old man that looks like Professor Plum from Clue.  I should know my inner editor.  He/she should show up from time to time.

Turns out, mine rarely shows up during the first draft.  I think that's because I have to write in small spurts and, really, its just not worth an inner editor's time to show up if you have to stop writing in ten minutes anyway.  What's the fun in convincing you something is cruddy if there's no time in which to do it?

That's why mine shows up during revision.  I can't revise in bits and pieces.  I have to dive in and stay there, holding my breath in the deep, for as long as it takes.  It's dangerous, I tell you.

That's why my inner editor is Harrison Ford.

Sometimes he looks like this:

Just get your butt in there and do it.  

Sometimes he looks like this:

You're getting cocky now...knock it off.

But either way, revising isn't so bad with Indiana Jones/Han Solo.
 So, who's your inner editor?


edited to include that sometimes he looks like this:

At which point he can get rather cranky and fussy.

I mean, he's an inner editor, after all.  Of course he gets cranky.  Especially when I waste time looking for persnickety pictures of him instead of Doing.The.Work.
Okay, okay already.  I hear you, Harrison.  


Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the Winner is....

Man oh man, it was tough deciding. I mean, I knew it was going to be hard, because teachers are some of the best people I know in the whole world. How to to choose?

(And it didn't help that I got teary reading about some of these amazing people...I think Wendy said it best: Teachers really do change lives.)

But, as I was sitting at my computer late last night reading over the entries, there was one that stood out from the rest. I mean, every teacher is amazing in his/her own way, but how many would go to the house of each student (sneakily, of course) and leave green foot prints??? (as well shamrocks and candies for her students to find?)

Not many. That's dedication (or perhaps the woman is part leprechaun which case, it would not bode well to offend her.)

The teacher in question is Mrs. Carlson, and her champion is SolvangSherrie!

Congratulations!! Sherrie, email me your address and I'll send you the basket o'luck. May it bring much luck to you and yours.

So, I'm working on some revisions right now for my middle grade. I am struck again how important it is to have some other eyes than just mine review the ms. I am so close to the story...I knew what I wanted it to be...but it helps to have another viewpoint, letting me know if I was able to stay true to that vision or not. (Usually, I need my Indiana Jones Potato Head and his whip for strength when revising, but right now I'm feeling like I can do it whip-free.)


P.S. (Han Solo is telling me not to get I guess if my inner editor/Harrison Ford can't be Indiana Jones, he'll settle for one of his other roles...)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Dancing feet taking a rest.

Wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'll be thinking of you all as I drive dancers from place to place to place.

So, here's a joke:

What's green and goes "O'Quack, O'Quack?"

The Duck of the Irish. (Yeah, I know.....)

What's green and stays outdoor all year long?

Paddy O'Furniture (Get it, Patio furniture???)

Hope your day only gets better!


P.S. contest ends tonight!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


BASKET OF LUCK is the one on the right.

Isn't it pretty?

I won it from Jackee's site and it was filled with wonderful things.

But then good things started happening to me, the best being that an agent loved my book. And I had to come to the realization that it was because of the basket.

It is a lucky basket.

I should keep it, right? I mean, so it could continue to bring me luck?

No way!!

(Don't your read your folktales? Don't you know what happens when you try to hold on to that which you SHOULD pass on? I'll tell you what happens. The Evil Twist is what happens. Like if you wish that someone would love your manuscript and they love your manuscript...they love to line their bird cage with it!)

So, before the faeries think I am being greedy and all with the lucky basket, I shall fill it and pass it on.


since it is currently in my possession, I get to make the rules about who gets it, which are as follows:

1. You must have a blog to enter (see rule 2)

2. By entering, you agree to fill the basket and eventually pass the luck on to another blogger.

3. Inside the basket there will be various cool stuffs (including a dragon finger puppet, just so you may or may not contain delicious, yummy things..) AND 2 of my books. Only 1 is for you. The other must be given to....

4. A teacher! Yes, you must give one of my books to a teacher. Which brings us to how you win.....

To win, you must leave (in the comments, of course) the reason why the teacher you are thinking of is worthy. How fabulous are they? What do they do that is so awesome they should win a signed book? I'm controlling. But the BASKET OF LUCK is worth it.

Contest closes March 17th. If there is a tie, I will use the sugar bowl of despair to break it. The decision of the sugar bowl of despair is final and binding.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Which Something Really Good Happens

There are moments in your life as a writer that you never forget.

Noisy moments, like when you scream with joy when you get your first contract.

Or when you ohh and ahhh over the cover of your book, lifted from it's cardboard shell, for the first time.

Or when the crowd at your booksigning is loud and boisterous, in the best possible way.

And then there are the quiet moments....

Like when you open a letter from a 6 year old boy who writes (very messily, in all caps) that yours was the first book he ever read all by himself. (Good Night, Good Knight)

Or when a librarian 5 states away lets you know that she read your book the week after 9-11 and it gave her, and her school, hope. (Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace)

Or when you open your e-mail and see that you have a message from an agent and even though you click on the other mail first (because it's probably a rejection anyway) you finally get up your nerve to click on it and then have to read it a couple of times (maybe a hundred) to let the words about your manuscript sink in, "'s just that good and beautiful."

No, I didn't squee.

I just got teary for a moment. Then my heart smiled.

Writing is so solitary.

And when you know that something you wrote touched someone....well....

There are no words.

Only the best feeling. Ever.


You want to know who the agent is? The agent wonderful (and crazy) enough to offer to represent me in all of my royal glory (and my Middle Grade Novel?)

Only the best agent in the world, known throughout the blogosphere as maybe the kindest, most helpful, most give-backing agent ever........(drumroll....)

The Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation!

So, Joanna, if you're reading this, please don't be scared off.

It will be fun.

I promise.


P.S. "The Basket" contest details in the next post! Watch for it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Luck of the Irish

March is one of my favorite months.

And not just because I love to watch my girls dance, and boy, do they ever dance their feet off around St. Patrick's Day!

I like March because it's lucky.

This is a street in Dingle....where you can bet if you feel lucky.

I have been very lucky in the past few weeks....and even without the trip to Dingle.

First, I won a basket from Jackee
(okay, so it was in February...but I won it because I said that I liked March.) Guess what was inside...The Maze Runner!! Been dying to read this book. (And the cover is green, in keeping with the March/Irish/Luck/Spring theme.) I think I'll fill the basket with wonderful things and pass it along to someone, so watch for contest details coming soon.

Second, I won a chance to talk with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh for 15 minutes.
It was a partial skype conversation, as in I got to see him, but he didn’t get to see me due to an unknown error on my end. (No, I did NOT purposely create the error so I wouldn’t have to clean my house.)
We talked about the types of clients he represents and some of his favorite books (he re-reads Charlotte’s Web once a year! Also loves Pete’s a Pizza and the Little Bear Books.)
He was kind enough to give me specific advice about my personal dilemma, that of being an already published author who thinks the time might be right to look for an agent. Mark was so personable and knowledgeable and really, the time just flew.
But for me, the most important thing I took away from our talk was how having an agent can really benefit an author, and I’m not talking about “more sales, higher advances” or anything like that (though I’m sure that’s a possible outcome.) I’m talking about the synergy of two people who love children’s books working together to create something new and exciting, then getting this new and exciting manuscript into the right hands.
When I hung up the skype (does that even make sense?) I was totally pumped up….the way you get when you remember how powerful/wonderful it is to even be a small part of the children’s book world.
Because the world of children’s books is the best place in the universe.
(Rumor has it that Mark will holding a similar contest in April. It is worth your time to enter!)

And third...(and this is a case of luckiest for last... except that I can't tell you yet.) But it is in no way related the the other two things...more details coming soon!

But I can't leave you just hanging without a little something, so I'm giving out the corned beef recipe. I guarantee you that it is the Best Corned Beef you will EVER eat.


So, basically, you just stick some corned beef in a crockpot with a little water (toss the seasoning packet...yuck) and cook it all day. Then (this is the magic part) you take the corned-beef out of the pot and place it on a baking tray (with edges) and smear the top of it with gobs of orange marmalade*. Lots. Then, broil it until the top is all bubbly and brown, slice it and stick it back in the pot to keep it warm.

Seriously, so easy, but the best. Something about how the citrus from the marmalade interacts with the saltiness of the beef. Who knows, but it is good!

Try it and let me know how it goes. Maybe I'll give you the recipe for the best corned beef hash in the world to use with the leftovers....except you probably won't have leftovers....


*A lovely, chic Frenchwoman gave me the recipe..."Ah, corned beef is terrible, but this least you can eat it."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Comedy of Errors (or....the perks of being an author)

One of the perks of being an author AND a teacher is that you have access to free the form of little kids.

The fifth graders in my writing club put on a little play today to get the rest of the school (700 kids) excited about reading...excited enough to earn a GOLD medal in our school's Spring reading program.

We put on King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (which is one of my favorites), and one my my stories (of course!)

We chose Get Well, Good Knight and let me tell you, it was hilarious, (if I do say so myself.) I got to be narrator and my little actors were just soooooo funny. I mean, the story is about three dragons who are sick and the Good Knight goes to the Old Wizard to get horrible potions to make them well...but who would have expected the Good Knight and his horse to break into Single Ladies....or the little dragon to sneeze on the StoryQueen, not once but three times.....or the horse to dance the can-can...or the Good Knight to refuse to taste the potion, forcing ME to taste it....or the StoryPrincess trying to take over.....I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

It was a great experience for the young actors. (But it was an even better experience for me.) I loved it. Because, folks, life should be fun.

And how many authors get to see their work come alive? AND be smack in the middle of it.

Feeling like the luckiest person in the world today.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Busy Mom's Guide to Writing a Book Part 3

You didn't think I'd actually forget about the writing part, did you?

It's the easiest part.

It is also the hardest part.

First, you have to make time to do the writing. I know it's hard. Believe me, I've been doing this mom thing for twenty years. 20!!! (How is that even possible, since I'm only 29 myself? Ha!)

It's never easy to find the time, but here are a few of my tried and true tricks....baubles of wisdom from the queen, if you will:

1. Less TV. TV is a huge time-suck. Pick a no more than three shows to watch each week. And TiVo them so that if you are in the middle of a good idea, you can catch the fashion show on Project Runway later. (Really, there are only three good shows on T.V.: Project Runway, Glee and Lost*)

2. Less Internet. Internet+You=unfinished material.

3. Find creative times /places to write: For example, I write everyday during my lunch time (I was going to write lunch hour, but I am a teacher. There's no such thing as a hour for lunch!!) But amazingly, I can crank out little nuggets of good writing in twenty minute intervals if needed. And the act of writing EVERY DAY is important for me. I work best when I am able to get into a groove. If that means lunchtimes or in the car while the kids are at dance practice (not while I'm driving, of course. While I'm driving, the writing is too messy to re-read), then that's what I do. Of course, I write when I am at home, but sometimes STUFF happens (as I'm sure you're aware, being a mom and all), and if I've already gotten a bit done during the day, even if it's a tiny amount, I'm less likely to be cranky.

I'm also one of those writing geeks who carries their journal (or writing book, as I call mine) wherever I go. I'm a big fan of the black and white speckled composition books, but my husband gave me some moleskines for Christmas and, well, I fell in love......

(Go and buy some moleskines....YOU ARE WORTH IT!)

4. The best ideas come at the wackiest times. Seriously. (Having a moleskine nearby to capture these elusive rascals is a must!) As a mom, you have to realize that when you sit down to write, the ideas are NOT going to fall from your fingertips onto the keypad. It's like the rule that says that if you have a clean diaper and a change of clothes in the diaper bag, you will NOT need it, whereas if you don't...... You have to make yourself write down bits of wonder whenever, wherever they lurk, and capture them, so that when you have a moment to sit and write, they'll be there for you.

I guarantee you that you won't remember half of them. (It's the sleep depriavtion=short term memory loss equation).

So, there you have it. The third leaf on the shamrock of writing.

Speaking of shamrocks, we have entered the fabulous month of March. Watch for upcoming Irish stuff, as well as my super sekrit recipe for the best corned beef EVAH!


*yeah, Lost is lame now, but I still have to watch it.