Sunday, December 21, 2008

Editor Quote: Allyn Johnston

Editor Allyn Johnston joined Simon & Schuster this year to begin her new imprint, Beach Lane Books. She is known for her caring and expert work for 22 years with Harcourt Children’s Books where she rose to the position of editor in chief.

Ms. Johnston’s quote comes from the 2009 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market guide.

The question is: How would you describe the most important thing you do as a picture book editor? Part of Ms. Johnston comment is this, “Authors and illustrators are our most important resource. Without them none of us would be here. Our primary job in the editorial department is to maintain—and build—strong, trusting, collaborative relationships with them so they keep bringing their projects to us.”

Bravo, Ms. Johnston! I appreciate your honesty.

To read the complete interview, you’ll need to get a copy of the 2009 CWIM guide. The new edition is available, and you’ll find it is chocked full of information for picture book writers.

Until next time, keep your typing fingers warm . . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Author Quote: Anita Riggio

Here is another quote from CBI's "In Their Own Words." Anita Riggio is author/illustrator of "Wake Up William" and gave this interview in May 1995.

About emerging writers and illustrators, she said, “Writing and illustrating is an act of courage. Unless you tap the emotional core, it will be fluff. In order to do that you have to dig deeper, become vulnerable. That’s where the good stuff is. Children know if you’re writing or illustrating on the surface. You have to be open to yourself and let others in as well, which is scary. Those people who are writing and illustrating because they can’t help themselves—they can’t stop themselves from doing it—will be successful!”

These are encouraging words for us who are not published or not book published, but have magazine credits.

I fine my heart aches when I stay away too long from working on a story. I can't not write!

Until the next Author Quote, let's keep our fingers warm and work!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shedding My Adult Skin For Snow

I live in snow country. Not too much snow, but enough to want to grab my trash can lid and look up at the sky and wait for it to come.

For me, snow will be an opportunity to shed my adult skin and become a child again.

It is always good for anyone to think like a child for a moment in time to remember the simplicity of life. It is necessary for the children's writer. It's part of our job. It is not an option. It is . . . Oh, well, you get my point. Writers need to shed their adult skin and let their child-self emerge.

Why? You may ask. Simply because if we are to write for children, we need to remember what it felt like to be a child. Remember the bad stuff and the good.

I love to do this by getting on the floor and playing with my grandchildren. Or picking flowers and smelling each one. Or, to remember that time I stood among my relatives looking at my baby sister's casket on a cold December day.

This weekend, I get to play in the snow and remember what it was like when my five siblings and I ran to be first to grab the trash can lid and slide down our hill.

Happy sliding!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Author Quote of the Week:Walter Dean Myers

I'm starting something new. Once a week I will quote an author, a tidbit for us writers to think on.

Here is a quote from Walter Dean Myers out of "In Their Own Words: The Best of CBI's [Children's Book Insider] Interviews" from November 1993. He speaks of his experience working at a publishing house. "I saw what was wrong with most of the manuscripts that were coming in. The structure was bad. The writing can be bad and they'll publish it, but if the structure is bad, they won't."

I'd like to encourage comments on this one. Is this still true today? What do you think Myers meant by structure?

My belief is that it is still true.

I've had good compliments on the storytelling of my MG work-in-progress, TALKING MAMA HOME, by the Ones Who Should Know. But my structure is not working for them. I'm working right now to correct that, and when I found Myers quote it touched home for me.

Until next week on Author Quotes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

After A Holiday


I've been gone for nine days and settling in is not easy. Where do I start with all the work at home and at my desk?

I've learned over the years that fretting gets me nowhere. Procrastination gets me nowhere. I have to just start. Somewhere. Just now, I made myself stop checking emails and do what I feel needs the most attention. My blog.

I hope my readers had a restful Thanksgiving with much visiting. We worked a lot, which was a good thing, helping out family that needed a rest. I brought my laptop with my air card for Internet, but it was a bad reception in the house where we stayed. And I found no time in my head for writing work. But, that was okay.

I didn't stop reading the book I brought with me, "Jacob Have I Loved", by Katherine Paterson. Not the first time I've read it and I enjoyed it once again.

Now that I'm home, I'm grateful I'm not eating all that Thanksgiving pie. I got to where I couldn't take another bite. I'm eating light meals with wholesome foods again.

On the trip to and from California, which takes us about 14 hours of driving time, I worked on my MG work-in-progress, TALKING MAMA HOME. Now, I have an article for our local paper that needs rewritten, so I'll tackle that.

I find I am not an every day writer. I wish I were. Don't get me wrong, there are seasons in my life where I write every single day on projects I want to work on. And especially if I have a deadline project for an editor. I do my best to please them. I've come to realize, I thrive on time crunches. I can even tackle life's problems in between my writing.

I'd like to see comments on how others ease into work at their desks after a holiday.

Now! (as I rub my hands together) I'm ready to write, which is always a glad time for me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Be A Part of Widget

My hope is more folks will stop by and read my posts. I believe I have much to share about writing, reading, and life's musings.

To help grow my blog's audience, and have you return, I'll post your Web or/and Blog on my site. If you have a photo, that will go at the top for all to see (notice my first followers photo to the left). With a click on your link, folks can go to your site.

If you have any questions, please email me.

Blessings to all that wander in this safe place and to those who stay awhile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

I loved reading and writing, but hated the arithmetic part. Learning that it was important to study those basics in grade school(I must admit, I use arithmetic in every day life), I’d like to touch upon on how reading helps me with my writing.

I read books on the craft of writing, and have for 14 years. When I decided I wanted to learn how to write, I took a trip to the library. When I came back home, my stack of "How To" books on writing piled up over two feet high on my coffee table. Recently, I purchased the book SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. Even though it’s about how to write a screenplay, it is excellent advice on how to write stories, also.

Another way reading helps me as a writer? I must read the age group books I am currently writing for. It helps me to see why a story works. It helps me to figure out the tone of a story and how that works. It helps me understand better the age of the main character, how she feels, thinks, and sees the world. Just in case I've forgotten.

Recently, I learned that my work-in-progress of over ten years is for ages 9-12. So what am I doing? Reading books for around that age group. It helps. You simply have to read to be a writer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The One Sentence Blurb

I've promised myself and anyone who may be reading my blog, that I would add my one sentence blurb of TALKING MAMA HOME. I will add to that one sentence blurb in future blogs with a three sentence blurb, a paragraph, and then my query that caught several agents attention.

For now, here's the one sentence blurb: TALKING MAMA HOME is about a twelve year-old girl's determination to keep her tight-knit family together and the friend that helps her.

That's it in a humming bird's egg shell. Until next time . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Time To Write

Moving, unpacking, canning, and winterizing. This is what preoccupied my time for three months. Am I ready to tear into the words of my novel-in-progress, Talking Mama Home? You better believe it. Actually, I’ve been extra cranky, moody, and down right growly. My heart aches, even, and I knew early on that I was suffering from writer’s inactivity. I tried getting up early like is my habit, but this old body needed that extra sleep after months of being uprooted and landing in a new place. I kept telling myself there is a time and a season for everything. But, toward the end, it didn’t stop me from being a grumpy mama bear out of hibernation.

Now that the rains have come and our main living space is unpacked and orderly, I can rewrite. Just yesterday, my husband and I unpacked his computer and rearranged the office to give us better working space. The view from my desk? A mountain full of fir trees with some scattered shades of gold to announce it’s autumn.

My itchy fingers dove into taking notes from all the collected suggestions over the past year: Agents wrote personal letters after reading my queries, partials, and full manuscript. My critique group's (a great bunch of writers and friends) suggestions from last December on how to make Talking Mama Home the best story I am able to write. And to give the story a rest until I can compare notes from the experts. Up until then, we weren’t sure of the age group. This past June, I wrote in a cover letter my story was for ages 9-12, the agent agreed. After thinking it was for young adults for nine years, but then doubting that for over a year, this was confirmation. It feels right.

I’m a happy writer once again, taking a-time-to-write seriously. And cheers for being on a roll!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Banned Books Week

During the week of Banned Books Week, September 27th through October 3rd, I entered our small library for the first time to receive my library card. I knew I would feel as though I truly belonged in the community once I had my card in hand. As the librarian entered my application information into the system, I glanced at a bookmark sitting on the counter.

I picked it up and read,
"Closing books limits understanding.
Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Attempts have been made to ban Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic stories of American pioneer life, Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie, for 'fueling the fire of racism' against Native Americans."

My mouth gaped in shock. Then I frowned. They've got to be kidding, I thought.

I am Native American, whose Cherokee descendants walked the Trail of Tears. I think we need to remember the times that Laura lived in. Anyone who allows their children to listen to or read Laura's books would do well to take the opportunity to teach how the Native Americans were wrongly treated. That we are to respect and love all cultures.

This doesn't mean it's an opportunity to instill hate, but to learn more of what happened to the Native American people. It's our history. I still feel sad, when I think of the accounts I've read of the Trail of Tears. We must forgive, though, and not ban books that have a few hate remarks against a culture.

When I read Laura's books to my children, I explained that words used in a negative way about our people were unkind. And that it was sad to realize that many people hated the Native Americans. My children grew up respecting their Native American heritage, and they did not feel self pity for what happened to our ancestors. I remember my Cherokee great-grandfather. He could speak no English, and he was a very quiet man. What would he think of banning books about how one little girl's family helped shape a nation?

It makes me wonder what the real reason is behind banning books.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Autumn Makes Me Reflect

The leaves die and fall. Someone you love dies. I'd like to tie this together with the writing life.

When my son passed away four years ago, it devastated me. Thank goodness, I was in the middle of two writing projects. I had just begun an online editing course through the local college and was working on a monthly column for Listen Magazine.

My son died on a Tuesday and by Monday the next week, I made myself sit down at 5:00 a.m. and begin my editing course. My attention span was ten minutes long, but I prayed for strenght and studied while the household slept. I'm not one to give up easily. I'm a fighter, and I instinctively knew I had to go on. The good news is my attention span grew longer over time.

About a week later, when I could think a little clearer, I wrote my editor and told her about my son. I asked her not to bail me out. I wanted the work and would only ask that she would alert me if she found I was slipping in my writing abilities. I churned out nine more monthly articles, which required indepth research.

It was good for me to work.

I did find that I couldn't start anything new for two years. I finished out my column and kept working on my novel-in-progress. It just so happened that the subject matter fit my mood. What a blessing!

Take heart! Even in the valley of the shadows, we can write.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Like the Seasons

As Autumn falls upon us and the earth goes through transformation of colors, so it is with writing. Writing like nature has its seasons. Each stage of each writing project must take time to simmer and to change. Even our writing life goes through changes, caused by forces out of our control.

That force can be as complicated as the death of a loved one, or just plain writer burnout. If it is burnout, maybe we need to take time to live life and gather fodder for our writing. What a perfect opportunity to reevaluate what it is we need to share with the world. If it is a death, that can take time.

Death has taken the sails right out of my creative process. I've been left floundering like a turtle on its back. Earlier this year, when my baby brother died a brave soldier, I would sit for hours and look at my oak trees. I even brushed the neighbor's donkey and pretended he understood my words. And I prayed for sorrow to take a back seat, if but a few hours each day, so I could write.

Finally, I sensed the Lord say to me, "Write where you are." Okay.

I wrote what my brother meant to me, and my creative juices rolled once again. That whole process took two months, maybe for others it will be less. A dry writing season is as unique as the seasons of the earth.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I've Made My Home In Oregon

Whew! That was a long silence between postings, but moving to another state with one dog and one cat is not easy. Not to mention finding a good Internet provider here in the mountains. But, I'm back in my childhood state of Oregon where blackberries run wild, and where you can see to the bottom of the creeks.

I mention childhood, because writing for children requires us to tap into our childhood memories and feelings. What was it like to lick the blackberry juice from your fingers? How did it feel to be in a fight with an older or younger sibling? Or even your best friend in grade school or junior high?

Some memories consist of blackberry pickings where the juice stained my fingers and the thorns stuck to my skin. Of fighting with my younger brother, who thought he should be boss when I was the eldest of the siblings. How I pulled my best friend's ponytail, because the popular girls bullied her into joining them and dumping me. I can't believe I took that out on her! And with violence!

Also, it is important to take time to feel like a child, for the times we felt safe and secure from the world and all its chaos. A few days after arriving here, I plopped flat on my back next to my dog, Heinrich, and I stared up at the blue sky. When I was a child, I used to camp out at night in the summers on our front lawn with my siblings. Now, before bedtime, I look up at the stars so plentiful that you can see the sparkling Milky Way.

Until next time, practice remembering what it was like (yes, even the painful parts) so you can write with honesty.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Is a One Sentence Blurb?

TALKING MAMA HOME is about one girl's struggle to keep her family intact and the friend who helps her.

The above sentence is from my work-in-progress middle-grade novel, TALKING MAMA HOME. It is important to write a one sentence blurb for our stories. We need to be ready when we're asked by an editor, agent, teacher, or anyone what our story is about. After the sentence is a great one, expand to a three to five sentence paragraph for the query letter we'll need to send out to an editor or agent.

More snippets of TALKING MAMA HOME coming soon.

Have a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Summer Reading

I finally got to read a summer pick. It is a book from my library, Kaye Gibbons' "Sights Unseen." This is an adult book. I read only a few of those, mainly concentratng on children's books. There's a reason for me to read this for the third time.

The subject matter is similar to my manuscript for a novel, TALKING MAMA HOME, and is for 9-12 age group. Gibbons' "Sights Unseen" is about a woman looking back to her childhood, and what it was like to be born to a mentally ill mother.

This story helps me to see all the ways Gibbons is able to keep me interested in a tough story about mother loss and love. I happened upon Gibbons' books while researching published books on my topic of depression and mental illness. I've bought two of hers, the other, "Ellen Foster," is also about emotional imbalance of a parent and how one child got through her turbulent childhood.

If young adults want to read a book on surviving childhood, "Ellen Foster" will satisfy. Ellen is spunky and full of determination to make it in a cruel world.

I hope everyone has a chance to read or reread their favorite books during the summer. Fall is upon us. School is beginning. Keep reading books that give us hope.

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oregon adventures . . .

I hope others have had time to read. For myself, I've been house hunting to relocate to my childhood home in the state of Oregon. We've made an offer on an acre with a creek and its small waterfall, pure blackberry heaven.

Speaking of blackberries, I've won a blackberry dessert contest put on by my friend and author Terry Pierce for promotion of her newest book Blackberry Banquet. I'm truly excited to share my multi-generational On-Top-Of-The-Stove Blackberry Cobbler, and you may see the recipe at Terry's blog:

My husband took a photo of me for Terry's publisher Sylvan Dell's e-newsletter. I pose in denim dress overalls and red berry shirt next to a bear statue, which suits Terry's book theme. More to come on where to view the e-newsletter.

If I buy the home with a creek, I'm sure the calming effect will allow this writer's creativity to soar. I'll keep you posted as to when we buy our Oregon home.

Enjoy your summer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Travels, Summer Titles

Well, my husband and I are traveling in the beautiful state of Oregon. Actually, this summer we're making our transition to Oregon to retire here. Back home for me where I was raised. Back to blackberry picking, long walks in the woods, swims in the rivers and creeks. Back to a time when dreams were big and my adult life lay ahead of me. Back to a place where most of my book settings take place, because it's what I know.

Thinking of my childhood has kick-started the creative part of my brain flowing with titles. They just pop into my head, like so many thoughts when I'm in the car watching the treed mountainside whizz by. Relaxing can do that for you. Help the creative juices flow like a stream hidden in the meadows.

On one stint over the mountain passes, we saw the beginnings of a forest fire. Looked as though it started within a row of stores. I watched in awe as the wind whipped the fire, which shook the trees, roaring to its peaks. The heat, even with our air conditioner, blasted with intensity. My stomach lurched in fear. And I got this phrase: How great is the fire that roars up the trees. That could be a title.

Another title was spoken to me when a friend was talking about hurts in life. She said, "We're all just broken birdies."

Most of us are, but it is what we do with our Broken Birdies that counts.

Hope anyone reading this will take heart and if you think you want to write. Write! Write your feelings when you're sad, mad, glad, and you'll be amazed how much clearer you'll see things.

Until another time.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What Are You Reading This Summer?

I love summer. It is an excuse to read in the sun. It is an excuse to read for fun more often than I normally would. I like reading books with summer themes, beaches, rivers, lakes. Anything with water. Anything Southern (makes me think of when we've traveled to southern states where our families are from).

One of my favorite authors to read in the summer is Gary Paulson. He had me hook, line, and sinker in Hatchet.

Enjoy the vacations, everyone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Reader Entered the World

Yes, even babies will one day be readers of those wonderful pictures books my friends write and publish.

Our grandson was born on June 23, 2008, a strapping big boy. We are praising God that he is in good health and can hardly wait to see him in two weeks.

What? Can't this Nana gloat?

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Life & Children

Today, we await the birth of our twelfth grand baby. Twelve! In the future I hope to sit around my twelve grandchildren and read to them one of my favorite picture books. My own little audience of ears. I would feel like queen of the Nana's.

They won't care that I've published articles and short stories, or that I haven't gotten that first book contract. All they'll care about is the story, and if I implement that storyteller's voice to make it a perfect read.

Here's to new grand babies on this day all over the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Healing is Like a Tumbleweed Ride

I've been thinking about the healing process after losing a loved one. One day you're doing okay, maybe even great. The next thing you know, you feel you're having a panic attack all day long.

Healing is like a tumbling tumbleweed ride. First you're on the ground and then your rolling. Once on top you can breathe again. Only problem is, eating dirt is the longest part.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A New Favorite Book

Tear Soup: A Recipe For Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen and illustrated by Taylor Bills has, as of today, become my favorite picture book. I highly recommend this book for all ages in helping to deal with disappointment, loss, and/or death.

Handled delicately and creatively, this story tugged at my heart from beginning to end. Having lost loved ones, I found myself nodding at nearly every page. The authors understand loss and grieving.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Stories You'd Like To Read

Anyone want to talk about topics of books they'd like to see written for the YA or MG audience? I'm 'little peepers with big ears' (as the adults used to say about me and my eavesdropping) and willing to hear about what stories interest you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Introducing . . .

As a writer, I hope to make a difference in the world. To make new acquaintances and new friends, and to hang on to the ones I have now.

I've worked on my current manuscript for a novel for over ten years. For a year, I've gotten nibbles of interest from editors and agents. Currently, the full manuscript is out to an agent. I'm crossing my fingers and toes the agent will love it.

My story is about a twelve-year-old girl who struggles with home life and life in general when her mother suffers with depression after childbirth. How will the young girl handle changes? Or will she? Will she run, or dig in her heels and help? That's what propels this story from page one.

My published clips for children and adults are forthcoming on another day.