Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and "The Truth About Writer Friends"

This is the third and final article about the Jan/Feb SCBWI Bulletin.

I love what Teresa V. Mitchum says in the opening of her article "The Truth About Writer Friends." She's considered giving up her writing career, but then she'd have to guit her online writing group. Whew, do I ever understand that shaky thought.

I love my online writing group buddies. We don't have an official name, but that doesn't matter. We've came up with several names I can't even remember. We've become good friends and that's enough. We do take our critiquing seriously, though.

We get and give honest feedback. Some of us are stronger in picture books and others stronger in young adult fiction and everything in between. All of us care deeply about one another and our future as authors. I can say without a doubt we are much stronger writers because of this group.

Teresa Mitchum says she was a little skeptical at first with the group not being physical. I was wondering how our group would work through the Internet, and it was perfect timing for me to join. With two sick relatives to care take, I could no longer do the drive time and be somewhere on a certain day.

The originator of our group is Lynn Becker (I'll post an interview with Lynn next time). I was thrilled and honored that she invited me into the group. Over the eight years since Lynn started the group, we've had three people leave and three more join. Now we have a comfortable group of six ladies that have all been together for four years.

Have some of us been so discouraged we've wanted to quit writing? Yes, indeed. We encourage one another when we worry we'll never see our stories in print, and after all the work and hours we put in. Although, our Terry Pierce has had many books published and is in the midst of working on her MFA. Go, Terry!

Then there's the friend part. We've been a source of encouragement when one of our children leave home, deaths of relatives, and the countless agent and editorial decline letters. And if some need time off, we always give it and keep their spot within the group. Like now, we're saving Terry's spot and one day soon she'll have completed her MFA and return to us.

Until my husband and I moved to Oregon over a year ago, most of us met yearly in person at a workshop in Thousand Oaks, CA. My wonderful group didn't let that stop me from being there in 2009. They carried me around in the form of a photo and someone took our group picture. I was still there in spirit, and I was in the group photo.

Teresa's article hits it on the pin point: "Each of us is committed to making our unique and unconventional group work."

If you have cold feet about an online writing group, I say go for it with commitment. The fringe benefits are many.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and "Page One: Your Contract with Readers"

This is my second article about the Jan/Feb Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Bulletin.

"Page One:Your Contract with Readers" by Karen Schwabach was another wonderful "Ah ha!" moment for me. For a tidbit of what Karen is suggesting, she says, ". . . I usually write my first page last."

Now that really made me sit up and take notice. Is this why I've changed my first page so many times I've lost count. I keep going back to it like my MC, ClaireLee, wants to tell me something.

It just so happens that I revamped page one, once again. I like it better all the time, but I can't be sure it will be my last changes. Probably not.

Following are the first two sentences of my recent changes in ClaireLee A.D. (After Disaster): ClaireLee's eyes wavered from the line of students, followed shiny buttons up a wool pea jacket, and settled on the scarred face. The raised, red gash running through the girl's right eye fascinated ClaireLee, pushing her good manners out of the nest.

I hope I've set up a hook here, and that the promise of a contract for the reader will be fulfilled within the next beginning sentences of my page one.

In Karen's article "Page One," she goes on to give a small check list of choices to consider putting on your first page. Thank you for writing this, Karen.

As I said in the last post, the Feb/Jan SCBWI Bulletin is packed full of great information. Go to their Web site and join to become a part of a community of kind and helpful children's writers and illustrators.

Until next time . . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and the Query Letter

I'm going to do something a little different and it will be especially beneficial to readers who are not members of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. In three postings, I'll write about the wonderful Jan/Feb SCBWI Bulletin and about being in the list serve, but first the history.

I can't say enough about what a great organization SCBWI is for children's writers and illustrators. Going strong since 1971, SCBWI is world wide and for all it offers is well worth the yearly dues. They hold workshops, conferences, and retreats, and even though I've not been to a retreat, I can tell you the workshops and conferences are amazing. There is a fee to attend these functions, but there is the opportunity to help the regional advisor with the work of doing workshops and get fees waved. This is what I did for over five years and I learned much about writing and management.

I became a member of SCBWI over thirteen years ago, and what I focused on before I ever went to an event was to read the SCBWI Bulletin. There are seventeen departments in the Bulletin, covering many topics. Topics such as, Events of Interest, Book Review, To Market, Art Tips, Regional Events, Publisher's Corner, and Legally Speaking, to name a few.

To get to the meat of what prompted me to sing the praises of SCBWI, I want to share what's wonderful about the Jan/Feb Bulletin. I've been writing for fifteen years, and for twelve of those years I've read about and practiced the query letter. I don't remember being told in such simplistic and easy to understand words how to write that all dreaded, horrible thing called query letter.

Saundra Mitchell's article in the Bulletin, "How to Hook Your Query Letter" made me say out loud, "Of course, of course. Now I get it." This article is boiled down in a two page spread, so it's a very quick read (there is of course art work on the tops of the pages). It says more than the how-to book I read twelve years ago.

Here's a teaser from the article: "Hooks are not synopses or summaries. They're ads." Saundra Mitchell, that's the best news I've heard about queries. And you know what? It makes perfect sense. Thank you, Saundra, for writing "How to Hook Your Query Letter."

What if you're not a SCBWI member and you want to read the best article on query letters? Go to SCBWI's Web page and read how to become a member and get the Jan/Feb issue.

Until next time . . . when I'll write about another Bulletin article, "Page One: Your Contract With Readers."