Monday, December 29, 2008

My Writing Year in Review and Resolutions for 2009

Last year I resolved that I wanted to break into nonfiction-- Well, I didn't. But I DID break into Highlights, which is awesome!!!!!

Last year I resolved to finish a novel... and "Yeller" is now (I hope!) agent-ready!

Last year I also resolved to make this blog useful to other writers... but mid-year I decided that I didn't really have the time because of the novel. But at least I spun all my babbling about family, religion and politics off into another blog, so that's SORT of an improvement, right?

So... This year's resolutions:
1. Find an agent for Yeller.

2. Write my new WIP, have agent-ready by Jan 1, 2010. (1 1/2 chapters done on my first draft. Already know where I'll need to revise, but since I work without an outline, draft 1 doesn't like being bogged down in details.. I have to figure out what's HAPPENING first.)

3. Work on a few short stories I have bopping around

4. Research and write my non-fiction piece that involves local history. If it sells, donate the money to help build a baby cemetery in La Porte. (This goal will also keep me motivated. I do so much better when my earnings are already slotted for something!)

and, not quite writing related, but....

Plan a 1rst grade curriculum for my daughter, finish Kindergarten by July or August. (At this point, we are year-round schoolers, because she cries if we take more than a few days off....)

Oh yeah... and one EASY resolution: Send out my Highlights Contest entry first thing on Jan 2!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Moon Sand?!?!?! A Lunar Mess!

So, we got Moon Sand as a gift. The kids and I were excited--we'd heard a lot of nice things about it, after all.

It IS easy to mold and play with. And the texture IS pleasantly sand-like. Unfortunately, this also means that, like sand, it gets EVERYWHERE. It's MUCH harder to clean up than playdoh, and the baby is on a moon-sand spree through the house!

My advice? Stick with the play-doh. It's cheaper and cleaner!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I want to write

The kids are not as sick as they were earlier. They're pretty content and quiet right now.

So I should write, right?

Except I'm sleep deprived, coming down with the same cold, and smell like vomit. So instead of writing, I'm waiting for my husband to return with my sudafed. Then I'm going to shower, and sleep.

And probably have nightmares, since sudafed always gives me FREAKY SURREAL dreams. (I hate surreal dreams. I prefer boring, run of the mill dreams. I want to save surreal for my fiction, thank you very much!)

Special Effects and Acting

I just watched Wizard of Oz with my 3 year old. The special effects are...horrendous. Almost funny.

But the witch is still REALLY scary, even at my age! And Dorothy is still sweet and lovable.

In 50 years, people will probably find OUR cutting edge special effects laughable. But will our acting hold up as well as the witches?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Light Blogging

This Blog will probably be quietor a while. We lost the baby, and any miscarriage blogging will be over at my "Country Style Mustard" blog...

Friday, December 5, 2008

I have NO self control.

I wasn't going to start novel #2 until January. I was going to stick to Highlights and waiting around for a couple of friends to give me feedback on novel #1.

But... I've been having nightmares. Horrible nightmares about my kids coughing up blood, or being arrested by the Cuban government for giving political prisoners toothbrushes or,..... well... bad stuff.

And I know, from experience, that nightmares go away if I write a fair bit of fiction during the day.

So I started #2 today. Just the first 300 words so far, but only because chores are waiting. Besides, at 400-500 words a day, it only takes me 3-4 months to get a rough draft done! (MG novels are short, what can I say?)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Great Essay on Teens and Twighlight!

In the Atlantic.

I haven't read the books, and probably won't-- There are other books higher on my "must read" list. (Like Temeraire #6! I can't wait till it comes out!)

But the commentary on Meyer's work has definitely been fascinating.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I'm still wrestling with my Highlights entry. But I think I finally found a way to grab the story...
I firmed up my setting, which helped be get a better hold on my two main characters.....

So I'm going to write it through again. Hopefully this time I'll get a version that's actually worth editing!

This story has been really frustrating!!! But usually the stories that cause me the most grief are the ones that come out best in the end. And one of the reasons I write and submit is to overcome my crippling tendencies towards laziness and procrastination.

So this is good for me, even though, at the moment, it's bad. Ack! I'm going to take a break and fold some laundry.... at least the house gets cleaner when my writing is going poorly!

Big Announcement!

We've told the grandparents, so now we can tell the world:

Mundy Baby #4 will arrive at the beginning of July!

The kids are already fighting for naming rights. Hopefully, sanity will prevail! =-)

(And, to make life even better, my three-year-old is now potty trained!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WOOHOO!!!! DONE!!!!!

All the edits are entered. Now, I just need to inflict it on some critical and snarky friends to see what else needs fixing. Wheeeeee!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Perils of a Good Review

described here....

I especially like PJ O'Rourke's bit.

H/T The Corner


75% done this edit! Soon, I will be able to inflict it on willing but snarky friends and see if my book can entertain non-writers!!! MUHAHAHAHA!

What teenage boys want to read

Hint: Action is good. Sappy morals, and a bunch of whiny introspection is not.

Great! I think I might be able to SELL my WIP! =) (Luckily, I read more like a teenage boy than a teenage girl.... Yay Sci Fi and Fantasy! Teen sex problem novels? meh.)

I want to weep now.

According to this study , our elected officials actually know LESS about Civics, history and government than the average American does.

So why do people trust them to make decisions for us?

(Though, this DOES support my theory that all letters to elected officials should be composed of short, declarative sentences, sound bites, and talking points. After all, you don't want to confuse the poor dears!)

If you want to take the test and see how you score, you can do it here.(I missed 3. But that's still an 'A'!)

H/T to Joanne Jacobs for the link to the test!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Want to be Happy? Go read a book!

This makes a lot of sense to me for a couple of reasons:

1. When my dear sweet little angels watch more than a tightly controlled amount of TV, they turn into a demonic horde. (I do make exceptions when they're sick, because keeping them comatose on the couch is better for healing than 2 hours of hide-and-seek-tag-monster-ballet-acrobatics. )

2. Even though I like TV and have two shows I adore, I don't watch it much. I sometimes think about it--after all, it's easier now that you can watch online and don't have to be glued to the set at a certain time. BUT --- there are other things I'd rather do. An hour of Terry Pratchett gives me more pleasure than an hour of "Chuck." A half-hour of Charlotte's Web is fun for me AND the kids and counts as "Home-Schooling."

And I have books to write, chores to do, e-mail to send.......

People who build their lives around TV and when certain shows come on are destined to be less happy. Because they're chasing after the wrong thing (A new episode!!!!) and, in the end, it will only disappoint.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Writing Life this week...

I'm reading "Predictable Irrationality" by Dan Ariely. It's really cool behavioral economics, with lots of case studies and descriptions of how he designs his experiments. Fun!

On the editing front, I've put half the edits in. So if I should be done by Thanksgiving! Then I can email my WIP to some Genre readers (and my husband) and find out if there are any MEGA problems I'm missing (improbably characters, dragging plot, the sorts of things that will make them throw the book across the room)

Then I can start my agent search.... My top 3 right now are:

-The Andrea Brown Agency (still trying to decide which agent to sub to) because they're top-notch and I've been impressed with how conscientious they are.

-Stimlitz Literary because I've gotten some good feedback about them from other writers who've worked with them.


Nelson Literary - Because even though she doesn't do a TON of MG yet, she's looking for more and she knows editors who want commercial MG with a male MC.... and that's my story! =)

After I hear back from those three, I'll start round two. And if I exhaust everyone? I'll probably submit to a few of my favorite open publishers, and by the time I hear back on THOSE, my second novel will be ready to try to find an agent!

Anyway, that's the plan for the upcoming year. We'll see how it goes.... I'm hoping my book is as good as I think it might be, but the Genre readers will help me there.....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WIP progress!

I finished my mega-highlighter edit and I'm entering the changes. I'm excited. The book seems fun and enjoyable. It's in a high-demand genre (commercial middle grade aimed at boys). Even though I know the odds are against finding an agent for my first novel, I'm hopeful.

(And, anyway, Novel 2 is right around the corner... as soon as I finish Highlights..)

More reading

Kadir Nelson's We are the Ship was awesomeness incarnate. Even my husband, who's indifferent to baseball, liked it. Nelson's illustrations are so beautiful that I wanted to cry. It better win some major awards at ALA midwinter, or I'll just assume that Caldecott/Newberry/etc. have totally jumped the shark.

Now I'm reading Nation, by Terry Pratchett. It's not a discworld novel. It covers some of the same issues he's touched on in discworld, but it's more serious. It's clearly Pratchett, his descriptions are as spot-on as ever, but there aren't many laugh-out loud moments. Still, definitely worth the read.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Right now, I'm re-reading the Screwtape Letters. I hit it every few years and always find something new.

Then, tonight, my husband is bringing Kadir Nelson's We Are The Ship home from work!!!!!! This book just popped onto my radar even though it's been out nearly a year. If it's as good as everyone says, I'm going to HAVE to find a baseball lover on my Christmas list. (Or maybe just buy one for 'Toys for Tots?'

What makes the Highlights Contest So Hard

So, I'm up early today because my son decided that 6:30 was the PERFECT time for breakfast. (His stomach was growling, the poor little thing!)

I've decided to use this unexpected bit of time to work on my entry in this year's Highlights contest. The Highlights contest drives me nuts. I mean, yes, I've sold a story to the magazine, so obviously I can write well enough for them. And yes, the topics are broad enough that I can usually come up with something that fits.

But the DEADLINE! Oh, the deadline!

You only have 6 MONTHS from the time the topic is posted until you have to send it in. I worked on "Poetry Quilt" on and off for a year and a half. I had a bunch of false starts, too.

The contest deadline means I don't have time to let the story simmer on the back burner for months at a time, waiting for the plot to click. I have to wade in there and WRITE it.

(I think short stories are harder than a novel, in a way. Because when I only have 800 words to give readers the mood, characters and plot, it's almost like a logic puzzle. And if you're thinking about it the wrong way, you get NO WHERE.)

Anyway, back to banging my head against the wall. And cutting. And adding. And trying to get enough tension.

And then, if that doesn't work, it's time to put it aside for a few more days and break out the Flannery O'Connor. Reading a few simply divine short stories seems to help me when mine are plodding.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

As for the edit....

There's something dizzying and giddy-making about finally getting to edit my WIP on actual PAPER (140 pages of it!) with HIGHLIGHTERS (color-coded changes, and the thrill of a page that only has one or two minor mistakes!)

Also, as I read, I realize it's better than I thought. It's not perfect yet, but it hums along pretty nicely. And I'm compiling my agent list and working on my query and generally feeling good about a January submission date.

Also, Pubrants said publishers are really looking for commercial MG fiction right now..... which is where my WIP falls! Hooray for fun sci-fi adventures for 9-12 year old boys!! =)

So I'm feeling pretty good at this point... and I can't wait to start book #2 (another scifi, completely different setting...)... Once I finish that Highlights contest entry... grumble...grumble....

The Children's Canon

A fun article by Joseph Bottum on the children's literary canon, how it came about, and how we should rethink it given all the great stuff being published today.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Done the Draft that ate My Social Life!!!!

WOOHOO!~ I finished the current rewrite this morning, printed it, hole punched it, and popped it in a binder.

Now I get to use my pretty highlighters (5 colors, Baby!) to go through and find the things that still need fixing.

I am on track for January, and it feels great! (So I'm sure something like a stomach virus will drop out of the sky at any moment!)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What I'm reading..

Every now and then I sit down and try to read one of the random books I've picked up at a book sale. Right now I'm really trying to cull the herd, so I'm plucking books at random from the shelves and seeing if they're any good.

Josef Pieper's Scholasticism is definitely a keeper. So far it is an entertaining history of Medieval philosophy. (I'm up to Don Scotus)

What? You didn't realize I read non-children's books too? Or just bowled over by my incredible nerdiness....

Hooray! Exciting News!

I just signed up to do my first ever school visit, on the strength of my magazine writing!

I'll be speaking on March 7, and giving three 30 minute presentations to groups of young grade-schoolers.

It's so exciting to think that someone is willing to pay me to speak!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I really want to see this...

But I'll have to do it without the kids.....

They've made a movie out of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas!

The book was awesome. But I know I can't expose my pre-schoolers to the holocaust. Not yet. It's too much for children so young....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Most Surreal Scam EVERY

Thanks to Writers Beware for giving my afternoon that unreal edge that had been lacking.

Now, off to write a grocery list, If I can manage it.

(I got up early this morning and actually got to write for an hour straight! It was dizzying! Amazing! Especially since I'm fixing some really exciting bits of my WIP..... unfortunately, my brain is now TOTALLY fried. I need to find a way to balance writing and life!)

Groceries! Yes! Groceries!

Friday, October 31, 2008

ARGH! Worst Kid's Book EVER

I just finished The Blood Root Flower by Kathy Callaway. I picked it up at the library sale a few years back-- It's a historical fiction about pioneers in Northern Minnesota.

So I was expecting something like "Little House on the Prairie."

The writer is proof that having an MFA and publishing a lot of prestigious literary fiction for adults does NOT mean that you're ready to write for kids. Also, just because your main character is 12 doesn't mean it's a kids book.

In the first couple chapters of this book, the beloved father died from tetanus. (OK... fine...) Then the spinster aunt committed suicide. Then things started to get REALLY bad (child abuse, kidnappers, bear-attacks, blindness, poison, tornadoes...) This book made Job look like a fun-filled madcap romp.

It WAS well written. It just was NOT a children's book by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, the jacket flap SAID it was a children's book. But it wasn't. It wasn't even YA. It was adult literary fiction with a young main character.

I can totally see why it got weeded. And it is DEFINITELY going back to the book sale from whence it came!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Odds and Ends

Today I got up early (6:15) and found out that I'm a fabulously productive writer early in the morning! Must try that more often (teething-child permitting.)!

I also just spent a few minutes picking through my unpublished poetry to see if I've got anything Highlights worthy. I've been meaning to do that since JUNE. I found 8 good pieces, so I'll be sending them off tomorrow.

They're all from about a year ago. Ever since I started on the novel, I haven't done much poetry. Actually, I find I'm usually more verse-inclined while pregnant. It must be the hormones or something!

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Writing to do list

I'm trying to get into a new daily writing routine, one that goes something like this:

1. Ignore the election news. It will be over soon enough, and it's sapping my writing time.

2. Continue to edit WIP for at least 20 minutes a day.

3. Give 20 minutes a day to my Highlights contest entry. When I'm done with that, work on my other short stories in progress.

4. At night, when DH has the computer, start work for my next year's novel, in a notebook for now. (Until WIP becomes submission ready.)

Thesaurus: Friend or Foe?

Well, neither really. Like all reference books, the thesaurus is a tool. But unlike the rather innocuous atlas, or the simply divine dictionary, it's dangerous. It's the cross-cut saw of reference books. If you misuse your thesaurus, you can do a lot of damage, and someone will probably end up bloody.

New writers sometimes hear that a thesaurus is an excellent way to punch up their prose. What can be easier? Just remove your tired, jaded word and replace it with one of its scintillating synonyms!

Except.... "synonym" doesn't mean 'exact match.' And things get even fuzzier when you get out to the 'related words.'

For instance, imagine Annie Q. Writer has the following sentence in her WIP:

He had flashing eyes, black hair, and a rapier

"Wait!" cries Annie Q.'s critique partner. "That's a cliche! fix it!"

So AQ diligently goes to her Roget's thesaurus (I've had mine since 5th's on the edge of death) and looks up rapier.... well, the thesaurus mentions "Claymore" as a synonym. So Annie plugs it in.

Unfortunately, a Claymore with would be huge, heavy, and cleave people in two, while a rapier wit would be darting and stinging. The change of word results in a change of sword which COMPLETELY changes the meaning.

Last night I also noticed that my trusty old thesaurus (I hardly use it these days, actually, except for entertainment value) also claims that "lumbering" and "hobbling" are equivalent. Great Aunt Mary is currently hobbling do to a fall. She's a tiny bird of a woman and could never, ever lumber, no matter how hard she tried.

A dictionary is like a pair of goggles. It can help cut down on accidents from your thesaurus. But it's no substitute for a good word sense.

No one is born with word sense. You get it by reading great writers who use words well. The more you read, the more you understand the fine flavors of every word. (Look up the ones you don't know!)

So park the thesaurus on the shelf for a while and head to the library or bookstore. Read all those excellent novels you've been putting off. Then, when you come back, you'll be able to use your tools more efficiently.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

See! I'm not wasting time!

I'm preventing dementia.

But I thought excessive web-surfing caused depression? Is that our choice? To be mentally acute, but depressed, or dementedly happy?

Sounds awfully existentialist to me.....

but probably because I am demented... just ask my friends!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mail Goggles

THIS is awesome. Why didn't they have this in when I was in High School so that I wouldn't send those embarrassing 'I have a crush on you" emails? Of course, they'd also have needed one for notes passed in class......

The only problem? Some of my math-impaired friends would never be able to send ANYTHING.

Now if only they'd embed a "Snopes" applet that would automatically run any maudlin or alarmist emails through and alert the sender if they were being taken in.

Email: "Forward this to all your friends, right now! The Internet is going to start charging you a dollar every time you click the back button on your browser!!!!!"

Google: "This message has been determined to be a hoax. Send anyway?"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Subliminal messages

And kids' health

Hmmm.... I have an overwhelming urge to rewrite my novel so that the hero starts out overweight and engages in diet and exercise!

Nope. But it's a funny thought. Can you just IMAGINE the queries editors will get after would-be authors read this????

Friday, October 3, 2008

Does "Newbery" Mean Best?

A good article from School Library Journal on recent Newbery award winners and their lack of appeal to readers.

Personally, I thought Rules by Cynthia Lord was more deserving of a win that The Higher Power of Lucky was. And I loved Hattie Big Sky but found Penny from Heaven totally forgettable. So, at least for 2007 I think the committee was about half right.

Now here's a question: What are your favorite Newbery's that most people haven't read?

I've always adored The Trumpeter of Krakow (1929) and Invincible Louisa(1934)

Then, a few years ago, I picked up Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (1956) and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Teaching students to enjoy literature

I really enjoyed This Article on teaching students to appreciate and enjoy, rather than to analyze, the classics.

I still remember how I used to DREAD poetry units in junior high and high school. We'd sit there, squirming uncomfortably in our seats, as the teacher explained that Everything. Was. About. Sex. Or maybe death. No, wait, death was about sex too.

I suppose they thought that this would make the poems more interesting to us. (All teens are interested in sex!) Instead, it took beautiful language and turned it into a game where we got to see who had the dirtiest mind.

There is a world of difference between being able to analyze a work and being able to enjoy it. I took years to recover from the feminist critique of "The Little Engine That Could" lobbed at us on the first day of AP English.

In fact, I still flinch a little every time I read it to my children. At least they enjoy it. After all, it has trains, toys, a heart-wrenching conflict, and a heroic sacrifice. What's not to like?

Well, I remember what's not to like, and it's triumph of acting that I can read the story brightly, without wincing.

In the past, it might not have been necessary to teach children to enjoy literature... maybe in a more literary culture children learned enjoyment at home. (Or maybe not. After all, Anne of Green Gables went to great lengths to make her students love beautiful things.)

This is one reason I'm glad to be home-schooling. My children can meet literary works as friends long before they're taught to pound the life out of them with the hammers of Marx and Freud.

Reading Fadiman

I'm currently re-reading Anne Fadiman's book, Ex Libris. It's a book of essays about her relationship with books and writing.

She's excellent. I feel like I know her, that I've been to her house for dinner and sat around discussing books with her. I highly recommend her to any bibliophile.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'll Never Be That Good

I just picked up Wind in the Door By Madeleine L'Engle last night. I hadn't read it in a while, I was looking for a good read, and suddenly, it was THERE.

I think it is a safe bet that I will NEVER be as good as L'Engle. I was a little bit sad about the fact, then I thought about how Wrinkle in Time was the book that taught me to read (Mom would only read one chapter a night. I HAD to know how the whole IT thing played out). Then I remembered the time I got to hear L'Engle read and how she autographed my book.....

And I realized, it's OK that I'll never be that good. Very few writers are.

So today, it's back to work. We're done with birthdays for about 2 weeks, I will force myself to stop obsessing about politics and financial crises, and I will keep working on my novel. I think I'm more than half-way through this revision, but I'm not sure because as I flesh out scenes and add things the book gets longer and longer. (My first draft was only about 27,000 words.)

I should finish this stage by the end of October. Then I'll print it out, put it in a binder, and slowly read it out loud and do a mega-edit of doom. And I'll find the time for my Highlights entry too.... I'm almost done researching and ready to write it.

Anyway, barring total melt-down of the world economy that leaves me without power to run the computer, I should still be on track to start submitting to agents by January, and start seriously writing my second novel.

I want to be a book-a-year person. We'll see if I can do it. (I know I could if I had more than 30 minutes a day, but I'd like to see if I can with my current hectic life too!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Update on Writing and reading.

I haven't blogged in a while, I know. Mostly because I've been rewriting my novel (50% through... yay! too bad that the second half is the one that needs the most work!), writing 2 short stories (one of which is really close to selling) and researching my Highlights contest entry for 2009.

And Blogging takes time from writing, and really, time is something I don't have, now that Daughter #1 is in TWO classes (art and ballet) and also doing home-schooled kindergarten.

So what prompted this entry? Well, I've never actually READ a Meg Cabot book before. I enjoyed the Princess Diaries movies, but her books are usually checked out of my library and I will ONLY start a series if I can read book ONE!

But yesterday, as I perused the new YAs, I happened across Airhead! It's great! It's so much fun.... it's about a girl who's in an accident and has her brain transplanted into a super-model's body. Many complications ensue.

Now, when I was young (back in the 90s), Peter Dickinson had a book called "Eva"


that was super popular.... about a girl who has her brain transplanted into a chimp body, and slowly the girl slips away and becomes a chimp. I never actually finished it. I thought it was slow and a bit of a downer. I read the first few chapters and the last three pages.

Airhead managed to keep a light touch, even at the emotionally charged bits. Though it will be interesting to see, as the series progresses, how much Cabot was influenced by "Eva."

Anyway, it was a LOT of fun. I can't wait for book 2!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Agonizingly slow day

366 words. Ouch. I don't know whether I should cry or scream. But, on the plus side, I'm 40pp into Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls) . It's as fun and crisp as the first in the series, and a good distraction from writer's tar. (slow going... as opposed to writer's block, which is a no-go. =) )

Cybil Awards.

They're looking for judges over here.

Unfortunately, since my blogging has been so lame this year, I'm not eligible! So, a new resolution: Become a better blogger so I can be a Cybil panelist!

But I'll have to put that on hold until after mega-rewrite is done (I'm halfway through, but the first half needed less help than the second half, so it will be slow going.)

Plus, I'm wrapping up research on my entry for the Highlights Fiction Contest, and have another short story in the works too. And I'm still working on novel #2, two.....

So, in short, I've no time to blog! It's too bad that comments on the Blueboards don't count!

(I've also stopped following writing news as much as the presidential race heats up.... It's the taint of having grown up very close to the beltway--- I follow politics the was some folks follow football!)

Cybil Awards.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fifteen Pages

At most, from the end of the mega-rewrite-that-ate-my-summer.

If only I could eliminate all chores, distractions, low blood sugar, exhaustion and insufficient caffination, I could be done by tomorrow. As is, If I let the chores slide, could I be done by Thursday?

I hope so.... but we'll see.....

On Queries and Synopses

I haven't really been keeping the Blog up-- Summer stuff + major rewriting have taken a huge toll on my free time.

BUT! Editorial Anonymous said something that I want to save for later, so I'm mentioning it here--

She (why do I assume she's a she?) was talking about how to write a synopsis and mentioned that the first page of a good synopsis is essentially an excellent query letter.....

SO does that mean a query letter is essentially the first page of a good synopsis? I hope so, because then when I start subbing in a few months, queries will be MUCH easier to write!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Well, THERE'S A Shocker!

Serious ADHD Likely!

How NOT to approach your local librarian

Via Unshelved

click on through and read the whole series... It's HILARIOUS (but doesn't mention publishamerica by name....)

Total Rewrite....

I was on vacation and didn't have a computer, so I was working on my rewrite in an old spiral notebook. I've discovered that:

1. This is not a story for 6-9 yr olds. It's a definite 9-12

2. There is a really good reason those two characters hate each other.

3. The really good reason is that they broke up! I'm dealing with the aftermath of a Jr. High breakup on top of everything else. Arggh! At least they make sense now.....

4. The story has taken on a life of it's own and is dragging me behind it at a steady run. Much like a Newfoundland named Mingus did on the shores of Lake Michigan many years ago..... hopefully this time I won't end up totally drenched!

So, in summary: Lots of fun. Time-consuming fun. Especially since I want this rewrite done and ready to show people by September, and ready for submission to agents by November.......

But the story is ALMOST singing.... now I just need to whack it into tune....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the Novel groove

So I'm 1/8 of the way into my first rewrite and filling in plot holes left and right.

This morning, thanks to the intervention of Hot Cocoa and Scooby-Doo, I managed to squeeze 895 really good words and one incredibly disgusting diaper change (baby has started solid food and had 1/2 a banana yesterday) into TWENTY-FIVE minutes!!!! I can't imagine how much faster I'd write if....

uhoh---scoobydoo(library DVD) has a scratch....... um..... times up! I guess I ought to tackle the dishwasher anyway.....

But I'm over the bump-- I'm now at the point where I'd HAPPILY focus on the novel.... maybe I'll sell another story so I can afford a mother's helper one or two days a week.....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crushing Collegiate Dreams

And weeping while he does it....

This isn't a new problem-- My dad has horror stories about when he taught English at a community college for a year (as a second job) and got in trouble for assigning more than one book a week.

It's also not surprising. Given how poorly even the "Good" students wrote when I taught high school, I'm not surprised that the poor students can't pass Writing 101-- especially when they've been out of school in between.

How many people really have to write coherent paragraphs in their daily lives? Most people phone rather than writing letters. Retail jobs and factory jobs don't require writing. As a Math teacher, I wrote lesson plans, but I didn't really have to write. (And I didn't-- not even for fun, because by the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything besides eat dinner and collapse.)

If you've always been a good writer, and if you've written many thousands of pages in your life, maybe you can suffer a hiatus and come out of it adequate.

But what about the people who've ALWAYS struggled with writing? What about the people whose ability to construct a sentence stalled at second grade? The people who've never enjoyed reading, so have no example of what the written word should look like? The people who can't be helped by The Elements of Style because it's just too difficult to understand?

How can we help those people pass college when they couldn't even handle AP English?

*Note.... I wonder if Professor X's classes might do better if they reversed the order of English 101 and 102-- If they had the reading semester before the writing semester, and had the reading focus on masters of prose. It would be less high-flying, but it might give the students an example of how to write beyond stilted paragraphs in a boring textbook.

Happy Bithday, Mr. Sendak!

And he's bringing out a new book, too!
I wonder how illustrators deal with the creakiness of age?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I want one... no two.... no.... them all!

Google Ads popped this us while I was checking email:

What an awesome company! I know my girls would LOVE to have Lily or Frog and Toad on their Tshirts...... And the Tomie De Paola one really speaks to me......

A New Generation of Byrons

Great Article on today's college kids from The Chronicle of Higher Ed....

Good insight for YA authors too, I think!

Friday, May 23, 2008


I just checked out the new Jane Yolen Scottish Novel from the library........... This is going to be a good weekend.

Tangled Threads

I reached the halfway point on my novel, kept writing, and am now at the end. But I'm not finished.... looking at the story arc I realized I'm missing about 5 chapters from somewhere in the middle!

So soon the spinning of tales will end, and the weaving, cutting and sewing will begin.......

Friday, May 16, 2008

Man, I wish I wrote this!

I just finished one of those books that leaves you feeling momentarily jealous and forlorn before you take a deep breath and say, in the words of Boxer, "I will work harder."

It was funny and thoughtful with a compelling voice.

I made my husband, who usually loathes MG literature, read it too.

He agreed that it was great, laugh-out-loud funny, and all around perfect.

Man, I wish I wrote like that......

And I also wish that the wait-list for the sequel wasn't so long.... curse you, children who use the library!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busy, Busy!

We had house guests last week, so now the work's piled up.

I have to send a bibliography off to an editor (she didn't ask, but I offered, and I think she'll find it useful)

I'm auditioning for a new critique group (on the recommendation of one of my on-line friends)

I'm critiquing a manuscript (aiming for 10 pages a day)

I reached the halfway point on my WIP and discovered that one of the characters (not the MC, but one of his closest friends) INSISTED on doing things her own way, and now the interactions are getting kinda weird and there will probably need to be a sequel.......

Luckily, I'm also caught up on chores and falling into a pretty decent schedule for our current situation...but I need to get a lot of writing done before Mr. Man learns to crawl and I have to be more alert!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Breaking the Rules for Decades

As children's writers, we know that stories shouldn't have a hit-you-over-the-head-with-an-iron-skillet moral. And we know that we shouldn't make our books into political tracts.

But, on the other hand, this family has done quite well for themselves over the years... (250 books?!?!?! 120 still in print??)

I liked them as a kid, but I'd never buy them for mine.... There are much better books out there that are more entertaining and less preachy.

(A current favorite of ours is The Shell Woman and the King by Lawrence Yep. We got it from the library-- the story is great, with a good balance between scary and gorgeous....)

The Worst Witch Meets Angelina Ballerina

This was a fun article about how a chance meeting led to a friendship.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Requested Rewrite = Cleaner House

An editor I really admire just called my prose "lively and interesting." And she asked for 3 concrete changes!

So naturally I spent the day spring cleaning. Because while I normally do everything I can to AVOID housework, a good rewrite is MUCH harder than scrubbing the floors.....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Disturbingly bad children's books

THIS sounds like a HORRIBLE book.....

Is it bad if my first reaction was... "Thank Goodness! It was self-published...."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Country Style Mustard

OK --- Country Style Mustard is open for business.

I'll keep my writing-blogging here, My Political/Catholic/Baby Blogging there, and stop posting obnoxiously long comments on my favorite Catholic blogs.... instead I'll just blog my thoughts at CSM and annoy fewer people. =)

A good article on the pope

Ok, so usually I don't blog religion over here (maybe I should start up a separate blog for that?) But since the only person I know of who has me on RSS feed is my husband, (Hi Honey!) I thought I'd post this over here-- because THIS ARTICLE really struck a chord with me.

I already knew the bit about the reluctant pope and his beloved cats, but what really hit me was the idea of "mustard seed" Catholic communities...

And I wonder if that's what the Catholic Homeschooling movie is really about -- not a great, loud movement to convert, like the Jesuits or Franciscans, but a small, quiet way to preserve --like the Benedictines.....

If the world is getting darker, we shouldn't hide our lights under a basket-- but on the other hand, it might help to shelter them from the wind until calmer days.

(BTW-- I also like the fact that the pope is NOT immenentizing the eschaton-- he's not saying the end of the world is at hand, just that there are some rough spots ahead......)

Ack... better go... my middle "mustard seed" is closing in on the smallest one.....

Hey- That would be a great title for a second blog... "Country-Style Mustard".... (The flavorful one with lots of seeds... =) ).......

ps. google's spell check recognizes neither immenentize or eschaton and can offer no reasonable suggestions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Maddigan's Fantasia

I'm reading Maddigan's Fantasia by Margaret Mahy -- I always love it when one of my childhood favorites publishes a new book-- I must ahve read The Changeover 15 times in Jr. High and High School!

And after a quick google search, I found out it's actually a tie-in to a BBC Series! Awesome!

Too bad the DVDs aren't available in the US.......

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm Torn

About The Green Gables Prequel

On one hand, I want to read it, but on the other I'm afraid of being dreadfully dissapointed--- and the Anne of Green Gables series has always meant alot to me.

On the other hand, Margaret Atwood's comments make me think that she must not be much fun to have over for coffee.... Or maybe she just knew that tearing apart a novel that influenced 100 years of girls is a sure-fire way to get press coverage in your dotage.......

What kind of a person wishes ill for Anne Shirley? The whole POINT is that the serendipitous mistake that brings her to Green Gables is like a fairy tale...

Besides, L.M Montgomery originally wrote for Sunday School Papers.. she believed in Providence-- that God puts us where we're needed......

ARGGH. But Atwood has always had weird issues with Christianity......

Actually, I think I WILL read the prequel-- because I'd like to see how another Anne-Fan imagined her youth.....

Local Author's Dreams Come True....


Sometimes I think articles like this must be paid for by the publishing company. At least it's Author House... they're better than Publish America, right?

But I really want to GET paid when I publish my first book!

Also, if she was getting personalized rejections, maybe she wasn't as far off as she thought.....

Oh well. Everyone knows that the true sign of quality writing is that your book is listed on Amazon....

(Apologies to anyone offended by the snippiness--no coffee yet today.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Highlights High Five Check!!!!!!

Highlights awesome! They already sent me my check! Maybe a new dress (from an after Easter Sale) is in my future.....

(I really love the "pay upon receipt of contract" folks.... the "pay upon publication" thing can get really old when a publisher holds onto your piece for years at a time.....)

Now, back to work...... I haven't done any hard-core editing yet today--just some fun with the first draft of my novel. Now I've got to look over a few potential magazine stories... and attack a picture book ms to see if it's really ready to go....

But I've fallen behind in submitting, so I have to get back in the groove.......

Good Article on getting Published

I haven't blogged in a while.... between Holy Week, Easter, sick kids, visiting and being visited I haven't had much time....

But here's a cool article on how to get published! And the rest of her blog's pretty good too! =)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Contributorr's Copies.. Wheeeeee!!!

I just got my contributor's copies of Clubhouse. They renamed my story "Tough Shell" - a much cooler title.

They also picked a good illustrator! (I love seeing how my stories are illustrated-- I get giddy when I see them all nicely set on a magazine page. It's so exciting!)

The story seemed a lot better than I remembered it... I'm tempted to sit down with the original and see just how much they edited it-- because it really sings now--

I can't remember if it sung originally, because I worked so darn hard on it that by the time I finally got it to work I was just glad to get a break from it for 6 weeks! =)

But for now, I'll just go post over at Verla's and then get back to attacking a story that's NOT ready yet.....

But Oh! The Contributors Copies! They make me so happy!!!!

Leaving my Critique Group

As a New Year's resolution I joined an online critique group -- Because everyone said critique groups are great.....

But I'm beginning to think that "everyone" must have a lot more time and energy than me!

Because I only have 5 hours a week to write (which is why this blog is so pathetic!) so spending 1 to 1 1/2 hours a week critiquing is just NOT ok.....

Especially when I could be spending that time self-critiquing.

So it's back to my old routine of only submitting something for critique when I'm utterly stuck. Otherwise, I'll stick to the "ignore it for two weeks and then attack it like it belongs to a stranger who you're predisposed to hate" method.

I think I'm finding that most outside critiquers are just too gentle with me. And everything I've ever sold has been self-critiqued.

sigh. I DID really want the critique group thing to be as good as everyone else said it was. Ahh well. Has anyone else has this problem? Or am I just an anti-social, pressed for time, overly rigorous freak?

(I think part of my problem is I didn't join looking for affirmation and encouragement-- checks from magazines provide that! I wanted actual criticism. And literary discussion. And ideas about story arc and imagery and meaning and heck-- I'll just head over to Verla Kay every day--- I do that anyway! =) )

Friday, March 7, 2008

My take on E-readers

I'd never been able to understand the appeal of the Kindle or the Sony Reader. I just like books, actual physical books, too darn much....

And then, last night in the shower I had a flash of brilliance--or insanity---

What if the E-readers were totally WATERPROOF, like those shower radios? And came with little suction cup thingies, so you could read while you showered! I'd LOVE one then-- after all, the shower is the one place I'm ever truly alone and undistracted (if I wait to take one until DH is home and can wrangle the kids...)

So.... Sony, Amazon, if you're listening--- Come out with a "Shower" version of your readers, and even *I* will buy one!

Getting the Slush Monkey off my back!

Well, the latest round of rejections has come in, and I've decided that it's time to take a good, hard look at some of my PB manuscripts.

Questions to Ask Myself:

1. If I was critiquing this for someone else, would I be excited to read it, or would I groan and think "Not another one!"

2. If I saw this book in a store with mediocre illustrations, would I still be willing to read it to my child because the story was just so great? Would I read it nightly or quickly consign it to the library book sale?

3. Would I by this book for a friend with a young child?

4. Does it really work as a dummy?

If a book passes these tests, I'll give it another few chances. Otherwise, they're going to the big slush pile that is my backup hard drive!

Now... off to the mines.....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The End of British Childhood

is age eleven

I played with dolls into high school. I remember getting an "American Girls" catalogue in the mail when I was 12-- it made dolls socially acceptable again, because they were collectible and historically accurate.

I ended up with Samantha. And now I'm counting the years until my daughters are old enough for them.

I also find it hard to imagine a 13 or 14 year old being allowed to stay out past 11 or 12... after all, who's picking these kids up and driving them home?

Now, on a related note--does this mean YA really starts at 11? Would an American parent buy their child a book where an 11 year old drank and smoked and slept around?
I wouldn't, but as a Catholic home-schooler I realize that I'm not even on the same planet as main stream.....

Also, how many adults would enjoy WRITING a book about this sort of eleven-year old? Even if the child didn't realize how damaging their lifestyle was, wouldn't you just want to weep with every sentence you typed?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Funny...and sad....and a little Odd.

Garfied Minus Garfield

It turns out that Garfield wasn't a comedy at all. It was a Tradgedy, with Jon as Hamlet and Garfield as the Gravedigger... or perhaps the Troup of Actors......

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Back from Vacation Present!

I just got back from vacation and went through my mail.

I found two impersonal rejections and...

A CONTRACT! I finally managed to write a story for Highlights High Five!

The 150-word or less genre is REALLY tough-- but it feels so good when all the hard work pays off! =)

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Story Behind "Time For Bed"

I was bumming around Mem Fox's website and found this:

So I guess sometimes it does all come together in a flash of serendipity--- but it helps if you already have a relationship with an editor! =)

Also, I apologize for any misspellings in the last few days-- Blogger's spell checker seems to be down!

By the Way--don't screw up your kids!

So I've recently set my google alerts to let me know about any news articles involving "author" or "illustrator."

One thing I've noticed is that local papers are collossally ignorant about vanity publishing-- apparently they think that if someone has a book listed on Amazon (via PublishAmerica!) that it's worthy of note.

Now, a lot of these stories are along the lines of "six-year-old a published novelist!" and "eleven year old illustrates her first book!"

Look, parents - I know you want to encourage your kids' dreams. But by getting their book "published" at a young age, you're just setting them up for decades of swelled heads and unrealistic expectations... If they want to see their work in print, have them submit to the Highlights kids pages or something. Then they'll actually have to compete with other talented kids.

Letting them think that they've "published" when really all they've done is pay someone to print their work is just silly. And you're not going to make your money back. ever. No one is going to pay $20.00 for a paperback book illustrated by an eleven-year-old when they can pay 15.00 and get a hardcover illustrated by a Caldecott winner.

And telling your child that she's "just as good as all those other illustrators out there" is going to mess her up. Because she's probably not just as good. And, if by some incredible miracle she IS just as good at age 11, she should really keep working at her craft, because by 25 or so, she could be one of those illustrators that defines a generation.....

Ok. End of Rant.

Another totally awesome children's lit blog....

You know, finding all these great blogs makes me realize what a rotten blogger I am. =)

Oh well... those who can, do awesome interviews and post neato-cool original content.

Those who can't, Link.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Percy Jackson Book 4 trailer....

I can't wait--- this series is so much fun!

Books free on-line,,2255877,00.html

I think Harper has the right idea-- I wouldn't want to read a whole book on-line, but if I read a few pages and liked it, I might buy it on-line...

This seems to be a step in the direction of creating an internet version of the "browsing in a bookstore" phenomenom.

Sure, there may be a few folks who sit down and read the whole thing at the store and never buy it, but most people read a few pages here and there, decide that they like a book, and then buy it.....

Gaiman's analysis is spot-on......

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One of my faves....

The new Ambassador for Kidlit

Interview with Eric Rohmann

At Seven Impossible Things

What an awesome blog! I'll have to read it more often!

Non-fiction help

THIS is a great article on writing queries for magazine articles. I'm going to put it to work right away! (Though given my time constraints, 1 a week is a better goal than 5 a week. )

Finally, a way to justify my constant consumption of interesting information! =)

Friday, February 8, 2008

A second start

I enjoyed this article about a woman who got into illustration as a second career -- She was 32 when she went to Art School! That means there's hope for me! =)

Holt's new President

Though apparently the new president, Dan Farley, used to be in charge of Harcourt's California operations, which included the children's division....


(These updates brought to you by the power of Google News Alerts! They're super useful! Set some up for the subjects that you're interested in....)

Moves at Holt

I'm not sure how much the president affects the children's division, but:

Moves at Holt

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I HATE Banned book week...

I absolutely LOATHE "banned book week". And even though I love Unshelved, today they did a great job illustrating WHY I hate it:

Asking for a book to be removed from the collection or moved to the adult room is NOT the same as banning it.

And not everyone who has concerns about a book is an evil rube.

I supervise my children's check-outs. For instance, last week I returned one of my daughter's choices to the shelf and refused to let her bring it home.

I felt that "My Daddy Drinks Too Much" was a bit heavy for a four-year-old who thinks that everyone's daddy must be as great as hers.

Now, I wouldn't ask for the book to be moved -- I can see how some kids might need it, and I'm happy just previewing books for my daughter....

But I think it's wrong to treat parental concerns about a book with a knee jerk reaction of "Free Speech Forever, Fascist Pig!"

A lot of parents don't have the time or ability to screen their child's reading material. And parents tend to view school libraries and children's collections as "safe spaces" that won't destroy their child's innocence.

So of course they feel a bit violated when their five-year-old comes home with "My Daddy Murdered My Mommy and Buried Her in the Basement." And when a librarian treats them like a moron instead of dealing with their concerns, he turns the library into "The Enemy."

Read the "Banned Book" reports in the ALA magazine some day. And then tell me that "Banned Books Week" doesn't just fan the flames of information professional hysteria!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blog Silence

Sorry about the long lags (assuming anyone's reading this.)

I've had a spate of sick kids, birthday patries, houseguests, and museum trips.

Plus, I STILL haven't finished my Christmas cards, and I REALLY want to get them out by Ash Wednesday.......

so check out, and ignore me for a few more weeks! There's enough there to keep you busy for a while anyway!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Now I really need to see Firefly--but no Bab5??

Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? v1.0
created with
You scored as Serenity (from Firefly)

You like to live your own way and do not enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you that you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Coming on December 1, 2005:

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? The Sequel

Serenity (from Firefly)


Moya (from Farscape)


Galactica (from Battlestar: Galactica)


Enterprise D (from Star Trek)


SG-1 (from Stargate)


Millennium Falcon (from Star Wars)


Bebop (from Cowboy Bebop)


Nebuchadnezzar (from The Matrix)


Friday, January 4, 2008

Research Tip #1

Listen to THE NINJA -- He could save your life--- or at least valuable time and effort.

(Thanks to for the tip)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Pope as Cat Lady?

I knew that he'd been planning to retire to Italy and write books...

But I'd assumed he'd meant theology, not this!