Sunday, July 31, 2005


I was tagged by Susan Taylor Brown

-10 years ago - I lived in Iowa and was an ad sales manager. I taught baton twirling lessons and took my twirlers to Hawaii.

-5 years ago- I lived in Kansas City, was a marketing director, had a two year old daughter and hated going to work each day because I could not stand being away from her. I traveled a lot for my job. I dreamed of writing a book, but couldn't manage to find the time.

-1 year ago- I had my third daughter. I had been a stay-at-home-mom for three years. I couldn't wait to get back to the gym because I had just completed six months of bedrest and was itching to be active again. My 87 year old grandmother came to visit three weeks after baby K was born.

-yesterday- My mother and father-in-law were in town. We got up early to watch the girls run in a race that is a fundraiser for our favorite park. We went out for breakfast, watched movies all afternoon, and went to see Sky High that evening (after eating the ribs I cooked). For the record, Sky High is awesome!

-tomorrow- I start a new PB writing course. I'm psyched. Oh, and I have my SCBWI critique group.

5 bands/artists that I know the lyrics to most of their songs- Most of the new Disney soundtracks. How embarrassing is that?

5 things I'd do with $100,000,000- pay off my house (more likely, buy a bigger one!), add more to the girls' college funds, travel, start some sort of a literacy foundation, give all my nieces and nephews money for college.

5 locations I would like to run away to -Hawaii, Tahoe, Florida, um...maybe some more exotic beachy locations. Get the theme here?

5 bad habits I have- procrastinating, blogging when I should be doing other things. More, but that's all I'm going to share :-)

5 things I like doing - playing with my kids, writing, reading, visiting new places, biking on a fall morning.

5 things I will never wear- bikini, I think I've worn lots of the other things I swore I'd never wear.

5 t.v. shows I like(d)- 90210, Melrose Place, American Idol, Cheers, Frazier

-5 movies I like - Sky High, Herbie, Ice Castles, Footloose, Ice Princess (Okay, I spend too much time watching my kids' movies!)

-5 people I'd like to meet- all my virtual friends, including some writers and illustrators whose work I admire. :-) Oh, and Oprah!

-5 biggest joys at the moment- my kids, my husband, reading, writing, having the ability to be a stay-at-home mom.

-5 favorite toys- laptop, picture phone, digital camera, trampoline, bike

5 people tagged – I think this has made the rounds. I can think of no untagged bloggers who read my blog. Play if you'd like!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

And, another thing...

As I mentioned earlier, I was really discouraged by the slushpile post from Agent 007. I was really wound up about it and wrote this huge, long blog post in my head while on the treadmill yesterday.

When I finally had a chance to get to my computer, I took another look at Agent 007's site. She had written the post that was in my head. (I know. I know. It's easy to say these things after the fact.)

So, I'll leave it at this: Her new post fits in so much better with my little version of how the world works. I have a great life. A really great life. People are always telling me how lucky I am. I might look lucky, but those close to me know that I've worked hard for all these "lucky breaks" that I've gotten.

When I lost my job (and, this was a blessing) all this freelance work fell into my lap. Not because I was lucky, but because I had a reputation. There are so many slackers in this world, people who don't understand why they are passed over for promotions or special perks (And, they are always the jealous people who think the world owes them something). It's not difficult to rise to the top. You just need to deliver consistently good work every day. You don't have to be brilliant...or suckup. You just need to be a little bit better than the people who spend their days gossiping by the coffee pot. You need to work a little longer than all those people who take two hour lunches. And, a little harder than the people who spend their afternoons shopping online when they should be writing reports.

All it takes is persistence and consistency. I still have to believe that the publishing business works the same way.

It's a book. No, it's a game. Nope, it's a game-in-a-book-in-a-game

Look at what came in my mail yesterday.

The stated reading level is for ages 9-12, but that didn't stop four year old S and seven year old A from playing. It's a game-in-a-book-in-a-game. I'll review it at YA Books Central this week. But, this book-in-a-game was soooo cool, I just had to tease you!

Um...and now that I've figured out how to post pictures, you might have to put up with a few more of those too. ::hits self on head:: I can't believe I made this so hard before!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is it whimpy to admit this bugs me?

Is it whimpy to admit that this post at Agent 007's blog really bugs me? I was really surprised to see the number of people who commented that agreed with her.

From Agent 007's blog:

I found this smart Salon article by Patricia Chui, called “Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader,” and recommend it as additional insight. Here’s an excerpt:"The sad thing is that I have this attitude now toward authors who send in unsolicited manuscripts. Before, I thought that the slush pile was great because you could discover some talented genius and that all these authors laboring away in obscurity without agents were so noble. Now, I consider every unagented author to be slightly psychotic and deranged, and every unsolicited manuscript to be bad."

I was always told that picture book authors don't need agents, at least not right off. It's kind of that chicken and egg thing anyway. You can't get one without being published, but no one will publish your book without an agent.

Part of me thinks that a lot of what's in the slush pile is from the lazy people who don't research the publishers and editors and who don't polish their prose. That ought to make mine stand out, shouldn't it? Then again, maybe my writing isn't as good as I hope it is. Maybe I'm one of those newbie writers who sends in things that look like first drafts.

So, now what's this Over-Caffeinated Mom to do? I'm working my behind off. I'm in two critique groups. I'm reading blogs and books and researching publishers. Tonight, I spent my night scouring the web for agents and then cyber-stalking their writers to get a taste of the types of books they like. Okay, I wasn't really stalking, but I felt like I was digging up dirt on people!

I have a new list of books to read, books by the authors of the agent on my wish list. Now what? Does anyone have any tips? Am I going about this right?

On an exciting note, I finished another draft of one of my old PBs. I really like this one. Greatly improved. How cool that I will have a polished draft for my critique group next week!

And, I start my new PB writing class next week. I can't wait!

Monday, July 25, 2005

A new milestone

I think I've reached a new milestone. Call it a high or a low, depending on your point of view. I was browsing Writer's Market tonight looking for potential publishers for my completed picture book manuscripts. I clicked on a few publishers' sites where I cringed at the covers or the titles and mumbled, "I'd rather keep my book all to myself than let you mess with it."

I want to be published, but not so much that I'll just give my book to a publisher who can't make their own website or books look enticing. Yeah, that judging a book by its cover thing...well, that works both ways, Mr. Publisher.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Awesome Illustrators

Take a look at this link. "The PBJ is a group of children's writer-illustrators who are absolutely addicted to picture books." You can view their work at the Picture Book Junkies site. What awesome work! Each artist's style is different from the others, but I love them all. Kinda gives you an idea of publishers are up against. What torture it must be to choose the perfect illustrator from all the incredible choices.

Thanks to Janee Trasler for the link. Janee's blog also has lots of great scoop from the Mazza Summer Institute. The Mazza Picture Book Museum looks like a great place to visit. Can't make it to Ohio this summer? Take the virtual tour.

Exhausting weekend in the triple digits with relatives. Must go to bed now.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Another Busy Day

It's another busy day with another group of visiting relatives. Last night, I showed my sister-in-law the pile of books that just arrived for me to review for the new kid's section at YA Books Central. We sat on the couch reading books while the kids played board games at our feet. Actually, it wasn't quite that peaceful. About 10 games simultaneously exploded, leaving pieces everywhere.

My sister-in-law so wants in on that gig. I can't wait to start reviewing all these really cool, fun books (with great covers and enticing titles, I might add.). To see what's been posted recently at YA Books Central, check out the YA Books Central Blog.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Most Important Thing You'll Read All Day

If you are a writer, this is the most important thing you'll read all day. Agent 007 turns the tables. What makes YOU select a book, and what makes you think editors and agents are any different?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Poetry Magnets For Your Computer

Isn't this the coolest? Now you can do refrigerator poetry on your computer. Click the little button on the bottom and you get a variety of styles, such as Britneyesque.

We have an early reader set on our fridge. Great for learning sight words, or helping mom overcome writer's block.

Thanks to Laurie Halse Anderson for the link.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A sign???

I'm not sure what this means, but I thought it was strange. I was thinking of writing a story about an American girl who becomes friends with a girl who just moved from India. A few hours later, I received this article in my in Google Alert.

"Children's author Ranjit Lall feels that fiction for kids in India stresses on morals -- that's where we go wrong. 'Since writers feel that every story must have a moral, we talk down to children. Writers here refuse to have fun and treat children as thinking beings who need entertainment. Harry Potter succeeds because of its sheer fun.' "

It sounds like there's a real untapped niche for children's books in India. This also strikes me as odd since they have a booming, Hollywood-like movie industry.

Not that my story would be for children in India. I was thinking of my neighbor girls and how well they play with my daughters and about their grandmother who speaks no English and how we communicate with smiles and gestures. And, how my sister-in-law learned to speak phrases in many languages as a toddler while playing with kids from all over the world while they were stationed in D.C.

Why is it that kids can overcome cultural obstacles that adults often can't or won't?

Stop the presses!

I have nothing to say today, so I thought I'd be childish and say, "Ha ha ha ha ha. I get to hear Cyn's speech Beyond Feathers and Fangs in a few weeks and (some of) you don't!"

Seriously, I've been following Cynthia Leitich Smith's Vermont College experience through Cynsations and Spooky Cyn. It sounds awesome. I'm so glad she's coming to Kansas and sharing her Feathers and Fangs speech with us!

My Hubby got home from his business trip at 1:00 a.m. Glad he made it home. Lightening struck the control towers at the airport and they were directing air traffic using cell phones. Scary!

The power went out in the middle off the night and the smoke detectors chirped for several hours, which means I didn't get a good night's sleep between a late hubby and the chirping house. Amazingly, the cable and cable modem work today. That's just the sort of thing that leaves me cut off from the world for hours.
We have a busy day with visiting relatives today. And, I can't wait to continue with my next PB. It's a rewrite and already much better than my original effort.
Oh, did you see my new Buy a Friend a Book banner?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Appropriate Blogging

Nadia Cornier (Agent Obscura) has a discussion going about appropriate blogging.

I also found this little gem that should be eye-opening to anyone blogging under his or her real name. Remember every post can be Googled. Current employers, future employers...publishers...agents... will probably try to check you out.

When I was a kid, my dad would tell us that one way to decide right from wrong was to ask ourselves if what we were about to say or do would embarrass our parents (back then, he could have lost his job. My husband's family, a military family, had the same rule).

It seems like it's still appropriate today. My dad doesn't read my blog, but I think he'd approve.

EDITED AGAIN! Why do I always find these things AFTER I post my thoughts? Agent 007 posted about this topic and said it well.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Jesus Christ Superstar and Book Marketing

Yes, the Marketing Geek strikes again. I read this awesome article in the Kansas City Star in which Paul Horsley discusses the cultural impact of Jesus Christ Superstar when it first came out in 1970. While he writes about the musical and religion, I think what he says rings true for publishing as well.

He writes, "Suddenly, pop culture, theater and religion came together in a way that trumped 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' and all the other hokey period films about Jesus.

"It made perfect sense to us in 1970 that Jesus sang to a rock beat, for we needed to invent him just as every generation has done. ..."

"...'Superstar' hit its mark because it was synthetic: It fused styles and genres and came up with something fresh. Music and religion would be better off if creative people in both areas got busy doing the same thing for a new generation."


Harry Potter (no spoilers inside)

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I'm sad. I'm sad I have to wait to find out how the whole thing ends. I'm sad because it was a sad ending (in more ways than one). I want more.

I've read a lot of blog posts and news reports that have said this is the best one yet. I did not think the story was the best. I thought it was slow in getting started and that it ended when I finally cared about what was going on. I will say (some of) the characters were stronger, and we learned much of the back story.

I've read varying reports on the writing. Some thought it was the tightest writing yet. Others picked at some misspellings. And, even I found a "memory" shared that was not all written in the POV of the person whose memory it was.

However, the nitpicking is not important. All summer people have obsessed about a BOOK. People waited by their mailboxes and crowded into BOOK stores. It wasn't a movie or a rock concert. People were excited about READING. How cool is that?

Edited to add: I just found this review. If you don't mind mild spoilers, I think this reviewer is right on :

Saturday, July 16, 2005

It's done! And no one else gets to see it!

I finished my story. It is nothing like the first draft at all, but I love it. Sorry, you can't see it because I'm not changing it again! If no one buys the thing, I might just have to quit. Right now, I really like this story. I'll let it simmer a few days and then I'll take another look. If I still like it, I'm sending it off to Highlights! I think it's perfect for them.

Now, I can't decide if I should go back to the lemonade story or pick up one of my oldies. The old one is a Halloween story. I'm roasting today and dreaming of cool, fall weather. (I live for summer, so it's just a little break I want!)

What's New With Us

We had a busy week, but then again, that seems to be the norm around here. I took A to see Jesus Christ Superstar on Thursday. The show was phenomenal. The singing was awesome and the choreography and lighting set the tone. I think they could have gotten by without a set at all because these three elements were so strong. The cool part was that this show was locally-produced.

Last night, we went to the T-Bones game. This is a Northern League team (the website explains it as being a league for players who still want to play after being let go by major league teams). The T-Bones play in a two year old ball park with nice, spacious seating. Every seat is a good seat, but our seats were exceptional from the Mom Point Of View: we sat in the row right in front of the restrooms and we had lots and lots of snack options in our vicinity. A fell off her chair and smacked her head. She carried on with the crying and screaming for 1 1/2 hours. She got hit pretty hard, but I think she was exhausted. She had been at camp all day and we went straight to the game from there.

A's camp was a decorating camp. They painted a room and created a jungle theme. A drew and colored zebra stripes. All the kids got to make a fingerprint alligator. A's friend painted the coolest parrot. Each kid painted a drawer knob and a lightswitch plate. Awesome camp. Well worth the $$. And, an added bonus--the kids enjoyed snack time. A highlight was buying their own snacks. A took her little change purse and counted out her own change every day. Great money practice!

I still need to finish up my story. If all goes as planned, my husband will take the older two girls to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while K naps and I write.

Friday, July 15, 2005

One Day Till Harry Potter

My preordered Harry Potter book arrives tomorrow. The one I ordered back in January. I can't wait to crack it open. I wonder if my wrist will hurt if I hold that big fat book on the treadmill?

Take a look at this: Harry Potter and the Vanishing Brand Magic:

"In fiscal 2001, the Potter peak for Scholastic, sales from the series reached $200 million, or 10% of annual revenue and 30% of Scholastic's earnings.

"But since then, the company has missed earnings, its margins narrowed and stock got whacked. Management had to get a grip on reality and start the publisher chugging again. "Harry Potter is a decreasingly important part of the story," says Peter Appert, analyst with Goldman Sachs Group (nyse: GS - news - people ). "I look at it as a windfall from the cash flow and earnings standpoints, something that's not sustainable on an ongoing basis. The Harry Potter franchise doesn't go away, but it's past its peak from the revenue and earnings perspective.

"...So despite all the media hoopla and midnight release parties, Scholastic is smartly trying to look beyond young Mr. Potter's magic. "Of course [the brand] means a lot to us in terms of just raising the visibility of the company, but it's just one piece of what we do," says Good.

"...Appert predicts that for fiscal 2005, Harry Potter will represent just 1% of revenue and 2% of earnings. "You don't ignore the Harry Potter earnings," he says. "It's real cash flow. But you want to value the company on some sort of normalized basis of profitability."

Doesn't this look like fun? NY Times Announces Great Read In the Park.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Marketing Geek In Me Is Taking Over Again

HELP! My computer has been hijacked by a marketing geek again. I was just reading Don Tate's blog where there is a interesting conversation about African American literacy. I'm posting few snippets from his blog with my marketing geekiness to follow.

"...Publisher's are cutting back their picture book list big-time. Of the few new titles, a good number of those books were written by celebrity authors. Even fewer titles featured African American themes.

"...People, and I'm specifically speaking to African American people, I can't encourage you enough to purchase and support those children's books that are published with your child in mind.

"Not too long ago, I found myself sitting at a book signing table. This lady, an African American parent walks up to me, excited and smiling to see a brotha representin'. She picks up one of my books, but her smile was soon replaced by a sneer. She goes on to make a comment under her breath about the $16.00 price tag on the book. She walks away. She's probably the first, with her Tommy Hilfiger-wearing ensemble, to purchase her child an X-box, or maybe those $200 Jordans, while considering a book overpriced. She'll be the first one to complain once our books go away.

"...When publisher's lists are cut — believe me — our books will be cut first. Especially if we are viewed as nonbook (children's books) buyers. And sadly, I think we are seen that way."

My thoughts:

Living in an area where there's not much diversity, I hadn't even considered this before. One of Don's readers suggested that he come up with a top ten reading list to share. I think this is an excellent idea, and I have to wonder what would happen if groups of authors and illustrators came together in support of this cause. There's the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit. Why couldn't there be something similar to feature books with ethnically diverse characters?

With that in mind, I did a quick Google search to see what's being done about this. Look at this cool event:

The Seventeenth National African American Read-In
Sponsored by the Black Caucus of NCTE and by NCTE
Join over a million readers in theSeventeenth National African American Read-In
Sunday, February 5, 2006Monday, February 6, 2006, for schools

Schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations, and interested citizens are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating Read-Ins in their communities. Hosting a Read-In can be as simple as bringing together friends to share a book, or as elaborate as arranging public readings and media presentations that feature professional African American writers.

What a great Black History Month idea!

The National Education Assocation also has this list of 100 titles that celebrate African American heritage, tradition, and achievement.

Here's another list I found with African American authors

And a reading list by Scholastic.

Reading Rockets site also has a comprehensive list. I think I like theirs best.

So, lots of lists and ideas, but most seem to be historical. History is good. But, what about just good old fun books? The bloggers who come here are obviously readers and writers. But, we all live in work with people every day. I think Don has hit upon an important issue. I encourage you to think about how you can use your influence to entice all children, especially non-readers and children of non-readers to pick up a book and READ!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Aw, Rats!

Wouldn't you know it? I destroyed the story by taking out all the conflict when I pulled them apart to make two. One of my online critique group friends confirmed what I feared. I think I like having three groups of critiquers! I'm on a roll now.

Have you seen this Horn Book article celebrating Kevin Henkes? It brought tears to my eyes. We just love his books at our house!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Another draft down

Yesterday, I read My Big Sister Is So Bossy She Says You Can't Read This Book while I worked out. I might not have exercised at full-speed, but I stayed at it for two hours, and I read the entire book!

After my workout, I took the girls swimming. Baby K was tired. We came home so she could nap. Amazingly, she took an almost-two-hour nap, just long enough for me to finish up my fleshed-out first draft of my WIP.

Here's where my day got hectic:

One and a half hours before critique group: We picked A up from camp. I put her in charge of the kids so that I could tweak my draft and print it.

One hour and fifteen minutes before critique group: I ordered a pizza.

One hour before critique group (BCG): My husband called to tell us to eat without him. He had to work late. Yes, he had forgotten it was critique group night.

55 minutes BCG: I called the neighbor. Chit-chatted with her mom. Begged R to babysit. She agreed.

53 minutes BCG: I ran around the house, wiping up slushie syrup, picking up choking hazards.

45 minutes BCG: I fought with every printer and computer in the house to get my manuscript printed. I was about to give up and read my manuscript from my laptop, when I had this bright idea: forget about the network, plug directly into the printer. Success! YEA!

40 minutes BCG: Loaded three kids in the car to pick up pizza.

30 minutes BCG: Fed the kids, checked on print job, ran a brush through my hair.

20 minutes BCG: Picked up more choking hazards. My artsy kids destroyed the place. Decided to tell the babysitter to watch out anyway. It would be easier to clean in the morning.

15 minutes BCG: Babysitter showed up and I left.

5 minutes BCG: I arrived, bought my Diet Coke and took a deep breath.

We had a great meeting. Once again, I managed to write a story within a story (bad!) where I have two main characters and no one knew whose story it was. I got some good feedback, and was ready to revise (rare!). When I got home, I caught up with my husband. He went to bed early. I finished up some work and went to bed shortly after.

4:00 a.m. Honey's alarm rang. He had to catch a flight to NYC this morning.
4:30 a.m. Honey kissed me goodbye.
4:31 a.m. I was wide awake. I walked to the computer and began to revise. I tore apart yesterday's story and focused on one character.
7:05 a.m. Baby K woke up just as I finished this draft.
7:30 a.m. Emailed story to people in my summer writing club for tomorrow's critique.

Tonight, I plan to work on the second character's story. In a way, this two story problem I have works out better because when I actually take the time to revise, I get two stories for the effort of one.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fantastic Reading

Did you see? Notes From the Slushpile has been updated. The topic: how to look at your work with commercial eyes.

Busy day here. Summer camp, swimming, writing and critique group. I hope I have a new manuscript to show. I reeeeaaaalllly don't want to take something old!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

It Worked! It worked!

It worked! I've been struggling for weeks to write a picture book. I'd write a little, decide it was stupid, start something new, delete it...and worse, sit there not writing because I couldn't think the plot through in my head.

Today, following the advice of my blogging friends, I planted my hiney in a chair. When I couldn't think of a name or a specfic task for my character, I typed xxxx. Then, I kept right on going, writing what came next. I went through five revisions of the same idea (plus one that I didn't feel like writing now). I hate to revise, so that alone is significant.

I can't write unless I know what's going to happen, and I hate to waste my time writing detailed descriptions and working out the alliteration that I love so much, only to get a page or two into it and find out that the story doesn't work. I also know that I need to write to get the idea worked out. I often get all the way to the end and dig up the best sentence that I then use to tie everything together. The gem that makes the whole thing work.

I need both: I need to write to the end to find the ideas and I need to have a road map in order to begin. I hope I've found the solution...

Today, I sat here for a few hours, reworking the plot and who the main character would be. As I said, I typed up five versions (not including the ones I didn't let out of my head to play on the paper). I didn't get detailed; it was more like brainstorming with myself to work on the possibilities. A crazy thing happened: I have an outline--characters, a setting, a plot, growth. YEA! I'd never really thought of picture books as having outlines, but this one does.

I can't wait to get back here tonight to add in the details and make my story come to life.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Connecting with the reader

I know it. I am a marketing geek. I'm hoping I can come up with a YA novel featuring a young marketing genius as the main character. My recent reads have helped that process. (I'll be back later with some thoughts about Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You and Storky). Ideas are swirling. I'll get there. Eventually.

I'm considering writing an article for my ad sales friends using publishing as an example of an industry that has had to learn to connect with the customer. Alloy entertainment does a good job of getting in the target's face, in a good way, that is. This morning, I read an article in Pages Online that explains how libraries are connecting with teens. Teen centers, teen-only sections of the library. Librarians who get what it's like to be a teen. What a great way to get teens involved with books!

Not that you care about ad sales and retail marketing, but so many businesses just don't get it. You have to connect with the customer, get them one step closer to making a purchase, get them involved with the product. I think Alloy and progressive teen librarians are doing just that.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Publishing News

It was an eight year old girl who discovered Harry Potter, Alice, the daughter of Nigel Newton, the chairman of Bloomsbury Publishing. He handed her the manuscript and she begged for more until he finally gave in and bought it! Nope. No ponies for this girl. Daddy bought her a book, and the rest is publishing history.


Cruise on over to YA Books Central to see Kimberly Pauley's news. Yep. Soon, you'll find reviews of picture books and chapter books over there. And, guess who gets to do it?

Today's Great Find

I found my gem of the day at Grumpy Old Bookman's site. He's plugging Buy A Friend A Book Week, which happens to be this week. BAFABW occurs four times a year, January, April, July and October. Buy a friend a book for no good reason!

Author Cynthia Leitich Smith is blogging today about Linda Sue Park's new picture book, Bee-Bim Bop. She also has a nice list of picture book recommendations. It is Buy A Friend A Book Week--why not pick up one of Cyn's recommendations for a little friend?

If you're a published author or illustrator, you should also check out another site Cynthia recommends It looks like a great resource for schools that are trying to plan author visits. (And, so you don't think I'm just copying Cyn's blog for the sake of copying, just know that I put things here so I won't LOSE them! I think this is an important site, so I want to be able to find this scoop again!)

I think I'll do a whole post on writing contests soon. Here's a link from Have you ever wondered about those people who win the Highlights contests? I always say I'm going to enter and never get around to it. Here's where two recent winners got their inspiration. The W.I.N.ners have been announced for the Write it Now contest. Lots of names from the cw-biz Yahoo group! Congrats!

Anastasia Suen has a post today about chicklet lit. What's interesting to me about this is the Atlanta Journal article states, "The trick is learning how to pry this age group away from the Internet and video games. A 2004 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that readership of novels, plays or poems among 18-to-24-year-olds had plummeted 28 percent since 1982."

Obvious, right? The article goes on to list books packaged by Alloy Entertainment as popular chicklet lit books. (According to Anastasia's prior post on Alloy, they "produce" the books and the publisher "publishes" it.) Not getting the connection yet? Take a look at their site. They have managed to totally integrate their brand into the lives of their target audience. Teens can even request a catalog: "To get the hottest trends in fashion, makeup, accessories, and more delivered right to your doorstep, just tell us a little about yourself then drop your stats in the form below! Yup, it's that simple." The site is full of things that teen chicks love--and there's book and movie news too.

Read the article about Alloy. Literary snobs may not approve. It's basically the same thing as how the hot boy bands are "created" based upon research that "experts" have mined from teen culture. There's a reason these books are popular...and are making sales...they've managed to connect with the audience and they are multi-media in nature, integrated in the customers' lives.

Then, there's this little link at the bottom so that other people who want to successfully market to teens can do so too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Proof that a cover can kill you

It's so unfortunate that authors don't have more control over the cover art. I firmly believe that the art can make or break book sales.

My Amazon orders arrived today. I ripped open the box and flipped through each book. My daughters, who were supposed to be primping for K's one year pictures, threw down the blow dryer to see what I had in my hand. They both fought over "Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You." It has a fancy, four-color cover with a ballet dancer in a tutu.

"What's it about, mom? Why is she holding pumpkins?" they asked.
"I don't know. The girl is a ballet dancer and doesn't get the role she wants because they think her boobies are too big."
"Hu? That's weird."
S attempts to yank the book from A's hand. A tug of war ensues.
"Let me see. Let me see."
S sits on the floor and stares at the cover.
"I think I'll read it in the car," S says.

S is only four. She doesn't read. But, they both wanted to read that book. I promised to tell them what it's all about when I've finished reading.

So, of the three, highly-blogged-about, much-talked-about books, guess what I'm reading first? Yep. All because the pretty cover had the most chick a four year old.

Buzz This Book For RIF

Here's a chance for you to check out an entertaining book marketing opportunity and help out a good cause at the same time.

Author MJ Rose is holding a two-week campaign to promote her book and help raise money for Reading Is Fundamental. All you have to do is link to the vidlit for the Halo Effect and her supporters will donate $5 to RIF. Cool, hu? Even the book too!

From MJ's blog:

Introducing the first "GOOD BOOKS/GOOD CAUSE BLOG-A-THON" campaign
The goal of this two-week campaign is to connect book lovers with a good cause and a great summer read via the
vidlit for THE HALO EFFECT. I've secured pledges from real-life supporters - my publisher, agent, family and friends – who will collectively donate $5 to the nonprofit literacy organization, Reading Is Fundamental , for each website or blog that links to the Vidlit for THE HALO EFFECT before July 19. The goal is to get at least 500 blogs to link and raise $2500+ for the charity.

Kim here :-) I first heard about vidlits at Agent Obscura's blog a few months ago. MJ as also blogged about vidlits as a marketing tool. I find the concept interesting and applaud her for trying to take the promotional aspect to the next level. I hope she generates lots of buzz that translates to sales.

My internet connection was down for the zillionth time in the past week. So, the first several attempts to post this failed. But, while I was waiting, I took advantage of the quiet time this morning to write four pages of notes. No novel, but some good sorting and data dumping going on. I think I have three separate novels here. Not a bad problem to have...if I can just START something!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie, I will start a novel tonight! I might not get anything that resembles a chapter, but I will start the sorting process.

I took the kids to see Winn Dixie at the theater this afternoon. It was crowded. We sat in the first row. Kids sat on the floor in front of us. And talked. And fought. Babies cried. My baby cried. And, I sat there and daydreamed about books and writing. (I have read the book already and this was my second time to see the movie.)

So, when my novel is published, and you read my backstory, you'll know ... everything that happened that summer was because of Winn Dixie.

As I connected with all my long lost classmates last weekend, I decided that when I publish my first book, one of my first readings will be at my former elementary school. I have some fantastic memories from that place, memories of libraries, books, stories ... and friends who laugh just as hard as they did 30 years ago as they chased each other on the playground at the top of the hill in a small town where everyone was just a little bit poor but never noticed because our friendships made us rich.

Wild Couple of Days

What a wild couple of days it has been! Yep, last weekend was the big 20 year reunion I've been talking about. It was fun (a lot of fun!), and I'm glad I went, but now I'm exhausted. There's something about talking to people I haven't talked to in 20 years-- and won't talk to again until the next reunion --that wore me out. By 9:00 the last night, I decided it was also a waste of time and went back to my in-law's house to snuggle with baby K.

Things I discovered:

1) I was boy crazy.
2) I really did hang out with lots of different crowds.
3) It's a good thing my parents were so strict because I had some funny story about a crush I had on almost every cute boy there.
4) I was nice to everyone. (I'm still not sure I believe this, but people kept coming up to my husband and telling him how I went out of my way to be nice to them when no one else wouldn't. Baffling to lil' ol' stuck up me :-)

I also saw lots of people from the boyfriend list I posted a few months ago.

1) DJ just returned from Iraq. His wife had a baby (his) while he was away. The wife is adorable. She does have a small butt. She loved the story where he told me that he would never date anyone with a butt larger than his. He is an ER doctor and had the most hilarious stories--most of which are not appropriate to share in this blog.
2) JB wasn't on my first list, but relates to a story I told about DJ a while back. People were still talking about the time JB came to my door and wanted me to "go with him" and I replied, "Sure. Where are we going?" JB doesn't remember this. I hope I didn't traumatize him. DJ and I still think it's incredibly funny.
3) BD also has an adorable wife. I think he sent his son in his place. The guy who showed up looked 18!
4) ND---oh, man! I loved this guy. And he loves guys too.
5) TB--good thing I didn't hook up with him. He cheated on his wife.
6) TW--the one guy who looked the least like himself. Short, fat-ish, bald, recently divorced, tried to hit on my friend, AO.

I had a great time talking to my friend AO. She was in my wedding and I hadn't seen her in years. The boys all wanted me to do a cheer. Apparently, I have a famous cheer. I had to remind them that I am shy and don't do cheers. They called my Kimmy and we laughed about the old neighborhood. It was fun, but they never convinced me to do the cheer.

I ate dinner with the kids from the old neighborhood and got the scoop on all our old friends. Lots of parents have died of cancer, something I find peculiar.

And a nice surprise, three people live in Kansas City very near where I do. It's doubtful we'll make the time to meet up, but it was entertaining to talk about--and gave my husband something he had in common with people. HE was such a trooper!

There was one woman, we think she may have been in the special needs classes, that no one knew. I was so proud of her. She walked up and introduced herself and talked to everyone. I think she probably had more fun than anyone else there.

So, go to your reunion! Even if you were a shy kid whose name no one will remember. Go. We all mixed well. Maybe it was because back then, people started school and stayed in the same school system through high school. I don't know.

I'll be back to post again later today. I'm sure there's something important I have to say!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Thoughts Are Swirling

It's happening. Thoughts are swirling. I don't have characters talking in my head...yet. It's more like trudging through a blizzard. I know there's someone, something ahead, but I see only fleeting images. I pull my coat tighter and brave the wind and blowing snow. I don't know how far I have to travel, but I know each step takes me closer to a safe place, a reunion with friends.

Sometimes I see two seconds of a character's life. There's a boy and a girl and they are tweeners. The responses to all these memory posts send more images flying at me. Other peoples' memories do it to me too. I really need to take a notepad to the gym. I get lots of ideas on the tredmill. But, they are undeveloped and race past me. By the time I realize the character is challenging me, he's gone. I see the back of her head and her legs pumping, and I wonder what she had to say.

I think this is a sign that it's time to sit down and start writing to see how much I know about my new friends.

I wonder sometimes if my uneventful childhood is a problem. No trauma. No major conflicts. Not much rebellion. Has my life been too plain to use it as a source of inspiration? One thing I have noticed is that everyone is insecure, even those who pretend to have it all together. My friend's kids are a big source of ideas to me these days.

They have nice lives in upscale suburbia. Conflict comes from things like going away to summer camp and finding out the girl you wanted to date still likes someone else, or calling home from camp and hearing your mom's voice and crying because you had a rough day. Or wanting to date a cheerleader, knowing she won't date you because she doesn't date geeks. And being a geeky boy and knowing that people call you a "geek" and being okay with that. Or going into the mall and refusing to step foot into the Aeropostale store because that's where the popular girls shop and you don't want to be their clone. Or wanting to go out for pizza with your friends but not being able to go unless your mom drives you. Fortunately, she agrees to sit alone in another corner of the restaurant.

I have a new writing friend who shared a tale about her childhood the other night. A very different childhood than mine. As she shared her painful experience, I was sick for her. An instant later, I was thinking about what kind of character she would be in a novel.

Like I said. Lots of thoughts. Lots of images. And, I hope enough conflict to interest readers.