A BLOG FOR READERS AND AUTHORS OF MTV BOOKS
Friday, July 30, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
I started going to writing conferences long before I was a published author. I arrived at my first one not knowing anyone or what to expect, although I was sure everyone would be much more experienced than I was. Some writers were, but many others were first-timers, too. I was thrilled to have my manuscript critiqued by a “real” editor who wasn’t completely horrified by my writing. But by far the best part of my experience was all the friendly, encouraging people I met.
Since then I’ve tried to attend at least one writing conference a year. I’ve been privileged to meet wonderful children’s authors like Sid Fleishman, Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen, Lin Oliver, and R.A. Nelson. I’ve lunched with agents, editors, art directors, and dozens of writers. And I’ve learned that people who write for children are the friendliest, most supportive, most helpful people I know. We celebrate each other’s successes and commiserate about our setbacks.
Now to answer the question of my best and worst conference experiences. By far, my best experience—although I didn’t realize it at the time—was meeting my fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola in April 2005. I’d sent in a middle grade manuscript and requested that she be the conference speaker to critique it. She didn’t like it, but she liked some things about my writing and the first page of a work-in-progress called Crowning Glory. Two years later I completed the manuscript and queried her. The result was my first published novel, Fairest of Them All. That conference experience is pretty hard to top!
My worst experience, which was mostly just annoying, was also with an agent who was also supposed to critique Crowning Glory. I’d sent in the required first 10 pages and synopsis long before the conference deadline. During our meeting he commented several times that there was nothing that set my manuscript apart from all the other “beauty queen” stories out there. I bit my tongue until he’d finished and then I asked, “Doesn’t the fact that her hair falls out make it different?” He flipped through the 10 pages I’d sent and said, “I didn’t see that here,” to which I replied, “It’s in the synopsis.” His response, “I never read those.”
There was $35.00 flushed down the john!
That conference experience was my only “bad” one, and it’s been far outweighed by everything I’ve learned and the memorable people I’ve met. When the next conference registration form pops up in my email, there’s a good chance I’ll be signing up.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I haven't attended a lot of conferences. In fact, I can count them on one hand - 2 "major" industry conferences and maybe 3 minor ones. And I haven't had any badly memorable experiences at any of them. In fact, only good experiences. Probably because I never attended a conference until I was a published author, so I was usually speaking on a panel or signing books. And that's a blast. And nothing I'd ever complain about.
My favorite conference experience: I got to meet, sit next to and talk extensively with Ruppert Holmes, singer of the infamous "Pina Colada" song. The man is brilliant. Hadn't even known he was a writer. He is funny and smart (used to write songs for porn movies and has greatly amusing stories). The thing is, I LOVED that song in sixth grade, owned it and knew every word of the lyrics. It was a watershed moment for me. I went home and called my best friend from sixth grade and told her. She was equally in awe of the greatness I had shared a table with during an autograph session.
I haven't attended a conference in four years. And the one thing I really enjoyed, and sorta miss now that I'm reminded of how long it's been, is hanging out with other authors. Authors are fun and friendly and a great crew to hang out with. And four years is way to long to go without such great company.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
My favorite dead celebrities: John Belushi (of course!), Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, James Dean.
My favorite music: Neil Young, Frank Black, Modest Mouse, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, The Doors, Marilyn Manson, Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Weird stuff I'm into: I'm a big true crime buff and I'm interested in serial killers, cults and the paranormal. Yes, I'm weird. I know.
Why I write: Because it's fun! I'm a big fan of popular culture and am really interested in how it affects our lives and shapes who we are. Music and movies have had such an enormous impact on the person I am, and I'm interested in exploring this relationship between people and pop culture in my writing.
My writing habits: I write after I get home from work and on the weekends, but only after I've walked my very demanding little pug dog. When I'm working on a first draft I write 1000 words a day on weekdays, 2000 words a day on weekends.
So there you have it! Me in a nutshell. I can't wait to start blogging with all the other wonderful MTV authors, and if you'd like to know even more about me you can check out my website where I also blog about the weird and wonderful stuff I'm into. Until next time, adios!
I am a huge fan of writers' conferences and attend at least two every year. One of the main reasons I go is to get to hang out with author buddies and meet new ones too. There is something in the air at comnferences because I am always super charged to write when I leave them.
I've never had any really bad experiences at a conference, thankfully. I've heard editors tell stories about how writers follow them into the bathrooms, even trying to slide their manuscripts under the stalls. I've certainly seen some interesting "characters" breeze through conferences. You know the ones who wake up in the morning and decide to write a book and have it published the next day! Not surprisingly, these people do not usually come back the next year. They're probably off to try a new hobby like brain surgery or rocket science. But I must say that most everyone I meet from writers to editors to agents at conferences are so helpful and sweet.
The best thing that has come out of conferences for me is buliding relationships with other authors, editors and agents. Publishing is really a small world and you will run into people again and again! Plus, I have picked up a lot of great writing tips and strategies from other presenters.
I taught my first SCBWI YA workshop this past June (see pic above of me) with my Flux editor Brian Farrey and it was such a great experience. Not only do we have a lot of talented writers in South Florida, but it was also wonderful to work alongside my editor and actually meet him in person. I hope to lead a lot more conference workshops in the future because I really enjoy sharing what I have learned over the years. As writers we spend a lot of time, well, writing and it is really nice to get out of the house and socialize with people that have the same interests! So what are you waiting for? Go, get out there, and sign up for a local writers' conference in your area. You'll thank me:).
Friday, July 16, 2010
We went for five days (or maybe it was six?) and spent all day writing, then one of us cooked a vegan friendly meal (my friends are so awesome and accommodating of my dietary choices), and we built a fire and drank a ton of wine. Probably too much wine. This is all of the wine the four of us drank in a week. Mind you, we were grad students:
Despite all the wine-drinking, it was very productive and I hoped to be able to do it again.
Then in 2007, when I was halfway through writing BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, a former professor of mine told me about a writer's retreat he'd created in a house in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. Right by the sea! And he invited my friend/critique partner Katie and me to spend 10 days there for free! All we had to do was pay airfare! So I asked my parents for money for my birthday and Katie and I flew to New Hampshire and then drove north. We stayed in the house with two other guys, writers from other colleges, and another guy who wrote and also watched over the house for my prof.
This was by far my most productive writer's retreat. I got up early in the morning and bundled up (it was late November) to walk down to the sea:
Then I did some pilates, showered, ate breakfast and sat down to write.... usually for 10 to 12 hours with lunch and dinner breaks. (Katie and I usually cooked together. We'd lived together before and had a good cooking rapport.) Then I collapsed on the couch with my fellow writers to watch TV (House or Degrassi) or a movie. I think we only went out drinking once. I finished half of BALLADS and did a revision on it in those 10 days.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Flushed with success and a little woozy from switching the font size from 11 to 12 and back again 50 or so times, I grabbed my trusty market guide and turned to the first publisher on my list. Looking for contemporary young adult fiction from 50,000-70,000 words. Couldn’t be more perfect! Query with synopsis and brief author bio. How hard can that be?
A dozen or so synopses later, I can answer that question. Writing a synopsis is like painting a mural on the wings of a hornet. You have to make the most of a very small space, and there’s no room for error. All that’s required is condensing your 300-page novel into a page, a paragraph, or—my personal favorite—a single sentence. Remember to describe the main characters, setting, and plot while capturing the voice of your story. And don’t be too wordy.
Coming up with a brief bio is equally difficult. What does “brief” mean? 100 words? 200? More? Should I include my education, publishing experience, interests, significant other, pets, blood type, and/or favorite shade of nail polish? When I Googled to find some examples, I got 25,000,000 hits on author bios. Just terrific.
It’s embarrassing that I can write a 50,000-word novel but can’t come up with a coherent summary of it. Two months ago my agent asked me for a one-sentence synopsis of my upcoming book, A&L Do Summer. After ten pathetic attempts I finally wrote something she didn’t have to change--too much. I can only imagine how much hair she pulled out as she read and politely rejected each one.
That’s my sad story. Does anyone else have synopsis/bio phobia? It would really help to know I’m not alone.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Summer vacation is in full swing-- around here, it's mostly meant no alarms, no homework, just basically taking it easy. I suppose this either makes me the world's best mom or the world's worst mom, depending on who you're asking. My kids, so far, think it's great, because there are no demands on their time. I think it's great because there are no demands on my time. I'm sure there are super moms out there who think it's terrible, since I don't have every moment of their summer planned to the nth degree. But I'm sort of a purist that way-- I happen to think summer's about being a kid. Which isn't to say we're not doing anything. We're in a new, glorious part of the country, with lots to explore, lots of different festivals and events to go to, and best of all, weather that doesn't leave you feeling damp, gross, and thinking you're breathing through a warm, wet washcloth. We're also taking advantage of the type of city we live in, with both kids going to a computer/software camp in August. Gotta love living in a cradle of technology.
There's also a family vacation on tap in a few weeks in the form of a cruise. My in-laws will be celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary in November, but they decided to celebrate early, to take advantage of summer vacation with my kids, so they're taking all of us on an Alaskan cruise. (Also taking advantage of our convenient location as a cruise ship port.) Frankly, I'm beyond excited for this vacation. The husband and I went on an Alaskan cruise for our honeymoon-- in fact, it's when we first fell in love with this part of the country and decided that we'd one day live here-- and the cruise will coincide with our eighteenth wedding anniversary. (Who let us get married that young? I mean, really?)
The cruise itself ought to be interesting. I mean, it's a family vacation and the dynamics, as in all families, can be... interesting. I keep coming back to two thoughts: one, lots of potential material and two: big, freakin' boat. If things get too crazy, I see a lot of spa time in my future.
It'll be good to be relaxed, too, since on my return, I'll be attending my first Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles and I'm absolutely freaking. out. I haven't missed RWA in over six years and I'll be the new kid on the block and I won't know anyone and... and...
Yeah, I'm a big chicken.
So, now that we're into July, any summer plans for you guys?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
1. Freak out.
2. Write my way through it.