Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 30 Barnes & Noble Event

Normally I wouldn't reprint a press release without doing some work of my own, but I'm time-crunched and at least the info is all here!

Albany, NY – Barnes & Noble Colonie Center will be hosting a Summer Reading Kickoff Event which will feature 11 teen and children’s authors on Thursday, June 30th at 7:00 p.m. The event is also being sponsored by the Junior League of Albany with a portion of supporter’s sales benefiting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Authors slated to appear at the event include: James Preller, author of the Jigsaw Jones children’s series;  Shari Maurer, author of the teen book Change of Heart; Kristen Darbyshire, author of the children’s book Put it on the List ; Eric Luper, author of teen  and middle-grade titles Big Slick, Bug Boy, Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets, and Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto; Sarah Darer Littman, author of teen titles Confessions of a Closet Catholic and Purge; Aimee Ferris, author of teen titles Girl Overboard (S.A.S.S. Series) and Will Work for Prom Dress; Jackie Morse Kessler, author of teen titles Hunger and Rage; and authors Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy, twin sisters who have co-authored a tween series about twin sisters including Take Two, Times Squared and Trading Faces.  Julia DeVillers has also authored the children’s Liberty Porter series, and Jennifer Roy has also authored teen titles Mindblind and Yellow Star.  The authors will be on hand to discuss and sign their books, discuss the writing process, and participate in a question/answer discussion with readers.

Barnes & Noble Colonie Center is hosting the event to kickoff their annual national Summer Reading Program. The program rewards children in grades  K-6 who read any eight books, record them in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Imagination’s Destination Journal and bring the completed journal to any Barnes & Noble store until September 6th, 2011. Journals can be obtained at any Barnes & Noble location. Children returning completed journals will have their choice of a free book from a selection of titles in the store. Completed journals will also be entered into a national drawing for one of twenty NOOK Color eReaders. “The program is a great way for us to help parents and teachers encourage kids to be life-long readers. It’s also a rare opportunity to showcase the talent of several local authors,” commented Barnes & Noble Colonie Center General Manager Eric A. Morgan.

The Junior League of Albany adopted Dolly Parton's Imagination Library as their project for 2008-2013. This initiative will provide one age-appropriate book each month to children ages birth to five years old within Albany City limits regardless of socioeconomics, risk factors, participation in certain programs, parental factors or any other means other than a child's age and residence.

With required summer reading playing an increasingly important role in school curriculums, this is an especially relevant and exciting event as parents and students can not only pick up their summer reading books, but can get them autographed and speak with the authors about what it takes to get a book published.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Local Author Signings

I just want to take a moment to promote a local author's upcoming book signings. Coleen Paratore will be signing From Willa, With Love, the sixth in her Willa series. If you're in the area, stop by!
Fri., July 8, Barnes & Noble, Colonie, NY, 6 p.m.
Fri., July 29, Market Block Books, Troy, NY, 7 p.m. (Troy Night Out!!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pitchapalooza: Planning to Attend

If you’re planning to attend a Pitchapalooza, there are a few things that have to come first. Absolutely first, you have to know when and where one is going to be held.

I found out about the Rhinebeck Pitchapalooza in a very roundabout way that proves I should probably keep up better with local news. The reality is, I find news so depressing sometimes that I choose to shield my preschooler and myself from such lovely stories as Guilty plea in Schenectady stabbing plot on pregnant woman and Senate panel OKs funding for area nuclear projects. Of course, this also means I sometimes miss important-to-my-career articles such as this.

That's right. Pitchapalooza was within minutes of my hometown last month, and I missed it. OK, the truth is, I did get wind of it, but not with enough advance notice to prepare or even attend.

So how did I find out about Rhinebeck Pitchapalooza, an hour and a half away? By plugging into the local writing community. I knew SCBWI had an Eastern NY chapter. I was even a member of the organization. But I was not one to attend meetings, so I hadn't gained much from this membership besides enjoying the member publication I receive in the mail.

Last month, I suddenly realized I should get out there - meet other writers, network, learn. My first local SCBWI meeting was the last before summer break, but I picked up an interesting bit of knowledge. Someone spoke up and advised us all to get on Twitter. She said sometimes agents and editors would be on there taking questions.

I'd never wanted to tweet before, but this sounded interesting. The next day, I opened an account. I started tweeting. I felt ridiculous. I began following a helpful and clearly clever agent from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. One day, Jennifer Laughran took some questions on her website. Soon after, she posted an announcement about the upcoming Rhinebeck Pitchapalooza.

I promised myself this time I would be ready. This time, I would go.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pitchapalooza: What's It Like?

Did I mention I was a Pitchapalooza winner in Rhinebeck? I was! I’m very excited, which is, of course, one reason I’m sharing this information with you. But I also want to explain how it happened. Because it wasn’t just a fluke and it wasn’t simply talent combined with a little luck either. But I’ll get to more on that in my next post, since I don’t want any one post to be too long.

First, if you’re unsure of what Pitchapalooza is exactly, here’s some information. It’s basically billed as American Idol for publishing. If you’re not used to getting up in front of a crowd and speaking, yes, it’s scary. If you want advice from publishing experts—not to mention a little practice and exposure—it’s also definitely worth it. I should mention that while the panel had tons of ideas to make pitches better, their critiques were not harsh or mean-spirited. There’s no Simon! The general tone of the event was helpful and enthusiastic.

People had some great pitches, too. I don’t dare share the topics covered here, for fear I’ll send someone’s precious idea into the blogosphere without supervision. But there was one in particular I wished I had thought of myself. (Don’t worry. It’s not an idea I plan to pursue—it’s all yours, person who pitched it!)

I realize I was lucky to be called to pitch. Only about 25 people were randomly chosen from the crowd. They call two at a time, so one person is up and the next is on deck. That way, getting called isn’t a complete surprise. You know when it’s almost your turn. Then, you can hide behind the shelves and whisper-practice, like I did.

When you’re up, you’ve got one minute to pitch. It’s nice if you can look up from the page while you’re reading. If you’re too nervous for that, it doesn’t seem to count against you. People may laugh (you hope), but you can’t pause for effect, because time is ticking. When you’re down to 10 seconds left, you get a warning—a nice gesture since you’re cut off once the minute is up.

And then, you listen. Your pitch is about to be critiqued.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recommended Reading

Since attending Pitchapalooza at Oblong Books, in Rhinebeck, NY, on Sunday, I have about a million things I want to share. But I don't have time to do that right now, because I absolutely must make revising my MG novel top priority. And that means moving those revisions above not only this blog, but also preparing my messy house for a realtor tonight, occupying my four-year-old with something other than TV, eating properly, and possibly washing my hair. Possibly.

So, I don't have time to share everything I want to share. I can, however, recommend an excellent book purchased at Pitchapalooza and written by the couple who puts on said event. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, is a thick tome that delivers on its promise. If you want to get published, buy it. Seriously. We all need to know this stuff.

And now, a quick Bakugan brawl with my son before getting to work.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Get More From Your Next Writers Conference

Remember that workshop I attended a few days ago? Here's some good advice I got from authors Coleen Paratore and Eric Luper.

1. Get your money's worth. Hey, you paid to attend the conference - so make the most of it. Make an effort to meet people, other writers as well as editors. How? See tips 2 & 3...

2. Sit in the front row during seminars. This isn't seventh grade math class. You don't need to - and shouldn't for your own sake - hide in the back. Be visible and show your enthusiasm for the seminar.

3. Approach editors after their seminars. Say hi. Introduce yourself. Congratulate editors on some recent success (it doesn't hurt to do a little research beforehand). Don't worry about whether they'll remember you later - they probably won't. The point is to make that first connection. That way, when you contact them later, you can honestly say, "We met at the such and such conference..."

4. Be a player! Remember, you're just as legit as anybody else at that conference. Same goes for your work. Get in the game, and be your own best advocate!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Business Cards for Writers

So I'm preparing to go to an SCBWI Conference this weekend, and I ordered some business cards to take with me. They arrived today and I'm really happy with them. Back when I started writing professionally, in 1994, I felt there was something really cheesy about a writer having a business card. A freelance writer, I mean. I think I even read somewhere it could look unprofessional. To me, a business card that said "writer" seemed sort of like announcing to the world that I was trying to write the Great American Novel. And that seemed like a laughably outlandish dream.

At the time, I wasn't even writing fiction. I was focused on journalism.

Now, of course, I don't feel like business cards for writers are cheesy at all. They're necessary for making connections and networking and passing out at events like writers' conferences. They're certainly professional. It probably helps that there are so many great design options out there these days.

There's another reason business cards are good for writers, though. If you're trying to write the Great American Novel, they announce your intention to the world. It takes a certain kind of courage to admit you're aiming for a lofty goal. Sure, people might think you're crazy. But really, who cares what anyone else thinks? It's your goal. Announcing it just reminds you that you mean business.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No Time to Write

This is for everyone out there who wants to write a book, but can't seem to find the time. Believe me, I don't have time either! I write for a living, but finding time to write the books I want to write (with the aim to get them published) is no simple task. So, a few tips...

1. Write when you can. Don't wait till you have several hours at your disposal. Write when you have an hour. Write when you have ten minutes. Every bit of writing you do will help you chip away at your project till it's done.

2. Think about your project. When you can't write, mull it over in your mind. I've heard plenty of writers say they think over what they want to write so that when they finally sit down, it just pours out. I started doing this a few months ago, and it works. Good times for thinking about writing: in the shower, in the car, in bed before falling asleep and before getting up in the morning.

3. Carry a notebook. When you get great ideas but can't fully address them, jot them down. That way, you won't lose them and can come back to them later.

4. Another reason to carry a notebook: You can actually write in it, too. Many people prefer to write on a computer, but you can't always have it with you. Don't let the lack of your favorite writing instrument deter you from writing.

5. Quit doing something else that sucks up all your time. If you really want to write, it has to be a priority. What can you give up? Channel surfing? Folding laundry? Cooking elaborate meals? I've had some very productive writing days when I let the house get completely wrecked and chose not to address it in favor of writing.

Happy writing!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Who's the Seuss?

That's the name of the amazing workshop I attended today, given by Coleen Murtagh Paratore (author of The Wedding Planner's Daughter series, among other books) and Eric Luper (author of Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto, also among other books). I learned much, much more than I can write here tonight, as I am exhausted, but I will most likely be writing about it for several posts to come!

A few words of advice I can share in the meantime:

1. If there's a local writer's workshop held in your town, make sure you go to it! They don't happen that often in many smaller communities, and chances are you'll learn something useful. Maybe you'll learn a lot.

2. Bring along some of your own work when you attend a workshop. I didn't realize we would have the opportunity to share the first page of our manuscripts today. (I probably should have read that flyer over more closely!) Luckily, I happened to be carrying my work with me, so I was prepared anyway.

3. Speak up! If you get a chance to voluntarily read any of your work aloud, do it. Take every chance for feedback from professionals in the field.

More to come... next time!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Clichés in Kids' Fiction

In the November/December issue of SCBWI’s member bulletin, author Joelle Anthony talks about clichés in YA (young adult) and MG (middle grade) fiction. She's not saying they're bad, just that they're overused. The fact is, they work for plenty of reasons (readers can relate, readers enjoy the fantasy, etc.). New writers may want to try to avoid them, though—you know, try to be a little more original.

Some of Anthony's finds include:

1.    Main characters who hate math
2.    Guys with gorgeous green eyes
3.    Main characters who don't have a cell phone, while everyone else in the world does
4.    Main characters who describe their looks while gazing in the mirror
5.    Main characters with only one friend (and then they have a fight)

I thought this article was fascinating. Really insightful and useful. Now, I can’t read a YA or MG book without noticing clichés, too.

Here are a few of my own finds:

1.    Books where the main (female) character has a boyfriend by the end
2.    Books set in small, walkable towns, where young characters can safely wander alone
3.    Girls who are pretty, but don’t know it
4.    Main characters whose lives are transformed from dull normalcy to a much more exciting reality (ie. She's really a princess with superpowers!)

Now, it’s your turn. What kinds of clichés do you find in YA and middle grade fiction?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My First Book Signing

It’s official—I’ve scheduled my first-ever book signing!

Where: The Book House, Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

When: Saturday, July 9, 3 p.m.

I don’t know why I haven’t done this before. I started writing books back in 2004, when I co-authored Bridal Guide Magazine’s How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Gown. It never occurred to me to promote my books. I just wanted to write them.

Now that I’m doing this, I can see the benefits definitely go beyond selling books, which is the reason I thought authors did signings. I emailed friends and family about this, and everyone is so excited. Excited! Congratulating me!

I have to say, it makes me feel good. You need a little validation sometimes when you write on your home computer for editors who live across the country. Sure, they’ll email me that I did a good job. But this interest from people who know me and live nearby is really, well, great!

What I’ve realized from all this: I’ve been too shy about sharing my successes. (The kicker was when a friend of a friend emailed back to say she never even knew I write—I’d never mentioned it!) That’s no way to go about building a career. Better to actually tell people you write. Show them the books when they come out.

That may sound simple and obvious. But I'm not too shy to say it wasn't so simple or obvious to me—up to now!