Category Archives: Writing

The nuts and bolts of getting the words on the page.

There is Room for All of Us

My first real fiction writing was in college, when I wrote and performed in a sketch comedy group.  It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen or read anything we wrote back then, so I have no perspective on whether what we produced was good or terrible. But I know that we believed in the work we were doing, and we were always driven by the simple motto of our group’s president: Something for Everyone. Every show was a melange of of slapstick, satire, jokes that landed, and jokes that didn’t.

It’s the kind of motto that’s so simple that it seems almost silly to repeat.  Of course there should be something for everyone.  Of course. But back then it was a reminder that there isn’t just one kind of comedy. An audience is made up of a lot of different people; what’s eye-rollingly lame for one person may be hilarious to someone else, so don’t yuck anyone’s yum.  There’s room for all of it.

I was recently at a writing retreat with brilliant, inspirational speakers.  One speaker gave a beautiful presentation, and she told a story about an art student who was devastated when a professor told her, “Your art looks like something I could find at Crate & Barrel.” Part of the talk was about how to avoid writing a Crate & Barrel book. After the lecture, my friend turned to me and said, “But I like Crate & Barrel.”

I laughed and said, “Dude, Crate & Barrel is all I write.”  My forthcoming book series, Babysitting Nightmares, is a fairly-commercial spooky adventure series that is billed as Babysitters Club meets Goosebumps.  I love poignant, thought-provoking symbolic writing; reading a beautifully-written book is like savoring a gourmet meal.  It’s just not what I happen to be interested in writing right now.

That same speaker reminded us of the resonance and impact of writing. She said that once her first book was published, she realized that sales numbers didn’t matter; awards didn’t matter. If just one kid could read her book and say, “This means something to me,” then that is enough.  That is the reason to write.

In my mind, I write the books I write for a specific imaginary kid. It’s the kid who flounders during free reading time, because she can’t find a book that pulls her in.  It’s the kid who has almost no stars on the classroom reading chart. It’s the kid who says I don’t really like to read. I hated seeing those kids feel like they were always missing out on something, like reading was a punchline that everyone else seemed to get. Somewhere out there is a book that that kid will pick up and be able to say, Yes, I am a reader, too.

What I love about kidlit is also what I loved about comedy: the bandwidth is almost unlimited. We have so much freedom to tell the stories we want to tell.  We need every kind of story to be out in the world, because we have every kind of kid looking for a way to connect.  Something for everyone.  There’s room for all of it.  And I think that is why the kidlit community is such a supportive one.  We celebrate one another because we know that with every new book comes a new opportunity for a child to find the reader within.

***

Kat Shepherd is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. She has been an avid reader since childhood, and as a teacher she worked to bring that same joy to her students. She is thrilled to be creating fast-paced, spooky stories that can engage all types of readers. The first book from her Babysitting Nightmares series (Macmillan/Imprint) debuts in fall 2018. You can find Kat at katshepherd.com or connect with her on Twitter @bookatshepherd.

5 Comments

Filed under Reaching Readers, reading, Writing, Writing and Life

As the Book Release Nears…

On January 31, my picture book, MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN was released! (Okay, since you had to ask, I’ll show you the cover).

busygreengardencoverwebsize

And I’m super-fortunate to have my first board book, MAMA LOVES YOU SO coming out in March (Well, if you insist, here’s that cover, as well!)

MamaLovesYouSo

Now, before you go thinking this all about me shamelessly promoting my new books, let me say I do have a point. And it’s an important one. And important and fun part of the “book deal to publication” process. What is Terry, you eagerly ask?

Inscriptions!

3oha2morfgv6qhcpm81

I recently took a copy of my book to my local library to donate to their children’s library. I was also running a bunch of errands so as I left my house I grabbed the book. Then it suddenly occurred to me…ack! I needed to sign in. What to say? What to say?

Here’s my point. With each book, comes the opportunity to create an inscription that fits with the theme of the story. It’s one of the many fun things about a new book! When my easy reader, TAE KWON DO! I always signed it, “Get a kick out of reading!” When my picture book, BLACKBERRY BANQUET, came out I often signed it, “Reading is a banquet for the mind.”

Back to me running out of the house, I hadn’t given a single thought as to how I would sign my new books. Yeah…I’ve been kind of busy AND I’m out of practice! And not only that, I know it’s wise to have more than one inscription for your book. I recalled a school visit I did where, at an after-school signing, a parent walked up and set four of my books down in front of me. I thanked her and asked who to inscribe the books to. She said each book was for a different child in the family (including some cousins). It struck me that it would be a letdown if I signed them all the same, so on the spot I made up four different inscriptions (not my cleverest moment as it had been a long day and I was getting tired). Ever since then I always think of three theme-based inscriptions for each book.

My criteria for a good inscription is that: 1) it ties into the theme of the book, 2) is fairly short and hopefully clever, and 3) I print it out because many children don’t know how to read cursive writing (although I do write my name in cursive and I alter my signature so it differs from the one I use on legal documents).

For MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN, the story is about a developing chrysalis hidden in the garden. Thus, I’m thinking something like, “Reading gives you wings” as one possibility. But that’s just one, so I thought I’d throw it out there to see if I can solicit any other suggestions for anyone who wants some practice on creating inscriptions. Also, I’d love to hear your own clever inscriptions!

Any suggestions?

_______________________________________

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

 

12 Comments

Filed under Book signing, Writing

MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz

busygreengardencoverwebsize

I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:

https://terrypiercebooks.com

http://www.csillustration.com

🐞LINKS TO CRAFTS:

Bug jar:

https://momeefriendsli.com/2013/09/04/diy-bug-jar-for-kids/

Make a footprint grasshopper:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/212935888610838461/

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:

http://www.peekyme.com.au/take-a-peek


sarvinder-naberhaus-1200

About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.

29 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrating, Illustrators, Interviews, Picture books, Uncategorized, Writing

Okay…What’s Next?

This is the big question that comes after the initial book deal. We’re eager to sign our contract, be introduced to our new editor, work on revisions and see our “baby” come to life. Bring it on, world! But the fact is, these things take time. Brace yourself: I’m still waiting to sign a contract for a deal that was made in September of 2015! So, what’s a writer to do while he or she is waiting for all the “book deal” magic to happen?

Start another story!

Many writers, myself included, work on multiple projects but occasionally I find myself in a moment where I’m between projects. It’s like that “moment between breaths” I experience doing yoga, where it feels like time stands still for just a moment. It’s then, in my writing, that I have to find some inspiration for a new story idea.

Where do you get your ideas? Every author is asked this question. Honestly, for me, some ideas strike as quick as lightning while others are as slow in coming as molasses on a December day. I’ve always believed that the best ideas for me to pursue are those that come from the heart; stories about things I connect with. But sometimes my brain needs a “little” prompting. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I get my imagination moving and finding potential story ideas that spark my mind.

recycle

Recycle an existing story or song: You’ve heard of “fractured fairy tales” haven’t you? This is where someone takes a fairy tale and puts a new twist on it. A contemporary example would be Tara Lazar’s Little Red Gliding Hood. Or another favorite is Mo Willems’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Perhaps you could impose a clever twist on a favorite childhood fairy tale or song?

 

goldfish

Seek visual inspiration: Google “Interesting Photographs” and see what comes up. Does anything grab your attention and shake your writing brain to a heightened state of curiosity?

 

 readingstacksRead for inspiration: Pour over as many picture books as you can and see if you can find a “mentor text” that inspires you, so that you can use that story for inspiration and run with your own imagination.

 

pintaildonkey

 

Pin the Tail on the Story Donkey: This is where you randomly select story elements (character/s, setting) and let your imagination run wild with possible conflicts. For example, close your eyes and randomly choose one thing from each column below to create your story premise:

MAIN CHARACTER SETTING SECONDARY CHARACTER
Dinosaur Classroom Cowboy
Monster Playground Fireman
Child Park Mailman
Unicorn Child’s bedroom Teacher
Cat Bathtub Ballerina
Dragon Mom’s office Race car driver
Puppy Pond Pirate
Gorilla Mountains Shark
Lizard Ocean Principal
Worm Cave Doctor
Parrot Circus Ghost
Squid Zoo Grandpa

 

Once you have a nugget of an idea, read these blog posts from author Tara Lazar’s Blog, where every she annually hosts PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month):

Kelly Bingham on developing an idea.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen on developing your character.

Diana Murray on creating a character-driven story with conflict.

Or better yet, sign up for Tara’s 2017 PiBoIdMo (in January!) where you have a fun challenge of thinking of one picture book story IDEA every day (that’s 31 ideas by the end of the month!!!).

Best of luck with creating your new story sparks!

_________________________________

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

6 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Time Management, waiting, Writing

Loving Your Literary Litter

Here’s the truth of it: The manuscript you first write may not be the exact same manuscript that convinces an agent to represent you. The “I-got-an-agent” manuscript may not be precisely the same manuscript that the two of you sell to a publisher. The “I-got-a-book-deal” manuscript will likely not be the manuscript that eventually ends up as a book on a proper shelf in a proper bookstore.

These manuscripts will be similar. Oh, yes. They will be similar.  Many of the words will be the same. The narrative structure might even be the same. Of course, the living, beating heart of the story that gave it a chance in the first place will be the same. But as the manuscript evolves, what initially seemed like one beautiful and stalwart dog…

Golden

becomes more like a litter of puppies. Where-to-get-a-golden-retriever-puppy

I hereby give you permission to love them all. You may love the brand-new one, all sweetly damp with its eyes sealed shut. You may love the one that snores while it sleeps with its tummy full of milk. It might not be the liveliest, but it sure is cute! You may love the one that’s starting to show some personality, that scampers around and nips just a little too hard with its razor-sharp puppy teeth. You may and you should love them all.

But unless you’re going to be some kind of puppy hoarder—which doesn’t serve you or your plentiful puppies—

puppy attack

You get to keep only one. That’s right. One.

You’re not going to make this choice by yourself. Others will be involved. The potential puppy’s vet. The potential puppy’s trainer. They will look at all the puppies in the litter, tumbling about and tearing the place up, and they will help you decide on one.

Wait. We’re not talking about a *real* puppy. We’re talking about YOUR BOOK. The others involved will be your trusty agent and editor.

Secret Agent

But back to puppies.

Bit by bit, the right puppy will emerge. It will distinguish itself from its littermates. It will mature, develop manners, learn not to jump on guests. Its essential sense of self will be cultivated, its strengths enhanced. It will be groomed until it shines like a shiny, shiny show dog.

Groomed

(Dog geek alert: I’m pretty sure this is an English Toy Spaniel. The muzzle looks too pushed-in for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Feel free to weigh in.)

It will be ready to strut its stuff in front of the whole world and make you proud. Griffon

And your puppy-love will deepen into true love.Jenna Marbles

Remember, none of this happens by accident. Without long walks, lots of attention, some sleepless nights, and consistent discipline, your book-puppy will never become all it’s meant to be.

And it’s meant to be nothing less than a champion.

Best In Show

I look back fondly at my many versions of BABYMOON. They still have all their puppyish charm for me. The earliest is spare yet lyrical. Later ones are more developed, with complete sentences and a more varied rhythm. The final, more nuanced version is quite different from its siblings, and yet it bears a strong resemblance to all of them. I guess you could say it’s the pick of the litter.

Enjoy the day.

Hayley

————————————————————————–

Gravatar

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com

17 Comments

Filed under Advice, Agents, Colleagues, craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Editing and Revising, Editor, Publishers and Editors, rhythms, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life

A Chat with Agent Erin Murphy about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

 

CharmedChildrencover (1)

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is a book I fell in love with on page one and could not put down until I read the very last word. I, however, was not the first to fall in love with this read-with-the-lights-on mystery. That honor goes to Janet Fox’s agent, Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA). I had the privilege of talking with Erin about her first impressions of this unforgettable story. But first, a bit about the Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

“Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

Now, to my chat with Erin.

When you first read this novel, what was your initial impression?

Erin: Something like, “My God, this woman can write!” WWII-era England is a great sweet spot for me so far as pleasure-reading, so when Janet first queried me and described this project (then called Chatelaine), I literally wrote back, “I want to read it right this minute.” When I did read it, it didn’t just meet my expectations, it far exceeded them.

Of all the characters in The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, who do you most identify with?

Erin: Kat, of course. Oh, do I identify with the need to balance left-brain and right-brain thinking—although the older I get, the more I favor the intuitive and imaginative. Plus, she’s an eldest child, always feeling responsible.

I was wonderfully surprised at Janet’s ability to seamlessly blend mystery, suspense and fantasy on the very real backdrop of WWII. How do you feel about the blended genres?

Erin: I absolutely adore them. Speaking of imaginative things, I think some of the most imaginative books I’ve read have been blended genres. There’s just something about mashups that brings out both the comfortingly familiar and the wonderfully surprising.

Finish this sentence: You must read The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle because …

Erin: …it will sweep you away to another time and place and you will be satisfied until the very last page!

Your favorite mystery as a kid?

Erin: I can’t pick just one! I was a voracious mystery reader, especially on summer vacation, when I’d devour every book by a mystery author—the Trixie Belden books, and Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes….Right now I’m exceptionally busy and stretched thin as I prepare to relocate across the country, and the reading I reach for? Mystery series. Even now, that is escapist comfort reading to me.

And since no good interview would be complete without a surprise question…What’s the oddest job you have ever had?

Erin: That’s a funny non-sequitur of a question! I guess it was the brief period when I was a Secret Diner, eating at various locations of a particular chain restaurant and turning in reports on the food quality, service, and cleanliness. But all I got paid was free meals.

Huge thanks to agent and secret diner extraordinaire, Erin Murphy, for sharing her thoughts on Janet’s wonderful story. Charmed Children of Rooksill Castle is at a bookstore or library near you. Today!

 

***

IMG_9552   Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Book Promotion, Writing, Writing and Life

Taking The Leap

Because of the earth’s orbit and math, we sometimes get an extra day tacked onto February. Leap Day. It’s a sweet bonus, like those yummy after-dinner mints that (too rarely) come with the check. A chance to take a breath and look around. A chance to decide what’s next. Today’s one of those days, and it begs the question, what leap are you going to take in the year ahead?

Jump!

Maybe this year you’ll lift your chin and start to call yourself a writer. Fellow EMU Darcey Rosenblatt has some thoughts on that: http://bit.ly/1Lokayk

Maybe you’ll commit to devoting a chunk of your precious time to starting or upping your word count. You might attend your first conference. Join a critique group. Seek representation. Start submitting manuscripts.

To my knowledge, there is no way to do this work without taking the big, scary, chancy leap at some point. When is that point? I think it’s when your work is as good, as powerful, as irresistible as you can make it. You have to honest with yourself. Outside opinions can be valuable, of course, but what ultimately matters is you. Your inimitable point of view. Your voice. YOU.

As writers, we are the midwives of emotion. We are called to pull the heartstrings, to summon the tears, to tickle the funnybone. Out of words and our own vulnerability, we forge a profound and mysterious bond of togetherness with our readers. We say to them—you are not alone. We both find this funny. We both find that sad. We both see this particular beauty right here and right now.

When you believe you’ve approached that point of connection, that point where you’ve done all you can, you should do it. Take the leap.

Gravatar About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press.

 

19 Comments

Filed under Agents, Colleagues, Creativity, Inspiration, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing, Writing and Life

When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

You hear authors say “I’ve been writing all my life” or “I’ve been writing since I was a little kid.” But for many of us I think the moment we actually label ourselves a “writer” can represent a significant step in this journey we’re on. This was true for me. In one of my early journals I wrote the following –

IMG_0152I couldn’t spell (thank the gods for spell check), but I obviously knew I wanted to write. I wrote all through high school, won a statewide poetry award, but then life got in the way. I wasn’t confident that I could make a living writing. I got interested in environmental issues and went a more scientific path. Even so the sneaky writing muse was watching out for me. I didn’t end up in a lab, I became a planner and project manager with significant responsibilities in, you guessed it, technical writing. But the writing I do for work is as far from creative writing as you can get while still using words.

For years I thought I couldn’t write creatively and do the technical work I was making my living at – then after a while (and I mean a decade or two) my thinking shifted. I give huge credit to my parents, they always remembered I was a writer when I forgot, and this helped me admit that since there were always four or five stories gamboling about in my head, I might as well write them down.

For a while it was my little secret. I didn’t tell family or friends. Then over time when people asked “what’s new” I would shyly admit that I was doing some writing on the side. It was well into my second full manuscript, that I realized two fundamental truths. First – if I called myself a writer, not only would others take me more seriously, but I would feel more grounded in the responsibility of putting butt in chair and getting the work done. Second, I’d been hesitant to call myself a writer because I didn’t have an agent and I wasn’t published, but in fact I was a writer. I was putting the words down, reading, honing my craft skills, and becoming active in this amazing world of other writers doing the same thing. So, if you are in that place between “doing some writing” and “being a writer” I urge you to take that leap. Honor your skills and the hard work you’re doing by calling yourself what you are. Print up business cards. Put it on your Face Book page. Then enjoy the journey.

P.S. if you want more in this vein, run don’t walk to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC. Empowering – I promise.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter @Darcey_r

22 Comments

Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life

Finding Perfect Gets a Cover!

Today is THE day.  The day the cover for my debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, sneaks past the gate and shows itself to the world. The day I’ve been waiting for.

So. Here. It. Is.

FindingPerfect_Final

 

I am so grateful to Kristi Radwilowicz of FSG, the force behind my cover, for her thoughtful creativity, and Angie Chen, my editor, for her unending editorial wisdom, and the entire FSG team for their continued support.

When you read the book, you’ll be amazed to see how many story elements Kristi was able to weave into my cover! Now, for a bit about the book:

To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

  • The number four
  • The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
  • A crisp white pad of paper
  • Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?  

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

Stay tuned. FINDING PERFECT hits shelves October 2016! Until then, thanks for letting me share my cover and my excitement.

 

****

IMG_9825

Elly Swartz loves writing for children, and not long after she began writing, she got a sign that, indeed, this was the right path for her. She opened a piece of Bazooka Joe gum and wrapped around the sugary, pink delight was a fortune that read, “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.”  She keeps her fortune tacked next to her desk in her office.

Elly’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT comes out on October 18th, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two tall and loving, twenty-something sons and one-year-old beagle named Lucy.

You can visit Elly on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

 

 

24 Comments

Filed under Book Promotion, Happiness, Writing

Filled with Turkey, Pie and Gratitude

With just a few weeks to go until my house is wonderfully overflowing with family, the smell of turkey cooking, and the sweet scent of strawberry-banana-cream pie, I’ve been thinking much about all I am grateful for. I think about Molly, the main character from FINDING PERFECT, and how grateful I am that she stuck in my head long enough that I couldn’t NOT write about her.  I think about Olive, the mc from my work-in-progress and how lucky I am that she, too, has proven to be stubborn and persistent. That’s what writing is really about, right? The character, the story nugget, the crystal of a place or idea that feels so real that it just can’t be ignored. I am grateful for those moments that find their way into my brain just long enough to take hold.

But, the list of things I am grateful for happily doesn’t stop with the characters and the stories that I get to bring to life.

I am grateful for my amazing husband of 25 years, and my 2 incredible sons. Grateful for family on both coasts. To me, family is truly what it’s all about!

I am grateful for the people in my life who taught me to never stop dreaming, to never give up, to never stop asking, Why not me?

I am grateful for my girlfriends who are like the sisters I never had.

I am grateful for my EMLA family. Who knew signing with my amazing agent Trish was a package deal complete with the Erin Murphy’s Dogs and an entire writing community of talented, supportive and all-around awesome people?

I am grateful for the gifts of those no longer with me. My mom who taught me how to love unconditionally and color outside the lines. My father in law who taught me to be fearless. My Gram, who taught me strength comes at any height (she was 4”10 at her tallest) and any age (she died a month ago, just shy of 102).

IMG_4458

I am grateful for Angie Chen, my awesome editor, and all the talented people at FSG who are making FINDING PERFECT come to life.

I am grateful for Twizzlers, my happy dance, my little Lu, and being able to write every day.

20150405_131952

So, as I sit with those I love watching football on Thanksgiving, I will be filled with more than just pie and turkey. I will be filled with so much gratitude.

**********

 

IMG_9825

Elly Swartz loves writing for children, and not long after she began writing, she got a sign that, indeed, this was the right path for her. She opened a piece of Bazooka Joe gum and wrapped around the sugary, pink delight was a fortune that read, “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.”  She keeps her fortune tacked next to her desk in her office.

Elly’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, on October 18, 2016. FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two tall and loving, twenty-something sons and one-year-old beagle named Lucy.

You can visit Elly on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

24 Comments

Filed under Happiness, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life