Sunday, April 29, 2012

More from SCBWI Western WA Conference

Going through my notes from the SCBWI Western WA Conference... still haven't written one new word for my book, but it is taking me a while to process everything I learned and figure out from what direction I want to tackle my writing.

Bruce Hale (Keynote Speaker) - these are just a few of the tips I took away from his inspiring (and fun) talk.
  • If you are not published, ask yourself why. All you have control over is yourself.
  • Start a "good habit" habit. How often do you _______? Fill in the blank with something that takes time away from writing, like checking e-mail, and then cut these unproductive activities in half to make time to write.
  • Write what you are passionate about (different for each person) and it will set your work apart. Look to your childhood for times you were sad, scared or emotional in some way, and pull from these experiences.
  • Teamwork makes the Dreamwork! Embrace support (ask for help). Find a critique group or an accountability buddy.
  • When you have a roadblock, you must face it and move past it. Just do it! Work on positive self talk. Recommends the book The War on Art
  • On Rejection - Don't take it personally. Even agents/editors make mistakes. Keep writing - keep submitting.
I am awful about checking e-mail, surfing the web (now I have started reading writing blogs), and finding lots of other things to do besides write. So I have decided to rearrange my schedule a bit to make time for two necessary things: working out, and writing. I have started going to bed earlier in order to wake up earlier and have 1-2 hours before the kids wake up to work on these tasks. Some mornings I will hit the gym, and some I will hit the computer. I really hope this works!

Matt de la Pena (Keynote Speaker) - Matt gave a very funny talk about his road to publication. I think the number one point was that no matter what you think will happen after your book is published, you will not be famous. LOL! Mostly I just sat back and enjoyed the presentation, but here are three things I did jot down in my notebook.
  • You are most "you" when no one else can see you.
  • In this profession you need patience.
  • Know your character and your writing will come easier.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Hooray for Local Authors!

I was able to attend a book signing for two local authors today.  Fun that they are also part of a writers' group that I have recently joined. Not sure when I will get the time to read their books, but since I don't have to return them to the library this time I'm not feeling the pressure to stay up past my bedtime... maybe that will change once I start reading and I will WANT to stay up.

Congratulations to Maureen McQuerry on the release of The Peculiars, and Stephen Wallenfels on the release of POD.

The main thing I wanted to point out here is what I read on Maureen's acknowledgments page. She pays particular thanks to her "Monday Writers" group, mentioning four people by name. How great would that be to have a group of writing friends who were so instrumental in seeing your book through to publication that you thank them by name.

Still looking for my group...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Writing Practice

From my perch in the window seat I gazed out across the front lawn of Hope Manor. The midday sun beat down on anything not able to find a bit of shade and I was glad that I was confined to my room, expected to rest. The doctors said it was necessary for my recovery, both mentally and physically. But sleep didn't come easily since my family had abandoned me - vivid memories invaded every part of my soul, leaving it weeping at all hours of the day and night. The only one I had a chance of seeing again was my older brother Michael. That is if he ever woke up. Michael was the one I had fought with the most, the one who could have been shipped off to boarding school and I wouldn't have cared that I only saw him several times each school year. Now I longed for his mischievous hazel eyes to once again rest upon mine, for his confident smile that lit up a room as he recounted his latest victory on the football field.

My mind wandered back to the session with Dr. Hansen earlier in the day. He said I would never be able to move forward with my therapy if I didn't accept the facts.

"Why am I here?" I asked for what seemed like the millionth time. "Why can't I go home?"

"There was an accident." Dr. Hansen said. "Do you remember?"

"No." A splash of red floated around in front of me, a far off cry tried to pull me into a memory too scary for any fourteen year old to have to confront.

"Your parents, Josie." Dr. Hansen tried to soften his voice but I could tell he was getting irritated with me. With my refusal to accept what I knew he was going to say next.

The window seat was the smallest comfort I had found here so far. It reminded me of my favorite spot at home. Not as familiar though, and of course Rosie wasn't here to curl up at my feet and keep them warm.

I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see the doors of a large red building open and kids spill out onto the lawn. They were laughing, full from a hot lunch and ready to hit the next activity on their agenda. From what I had seen sitting at my window, I assumed Hope Manor was some kind of camp, but I hadn't dropped my guard long enough to show any curiosity. Dr. Hansen came to my room for our sessions, his pretty assistant always sitting quietly taking notes. Meals and medication were brought to me, and besides quick trips to the bathroom I hadn't left my room in the week I had been here. The only thing that bothered me enough to want to know more were the kids being pushed in their wheel chairs... and the ones with no hair.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Better than Clementine?

One of the agents at the SCBWI Western WA conference this past weekend was Tricia Lawrence with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.  My new friend from the conference had taken one of her breakout sessions and reported back to me an interesting comment made by Tricia.  If you are going to write a book like Clementine, its gotta be better.  My friend had read my query and I specifically use Clementine as a reference for a "like book" to the one I am writing, which she remembered and is why she passed this little tidbit of information to me, much to my dismay.  Better than Clementine?  If everyone could write better than the best we would all have book deals.  Humph.  So I vowed to track Tricia down and get her to elaborate on this statement, which she was very willing to do.  She was so nice and you could just tell how much she loved this little 8-year-old character Clementine.  Tricia said that to her, Clementine is the type of character who draws you in wanting to know more about her, thinking about her long after you are done reading her story.  Tricia said she often wonders what Clementine is doing now.  Obviously this is a very personal reaction, and not all agents will share the same view on having to top Clementine. Which is a good thing for me.

Maybe if I submit to Tricia (when my book is done) I can suggest that she think of my character as Clementine's fun-loving cousin.  There is always more room in one's heart for family... right?

The other thing Tricia said to me is that the agents are starting to get more requests for middle grade books. Young Adult (YA) has been so hot for so long and they are starting to see a shift which she thinks will continue to move down... middle grade, then chapter books and picture books. Eventually. That was good news, at least for what I am writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SCBWI is Awesome!

I'm sure most people (who are members) already know this, but the Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is awesome!

The Western WA region of SCBWI put on a great conference this past weekend and I was so happy to be able to attend. It was a hard weekend for me to miss with my family but I think good things will come from my experiences there.

First, I met a lot of nice people. My roomie was perfect and while she did snore it was in a very unassuming and soothing way. The only thing that woke me up at night were my nerves.

I met another nice lady (who was named after a character in Lord of the Rings - I wanted to do this with my daughter but was vetoed by my husband) and we sat with eachother at most of the general sessions. This was the perfect situation for me because generally I am very shy and having a "buddy" was a huge relief. I did ditch her at lunch on Saturday, because I was wearing tan pants and didn't want to sit on the curb, which turned out to be a good thing because I sat next to agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency!  I've been told I use too many exclamation points but that deserved one.  Let me repeat myself.


She was very nice, and when she recognized my book from the simple statement "I am working on a middle grade, realistic fiction chapter book along the lines of Judy Moody and Clementine," I was shocked. She wanted to know the title and when I told her she said she had read my query and was using parts of it (in a good way) during her breakout session the next day. And then she said she wanted to see my manuscript!  OK, another exclamation point, but WOW!

At this point I had two things I felt I needed to confess to Jenny. #1 - I didn't know you could send a sample in for the Query Workshop until I saw a reminder the night before so my query was written rather quickly. #2 - My mauscript isn't finished. She laughed at the first and said you might not want to tell anyone that. She also said sometimes it works better if you just get it out and don't overthink. Good advice. I may use that theory on writing the rest of my book - LOL. She sais "No problem" on the second and to take my time.  Phew.

I also sat with two other ladies at lunch, one who I was quite sure I knew from somewhere. She said I looked familiar as well.  Turns out she lives 30 minutes from me and we had talked briefly at Barnes and Noble while chasing after our one-year-olds several weeks ago. Small world! She has a very cool blog called The Green Bathtub. She is so sweet to have signed up as the first follower of my blog. I have a small case of blog envy... I love the fonts she has used, her frequent posts, and that she has lots of followers and comments. I don't know where she finds the time, as she has the one-year-old, plus four more!

Baby is up... more to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tips for a Great Writing Conference Experience

While I am very excited to attend my first conference this month, I am also a little nervous. First of all because I have no writing experience. Writers go to writing conferences. Am I a writer? I would like to be a writer, but I don't even know if I am any good. How's that for confidence?! Well, I figure you have to start somewhere, and the sooner the better. Luckily I started subscribing to a few blogs and recently Robert Lee Brewer posted 25 Ways to Rock Writers Conferences with tips for making the most out of your next writing conference. I printed it out and will be going over each point to make sure I am prepared. Since I am a SAHM and dress VERY casually most of the time, I went out this past weekend and bought a couple outfits that I am hoping will pass for business casual. My best friend is coming over tomorrow for lunch to check them out and I am crossing my fingers she will give me a thumbs-up. I like them, which is a good start.

One of the tips Robert mentioned is to know how to talk about yourself. He says to "think of how to explain yourself as a writer and your current projects in one sentence answers." So here is mine: "I am a stay-at-home mom working on my first manuscript, which is a middle grade, realistic fiction chapter book along the lines of Judy Moody or Clementine." And then ideally if anyone wanted to know more I would throw out my one-sentence pitch... which hopefully I will have ready by the conference. However, since the book is not finished, I am having a hard time figuring out the ending to my pitch, as I am not sure of it myself yet.

One of the conference faculty is Bonnie Becker, whose book A Visitor for Bear, is in my kids' library. I mentioned to them that the author of this book would be there and they right away asked me to bring the book to get autographed. I will have to pick up another in the series while I'm at the conference since they have enjoyed this one so much!