Saturday, December 31, 2011

It is Time

2012 is less then a day away.  And I have not accomplished my goals for 2011.

I am making a pledge to refocus for 2012. I will finish my manuscripts. I will create new picture books start to polished editing, and I will continue to follow my dream. I will also be a better mentor to my Usborne Books team, who did amazingly well with a floundering supervisor. (Get it Flood, water, flounder....)

The FLOOD of 2011 really did take more out of me then I care to admit. Moving 3 times, going through items lost forever to mold or damage, watching my parents drain their indoor swimming pool and having to move back in, and having to realize I can't control everything in my life did take a toll on me.

Maybe I needed the mental break. 2011 was the first year I did not hit personal goals for myself. It was the first time I said "no" to exciting projects and volunteer opportunities, it was the first time I didn't give 120%, and it was the first time I felt like I couldn't get back in the saddle.

2012 is a New Year.  I am going to face it with a total excitement of what is to come and what I can accomplish. 

Happy New Year to all! Instead of making resolutions, make goals for yourself! You can do it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Clock Lover's Dream

I am working on marketing my book, "It's Almost Time," and was thinking.... this book is a clock lover's dream. I wrote it because my son LOVES clocks! His favorite pastime was visiting the clock store.

The book reflects 11 different clocks, and sings (with words) the sounds they make when the hour hits. The pictures are wonderful.

For more information, visit

Clock addicts wanted! ;-)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My accident

Everyone wants to know what happened. Here is a quick overview. I'll try to write more later.

I was on my way to the Plymouth County Fair to work driving on HWY 75. It's 55mph. At about 44th there is an intersection that has one of those caution lights, and a stop sign for drivers trying to cross. You can not see if anyone is in that intersection (I checked when I rode with my husband later to see if I missed something or could have done anything different).

She must have felt she could make it, or wanted to play frogger. Not sure what she did, but it sounds like she stopped then went, instead of looking both ways.

I saw a sudden white object to the side of me, and we collided. I remember veering off the rode towards the ditch and seeing a huge pole, trying to stop before I hit it. Luckily I stopped in front of it, took out some other stuff on the way though.

She jumped out of her car, dazed and said, "I'm not getting along with my parents right now, I'm sorry," and disappeared. She must work at the Ickey Nickel which was over there. Some guy was on the phone, I asked if he was calling "911" because I couldn't remember how to. dial Then I called Todd. The guy on the phone worked with the girl in the Mustang that hit me. He said "she stopped."

Well, it's good to stop, but you need to look both ways too.

She was bleeding from her face. But refused treatment.

Todd told them to take me away, and so I hate a nightmare ride (probably worse for the paramedics then me) in an ambulance as I screamed at them to take me off the board. :-) Man, that thing sucks!!!! I'll write more later but need to get ready for the fair.

I'm a little sore today, but not too bad. Thank God for seatbelts and airbags.

Thank you to everyone for your worries!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Long time, no write... the flood continues

OK, I have no real good excuse, I've just been overwhelmed. :-) We spent the last week trying to see if we could fill in where the water creeps up from the ground in our basement. It looked as if it was holding, but today the water was back.

I feel like we are losing to the river. It's looking like maybe November until we will actually move back by the time the water goes down, everything dries out and when get the house put back together. In the meantime, we get to move to the apartments closer to my home.

Anyway, life is keeping me crazy busy. Unfortuantely, this is not helping my writing much. I plan to jump back into it as soon as I hit post as my husband is at work....  and the boys are happy on the computer.

OK, countdown:

3 - 2 - 1

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pelting Beads at bystanders... SITP

Through all that is happening, life goes on. One yearly Sioux City tradition is Saturday in the Park. It's become a 3 day event with a Mardi Gras Gala on Thursday, Big Parade on Friday, and free concert in the park on Saturday with always a great line-up:

This year we rode the Saturday in the Park float (we have a few connections). I'm thinking this is a new family tradition. Because Alex doesn't like too many people, he rode in the air conditioned Semi that pulled the float. Of course, there ended up being 5 kids and 1 adult, so it was a little crowded. But he had fun.

The rest of us rode on a huge trailer with different platforms so we could pelt throw beads at the crowd. Our float had a massive number of beads, over $1000 worth, to throw out. That's a lot of beads. And we threw with passion. I did pelt a few people (accidently), but my goal was to find who didn't have a ton of beads and throw them that way.

Of course, as the parade went on, I began to realize those without a bunch of beads were putting them in bags or hiding them, so people would feel sorry for them and throw more.

There was something very thrilling about having something everyone wanted (beads) and having the power to give. It was impressive to see how many were caught in the air. Others landed at feet.

Tomorrow will be a fun day of music, really hot sun, friends, and the Sponsor Tent which is where I like to hang out, behind the stage. If you live in or near Sioux City, you really need to come. It's a fun time. Bring lots of money for great food!

OK, off to bed after a crazy day!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The flood continues

More on the Missouri River Flood and the internal feelings of a homeless author....

I live in a cloud... Some days are great, and I feel motivated and as if nothing is happening. The days it rains, however, are the hardest....

If you've never been ripped from your home (OK, the word ripped is slightly dramatic, but I want to keep you interested)...where was I?

Yes, If you've never been ripped from your home, it's hard to relate to how you feel being a nomad. Though we have a house to stay in, it's not ours. I can't paint the drab walls a bright pink (not that I ever would, but even if I wanted to, it would not be in my best interest). I can't hang pictures. I'm afraid to mess up the place since we'll be gone soon. I can't have my pets here. I'm nervous to cook as then I have to clean the stove... (not that I cook anyway, but if I wanted to.)

In August we head to the apartments which are closer. (I told myself I'd never live in an apartment again).  The apartment is a little smaller, so I have to widdle (is that a word, I like it so I dont care) through what we have here to fit it in. But at least we'll have a pool.

The worst is still missing the pets....
Since I don't have our server, I'm missing some pics, so here is Sherlock when he was cute. Oh, he's still cute, but there is something about a puppy.

I also miss the cats...

My motivation is teetered. I know I need to get focused. Fair season is around the corner. and I get to see all my amazing Usborne Books customers. My book is coming out. I have manuscripts in lots of different stages of dress, none ready to emerge into the light...

This being positive thing is hard when it really matters... but I am working on it.

  • I have my family
  • I have my health
  • My home is not ruined (and really is only in danger for basement water)
  • My parents now have a swimming pool in their basement.
  • We only have 2 to 6 months before we can go home....
  • I have my important materialistic items
  • I have amazing friends
It's a new week! Time to get back on the track. Choo-choo!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A pretty bad poem about the flood...

It appeared to be a regular day, but the emails kept coming. Soon it was on the news, and we were all told in different ways that we may have to leave, running.

We all had to pack, quickly. We pulled up our carpets and filled up our vans. Off we went to no-man land.

The river has taken over, and we are helpless, so it seems. It feels at times as if we have all lost our dreams.

Friends, those I know and those I don't, we are all bound together by the power of hope. Many of us are homeless, and we all live in fear. Let's all come together and wipe away a tear.

We sit and wait, and watch the clock. We can't escape. It's on the TV, Internet, radio, and to everyone we talk.

Friends and strangers came to our doors.

Then of course others came looking for tours.

You are not alone. We are all in this together.
We will rebuild against the odds of the weather.

In a year or two, this will all be a distant memory. We will groan, or laugh, but we are alive. The future is near, I promise, you'll see.

I've learned so much about what is truly important in life, little lessons I would not know if I didn't have this trife.

This to shall pass. In the meantime, hug your neighbor. Thank a stranger. And kiss your children.

But know how lucky we are. For we have each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My First Reading!!!

At Usborne Books and More Convention in Paradise (Tulsa, OK), I got to see my book, "It's Almost Time" for the first time!!!!!

I sat down at lunch and Karen looks at me, "Your book looks great!"
"What, you saw my book? Where?"
"It's on the table, with the new books."

I made her hold my hand as I walked out to see it. There it was! My heart was thumping, I was a little jittery... the book is PERFECT!!! Illustrator Sarah Chalek is AMAZING. She really helped bring my story to life.

My editor, Kira Lynn, really knows how to make a story pop in a book. I love how she put Sarah and I together (even though Sarah and I didn't talk until after the illustrations were done.) Kira is a wonderful editor and should win awards for her vision!

See! I wrote that! It's got my name on it!

Everyone there was soo supportive and excited for me! Since the actual copies of the book are on a "slow boat from China" we didn't have copies for everyone. Two other Kane Miller authors were also there: "What Does the President Look Like?" By Jane Hampton Cook and "Rope 'Em" by Stacy Nyikos.

I did read it aloud  at the "Usborne Achievers" Friday night dinner among many of my friends and fellow team members. It was my FIRST public reading!!!!
Photo by Sarah Tucker

My friend Theresa Z held the book for me! I wore my shirt with clocks on it that I bought in the boys section of JcPenny's when I was school shopping for Alex. Both my boys and I each got one. I thought it would be fun for events. (I know, I'm a little cuckoo!)

Since we didn't have books to sign, I did get to sign posters! They are soo cute and say "It's Time to Read."  I went to set up and was going to go back in and listen to Jane speak, but I had someone who wanted my autograph! Yes! They wanted me to sign a poster for them. So I said "sure." Then I had two more people who stopped by. And then I got a line, and couldn't get away. LOL. I texted Theresa to come help me. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but I did OK.

Photo borrowed from Nancy Ann Wartman. I'm the one in the middle.
See! Line!

It was a great experience and I had so much fun. I even got to see a picture of my book on the big screen when Kira introduced the Fall line. She talked a bit about the importance of the illustrator, and I agree that with my book, the illustrator was key.

I can't wait until it comes out so I can begin sharing it, and teaching kids about writing!

Special thanks to my kids, Todd, Kira, Theresa, my parents, Sarah, and Ashley!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day, I lost count.....

Tonight we went to a Bar Mitzvah. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's when a Jewish boy turns 13 and celebrates with the Jewish community and friends and family by being called to the Torah. I'll tell you, after all that has been happening, it was wonderful to get out, see friends, smile, dance, and laugh.

Yesterday we were allowed to go into our homes. We actually were supposed to go in on Thursday, but there was a swirl by the levee, so they had to fix it before we could go in.

The day began with me dropping Alex off at camp. I then went to Bomgaars to pick up some more supplies. I drove into the Dunes, expecting a huge line, but got right in. I drove through the Meadows, which is not how we normally get to our home. The line started to form at the stop sign, we then turned towards the park, and onto the main Meadows road. We saw many MP in uniform, checking our ID's. Of course the press was taking pictures as well. They then scanned our ID's we had gotten, and sent me in.

I drove over the bridge they built over the levee. It was muddy, and kind of eerie. Once you got over it, military vehicles were parked all around the circle. The place was patrolled by the Border and customs officials.

My parents had 4 feet of water in their basement. We are lucky, our pumps are running, but no water. We got the small pumps going with the generators while we waited for the contractor to come out. It was a mess, tiring, exhausting.... I drove through the check point 4 or 5 times that day getting things, picking up people.... I did not cry.

I really had no desire to go out tonight, but wanted to support our friends in their son's celebration. It reminded me that you need to continue to live and have fun. Life can NOT stop because things are not going your way. If you stop living, you are dying inside. Even if you don't feel like, it's great to be around those who care.

So those of my friends who are going through a rough time, call your friends, even if you don't want to, and have some fun! Sure, reality is still around the corner, but it will help.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Devastation is what you make it....

I am homeless. My house may be damaged. I am without my dog and cats. My life is in upheaval....

I am with my family, and creating a new temporary home. I have two bathrooms and am safe. A house can be repaired. My pets are alive. No one is hurt. The end will come sooner then later...

After attending convention and hearing amazing speakers, including Heather Cobb, a young cancer survivor, and Cheli Porter, who experienced a loss so tragic I can't even type it without bursting into tears... my biggest nightmare, to lose my children.... And after driving past Joplin, and after knowing that others live in their own bad dreams..... Mine is not so bad.

Life is really what you make it. Everything happens to grow us stronger, to make us reconnect with the things that are most important.

I have my first book coming out! I will write soon about my first autograph session, even if it was just really cool posters, but there is so much that is good. I almost didn't go to convention because of a detour. I was sad, tired exhausted, mentally unstable, and didn't want to leave in case something happened. But nothing would change, and there was no reason to stay.

I'm so glad I went. I was meant to be there. The speakers all spoke to me.

Anyway, off to bed, but keeping my eye on the new flooring I'm going to get when this all blows over!



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I can't think of a title...

First, I want to thank all my friends. You are all amazing and I love you.

Not having easy Internet is probably the worst part of this ordeal. :-D I’m so lucky to have my family all together, though I really miss sleeping with my dog, Sherlock.

Exhaustion finally kicked in and I fell asleep for hours yesterday. We needed new tires on my car, as I have Usborne Books Convention and they were do. Well, today, I managed to get a flat…. Yes, I have broken a record on shortest time with  new tires. Thank goodness they were guaranteed.

Life is moving on, yesterday Alex got braces. Today I went to What Women Want and organized my books.  I also went in for a hair cut. It got cut, very short. It’s cute, but will take a little getting used to. I trust Linda, who has done my hair since I was 2.

I’ve learned to appreciate what I had. Our goal is to scale back on all the stuff we have (except for books, I can’t get rid of books, they are the essence of life!) But we have so much other stuff that isn’t necessary.

Tip of the day, contacting someone during a tragedy:  While we were packing, my amazing friends called to check on me. I didn’t have time to talk. My best advice is if someone is in a tragedy, either drop an email or text to let them know you love them, or call and keep it to 30 seconds. If they can talk, they’ll let you know ( like if you caught me in the car between loads and I just sucked down a Coke), but I felt rude to my loved ones saying: “Unless you are coming to help and need directions, I can’t talk right now.” But I was in the middle of saving my house.  Same applies to during the mourning period. Call, but don’t expect a long conversation. It’s tiring to give the same story over and over.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Flood update... we got "kicked" out.

We are now in our new temporary home. It’s not too bad. We are lucky to have housing. Many of our friends have left town to move in with family or are staying in dorms. The pets are doing well. Sherlock is hanging out at the pool at my cousins. And the cats are getting lots of love from their temporary family. It’s nice being next door to my parents. My mom is very emotional, and it’s hard.
We got the "knock" on Friday, and were told to get out by Midnight. We could have stayed, but once you drove out you could not get back in. We were out of there by 10:30. I just couldn't do anymore. That is my home, and I wanted more time to sandbag and protect it. Now it's in God's hand.
I’m not angry, I’m just sad. But as my husband says, home is where your family is and as long as we are together, that’s all that matters.

Billy said to my mom that as long as we are together, that is all that matters and the rest is just stuff. He’s pretty wise for a 7 year old. This from a child who 2 years ago thought it was the end of the world when a baby bird fell out of his nest.

I’m pretty exhausted. I have very little sleep. Today I got a Tetanus shot, so I think that may be wearing on me too.

The boys room is set up though, and they are actually happy. To be a child again…

I’ll work to update, but Internet is hard to come by right now.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I woke up and....

Due to my situation, I am not rereading my stuff. If it makes no sense, sorry.  :-)

It's a war zone. They keep locking everyone out of the Dunes, including residents. You can leave, but can't get back in until after hours. 6 today. I think I have someone bringing a work truck. We have about 4 more loads, but we keep finding more.

There is a mix of activity. Some people managed to get their whole homes moved. Others have a ton of friends or family nearby. I've had a few friends helping, and thank god for them. I feel bad asking people I don't know to help because there are still people out here with no one who can use them.  Some put everything up on the 2nd floor and said whatever.

If you are around and can volunteer, check out Siouxland Flooding on Facebook.

Some one can come pick you up, but you have to walk to the apartments. No worse then Saturday in the Park, and all flat.

It's so overwhelming. We have 5 piles:

1.) Take to our new home
2.) Storage
3.) Putting on the 2nd floor, and bagging... mainly games, plastic things, and things we won't be devastated if we lose.
4.) Donation... had this picked up yesterday. I do have another load, but it may just be gambled until after the flood.
5.) Trash.... lots of trash.... Our house needed a good cleaning, I just wish I could have done it one room at a time.

The cats have a home. Another Direct Sales Guru, Lisa from Pampered Chef is taking them. We've moved the cats 3 times now... We were going to try and keep them with us, but they wouldn't allow pets. Then I asked Pet Palace, and she was going to take them, but she's now in the flood zone. Then we called Dakota City, and were good, and now they may be in danger....

Sherlock is going to my cousin. It will be good for them, they are both bachelor's.

We keep finding stuff! Right now, if we have to evac ASAP, we won't overly cry. Still want to rip up carpet and take off stuff in the basement if we can, and the rooms are gross from all the hidden dust.
We have some furniture left, and made the decision on would we be devastated if we have to get new furniture.

Next step is to find someone to pull out the furnace, though it's 15 years old.... though the AC is only 5. Water heater is on debate....

I wish this upon no one. We are blessed to have warning.

I'll try to update later, but need to get back to packing! My office, wow! I've tossed so much. I think now I'm just going to pour directly into boxes. I don't care anymore!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Flood...

My stomach clenches every few minutes as I think of what to do tomorrow. A normal day would involve checking email, hanging with my family, writing, and thinking about cleaning. The last few days have been turmoil, fear, anxiety, confusion, a big bubble.

I wake up each morning thinking the river is closer, are they going to force us out? What can I pack? What don't I care about? Are my kids mentally OK.

Friday we had an email to come sandbag, our area would get some water. Saturday I sandbagged, and was told, your basement will flood. As more news kept coming, and each email kept giving worse information, I found myself in a neighborhood full of traffic with vans, trailers, storage pods, anything people could get their hands on to get out of the neighborhood. Were we being naive? Do we need to get out? By Monday, we realized "yes" pack it up, move what we can't get out to 2nd floor, try to seal what we can to avoid mold, and pray.

Today we managed to get a horse trailer and some friends and workers to help us. We have spent a ton of money trying to get the house prepped, and the flood hasn't even started yet. My legs ache from climbing stairs, and I feel like I was hit by a truck.  And we have no flood insurance because we weren't in a flood zone and were told not to get it.

The mental anguish is the worse, where to stay, what to do? We did find a place, it's a duplex and my parents are taking one half, we the other. It needs curtains, but at least we have space and won't be stuck in a hotel... though the pool and hot tub sound really good right now.

It's one thing to watch this on the news, it's a totally different fear to be here, in it. Your home is something you build up. Sure, it's just stuff, but you want to protect it.

The worst is my pets. I'll have to split them up since our place won't take pets. It tears me up. I try not to cry at all, but every so often it just starts. I'm scared, but grateful for amazing friends.

A big trailer just went by, full of sand probably. They are trying to build us a wall. Huge helicopters drop giant sand bags from the sky. Want to come visit me, you need an ID to get in, and will wait an hour or longer just to get through the line....

Here is one facebook pic:!/photo.php?fbid=189406171106553&set=a.189406117773225.40363.100001115134839&type=1&theater

I still need to get out my camera.

Thanks for reading. Don't feel bad for me. It's just stuff. But I thought I'd let you in my head.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visit my Guest Blog Post!

Thank you to Chris Phillips for inviting me as his guest blogger! Please hop on over:

and learn about my musical habits! ;-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Divergent" -- And what a newbie author can learn about the first page

I first learned about "Divergent" (by debut author Veronica Roth) at a SCBWI conference where Molly O'Neil spoke. She spent an amazing day with us, breaking down how to build a character, and first pages.... She handed out a sheet with first paragraphs of books and what made them so great. I still have it. She included my favorite PB to read aloud, "I Stink," "Charlotte's Web," and "The Lightening Thief" as some of the many examples. She also included this book:

     "There is one mirror in my house."

First sentence. As a girl, I was drawn in. Only one mirror? I like my mirrors. What type of house is this, what type of people? But it gets more weird...

     "It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair."

Wow! I'm drawn in.. I want to know more about the factions. I want to know more about her. I'm....


I'm so hooked, that I eye the preview copy of the book lying in front of Molly, she let us come look at it. For a second, I thought about snagging it. I wanted more. I'm not into Dystopia, I'm more of a sunshine girl, but it was too late. It was like someone who knows they shouldn't go down a street, but something glimmering caught their eye, and they are curious. They need to know more, so they tiptoe in.

I bought the book once it came out, and it sat eyeing me as I waited for the right time to read it. I knew it was one of those books I'd inhale, so I needed a good block of uninterrupted time where I could ignore my husband, kids and any other responsibilities I'm supposed to have.

I picked it up. Kids were in bed, and my husband was not home... I started, I was pulled in... I read, pulled in, caught up, I was in heaven... until Chapter 7.

Chapter 7, I realize this is not my type of book. Someone died. There is danger. These aren't my people. I want pretty in pink people, I want Oompa Loompas, romance, talking rabbits. The pictures I see are dark and forbidden. I think of putting it down, but I'm


So I read on. Chapter 9 makes me really uncomfortable. I again think about putting it down. But the hero, I see some of me in the hero, a little bit. She is brave. I like to be brave, well, try to be. I'm often very giving, what would it be like to be brave? Why is she there? Does she really belong there... Oh, I can't put it down. I'll just skim over the black eyes and the blood (it's really not that bad if you like reading those things...and I think again how I'm one of the few who prefers unicorns pooping out rainbows to a good fight). But I have to know.

I read over 1/2 of the 487 pages that night, long after my husband got home. Way past my bedtime.

I was up early. I had to know. I read on... It got more violent, but it wasn't too descriptive at least, or I managed to skip over it, not sure... (the bad thing about reading is if you close your eyes, you can't ask someone what you missed.)

Finally, at 9:30 am, I finished. I was in awe. Had I known what it was really about and not read the first page, I'd not have read it. I'm glad I did. The little romance saved me from the violence, and the redemption and growth of character was fulfilling.

A book I'd never have read on my own, but did, just because of the first page being presented to me.


When my son is trying to decide what book to buy, I always just say, "read the first page, ignore the cover."

So now, I'm going to go and finish writing my Fantasy novel, and then go back and edit, edit, and edit, and perfect that first page so that you as the reader, want to read my book, even if it's not something that would normally draw you in. I can only hope to have a bit of the talent Veronica Roth has.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

"It's Almost Time"

Tick, tick, tick, tick....

"It's Almost Time" the book, still doesn't come out for 3 months! Ikes, how do authors do it. The anticipation! :-)

My editor told me, many months back, to just forget I even had a book coming out. But the closer the date comes, the more excited I get! And nervous. What if I get horrible reviews? What if no one buys it? What if I am a one-book-wonder? Will any stores or museums carry it?

So, I will push "It's Almost Time" out of my mind for today, and work on books of tomorrow....

Of course, I want to sent them out today, even though they are not ready. Except one, which is really good, but I'm waiting for a rejection from an agent I'd love to represent me. Tick, tick, tick..

Check back for more updates on "It's Almost Time."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Read: Books of Elsewhere.....

The Shadow

So I had the opportunity to hear Jacqueline West at SCBWI-Dakotas. And of course, I had to buy the book.

When I first heard about Jacqueline's book, I wanted to cry. See, I have been wanting to write a book about someone who jumps into pictures! And, I always wanted to use Linden Street in a book (I lived on Lindenwood and have very fond memories). She stole my idea!

But really, there was no way she could have, it's not like I blogged about it.  So I don't blame her, and think I could be friends with her if we lived nearby (though she'd probably run the other way). ;-)

OK, first check out the site:

Spooky, huh? It's her first books, AND she got a professionally designed website. Too cool. OK, I admit, I'm a little jealous.

I was going to pout and not read the books. I thought of it first, you know. But I couldn't help it. The cover was soo sparkly, and I really liked loved listening to Jacqueline speak. And she read us Chapter 4 aloud, and it included cats!  (So take notes when talking to groups, read Chapter 4, include cats)

It was a fun read! And I have to admit, I can't wait for the next one to come out! Olive's voice is perfect, Horatio, the cat, is totally in love with himself, and it's just spooky enough to make you want to close your eyes, but not too scary to give you nightmares....

She does a great job putting Olive in scenarios where you want to shout "Run! Be careful Olive! Don't do that!" And it's all done in a creepy old mansion, like the one you used to walk by growing up.... The one you always wanted to sneak into to see what lived there.... oooohhhhhhhhh......

So if you are looking for a good example of something a first time author wrote that went Gold, or if you just want something fun to read, or a great example of voice, try The Books of Elsewhere.
That's what books do, they take you.... Elsewhere!

I'm looking forward to Book 2!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Random Picture of a Cat / Endeavour Space Launch / and Character Development

First off, I'd like to start with a random picture of a cat:

This is Molly when she was just a little kitten
 OK, I came across that pic and had to share. She is much bigger, and brattier now. She came from a farm, and loves to explore the outdoors. One day I want to put a camera around her neck so I can see what she does when she goes hunting....

Now that I shared a random picture... did you watch the Shuttle Launch?

I had the live feed on. When I saw it was launching at 7:56, I realized my poor son would be on the bus. So I made a parenting decision to make my husband drive them to school, AND allow them to be a little late. There was something really intimate about watching all 3 of my boys sitting on the couch, watching the computer screen, listening to every word as the shuttle prepared for it's lift off. I joined them around take off, and we all had one of those special bonding moments you read about, or see in old TV movies.

Normally, I hate for my kids to be late. But I felt this was an experience you could really only experience as the clock ticked down. It was a character driven decision for me based on my son. It was really important to him to see this, and as a parent who wants what's best for my kids, I made a decision slightly out of character for me, but driven towards my love and his needs.

One thing I can't stand is when I read, or watch a movie, and a decision is so plot driven. The answer is so obvious, but yet, the characters do everything to step around it so the plot can move on.

Watch what you do, and others around you, in every day life to help you develop your own characters. And notice when you go out of character too, what causes you to do that, and what happens because of it.

That's all I have for now. I really hope you enjoyed my random picture.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

SCBWI-- South Dakota!

As a newer writer, I'm working on learning as much as I can to help me improve my personal writing, and know the field. I still have much to learn, and am thankful for all the opportunities!

Today I attended South Dakota's SCBWI conference. I highly recommend checking out your regional and state events. If you are serious about writing as a career, you need to attend.

Here are some of my notes.

Kerry Sparks, Agent

  • You need a really, really good hook AND
  • a short, quick sentence summing up your story.
  • For the Query, be professional. Explain your story in a few paragraphs. Tell a little about yourself. Be yourself. Remember the hook! Thank them for their time.
  • Know the agent you are sending your MS to. Research
  • Agents are looking for something unique. They must love the MS, because they have to believe in what they sell
  • You need to find an agent you trust, you become partners
  • It's OK to send to multiple agents

Chris Rylander, Author
He talked about what not to do:
  • Don't rush the process
  • Don't send an unfinished MS, or query one
  • Don't query if you don't have a MS in hand
  • Make sure you wait before sending it in. Nothing is great after the first draft
What to do:
  • Be obsessed and be persistent, ie: Don't give up, be excited about what you do, and do it!

Tips from the First Pages Critique, very helpful!

  • It needs to make you/editor want to read on...
  • Tension is GOOD
  • Take things one piece at a time, build your story
  • Use time elements and deadlines to create tension
  • Set up goals within your writing
  • Sound can be a good element
  • More conflict sooner!
  • Point of View is key
  • Don't be afraid to write your story 4 different ways
  • Interweave your backstory into the MS
  • Be specific, use nouns and verbs. Remove Adverbs

Emilia Rhodes, Asst. Editor, YA

  • Know the age you are writing for!
  • Know of comparable titles
  • Know your gender
Editors are looking for books that will sell. They use current books and the market to help them decide what to buy.

They love series! Built in audience.

What sells:
  • Realistic fiction
  • Forbidden fruits
  • Paranormal
New Trends:
  • Mermaids
  • Alternate universe
What doesn't sell:
  • Vampires, unless they introduce something new
  • Historical fiction
  • Books geared towards boys (Young Adult)
  • Robots
  • Read what's popular, even if you wouldn't read it normally
  • Connect with authors
  • Subscribe to author/writer newsletters
  • Pay attention to the trends around you, in TV and movies too

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why you should keep writing..

Everywhere you go, someone tells you "It's harder to become a published children's book writer then a professional athlete! You'll have a better chance of playing a lead in a movie then getting published. No one is buying picture books anymore..."

Yes, something negative around each corner. And it's good to know. But does it mean you should stop writing?


Yes, I am told over and over that less and less  (fewer and fewer?)picture books are being sold. But I sold one! And so have many people I know (thanks to networking). So if everyone gave up, well, then none would ever be written.

Here's the thing. Why do you write? Do you write to be sold? Probably. But if that is the first reason you write, well, then you probably are not very good. Your heart can't be in it, and good stories come from the heart and soul. A real writer has to write.

My son had a band concert last night. The flutist in the front row tapped her foot to the beat and was focused. She will go on and play and play. It was easy to see who the real musicians are. You could see it, music is in her. Even when she doesn't have a flute, I bet she makes music inside her head.

If you go around reading bio's, you'll see over and over, "I always wrote! I told stories! I loved to read!" Many of these begin at young ages.

See, I always wrote, literally, from the day I could hold a pen. I told stories, I acted them out, I forced my friends to act them out, and when I was old enough to babysit, I made productions from the kids I sat for. Yeah, I know, poor kids. But they had fun. I had to create and share stories.

As I was saying, you write because you love to write. So keep writing! You may have just that story that the world is looking for! And you'll never know if you don't try.

And if you are a true writer, nothing I say will stop you from creating stories. So really, this whole blog entry is pointless.

Pick up that pen!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

One Day....

"I want to write a book that someone will want to read..." I said as I anxiously searched for a book I heard about at a writer's conference. I knew it was coming out, and the story reached something inside of me. The book is "Divergent" by Veronica Roth. I'll let you know how the read is. But as an author, my dream is to share fun stories that people want to read.

OK, I better get writing. I have a critique group deadline that I'm not ready for. The trip to Europe, catching up, selling books, and getting sick got in the way of my writing time. And of course I had to finish reading "The Clockwork Three" by Matthew Kirby. It was a nice read. I was able to pace myself reading it, but enjoyed it thoroughly. It leaves itself open nicely to wanting more, so I can see a sequel, but it was satisfying, like a nice piece of chocolate. It has three stories that weave themselves all together to create a nice masterpiece. I highly suggest it. It's not like most of the books. And I liked it because it wasn't one of those where you read it so fast to find out what happens that you miss the details. You want to watch it unfold, and not skip ahead. I haven't read one of those in a while.

And on the plane, I don't want to admit this, but I read "Something Borrowed" which is now becoming a movie.  I was kind of appalled as I could not relate to ever sleeping with my best friend's fiancee and then justifying it. Maybe I'm too much a goody, goody, but the objective of the book is to make you feel sorry for the main character and forgive her cheating. I guess I was even more turned off when I read someone's comment, "It made me feel better for my own affair!"  It was a totally enthralling smut novel that takes you into a journey most of us (I really hope none of us) would never venture on, and let you be a fly on a wall. I did enjoy the read and finished it, and I'll probably watch the movie secretly alone when it comes out on video. Don't tell anyone!  But I really do worry about what is happening in the world and where our own moral compasses are going. But that's what makes a good book, when you get to visit a world you wouldn't visit on a day to day basis. No one wants to read about why I can't make peanut butter sandwiches for my son's lunch anymore.

OK, off to write!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Scotland and the Literary Pub Tour

Our London trip ended with a train ride from Kings Cross train station through the beautiful lands into Scotland. It was stunning scenery from the fields of yellow flowers (actually canola fields) to the view of the seaside, and small little towns with ancient architecture.

We arrived at Edinburgh (the G is not hard) to find a man in a kilt waiting for us as we disembarked the train. He whisked us into a bus to see the city, which has way much more character then London!

From Edinburgh Castle, to legends and ghost stories... this town is known for it's literary influence, and I'm not just talking JK Rowlings.

Of course, the first night we went to the Elephant Room where she is known to have written some of Harry Potter. The coffee house has a great view of the castle, and really good food. Rumor has it she was kicked out of the Elephant Room for nursing her tea all day long. She also wrote at a place called Spoon, and Starbucks near the university (where we are told you can still find her).

Here is me sitting at the same table she wrote at.

After we ate, someone told my mom that JK got name inspirations for Harry Potter at the graveyard across the street, so we headed there. The story of Bobby the Dog (who was a devoted dog to his police chief owner and wouldn't leave his side, even after death) was a part of this graveyard. But I wanted to find the names. We found two. Of course, I only found Robert Riddell, though I'm told there is an actual Tom Riddell.

So that was entertaining.

Edinburgh was really green! We spent time walking the streets, visiting museums, eating, and of course shopping.  We didn't take a side trip out of the city, but when I go back I want to explore more of the Highlands.

There is an extinct volcano sort of in the middle of the city, well, right next to it, that acts as a large park. It was beautiful. The architecture there was a step back in history. The city was unchanged. The only thing new was the cars, and they were not overly abundant.

We also found some secret gardens and lots of dead people. :-)

The Literary Pub Walk was really cool. We found some signs for it, and you just showed up at this pub, and they took us up, up, up these stairs and into a small room. It was a walking performance filled with lecture, insight, opinion, beer if you chose (I don't drink) and readings from many of the famous authors who had ties to Edinburgh, including Stevenson, Dunbar, Ferguson, Burns and more.

Of course, being a book addict, I found a children's bookstore specializing in antique children's book. There I found a 100 year old copy of "The Princess and Curdie" which is the sequel to MacDonald's "Princess and the Goblins" which I happen to have an old copy of.
And on the last day we found an Usborne Books booth at an outdoor festival, which was a highlight for Randall, the president of Usborne Books and More. :-)

The people in Scotland were nicer then those in London, so that means really, really friendly. The town never slept!

If I was looking for a place to do a writing course abroad, I'd go here, where inspiration is plentiful on every corner.

But of course, it's always good to be home!

I'm Back! London.

I've been back a few days, and wanting to write, but jet lag and a newly caught cold have kept my coherent thoughts from finding a screen. :-)

London and Edinburgh will definately come out in ways in my writing, as they have that way about them. I'm going to break up the trip for your reading pleasure, starting with London.

All I can say is "WOW!"

First, let me start out by saying I am really lucky. I work in a business where I can earn trips all over the world. Thanks to Usborne Books I've travelled to Rome, Alaska, Hawaii, and now London and Edinburgh. (Just for doing something I love, which is encouraging reading).

I took my mom with me on the trip. We haven't had a trip since I was 16 and we went to New York for a Broadway and shopping spree, and it was fun. We didn't kill each other, but I'm glad to have my space now. :-)

London was amazing. You have to visit! Besides all the "royalty," the city just has class. It's so much older then the states. And everyone is really nice. London is a melting pot of tons of different cultures and people. It reminds me of "New York" but it's different.

I loved mastering the "tube," as a way to get all around the town. The double decker buses were fun too! And of course, the taxi was nothing like a taxi here. First, they are black, and very clean! You jump in and there is a ton of leg room. The seats are basically where the trunk is. On the back of the driver's seat are two chairs that pull down.

We saw a ton of things from palaces to castles, even street bums hanging out by London Bridge! But the city was CLEAN. And I mean CLEAN.

Of course we were there the week before the wedding, and they were decorating the town with flags. It didn't really affect us though.

I got to visit "The Globe" (which is a working theatre inspired by the Globe) and learned more about Shakespeare in that hour then I ever did in school, or by running the outdoor Shakespeare Co. Shakespeare is meant to perform outdoors, during the day. This was to save on lighting costs, as candles were pricey. It is written for many classes, which is one reason it is soo confusing. You have a sonnet for the Royals, and a crude joke for the working class. Admission cost 1/12 of one day's work, and that was to stand in the pit. The boxes were more expensive, and the seats behind the stage were the most important because you were there to be seen, not to see a play.

Plays back then were meant to be heard, so blocking was very different.

Big Ben was Big, but I thought it would be more then it was. Great expectations. :-) Press was everywhere! That was one thing the wedding did bring. I plan to go back to London to spend more time. We were not there nearly long enough, and there is so much to do and explore.

My Mom's highlight of course was Harrod's, where you could find 4000 pound shoes (about $6500), all the name brands, crystal chandalliers, gourmet food, restaurants on every floor, and a Pet Spa, plus everything else under the sun.

And we can't forget having tea!

This is a very concise summary of my trip to London! But if I am ever given a chance to spend time living there, I think I'd take it. There is so much to experience. It was smashing!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reading to your kids, is the book for you or them?

If you haven't read this article:

It was brought back into my mind after this:
Which you can go ahead and read.

Picture Books. Who are they for? Are they for the kids or for the parents?

Well, the obvious answer is the kids, right?
But it's not 100% true.

The real answer, drum roll please...................................


Of course I'm going to digress a moment here. Someone was looking at a book and said, "I don't get it." It was a board book with babies holding books. My answer, "It's not for you, it's for the babies." Which is true. The book is something any 0 - 2 year old would drool over, live pictures of babies holding books, short, quick and sweet text, durable thick pages, bright and colorful. But it's not a book that a mom would want to read over and over. It's a quick read, and then you hand it to your child to open/close and chew on. Or it's one you can point to the pictures and talk about what is going on, to build vocabulary. There is not much to "get." It is, in one word, simple. And that is why it is perfect!

But that is a board book.

I'm referring to PICTURE BOOKS.
I LOVE to read picture books too. I love the pictures, I love the text. A good book is fun to read and fun to find things in the picture. An even better picture book lets the pictures tell a hidden story! Watch for it.

But as a parent, it is I reading the books to my kids (well, now they can read, insert sad face), and I have to be drawn to the book too. Otherwise, I read it really, really fast, without much expression and try to get the experience over with as fast as I can..... And that does absolutely nothing for my child, the picture book, our bonding time, or my sense of being a good mom.

Pictures books need to draw both the child and the parent in.

So what's with parents turning to chapter books? One mom said in her quote, which made me want to vomit:

       We both need to enjoy the book, well, especially me.

Wow. What a selfish mom.... Or is she?

If she is buying some of those crap PB's out there (and believe me there are a ton, I won't mention any particular houses...), but yeah, I don't want to read those either.

And reading above your child's reading level is good. But there is a certain interaction in picture book your child is leaving behind if you jump to chapter books without leaving room for PB's too. Do both!

What are my favorite picture books? Oh, I'm so glad you asked!

"It's Almost Time" by Debbie LaCroix, because it's too fun to make all the sounds of the clock!
Anything by Jez Alborough (visit for some of his books)
The Big Hungry Mouse
Bear Snores On
Bobbie Dazzler
Boom Bah
How Big is a Million (it's a very fun series,
Amelia Bedelia (they are sort of a chapter/picture book)
Gingerbread Man, the Usborne Books version rocks
No, That's Wrong
One Night at the Zoo
The Story of Growl
Unique Monique
Any classics are good in fact!
Anything by Eric Carle or Sandra Boyton
I was just introduced to CAPS FOR SALE; A TALE OF A PEDDLER, SOME MONKEYS AND THEIR MONKEY BUSINESS by Slobodkina, Esphyr (very neat!)
Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming, a brand new fairy tale!
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Click, Clack Moo
Dinosaur Who Lost his Roar
Any Froggy Book!
Harry the Dirty Dog
How Does a Dinosaur Say Goodnight
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
Jacob's Got an Overcoat
No David

This is in no way a complete list. These are just ones that I want to read over and over and over.
Billy would add Curious George to the list too, and Dr. Seuss, who I do enjoy, but no more then 3 times each. :-) And there are many others that I love to read, once here, and once there, and I'll pick them up in a few months. But the ones I listed I could read every day for a month and still have fun with them!

I will know when I have succeeded as a writer when a child tells me, "Mommy/Daddy and I read your book every night. It is my favorite."

What is your favorite picture book and why?

Friday, April 15, 2011

My addiction!

Some people are addicted to shoes. Others to purses. I know a few who can't live without a different piece of jewelry for each day. Are you one of those shop-a-holics, where you find any excuse to shop and spend money? Maybe you love to see movies on their release, or attend every play.

Can you guess my addiction? If you come over to my house, you'll notice it right away....
It is none of the above.

But a new one entered my home today!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Book

One of the cool things about Blogger, is I can look at my stats and see if I'm being googled. :-)
I've noticed Debbie LaCroix Book has been a popular search term. I'm creating BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

So let's talk about MY BOOK!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I'm so totally off my chair jumping and bouncing excited about it that I wish I could talk about it 22 hours a day and dream about it the other 2. However, it STILL doesn't come out until the "Fall" which should be July, but could be August, though the Fall is more September....

SO WHERE IS IT? My amazing editor (she is really wonderful) told me they saw the final proofs a few weeks ago! That means even if I wanted to make a change (which it was out of my hands many, many, many months ago) I can't.

I do know that it will be on a boat coming across the ocean in June, which is when Usborne Books & More convention is. Why is that important? Kane Miller publishing was bought by Usborne Books CEO Randall White. What is Usborne Books?
(Skip this paragraph if you have no desire to learn more)
You don't know? They are like the most amazing children's books out there! Usborne Books offers books from 0 to 16 in every subject imaginable. The books are "edible" in that a child really WANTS to read, touch, hug, chew, and love them. They are the front runners in making books FUN! Usborne Books & More are sold through bookstores and consultants (No Amazon.) Consultants host in home parties (like Pampered Chef, but way cooler), work with schools, lead reading incentive programs, offer grant programs, work with libraries... It's a pretty cool sales force of 10,000 women and men. If you are interested in learning how to make money selling books, visit My Site and drop me a line, or contact your friendly Usborne Consultant. if they were nice enough to send you here. It's pretty fun and a great way to study literature while getting paid.;-)

So back to Convention. That is where the Usborne sales force meets to look at the new titles that come out in July, celebrate, learn sales tips, meet authors (Jane Hampton Cook is visiting this year--we published her cool President book!) and literacy tips, and have a great time. I was hoping to do a big book signing.  But it does look like we will have preview copies, so everyone can SEE it. And I'm not sure I can compete with Jane Hampton Cook. The book is really good, and a great addition to any grade school classroom curriculum.

What is my book? That doesn't matter, does it? wink, wink.
It is a picture book!

What's it about? Wow, you ask a lot of hard questions!
I have been trying to figure out an easy way to tell you what it's about since I got the email that made me silent for a good whole minute saying they wanted to make an offer. That was last May. (Yeah, they had a hole and turned it around really quickly).

"It's Almost Time" is a hear (literally) HEAR and now book which is about the beauty and anticipation of clocks getting ready to strike at the hour.

Most people smile and say "Great!" and I know they are thinking, "What?" 

Let's try the long explanation. The problem is, it's quicker to read the book then to explain it.  But it's a really cool book, one of a kind, something that children will really enjoy, so make sure you buy it.

There is no "main character". Well sort of, now that an illustrator got a hold of it. You have a cute little horse and an adorable bird. But really, the main character is YOU. You are in my home, listening. You have really, really good ears because you can hear the tick-tock of the clocks... kind of like what I'm hearing now. Listen closely.... Can you hear it...

It's :59 on the hour... the countdown is beginning... the anticipation is starting... it's about to happen

and all the clocks go off at once!

The end, or is it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Your "adult" voice vs your "child" voice

Someone told me I sound like a child. Considering I was working on Children's Lit, I took that as a compliment! But she makes a good point.

My cousin sometimes tells me "I don't like your serious face." She means my adult voice. Yes, it comes out when it has to. I don't enjoy it as much either, but as a mom and avid volunteer, I often do have to be an adult. The scary part is when I can't find my child, and that happens.

Now if you were to call me on the phone, I can promise you will think I'm a 12 year old little girl. I have this perfect high squeaky voice. It's much lower then it used to be, but that, and the fact I have yet to make 5 feet in height makes me appear as a child.

But to write for a child, I have to know what a child would want, think, feel, do....

What do you do when you prepare to write? How do you get in your "child" voice?


Poetry Slam

Last night I went to a Poetry Slam, expecting to be wowed with poets in the mood, movement, sound and the powerful use of silence. They were all great. All poems were written from the heart, and all the poets deserved a round of applause. I wanted to see more Performance! You could see who had confidence and who owned their poem. And it made them stand out. 

I love poetry. I spent my highschool years with a half sized notebook filled with writings, essays, and mostly poetry. During my highschool years I had that teenage angst, negativism (though it was always done in a positive way with me.) I had my heartaches, and my dabble/infatuation with witchcraft that lasted probably 3 months. I swear a spell I cast came to haunt me about 3 years later. (I had a crystal ball, a genie lamp given to me as a gift... still have yet to meet the genie, spell books, Ouija Board...) OK, I digress. This isn't about my dark age.

I love poetry, yes, that was what I was saying. Poetry can say so much without ever saying what you mean. It can be dark, funny, political (I heard some great political poetry last night), religious (we heard Jesus cry out from the cross), teeny bopper, fun, truthful, heart breaking...

I went with the intent to read, but found myself not ready. I didn't want to show off, you see. When I read, I use the whole body. To me, that is what a Poetry Slam is. No, I needed 3 poems but only took one (See I'm assuming I would have made it through all 3 rounds).

So I judged. It was hard! I so badly didn't want to stiffen a poets creativity. There were a few good ones- who were really into the meaing of a Poetry Slam, but most of them just read.

One poet, who won the lot, stood out to me because of his emotion, his word choice to paint a picture, how much he had seen. I was shocked to learn he was only 23. That guy is good.

Another was 17, sweet as can be who had a great range of poetry topics, though her style remained the same throughout the whole thing. She just started writing and I hope she continues. She was just adorable, and brought me back to high school with her poetry and voice.

Not one person used silence to further their poem.

I slowly wandered up the path, the path, the one that takes me forward.
Yet, I couldn't move faster. I found myself stuck, as the wind swirled around me, stealing my breath.
I closed my eyes, I was moving back, back down the path.
Falling. Falling. Falling until........................................

Use silence to create anticipation


more silence

until I met you.

(I just made that up on the spot. How would you use silence?)

Some used noise. We had the thump-thump of the beating child who went through life without anyone helping him.

We had a chomp of the Zombie biting off someone's head --- OK, that was good, but way too detailed for me.

We did have some foot steps.

Take your story, and read it like you are at a Poetry Slam. Use your voice. Use noise. Use beat. Use your body. If you can't find a place for them, look at your story.

When I read to my boys, I read a book looking for places to stop and be silent. I look for voices and dialects I can use. I look for beat and rhythm I can tap too. I look for opportunities to shout, opportunities to whisper, I look for the chance to jump up, or freeze.

Here is to your Poetry Slam. And if your family thinks you are crazy, just tell them you met Debbie, it's not your fault. :-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

What I learned from my Dad's trip to the hospital

This isn't about writing, but it is a motivation for future stories. In fact, I have one shaping around my dad as the main character... actually he could make a ton of wonderful stories. He is the ideal adult in a kids tale, a Mr. McGee or a Willy Wonka of sorts in that he is whimsical, full of life and just makes you feel good to be around him. He's not afraid to be a little crazy, and his grandkids are his life.

When we were in Disney World he had a TIA (mini-warning stroke). He ended up in the hospital. I changed my plans to stay back, it was at the end of the trip. Flying home was the calmest I think we'd ever been. Normally my family sort of enjoys the drama, the worrying, the hurry up and wait montage of getting there. We seem to live off the fuel. We are one of the strongest families I know, from Grandpa to grandson and everything in between. But certain things are stressful

It seems like we've had a mind switch. We are no longer in such a hurry. We are enjoying each other even more, and thankful to God that we do have each other. Every moment together is a blessing, something not to ever be forgotten. It is cherished.

Please hug those you love, slow down, and cherish each moment. Then you have something to write. Be it the smell of their shirt, the laughter in their voice, the craziness of hair dancing on their head like a curly cloud...The deep lines of maturity, each one earned by years of generosity and worry, or maybe a simple memory of their arms holding you safely as your cheek feels the sandpaper of his cheek.

Each moment is a gift. Don't take it for granted.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday at SCBWI

Early, early, early!

Such great things were happening all around. Relationships and friendships being built, connections, networking, internal searching, excitement...

"It's for the kids," is at the top of my notes. I think it was a left over thought from the night before... but not sure. But yet, what a truth. We write for the kids. We write to create connections. I write because I want to open imaginations and share stories. I write to explore the world around me. I write because it is who I am. But I write for my kids, and all the others who I hope will be touched somehow by my books.

So, tips:

Stephen Fraser, secret agent man, previously editor..... downright amazing!

Find your stillness within and begin there... Be still and just let the creativity go to work.
You can't rush a work of art...
Follow your whims
Act professionally...

He is the perfect example, he is a gentleman. He creates relationships and builds on them.

And don't ask your real estate lawyer to go over your contract! They'll screw it up! :-D


Most houses have some sort of marketing, some have more then others.
Spend time getting to know your librarians and bookstore owners. But don't push on them your book. Get to know them first.
Stand in the middle of the room if you are shy. You'll meet more people.
Create an author site or blog, but don't try to do it all. Do what you are good at.
Does your book have a nitche? Follow it.
School visits!
Launch parties don't do much (but I plan to have one anyway!)

Candy & Eric presented again. They really are so cute! They shared their stories. It wasn't easy. They both worked hard. It took time. They felt rejection.

Candy gave a great tip:
Find a book you love, and retype it. It will help you to see what works and why!

All in all, I learned so much. If you haven't read my last 2 entries, please do so for more insight to what great things we learned!

Happy writing!

SCBWI, Day 2

I awoke early, I had so much to learn and couldn't wait to learn it all! So I ran down to be in the front row. I thought more people would want it, but I was wrong. That's OK, I'm short, and it's best for me to be up front. It also helps me focus.

I met Connie Heckart that morning, she is soo sweet, and was asked to help out, which I love to do!

Then I met Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann. Candace is an award winning author, and Eric and award winning illustrator. I later learned they are married, which makes sense. They present so cute with each other!

We learned about the Framework of a Picture Book.

First, you open the book and it reveals itself.... oooohh, I love that imagery of grasping the front cover as you anticipate what is inside this present, what will happen once you slowly open the cover, what will you see.....

Well, you usually se a blank page. But, that page has a color which should tie in the color scheme of the book, creating an openness to delve deeper into your adventure....

A picture book is 32 pages of hopeful bliss!

But the real story doesn't begin until page 5... And this is where the author must begin their job of setting the story. And so on page 5, the story begins...
Page 6 -9 are used for set-up
And no later then page 10, we need ACTION! This is the Day that is Different.

10 - 31 tell the story until page 32, where we have our
AHA, the problem is solved, the story is over... but yet, we must be left wanting more....
No pressure.

After Candy and Eric, we heard what editors want. By attending, we get a free pass to send to them and get out of the slush, or into the door for those who don't allow anything if you don't have an agent. That is why you should ATTEND. :-D Read all you want from those who do, but you really are not a player until you are creating your own journey of knowlege.

I'm into the word Journey this week.

But here are some tips:

  • Read the guidelines. You are not special. Editors will throw your stuff away if they are in a bad mood if you do not respect them. They put guidelines out for a reason. We may not understand it, but that is what they want.
  • Show you're committed.
  • Know the publishing house. DO YOUR RESEARCH
  • Be professional. Don't say how much you love a book they are publishing that isn't being released for 2 months.....
  • Spelling/Grammar
  • Be Unique, but not obnoxious. You are you, you are not JK Rowlings, Dr. Seuss or Stephen King. You are you, you, you. And that's not a bad thing.
  • Have a killer manuscript, as in strength in plot, voice, theme and style.
  • Know who you are writing for.
  • Have the whole package, not a killer first page, and then crap.
  • And read.

This was awesome to hear about the changes Little Golden Books made in the history of reading. They made books accessible to families by offering low-cost books found in everyday places.

SERIES, with Lin Oliver

I will write more on this, but she talked about how to write a killer series.

I want to talk about Lin, who is also the founder of SCBWI. She is amazing! She is warm, sweet, sincere, caring, and took time to help me.

As she talked about her concept, characters, the consistant world needed, multiple points of entry into the story, she mentioned ARC. Two arcs really, the story arc (I got that) and the series arc.

My stomach dropped. I didn't have a real ARC in my series! She finished up with the importance of dedication to your craft and said, "I'd love to talk more with all of you, come find me."

She walked from the front of the room, and I jumped up and followed. She spent a good 20 - 30 minutes with me helping me find my story arc and fix my character lack of flaws. I love her.

She probably doesn't even know how many authors she has touched and helped to shape their careers. Even though I still have work to do, I am every thankful for that one on one time and dedication she gave to me, an unknown author, to help me succeed in this world.

The day ended with a bookfair, where I went crazy, hey, who wouldn't want autographed books from award-winning authors, and new authors you just made friends with?

And a great speech from both Lin and Dr. Gary Schmidt, who moved me and brought tears to my eyes when you know that you can touch someone through your stories, and a reminder to observe everything around us.

I hope you learned something to!
PS: I have not edited yet, I probably should go shower. :-) TMI?

SCBWI Conference Rocked! The Character....

(Note, I am breaking this down into smaller posts/chapters, so you don't get lost and can learn from my journey).

Wow! I just spent 3 days in Bettendorf, IA, in a Lodge that reminded me of a cross between The Haunted Mansion and Hogwarts... Complete with pictures where I swear the eyes followed your every move.... The only thing missing was floating candelabras. If your imagination was not opened by the amazing details, the darkened lighting, or repetitive patterns, the companionship of spirits and authors and professionals was enough to throw anyone into overdrive 0 - 120.

The spirits of the lodge were all friendly! There was so much to learn, so much to think about.

We spent an afternoon learning how to develop a character by Molly O'Neil. She then broke down the importance of the first page of any manuscript. We heard her share the importance of voice, hook, fun, friendship, themes... and what makes you want to read more.

See, an editor is a "highly trained reader" (thanks Molly!) and they want to be drawn into a good story. A good story needs to be polished, fun, with wonderful voice and depth. It needs to provide connections. Characters need to come off the page, do something surprising. We need to love them. Think of your favorite book! Why is it your favorite? What makes you want to read it again, and again, and again... that is what an editor looks for.

While developing my character for our exercise, I was introduced in my head to Jayden Schmidt, a 17 year old who lives in a suburb of Chicago. She was raised in California, and forced to the midwest when her mom got remarried. Though she is close to her mom, she detests her step-dad. She is popular, well dressed and loves to shop, but her heart is not in it. She'd rather be in the Science lab or exploring nature. But she doesn't want to be considered a "geek." She can't stand her shallow "best friend" and misses her true friends back in CA. Though she has dated, she thinks guys are true jerks, and has yet to have a real kiss that will bring her to her knees. Her little brother makes her laugh, but her mom always makes her cry. She is still searching for her true hero.

I stalked her for about an hour. :-)

And finally from Molly that Friday, "My job is a business decision." She says. So we can't take it personally. Our stories may (or may not) be wonderful, but an editor needs to buy something that will make them money, reach the readers in multiple points, and fit into who that publisher is.


Also amazing that day was my critique. I was nervous with anticipation. I wanted to meet with Molly or Aly, two amazing publishers... I got my form and it says "Stephen Fraser," I hadn't submitted to him because I read he represents all, but was focusing on chapter books. I didn't have a chapter book to share with him, but I do have a nice little story that is ready to be bought, but wanted great feedback before sending it on after it's initial rejection, with the sweetest rejection letter. Rejections can be bitter-sweet, but it's a business decision.

So I felt a little nervous, wondering what he would tell me, and sad that I wouldn't have a chance to find my book an instant home... I did say CHANCE, not a home run. ;-) I was wrong. Everything happens for a reason.
Anyway, he loved the manuscript. He told me he could feel, taste, anticipate, touch and see the story as it unfolded. His suggestion was to add smell to round it out and gave me a nice list of places to send it. I really like him and we will see where this journey takes us. I have some work to do, but it was a wonderful experience.

He did use the word poet to me, which made my day, and for me validated that I am a writer and I have stories to share.

That evening I went to dinner with an amazing group and had fun making friends. :-)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tips on getting published

If you want to write children's books, here is what you need to do:
  1. Join Why?
    • Because it is an organization of writers, illustrators, editors, agents and others involved in the business.
    • They provide training, workshops, and how-tos
    • The website is a great resource
    • Networking, networking, networking. I am attending a workshop this weekend. 11 of the authors who have attended had book deals by the networking
  2. Do your homework. Why?
    • Editors do not like it when people do not read the guidelines
    • You won't make it out of the slush pile if an editor feels disrespected
    • Some houses like to work with new authors.
    • If you write about animals, and a publishing company says "no animals", well, you just lost credibility. Some of them will remember your name
  3. Join a critique group. Why?
    • Because no matter how good you think it is, your first draft sucks. Often we are soo excited by our words, our judgment clouds reality.
    • Others will catch what we miss, point out inconsistencies, bad word choices, under-character development, etc.
    • Networking
    • A good story will be rewritten, rewritten, and rewritten.
  4. Be prepared for rejection. Why?
    • It's part of the process, don't take it personally
    • Look at the manuscript after each round, rework, reevaluate, rewrite.
    • Don't take it personally
  5. Don't jump into self-publishing (unless you want it for a specific reason and don't care about reviews). There are reasons to do this, but I would not make it my first avenue.
    • Most publishers will not take a book after it has been self-published. It's already out there, been bought, and is not a first edition. To get their attention, it has to sell a ton, thousands, of copies
    • Name recognition. If you don't already have a reputation as an author (Stephen King could self-publish and still have a best seller), it makes it hard to get your book out there.
    • Reviews. Reviews are important to getting a book sold.
    • Editing! This is one thing that makes me cringe. So many self-publish and don't have it properly edited. I was looking through some books the other day, and saw so many minor mistakes.      Note: Editing does not mean asking your spouse, sister, or best friend to look at it.
    • For picture books, the art and words need to be designed to catch attention. This often gets missed and you have what looks like something a grade school class published.
    • Cost. A few of the books I looked at shot themselves out of the marketplace. I won't pay $22 for a picture book from an unknown author who has mistakes.
    • If you go this route, spend time researching any house you go with.
Good luck! You can do it. I did. :-)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My cover!

Here is the cover for my picture book coming out in Fall 2011!

It is fun to see what an illustrator will do with your work. Sarah brought in a horse and a bird to help move the story forward, and give a subplot!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Authors and their pets....

I am signing up for SCBWI-Iowa's conference, and have been studying the sessions and bios. I'm really excited to get to jump into some learning, and meet other writers across the state and area.

One thing that stood out to me is the mention of pets. I'm totally guilty. I have 2 boys, 2 cats, 2 birds (though we are going to donate them to a sanctuary), and 1 dog. They all just fall in line.. the kids and the pets seem to blur.

I think we like the pets because they will sit and listen to us read aloud, over and over... or maybe that is just me. My dog is at my feet during the day, and cuddles next to me at night. My husband is there, somewhere. :-)

Anyway, just thought I'd share my latest aha moment.

Until next time,