Three Questions For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate).

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Thursday
May122011

Interview: Jo Karaplis on Fractured Fairy Tales

Jo Karaplis lives and breathes books. During the day, she works for a children’s publishing house in Toronto. In the evenings, she’s usually either reading a book or working on her own. Jo's also a member of the Toronto Middle Grade/YA Writer Group (Torkidlit), which is how I met her.

Jo's website: http://www.joannakaraplis.com/

You can find also Jo on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

Love the way you told each of the three fairy tales in a slightly different style. What made you decide to use this format? How did you choose which style would be best suited to each fairy tale?

Honestly, it wasn't something I planned out in great detail beforehand. "Snow White and the Seven Dorks" was the story that came to me first. I could picture Yuki perfectly, and I knew she'd want to talk directly to the reader, so I let her be the narrator. The scene at the school dance was the most captivating for me, so I wanted to have it at the beginning of the book, but I didn't want to bog it down with back story, so I decided to switch back and forth between the action at the dance and how Yuki ended up there. 

When brainstorming about different fairy tales, Cinderella struck me as a tale that would have turned out much differently with cell phones or the internet, which gave me the idea to tell it entirely through texting and blogging. It was really fun to write, but I did worry that readers would find it unsophisticated. (Thankfully, most people who reviewed the book have really liked that story!)

I originally tried to tell the final story, a retelling of The Little Mermaid, in the third person just for variety, but it was such a personal story that I switched back to first person, which I think worked much better. Because of the ending (which I won't spoil!), it was necessary to do that one in straight chronological order.

What are some of your other favourite fairy tale retellings?  

I actually haven't read too many retellings, although I've got some on my to-read list now. And I loved the movie Tangled! 

Twisting and retelling fairy tales is an old tradition. I remember seeing fractured fairytale cartoons on Rocky & Bullwinkle reruns as a kid. When I was in high school, fractured fairy tales popped up a few times: my younger sister brought home a picture book called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Jon Scieszka), the Politically Correct Bedtime Stories series by James Finn Garner came out, and I read a few fable retellings in Margaret Atwood's Good Bones. I was inspired to do my own versions, and ended up writing a play in which a few famous fairytale princesses went on a talk show to discuss what happened after "happily ever after" (hint: they had some grievances to air!).


What was your writing process for this book? (outline first or plunge right in? how much prep? etc.)

I always plunge right in, then end up stuck, then procrastinate for a while, then do a lot of revising and outlining, then finish writing. I usually end up with notes in the manuscript like "fight scene here" so that I can come back and write that bit when I have a better idea of how it's going to unfold. I always re-read what I've written before continuing to write, so either that's a part of my process or I need to learn to turn off my editor-self when I'm writing!

Cyberella took the least revising out of all the stories: there's something about text messaging and chatting that just lends itself to speedy writing. It was fun playing the part of both Cindy and her friend Matt, and jumping rapid-fire back and forth between the two of them. It was also very quick to read back the conversation, so I could see right away if something just sounded wrong. The only hard part of writing a short story entirely in texts and blog posts was trying to describe action in enough detail that readers could picture it.

How long did the entire process take, from when you started working on it until the book made it into print?

I'd say about two years. I started writing it in April 2008, submitted the final draft two years later in April 2010, and it came out in November 2010. But part of the delay was that it was first under contract with a different publisher (same editor). I think under normal circumstances it probably would've taken about a year from first draft to publication.

How much does your experience working in the publishing industry as an editor influence you as a writer?

It doesn't affect me as a writer (that is, it hasn't made me change my writing style), but I think it makes me more realistic about being an author. I don't expect to make a living off my books (not yet, anyway!), and I know that I need to do a lot of promotion on my own (not that the publisher doesn't help, of course!). Also, I don't take rejection personally, because I understand that this is a tough industry and publishers can only take on books that they really believe in and know they can sell--and there are tons of reasons that a book can be rejected that have very little to do with the author (for example: a similar book just came out or is in the works; it's a sci-fi manuscript but the publisher only publishes poetry; the publisher's list is already booked full for a year and they don't want to hold onto something they can't publish in a timely manner, etc.).

Also, having worked with authors professionally, I know what makes someone a "dream author" and I try to keep that in mind when working with my editor!

Sounds like you're working on multiple projects at the same time. How do you manage that, in terms of work process/time?

I work on one until I get stuck or bored or both, and then I switch to one of the others. It's great because taking a break from a work in progress usually allows me to look at it with fresh eyes when I finally return to it. And it also turns my procrastination into productivity, which is an added bonus. Usually I only do this with a maximum of two projects at a time, though, and one of them typically takes up the bulk of my time whereas the secondary project just gives me a break when I'm getting burned out on the primary work.

Some authors believe that the bulk of the marketing & promotion of their books should be the publisher's responsibility, not theirs. What's your take on this?

This is such a tricky question--doubly so since I'm both an author and work in marketing at a publishing house! So I can definitely see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, there are things that a publisher definitely needs to do and is better-equipped than an author to do: make sure the book is widely available in stores and online, submit the book for awards, send the book out to reviewers, purchase advertising, promote the author to appropriate festivals and events. 

However, I believe that the author can be more effective than the publisher at personal promotion such as writing blog posts about the book, setting up and monitoring a Facebook fan page and Twitter account, giving interviews on blogs and websites, etc. Readers are much more excited about talking to or hearing from the author than the publisher, so authors should take advantage of being a literary rock star!

Also, there are some marketing and promotion techniques that aren't effective for all books, and should ideally be jointly considered by the author and publisher; some examples would be book trailers, launch parties, and giveaways. Overall, though, I'd say that the success of a book's marketing efforts hinges on communication: the author needs to tell the publisher what efforts they're making, so that the publisher can help support and publicize those efforts, and the publisher also needs to tell the author what they've planned for the book, so that the author knows which areas are covered.

How do you juggle writing vs promotion time as an author?

I have a full-time job and am also planning a wedding this year, so I'm stealing little bits of time here and there and hoping I'll have more time come winter. Last year, I participated in National Novel Writing Month and found that writing on my daily commute allowed me to make good use of all that time I spend riding the subway. I'd like to get back into that habit again this year. As for promotion, I did the bulk of it once the book was available for purchase (I had a few book launches, set up a Facebook fan page, organized a giveaway through GoodReads, contacted bloggers to set up a blog tour, etc.). Now that the book has launched, my efforts have scaled back. I have Google alerts set up so that if any reviews or mentions of my book appear online, I can add them to my website and share them with my social networks, but other than that, I've switched from promotion mode to writing mode. I think it's possible to do both at once, but you need to be quite disciplined--well, more disciplined than I am, anyway!
Any current or upcoming projects you'd like to mention?

I'm the kind of writer who loses steam if I talk about things I'm working on, so all I'll say is that I've got at least three more projects in the works, and leave it at that.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Read, read, read. Then write, write, write. Remember that you need to make bad art before you can make good art, so don't judge yourself too harshly (for example, don't compare your first drafts to a published author's masterpiece!). Find a writing community--either online or in person--who will critique your work. Go to your friends and family for praise, and your writing group for feedback. Finally, have fun!

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Where to find out more about Jo Karaplis:

Her website: http://www.joannakaraplis.com/

On Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jokaraplis

Her Facebook page

Her Goodreads page

 

 

Thursday
May122011

Cheering For Books at the Festival Of Trees / Forest Of Reading (Ontario Library Association project)

Thanks to author Lois Peterson for inviting me as a guest to the Festival Of Trees event today.  I had a ton of fun wandering around the event, seeing authors give workshops and talks, attending some of the awards ceremonies, chatting with other attendees.

And WOW, I've never seen kids SO EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS. Seriously. The audience reaction reminded of a rock concert crowd...except these kids were cheering and screaming about BOOKS. How cool is that? So inspiring and exciting.

Also great to finally meet Arthur Slade, Monica Kulling, Christie Harkin and Sharon Jennings in person after exchanging tweets/posts with them online, meeting Jill Maclean, and Sylvia Olsen. Talked iPads with Eric Walters, who is taking his iPad with him when he climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro this summer (!).

For those who aren't familiar with the Forest Of Reading project, it's a program where students read a selection of books nominated by professionals from schools and public libraries across Ontario, and then vote for their favorite. Unlike most literary awards, these awards are chosen by young readers.

Congrats to all the Forest Of Reading nominees and winners!

You can find out more about this Ontario Library Association project at www.accessola.com/reading.

Wednesday
May112011

Me and My Stylish Blogger Award (and 10 Things About Me You May Or May Not Know)

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Thanks to school librarian Lynda Shoup for the Stylish Blogger Award:

Stylish blogger award8

Heh. The award immediately inspired the cartoon above.

Apparently I'm supposed to tell you all 7-10 things about myself and then pass the award along to someone else. So here are some things about me that you may or may not know:

1. I work in a basement office which both Jeff and I nickname The Cave. There are small windows near the ceiling but I cover them up with scarves for privacy. I painted a tree on the wall. There are floating piles of books in its branches.

2. My music group recently put out a Mockumentary DVD which has some of our concert song performances on it! In one, Jean-Luc Picard dances with me. Here's the trailer I made on YouTube about it. You can buy a copy for $20 (plus shipping/handling) in our Urban Tapestry shop. And yes, I'm shameless!

3. I sold a website.

4. I was a clown in the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. Here's proof.

5. I have a weakness for miniature food.

6. A lot of people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually an introvert at heart. While I love hanging out with and meeting creative people, I need solitude to recharge.

7. I'm a board gamer. Jeff and I recently came home from a 10-day board gaming event (Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends) and those 10 days went by SO fast. I post board gaming comics and news on BoardGameBook.com as I work on a book which I am hoping will get more people into the hobby. Also see my profile on BoardGameGeek.com. Alan Moon just released a fabulous new game called Airlines Europe, by the way: a fun family strategy game!

8. I'm illustrating my first picture book! It's called I'M BORED and is written by actor/comedian/writer Michael Ian Black. Simon & Schuster is publishing it in 2012.

9. I have a meeting at Simon & Schuster in NYC next week, woohoo! We're going to be doing the first pass at the final layout of I'M BORED. Very excited.

10. I'm attending the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA this August (booking my flights today!).

And now I'm bestowing the Stylish Blogger Award onto my writer chef pal:

Amanda

AMANDA SNYDER

for her blog, MY LIPS ARE RED

As you can see from the photo to the right, Amanda is a MUCH more Stylish Blogger than I am. :-)

 

 

Monday
May092011

Writer's Block song from Debs and Errol

Writer's Block by DebsAndErrol

Above: A fun song from Debs & Errol (a.k.a. Deborah Linden & Errol Elumir). Errol & Deborah are looking for new song ideas, by the way. If you'd like them to come up with some more writing-related songs, do go over to their CD Song Contest page and post your song ideas! You may win a free CD.

Saturday
May072011

Interview: Hélène Boudreau on book tours, writing, promotion and MERMAIDS

Toronto author Hélène Boudreau writes fiction and nonfiction for children and young adults. I first met Hélène at a Torkidlit group tweetup and have continued to be impressed by her never-ending positive creative energy, ability to juggle multiple projects AND her online promotion skills.

Her tween novel, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings  was a 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award Finalist.

Last year you went on a book tour. How did that go?

The book tour was great! I spent a week in New Brunswick, touring schools, as part of the Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award program. Atlantic Canadian students from grades 4-6 spend the school year reading from a selection of nominated books and then vote for their favourites. My middle grade book, ACADIAN STAR, was nominated in 2010 and I was invited to visit a total of five libraries where I met hundreds of kids who'd taken part in the program.  

What was your favourite part of the book tour?

My favourite part of the tour was meeting all the students. These kids were reading superstars! Some of them had read up to 13 books for the program and had so many great questions during my presentations. It was easy to tell that they came well prepared! The final day of the tour was the awards ceremony. Six hundred kids packed the auditorium with signs, banners and costumes, representing their favourite books. It was pretty inspiring to hear an auditorium filled with kids, cheering and going crazy for BOOKS! That's pretty much any children's author's dream.

During your tour, did you get any writing done?

I had one or two presentations each day plus travelling but I had a bit of down time during the tour to get some work done. I worked on a picture book revision and made a bit of progress on a young adult novel I've been working on. Most of my stay was in Fredericton, which is beautiful, so I took advantage of the pretty scenery and spent a lot of time walking along the St. John River. It was actually very restful (no laundry, no dishes, no cooking) and a nice change from my usual mom/writing/work mode.  

How did you get your book tour? Did you plan it or did someone else arrange it?

The tour was all arranged for me by Hackmatack and the New Brunswick Public Library system. They arranged everything from my air travel and accommodations, booking the sessions and shuttling me from place to place. They were wonderful hosts!  

So you're working on a picture and a YA novel at the same time? How to manage your work time?

I usually work on several projects at once and try to manage my writing time in the same way as I approached projects when I worked in a more traditional office job. I prioritize projects depending on their deadlines or scope and keep an ongoing to-do list to help stay on track. It can be a bit of a juggling act but it definitely keeps things interesting!

Do you find any challenges in writing for multiple genres?

I think being a writer is a lot like being an actor in many ways. Whether I’m writing a picture book or a young adult novel, I need to understand my character’s motivations, wants and needs before I can step into that role. The difference is that I need to tell those stories from different perspectives, depending on the age and maturity of my character. So, yes, working in multiple genres has its challenges, but that's also part of the fun.

What advice do you have for authors considering doing a book tour?

Pack lightly! Try to choose clothes and footwear you can wear multiple times or hand-wash easily. Non-wrinkle clothing and neutrals work especially well. You may have some downtime, so be sure to pack good walking shoes and outdoor clothing you can layer so you'll be ready to explore your destination city, whatever the weather.

Be flexible! Other opportunities like extra appearances, media interviews or dinners may crop up while you're on tour. It's okay to decline if you're strapped for time but be open to new possibilities.

Be adaptable! Travel arrangements don't always pan out (I was bumped on both my outbound and inbound flights) so have a book or your laptop ready to fit in a bit of work.

Have fun! The best part of book tours is meeting readers so make a special effort to meet and talk to as many readers as possible.

Any advice for hopeful children's writers?
 
That's a toughie, because I'm trying to think of words of wisdom that may have helped me just a few short years ago. It's so hard to stay on course when you have no idea if your efforts will ever amount to anything but you just never know when your time will come. Mainly, I'd encourage hopeful children's writers to write with confidence, even if you don't feel it. To leave it all on the page and not spare a drop. So much of this business is out of our control, but what we can control is the effort and mindset we put forth. So, I'd say; set clear, definable goals and walk confidently toward them.
 
Or, fake it 'til you make it. ;-)

When it comes to effective use of the Internet for author/book promotion, you're one of the best. How do you manage your time re: promotion vs writing?
 
Gosh, I don't know that I'm that effective but I do know that I enjoy social media and love connecting with people that way. Managing my time can be tough especially around book launches or when I'm travelling to conferences and such but I try not to procrastinate on the writing side of things so that I don't get buried by deadlines. That way, if unexpected things come up like trips, (chicken pox), or new projects I've got a bit of wiggle room. As far as fitting in time for social media, that's a must for me. I can't be creative 100% of the time and the internet is a good outlet for interaction and idea-sharing.

What are you working on now?
 
I'm getting ready for the release of the second book in my RED DUNE ADVENTURES junior chapter book series (WATER HAZARD, Nimbus Publishing, spring 2011) and writing the SEA-quel to REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, Dec 2010). The new one is called REAL MERMAIDS SHOULDN'T HOLD THEIR BREATH and it will be out in spring 2012. I also just finished revisions on my picture book which will be out in 2013. The illustrator has started sketching so I'm excited to see what the artwork will look like.

Sneak peek trailer for REAL MERMAIDS SHOULDN'T HOLD THEIR BREATH (official trailer coming out later):

 

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For more info about Hélène and her projects, see:

Her website: http://www.heleneboudreau.com/

On Twitter: @HeleneBoudreau

Her books:

WATER HAZARD, Nimbus Publishing, 2011
REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS, Jabberwocky, 2010
KEEP OUT!, Nimbus Publishing, 2010
ACADIAN STAR, Nimbus Publishing, 2008

Upcoming:

REAL MERMAIDS SHOULDN'T HOLD THEIR BREATH, Jabberwocky, 2012
REAL MERMAIDS BOOK 3, Jabberwocky, 2012
I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN, Candlewick, 2013
EVANGELINE FOR YOUNG READERS, TBD

and non-fiction too:

LIVING IN A RESIDENTIAL CITY, Crabtree Publishing
LIVING IN A FISHING COMMUNITY, Crabtree Publishing
SPORT SCIENCE: SWIMMING, Crabtree Publishing
MIRACULOUS MEDICINE, Crabtree Publishing
CRIMEBUSTING & DETECTION, Crabtree Publishing

Saturday
May072011

Writer Unboxed Comic: Mother's Day

Just posted a Mother's Day comic over on Writer Unboxed, for those interested.

Thursday
May052011

Torkidlit Tweetup: May 4th

Torkidlit2011 05 Collage 010

I had a lot of fun at last night's tweetup of the Toronto Area Middle Grade & Young Adult Author Group. We've moved to a new location: The Bedford Academy near Avenue Road and Bloor. The place has a laid-back pub atmosphere; I recognized it from when I attended the National Cartoonists' Christmas party (Canadian chapter) a couple of years ago.

Claudia Osmond, Nelsa Roberto, and I treated Maureen McGowan to dinner in celebration for her birthday before the official tweetup started. I think I might make a habit of showing up early for the tweetups to have dinner with other earlybirds; I find it gets a bit noisy later (I sometimes found it a challenge hearingthe person across the table).

BookCollage 001Anyway, here's a list of the people at last night's gathering:

Claudia Osmond

Maureen McGowan

Megan Crewe

Adrienne Kress

Nelsa Roberto

Humberta Araujo - Humberta's first tweetup! Great to meet her.

Patricia Storms

Jo Karaplis

Anna Humphrey

To find out more about upcoming author events and more about each author, see our Facebook page:

Torkidlit News: Toronto Area Middle Grade & YA Author Group

If you're a middle grade or young adult writer in the Toronto area who are interested in attending our monthly get-togethers, join our Facebook group:

Toronto Area Middle Grade & YA Author Group

 

 

Tuesday
May032011

Using Story A Day May and NaPiBoWriWee To Brainstorm Book Ideas

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At first I was torn between participating in Story A Day May and NaPiBoWriWee, but then I realized that I can do both. I'm using these two challenges to come up a month's worth of picture book story ideas. I'm aiming for an average on one picture book story a day.

These stories will obviously be VERY rough and will be far from polished, but each will have a beginning, a middle and an end. In terms of the Story A Day challenge, my stories are going to be super short .

I figured I wouldn't have time to enter StoryADayMay until Julie said that the stories could even be Twitter-length. Geez, I thought. I could do do that! In fact, I was pretty confident I could do longer stories that would be a bare bones outline that I could choose to polish later.

When the challenge is over, I'm going to cull the list to my the top favourites and will start polishing each: fine-tuning the story, paging them out into picture book format, starting rough sketches.

What about the rest of you? Are you participating? If so, what are your goals? It's not too late to jump in, by the way. Today's only Day 3 of each challenge.

I interviewed the founders of each challenge recently, which you can read below:

Interview with Paul Yoo about National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee)

Interview with Julie Duffy about Story A Day May

Tuesday
May032011

Interview: Middle Grade & YA Author Adrienne Kress On Writing, Acting & The Friday Society

 

Adrienne Kress is a Toronto born actor and author who loves to play make-believe.  She also loves hot chocolate.  And cheese.  And her cat Atticus.

She is the author of two middle grade books: Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and Timothy and the Dragon's Gate (Weinstein Books) as well as a theatre graduate of the University of Toronto and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in the UK.  Published around the world, Alex was featured in the New York Post as a "Post Potter Pick", as well as on the CBS Early Show. It won the Heart of Hawick Children's Book Award in the UK and was nominated for the Red Cedar. The sequel, Timothy, was nominated for the Audie and Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards, and was recently optioned for film. 

Her debut YA, The Friday Society (Dial), comes out in the fall of 2012.

Find out more about Adrienne at Adriennekress.com and on Twitter at @adriennekress.

Which came first, acting or writing?

I've been creating stories my whole life. I would play make believe with my friends and we'd create little plays to perform. And I would dictate stories to my dad who would then type them up on the Commodore 64. But as far as a profession goes, acting was my first goal.

I became a drama major at the age of 11 at an arts school in Toronto, and continued as such through highschool and then majored in it at University. I moved to London England to study it. All along the way, however, I was writing: taking writing courses, entering contests, and then eventually writing plays which I would then direct.

It wasn't until after university, though, that I considered writing a viable career path to follow as well. So technically you could say acting first, but both passions have been around since before I can remember.  

What was your first writing sale?

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (though I did produce my own play "A Weekend in the Country" at both the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Toronto Summerworks Theatre Festivals prior to that sale)

Did you or do you have a writing mentor?

My father has always been my writing mentor. He taught high school creative writing, in fact it was such a popular course that students would stay an extra semester to attend it. It was one of those wonderful rare cases where someone taking his work home with him was a wonderful treat for his daughter.

He taught me how to write poetry (and would always write me and my mother poems for special occasions), encouraged me to write any kind of fiction and was extremely supportive and proud of what I did, and importantly introduced me to many different and interesting authors by reading to me every night before bed.

After that I suppose my other mentor would have had to be Canadian playwright Djanet Sears who taught my playwrighting course in my last year of University. She was great.

What I admired most of all was that she was able to be critical of a work and at the same time respect the genre and vision of the student, never imposing her own personal tastes onto our work. She was also the first person who ever told me that writing was something I could do as a profession.

She said that she knew how focused I was on acting, but that she hoped I would return to writing someday because I was very good at it. It was the first time I'd ever considered writing as anything more than a hobby. It was a turning point for me.  


What's your typical work day?

I don't really have one. I have tried numerous times to create a schedule to stick to, but it always falls to the side.

What I do do is set a writing goal to reach. That way it doesn't matter what I do with my day, I have to have finished my writing goal by the end of it. So if I decide I want to sleep in, that's awesome, but it means I'm staying up late to finish my writing.

Typically when I'm working on something it's a 2000 words a day goal. Sometimes as a deadline looms that can go up to 5000. I also do a lot of school visits and presentations, so that can also be a very full day.

Being an actor also means that on occasion I have to drop everything and go to an audition, which is always last minute. I suppose the closest thing I have to a schedule is I try to write during the day and go out at night.

Working from home can be very lonely and isolating, so I try to make sure I see my friends and family as often as possible. Since most of them work 9 - 5, I try to do the same. It doesn't always work though, there are times I'm still at my computer at midnight.

Could you tell us about your new book, The Friday Society?

Sure!  It's my first foray into young adult (teen) fiction.  I like to call it Steampunk Charlie's Angels without the Charlie (because it's very important to me that these girls are in charge of themselves, not taking orders from some faceless dude).  It's set in London, 1900, and is about three female assistants to three very powerful men in London society:  Cora Bell - personal/lab assistant to a Member of Parliament and genius inventor; Michiko Takeda - fight assistant to a self-defense guru; Nellie Harrison - magician's assistant to the very popular Great Raheem.  They find themselves drawn together through a series of mysterious events (murder, thievery and whatnot) happening around London and eventually decide to team up to solve what's going on together as The Friday Society.   Lots of action, comedy, cool costumes and inventions, along with some pretty fun characters.  I'm very excited about it.  It comes out Fall 2012, from Dial.

What about the two short stories you have in upcoming anthologies?

Well technically it's one short story and one essay.  The short story is called "The Clockwork Corset" and appears in the YA Steampunk Romance Anthology CORSETS & CLOCKWORK.  It's about a wealthy 16 year old girl, Imogen, who falls in love with Rafe, the son of the clock winder on her father's estate. When Rafe is sent off to war, she fears for his safety and so follows . . . disguised as a boy.  I call it a mini-novel because it's really structured more like one than a short story, despite the low word count, and a lot of stuff happens in it.  It's a rollicking adventure you could say :) .

The essay is called "The Inevitable Decline of Decadence" and is in the HUNGER GAMES essay anthology THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE.  The anthology consists of essays analysing the awesome that is the young adult series the Hunger Games, and as a pretty big fan of the books I was really thrilled to be asked to contribute to it.  My essay is pretty much about what its title suggests: the decline of decadence, how a decadent society is doomed to fail.  I explain why, and cite examples the from the books themselves as well as throughout history.  

Both books are available right now in bookstores and online actually, which is really exciting!

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Find out more about Adrienne at Adriennekress.com and on Twitter at @adriennekress.

Monday
May022011

Carmella Van Vleet on writing nonfiction & SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD


7 wondersI feel very lucky to be part of the MiG Writers' Critique Group. Recently, one of our members debuted a nonfiction book: SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD - Discover Amazing Monuments To Civilizations.

Carmella Van Vleet was kind (or brave?) enough to let her fellow MiG writers interview her. Do visit our MiG Writers' blog for some of Carmella's insights into writing nonfiction for young people as well as a chance to win an autographed copy of her new book.

Saturday
Apr302011

Paula Yoo and National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee)

National Picture Book Writing Week starts tomorrow! Founder Paul Yoo explains the event...

What exactly is NaPiBoWriWee?

NaPiBoWriWee stands for National Picture Book Writing Week. The goal is to write 7 picture books in 7 days. I have to clarify this by stating that I do NOT think picture book writing is easy. On the contrary, it's incredibly difficult. This was just a fun event I started to inspire myself and others to stop procrastinating by trying to not only write but FINISH an entire picture book draft. That way, once you have the first draft (or seven first drafts!) done, then you can take your time and revise them and polish them until they are ready to be submitted.

What motivated you to start the event?

I was inspired by the National Novel Writing Month (aka "NaNoWriMo") in which people try to write a novel in 30 days. I wanted to motivate myself to stop pcroastinating and finish a couple of picture book drafts I had
ignored for way too long, so I created this fun event to see if I could finally write these drafts. I had no idea this fun event would turn into an international phenomenon. I hope people are inspired to stop procrastinating and just get that first draft FINISHED. That's half the battle - finish a first draft!


Apart from NaPiBoWriWee, what are you working on now?

I am currently a writer and producer for the show EUREKA which airs on SyFy. The paperback edition of my 2008 YA novel debut "Good Enough" comes out June 7, 2011 from HarperCollins / HarperTeen. And I'm of course working
on more book ideas - both novels and picture books - whenever I have spare time! :)

Friday
Apr292011

Julie Duffy on the Story A Day May Challenge

Starting Sunday, May 1st: Story A Day May Challenge! Founder of the challenge, Julie Duffy, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the event for me:

What exactly IS Story A Day May?

Story A Day is creativity challenge for writers: write (and finish)
a short story every day in May. It's quite silly in a way because it's
an almost-impossible challenge. In another way it's quite serious (and
plenty of writers take it that way) because committing to writing a
lot is a fabulous way to learn how to write well. Possibly the only
way.

What motivated you to start the event?

I had always written but life kept getting in the way and my
writing was slowing down. I was sick of starting stories and not
finishing them. I was starting to think I couldn't write. I was
intrigued by the idea of NaNoWriMo but wasn't interested in writing a
novel. So I decided to adopt NaNoWriMo's hell-for-leather approach and
commit to writing a story a day for a month. I know it seems strange
when I wasn't writing anything at all, to decide on such a huge goal,
but it inspired me. And, as it turned out, lots of other writers too.

How did the event go last year?

I knew I had to make the goal public so that I didn't give up. As
soon as the idea hit the web, people started pledging to join me, and
we ended up with about 80 people writing every day. Only a handful

came out with all 31 stories, but many people wrote more than they had
in years, and some people ended up taking their stories and doing very
cool things with them (expanding them into novels, polishing them and
getting them published, entering them into contests and events...).

Loads of people used Story A Day May to get excited about their
writing again, and to remind themselves that yes, they could write.

Any advice for writers who are thinking about signing up but are worried they might not be able to finish?

First, carry a note-book around and capture ideas wherever
you are. Capture ideas all day long. Writing a story a day requires
lots of story sparks that you can call on when you sit down to write.T

Keep the challenge fun by interacting with other people at the site
(http://storyaday.org). There's a social network with groups and
forums and a news feed. Some of the writers are teaming up into
accountability groups, others do this on a more informal basis. There
is no greater feeling than posting "Today's story is finished" in the
"Victory Dance" group at the site, and watching the congratulations
roll in.

And remember that you're aiming to write first drafts and they can be
any length. Some days all you're going to have the mental energy for
is a Twitter-length story and that's fine. Any creative attempt keeps
your brain in that "writer's space" and makes it easier to write again
tomorrow.

Finally, set your own rules: if you need to, decide that you'll take
Sundays and Wednesdays off, for example.

On some level, any writing is better than no writing. Last year so
many writers told me they amazed themselves by how much they wrote and
how happy they were, that I couldn't resist doing this again. If your
writing needs a kick in the pants, come and join us!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Anyone who signs up for the StoryADay Mailing list automatically gets the StoryADay Creative Challenge
workbook which walks the through the decision process and provides a personalised reference for the days when it gets tough.

It works for any creative challenge and helps you analyze:

*how you'll make time for writing

*how you'll find ideas

*what you have to lose or gain from trying

*practicalities of writing every day

---

For more info about Story A Day May, see http://storyaday.org/

You can also find Story A Day May on Facebook.

Thursday
Apr282011

Inspiration from Libba Bray

Love this quote from Libba Bray's latest blog post:

This is the magic/curse of writing: That in crafting your fiction, you leave yourself open to sudden moments of unguarded truth, and you have to be willing to tolerate that again and again. You have to keep raising your sword and charging, even knowing you could retreat scorched and missing a limb. You have to keep doing it even when you don’t want to. Especially when you don’t want to.

Tuesday
Apr262011

New Will Write For Chocolate comic

Musehousecleaning 007 500

Posted a new comic on Will Write For Chocolate.

Tuesday
Apr262011

Comic: Exclamation Abuse Support Center

ExclamationPointAbuse 007 500

Monday
Apr252011

Comic: Critique Betrayal

Tuesday
Apr192011

PiBoIdMo and Tara Lazar

Tara Lazar is a children’s book author, mother, foodie and founder of Picture Book Idea Month (a.k.a. "PiBoIdMo"). Her first picture book, The Monstore, will be published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2013. Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find out more about Tara at her blog: http://taralazar.wordpress.com/

And stay tuned for PiBoIdMo 2011 this November!

What inspired you to start PiBoIdMo?

I got active in the online kidlit community in November of 2007. I learned about NaNoWriMo  immediately--EVERYONE was chatting about it. I was jealous of novel writers having all the fun, so the following November I decided I would do something to inspire me as a picture book writer. I'd created one new picture book concept a day. I didn't make it through the whole month, though. I finished with 22 ideas, but one of them was for THE MONSTORE, my upcoming book with Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.


How many years have you run PiBoIdMo?

PiBoIdMo 2008 wasn't official, it was just me and a few local writing friends. I ran PiBoIdMo on my blog for the first time in November 2009. This past November was the 2nd year for the blog-based event.


How successful has it been?

The first year I ran PiBoIdMo, I didn't have a sign-up period, so I don't know how many people participated, but a little over 100 signed the pledge at the end, confirming they had at least 30 ideas. My website received 15,000 hits during November 2009, which, at the time, was the most active month the site ever had.

For PiBoIdmO 2010, there was a sign-up period which logged 404 particpants, with 201 completing the challenge. Web hits soared to 30,000 for the month and my blog was ranked in the top 100 book blogs by Technorati, making it as high as #10. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the participators! Many blogged their daily progress. Megan K. Bickel, for instance, put her own spin on PiBoIdMo by creating ideas in alphabetical order.

And PiBoIdMo has netted others contracts and awards. Corey Rosen Schwartz came up with the idea for GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS during PiBoIdMo 2009, which was bought by Putnam in 2010. Diana Murray wrote a manuscript from a PiBoIdMo idea which won the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant. Those are the two PiBoIdMo success stories I know of, and I'm sure there's more to come! I hope people will contact me with their good news.


Have you enjoyed running it?

It's been a blast running it, but also a lot of work. The first year, I decided to do a daily post after I had already recruited guest bloggers. There were 15 guest bloggers, which meant I had to write 15 posts on my own. That was a bit much, so in 2010 I decided to schedule more guest bloggers. The response was surprising--there were more volunteers than days in November! So some of the guest spots rolled into early December. I had so much fun putting the posts together; I felt privileged to read all the great advice before anyone else.

Next year I might need a PiBoIdMo assistant! So many people volunteered prizes that I'm still doling them out in January!

Monday
Apr112011

Want To Write? 18 Great Writers & Thinkers Show You How (Guest Post: Julie Duffy)

Julie Duffy is a writer and the host of StoryADay.org, a creative writing challenge held in May every year. This Friday, March 25 is the start of her 3-week Warm Up Your Writing short story course. (http://storyaday.org/wucourse/)

I was tickled to see Debbie's recent cartoon, No Magic Beans, Just Write because I was researching that very topic for this blogpost. There is a curious truth about the writing life: You could wait your whole life for time and the inspiration to write, but it is not until you force yourself to simply start, that either will turn up.

JUST WRITE

The good news is that the more you force yourself to sit down and write, the more inspiration and writing time you'll find. And the happier and saner you'll be. I'm certainly not the first person to discover this:

Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work. - Horace
Nothing will work unless you do. - Maya Angelou
Laziness may appear attractive but work gives satisfaction. - Anne Frank
The harder I work, the luckier I get. - Samuel Goldwyn
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. - Vince Lombardi

Of course, the problem with reading inspiritional quotes is that they can leave you feeling like, well, a bit of a slacker. You might agree with all of those quotes, but still find it difficult to sit down and write. You need more than motivational tidbits. You need a little empathy, support and a few good tactics to help you get through the difficult labour that comes with delivering a story to the world. I can help you there, too.

DON'T FEEL BAD: IT IS HARD!

You're not the only one to find it hard to be creative. Perhaps it would help you to think of this difficulty as a noble, essential part of the process. Andre Gide did:

Art begins with resistance - at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.

Well, that makes it seem a little better, doesn't it? And if you want to feel even better about the bullets you're sweating, how about a little Thomas Carlyle:

Every noble work is at first impossible.

We're doing the impossible here, folks. So don't feel bad when you're finding it a bit tricky to plot out the next chapter. And know that even experienced writers feel the same fear you do as you plonk your inadequate words down on the page or screen.

We sit there alone, pounding out words, with our hearts pounding in time. Each sentence brings the sickening sensation of not being right. - Isaac Asimov

Wait! Isaac Asimove?! Didn't he write about five hundred books, including no less than a complete, annotated companion to the Old Testament?! OK I'm starting to feel a bit more grounded. How about you?

TACTICS FOR OVERCOMING RESISTANCE

Start - You can plan all you like, but until you start writing, you're just procrastinating:

Procrastination happens before hard work. Incubation happens after hard work. - Mark McGuinness

When you have started work on a project, only then you can stare into space productively - wrestling with character traits or searching for one perfect word. If you are staring into space before you've started writing, you're probably just killing time or arguing with your inner critic. And I'm not sure how we think tomorrow is going to be better if we haven't started writing today, but it is a favourite stalling tactic of writers. Elbert Hubbard, however, quite sensibly points out that,

The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.

Ah. Good point. Turn Up - Even if you think of yourself as the kind of person who doesn't like routines, you have to commit to turning up and writing on a regular schedule. Don't resist this step. It will really help, I promise, and so does my pal Gustav,

Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work. - Gustave Flaubert.

And when it is hard to turn up because you are second-guessing yourself, turn to everyone's favorite failure, Vincent Van Gogh, who cries,

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint' then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

Sensible man, that Vincent. Make Mistakes - Remember: it does not have to be perfect in the first draft.

The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first draft. - Anne Lammott

That's a blunt way of putting it. They don't have to be that bad, but you have to be willing to allow them to be. You can clean up later,

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. - Scott Adams

And even then don't worry too much about getting it all right.

The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing. - Eugene Delacroix

Our old friend Isaac Asimov writes stories full of great ideas, but no-one ever accused him of writing brilliant, well-rounded female characters. That doesn't make him a worthless writer, as his billions of sales attest. Don't try to be perfect --- and bland! If All Else Fails, Steal - If you are having trouble writing it's no surprise. You're trying to juggle with five balls in the air. You're thinking about character, plot, setting, language and dialogue - and that's after you've carved out time, hog-tied your inner critic and decided on a topic. Sometimes it's all too much. So don't be afraid to steal one or more elements, to free your brain. After all, Lionel Trilling said,

Immature artists imitate. Mature artists steal.

He has a point. If you're having trouble getting started, warm up by re-writing a fairy story, or steal a character from real life. Steal from nature: go outside and describe a maple tree in spring. Steal someone else's framework (it worked for Neil Gaiman, who stole the Jungle Book's structure, hung his own story on it and went on to win about seven thousand awards, including the Newberry Medal). We don't have to make all this stuff up. We just have to put our own twist on it. Which is impossible for us not to do anyway. Hooray!

REAP THE REWARDS

Procrastination is exhausting. Physically, if you tend to clean your house or exercise to avoid writing; mentally if your favorite sport is 'beating myself up about not writing'. Yes, writing is difficult. And scary. And frustrating. It is hard work. Well, what more could you ask for in your life? No, seriously. Theodore Roosevelt nailed it, saying,

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

And your writing is work worth doing, not only if you become a published author with riches and fame. It is important for your quality of life and your mental health. And if that sounds unreasonable, that's OK with me, and it's OK with GK Chesterton:

The Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god of both imagination and of sanity. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom...Most of the very great poets have been not only sane but extremely businesslike…

So yes, writing is hard; and no, you're not alone. Equip yourself with tactics for the tough times, get writing and get ready to reap the rewards.

Some Useful Further Reading

How To Write First Thing In The Morning - Leo Babauta

Write First - My own call to action on this topic: http://storyaday.org/write-first/

Procrastination vs Incubation - Mark McGuinness's excellent article on the topic: http://www.wishfulthinking.co.uk/2007/10/23/whats-the-difference-between-incubation-and-procrastination/

Thursday
Apr072011

Torkidlit Loves Japan!

Here's a video I took on my point-and-shoot last night at the monthly get-together of the Toronto Area Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group, for TorontoToJapan.ca.

For more info about Torkidlit members, please do visit the Torkidlit Facebook page.

Monday
Apr042011

Comic: Hazards of Being A Writer