Thursday, December 29, 2011

Biggest Hit of the Season

All right--I know I swore at some point I'd never blog about cat stuff, but this thing is just too darn surprising not to share in case any of you have feline friends in the house. Anyway, hands down, the most loved Christmas gift this year? The Super Scratcher +, a cardboard box with sideways-cut cardboard inside that you sprinkle with catnip. We have three cats, and they're all fighting over this thing. One of them (our alpha cat) just sits on top of the thing, seemingly guarding it from the other two cats for hours at a time. As soon as she's in the litter box, eating, or in another room, though, the other two kitties take advantage of her absence, trying to sneak turns using it.

I know my kids like the Christmas presents we got them, and my dog's been carrying around his new toy squirrel nonstop, but the level of hysteria around this silly cardboard contraption (which is so basic, anyone could make one themselves using a sharp knife and a couple of old moving boxes) floors me. Any surprise holiday gift hits in your family this year?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Anyone Heard of This?

Okay. I realize I'm often the last to know about these things, since I'm not afraid to admit how techtarded I am, but has anyone out there heard of While paranoidly checking page 2 of my own Google profile for anything untoward (like that one horrible short story that refuses to go 404 error and die), I ran across my Klout listing for the first time. Apparently, I am an influencer regarding dogs, books, and writing, in that order. But I'm only a "dabbler," so I guess I'm not that influential in the larger scope of things, so I should just get over it and stop Googling myself.

With that disclaimer in mind, however, my question is still, Really? I have a dog, a wonderful dog who's sitting right next to me as I type this, but I don't often (if ever) mention him. So how'd I rate as a dog-topic person before writing and books? I know it's silly to second-guess search engines and such, but I'm perplexed. Maybe it's the comments I make about other people's dogs? I have cats, too, but I guess they're a secret.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Party Time

So last night, I went to a big party. One of at least five evites I'd received in the past couple weeks, I wrote down the day and time in my calendar, then moved on with life. Not sure if it was going to be a dressy affair or a casual night, I settled on wearing an understated black outfit with a pair of heels that are cute but not too uncomfortable--basically, my equivalent of what Sue Grafton fans will recognize as Kinsey's all-purpose black dress.

Before I even made it inside the building, I realized I should have read the evite more carefully. Event staff were busy inflating a bouncy-house-like cushion around a mechanical bull at the edge of the parking lot. The sidewalk leading the the front entrance was strewn with hay. A small army of barrel-shaped barbecues rimmed the buffet line, which was stacked with paper plates. And then I went inside.

Although in the presence of a totally warm and welcoming crowd, I no longer felt comfy in my all-purpose party outfit. The only one not wearing a cowboy hat and boots, I lamented the fact that I didn't even have a bandanna to wrap stage-coach-robber-style around my neck.

I wasn't the only one who didn't dress to the theme, however. Out of the approximately three hundred people at the party, I counted at least four others (hey, Gina! Steven! Mark! Chris!) who wore normal clothes. And the food was delicious! Next time, though, I'll scroll all the way down, taking time to read the whole evite.

Update: Found some video footage of the party.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TV Party

To anyone out there who gets my Black Flag/Repo Man quasi-joke, you're my friend. And probably almost as old as me. Either that or you're way too good with your pop culture history. Drop me a line and we'll do People magazine crosswords together while snacking on vanilla Zingers, drinking Tapa Punch.

That said, I should note that I was pretty much raised by Mike and Carol Brady, Mom and Pops Racer, Spider-Man (in color!), and Gilligan and the Skipper (Hale represent!) before delving into the subject vexing me today: The new season of The Bachelor, starting January 2 (8/7 c).

As in, why in the heck did they choose Ben F. to be the next Bachelor, when Ryan from Newport Beach (or was he from Corona del Mar?) would have been infinitely more entertaining??? Not to be mean to Ben, since he looks like a nice enough guy, but let's face it: nice doesn't make for good TV. Yes, his mother and sister seem to have way too much influence on his life, but so what? Unless someone at ABC orders him to stand up to the women in his family or no paycheck, I don't see many fireworks in the forecast for the next season of The Bachelor.

Now, Ryan, on the other hand--there's some inherent conflict. He reads books about how to make your relationship great, yet he has to come on The Bachelorette in his early 30s to find a date since he hasn't yet been able to find that special someone, despite being a hot-looking, successful, self-made businessman. He's an environmentalist prone to waxing on about the efficiency of tankless water heaters, yet he sports no facial hair and has an overly neat haircut. He bugs the crap out of all the other guys on the show, yet we girls at home have no qualms with him, making us wonder, what gives? Do the guys know something that's not making it on camera?

In his final episode with Bachelorette Ashley, upon being dumped, Ryan asks her, "You don't want to meet my family?" To that, my daughter and I both yelled at the same time, "I want to meet your family!!!" As in, we've got to see the family that spawned this guy. Because is he too good to be true, too perfect to be straight, or is he on the verge of cracking into a media-exposure-hungry egotist like former Bachelorette contestant Jake? Or did ABC ask him and Ryan said no, since he couldn't afford to waste any more time away from his expanding solar business empire (and after being on The Bachelorette, now he gets plenty of chicks)?

I know it's all cheese and the entire concept is unbelievably contrived, but I can't help being curious. Maybe I'm the only one out there beside Irwin Handleman who cares, but still. Not until the show loses Chris Harrison, with his deadpan snarky comments between rose ceremonies, will I stop watching.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Writing Negative Reviews

So I have question for everyone out there: When faced with unpleasant consumer experiences, do you write negative reviews online?

I hate doing it, but I also feel a sense of duty to warn others when something goes awry and management doesn't try to assuage my concerns and/or problems with a business. Anyway, you can probably guess what I just got done doing. It sucks, yeah, but I asked for help from the entity that let me down and was refused. Upon receiving that refusal, I wrote back to warn them I'd be making my disappointment public, then waited a day to make good on my promise (hoping they'd offer better customer service).

With books, I tend to keep my opinions to myself if I don't like a title, since taste is subjective, but I know others feel differently. That said, what's your policy on reviewing?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Okay. I know I shouldn't let this bother me, since it's like, *whatever*. But still. Every time one of my friends from high school defriends me (because yes, this has happened before), it kind of feels like high school all over again. The silly thing is, I probably wouldn't have even noticed except I happened to remember this person's birthday was today, but when I went to post a happy b-day comment, their profile was no longer on my list. Wondering if it'd perhaps been taken down for professional reasons or something, I checked a mutual friend's profile, and there it was--still there, but no longer connected to mine!!!

Want to hear the even sillier part? I write edgy teen fiction. With edgy scenes that will probably appeal to quite a few people but that will make others hate me. So I really shouldn't care about stuff like this. I should consider this a warm-up for having my work scrutinized by strangers. Maybe a warm-up for having my work derided by people I know. Anyway, guess it's not enough just to remember angst--I get to experience it all over again, albeit in a smaller dose this time around.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In the cave for a few more days

Eye drops. Coffee. Slippers. Halloween candy. And let's face it--Desitin. Gross, yeah, but you writers out there spending serious time glued to your chairs know what I'm talking about. Anyway, the goal is to be done with the final final revision (ha!) by this Sunday night. My agent wants to send that rock-star editor I've been raving about (in the posts I deleted since I didn't want to sound like a loser who can't get things right the first time around) an exclusive next week. So game on!!! Back to the cave...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Importance of Story Questions

Over the weekend, I checked out an upper middle grade/lower YA novel from the library for my 10-year-old daughter. Although the premise was intriguing--as well as similar to other books she's read and enjoyed in the past--she didn't care for the book enough to get past page 5. Wondering what the problem was (since I thought the book sounded great), I read it.

Right away, I could tell it had the following problems:

1. Too sophisticated language and vocabulary, calling to adult sensibilities, not a middle grade voice.

2. Repeated distinctive catch phrases. If an author wants to say, for example, that someone's gaze "glinted with malevolence," s/he should only say it once. In the entire book. Not four times.

3. The adults probably played too large a role in the story.

Yet...I continued reading, although I couldn't stop asking myself, Why? since this book was clearly a clunker. And that's when I realized it had two essential things going for it:

1. Likable, funny characters, and, more importantly,

2. A hearty string of of story questions.

I kept thinking, But what's going to happen with X? How will the main character resolve her problem with Y? Will she get the boy in the end? And then I'd read another chapter.

Published by a Canadian imprint, I found myself wondering if this book would have flown had it been sent to a U.S. publisher. Maybe, maybe not. From her bio, I could see that the writer is plenty experienced (although not with MG/YA), so my guess is that the repetitious stuff was laziness on her part. The story questions and tight plot-point structure, expertise. Another mark of craft: she left no dangling threads. Each and every clue/mini-subplot was eventually picked up and developed to completion. Also, there was a sense of justice in the end, with antagonistic characters subtly getting what they deserved.

So what do you think? Are there books you've read to the end even though you know they're lacking on some front?

Monday, October 3, 2011

New York 2012

I made my reservations and bought my airplane tickets, so it's official: I'm going to the winter SCBWI conference at the end of January. I'll be staying two subway stops away from Grand Central, where the conference is, but for $99 per night, the small commute in is totally worth it (Hotel Thirty-Thirty, just in case anyone out there's a bargain hunter like me).

I don't think I'll be doing the Friday intensive day (although if they're all with editors, it might be tempting), but I'm staying through Tuesday, so I can hang out with friends and see more of the city. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Caller ID

So this is weird: I keep getting hang-ups on my cell phone from a restricted number. My home line already has anonymous call rejection to keep the telemarketers at bay, but this seems different. Whoever's calling me, they're making a point of hearing me say hello, then sighing and hanging up. Like yesterday, they called when I was at the gym but I didn't answer, so they called back later in the afternoon, apparently hell bent on hanging up on me.

Not sure if I should be flattered or creeped out. Whichever the case, I checked online, and it looks like Verizon charges a fee for anonymous call rejection. Thriftmonger that I am, I'm like, Nuh uh. Not another fee. Adding my kids' cell phone lines to the bill has been painful enough (especially when they don't charge their cell phones or allow them to go missing) without yet another random fee.

Anyway, for now, I'll field the calls. But what kind of obsessive writer would I be if I didn't have multiple theories at the ready regarding who said caller might be?

1. An ex-boyfriend. Ha! Yeah, right. If you've been reading along here, you'll know that no guy in his right mind would want a piece of this action. My life's way too much of a circus, more headache than excitement. Plus this theory assumes I haven't burned all bridges with my exes in a fit rationalized along the lines of going big or going home. Guess which one I've traditionally chosen? So it's kind of narcissistic to even consider this possibility.

2. Someone I've called the cops on. But how would they get my number? Guess it'd be easy enough with all the internet searches available, but still--how would they even know my name? Plus, if whatever they were doing was out of line enough that I felt compelled to call the cops on them, they've inherently got way more drama in their lives than needs to be added to by crank-calling one of their tattlers, so this just doesn't make sense. Chalk this theory up to paranoia.

3. A friend's kid or husband. Ew. Just ew. Although the calls have come during school hours, and I don't know anyone who lets their kid block their cell phone number. But still. Ew.

4. Someone I gave a card to at a writer's conference. To this one, all I have to say is, Why not say hi? I'm friendly enough. If I gave you a card, I'm not going to say, No way! I'm not answering, should you ask me a question. Sure, I might say no if you ask me to read your 500-page manuscript, but that's no reason to preemptively hang up on me.

Maybe I should put just my email address on my cards. I don't know. I have to print new ones for New York in January, so maybe this is the time to review what's on there. Or maybe giving out "business" cards is useless, since I already have an agent and any editor who wants me to contact them is going to give me their email address, not the other way around. So what do you think? Do you put your phone number(s) on your cards?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Power's Back On

Did anyone even know San Diego was without power yesterday? I guess two high-voltage, high-transmission lines were cut, stranding San Diego Gas & Electric customers from southern Orange County to northern Baja California, then eastward out to Arizona without power. An unusually hot, humid week (that one week a year we wish we had air conditioning), hopefully no one had any serious health consequences out in the Imperial Valley, where it gets *really* hot.

Anyway, yeah, it sucks not having power, but I was surprised how well we got along without it. Our stove and water heater use natural gas, and we've clung to our land line telephone and even have one last old-school telephone in the house. Not the case for most of our friends and neighbors. Another thing we had that a lot of people didn't (surprisingly): a battery-powered radio. Maybe those of you in other sections of the country are like, Duh! But out here in Southern California, it's shocking how reliant the majority of our population is on grid-transmission electricity. It was such an event out here that all schools in San Diego county are closed today, even though the power went back on roundabout two in the morning.

What about where you live? Does this sound like crazy talk? Is the rest of the country better prepared for an emergency than we are? With the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 coming up this weekend, you can bet the conspiracy theories on our bizarre, massive power outage were flying fast and free. But what if something did happen? Would we be ready?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Am I Not Surprised?

So my plans to write like a crazy woman starting last Tuesday? The crazy part, I've got down, but the writing, not so much. I keep hoping the time will come, but then it doesn't. Actually, I did seize a little bit of time last Thursday and Friday, but then I wound up mostly revising, not really getting into new material. Maybe because my life has been busy with new material. Like, did I mention my middle child started middle school? Each day brings a new surprise. I'll delete this post later, so his antics aren't forever memorialized, but here's a little taste of what's been going on:

Tuesday - He growls at several teachers, throws a crumpled piece of paper at another, then gets kicked out of class about 30 seconds into yet another class for making squawking noises.

Wednesday - Growls at fewer teachers but animal noises still abound. Teachers enforce seating charts to ensure he and his best friend have been separated in the classes they have together. Both now sit near "a bunch of nerds" or "a kid who doesn't speak any English."

Thursday - After school, he films his 12-year-old best friend DRIVING his mom's Expedition over a (no longer operable) toy car. When he gets home, he creates an alternate gmail address so he can get around our parental controls and post said video on YouTube.

Friday - Trying to impress his buddies, my son jumps into the custodian's golf-cart-esque vehicle and attempts to drive. He gets it in reverse but can't figure out how to put it back in drive before the custodian yells at him to get the hell off his cart.

Tuesday - Because of the holiday, my son was able to keep his library movies an extra day. However, he forgot to return them until after school, causing him to almost miss his bus home. Afraid the bus was about to leave, he jumps in the side door Emergency Exit, causing the bus driver (who's a very patient man) to yell at him about never opening those doors unless the bus has crashed or is in a similarly dire circumstance.

Ah, Wednesday. Do I dare ask, "What next?" At least I don't have as many errands to run today. I'm looking forward to sneaking in some writing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day of Middle School

Today is my middle child's first day of middle school. Is he concerned? Nah, not really. Probably not nearly as much as he should be. I took a look at his teachers' websites, and he'll already have plenty of homework tonight. I'm glad he's not stressing, though, since I made my own experience transitioning from elementary to middle way worse than it should have been.

The night before I started middle school (which we called jr. high school back in the olden days), I couldn't sleep I was so nervous. Plagued by haunting, supposedly true stories of seventh graders being dumped head first into trash cans and nasty pranks involving ink bombs, I was terrified. And then there were those scary eighth graders. If fifth grade had been a breeze, I wouldn't have had any concerns about these kids who were a mere year older than us, but it wasn't.

Probably due to an unfortunate short haircut coupled with typical female pubescent weight gain, I wasn't the best looking child as a ten year old. Really, if I'd been a boy, there wouldn't have been a problem, since adults kept referring to me as "this nice young man," etc., at the time. Anyway, there was a group of about ten sixth grade boys who teased me relentlessly that year. Sixth grade was a huge relief, since they'd all graduated to Oak Crest, our local jr. high. But when it was my turn to go to Oak Crest, I knew they were all there, waiting to make fun of me again.

Luckily, I grew my hair out in sixth grade. And I started watching how much food I stuffed into my mouth. At 5'2" and 105 pounds, a size 5 going into seventh grade, I now realize I shouldn't have been so paranoid about what others would think of my size. And guess what? At the bus stop, where many of those horrible, teasing boys shared my same stop, they didn't say a word to me. But then, it was probably my hair that threw them--I've always been a bit of a hair chameleon, looking like a completely different person whenever I change it.

So I made it through the bus ride, the first major jr. high hurdle. But what if I couldn't remember my locker combinations? What if someone still threw me into a trash can? What if a pack of gang girls jumped me in the bathroom? What if I was late to all my classes because I couldn't find them?

All that stress, when what I really should have been thinking about was to remember to bring a pencil. Sure, I had notebooks, but nothing to write in them with. And who better to point this out than my scary first period Honors Pre-Algebra teacher, a booming hulk of a guy who had an affinity for calling his students "boob" when he thought we were acting stupid. I think the first thing he said to us that morning was something like, "All right. Which of you boobs forgot to bring a pencil?" And then I had to raise my hand. At least four other kids raised their hands, which made me feel better, since we were supposed to be the "smart" kids and all.

The rest of the day, I dealt with one little horrorshow at a time. That funky, 1950s era school smell (asbestos?). The boy who couldn't stop saying, "Poop in a basket!" then giggling like Beavis and Butt-Head. Having to make a song I kept chanting in my head all day to remember both my locker combinations, so much so that when my friends said hi to me, I almost blurted out, "24-40-34!" or "34-36-2!"

So, yeah. I got through it, and I know my son will, too. I just hope the principal (and the assistant principal, and his learning center teacher) don't wind up calling me today. Already.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Club Discussion: SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson

Okay, the fonts might be goofed up, since I copied and pasted from the Word document I just created and, as you know, I'm kind of techtarded, but I'm leading a (grown-up) book club discussion on Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson this afternoon. Nothing like getting stuff together at the last minute, but I've had way too much coffee, so here's a list of what I'm pulling together for our discussion packet:

First off...

1. Did you enjoying reading Speak? If so, were you surprised that you enjoyed it, since it’s a novel for teens?

2. With its cliques and various social strata, did Melinda’s high school remind you of your high school? Do you think it’s similar to your kids’ high school?

3. Based on your own experiences or the experiences of people you knew in high school, did you find Melinda’s story believable?

4. Do you think her story could have happened at your kids’ high school today? If so, considering the pervasiveness of social media in today’s youth culture, do you think Melinda’s experiences would have been different, for better or worse?

5. Based on the author’s foreshadowing did you guess what had happened to Melinda at the party before it was finally revealed?

6.  What did you think of the way the various teachers treated Melinda (e.g., Mr. Neck vs. her art teacher)?

7. What did you think about Melinda’s parents? Should they have reacted differently to the various warning signs of clinical depression and post-traumatic stress she displayed throughout the story, or were they justified in being clueless, since Melinda was intentionally trying to keep them in the dark about her situation?

8. Many English teachers include Speak in their curriculum. How do you feel about this—glad, nervous, or completely against it?

9. Have you ever reread the classics you were assigned as a high school student? If so, were they better or worse than you remember them?

10. Do you think high school English classes should study more books starring and intended for teens, or should these books for teens be left for recreational reading? Alternatively, do you think a teen would be more excited to complete assigned reading if more books like Speak were on their list instead of, say, Great Expectations, The Scarlett Letter, and Anna Karenina

Second in the packet, this Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon. Love it or hate it, it's a definite discussion sparker. Even though it made the rounds in the YA writing community ad nauseam, believe it or not, most of the reading public across America is blissfully unaware of its presence.

Third in the packet, Sherman Alexie's WSJ blog response to Ms. C-G's above-mentioned ire-inducing article. Anyone who's seen Alexie speak knows she was poking a sleeping bear at her own risk by mentioning him in her piece. (Cue The Simpsons' Nelson's voice: HA-HA!)

Fourth and finally in the packet, I'm including a YA reading list including other selected titles by LHA (Twisted, Wintergirls, Prom), as well as the following:

Sold by Patricia McCormick
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Paper Towns by John Green
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I'm probably forgetting to mention a bunch of awesome books, but if they read these, they'll be onto a wealth of literary treasure in the YA marketplace. Anyway, hope this guide is helpful to the folks out there in cyberspace searching for Speak book club discussion questions, since all I could come up with were a bunch of lesson plans written by teachers for their teenage students, and Speak merits attention by a crossover audience.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

All right. I'm back from the SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles. As usual, I had a blast catching up with friends and meeting new ones. This time, thanks to the Monday intensive format, I also got to meet a couple editors, which was fabulous. I took lots of notes during the sessions I attended, but during the sessions in which I didn't learn as much as I would have liked, I found myself wishing I'd opted for craft workshops instead of business-focused topics. Anyway, guess I'll have to go fishing on Google for someone else's notes.

Speaking of notes, there's a good chance I'll do a piece for my friends who run the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog. Not sure which session I'll cover, but probably either Libba Bray's characterization workshop or Laurie Halse Anderson's session on reclaiming lost time. Both were amazing. However, guess which session was hands down, the most scintillating session I attended this year's conference? Since only about twenty people showed up besides me, I'll just go ahead an tell you--CONTRACT BASICS, by attorney Jan Constantine.

Before you start thinking I missed my calling, and that yeah, I should have gone to law school after all, let me just say that contracts can be way more interesting than you'd think! Especially if they're going to tie you up with options clauses, rid you of your copyrights, and seize opportunities in international markets. I won't go into details (since I don't want to get the legalese wrong), but basically, just know that there are a few carefully worded phrases you might want to look out for, especially if you're completely giddy at being offered a contract to publish your work. Jan's advice: join the Authors Guild. If you've been offered a contract, you're eligible for membership. At $90 per year, it's a bargain--especially since membership includes having your contract reviewed by their counsel (something that would cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to do if you went out on your own to hire a literary attorney).

So that's it! Next year, I'll probably go to more sessions on craft. Also, although I adored the folks at my afternoon roundtable, I might try to go to two editor/author-led intensive workshops, since I enjoyed Nancy Conescu's morning session so much (which, I might add, she collectively read over 500 pages of attendees' work preparing for, so a big round of applause goes to Nancy!). I just hope next year's theme for the Saturday night gala is as good as this year's pajama party. Hard to beat being encouraged to go out in public in your PJs!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So excited!!!

When I first saw my name on the list (as Ara Jane Burkland), I thought, Hey. There's someone with a name like mine. Then I realized it was me, since I've never seen my middle name used online and my last name's spelling is tricky. Anyway, the pre-rewrite version of FIND ME (my manuscript out on submission with editors right now), called LIE TO ME, may not have won the SCBWI work-in-progress grant for a contemporary novel, but I got a letter of merit! Thank you, SCBWI!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Agent Awesome: Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

Okay. I probably shouldn't do this, but only for selfish reasons. Like if I talk about how amazing my agent is, she's going to be flooded with work, tying up her schedule. But you know what? I like her on a personal  as well as a professional level, so if more work equals more commission for her in the long run, I'll be thrilled to hear about her new apartment or her next fabulous vacation, so I'm not holding back.

Anyway, we all have ideas about the roles literary agents are supposed to play in our professional lives as writers. Those ideas, however, sometimes turn out to be overly idealistic. Things we thought were no-brainers actually turn out to be stretches. Other clients take priority over us. Our visions regarding timelines don't line up. Over and over again, I hear people anonymously lamenting their agents' faults online. Which is why I know how blessed I am to have my agent. That said, here's a list of things I find cool about Kerry, which is basically my entire interaction with her:

1. When I first queried her after the conference we met at, she got back to me within a few days, confirming receipt and assuring me she'd read my sample pages.

2.   A few weeks later, she wrote back saying she'd read my sample pages and wanted to see the full manuscript.

3. Within about ten days, she'd read the whole manuscript (!!!). Although she liked my work, she listed a few notes that needed attention. We scheduled a phone call to discuss same.

4. The next day, we spoke on the phone. Her notes were amazingly detailed and specific. She offered me representation on the understanding that I would implement her suggestions in a revision (which actually turned out to be more like a rewrite, with about seventy-five percent of the manuscript completely changed). The coolest thing: her notes were spot on, things I had suspected an editor might ask for but were so all-encompassing that I didn't dare make the changes without affirmation that it might be the right direction.

5. After our phone conversation (maybe an hour later, probably less), I received a written recap of Kerry's notes via email.

6. The next day, as promised, she emailed me a two-page (in a small font), single-spaced list of more detailed notes (!!!).

7. Three business days later, I received my contract via snail mail. Because this wasn't my first contract, I immediately spotted how technically professional said contract was. Almost surely drawn up by a literary attorney, and not just counsel specializing in general contracts, provisions were spelled out for writing grants, contest prize monies, etc. In case of termination, specific timelines were specified in the unexpected instance of a post-agreement sale (e.g., if a sale resulted from a submission the agent made ______ months after agreement termination, agency would not be subject to commission, while if sale resulted prior to time specified, agency would be entitled to commission). All I could think was, If they're this good with agency agreements, when they sell a manuscript, there won't be any of the career-limiting contract SNAFUs some of my friends have experienced.

8. While I revised, Kerry helped me come up with a new title for my manuscript, since I'd inadvertently picked one that has a TV show (I'd never heard of) associated with it. And I love it!!!

9. When I finished the rewrite and sent it to Kerry, even though she'd just gotten back from vacation and was no doubt swamped with work, she read it in less than two weeks!

10. A couple days later, she sent my manuscript out on submission to a carefully thought-out list of editors, some of whom she'd already verbally pitched the manuscript to over lunch.

Because my work's still very recently on submission, I can't share the rest of the details, but I will say that Kerry's doing a fabulous job of keeping me apprised. Her professionalism is unparalleled. Which leads me to my final point. You won't find her all over the social media, I suspect, for one reason: she's busy doing her work.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?

I'm so excited! My friend Wade's first picture book just came out, and I just received my copy in the mail from Amazon. It's called Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?, subtitled A History of Messy Rooms. Even if Wade wasn't my friend, I would have picked up his book when I saw it on the shelf based on title alone.

Even better, upon reading the book, Wade doesn't disappoint. The story is clever, humorous, and fun, sneaking a history lesson into its pages that adds to the reader's fascination. I recently saw Why Do I Have to Make My Bed featured in the book section at our local Gepetto's toy store, but it's also available at all the major retailers.

Congratulations, Wade!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Favorites: Writing Books

Okay. I blew it yesterday in coming up with a craft topic. It just seems like so many of them have been covered all over the Internet, adding mine to the mix would be like spitting in the ocean and expecting the sea level to rise.

Anyway, I know I've written about writing books in the past, but in the spirit of combining today and yesterday's topics, here are my three favorites:

1. On Writing by Stephen KingOn Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft
2. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.Writing the Breakout Novel
3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

In my opinion, those are the definitive resources every writer should have on his/her shelf, read and reread in the above order.

Another book I've been getting a lot of use out of lately (even though I don't write chick lit these days) is Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel. Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit NovelCathy Yardley, a friend of mine, is a plotting genius and a fabulous teacher of craft. For inspiration, check out her new writing blog,

What are some of your very favorite books on writing?