Friday, July 31, 2009

Hope in the Face of Rejection

I was looking up reviews of The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes, and I found this interesting analogy from Ron Atkins on Amazon:

Years ago I had a basketball coach who taught "if you're not getting at least four fouls in a game, you're not playing defense." He didn't like fouls, but his point was, in the process of playing the game aggressively, fouls are going to happen. Fouls are not necessarily indicators of defeat, they are indicators of effort. Likewise, Keyes' approach to rejection is that all successful writers deal with rejection.

Nothing gives me hope like hearing anecdotes about famous writers who received tons of rejections before going on to publish a best-seller.

I think these kinds of stories are encouraging whether or not the person is even famous. So, I am going to start bringing you personal stories of writers who persevered and got published after dozens of rejections. Stay tuned: my first guest blogger will be Linda Sanders-Wells author of the adorable picture book, Maggie's Monkeys. It took Linda nine years and 18 rejections before her book found a home. Be sure to come back to read her whole story.

If anyone else is interesting in sharing their experience here, please contact me!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Submit?

Nathan Bransford did a You Tell Me post in June on How Do You Know When Your Novel is Really Finished? The discussion that ensued was very interesting.

My friend, TS, asks me this all the time about picture books.

TS: How do I know when to submit?

ME: You submit when you think its as good as it can get.

TS: But isn't there always room for improvement?

ME: Yes, I guess. Okay, you submit when you think it's at a point where it is irresistible.

I think submitting too soon is one of the biggest mistakes that new writers make. I know I did it with my first two PB manuscripts.

When I submitted HOP PLOP (my fourth manuscript, but my third submission), it had been through critique groups and it had been revised many times. I couldn't imagine how anyone could read it and not fall in love with it. That's when you know you have a winner.

I read somewhere once a long time ago that if you drop it in the mail and walk away with a huge smile on your face, then it is ready.

I think that pretty much says it all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I am Too Stupid to Shop at Bookstores

Shelley the STORYQUEEN had a great post up yesterday titled, On Suspending Disbelief (or Why I am Too Stupid to Drive)

Well, after sitting at my computer for a few hours reading blogs and what-not, I decided to go to the bookstore. I usually shop on Amazon, but I figured it would be good to support my local Indie for a change.

Jordan has been addicted to Junie B Jones lately. I read it to her in bed at night and we laugh our heads off together. But it is getting to the point where I'm a afraid if I sit down to write, Junie's voice is going to come out.

So, I figured I'd get her a Judy Moody to try. I also wanted to pick up The Time Traveler's Wife for me because I have read great things about it.

Now, bookstores are my most favoritest place in the world. On account of nothing makes me in a happy mood like books. I love those guys!

So, I browsed for a while and then made my purchases.

Then I runned home to start reading.

When I got out of the car, there was a package waiting. It was from Amazon. I opened it up and there were the same two books I had just bought.

I did a big gulp.

What a Month

Not only did I get an agent, my blog stats are at an all time high., I hit my 10,000th page view. I received several blog awards. Thanks B.J., Susan, and Christy! But best of all, I've been dubbed!

This is quite an honor. I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk when he discovers his name is in the phone book. I'm somebody. I'm somebody!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting an Agent Makes You Do Stupid Things

Okay, I shouldn't generalize. But getting an agent makes me do stupid things for sure. Yesterday, my kids asked if they could stay home from camp, and in a moment of absolute insanity, I said, "Yes." It was a HUGE mistake. Spent the whole day yelling and breaking up fights, instead of polishing PIGS so it would be ready for submission. "Why, oh why?" I asked myself for eight hours. I guess I was giddy from my call with Kendra the previous day.

To make matters worse, they convinced me to let them play with flour with their play-dough. They are out on the deck. What harm can it do? I thought. Well, apparently, I need to get myself a better imagination, because they decided it would be fun to cover themselves head to toe in it. And my brain-functioning had clearly not returned when I put them in the bath to wash it out. Know what happens to flour when it gets wet? It turns into paper-mache! So after two shampoos, a swim in the pool, a shower, and another swim, their hair still felt hard and crunchy.

Ah, good thing my husband is home today to save me from myself.

P.S. If you want anything from me, now is the time to ask. Apparently, I now say "yes" to everything.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Big Announcement

Not sure why I made the big announcement on a little comment at Lisa and Laura Writes.

Is it because it hadn't really sunk in yet? Or could it be that I don't want to celebrate until I have an offer from an editor? (I have had representation before and I've learned that it does not always translate into getting a contract.)

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, I signed with an agent yesterday.

I am being represented by Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary Agency.

Many people compare the process of finding an agent to dating. I certainly see the parallels.

I sent Kendra THREE NINJA PIGS in May. She got back to me in June saying that she loved the premise, but the execution needed a little work. She gave me some very specific feedback and said, "Feel free to call to discuss." I did not call.

She then called me in July to discuss the story and said to call her back anytime. My husband told me, CALL HER. I did not call.

Instead, I emailed her with some revisions.

That may sound very weird.

But David still jokes that when we were dating, he would kiss me goodnight and say, "Bye, I'll call you." and I would reply, "Nah, that's okay. Just shoot me an email."

I guess it was the same concern. Lack of phone chemistry. If someone is interested in me, why risk ruining it by an awkward call?

But yesterday, Kendra and I finally spoke. She said she loved PIGS and thought the revisions were fantastic.

I felt like she really got the story's humor and that she had a great sense of which publishers would be interested.

At the very end of the conversation, I said, "Okay, I'm going to call my husband and tell him the great news." And, she said, "Don't call, email." (Kidding!) She said, "There's no great news yet."

So, it looks like I have found a good fit.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Double Ooops!

Late night queries may not be a good idea. But neither are late night internet purchases.

Last November, my husband and I started collecting picture book art. Well, we haven't made a purchase in a while, so when I stumbled upon the blog of Ian Sands and saw his cool art, I decided to order some. I went to Etsy and ordered DinoCow which is from the book, How to Milk a Dinosaur. I then went to Amazon and ordered the picture book, or so I thought. This was my mistake #1. How to Milk a Dinosaur is not actually a PB. It is a chapter book with no illustrations except for the cover art. This is no big deal. I have a five year old, so I can still read it to her. (and I still want the art!)

I then became a bit obsessed with Etsy. While I am here, let me see what else I can find, I thought to myself. I browsed a bit and found this beautiful mixed media collage. It was on a 6 by 6 canvas and I thought it would look spectacular in our great room. And it was very affordable! (Much too affordable) So, I ordered it. I was so excited. I was slightly suspicious about the price. It was awfully inexpensive for such a large piece of art, but what do I know about art? Well, mistake #2. It was not 6 feet by 6 feet. It was six inches square. So, now I am the proud owner of a lovely postage stamp.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tooth Fairy's Here

The Tooth Fairy made her first visit to our house tonight. Makes me want to write a Tooth Fairy story. But that's on the list of 12 Picture Book Topics to Avoid. Uh-oh! And so is barnyard tales. There goes our new "outsmarted" story.

Friday, July 17, 2009


If you've never read The Gruffalo, it is an extremely clever rhyming PB by Julia Donaldson. A little mouse outsmarts everyone who wants to eat him. The fox. The owl. The snake. Even the big hungry Gruffalo with his knobbly knees and turned out toes, and poisonous wart at the end of his nose. It is bloody brilliant. Americans are a little slow to appreciate the genius of Donaldson, but in England, she is a household name.

Anyway, I love when characters get outsmarted. So, Becky and I decided to give this theme a try.

Not sure we are clever enough to pull it off though. It is a slight clue that I am no Julia Donaldson when it takes me three days to figure out how to get my son to take his medicine. He is only four. I should have been able to outwit the little guy sooner, don't you think? But no. We tried putting it in lemonade. He said, "Yuck!" We tried colored yogurt. He said, "Yuck!" After wasting like half a bottle, we realized on the third day that if we put it in gatorade and DON'T TELL him its in there, he will drink it. So, now we give it to him after camp, and at bed time when he says, "What about my medicine?" we say, "Oh, that? Um, you're better. You don't need it anymore."

Yup, not a genius.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SCBWI Dinner

So, the dinner was great. I had a glass of wine and (almost) totally forgot that I was networking with agents & editors and just felt like I was hanging out with some new friends. Stephen Barbara was super easy to talk to. We discussed books- what we like, dislike, etc. He is a HUGE Mo Willems fan. (Who isn't?) His other favorite picture books include How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood (which I will be ordering today!)

Unfortunately, just when the conversation started getting really good (in other words, it turned from the industry in general to my specific career!) they made Stephen Barbara move to the other end of the table. They wanted to make sure all the guests got an equal opportunity to schmooze. This is why I was so bummed that dinner for five turned into dinner for fourteen!

But on the whole it was a really fun night and I am so glad I went.

BTW, Tina Wexler is super cool! She is NOT inclined to take on PB authors, but if you write middle grade or YA, try her!

I did not get much of a chance to speak to Maureen Sullivan, but she seemed lovely.

I did not get much of a chance to speak to Steve Metzer either, but I did hear him give this tip to my friend, Tiffany:

If you want to write a PB in rhyme, I suggest you write your entire story out in prose first. Otherwise, rhyme ends up driving the story.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I've Got to Relax!

Too distracted to blog. I have my SCBWI dinner tonight with Stephen Barbara. It's not just with him. It's with Tina Wexler, Steve Meltzer, and Maureen Sullivan. I didn't mean to downplay the importance of any of these people. It's just that when I signed up, I didn't even realize they would all be there. It was originally a small, intimate group, but somehow dinners got combined. Now, there will be fourteen at the table, which should make me even more tongue-tied than usual. YIKES! I'll just have to have a glass of wine and remind myself of my new mantra.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

JOSHY: Two and two is four.
And five and five and five is... uh, ... a lot of fives.

God, that kid is funny. He tries SO hard to keep up with his sister who is 15 months older.

When she was able to swim without a vest, he said, "No vest."

But, Joshy, you can't swim.

Yes, I can.

Sure enough, within a week, he was a fish.

When she got a two wheeler, he said, "No more trike."

When she went skiing, he went skiing.

But the one thing he absolutely cannot keep up with her on is reading. And it kills him.

One night in bed, Jordan read a book to all of us. She read it beautifully. She may have hesitated on one word, but she got it without help. When she was done, Joshy said:

Terrible, Jordan. Terrible.

I really want to write a PB on sibling rivalry. Some editors say that topic is overdone. But I actually can't think of any great picture books on this subject. If you can, please share!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm a Great Pretender

I once dated a guy who told me he couldn't marry me because I was a little bit too crazy.

I did what any nice Jewish girl in NYC would do. I told my shrink.

And my shrink said something that I never forgot. He said, "You're not as crazy as you pretend to be."

He went on to say that my "boyfriend" was actually a lot crazier than I was. He's the one who dated someone for five years without ever telling his orthodox parents (because she wasn't Jewish). Yes, I dated some real winners.

Why am I writing about this? Because it recently occurred to me that I pretend I am a writer. I sit at my desk all day reading and commenting on blogs and researching agents to submit to, but I don't actually WRITE!

This is a problem. The question is... what am I going to do about it?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Five

1) I think it's safe to say I've gotten my groove back. Five posts in five days. (Now if I can only catch up on laundry!)

2) I've been reading a lot of excellent posts lately. I usually tweet when I see one I want to share, but I'd like to link to Karen's Climbing the Writer's Staircase, for those of you who are non-tweeters. It is so lovely.

3) I have come to the realization that I need a sister. (How can anyone who reads Lisa and Laura's blog not have sister-envy.)

4) I am long overdue for a contest. In fact, I have been blogging since November and I have NEVER had one! I am going to have to put on my contest thinking cap and come up with something good.

5) I'm having dinner Tuesday night with agent extraordinaire, Stephen Barbara! Not just the two of us, but still... now I just have to hope I don't choke like I did at lunch with Editor X in June (That's figuratively, not literally. No Heimlich was needed)

What's new with you this week?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brand Spanking New

I'm going to interrupt all this talk of islands and beaches to talk about... picture books. I missed Write a Review Wed, which is okay because I don't really do reviews. But I do like to talk about picture books, especially those by new writers. So, here are a couple of new releases.

Two of a Kind
This book is brand spanking new! (Oh no, LiLa, now my blog will come up on "spanking' searches!) It was released on July 7th and it is Jacqui's second PB. I can't tell you how great it is because I haven't read it yet. But I can say, if you have never been to Jacqui's Room, you are really missing out. Jacqui's posts always crack me up.

Maggie's Monkeys
This first book, by Linda Sanders-Wells, came out in April. But Linda's blog, Swell Books, is brand spanking new. She started it yesterday! And guess who she is crediting for giving her the kick in the pants that she needed? Yup, me :) If I had a Hop! Plop! sale for every person I got started blogging, I would have the Amazon ranking of The Help. Okay, not. But it would be a lot better than where it currently is at almost a million.

So check out these two books and these two blogs. And someone please review them so I know if I should buy them! (Kidding. I plan to order from Amazon right after I check my sales ranking)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Diving in the Caymans

Okay, guys, this is the sea turtle I saw on my first dive at Hammerhead Hole. Just kidding. I did see a sea turtle, but I don't dive with a camera. I didn't even being one to the island. Sorry.

I can tell you a cute story though about how Hammerhead Hole got its name. There are no hammerheads and no holes there.

A group chartered a dive boat for a week to do shallow reef dives only. The first day, they went to Holiday Inn Reef. The divers went down for 25 minutes and came up complaining, "That was the worst dive site ever!

The dive masters took them to other neighboring reefs, but on the last day, they ran out of spots, so they brought them back to the first site and told them, "This is called Hammerhead Hole." The divers went down and came up after an hour saying, "Wow! That was awesome! Best spot of the week. Why didn't you take us here sooner!" And from then on it was known as Hammerhead Hole.

Ah, the power of suggestion. Pretty funny, huh?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Running Up a Down Escalator

I only got one thing crossed off on my To-Do list today and now I have to uncross it.

I applied to the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference.

A lot of my friends attended last year, but I somehow didn't know about it until after the fact. I heard it was an amazing mentoring experience. So, I wanted to be sure to apply for 2009.

I waited until today, because the deadline is July 8th, and my motto is "Why do something today if it can be put off till tomorrow." I filled out the application and attached my writing sample. I used my last stamp and got it in the mailbox before the postman came so it would definitely get postmarked by the deadline.

Then I realized a few minutes ago that I didn't include a check.

So, now I have to print and fill out a new application. And tomorrow morning I will be going to the post office to buy stamps and get it postmarked.

I don't know what's sadder-- the fact that I accomplished nothing at all today... or the fact that my husband isn't the least bit surprised.

P.S. Maybe while I am at the post office I can ship back the Victoria's Secret clothes I ordered in May that don't fit? Who am I kidding? It'll never happen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Can't Get My Groove Back

I've been on vacation for so long, I have forgotten how to blog! We returned from The Cayman Islands at 2:00 AM on July 1st and then left later that day for the Berkshires with our kids for the July 4th weekend. I am finally home and I can't come up with a single interesting thing to blog about.

So, I guess I'll just ease myself back in by recommending the book I read on my trip: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Now, Ms. Stockett does not need a shout out from me. This book is #4 on Amazon. Yes, you read that correctly. Not 400 or 40. F-O-U-R! But this book is so good, it would be a shame to miss it. So, I am mentioning it for your sake, not hers :)

For a synopsis and review, check At Home with Books.

Alyce sums it up very well here:

What impressed me the most about this book was that even though it was about a serious topic - the civil rights movement in Mississippi - it never overwhelms the reader with depressing imagery. The story is well-balanced between infuriating and heartbreaking injustices, and the sacrifices and acts of selfless kindness of the main characters.

Even though there is some very disturbing content in this story, Stockett manages to keep the focus on the characters' triumphs and leaves the reader feeling inspired, rather than depressed.

It also wasn't lost on me that I was reading this civil rights story poolside at the Ritz Carlton hotel while people with dark skin were serving me cold drinks and offering to move the heavy umbrellas so I'd be in the shade. Ah, the irony.