Friday, June 26, 2009

Island Girl

We checked the forecast before we left and it was the same as NJ! Thunder showers, thunder showers, and more thunder showers.

Finished The Ramen King and I on the plane. (more on that in another post)

Arrived last night to torrential rains with thunder and lightning. Woke up this morning a walking ball of stress... would I remember how to dive? Would my kids be okay without me? Would my ears clear? Would the rental gear fit? Is it worth all the money we are spending?

Then I went for a dive.

Now, I am a new person.

Kids? What kids?

I need to relocate. I am an island kind of girl.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Need a Beach Book

I'm going to the Caribbean Thursday WITHOUT the kids! Five days of scuba diving. Heaven! I haven't been diving since I went to Cozumel in 2004. The closest I have come is watching Nemo 300,000 times. "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

Anybody have a good beach book to recommend?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Books NJ

Last weekend, I attended my first book festival, Books NJ, which was sponsored by the Bergen County Cooperative Library System and hosted by the Paramus Public Library. Over 90 authors, illustrators, and poets talked about their books and their craft.

What did I learn?

1) Children's book creators are incredibly nice people. (I already knew this, but I am continually amazed at what an encouraging and supportive group of people I meet in this profession)

2) I LOVE being on panels! This was my first panel ever and I was a bit nervous, but it turns out, I would have been happy to have the whole floor to myself! (Sorry to my co-panel if I didn't let you get a word in!)

3) If you have a PB with a truck on the cover, it will sell. (EVERYONE has a son or a grandson or a nephew who is obsessed with trucks!)

NOTE: Or as Kimberly pointed out, a DAUGHTER!

So, all in all, it was a worthwhile experience and I look forward to going again next year. Now I am off to write a book about... trucks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My How Things have Changed

When I was a kid, the word "computer" wasn't even in my vocabulary.

When my daughter was one and half, she was "reading" a book. I was listening because it was SO cute. She suddenly realized she had an audience and felt self-conscious, so... in an effort to get rid of me, she said, "Mommy, go check your email."

Then yesterday, Josh said something that made me laugh and Jordan said, "Mommy, that was a good one. You shoud blog about it." Pretty funny, huh?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Write a Review Wednesday- Sergio Saves the Game

Okay, I think I might be in love with Edel Rodriguez. I met him Sunday at Books NJ, a lovely book festival held in Paramus, NJ. What an incredibly talented guy! He is the author-illustrator of Sergio Makes a Splash and it's sequel, Sergio Saves the Game! Both books are adorable! (and I am a tough critic!)

I was not at all surprised to find out that Mr. Rodriguez is represented by the highly selective Emily van Beek of Pippin Properties. Yes, he's that good.

In Sergio Saves the Game, Sergio is a fantastic soccer player... in his dreams. In real life, he trips and slips and slides and shoots and scores. For the other team! This book will have your kids laughing and rooting for the feisty, lovable Sergio in the championship game against the big, bad Seagulls.

What a gem.

I can't wait for Sergio's next adventure!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ramblings of a Delirious Mom

My kids are done with school. Which means my main daily activity is not writing or blogging. It's breaking up fights. On days like this, it's hard to remember how adorable they are. It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote, "I wish I could freeze them at this age, because they are so darn cute!" And now I wish I could just plain freeze them. Stick them in the freezer and take them out to thaw in two weeks when camp starts.

So, I need to remind myself how lucky I am. Here is Jordan at her first dance recital. I had to miss the second day of the NJ SCBWI conference to attend, but it was worth it!

She may end up being an author or illustrator one day, but I think it's safe to say "Dancing is out as a profession."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some Thank You's Are In Order

This is my 100th post! (Not counting the 3 or 4 I had to pull down because I offended a few people. What people? Oh, only the 49% of the country who voted for McCain-Palin, for example)

Some writers have more ideas than they know what to do with! I am NOT one of those people. Entire years pass in which I am idea-less. But in the eight months I have been blogging, I have written four solid PBs. This is definitely not a coincidence. I think the act of writing (whether its morning pages, or JOPs, or blog posts) jump starts creativity.

So, thanks to Becky and Tara for convincing me to start a blog! Thanks to MelissaPea (and Tara, once again) for being the blog police and warning me when I have posted content that might get me into trouble. Thanks to Zook Book Nook for the lovely blog award and for saying such nice things about my book! And thanks to all my followers for your wonderful comments and support!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Ramen King and I- Part II

Okay, so I wasn't sure I was going to follow up my last post, but then I stopped by B.J. Anderson's blog and saw a post called Organic Chemistry Made Me Do It. B.J. essentially asks what caused you to go from thinking about writing to actually picking up a pen and writing.

I wanted be a writer when I was a kid. I read Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and E.L. Konigsburg and I wanted to write books like theirs. But then I grew up and kind of forgot about it. I went into Deaf Education and when I got burnt out from teaching I went to work for an Internet company that developed kids' content. It was at this time that I went to Cozumel with the author of The Ramen King and I.

Now Andy Raskin is an impressive guy. He is quite brilliant (huge turn on), he's multi-lingual (even bigger turn on) and he is a skilled trombone player (yes, even bigger turn on). I was extremely taken with him. The problem was... I was too taken with him. I couldn't be myself around him at all.

He told me that one day he decided that he wanted to be a writer and he gave himself two years in which to get an article published in a national magazine. He started with small publications and within two years, he had indeed met his goal.

So, what did I do? I went home and decided I would get published too. (Not that I'm a copycat, but I had always had an interest in writing) I would write a picture book. I just knew that was my genre. I felt I had to prove something. I don't know if I had to prove it to him or to myself. But it was sort of like a dare. I was very focused on the end result. I didn't set out to write for the love of writing or the enjoyment of the process. I wanted a book on a bookstore shelf. I gave myself two years to get a contract. (Okay, so maybe I am a copycat)

I did meet my goal and I was pretty darn pleased with myself. Now I write for the love of language. I write because there is nothing more satisfying that finding the ideal word for rhyming picture book- the word that makes the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly. The joy for me now is the process.

I probably would have gotten to this point anyway, but he certainly got me here faster.

This is My Lucky Week

Okay, I don't mean I have had any luck this actual week, June 7-13th, 2009.

I just mean, historically speaking, many of the major events of my life have occurred between the 7th and 13th of June. I got married on June 9, (02) I conceived my daughter on June 12 (03) (sorry if that was too graphic but it was done in a hospital room, not at home in bed :) and I had my son on June 8th (05). I also got my one and only picture book contract in the second week of June. (also in 03, yes, it's been that long!)

So, I was feeling hopeful this week. So far, nothing.

Editor X, are you reading this? There's still time!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Ramen King and I

I am reading a memoir called The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life.

I hate memoirs. I never read them. The only memoir I ever finished is Angela's Ashes and that's because it really didn't read like a memoir at all. It read like fiction.

So, you might be asking yourself, "Why are you reading The Ramen King and I?"

I actually have a very good answer. Because I dated the author, Andy Raskin. When I say dated, I don't mean that he was ever actually my boyfriend. But we did go out several times and we even somehow ended up spending a week scuba diving together in Cozumel.

And, furthermore, I credit him to some extent for the fact that I am a published author today.

So, I certainly feel the need to know how exactly Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles, fixed his love life.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Are We Writers?

Richard Peck said, "I am a writer because of two boys on a raft."

Which got me thinking...

I am a writer because a little girl discovers the key to a locked garden.

Why are you a writer?

UPDATE: For more on what Richard Peck had to say at the NJ-SCBWI Conference, see Tara's post.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Speaking of Conferences...

I was The SCBWI New Jersey Annual Conference yesterday, and guess who sat next to me at lunch? Editor X! I couldn't believe it. There were like 20 tables and we were given table assignments. What were the chances?

So, she sits down right next to me and of course, I go into panic mode. "Hi, I met you in March," I say. "I sent you THREE NINJA PIGS." "Yes," she replies. "I still have it." No kidding! At this point, I have no idea what to say next. "Um, yeah, um... I am hoping that's a good sign." "Well, I like it. It's a good story, but... the picture book market is very character driven right now. Not sure it's a good time for a fractured fairy tale."

I am completely stumped for a reply. I don't want to ask if she'd like to see something else. Obviously, if she did, she would just tell me. So, I mention that an agent has asked to see it with minor revisions and babble like a lunatic about the conflicting advice I have had from various professionals. Oh, God. She probably hates me now. I feel like I sounded whiny and very negative about the industry. UGHHH! Why couldn't I have just kept my big mouth shut! Leave it to me to turn a great opportunity into a liability.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Guest Blogger: MelissaPEA on What Not To Do At Conferences

We’ve all heard the warnings about conference etiquette. No monopolizing editors and agents. No launching into a lengthy pitch unless asked. No sliding a manuscript under the bathroom stall when the editor next to you really just wants a few squares of toilet paper.

I used to think this was folklore. What self-respecting writer would actually behave like this? Editors and agents must be making it up, just to sway anyone from ever behaving so rudely.

I was wrong. Some writers think that attending a conference entitles them to elbow their way past the other aspiring writers and into an agent’s or editor’s good graces.

I was flabbergasted not long ago, when a woman had the audacity to say at a conference luncheon table, “Well, we’re sitting with editors and agents, and I drove eleven hours to get here so I’m not going to waste this opportunity.” She then polled each publishing professional to see if they’d be willing to have a looksie at her novel, which she described in detail.

Apparently she hadn’t read the list of no-nos that came with the conference packet. “Please pass the ketchup” is okay to say at the lunch table; “will you read my manuscript” isn’t. Everyone else appeared annoyed or uncomfortable, but the woman rambled on about that manuscript and others. I was so busy seething and tuning her out that I regrettably did not tell her to shut up.

My drive to the conference was only a half-hour, but over the years I’ve made numerous professional and personal sacrifices to become a children’s writer. So an eleven hour ride? PSHAW!

When we go to these conferences, we’re all excited about the possibilities. But we shouldn’t brim with so much enthusiasm, like Miss Eleven Hours, that we alienate editors, agents, and other attendees.

The thing I love about the children’s writing community is that we are an extremely supportive group. I have made great friends at conferences. We encourage each other all the time. Isn’t it better to make friends than enemies at conferences?

Did you ever meet someone who committed a conference faux pas? Do you have any advice for others on What Not To Do At Conferences?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I Have a New Mantra

My new mantra is...

Wait. Let me back up a bit. Monday night I was playing Bunco. For those of you who have no clue what that is, it's a stupid dice game that women in the suburbs play. This is as good a time as any to mention that I made more money in 2008 playing Bunco than I made in Hop! Plop! royalties. How sad is that?

Anyway, there are 12 women in the game and everyone hosts one month out of the year. We were sitting around stuffing our faces when we got started on the subject of "delivery stories." This led to medical "horror" stories in general. (You know, doctors forgetting an instrument inside you type of things) We're a competitive group. Jessica, wanting to top everyone, said, "Well, we had a regular customer who was a doctor. He had a diabetic patient once who needed a foot amputation. And he cut off the wrong foot." She won hands down.

So, from now on... when I forget the pom poms for my daughter's dance recital and I want to kill myself, I am simply going to breathe and say, "At least I didn't cut the wrong foot off!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Art Notes- Can't Live with 'em, Can't Live without 'em

As a picture book author, I always struggle with when to include an art note and when not to. Some editors and agents seem to hate them. My agent mentor at the NJ March SCBWI conference pretty much told me, "They should ALL go!"

But... won't the editor/agent be wondering what happens there?" I asked.

"NO," he replied. "CUT CUT CUT"

So, I sent my story to an agent without art notes and got this response today. "What happens there?"


She said there seemed to be a gap in the story. Well, it is a bit of a Catch 22. Industry wisdom dictates that a picture book should be half told by the author and half told by the illustrator, but you can't submit half a story! So, unless you happen to be an illustrator, you are in a bit of a bind.

What's a PB author to do?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

Never a dull moment around here. Last night, the fire alarm went off at 3:00 AM. David leaped out of bed in a single bound, which was reassuring considering my daughter was practically drowning once and he completely froze. (I had to go in the water fully dressed to save her.)

Josh, my almost four year old, slept peacefully through the shrill, piercing blare. I carried him to the front door.

There was no fire. David checked the basement and attic, but couldn't find anything that might have set it off. The police came. The fire department came. They checked for carbon monoxide but found nothing. They said an insect probably crawled into one of the units triggering the alarm. We apologized profusely for waking them in the middle of the night.

Josh got back into bed and speculated for an hour on why we say "the alarm went off" when the alarm actually went "on."