Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Post has been Canceled....

Amy Allgeyer Cook cracked me up with her post title yesterday, Today Canceled Due to Lack of Enthusiasm.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could cancel a day? I think I'd actually like to cancel this whole week.

All that fasting and atoning I did yesterday has killed off some brain cells. I can't think of a single thing to post about.

Well, actually I should rephrase that. I can't think of a single thing to post about that would make it past the blog police.

I'm in an overly reflective mood. And we all know, it is NEVER a good idea to reflect too much in public :)

So, what's a blogger to do?

Guess I'll have to come up with a list of ways cheer myself up.
  1. Go see what shenanigans Lisa and Laura are up to.
  2. Read my latest story with a British accent (Always sounds bloody brilliant that way).
  3. Tell my husband, "Honey, I'm late," and watch the sheer panic that comes over him. (This might seem mean, but if you saw the look on his face, you'd laugh too)
Ah, I feel better already.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hop! Plop! - My Road to Publication

In Case You Missed It ...

Recently, I've been asking guest authors to share their stories of how they got their first contract. Did they have an agent? Get out of the slush? Receive dozens of rejections?

I realize if you weren't one of my seven or eight followers back in December of last year, you probably missed my own story (or I should say series) of my road to publication.

So, now that I have over 100 followers, I've decided to post it again.

Hop! Plop! - The Life of a First Picture Book:

Part 1 - Conception
Part 2 - Gestation
Part 3 - Labor Pains

I know. You're probably thinking, "You bum! Too lazy to come up with a new post?"

Yes. I got nothing.

But in my defense, I have had two sick kids this week. The first FULL week of school. And I had looked so forward to finally having some time to myself!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Those of Us With Parenting Troubles Are in Good Company!

Got this email from my mom today and realized, I am not alone!

After creating heaven and earth,
God created Adam and Eve.

And the first thing he said was "DON'T!"

"Don't what?" Adam replied.

"Don't eat the forbidden fruit,"God said.

"Forbidden fruit?
We have forbidden fruit?
Hey Eve...we have forbidden fruit!"

"No way!"
"Yes way!"

"Do NOT eat the fruit!" said God.


"Because I am your Father and I said so!" God replied, wondering why He hadn't stopped creation after making the elephants

A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break
and He was ticked!

"Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit?" God asked.

"Uh huh,"
Adam replied.

"Then why did you?" said the Father.

"I don't know,"said Eve.
"She started it!" Adam said.

"Did not!"
"Did too!"

Having had it with the two of them, God's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own.

Ha! Now I don't feel quite so bad!

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Advice for New Parents

1) When your baby cries for milk, walk... don't RUN!

When my husband used to go to get a bottle for my newborn daughter, I literally used to yell at him, "Hurry! Faster!" Now I have two demanding little narcissists who think they are royalty. Would you like a foot massage with that lightly salted buttered popcorn?

2) Never ever let your preschoolers listen to the soundtrack from Rent.

Unless you want two little imps running around the house screaming in unison: This is weird. F*cking weird!

3) Whatever makes your life easier at the time is sure to come to back and bite you.

It might seem like a good idea to lie down on the floor next to your child's crib and stay there until she is asleep to avoid an hour of bloodcurdling screams, but DON'T DO IT! Likewise, do not drive them around to get them to take a nap, and whatever you do, do NOT buy them a toy to shut them up while you are running errands.

I keep telling David, "If we had a third, it would be so much easier this time around. I wouldn't make all the mistakes I made with the first two."

His response is always the same: You can have as many kids as you want. Just find a different husband.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The HICCUPotamus, Part 2- and a Giveaway!

What Does an Illustrator Bring to the Writing Table?

As you can see, Aaron Zenz is an amazing illustrator. But this is a blog about writing. So, what I wanted to know was this: Does being an illustrator affect how you write picture book text, and if so, how?

I should have asked Aaron this directly, but being inept at interviewing, I beat around the bush.

Wow! I see you have Book Dummies up on your web site. That is so cool. Do you recommend that PB authors "page out" their manuscripts even if they are not illustrators?

AARON: Yes, I think it's beneficial for a number of reasons...

First, a major aspect of a picture book is the "Page Turn." It's a reality that is unique to children's books. In an adult novel it doesn't matter -- you can turn a page in the middle of a sentence. Pages are insignificant. But in picture books, "the page" is a Huge component! Where the words fall, how they are paced out, is just as significant as what they say or how they're illustrated. Granted, authors don't always have to determine where those page turns occur. Sometimes that's best left to an editor or art director or illustrator. But I have to believe that being aware of their importance, imagining the Page Turn standing there looking over your shoulder, is going to influence, to improve, the way a person writes for children.

Second, "paging out" a manuscript is going to help you think through the action in a story -- or the lack of. Although an author may not be creating the illustrations him-or-herself, it's ideal to keep in mind that someone else WILL be. Since people know that I'm a children's author, I get asked all the time to look at things they've written (You probably get the same!) One time I was reading a story that, at first glance, seemed perfectly fine. The dialog was clever. The writing was creative. The language was beautiful and engaging. But after a while I wondered... how would someone illustrate this? This was intended to be a picture book, but the first third of the story consisted of a father talking to his daughter as he tucked her into bed. They were saying great stuff, but there was no action until a third of the way through the book. "Paging it out" might have helped the author to realize... here they are at the bedside, bedside again, and again, again still bedside. Gee. What is that going to look like? Picture books are inherently visual. (PICTURE books - see!) Although they aren't making the pictures, the best authors still focus on the visual nature of the product they are creating.

So, there you have it- an illustrator's perspective on PB writing.

Leave a comment for a chance to win two signed copies of The Hiccupotomas. (U.S. residents only. Contest deadline, Sept 19th at 11:59 PM)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The HICCUPotamus, Part 1- and a Signed Book Giveaway!

Aaron Zenz, author and illustrator of The HICCUPotamus, filled me in on a little secret. He is not a huge Seuss fan. He felt bad about admitting this publicly, especially because The Hiccupotamus so often gets compared to Seuss. (I, myself, did it here)

But he does LOVE nonsense!

Here's what Aaron had to say on the subject:

I don't like rhyming for rhyming's sake. I really think if a story *can* be told without rhyme, then it *should* be. But I DO love nonsense. Love it, love it, love it. I think Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" is the best thing ever written. I had a sense of accomplishment as a kid when I memorized it -- like I had mastered a secret language. I'm drawn to nonsense. Most of the things I've written involve nonsense -- either utilizing nonsensical words or simply starting with a nonsensical premise.

"The Hiccupotamus," rhymed only because it was essential in creating the nonsense words. "There was a hippopotamus / Who hiccuped quite a-lot-amus / And every time he got'emus / He'd fall upon his bottomus." I really had no interest in telling a story about a hippo with the hiccups getting chased around by a bunch of different animals. But I was enraptured with the idea of writing a story with words like "Cementipede" and "Wellephant" and "Quickerish" and "Nightmareapy!"

Jargon has a very nonsensical feel to it. Also coming out this month is a book I illustrated called "Nugget on the Flight Deck," written by Patrica Newman. While I was not thrilled with the idea of drawing pictures of aircraft carriers and jets (not my thing), I loved the fact that the book was filled with cool naval-speak like "zero-dark-thirty," and "put on a zoombag" and "bingo to Mom" and "401 plugged and receiving." Great stuff!

I have another manuscript I'm hoping, hoping, someone green-lights soon about baby animal names. We know about puppies and kittens and cubs. But there are also great baby animal names like pinkies, squeakers, leverets, and elvers. I love that!

Also, if "Hiccupotamus" manages to do well, I have a sequel that I'm hoping someone somewhere would like to publish called "The Chimpansneeze." It's also loaded with tongue-fun nonsense words. Any publishers reading this? Any takers? Eh?

The Chimpansneeze? Sounds hilarious. If I were an editor, I'd grab it!

Okay, we have more Aaron Zenz coming tomorrow. In the meantime here is the GIVEAWAY:

One lucky winner will receive TWO SIGNED copies of The Hiccupotamus (one for you and one for a friend.) Just leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite nonsense word. Come back and leave one on tomorrow's post for a second entry. (Open to U.S. residents only)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Tour Teaser

Guess who is making a stop here tomorrow as part of his blog tour???

I'll give you a hint:

There once was a guy who loved silliness.
Nonsense words gave him a thrilliness.
You'll be quite impressed with his skilliness.
If you can't guess, I will spilliness.

Gosh that rhyme scheme was hard! I'm even more impressed with him than I was before.


It is Aaron Zenz, also known in some circles as Z-Dad. Aaron is a super talented author AND illustrator, and he will be visiting us to celebrate the re-release of his whimsical picture book, The Hiccupotamus.

There once was a hippopotamus
Who hiccupped quite-a-lotamus.
And every time he got-emus...
He'd fall upon his bottomus.

I know, I know... he makes it look so easy!

So, please come back tomorrow. And if you'd like to check out some of the other posts on Aaron and his work, here are all the stops on the tour:

Monday Sept 7: Bookie Woogie
Tuesday Sept 8: Fuse #8
Wednesday Sept 9: Five Minutes for Books
Thursday Sept 10: Mother Reader
Friday Sept 11: Reading to Know
Saturday Sept 12: Book Scoops: (here and here)
Sunday Sept 13: 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Monday Sept 14: Jumping the Candlestick
Tuesday Sept 15: Thing 1 and Thing 2

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Week's Winner- Thing 1

Within a span of three days, Jordan (Thing 1) started kindergarten and learned to ride a two-wheeler! What a big week for her.

Thing 2, of course, was VERY jealous and did his best to make her life miserable. He drew on her art work, knocked down her sand castle, and for no reason at all said to me, "Sometimes I hate Jordan and her stupid mustache!" (Mustache? I have no idea where he gets these things from)

As for me, I got nothing. No news from my agent. No progress on my new PB. No spike in my blog stats.

I did have a little excitement, when I noticed that someone Googled, "Corey Schwartz and _____________" (Insert my agent's name in the blank). Let me just say, for a brief moment, my Hope Tank was full! I figured it must be an editor. Who else would Google my name with my agent's name? And, after all, I am out on sub.

But, of course, it could have been anyone. And if it was one of you, PLEASE tell me, so that my tank can go back to Empty where it belongs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

You're As Happy Now as You'll Ever Be

The Intern wrote a fabulous post called Scientific Proof that Publishing a Book Won't Make You Happier.

She points out that many writers expect "rapture and eternal contentment" following a publishing contract. But then, when those writers get book deals, they "defer their rapture and eternal contentment to when their book sells 1,000,000 copies, or when they get interviewed about it on the Daily Show."

After experiencing much consternation over this, the Intern has finally found an explanation: the hedonic treadmill. In her words, this theory states that "human happiness can only fluctuate so much before an internal recalibration occurs, and one returns to how happy or anxious one always was."

I suppose some of you may find this news a bit depressing, but I found it totally LIBERATING!

It takes all the pressure off.

If PIGS sells, great! If not, it really doesn't matter! Sure, I'll experience a brief high when I get the call. I may scream and jump up and down and call all my friends. It might last days or perhaps even a few weeks. But in the end, I won't be any happier.

I'll still be worried about X and annoyed about Y. My kids will still make me laugh and they'll still drive me crazy.

What an effing relief!

Thanks, Intern!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Liar Liar

I hear a scream from the other room. It's Jordan. She's crying. Josh comes running towards me with Jordan not too far behind.

ME: Why is Jordan crying?
JOSH: She hit me.
ME: If she hit you, then why is she crying?
JOSH: She feels bad.
ME: (Stifling a laugh) Jordan, what happened?
JORDAN: Joshy isn't telling the truth.
JOSH: Okay, we're both lying.

That's his new strategy. All for one and one for all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tribute to Caleb

When I was in kindergarten, I came home from school crying one day. My mother asked me what wrong and I told her, "A man named Vincent Van Gogh killed himself because no one appreciated his art. Then after he was dead, he became famous."

I was heart-broken. (My mother called the school and reamed them out for teaching five year olds about suicide!)

Last week, a guy that I went to elementary school with took his own life. I hadn't seen him in years, but we had recently reconnected on Facebook. I've been under a dark cloud ever since I heard. No matter how hard I try to enjoy the last beautiful days of summer, all I can see is his gorgeous smiling face!

So, this is for him:

Starry starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness of my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land.

For they could not love you,
but still your love was true.
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life as lovers often do.
But I could have told you, Caleb,
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.

(Lyrics from Vincent by Don McLean)

Rest in peace, my friend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

StoryQueen's Story

Today's inspiring Guest Post is from the fabulous Shelley Moore Thomas over at StoryQueen's StoryCastle

What it all comes down to is luck, I think. Luck is very powerful. That being said, I think it is possible to make your own luck.

When we finally broke down and bought a computer in late 1992, I figured I would start sending manuscripts out. (How writers managed before computers, I have no idea!) I had about six manuscripts that I decided to send, to different houses because simultaneous submissions were a big fat no-no. I bought my copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market so I could see who published what (and learned what a cover letter should look like). I chose editors to send stuff to based on nothing scientific...oohh, I really like her name! And started sending stuff out.
I received rejections, of course, all manner of rejections.
Dear Writer....
Dear Author.....
Dear Friend.....
Dear Ms. Thomas....whoa! Wait a minute!! Someone took the time to type my name??? Yahoo!

Okay, seriously, the tiny victories were sweet.

Then one day, on the simplest of my manuscripts, I got a letter asking to hold it for a bit, from the FIRST publisher I sent it to. Next came a letter asking to publish it. I was thrilled! The book was Putting the World to Sleep which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1995. There was only one change of one word in the manuscript, so not a lot of editing.

You would think I had it made. I sure did. Heck, I'd had my picture book published!!! By the first editor that saw it!!! I am awesome!!!

However, more likely I was lucky. I made that luck by not giving up, by being professional, and by not giving up. (Yes, I said that twice.) I thought Houghton Mifflin would be swarming all over my next stuff, my other stuff, my whatever!! But, after sitting on some stuff for a year and a half, they did not buy it. I was, at the time, crushed. I should not have been. Folks, this is the way it is. In order to publish a book, it must be the right book in the right hands at the right time. The magic three. I was lucky the first time. I had to make my own luck on the next eight books.

In terms of the rule of three, things are changing. I cannot get my books into as many hands (searching for the right ones) because fewer and fewer editors will look at unagented material. And, though I have nothing against agents, I have not yet engaged one. It is probably time to try and do so. Especially since I am trying my hand at longer pieces now.