Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Lightbulb is On

I haven't had a light bulb moment in... uh, pretty much my whole life. (I think my only light bulb moment ever might have been to write THREE NINJA PIGS.) So imagine my astonishment last night when I suddenly figured out how to turn a "blah' story into something that may actually have a hook?

Last May ('09), I participated in NaNoPiBoWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) The goal was to write one picture book manuscript per day for seven days. Let me tell you... this was quite a challenge! I only wrote one decent story the whole week. The story had some fun elements- a unique structure, inventive word play, and some irreverent humor. But something was severely lacking. It fell flat.

It needed a whole other dimension and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what.

That was over a year ago. I never showed the manuscript to my agent because I was a bit embarrassed by it. And yet, there were components of it that I did not want to go to waste.

Then last night, while brainstorming ways of addressing another abandoned manuscript, I had my "aha!" moment.

My Muse seems to sleep way more than most Muses, but boy am I glad she woke up and decided to turn on the light.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


It's excruciating.

How I hate
this awful wait.
I think I need sedating.

I was going to post on how torturous it is to wait while you're out on sub, but Mandy over at Writing Out the Angst already did it so much better than I could have, so just go on over and check out her post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's the Story?

Okay, so we have a new favorite game at our house. I've been having trouble coming up with an idea for a new picture book, so I figured "Why not put my kids to work?" It's not like they help with laundry or dishes. They've got to earn their keep around here somehow.

So, I made up a game. It's called "What's the Story?" I give them a title and then they tell me what happens in the story.

The first title I gave them was ROSCOE TO THE RESCUE.

Jordan said, "Roscoe is a raccoon and he thinks he has super powers, but he doesn't (Clearly, the movie Bolt is a favorite at our house) He goes around trying to rescue all sorts of little animals. Then at the end, his mom gives him super powers." (She lost me with the last line, but up until that point, it was sounding like it had potential. )

Joshy said, "How about a story about monster trucks?" (Okay, he hasn't really grasped the game yet)

But I plan to keep playing! Sooner or later, one of them will give me my next big idea!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reasons to Go to Conferences- Part 2

REASON #2- You Could Get a Contract (or Two)

If getting an agent at a conference is like getting a four-of-a-kind in poker, then getting an actual contract is a straight flush. It is hitting the jackpot. The only thing better would be to get a Royal Flush like picture book author, Karen Rostoker-Gruber. Karen got TWO book deals from attending one conference! Here's the story in her own words:

Back in 2001 I wrote a book called "Food Fright." I thought it was really
good, so I sent it in to Dial Books. (This is relevant by the way--later,
much later, in the story.)

1 month later I got a "we don't take unsolicited manuscripts" letter back
in my mail box from Dial--no surprise there!

That same day, I drafted a query about "Food Fright" and I resent it to
Dial Books.

I didn't hear back from Dial and the due date for the RUCCL was coming up.
Knowing that that was my best book, I sent it into the conference.

1 month later someone from Dial told me to submit the whole manuscript to
them and mark it "requested material" and send it directly to Karen

I immediately did as told and sent "Food Fright" to Karen Riskin at Dial.

In August I heard that I had gotten into the RUCCL conference and was
sooooo excited.

Two nights before the conference, I had a dream that I got Karen Riskin at
Dial as my mentor.

I freaked out. What if that was true? What if I got Karen Riskin as my
mentor at the conference? Would she be upset that she came all that way
to read something that she had already read and possibly rejected at Dial.

I called my friend Edna the next day. "I'm not going to the conference,"
I told her.

"What? You have to go!"

I told her about my dream and my feelings. She told me to stop being
strange, bite the bullet and come to the conference. She also said, "What
are the odds that Karen Riskin was an editor that was even invited to the
conference. And, if Karen Riskins was invited as a mentor to the
conference, what are the odds that you'd get her. Plus, if even you did
get Karen Riskin as your mentor, maybe she wouldn't be angry with you for
submitting the same work to her as you did to the conference and maybe she
hadn't even read it yet."

I thought about it. I knew Edna was right. I needed to go to the

Soooooo, I'm at the conference breakfast. (This is where you go through
your folder to see who you are matched up with.) I look down the
list.....L M N O P Q R......


.......................................Karen Riskin

I almost DIED right then and there. Freak-out city is what I'd call it.
I tried to calm down, but it was hard. My dream was becoming a reality
and I wasn't sure if it was going to be a good or bad thing, but it was
most def a thing.

As it turned out the meeting with Karen Riskin was the most amazing
one-on-one I have ever had.

As soon as we sat down this is what she said:

"I can't believe that I got you as a mentee because just yesterday, at
Dial, I read you manuscript "Food Fight."

(Now I am really beginning to freak-out, as this was exactly like the
dream that I had had.)

.........and then this morning I opened up my folder and there was "Food
Fright" again. I just want to tell you--and I hope that you don't mind,
but I gave it to my good friend, Kelli Chipponeri, at Price Stern and
Sloan. Do you have anything else for me to see?"

Did I have anything else for her to see, I had a whole folder filled with
wonderful manuscripts. That was when I gave her "Rooster Can't

After a few rounds of changes (over the course of a couple of months after
the conference) Karen Riskin bought Rooster Can't Cock-a-Doodle-Doo" and
Kelli Chipponeri at PSS bought "Food Fright."

It was unreal!

All I am going to tell you is this: if you get into the conference, you
are a really talented writer. I didn't know that the three times that I
had gotten in.

Now, being on the other side, I know it is true. The competition is
fierce and there are sooooo many applicants that are worthy, but we can
only pick 75 to 80 mentees each year--space issues.

The editors don't get paid to come to this conference. They are coming on
their own time. They know that we have quality mentees and that is why
they continue to attend this conference.

If you get in, just know, it may change your life!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reasons to Go To Conferences- Part 1

Okay, we all know there are TONS of reasons to go to conferences. But it is always nice to hear specifics rather than generalities.

REASON #1 - You could get an agent

Tracey Adams was critiquing conference manuscripts. Most of them were pretty crappy. But then she picked up one called LEAVING THE BELLWEATHERS. She read the first paragraph:
It is nighttime in the village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. All is quiet except for the chirp of crickets and the occasional moist ribbit of a bullfrog. A slanted yellow patch of lamplight shines through a window and rests softly on the grass. Certainly there is nothing in this peaceful scene to hint that pandemonium is likely to break out at any moment. On the third floor of the Lighthouse on the Hill an upright man sits in an upright chair. at an upright desk, up writing in his diary.
Tracey knew on the spot that she wanted to represent this writer, Kristin Venuti Clark!

She sold this fabulous quirky novel to Regina Griffin at Egmont, and the sequel THE BUTLER GETS A BREAK is now out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rutgers Deadline Looms

Eek! The application for the Rutgers One-on-One Conference is due June 15th! (Last year, the deadline wasn't until July 8th, so I thought I still had plenty of time.)

Luckily, my friends know that I am totally ditzy and disorganized, so one of them emailed me to let me know. Thanks, Melissa!

Not only have my friends saved me from many fiascoes, but my preschoolers have occasionally done so too. (Hey, Mommy, you know today is a half day, right? WTF? No, I had no clue!)

Anyway, when I heard, I debated about whether or not to apply. One of my friends said, "You just went to SCBWI. And you have an agent, so why bother?"

I replied, "It's like the lottery... you have to play it a lot in order to win. It only takes ONE meeting with the right editor to get a book deal."

And, poof. I convinced myself. Gosh, I'm persuasive.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Entitled Little Narcissists

They're cute as can be
but they fight endlessly
and they constantly whine and complain.

They gripe and protest
"I don't want to get dressed."
They're driving me truly insane.

They kvetch and they moan
When I talk on the phone
My, gosh, I can't hear a thing!

They want to be served
Boy, they've got some nerve
They think they're the queen and the king!

They drop trash on the floor
and demand "Get me more!"
With no "thank you's" for goodness sake.

You two, I adore you,
but please. I implore you!
Give your poor Mommy a break!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Conference High

Nothing like a kids birthday party to ruin a post conference high. Yesterday was agents, and editors, and pitches. And today was spilled apple juice and screaming five-year-olds.

I came home last night with my head buzzing. Keynotes. Critiques. Cool contract anecdotes.

"ItalkedtoSteveMeltzerandStephenBarbararememberedmeandShaunaFeyreallylikedGoldiRocks!" I yammered to my husband.

Two full days at the Princeton Hyatt schmoozing with writers and publishing professionals. I was flying.

I could get addicted to this conference thing.

Then, I woke up this morning and scrambled to get the house ready for Josh's baseball birthday bonanza. Had a dozen little boys running wild, dueling each other with huge inflatable bats.

363 more days to the next annual NJ SCBWI Conference. Maybe I'll see what New England's got cooking?