Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Must Really Be a Nerd

Ann Hathoway was on Jon Stewart the other night and she referred to herself as a nerd.  Jon Stewart asked her "What sort of  nerdy pursuits do you have?" And she answered, "I'm a Scrabble fiend."

Well, if that is the definition of nerd, then I more than qualify.  At any given time, I am in no less than 18 concurrent games.  (at least 4 on my iPhone and 14 on Facebook)

But I think what really makes the case is this... I participated in a PB Makeover workshop on Write on Con this week, and it was THE MOST FUN I'VE HAD ALL SUMMER!

Yes, really.  Better than beaches and boating.  Better than wining and dining.

It really was a shot of adrenalin for me.

For example,


Beware the itching snitcheroo
with fingertips that stick like glue.
Make sure he never touches you.
The itch will drive you to snitch, too.

I took this already fun, Seuss-y stanza by Myrna Foster, and came back with this:


Beware the itching snitcheroo
with fingertips that stick like glue.
But please don’t touch him, if you do
The itch to snitch will switch to you!

More fun than careening down a steep water slide.

Yup, NERD-ville.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Pitch in Time Saves Nine

Okay, so I had this whole post written... in my head.  I was going to explain how I used to write picture books and then send them to my agent, only for her to write back and say "Eh.  The story is well-written, but I don't really care for the premise."   After a half a dozen of these experiences, my husband said to me, "You really need a new strategy."  (Yes, he knew if he didn't speak up, I would continue banging my head against the wall indefinitely)

He suggested I 'pitch" an idea to my agent BEFORE I started writing.  Well, eventually (after several more experiences like my earlier ones) I decided to give it a try.

And guess what?

It worked!

So, I was going to suggest that you all try to write your pitch before you write your story.

Bu then Jean Reidy went ahead and said that exact thing.  And she articulated the reasoning behind it so well!  So... go check out her post!

NOTE:  If anyone would like to test out his/her pitch, there is a great opportunity over at Susanna Hill's blog today called Would You Read It Wednesday?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sometimes Less is More

I always struggle to come up with new premises for picture books. I rack my brain for something high concept.  Something that has a "Hollywood" hook.

But sometimes the simplest stories are the sweetest!

Today I read POUCH by my new idol, David Ezra Stein.  (Author-illustrator of the ever-hilarious Interrupting Chicken.)

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 1—Stein continues to create deceptively simple yet very affecting picture books. One day, little Joey peeks out of Mama Kangaroo's pouch and says, "I want to hop!" Each time he leaves his safe haven, he takes more steps, meets a strange new animal, yells out "Pouch!," and hops back to his mama to hide. But when the final animal is another little joey who also yells "Pouch!," the two realize there is nothing to fear, have a good laugh, and hop off together. When their mamas offer their pouches, the youngsters say, "No, thanks."

I found this book to be so darling, probably in part because it reminds me of Jordan when she was little.   But isn't that always what makes a book special?  The fact that you can see a little part of yourself (or your kids) in it!

When Jordan was 12 or 13 months old, every time we were out and ANYTHING did not go her way (perhaps, for example, another kid grabbed a toy from her) Jordan would come running over to me yelling and signing, "Home!"

Can't wait to get my hands on Stein's other picture books.

NOTE:  Now that I think of it, Jordan did this at home too.  Whenever we were in the apt. and something did not go her way, she would yell  "CRIBBY!"   That was her pouch.  God, how could I have not written this book?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

I don't like to do too much self-promotion on here, but since my Hop! Plop! Amazon price just dropped from its highest ever ($15.95) to its lowest ever ($6.38), I feel like I ought to mention it.

Okay, moving on....

I had a bit of an eye-opening talk with my agent last week.  I have been with her for two years and I have shown her close to a dozen manuscripts.  She has subbed and sold two and has not wanted to sub any of the others.  My attitude was "Why not give one a shot?  What do we have to lose?" In my mind, the worst that could happen was that it doesn't sell.  But my agent explained to me that there is something worse.  It can sell to a house, but not do well with the public.  She said, "Early books with poor sales figures can hurt your career." 

Her philosophy is quality over quantity.   This actually works for me.

Beth Revis once asked (in early 2009, when she and I first started blogging):

If you could have one book published--but only one book--and that book would 100% for sure be published, and you would 100% for sure have moderate success (a good advance, book tour, signings and readings--but we're not talking JK Rowling here), BUT after this happened you would 100% for sure never publish again (you can write all you want--just not be published)...would you do that instead of staying in the rat race of publication and trying to break out with your own chops, knowing the chances? Which would be better--guaranteed one perfect slam dunk, or just the chance to stay in the game and hope the ball comes your way?

I still remember it well, because I was pretty much the ONLY person who responded that I would take the slam dunk!

I would rather have one -or a small handful of- very successful books, then 30-40 mediocre ones.

How 'bout you?