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So, I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. I asked my friend Laini Taylor for an interview last month about her recently released middle grade novel, Dreamdark: Silksinger, and she graciously obliged.  I set the interview aside until her newest book, Lips Touch Three Times was released on October 1st. I’ve had a case of the blogging blahs, due in part to distractions of the  draft finishing and SCBWI variety. Long story short, two weeks pass.

And what happened?

Lips Touch Three Times becomes a finalist for the National Book Award!

Whoop! When I saw the list yesterday you would have thought someone won the lottery by the way I reacted (editor’s note: I can be very animated in real life.). But it’s even better than the lottery, isn’t it? Because lotteries are based on chance, and the National Book Awards are not. They’re based on talent and merit, and Laini and Jim are chock full. They’re sweet, lovely people, too, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

lainijim

So anyway, I wish I had asked her more questions about Lips Touch! I don’t want to bother her now since I have a feeling her email inbox is a little full, and if I call it might wake sweet little two-month-old Clementine up. Oh, well. Silksinger is equally fantastic. Pick them both up, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

WT: Tell us about Dreamdark: Silksinger!

LT: Dreamdark: Silksinger is the sequel to my first novel, Dreamdark: Blackbringer, but it can also be read as a stand-alone (of course I recommend reading both!) Both are fantasy-adventure for upper middle grade (ages 8-12), and are sophisticated enough for teen and adult readers too. They’re about faeries, but not dainty flowery faeries. My faeries are tiny but fierce, warriors and devil-hunters with powerful magic.

WT: Your faeries kick ass. What made you want to create this book?

LT: Thank you! I have five books planned out in the Dreamdark series, and I came up with the basic plot of Silksinger when I was about halfway through writing Blackbringer. It changed a lot in the actual writing, but the character of Whisper has stayed true to that initial inspiration — a faerie who can weave silk by singing, and creates flying carpets that way.

silksinger

WT: How different was your final draft from your first draft? Was the plot consistent? Any surprises?

LT:  Since I’m a compulsive perfectionist, I revise as I go, and I never end up with a true “first draft” — not a quick, messy one, anyway. It takes me a long time to get through a “first draft” and each chapter is generally revised many times before I proceed, and I reconceive the plot as I go, then backtrack and even start over. So by the time I get to “the end,” what I have is a draft that is already fairly polished. I’ve tried writing fast, loose first drafts, and it doesn’t really work for me — so far, anyway! Maybe one day!

WT: Huge congratulations on the birth of your lovely daughter, Clementine! How has parenthood impacted your writing?

LT:  Thank you! Well, we’re still working all that out :-) Jim and I both work at home, so we have a lot of flexibility with our schedules and can take turns with Clementine. I’m trying to adjust my schedule a little to work at night, which has never been my prime creative time (I get sleepy and dippy late at night). I’ve heard that having kids makes one more efficient, and I’m trying to make that true of myself. Fingers crossed!

WT:  You collaborate with your husband, illustrator Jim DiBartolo (recently dubbed Gentle Bad-Ass Bohemian Warrior Daddy by Ben Watson).  At what point in the process do you begin working together?

LT:  (Love that title, Ben!) In all three of my novels so far that Jim has illustrated, he’s worked from the finished (or almost finished) manuscripts. With the [secret] project we’re working on now, it’s more of a back-and-forth where the text and images are much more closely interrelated and interdependent. We’re having a lot of fun with it!

WT:  You have a YA novel, Lips Touch Three Times, released this month. Did you work on Silksinger and Lips Touch simultaneously?

lipstouchLT:  No. I wrote Lips Touch first. I had sent the manuscript of Blackbringer to my editor Timothy Travaglini, and while I was waiting to get my first-ever editorial letter back from him, I began writing short pieces for fun. Three of those pieces were the stories in Lips Touch (I realized I kept writing about kissing, and Jim had the idea that those kissing stories could be a book!). I started writing Silksinger after the major revisions on Blackbringer were done.

WT:  You’ve mentioned that you enjoy revising a manuscript. Why?

LT:  Ah, revising. First drafts are the hardest part for me: you’re creating something from nothing. What’s harder than that? I love to mess around with language, and my perfectionist brain finds revising very rewarding: taking something that already exists and making it better.

WT:  What’s made the biggest impact on your relationship with the writing community? Conferences? Blogging? Why?

LT:  Gosh. Both have been hugely important to my writing life. Before I started going to SCBWI conferences and blogging, I felt alone and entirely baffled by the mysteries of publishing. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about writing, and I didn’t know anything about publishing at all. Now, having made so many wonderful friends (not just writers, but also agents, editors, publishers, art directors, etc) both through conferences and online, publishing has been demystified and writing feels like a “real job”. Besides that, the friendships are just so rich, the people are so wonderful, they have made our lives feel larger and more colorful!

WT:  What are you working on now? Any more Faeries of Dreamdark?

LT:  I absolutely plan to continue the Dreamdark series, but right now I’m at work on several other projects: a YA novel, and something secret that Jim and I are doing together. All I’ll say about that is that it’s for younger kids, and is in a very different style than what we’ve done so far.

WT: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

LT:  Well, the answer to this question has completely changed for me. Before I might have said: reading, baking, painting, getting together with writer friends, and traveling. And that’s all still true! But my #1 favorite pastime now is just cuddling Clementine, preferably with Jim too :-)

WT: What have you enjoyed reading recently?

LT: I recently read Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series, and found it just as amazing as everyone says. Highly recommended! Also, Hunger Games and Catching Fire are fantastic.

Thanks, Laini! And Congratulations!! nbafinalist

It’s time to nominate your favorite books for the Cybils!

cybilsbling

Then, go pick up a copy of Laini Taylor and Jim DiBartolo‘s Lips Touch Three Times, available today. Why should you pick it up? Because I read the ARC, and it’s wonderful.  Because their editor, Arthur Levine, spontaneously cheered when reading an excerpt at the YA Buzz panel at BEA. Because Laini and Jim are made out of awesome. I’ll post a little interview with Laini in the next few days.

lipstouch

Yay! SCBWI’s own Aaron Hartzler has sold his YA memoir, Rapture Practice, to Little Brown to be published in 2011 (via PW Children’s Bookshelf).

If you’re in Seattle, mark your calendar for October 24-25 for the newly resurrected Bookfest. I’ll be on the Secret Garden KidsStage hosting some crazy MadLibs on Saturday and Sunday, because Penguin is celebrating 50 years of filling in the blanks with silliness. So, stop by- but leave the rotten tomatoes at home. I hear Martha Brockenbrough is hosting a Grammar Bee as well. Fun stuff!

I have a little bet going with that very same Martha B. to finish my rough draft by the end of the month, so I’ll be going now.

I dreamt about grizzly bears last night.  I’ve had a weird insomnia lately that leaves me with a night of wakefulness and vivid dreams.  Last night I was on a trail in the woods in what I already knew was bear country.  I don’t remember where I was going, but I knew that I had to get there.  Around every few curves there would just be a bear or two grazing, and I would tread softly past with my heart hammering against my ears.  I woke up feeling edgy and anxious.  It seemed like one of those dreams I was supposed to grasp some symbolism from, but I think I’m just too tired.  

So, the obligatory resolutions post.  I am a sucker for new year resolutions.  There’s so much hope in the prospect of change and success.  I always make the cliche’ ones with exercise, more veggies, blah blah blah.  I’m going to list three here that are directly related to my writing that I can review in a year.

  • Fix up my work-in-progress
  • Sell it.
  • Fix up work-in-progress #2.
  • Repeat.

Simple, right?  Let’s come back in 2010 and see how it went.

Let’s make a simple resolution just for January.  I resolve to get out of my writing funk and devote at least two hours every day just to revisions.  Starting today.  That should get me in ship shop shape for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York.

Nathan Bransford asks you not to mention the SASE you’ve included in your equery, among other things.

Indy bookstores need to stay competitive.  How about the Seminary Co-op in Chicago? They’ve started a blog with the covers if books from their front table, thus titling their blog- The Front Table.  When you hover over a cover you get a mini-window of information, and you can click to buy the book online with Booksense (via Slog).  Neat-o!

Kirby Larson has a new blog!

A teenager in Chile is making flipbooks from animations she made in Flash (via Drawn.ca).  Wouldn’t that be a nifty promotional tool for an illustrator to use? I seem to be a little obsessed with illustrator promotions lately.  Oh, well.  I’m in an artist mood today.

Jen Stark is a sculptor.  One day she was brainstorming for some budget-friendly material, and started cutting up a stack of construction paper.  

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You can watch her talk about her process in this video.

New blog feature:

Hook of the Week!

“In the late 17th century,  famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs. Three hundred years later, after one hundred lives as a dog, she returned to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she’s a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.”

Intriguing, no?  That is from the soon-to-be-released The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (via the Flux blog).

I haven’t been blogging.  I’ve been soaking up the last bits of summer to carry us through the soggy winter.  Hiking, playing, kayaking, sewing, watching baseball, lazing around.  Bliss.  Now we have one off at kindergarten, and one taking advantage of the quiet house to catch up on napping.  Time to write!

So, we moved and I’ve been working out of the dining room and at coffee shops.  A laptop certainly makes it easier to be flexible with writing in general, but to get down to the meat I need to have piles of notes, post its, a bulletin board- basically a big mess.  We’ve been working on the basement, but I’m not very patient, and the area we had planned for my office never felt right.

I’ve always admired garden studios.  I’m kind of a hobbit by nature, so having a cozy little den for work appeals to me.  I ordered the plans for Readymade’s mod shed a while back, but they’ve been gathering dust.  I’ve coveted Denise’s studio, Marla’s studio (click on the moon), and then Jaime made an awesome studio out of her shed.  There was a little bit in Sunset Magazine on lovely garden studios, and I started doing a little research.  Long story short:  In the interest of green-ness (and cheapness!) we procured a cute old shed on Craigslist that someone is moving and rebuilding in a corner of our garden.  It should be here in parts tomorrow, and all ready to go next week.  Yeehah!  I’ll post some pics of the process.

If you’re thinking:  You don’t need a garden studio, you fruitcake! You’re not an artist! Writers do it, too!  

There is a whole movement of people who work in their sheds in the U.K.  The Brits are on to something!  There’s a great site devoted to shedworking.  Here’s a messageboard thread full of inspirational pictures.  

Just in case you need even more studio porn- here’s a peek at some before and after shots of S.Britt’s Portland studio (via Drawn).

And some other stuff:

Plot This pointed me toward an interview on AdLit with Kate DiCamillo.

Where are the parents in YA?  Librarilly Blonde looks for them (via Under the Covers).

If you’re around Seattle:  It’s September!  The new season of  SCBWI WWA professional programming has begun.  Tomorrow we’re featuring Alexandra Penfold from Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.  Come a little bit early for the announcement slides and you might just get a sneak peek at our faculty for the spring conference.  See you there!

I leave you with an experiment in healthier brownies and a picture of my kayak-loving pooch.

 

P.J.- Captain of the kayak.

P.J.- Captain of the kayak.

 

Kim, time traveler with a ratting comb, 1966

Kim, time traveler with a ratting comb, 1966

Do you need to get in touch with a character for some recent historical fiction?  Or, do you just want to goof off online for a few minutes?  Of course you do!  Well, then go yearbook yourself (via SwissMiss). Or someone who entrusted you with a photo.  Find out what you would look like as a teen from days past (1950-2000).  That’s me in 1966.  Time travel makes me a little foreheady.  Side effect.  Now, I know.  

Go do it, and then I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU to post a picture on your blog.  Then tell me so I can giggle.

 

Do you have a Mac?  During her revision workshop at the LA conference, Lisa Yee told us she uses Scrivener.  I’m trying it out, and so far I really like it.  It beats Word for Mac, but that is a low, low, bar.  

 

 

I read Steve Kluger’s My Most Excellent Year this week.  It has good characterization with shifting points of view and means of communication (IM, email, etc.).  It also has baseball and a whole lot of romance- teen, adult, hetero, homo- love abounds.  Good stuff.  It also has clever marketing.  A main character’s website address is included in the text as part of the story, and voila!- the character has a site.  

 

Author Joni Sensel is off globetrotting- and blogging about it! She makes me want to take a trip.  I might start at this fabulous bookstore in China.

I’m going to try not to over-analyze that “How to tell me my book stinks” has been my post with the most hits.  That was a week ago, and it’s time to move on.

This week has whizzed by in a blur of camping, toddler teething, wine drinking, laundry, reading, shopping, packing, and planning for upcoming SCBWI WWA happenings.  Oh, and writing.  Lotsa writing.

In the dead of the night, I’ve been busy with manuscript revisions.  The more I revise, the more work I create for myself with big changes to the plot.  I feel like I’m practically back to square one. I thought I would polish up the piece I sent down to L.A. for a manuscript consultation, but the more I dig into it the more obvious it is how far it is from presenting to anyone.  Sigh.

I read Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by Robin LaFevers.  The first in a promising new series, Theodosia is like Indiana Jones if Indiana was a young English girl.  I’m looking forward to the next book, that should be out in the fall.

 

I am also looking forward to the sequel to Jellaby by Kean Soo.  Great, unique graphic novel that has great illustration layouts and broad appeal.  It was originally published as a webcomic that you can see at the Secret Friend Society.  What happens next?

Do you like papercuts?  The nonpainful, artistic, kind?  Then go to Beatrice Coron’s site here.  Beautiful, no? Thanks to Crooked House for the link.

The fall kid lit focused Publisher’s Weekly is out now.  You can see a bit here.  I went to pick one up at a local bookstore with an extensive periodical section and they said they didn’t carry Publishers Weekly.  They said it was too “special interest.”  Books?  Apparently there is more call for info on modern northwest dogs or extreme canoe-ers.  Who knew?

Stephen Barbara mentioned at the last regional conference that he was seeing a big trend of manuscripts with dystopian post-apocalyptic settings.  Newsweek looks into it.

Betsy Bird made a post a few days ago that was awesome in many ways.  Cute baby animals AND a discussion on the lack of non-dysfunctional working class characters in children’s literature.  Plus, some other stuff.  

 

Tomorrow at this time I will be boarding a plane to head for sunny L.A. for my first ever SCBWI International Annual Summer Conference. I am so jazzed!  I’ll try and blog a little bit while I’m down there.  

Off to pack!

If you like Captain Underpants, you should try…  (via Jen Robinson’s Book Page)

Shrinking Violet Productions gives us a marketing task timeline.

Jay Asher has a friend named Suzanne Young.  She writes.  A lot.  She decided to write YA a year and a half ago and has written NINE NOVELS.  If I tried to write nine books in eighteen months they would all be called Craptastic followed by the appropriate Roman numeral.  Suzanne Young has a two book deal with Razorbill.  Go Suzanne!

Cynsations interviews Jennifer Bradbury on Shift.  Make sure to see the book trailer for Shift at the bottom.  

Working on a familiar theme, but putting in your own unique twist?  Be inspired by the Violent Femmes covering Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy and put your own spin on it.

Portland is calling.  

It’s time to register for Kidlitosphere 2008.  Go here.

(Photo from Travel Portland)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I read Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor.  Wow.  I kept seeing this book around, but the cover didn’t grab me.  I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade and YA novels.  There are a lot of dead moms.  The alive moms are usually lovable and quirky.  Addie’s mom is manic and self-absorbed, and it makes you want to kick her fictional ass.  Addie is eternally optimistic that her mom will do the right thing- but some moms are just drips.  Certain scenes made my chest ache.  Fantastic character depth and emotional resonance.

That one didn’t make me cry.  Chris Crutcher‘s Deadline did.  Ben Wolf gets a terminal diagnosis right before the start of his senior year.  He decided not to seek treatment- and to keep it a secret from family and friends (I’m not giving much away- this all happens in the first chapter).  I don’t want to give anything away, but there was a scene towards the end with his brother that made me blubber.  I don’t cry when reading.  I think the last time was The Time Traveler’s Wife (You would have to have a heart of crusty ash not to cry at the end of  that book!).  I feel weary, elated, empathetic- but I don’t really cry.  A well placed wail can apparently start the waterworks.  It’s another excellent read.  

 

What sorts of random things do people use as bookmarks, only to be discovered later by used bookstore owners?  These sorts of things. (via Bookninja).  

One writer’s quest for representation.  A pro-active search for a literary agent with a happy ending.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin BenwayThis week I read the debut YA novel Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway.  This book has been getting so much buzz.  It’s got a fabulous hook (Girl breaks up with boy. Boy writes hit song about break up.  Girl inadvertently famous), but then the story goes on to have a great voice with fleshed out characters, laughs, suspense, and a satisfying ending.  It was really well done and I didn’t want to put it down.  I can’t imagine the zeal 16 year old me would have for such a tale.  

An interview with Robin can be found here.

 

 

 

I was perusing the Disco Mermaids biggest hits and read Jay Asher’s account of how he found out his smash hit first book, 13 Reasons Why, had an offer offers, and how he told his family and friends.  He even bought flowers and took pictures of their reactions!  I don’t know Jay, and it was a couple of years ago, but it made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  Belated congratulations and may we all have the good fortune of multiple offers and a circle of loved ones to celebrate with.  

 

You!  The creative one!  Go get involved.   

 

Have a poetic picture book that doesn’t have bad rhyme?  Send the first bit to Editorial Anonymous for a contest by Sunday.  Will she beg to be your editor?  Probably not.  Will she mock you?  Maybe. Good luck.     

 

 

Last but not least, 826 Seattle has created a series of writing workshops for GROWN UPS.  Woohoo!  I went to the first workshop in the Write Like I Do series with Ryan Boudinot and John Moe on How To Be Funny.  Ryan gave good insight, but John Moe was a HOOT.  I thought about how great it was that I shared a city with this funny man and then he dropped the bomb that he was moving to Minnesota the next week. Lame!

John Moe writes the Pop-Music Correspondences for McSweeney’s. My favorite is 39 Questions for Charlie Daniels.  If I had a quarter for every quarter I put in the jukebox at the Moose Lodge to hear The Devil Went Down to Georgia while I waited for my grandpa to finish his beer, I could buy a moleskine notebook.    

 

Have you read The Highest Tide?  Then why haven’t you signed up for Jim Lynch’s workshop on How To Pull Novels from Nature?!?  For some odd reason, there’s still room.  The Highest Tide has recently been re-released in adult and  YA format.  

 

Good call.  The Highest Tide

I write stories for kids while volunteering as the Assistant Regional Advisor and Conference Coordinator for the western Washington chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I live in Seattle with my family and a small zoo of animals. I drink copious amounts of coffee and assign complicated life stories to passing strangers. I'm currently working on a middle grade novel.

There's a wee bit more on my website. You can also follow me on twitter.

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