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I met Karen Cushman briefly last summer at the Golden Kite Luncheon at the SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A. I knew everyone at our table apart from Karen and her nephew. She introduced herself, just as congenial as can be, and I think I said something smooth and charming and not all all flustered.

Something like, “Oh! Wow!”

I recovered, and we went on to have a lovely luncheon. Karen was awesome, and I’m honored to offer a little glimpse into her newest book, Alchemy and Meggy Swann, as well as her writing process. Thank you, Karen!

KB:  Tell us about Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

KC:  Feisty Meggy, sent from her mother’s village to live in London with the father she has never known, struggles with his evident disappointment when they meet. Not only is she is not the son he had expected, she walks with a halting gait–wabbling she calls it, aided by two sticks.  Meggy finds the city a horrible place and is angry and frightened.  Slowly she explores her new world, makes friends, and begins to help her father, an alchemist.  Along the way she learns much about friendship, loyalty, and transformation.

KB:  How did writing Alchemy and Meggy Swann differ from your other books?

KC: Differ?  I don’t think it did.  There were the usual panics and the usual hair-tearing-out when editorial letters came.  The most different thing about the book is that Meggy struggles with a physical disability.

KB:  What kind of writer are you (e.g. What time of day do you typically write)?

KC: I write better in the morning, but first I have to read the newspaper, check emails and writers’ blogs, eat breakfast, shower, do a load of laundry, think about dinner. Then I answer emails, play computer solitaire, and talk baby talk to my cat.  Finally I am impatient enough with myself to sit down and work.  By that time it is usually not morning anymore so in reality I write in the afternoon.

KB: Do you give yourself a daily word count? Are you an outliner?

KC: I don’t outline or make 3×5 cards or storyboards, but I do have a story pretty well developed in my head before I start to write it.  I hate facing the blank page and find writing the first draft by far the hardest part of the job, pulling words out of me like, Katherine Paterson says, a spider spinning a web out of her own guts.  I don’t have a word or page count but work as long as I feel productive.

KB:  Do you revise as you go, or just get the first draft down?

As I write my first draft, I go back and polish those pages and chapters that came before.  Over and over.  This is how I start working each day–reading over and polishing what I have already written.  It gives me a running start on the day’s work.  It’s those early chapters that establish mood and voice and I like to know these as I write on.  Is the voice humorous and ironic, like Birdy?  Naive but wise like Alyce?  Sad and angry like Rodzina?  Complaining and confrontational as are Lucy and Matilda?

KB:  Do you believe in writer’s block?

KC: I believe there are some times when a writer doesn’t want to write, doesn’t know what comes next, doubts she can do it, thinks she has nothing more to say.  But as a diagnosis?  Nope.  I don’t believe in writers’ block.  Or most attempts to turn a process into a thing, for that matter.

KB:  How do you stay in touch with the writing community?

KC: I read blogs, email friends, huddle with other writers at conferences, read what’s newly published.

KB: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

KC:  Sleep.  Read.  Putter in the garden.  See friends.  Watch Inspector Morse.

KB: Any writing and/or revision tips you’d like to share?

Revision is much easier for me than writing a first draft.  So with my work in progress, Will Sparrow’s Road, I tried something different.  I set up a vague outline of chapters, typed notes and ideas in each chapter, added a few sentences, a character description, an action, some dialogue, whatever occurred to me, until the book was laid out on the computer.  Then when I went back, writing that first draft was more like editing and revising, not writing.  Much easier.

KB:  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

KC:  Besides many, many, MANY books as research for one book or another, I enjoyed The Calligrapher’s Daughter, Eugenia Kim; Ice by Sarah Beth Durst; A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick; The Wet-Nurse’s Tale, Erica Eisdorfer.

Thanks, Karen!

Don’t forget that Karen will be speaking at our last SCBWI Western Washington meeting of the season on May 11th.

If you would like a chance to win a signed copy of Alchemy and Meggy Swann, just share a writing or revision tip in the comments. I’ll pick a winner on Thursday!

Look, I’m back. I can stick with it, I can!

The truth is, the one time I put a water bottle in my computer bag- it leaked. My computer spent some time in a box of rice over the heater (per instructions my husband found on the internet) and then it went to a guru. Everybody kept saying it would be fine as long as I took the battery out- but the new Macbook Pros have nonremovable batteries. Gah! We got it back tonight, and it has a couple of permanent water spots on the screen and needs a new airport card- but everything else is superduper. Yeehah! I will never bag a beverage again.

The Onion examines an authors exploitation of innocent, interspecific friendship.

The Longstockings are calling for a new manuscript to critique.

If you just ventured out from your cave, there were some book awards this week. I did pretty well with predictions. How about you?

Congratulations all around! Great Kid Books has the list broken down by reading level.

The BBC has produced a video about the real toy story of what happens when a teddy bear is home alone. Some people might not appreciate the audio at the end, but I am a different sort of people. Thanks to Minor Details for the link.

If you’re going to New York next week for the SCBWI Winter Conference (or if you’re there already), there are a few extra events happening around town you might be interested in.

Books of Wonder is hosting a fantastic panel of middle grade and YA authors like Sydney Salter and Ann Haywood Leal this Thursday.

Once again Betsy Bird is throwing a Kidlit Drink Night to go along with the conference. I went last year and had tons of fun. Her partner in revelry, Cheryl Klein, will sadly be out of town. But, we’ll live it up in her honor on Friday.

And then back at Books of Wonder on Saturday from 12-2 you can catch the opening of illustrator  John Rocco‘s exhibition of Percy Jackson art. His editor will be there as well talking about the process of developing the art for the series.

Closer to home- SCBWI WWA’s 19th Annual Conference registration is OPEN! I’m so excited! Peter Brown! Jay Asher! Laini Taylor! Mitali Perkins! and LOADS of other great people.  Look! I’m even on there. Under “Distinguished Faculty.” Ha! I’m giving a talk on the very basics of social media for writers and illustrators. People come to the conference from all over, so don’t be shy if you’re not local. Registration is already almost half full- so don’t delay.

Did you register yet??

I’m waiting for the rain and wind to let up and my little one to go down for a nap. Then I can go clean up the many chicken feathers that the raccoon left behind  when he decreased our chicken population from 3 to 2 last night. I’m still getting used to the idea of our chickens being pets/food-producers, and now they’re pets/food-producers/food. Gah!

That’s right! All glamour, all the time.

Let’s just focus on the future, ok?

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be on the Children’s Stage at Seattle Bookfest at 3 for wacky Mad Libs. With prizes! It’s a whole weekend of books and local authors and fun. Say hi if you’re there!

While we’re talking about where I’ll be when… I’ll be at the 2010  SCBWI Winter Conference January 29th-31st in New York City.  I was there last year, and had a great time (here’s the recap). Registration starts on October 28th!

If you have a something that is submission-ready, you might want to seriously consider signing up for the intensives on the 29th. I’m not sure how the illustrator intensive works, but for writers it’s like a group critique led by a mystery editor or agent. It’s not cheap, but if you have the scratch, it’s probably worth it. You won’t find out who you’re with until you pick up your badge at the registration table. Last year I was fortunate to have Michael Stearns and Liz Szabla lead my tables (!). They each gave fantastic, useful, different feedback.  There are many, many publishing success stories that sprung from these intensives (Just ask Jill Alexander or Holly Cupala.)

I eventually scrapped that particular manuscript in June, but I started something new in July and I should be wrapping up my rough draft this week (Wheeee!). Just in time for the revision retreat the first weekend of November and maybe the intensive, too.

Did you nominate books for the Cybils? Nominations are closed now, but there are plenty of recommendations.  First round panelists are super busy narrowing the long lists down to short lists. In the middle grade category, that’s where I come in! I’m a second round judge, and in great company. Look!

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Sherry Early, Semicolon
Melissa Fox, Book Nut
Abby Johnson, Abby the Librarian
Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader
Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews
Sarah Mulhern, The Reading Zone
Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

Round II Judges:

Kimberly Baker, Wagging Tales
Stacy Dillon, Welcome to my Tweendom
Monica Edinger, Educating Alice
David Elzey, Excelsior File
Kerry Millar Shelf Elf

cybilsbling

Any predictions for the short lists? Share ‘em in the comments!

Lots of good news:

Martha Brockenbrough sold a picture book (This news is a couple weeks old, but still awesome.)!

Author/Illustrator Kjersten Anna Hayes got an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Writing Competition for Children’s/Young Adult fiction. Congratulations, Kjersten!

And this morning it was announced that Grace Lin’s wonderful Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was chosen for Al Roker’s Today Show Kid’s Book Club! Yay, Grace! You can see my interview with Grace about her process making Where the Mountain meets the Moon here.

I’ll have more interviews featuring fab middle grade authors soon, when things slow down a little bit.

And in the random news category: Ground Control to Major Tom You? Scientists are looking for a few good people to spend 520 days on a simulated trip to Mars.  You get a real trip to Moscow, and after a few days you won’t know if you’re on a real space ship or not.

Ok, it’s time for me to go outside, but first I’m going to watch one of my favorite videos ever. Happy weekend, everybody!

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

I met Grace Lin lastwtmmtm_coverjpg spring when she was a keynote speaker at our spring conference. She’s sweet and sharp, and she always finds a way to create books in her own unique way. Her newest book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a middle grade novel based on Chinese folk tales with full color illustrations. From the wonderful story, to the beautiful artwork and even the lush feel of the paper, it’s truly a gem.

WT: Tell us about your novel, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.”

GL: My publisher has dubbed “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” as an Asian “Wizard of Oz,” which, while I am honored it is compared to a great classic that I love, is not really what I had in mind when I wrote it. The story follows a young girl named Minli who, inspired by her father’s stories, goes on an enchanted adventure to find the Old Man of the Moon to change her family’s fortune. On the way, she hears various stories from all the people/creatures that she meets and the stories slowly weave a lesson (but not in a didactic way!) about the secret of happiness. The book is a mixture of Chinese folktales and my imagination and values; it’s both ancient and modern, Asian and American.

A noteworthy thing about the novel is that there are full color illustrations scattered throughout the book. The whole book was actually printed in full color–great pains were taken with the design and production. I truly hope that everyone who reads it feels that the book is a thing of beauty aesthetically as well as story-wise!

minliWT: What made you want to create this book?

GL: I grew up in Upstate NY, the only Asian (except for my sisters) in my school. Because of this, my childhood was always tinged with a strange sense of identity. Was I Chinese? Taiwanese? American? Most of the time I simply ignored my race.

But my mother regretted that I knew and had so little interest in our cultural heritage. So, one day she put about half a dozen Chinese folktale and fairytale books on the shelve for me to read. Which (always unable to resist the lure of a new book) I did.

At first disappointed. Used to lush illustrations and descriptions, the Asian books were plainly translated with an occasional simple b/w line drawings and seemed an inadequate comparison. However, slowly I discovered the stories had a magic and I began to imagine details of my own, tinged with Asian-American sensibilities. When I grew older and was able to travel Hong Kong, Taiwan and China–the stories came alive.

And “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” came into existence. An homage to the folktales and fairy tales I read in my youth, it is a mixture of Asian fairytales and North American classics. Not a traditional retelling of stories from either cultures it is, as I said above, a mix– like me, Asian-American.

Grace_templeWT: The format is so rich and unique. How was developing this book different from your previous novels?

GL: The was very different from my other novels as it was a fantasy, not first person narrative and less episodic than “The Year of the Dog” and “The Year of the Rat.” But I definitely needed to write those first, to gain confidence in my writing ability, before writing “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.”

I tend to write in kind of a haphazard way. I plan the start and end in my head, write the first couple of chapters and then write brief chapter summaries for the rest of the book. For “The Year of…” books, those chapter summaries were pretty much on base. For “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” the story just went off on its own tangent.

It was really important for me for all the stories to tie together, because of the red thread theme– was how everything is connected. So, this book was a very consuming process. I was constantly thinking of how to link stories– writing notes on scrap pieces of paper at the gym, post it notes all over my house, notesbook scrawls at lunch. This was the first book that I’ve written where it was impossible to work on anything else at the same time. I’m glad the story found its way back to my ending.

Also, my research for this book was much more lavish! I traveled to China to really soak up the atmosphere and landscape for my setting. I don’t think I will get to do that again.

WT: How different was your final draft from your first draft? Were the themes consistent? Any surprises?

GL: Well, the first draft was about half the length of the final. Many authors have a hard time cutting–seems like most write great volumes and cut down. For me it’s the opposite. I tend to write incredibly spare and have to go back and “thicken” it up.

The biggest change was adding the second story of Minli’s parents and their experience while Minli was away. My first draft was solely Minli’s journey and it was my editor who felt that I should include Ma & Ba’s experiences too. I kind of balked when she first told me that, but then I tried it and realized it made the story much better!

WT: I always love to hear when other writers write sparely and add more as they revise, instead of whittling down. I’m the same way, but so much revision advice starts with cutting down your word count. I felt like I must not be doing it right until I just accepted that my process was different.

You attended the Rhode Island School of Design, but I read that you write the story before creating the art. How important is it for you to combine the two?

GL: It’s been very important for me to have both the pictures and the words work together. To me, both are equally important. The difference is in a picturebook, the pictures are there to help the readers understand the words and in a novel, the words are there to help readers understand the pictures.

WT: Do you feel there is a growing acceptance of illustrations in children’s novels?

fruitful_mtGL: I hope so. You see it a lot more nowadays, like in Kate Dicamillo’s novels and Sharon Creech’s “Castle Corona.” I think the illustrations add so much to experience of reading. To me, they are perfect—they give a glimpse of visualization into the world you are reading, but not so much that you aren’t left with anything to imagine. Also, they make the experience of owning and holding a book feel that much more special—turning the page and seeing a full color illustration is almost like discovering a jewel and the book itself feels like a little treasure.

I hope these days, in the age of technology with browsers and kindles, these kind of illustrated books will be even more cherished. With so much doom and gloom about the future of publishing, to create books that are not cheap throw-aways, but are beautiful objects to enjoy is something to consider.

WT: Great point! What are you working on now?

GL: My next book will be “Ling and Ting.” It is an early reader (which is a format I have been wanted to try for a while) about Chinese-American twins. It is almost the reverse theme of the “Year of the Dog;” using twins, I am trying to show how even when people look the same they can be different.

After that I have a picture book on the Moon Festival and a picture book set in Beijing. In the meantime, I have started preliminary drafts for a novel that has the same characters of my past novels “The Year of the Dog” and the “Year of the Rat.”

I have no plans on writing a sequel to “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” but I do have ideas for companion. My little dream is to have a trilogy of folktale-inspired fantasies, and then I’ll move on to something else (hopefully).

WT: What do you like to do when you’re not making books?

GL: Well, I lead a pretty boring life. Other than book-related things, I like baking cupcakes, decorating cupcakes and eating cupcakes. Oh, and biking (to burn off the cupcakes).

WT: You blog as part of the Blue Rose Girls, as well as your own blog, Gracenotes. How much of an impact does blogging have on your writing life, if any?

GL: When I first started blogging, I was going through a lot of emotional turmoil and I really needed outlets. Blogging was one of those outlets. Now that my life is peaceful, I blog almost out of habit. I think blogging was good for my writing, it was practice for expressing myself in words and sometimes it is the only writing I do in a day. I don’t think it takes away from my writing of novels, not yet anyway!

WT:  What have you enjoyed reading recently?

GL: I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books lately, as I’ve been painting my new picturebook. I’ve been alternating between old classic and new releases. I just finished Edward Eager’s “Half Magic” and I’ve got “Al Capone Shines My Shoes” by Gennifer Choldenko next. For my eager to read pile, I have “Any Which Wall” by Laurel Snyder (which I heard is an homage to Edward Eager, so I’m all primed and ready) and Sid Fleischman’s “The Dream Stealer.”

WT: Thanks for the suggestions, Grace, and thanks for a great interview!

I think YA is well represented in the blogosphere. Lots of YA authors blog, and YA  releases generally get a lot of online buzz .  Picture books and middle-grade don’t seem to have as strong of an online presence (in my opinion, anyway). Why is that?Do you agree?

I like to post about general kid lit stuff and random things that interest me, but I’m going to try and have more of a focus on middle-grade fiction as well.

How, you ask?

Weekly author interviews and giveaways, I say!

I’ve asked a few of my favorite middle-grade authors with recent or upcoming releases to consent to be interviewed- and they’ve obliged! So, stay tuned for the first installment next week.

Meanwhile…

CuppaJolie has a contest for bravery on her blog.

Are you in Seattle? Consider a preview screening of Where the Wild Things Are with a Q&A with Dave Eggers to benefit 826 Seattle.

Mitali Perkins wrote an insightful note to young immigrants here.

Darcy Pattison has declared Random Acts of Publicity week starting on September 7. Promote some books!

Intriguing illustrator alert! Marie Desbons has illustrated French picture books, but we need some of that loveliness over here, no? Thanks to Decor8 for the link.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Book Nut presents a solid list of picks for the top 100 middle-grade books of all time. I don’t agree with all of them, but it’s a nice mix of new and old.

MotherReader explains why the upcoming KidLitosphere Conference is way cooler than BlogHer09.

Interviews-

Kirby Larson interviewed Karen Cushman.

Adam Rex and Mac Barnett collaborate well (as seen here on 7-imp), and I think The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity is an awesome title.

Lee Wind interviews Ellen Hopkins.

At least three of those people will be at the SCBWI Summer Conference next month.

I LOVE my critique group  (Unless they voted to kick me out at the last meeting, which I had to miss. In that case, they’re a bunch of rotten chum buckets.). I’ve had other groups in the past, but I think my current group’s dynamic works really well.  We have a mix of illustrators and writers in different genres. Their feedback is fabulous, and I can’t imagine trying to write and revise without the benefit of a group.  I’m dense. I need help.

I was at a lovely party a couple of nights ago chatting with a circle of successful authors, and critique groups came up. A couple of the authors mentioned that they don’t have a critique group, nor have they ever had a critique group.  They are each published and well-regarded, so that’s what works for them.  I find myself constantly curious about the writing process of others, and the various methods people use to reach publication.

What works for you? Do you think critique groups are important? What’s yours like? If you don’t have one, do you do anything else for feedback? Dish!

So, I’m going to have a marathon writing session this weekend. Saturday and Sunday I’m holing up to pound out a draft.  Away from the distractions and interruptions of home! My sweet husband volunteered to care for the kids and pets, so it will just be me and my new computer in a hotel room. I’ve never done this before.  I’m giddy!

Revision might be too weak of a word. It’s somewhere between a revision and starting from scratch.  Same characters, big changes in the story. Let’s just call it a rewrite.  Anyway, since I’ve never done this before, I have no idea what to expect.  How many words can I possibly pump out over two days, if I’m only stopping to eat (or take a quick brain-refreshing swim)? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!

I’m not even going to watch the new Harry Potter movie, which I’ve been really geeked out about, until I’m done and heading back home on Sunday. I mean business, people! No more distractions.

Alright, maybe a few for you.

Watch the awesome video Betsy Bird made.

Can you spot the Pacific Northwest authors and illustrators making cameos?  Name one in the comments, and I’ll pick someone on Wednesday to win a prize made by yet another talented local author & illustrator!  I’ll send one lucky commenter a set of recipe cards from Jaime Temairik‘s new Kitchenette line on Etsy.

recipecardsAren’t they snazzy?  I ordered a set for myself, too. Now I can transfer the recipes I’ve jotted down on the back of old envelopes to lovely little cards. If you don’t cook, you can give the cards to the loved one who cooks for you. They deserve a gift, preparing all your meals like that. Or pass ‘em out to friends and relatives to give you instructions for their tastiest dishes!

I thought I knew my way around the kitchen, but it turns out I didn’t even know the easiest way to peel a banana (via SwissMiss).

Here’s a question-

So, Writer X is tooling along revising the manuscript she’s been working on for a year.

She hopes to begin submitting this summer.

She daydreams about how rocking it will be to work with a great editor, and see her book on the shelves in a couple of years.

She’s had good feedback, and she thinks this manuscript probably has potential.

Writer X takes a break from writing on Saturday to peruse a few publisher’s fall lists, when an upcoming autumn release catches her eye. There is a very similar protagonist, subplot, and secondary character to her own work in progress.  It appears to be probably too similar.  Not in any kind of plagiarism way, just in a crappy luck kind of way.  If the book is a success, Writer X’s manuscript will be seen as a cheap imitation.  If the book is a flop, Writer X’s manuscript will be seen as even more of an unmarketable cheap imitation.

Does Writer X-

A) Roast marshmallows over the glowing embers of a wasted year?

B) Submit her manuscript anyway and make a reputation for herself as an unoriginal hack?

C)  Revise to the point of starting from scratch, replacing the characters, changing the plot, and ignoring the vision for the piece?

D) Or start fresh with one of those new ideas always swimming around.  What’s another year or two? Draft or ten?

Please advise, dear reader, so that I may guide Writer X out from the pile of wet tissues, empty wine bottles, and despair.

Are there any rules about blogging in a thunderstorm?  I kind of like it.

Holy noodles, that conference wore me out.  I haven’t blogged for two weeks because I was wading through conference prep.  I’ve barely written a thing.  It’s taken two days to get my brain back.  My feet are still sore, but I’m kind of excited about all the newfound free time.

I swiped this picture from Laini's blog.

I swiped this picture from Laini's blog.

I have something to show you from the conference, but someone who had to miss it has to see it first- so you have to wait.  I’ll post it around the end of the week, after I’ve heard this person has seen it.  Is that vague enough?

Let’s see… I think people who saw/met me at the conference who don’t know me might think I’m a little crazy.  I was sooo busy, and I didn’t have time to eat much, and I was drinking A LOT of coffee to keep myself going.  I might have looked a little wild eyed and been a little wound up.  Ok, I know I did.  Try me again on a regular day and I promise to be more serene.

It started with the kid lit drink night, which was a blast.  So much fun, in fact, that I stayed much later than I should have for a girl that had to wake up at 4 am the next day.  Ouch.

I loved meeting so many new people, and seeing friends.  I only caught bits and pieces of the breakout sessions, but the ones I saw were all aces. I did see most of the keynotes by Adam Rex, Grace Lin, Ellen Hopkins, and Jon Scieszka, and they were each unique and inspirational.

We raffled off a free registration for next year’s conference (won by Nuria Coe) to benefit Bridget Zinn, who couldn’t make it this year.  We kept it kind of secret, because I wasn’t sure how it would go- but our lovely attendees raised $1560!  Thank you, lovely attendees! The online auction is growing as well.  Jone added my bag a couple of weeks ago.  There are tons of other items available to bid on like a basket of middle grade books or a FULL manuscript consultation from the blunt (but still charming) Jody Feldman. Go bid on a fabulous prize, and support a writer to boot.

Ok, I have some revisions to get back to- so this is what you get.

Want to read more about the conference from people who could sit down and take it all in? Try here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.

By the way, a great big congratulations to our portfolio show winner, Jennifer Mann! A big shout out to the first and second runners up, too Lisa Mundorff and John Deininger.

See you in a couple of days!

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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