You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2008.

What is going on with Random House in the UK?  They’ve been in the news a bit for some dodgy reasons- like censorship and moral policing.  Icky stuff.  What would you do if your house asked you to change an ‘offensive’ word in your manuscript?  Or you finally got a book deal, and there was a behavior clause in your contract?  Would you sign it?

I was lucky enough to be present for a panel of of the 2007 Newbery winners with the lovely Susan Patron, who won the medal, and the Newbery Honor winners (Kirby Larson, Cynthia Lord, and Jennifer L. Holm (via phone).  Susan explained how her book had been much ignored until she received the Newbery- and then there was all that fuss about the scrotum on the first page.  The panel recounted how they rallied behind Susan to say that when an author needs to use a word- they can use it.  Her fellow winners supported her, most of the writing community supported her, most of her fellow librarians supported her, and her publishing house supported her.  It was an awesome show of solidarity and support for the freedom of artistic expression.  I’ll change words in my texts for all kinds of reasons, but offensiveness probably isn’t going to be one. 

Speaking of bucking the system, Confessions of a Bibliovore had a quote from Jon Sciezska that made me like him even more:

“There’s this thing happening with testing in every school that’s just killing kids’ — and teachers’ — interest in reading. When I was teaching, we could follow a passion. If I wanted to read ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ we’d do it. We didn’t have to be in lock-step with Week 23 of The Curriculum. I’ve seen the results of letting kids pursue what they love. It’s much better than giving rules; if kids are inspired, they can do crazy things.”

From Jon’s lips to the school boards’ ears.

Fine Lines has an eerie way of revisiting some of my teenage self’s favorite books.

A Q&A with Polly Horvath over at PW.

My friend Jolie Stekly has started a new blog.  You can find a Cuppa Jolie here.  

Have you been blogging about kid lit for a while?  Then go help choose the Cybils.

If The Longstockings hadn’t posted about this bit in the Financial Times about software programs for writers, I never would have seen it.  So far I really like Scrivener, but it’s nice that there are options. I’m just not a Financial Times kind of girl.  Thanks, Longstockings!

Oregon was fantastic.  We drove on a 1000 mile loop (!), but we had fun and saw great things.  Gray whales were playing around the sea lion caves when we stopped.  We played with sweet, baby goats.  We took a detour to Silver Falls State Park.  The falls were dramatic, but not as dramatic as my son’s reaction to his first wasp sting.  Poor guy.

Ok, illustrators.  Picture it: You’re walking down the street and you see a fabulous art director coming your way.  You don’t have your portfolio, so what do you do?  You stick out your toe and stun them with original footwear awesomeness.  Zazzle and Keds have come together so that you can customize your sneaker for the world to see.  Lace up or slip on?  Which picture?  It’s all up to you, and your feet (via Mighty Goods).

One more for the illustrators:  Linda Urban has a little interview with illustrator Marla Frazee.

I know the kid lit crowd can be a wild bunch, but I didn’t know they could be this wild.  Geesh (via Big A little a).

In case you missed it, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a lovely interview with the very busy Jane Yolen.  40 books under contract?  Wow.

I can’t remember where I got the link, so I apologize, but I wanted to post it anyway.  Whether you are hiring an agent, or firing an agent there are things you should think about.  

We had a lovely lunch on Wednesday with some other writers and illustrators.  Laini and Jim (who might be the sweetest AND most creative couple I know) came through for the Radiohead concert and pulled together a few Seattle buddies for lunch in Pioneer Square. AND Jaime brought cupcakes.  

My oldest is going to kindergarten next month.  I’m taking him for a spontaneous trip down the Oregon coast this weekend to visit sea lions, among other things.  We’re off to get sandy.

I leave you with a little video from Adam Rex.  

Betsy Bird has a good post about bookstore links.  I try to post to indies like Powell’s, but I like the idea of linking to author pages or Worldcat, too.  

Speaking of Betsy and Powell’s, you can get both.  Together.  Next month.  Go register for Kidlitosphere 2008 already.  You don’t even have to be a blogger.

We’re in the long, slow, process of renovating the basement.  When we’re through, I will have a nice, private office/studio to wile away hours writing.  So…I have an ongoing obsession with other people’s creative spaces.  I like work areas that are light and airy.  I may be taking it too far with my newest coveted object.

Cloud lights!  I want two or three white ones hanging down over my work table, moving a bit in the breeze.  

Honestly, I’ll just be happy when I can have my own off-limits area where five year olds don’t come along and swipe pages of my manuscript to make paper airplanes.  Sweet luxury.


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 usually think of a premise for a story first, and then I work out the plot, characters etc.  Lately I’ve been coming up with hooks without stories.  Does that make sense?  I think of an interesting opening or twist…for a story I don’t have.  I’m jotting them down for later, because I’m trying to be a one project at a time kind of girl.  I have a habit of starting a new project rather than working out a lull in my work in progress.  I have commitment issues.  I’m in the sticky area of major revisions on a middle grade novel, and I don’t like it.  

The relationship analogy is used a lot, but it’s so fitting.  

The first draft is the fun, sexy fling.  Your manuscript is dreamy.  Friends invite you out for tacos and beer, but you’d rather stay home and type.

The second draft is still fun, but you start noticing things that bug you.  Maybe your manuscript has questionable tastes.  Or back hair.  Maybe you start wondering what you were thinking ever getting involved.  You invest a little more time, but you’re not sure if you’ll invite your manuscript to your sister’s wedding.

It’s time to hang it up or commit.  There’s a fight, some disgust, and you stew.  Your manuscript tries to woo you back with talk of word counts and time investments.  You have an epiphany, and suddenly you know exactly how to fix the emotional arc.  You experiment with the plot, and suddenly this thing has potential.

You move in together, and your manuscript loses a little bit of it’s sheen again.  It’s almost perfect.  There are a couple of things that really bug you, but you’ve invested a lot.  If you dump your manuscript now, people will talk.  

You’re working it out.  Relationships aren’t easy.  You’ve promised to not have such a passive voice, and your manuscript promises to have stronger dialogue.  When you get right down to it, you guys are great together.  You could have never predicted that you’d end up where you are, but there it is.  Now, go submit.

My confidence is naively high at the beginning of a project.  If it was socially acceptable to submit partials, I would have a hard time resisting.  That’s how out of touch with reality I am.  It’s a good thing that it is bad form to submit the beginning before you finish the end. Somewhere in the middle I get a clue (and my husband hears “Wow, this bites! I suck!” from across the house). I make big changes.  When I’m done, I am much more anxious/realistic about submitting.  Why yes, I am neurotic. 

Cheryl Klein agrees that submitting an unfinished manuscript is a bad idea.

I have to give a plug for SCBWI WWA’s upcoming regional programming.  If you live in the area, you should sign up.  If you’re up in Bellingham, they organize some nice events, too.

Oprah now has book recommendations for kids.  Two local ladies, Bonny Becker and Sundee Frazier, made the list!  Yay!

Jarrett Krosoczka posted a nifty video the other day.  Check it out.

So, blogging everyday from the conference didn’t work out so well.  Huh.  Sorry about that.  It was my first national SCBWI conference, and I had a blast.  A busy, busy, blast.  The week was a whirlwind of workshops, inspirational speeches, fun parties, meetings, friends, cocktails, and meeting lots of great people.  I saw a few familiar faces that helped me out of my shell, and I met so many new friends.  It was transformative.  I didn’t get a lot of any writing done, but I’m making up for it now. I feel charged up.  I have a couple of ways to tweak my revisions, and some clarity with the next project on the pipeline. 

It was an eventful week back home in Seattle.  I would call home and hear about run away dogs (A revolt?), a flooded kitchen, a soggy basement, a broken fence, dogs running away again (Definitely a revolt.), and a toddler with a taste for Sharpie.  I tried to just roll with it and focus on the conference, but if you chatted with me and I was glassy eyed and/or incoherent- this is why. My apologies.

Anyhoo, here are a few of the highlights for me:




Paint the Town Red SCBWI 2008

Paint the Town Red SCBWI 2008

 There is A LOT of blog coverage of the conference.  Paula Yoo, Alice Pope, and Suzanne Young have all conveyed the awesomeness- with pictures!  Can’t wait to do it all again next year (Note to self:  Pay whatever you have to NOT to fly on American next time, for the love of holy cannoli.)

We’re in L.A. and it’s awesome.  Meeting people, seeing friends, relaxing, eating, drinking, workshopping- and it’s all about writing kid lit!  It’s fantastic.

I got the chance to meet Alice Pope on Thursday, she who brings us the invaluable Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s market.  Last night around 1ish Alice said she needed to blog some more before sleeping.  I think it was a while before Alice slept.  

Laurie Thompson, my roommate and fellow SCBWI WWA-er had a rave manuscript consultation yesterday.  She was, in fact, nominated for the Sue Alexander Award.  Congratulations, Laurie!!

Back to the conference!

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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