Thursday, June 30, 2011

And now, a word from your audience . . .

So I am gone. Yup, gone, as in off to France (Again! I know!). But, my super amazing niece and nephew are here with my in-laws to take care of my family. And as they are the target audience for many of us, I just may have begged a little for them to fill in for me.

So first, here's my 12-year-old niece, a.k.a. Binks, on her favorite book/author and why:

My favorite author is Rick Riordan the author of the Percy Jackson and The Olympians, The Kane series, and The Lost Hero. My favorite part is all the action and the Greek and Roman and Egyptian Gods. I love that he can teach all about the Greek cultures. I didn’t know a lot about any of these cultures but now I know a lot.

My most favorite book is The Lost Hero. It’s really cool because it teaches a lot about both Roman and Greek gods. It has a lot of action too.

 P.S. Since Monday is the 4th of July, I won't be posting then, but look for my nephew's commentary on the 7th. Happy 4th!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Agent-Judged Contest!

Shelley Watters is sponsoring a Birthday Blowout Agent-Judged contest of the first 250 words of our completed manuscripts. The winner gets a full request, and a runner-up will get a partial!

If your MS is finished, head over to her blog to enter. This time the agent judge is Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency, who is currently building her client list. Very cool!

For those interested, here are Shelley's rules:
  1. You must be a follower of her blog and/or Twitter.
  2. You must spread the word, via twitter, fb, blog post, whatever.
  3. Your work must be complete.
  4. Your work must fall into one of the following genres: YA, Middle Grade, memoir, pop-culture non-fiction, and women’s commercial fiction.
  5. On June 27th (today!), go to Shelley's blog and post your entry on her dedicated contest entry blog post.
Best of luck to everyone who enters!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This vs. That: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

I'm a little leary of a backlash by enraged fans after posting the results of this one, but since I'm a risk taker, I'll go for it.

First though, I have to admit, the voting surprised me this time around. And apparently, this is a burning question to many folks out there in cyberspace. It was like a double contest: first in the voting, and second in the searches used to find the post. Did they search using STAR WARS vs. Star Trek, or STAR TREK vs. Star Wars?

Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here are the results:

Total votes: 21

Star Wars: 9 votes; 43%
Star Trek: 6 votes; 29%
Neither: 3 votes; 14%
Impossible to choose: 2 votes; 9%
Need more info: 1 vote; 5%

And, because I know you're all dying to know, here's the second unofficial contest from the searches:
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: 9
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: 9

Yup, exactly equal as of the writing of this post. Fascinating.

[UPDATE: Star Trek surged into the lead with 12 searches as of this morning!]

Perhaps my fandom totally blinded me on this one, but I really thought Star Wars would be the obvious choice (except, of course for you, Vicki!). So yes, I voted Star Wars. Lets just say that even my two-year old knows who Anakin is, and insists on finding a Star Wars book to check out of the library whenever we go. And she's a girl. (Not that that SHOULD have anything to do with it, but *ahem* there we are).

So, now that I've enraged a bunch of people (I'm sure), on to the next debate:



Monday, June 20, 2011

IH8SK8S - The Story Behind the Plate

Thank you to everyone who chimed in with their own backstory to the now infamous license plate "IH8SK8S." I enjoyed reading them. But here's the skinny:

Driver X is haunted by a past filled with tragedy related to skates. And I know most of you thought ice skates, but you're all wrong. They were roller skates.

Incident #1: Christmas, Driver X is 6.

All she wanted for Christmas was a pair of roller skates. She sent several letters to Santa detailing her desires, and even endured sitting on Santa's lap at the mall to be double sure he got the message. She left catalogs open on her parent's bed with the exact make, model and size circled in bright pink marker. She just knew she was going to get those skates.

She didn't. Worse, her older sister got a pair.

Incident #2: Two years later, what has come to be known as "The Incident."

The Elementary School Driver X attended sponsored a skating night at the local skating rink. Unfortunately, because Driver X didn't get that pair of skates for Christmas two years earlier, she was a lousy skater. Halfway around her first circle, she fell and broke her hand. Her right hand. The one she writes with.

Normally, this wouldn't matter, but the next day happened to be when Jeopardy! for Kids was administering a test at her school to qualify participants. Driver X not only missed the test, but her chance for fame.

Incident #3: Eight years later.

A rash of vandalisms had been perpetrated against her High School by a self-proclaimed "Skating Bandit." Desperate to find the culprit, the administrators performed a secret, systematic locker check.

Normally, this wouldn't matter, but guess who brought a certain pair of roller skates owned by her older sister to school that day as part of an assignment to give an oral report on an unhappy childhood memory?

Eight weeks of community service AND an incident report added to her permanent record. We won't mention the trips to the psychologist.

Final Incident: Ten years later.

Driver X had finally lived down her reputation as a dangerous criminal. She had met the man of her dreams and was on a walk with him in Central Park.

She detected a certain square-shaped bulge in his jacket pocket and just knew this was THE day. Right up until that stupid girl on roller skates crashed into her honey, landing smack on top of him.

He never proposed. Ten months later, she saw the announcement in the paper that he and stupid skater-girl were engaged.

Oh yeah. Driver X hates skates. With a passion.

Note: This story is fictional. Any similarities to persons living or dead is completely coincidental. ;)

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Which I Ponder About a License Plate. (Again.)

Yesterday, I saw a license plate that caught my interest:


I know, you're probably thinking, "Hmmm . . . she must be in pretty desperate need for some entertainment," but bear with me.

Most license plates I see state something about the driver. Whether it's a name, fan status for a sports team, a reference to something they love (sports, cars, hobbies, hats, whatever). In essence, these personalized 8 letters reveal something that the driver deems to be significant in his or her life. It characterizes him or her.

So why use the opportunity to tell people what you hate? It's what you are not instead of what you are. Really, it's an anti-characterization.

As a writer, my brain went into overdrive to create the backstory for this driver. But before I share MY made-up backstory, I want to hear yours.

WHY does this person hate skates so much???

P.S. And on a blogger business note, starting next week, I'll be cutting down to only two posts a week for the summer. M/H

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confessions of a Soccer Mom

I love soccer. LOVE it.

And I love my son. Even more than soccer.

So you'd think that watching him play his soccer game would be like eating ice cream AND a brownie. Right?

So here's my confession: It's not. It's actually painful to watch. Painful, I tell you!

Now before you lynch me, it's not my kid. I really do like watching him learn to play the game. Rather, it's the game as played by seven-year-olds that hurts. Perhaps it's because I played competitive soccer. But perhaps it's just painful no matter who you are. And the funny thing is, it reminds me of reading through one of my first drafts. Here's why:

1. The players don't work together. Any given player will take out his own player to get the ball.
  • In my first draft, my chapters don't work together. The beginning lacks the build-up to the end, and the end just plain ignores what happened in the beginning to go its own direction. I won't even mention the plodding middle.
2. The poor players trip oven their own feet. Often. (It might have something to do with their shoe-tying abilities, but I can't be sure.)
  • Do I really need to mention the bad (stink-worthy, putrid, horrible, awkward to add a few adjectives) writing? Ack. Painful to read. And I'm supposed to make this seem effortless? Yikes!
3. The players forget which direction they're going. And that's usually the fortuituous moment that their aim is accurate.
  • Have you ever accidentally changed a character's name midway through a draft? Or suddenly your mc has black hair instead of blond? No? Me neither.
4. Lack of coordination. Sure it's funny to watch Charlie Brown put all his force into kicking that football only to have it pulled away by Lucy, but it's more cringe-worthy when you know the kid. And yes, they really do land on their backs after kicking air. Ouch.
  •  In that first draft, it's like I've forgotten all the rules of writing. Setting comes in chunks that feel like Aunt Bertha's famous stone pudding in your gut. Backstory takes the real story hostage, and adverbs go on a rampage. Dialogue feels like talking heads who portrary stiff characters who all sound like the same person. You get the idea.
5. By the second half, the players are T-I-R-E-D. The ball could be right in front of them, but they're too tired to move their foot. As a spectator, it was hard to restrain myself from running onto the field to kick the ball myself, just to get the thing moving!
  • And back to the ending. It might be a tad rushed because I was T-I-R-E-D of writing the dang book. But why can't Prince Charming just kill the bad guy with one quick plunge of his sword instead of orchestrating a whole fight scene? Economy of words, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Dreaming

Here in Virginia, we still have one more week to go before Summer break (well---technically---one more week and two days). In reality, I'll have less free time once school lets out. But in my imagination, I see myself high-tailing it to a remote location such as this:

I see myself kicking back, laptop warming my legs while I stare dreamily out across the ocean, plotting my next best seller.

My husband will bring me platefuls of chocolate-dipped strawberries, and skillfully prepare all the meals. My only concern will be writing.


Definitely Summer dreaming.

So where does your Summer dreaming take you?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Agent Interview: Molly Jaffa

I met Molly Jaffa at the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI October conference last year when she critiqued my first ten pages. She was so nice, and helped me get over the shaking-voice syndrome (you know, the thing you get when you pitch your work to an agent?). 

I was impressed by her knowledge and found her super personable, so I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview with me. First the blurb from her website, then on to the interview:

Molly has been working closely with Folio authors’ projects since 2008, and is now aggressively and selectively building her list of clients. She is thrilled to be part of the recent launch of Folio Jr., a division within the agency dedicated to developing and nurturing the careers of YA and children’s authors. In addition to agenting, Molly utilizes her editorial background, previous work experience in the e-publishing industry, and intimate knowledge of the Folio list in her position as Subsidiary Rights Associate. She actively pursues sales of all unsold subsidiary rights, helping Folio clients’ books reach wide audiences in as many formats as possible. Molly is an avid reader, and when she’s not devouring manuscripts, she can usually be found camped out in the aisles of her local bookstore (until they kick her out at closing time).

For a list of what she is and isn't looking for, please see her agent page at the Folio literary website.
When did you first realize you wanted to be an agent, and why?
Molly: I always knew that I loved books, but until I started interning at Folio several years ago, I didn't know exactly what career path I'd take. In general, there's not a lot of awareness about what a literary agent does outside of the industry; when most people think of publishing jobs, they only think of editors and writers.

While assisting agency partner Jeff Kleinman, I was fortunate enough to work on some really fantastic projects that went on to be very successful, both commercially and artistically. I had the opportunity to really dig in to manuscripts, to help authors transform their work line-by-line, and to make sure it reached the audience it deserved. Playing a part in that process, however small, amazed me. I fell in love with agenting and never looked back.

For me, and agenting is the perfect marriage of business and creativity. So when a full-time position opened up at Folio, I jumped at it, and I've been there ever since.

Recently, you helped launch Folio Jr. What drew you to MG and YA?
Molly: It's such a cliché, but really, books were my childhood. As an only child, book were my best friends, my source of inspiration; my guides to navigating the complicated worlds of child-, tween-, and teenhood. And I know I'm not alone in feeling that way! I'm passionate about getting books into the hands of young readers, because I know what a difference they can make.

I think that when compared to many adult titles, MG and YA novels often seem to have higher stakes and a greater sense of urgency behind them. There's something about a story that's set during a character's coming-of-age period that makes it feel especially vital. There's very little room for a meandering, passive story in MG or YA. The protagonist's age means that everything happening to him or her seems like it could have a profound effect on shaping who he or she is as a human being. Every emotion is amplified; every choice holds extra weight. On a pure storytelling level, that's really gripping.

I've also found a real sense of community in the children's book world. The agents, editors, and writers are all a pleasure to work with.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see in queries?
Molly: Queries that are too long (if I have to scroll through it, it's too long); queries that are too short (if your query just tells me to read your sample pages, I probably won't); queries with improper or missing salutations (if we're going to start a professional relationship, let's start it off on a professional note); queries that don't follow my guidelines (these are clearly stated on the Folio website, and it's important that authors be able to take direction); queries that throw the kitchen sink at me ("It's going
to appeal to kids AND teens AND their parents and it will sell a million copies!"), because those show me that the author doesn't know the market very well.

On your Folio Agent page, you say you are looking for Edgy YA. What makes a book edgy in your opinion?
Molly: "Edgy" is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot, but can mean different things to different people. It definitely doesn't mean tossing in lots of cursing, sex, or blood and guts just because! Those things can be great, but in moderation, when they feel organic to the characters involved and the world the author's created. I'm looking for projects that are frank, honest, and straightforward.

What types of submissions would you like to see more of? Less of?
Molly: I'm seeing a lot of dead people right now: dead narrators, narrators with dead friends, narrators with dead parents, narrators who really wish they were dead. It's getting a little morbid in my inbox, so I'd like to see less of that! I'd love to see more manuscripts with endings that surprise me (not a twist, necessarily, just something that's not predictable).

On a weird note, I just saw "Bridesmaids" and loved it. It would be great to see some YA with similarly multifaceted, funny female characters that talk about something other than boy issues. If it passes the Bechdel Test (Google it!), I'm interested.

What makes you stop reading a partial or full submission?
Molly: I'll stop reading immediately if the caliber of the partial or full manuscript doesn't match the query. This happens more and more these days, as writers are perfecting their queries at conferences and in on- and offline critique groups, but neglecting to polish their manuscripts. A killer query also needs a killer manuscript.

Beyond that--and this sounds harsh, but bear with me--it's boredom that makes me stop. If something inside me isn't compelling me to scroll down to the next page, then I'll pass. It's a very subjective thing. If I'm not totally captivated by a manuscript, then that author should be free to find an agent who is.

And just for fun: You open a query that looks to have been written on ancient papyri and . . . POOF! . . . out pops a Literary Agent Genie who will grant you three agent-related wishes. What are they?
  1. More time in the day! I need more time to read all the fabulous submissions I get. 
  2. More fabulous submissions, of course. I know, it's a vicious cycle. 
  3. A crystal ball that would allow me to see the future of publishing. If people want to know what it's telling me, they can pay me in Starbucks cards.
On my blog I have a fascination with personalized plates. What would yours be? You have 8 letters.

I'm from Texas, and my whole family's back there, so my heart is in two places.

***You can query Molly at Please include your query and the first ten pages of your manuscript in the body of the email, and the word “query” in the subject line.

Thanks so much, Molly, for your time and your great responses! I would definitely be purchasing some Starbucks cards for a look in that crystal ball. :D

Best of luck to all you queriers!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Possession Launch: Rule Breaking

If you've been living in a hole, you may not have heard that Ms. Elana Johnson, woman extraordinaire, is celebrating the release of her debut novel, Possession.  I'm so excited for her, that I couldn't resist participating in the launch.

My job is to tell about a time when I broke the rules. And confession, this was not so easy for me. Can you tell I'm one of those people? The kind who always keeps the rules and tows the line? *cough* Yeah.

But I have broken a rule or two in my day.

I think.

Just give me a second to remember when . . .

Okay! I've got it: In sixth grade when I got to help serve lunch (total privilege, btw!), I gave two desserts, count them TWO, to a cute boy. Ha! Take that, cafeteria rules.

And then there was that time or two I pulled a California stop at a stop sign [aka, I only slowed down a little before going through it, rather than coming to a complete stop]. Total rule breaking, right there.

So yeah, I am no Vi (the mc in Possession). Let's just hope I never live to see the world as it exists in Elana's book.

What rules have you broken?

And if you care to check out any other blogs participating in this launch, here's the list:

And P.S. Don't forget to swing by Friday for the interview with Molly Jaffa, Agent at Folio Literary!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short - Lenny Fest

I totally missed the boat with the Lenny Fest, but my admiration for him overcomes silly things like time, so I am joining the Lenny Fest anyway.

If you haven't met Lenny, you should go meet him. Like now. He is a ray of sunshine. A slushee in melting-hot weather. Rain boots on a puddly day. A letter from a long-lost friend. A  gift-wrapped present on a regular, old day. Well, you get the idea.

Since I'm no good at poetry, I'm offering several personalized license plates for Mr. Lenny. Appropriate, don't you agree? I get 8 letters:
  • HUGS
  • FISH
What do you think? Which one should Lenny pick?

Hugs, Lenny! We're all thinking of you. :D

Friday, June 3, 2011

I've Been Tagged!

Medeia Sharif (whose debut book Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. comes out this Summer) tagged me last week, so here we go!

Do you think you're hot?

When I'm outside in the 105-degree, humidity, I KNOW I'm hot. But being the cold-blooded creature I am, most of the time I'm cold. I'm in sweaters when normal people are turning on the air-conditioning.

Oh wait . . . did I answer the wrong question?

Upload a picture or wall paper you are using at the moment.

It's one of the pictures on the slide-show that came with my computer. I grew up with mountains, and miss them tons.

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

For lunch. Yummm . . .

The Song(s) you listened to recently?

My Wish by Rascal Flatts
Home by Michael Bublé
When I Get Where I'm Going by Brad Paisley

What were you thinking as you were doing this?

I'm so glad Medeia tagged me because now I don't have to think of something to post about.

Do you have nicknames?

I do, and I am so not going to write them here. :D

Tag eight Blogger friends.
(You are it!)

3. Jessie
5. Beth
6. Angela
7. Jemi
8. Stina

Who's listed as number one?

Bethany Yeager at Ink-Splattered. I love her fascination with Zelda.

Say something about number 5.

Her baking posts always make me drool. Her travel posts always make me want to see the world.

How did you get to know number 3?

I don't remember exactly, but she was one of my earlier followers and she was so fun I asked her to celebrate getting 101 followers with me since we were at about the same number.

How about number 4?

She found my blog when Medeia tagged me, so I thought it fitting to tag her.

Leave a message for number 6.

I know you were already tagged, but since I love your blog and poetry so much I had to tag you anyway. But you don't have to do it again. And P.S. we still need to meet in person!

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number 2.

Roses are Red.
Violets are Blue.
When I go to New York,
I'm SO calling you.

I am SUCH a poet. :D

Do number 7 and number 8 have any similarities?

Yes, they are both Canadian. I love Canadians! Shall we have buns for dinner? :D

And P.S. I'll be interviewing Molly Jaffa, an agent with Folio Jr., on my blog next Friday! Don't miss it!