Thursday, January 27, 2011

Conference Chitchat

The SCBWI Winter Conference is this weekend, and many of you are in (or en route to) New York City right now, waiting for it to start. I can't go this year, but I know those who do will have a blast. If you're one of this year's lucky attendees, I hope you learn a ton from the creative minds around you, meet lots of new people, and return home filled with inspiration. Also, will someone buy a hot dog from a street vendor in my honor?

I know! Let's take an itsy-bitsy trip down memory lane and gaze at the hot dog stand where I bought my last New York City hot dog.

Beautiful, isn't it? Is anyone else choked up?


Ahem. Please give me a moment to pull myself together.

Okay, thanks.

Speaking of great conferences, I'd like to plug the one put on by my regional SCBWI.
SCBWI Western Washington is currently registering people for our annual conference. This will be our 20th anniversary event, and it will take place in Redmond, Washington, April 16th and 17th. There will be keynotes by Holly Black, E. Lockhart, Dan Santat, and Deborah Wiles. We will also get to hear from an impressive group of agents, editors, and other faculty members. Our amazing advisory committee has a couple extras planned too. There will be a kidlit drink night the evening before the conference and a dance on Saturday night.

Woo-hoo! I'm already registered.

Do you plan to attend any conferences or workshops in 2011?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seven Writing Hints from my Dogs

1. Don't wait for your muse. Get your butt in the chair.

It's ideal if someone has your back. Find a critique partner.

Tighten your manuscript. Make every word count.

Keep your eyes open. Research agents, read books in your genre, and stay informed.

Don't get distracted. Focus, focus, focus!

Look closely at submission guidelines.

7. After you've done your very best,
relax. Only so much is within your control.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winner of MAD LOVE

The autographed copy of MAD LOVE by Suzanne Selfors goes to


Congratulations, Hema! Please e-mail me with your mailing address, and I'll get that book out to you right away!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Interview: Author Suzanne Selfors (and a Book Giveaway!)

Today I have an interview with the talented Suzanne Selfors. She writes middle-grade and young adult novels, and she has a wonderful writing voice I truly admire. While she's a local author and friend, the praise I give her is well-deserved. She's been compared to Roald Dahl more than once, and her books are unique and super fun to read. MAD LOVE, which came out January 4th, is her newest book to hit the shelves, though SMELLS LIKE TREASURE, a middle-grade, will be out later this year.

Here's the blurb for MAD LOVE:

Writing her own love story could drive a girl INSANE!

As the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life for sixteen-year-old Alice Amorous should be pretty good. But ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness, Alice has been forced to maintain a brave front--lying to her new crush, Tony; answering fan lette
rs; forging her mother's signature; telling the publisher that all is well. Now time is running out, and so is their money. The next book is overdue and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs to deliver a new novel for her mother--and she needs to come up with one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange guy claiming to be Cupid, who insists that Alice must write about his tragic romance with Psyche--the greatest love story of all time. Only, Alice doesn't believe in Cupid...

* * *

Dawn: TO CATCH A MERMAID, your first published book, came out in the fall of 2007. Your sixth book, MAD LOVE, is now in bookstores. That's an impressive amount of books in such a short time! Can you tell us about your writing schedule? What does a typical writing day look like?

Suzanne: I wish I had a typical day but I don't. And I'm finding lately that I'm having trouble focusing. It may be that I'm a bit burned-out. My writing pace has been manic.

What I prefer to do is to write in the morning. To leave the house once the kids have caught the bus, and to sit in a coffeehouse. That's where I do most of my writing. I like the white noise. I can write for about 2 or 3 hours and then I hit a wall. I'm constantly processing my stories. I do a lot of revision in my head while I walk the dog. My story is always with me.

Dawn: When you were starting your career, what did you find to be the biggest challenge?

Suzanne: Figuring out where I fit. I started writing adult novels and they weren't that good. I still had a lot to learn about the craft so the novels were heavy with historical detail and long. But I had to go through that process because ultimately, having the adult novels fail led me to rethink everything. Writing for kids is the perfect fit for me.

Dawn: How much do you outline before you start writing your first draft?

Suzanne: I don't outline. It never works for me. I jump off into the void. Story, take me where you will.

Dawn: What do you like best about being an author?

Suzanne: Hearing from and meeting readers. Teens especially. I get letters and emails every single day. It's an honor to entertain. It's thrilling, really.

Dawn: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Suzanne: I have lots of advice. But for time's sake, here's one piece - write your first novel for yourself. Make it something that you love. Don't worry about the market. The first novel is truly your baby and it belongs to no one else.

Thank you, Suzanne, for the interview! I wish you continued success!

* * *

Now for the giveaway! One person will receive a free autographed copy of MAD LOVE! I've already read it (not your copy, of course--that's brand spankin' new), and I loved it. It's hilarious, fun, and charming. To view the book trailer, click here. To enter the contest, all you have to do is:
a. leave a comment on this post before
11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, January 12th
b. be a follower of this blog

c. have a mailing address in the U.S. (sorry, international bloggy friends)

Each person can enter only once. I think that's it as far as the rules go. I'll update if I realize I forgot something.

Have a great writing week, everyone!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm ba-a-ack! And I'm happy to be! It was a great break, but I'm ready to return to blogland. I appreciate how supportive all of you were when I needed to take a step back to focus on my manuscript. Thank you! is everyone?! Do each of you have a cup of hot cocoa to sip while we sit and catch up? I'm looking forward to finding out what's been going on, how everyone is progressing, and what good news my bloggy friends may have!

I hope you all enjoyed the holidays! We did! The kids go back to school this week, but I wish they had another week of vacation. We didn't travel or anything, but it's been super nice having them around and staying up way too late together.

My latest? As planned, I kept my head down and focused on my WIP. I like getting to that point when I'm so immersed in the story, it simmers under everything I do. It's when I'll occasionally dream I'm working on my book, and I'll even cut and tweak pages in my sleep. Those edits aren't real--I never remember the cuts and tweaks--but I can feel the story with me, and it's ready to be jumped into at any given moment. This is when, while drifting to sleep or waking up, I sometimes resolve issues or discover problems in my plot.

I've made a ton of progress, but I can't say it's been "straight line progress," as in
the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Even with an outline, I've made and am continuing to make my share of wrong turns. Thus, my progress has been somewhat serpentine. That's okay, though. I really do believe no writing is wasted, and sometimes you have to go the wrong way to figure out the right way. Overall, I'm quite pleased with how things have been going.

Other news (chronologically):

1. I'm in a new critique group, and I'm super excited about it. My new partners are
Margaret Nevinski and Jennifer Mann. They're both SCBWI Western Washington friends, and they're both very talented.

My original critique group is coming to an end in February. Author
Sheila Roberts, who has generously led us for almost six years, is stepping aside as our mentor. Our group has had an excellent run. Together we've grown as writers, and we've also grown lifelong friendships. Thank you, Sheila,
Martha Schoemaker, Bev Young, and Sarah Shepard. It's been incredible learning with you and from you.

2. Our dog
Thistle got his neck stuck in the fence while trying to rid our yard of squirrels. There were no injuries, though his pride may have been slightly dented.

3. Agent
Anna Olswanger of
Liza Dawson Associates spoke at SCBWI Western Washington's October Professional Series meeting. She really impressed me. Her talk, "The Psychology of Being Published and Staying Published," was full of wisdom and inspiration. I was fortunate because, in addition to hearing her speak at the meeting, I had a manuscript consultation with her. Ms. Olswanger is also a writer, and it showed in a great way. The consultation was very helpful--and fun!

4. As you all know,
Nathan Bransford is no longer an agent. As Velma from
Scooby-Doo might say, "Jinkies!" I'm happy he's continuing to blog and he's keeping his old posts up for us as a resource. I wish him the best with his new career.

Jennifer Mann was one of the speakers at SCBWI Western Washington's November Professional Series meeting. Jen is a writer and an illustrator, and her talk was fascinating. She blogged about it after the presentation. That Jen...she's a smarty-pants. (She's also a great roomie. We roomed together at the SCBWI conference in NYC last January.)

Pepper and Thistle turned six! Here they are on their birthday, watching our first snowfall this winter. (Actually, it was November, but snow = winter to me.)

Chester and friends had a population explosion, pretty much leaving us with a squirrel infestation (see #2). They are sooo cute! Here's a pic showing three squirrels on our squirrel feeder. That's a record for us, by the way.

8. Sheila Roberts's ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a
movie for the Lifetime Movie Network. How cool is that?!

9. I got a Nook Color for Christmas! Wee-ha!

Shawn Goodman (interview here) is now in bookstores. I'm buying my copy this week!

Now tell me your news!