Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coffee and Tea

It's been a while since I have written. I will admit the holidays threw me off schedule and I am struggling to bring myself back to a life of writing. I still dote on being whisked away in the creation of another place that leaps to life with the gentle touch of fingers on keys.

Presently, I am on day four of a twenty-eight day commitment to cleanse and detoxify my system. Thus far it seems to be all uphill. I am sure it will not continue as such. My biggest obstacle (aside from the absence of bread and cheese) was my love affair with coffee. I never fully understood its power. My greatest consoler in the midst of this trial is the pleasure I've found when my hands gently envelope a china cup, and I take in the aroma of tea.

It is so rich in diversity; white, green, black, herbal blends. They are warm, inviting, and comforting.

I am not committing to never indulging in a rich, bold mug of coffee. However, for the most part when I reach for my French Press I plan on filling the glass carafe with a healthful heaping of smooth, soothing tea.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Looking into the Future

I see a tiny glimpse of sunshine at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Somehow, I feel that a fundamental change has occurred in my world. I believe again that tyrants will fall, justice tempered with mercy shall reign and that the meek shall inherit the earth. This coming year will be one of great reckoning for those in political office. The downtrodden are shaking the shackles from their ankles and opening their eyes to the truth. No longer will the voice of the great liar predominate, but the voice of the good shepherd will break forth.

This will be an exciting time for writers and artists in all disciplines (theatre, music, visual, media/ tv/film and graphic arts). These are the prophetic voices and I believe that God will use them to lead our country and others back onto the path of truth and compassion and a just distribution of resources.

What an exciting and challenging and wonderful time to be alive!

Monday, January 25, 2010

To Agents and Beyond

What a blow it was this week to find from the ICL enewsletter that Henry Holt (as all those associated with MacMillan) as of January 1st will no longer be taking unsolicited manuscripts. They weren't at the top of my list for submissions, but there were at least in the Maybe category. Now they've been downgraded to Absolutely Not.

So this week I decided to open up that section of the 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market that lists agents. After spending long hours through December and January researching publishers (a lot more hours than I was able to spend writing, I might add) I felt compelled to find someone else to do this job so I could get back to writing. After researching agents in general, I've become convinced that the good ones are worth their salt, and I'll be very happy if I can find one who likes my manuscripts and is willing to assist by finding a home for them.

I think agents are important for the following reasons:

1. They know what to look for in contracts. (This is a big one. I do not like trying to understand legal documents, so I'd rather pay someone else to do it.)

2. They are able to submit to houses that only take manuscripts from agents. (No more closed doors.)

3. They have your best interests at heart, since what benefits you also benefits them in negotiations. Since they're used to the negotiation process, they can probably get a better deal than you can.

4. They're good at matchmaking when it comes to authors and publishers. With their fingers on the pulse of the market, they're more likely than you are to make good submission choices. (At least I hope so.)

5. It's a good thing for an author to have an accountability to another individual, because I think it raises the professional standard in an author's mind. Your writing doesn't just affect you anymore. It also affects the agent who represents you. Thus it is potential motivation for you to continue to perfect your craft for their well-being too.

I'm finding that, just as it's harder to find a publisher for a picture book than for other types of youth fiction, it is also harder to find an agent. As far as I can tell, more agents take other kinds of youth fiction than take picture books, so the search is on to find the right agent. But although the market is challenging for picture books, I remind myself to keep my chin up. At least there IS a market out there for picture books, and a little competition is a good thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Link to Fiction Writing Contests

Just wanted to post this link to a blog that lists fiction contests - free and non-free.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Cabin Fever

The dead of January. Long dark days with little or no sun. The fevered writer sits in the dim snow-obscured light, meditating over plot twists and turns of phrase.

Like a seed buried in the ground, the unwritten story holds tremendous potential while awaiting its release and subsequent growth. The impetus for transforming an idea to a written concept seems a mysterious process and slightly different for every writer.

I hope that this time of confinement provides an environment for many writers to induce those mysterious forces to burst ideas from their seed shells, that they would take root and form. Never have we needed good ideas formulated into good stories as much as we do now.

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." -- Albert Camus

Monday, January 18, 2010

Starting the New Year

First an update. There hasn't been any word from the editor from Magination Press about my picture book yet. This doesn't really surprise me too much. From what I understand, editorial boards can meet anywhere from once a week to once every few months.

And now on to marketing. In the 2010 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, there's a wonderful article about how to research to find the right match for your manuscript. The labyrinthian maze of the market world can lead you a merry chase while you try to decide just who would even want to read your manuscript, much less buy it. And no one really wants to wait six months to a year to find out that the publisher they sent their zany fiction piece to, in reality, only prints cookbooks for kids. This particular article explained how to use the wonders of Amazon to help.

So I've been trying out their methods this month by doing the following:
  1. Reading every publisher entry in the market book, making a list of those who seem likely prospects.
  2. Using the advance search on Amazon to call up the picture books published by these publishers in the last two years.
  3. Clicking on the books appearing on publishers' lists and reading the reviews of the books so I can tell just what these publishers are acquiring.
  4. Compiling notes on each publisher in a spread sheet with actual titles, notes about the titles, and whether or not they are a good match for what I write. (Also putting in a list what manuscripts I currently have that might interest these publishers.)
It is possible to take the process further by targeting specific editors from the houses and using reviews to garner even more information than I did. (The authors who wrote that article had gotten it down to a science.) But for now, I'm happy with the information that I've found, and I can see what I'll be doing during every year for Christmas vacation and the following January. I'm also hoping to give many editors a happy New Year by sending them manuscripts that they actually would like to acquire.

What a way to start the new year!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book Review - The Swiss Courier

Disclaimer - I have no material connection with the publisher or authors of this book. My friend, Duong Sheahan, loaned it to me to read.

The Swiss Courier (by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey) kept me up reading way past my bedtime! This book tells an adventure story that you just can't put down. And, it teaches World War II history in a very interesting way with engaging characters. Appropriate for mature young adult readers as well as adults, the book does contain a few descriptions of violence and murder.

I really enjoyed the way the book began by setting the stage for the story. It starts with a brief description of the assassination attempt on Hitler, provides a couple of maps and, like a play, lists the major characters of the story.

The action of The Swiss Courier moves fast and reveals the impact of the war in Switzerland. The narrative takes place during one week in the aftermath of the assassination attempt in 1944. The main character, Gabi Mueller, is a young Swiss-American woman who risks her life in the service of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, which was the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The Swiss Courier also reveals insights into the atomic bomb development program in Germany and how the balance of the war weighed on that weapon of mass destruction.

I highly recommend this book, especially for those who love action, spy stories and history.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do You Endorse Something in your Blog? Watch Out!

The FCC has some new rules about endorsements made on blogs. Kristi Holl covers this on her own blog, since she often talks about books for writers that she has found helpful. Here is the information. (I'm sharing because I don't want to see any of us his with a $11,000 fine. Yes, you got the number right.)

: )

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writers Produce Writing, and Writing Produces Writers

That's so deep I almost can't wrap my brain around it, but it's my slogan for the new year. The truth is, you aren't a writer unless you write. And when you write, ta-dah: you are a writer.

Allow me to dispel common myths.

1. You are not a writer because someone else recognizes that you are a writer. (This one is akin to the idea that if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, it didn't make any sound. What goofball came up with that idea, I wonder?)

2. You are not a writer only when you have published a story, poem, nonfiction work, or book. (Publishing is very nice, and we all hope to aspire to it at some point, but publishers are normal people who love good written material. Publishers are not imperial beings who appoint writers from the populace.)

3. You are a writer simply because you write. (That's the deep part.)

There's no magic or fanfare. It's a lot of hard work, many rewrites, way more rejections than acceptances, and usually not a lot in the way of cash while you're developing your craft. (We won't mention the cash later on, because it's good to stay optimistic, and writing can pay off if you're diligent and work to become skilled in your craft.)

So here's to a year of writing. Daily writing. No-matter-what writing. Writing-when-I-feel-discouraged-and-tired writing. Writing-when-no-one-but-me-likes-what-I-wrote writing. Writing-when-not-even-I-like-what-I-wrote writing.

Because if we're writing like that, then someday, the publishing part will probably take care of itself. (But even if it doesn't, you'll be glad you captured a piece of yourself that is unique only to you on that little slip of paper.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


As a writer, my overall vision is to create stories or essays or articles that provoke others to turn to the Bible for answers. My vision for this year is to finish 2 projects in process, to complete a third long form work and to find representation. I also hope to continue blogging 2 to 3 times per week.

My plan is more detailed. It requires daily, weekly and monthly diligence - and changes, as needed. Course corrections... just like a sailing vessel. So, I am off on a journey in rough waters and cold, but I have set my sights on a warmer, friendlier coast. The way may be dangerous and throw up distractions, but I have my sailing plan, and my desired end in sight.

Bon Voyage to all my fellow travelers!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Succeeding in 2010: Moving on to the Next Grade

On the blog below, J. Aday Kennedy has listed a simple work formula for becoming a productive writer in the new year. I thought it such good advice, I wanted to pass it on.

By following her suggestions, I believe anyone could succeed in writing.

P.S. Still no word from Magination Press, but it could be a few of weeks before I know the fate of Melba Sue and the Cactus Kid. There was a very helpful article in the 2010 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market book about what happens with editorial boards, and since acquisitions are handled differently in different publishing houses, I don't know how long it will be before they make a decision.