Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

Another handy revision technique is to use highlighters.

Like the focused read-through discussed last week, try reading the entire manuscript with only one element in mind.

But this time, use a highlighter each and every time you find one of the following:
  • Interior monologue
  • Dialogue tags
  • Dialogue beats
  • Words you know you tend to overuse
  • Any emotions mentioned (e.g., Sarah felt sad. John was surprised. Amanda was furious.)
  • All -ly adverbs

Obviously, you will need to use a different color for each item.

This will give you an immediate visual image and give your revision FOCUS.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Progress report

Thank you, Lord, for this perfect day.





A perfect day to NOT work in the garden.

A perfect day to NOT walk the dogs.

A perfect day to NOT tidy up the screened porch.

A perfect day to work on revisions.

I have worked nonstop (almost) all day and have revised 31 out of 118 pages.

Not bad.

Only one little distraction.

A mouse.

I saw evidence of him (her?) yesterday under the kitchen sink (aka: droppings).

Today, I HEARD him. Scritching. Scratching. Under the sink.

Earlier in the day, while working diligently on my revisions, I had gone temporarily insane and decided to eat potato chips. I regained my sanity and threw the chips in the trash (well, okay, not ALL of the chips, but SOME of the chips).

I was convinced the mouse was in the garbage can eating the chips.

I took the garbage can outside and turned it over and scooched around in there with a wooden spoon.

No mouse.

Went back to work on my revisions.

Scritch. Scratch.

I can hear the mouse again.

Very distracting.

Gift for a book lover

This is kinda cool - custom design a bookmark!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Uh oh

It's baaaaaack!
Revision time has arrived.

Slowly, slowly, I remove the contents.

Well, okay....it doesn't look too scary.

Friday, April 25, 2008

TLA Part Nine

Okay, so....after yammering, yakking, schmoozing, chattering, and otherwise TALKING the livelong day.....my voice is now......GONE.

I. mean. gone.

The brilliant marketing team of FSG has organized a fabulous dinner with me, two other authors, and six librarian/book folks - and all I can do is WHISPER to them!

I felt like a cross between this:

And this:

But, pioneer woman that I am, I soldiered on and forced myself into the limo to go to the fabulous restaurant to eat fabulous food with fabulous people.

(l to r) Jeanne McDermott (FSG Director of Marketing), Katie Halata (FSG Marketing Associate), me, author Mona Kerby, Sylvia Vardell (Professor Texas Women's University), Rose Trevino (Youth services coordinator; Houston Public Library), Jeana Actkinson (librarian; Bridgeport High School; past YART chair)

Mona, Katie, Jeanne, Sylvia

Jeanne reminding Mona and Katie to stop having so much fun

Mary Jo Humphreys (left) and I taking a picture of ourselves. Mary Jo is TALS Chair.

Rose Trevino, Houston Public Library; Chair of the 2009 Newbery committee

Thursday, April 24, 2008

FSG May/June Newsletter

Farrar, Straus & Giroux May/June Newsletter

TLA Part Eight

I know, I know...I'm really dragging this TLA thing out, aren't I?

So, anyway....I leave the Bluebonnet luncheon, smiling and nodding and not talking to anyone because of my hoarse and scratchy voice.

Next up - the publishers' cocktail party at the Hyatt.

ALL the publishers and ALL the authors! Woohoo!

My voice made a comeback and I was able to schmooze with lots of librarians, publishers and authors.

(l to r) Betty Birney, Gennifer Choldenko, Toni Buzzeo

In addition to loads of librarians, I spent time chatting with Linda Sue Park again, Lynne Rae Perkins, whom I met for the first time, fellow FSG author Will Weaver (one word: gentleman), fellow FSG author Mona Kerby (one word: adorable) - and of course, the amazing FSG marketing team of Jeanne McDermott, Director of Marketing, and Katie Halata, Marketing Associate (thanks to Katie for many of these blog pics).

More later....I promise, it's the last one....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TLA Part Seven

After my signing, I went to the Texas Bluebonnet Award luncheon.

That ole cliche about everything being BIG in Texas is true. I'm telling you, this thing was BIG. I read that there were 8100 folks at the conference. I think at least half of them attended this luncheon.

This picture doesn't do this luncheon justice.
It was BIG.

I didn't save my program so I can't give you this kid's name, but he was amazing. He was one of the student representatives. He was introducing the award winner and giving some of her bio. He hardly ever even looked at his notes! (You are viewing him on a mucho gigundo screen because I was sitting so far from the podium.)

This is Bluebonnet Award winner Lucy Nolan, who won for her book Down Girl and Sit: On the Road. Her speech was terrific. (Very DOG-oriented, which suits me to a tee.)
Now, by this time, I have almost no voice at all.

So there I sit at a big table full of librarians and all I can do is whisper, "Please pass the bread."

I smiled a lot, though.

More later.... (I'm dragging this conference out to maximize my blog entries. Clever, huh?)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Go immediately....


....right now....

....to Sara Lewis Holmes's blog and check out her cool VoiceThreads thingie.

(But pretend like I didn't leave TWO comments because I was too dumb to figure out about the identites thing.....)

And of course, I'm totally copying this. I copy everything Sara does because she's cooler and geekier than me. (Can you be cool and geeky at the same time? I think so....)

TLA Part Six

After my presentation - my signing at the Farrar, Straus & Giroux booth:

After an hour of so of yakkity-yakking, my voice continues to get hoarser and quieter and hoarser, and quieter, and crackly-er (that's not a real word, but it should be), and.........

More later...

Writing Tip Tuesday

Many years ago I worked as a technical editor for insurance manuals. (I know, I know...BIG YAWN).

But, as boring as that job could be, it also taught me a few valuable processes that I still use today.

One thing I learned from the process of proofreading = focusing on one thing at a time.

For instance, a good proofreader will go through an entire manuscript focusing only on headings and subheadings. Are they in the right font? Are they all indented consistently? etc.

I use a similar approach to revision.

I read through the entire manuscript looking for only one element to revise.

Some examples:
  • Focus on consistency of point of view (This is a biggie. It's VERY easy to jump out of point of view and you might miss it if you aren't totally focused on that particular element of the writing.)
  • Focus on unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. (Eliminate anything that doesn't advance the story, reveal character or enhance setting. Don't be word drunk, as Donald Murray calls it.)
  • Watch out for overused words. We all have our darlings to kill. Mine happen to be: now, then, and every now and then. (And remember to use the features of your word processing program - like SEARCH. If you think you may be overusing a word, search for it.)
  • Watch for sentences, paragraphs, scenes or even characters that repeat or serve the same purpose. (Resist the urge to repeat yourself - whether it's words or ideas.)
During this stage of revision, don't try to read for meaning or story structure. That's a whole different ball of wax. Just focus on whatever element you're looking for.

Monday, April 21, 2008

TLA Part Five

Okay, so the next day, I was thanking the cowboy gods that I hadn't stayed at the restaurant the night before and had another Manhattan. Instead, I had a lovely evening with:

And woke up refreshed and ready to participate in the panel: 'Tweens in the Twilight: Life's Little Challenges.

Co-presenters: (l to r) Gennifer Choldenko, me, Betty Birney

Panel moderator, librarian Viki Ash and me.

Later that day, at the Bluebonnet Award luncheon, Viki received a MAJOR award for her outstanding achievement in children's library service. Congratulations to Viki - and many thanks for organizing and moderating a terrific panel.

The table is set up and ready for our presentation:

That image on the screen is Pat Boone. Why is Pat Boone part of my presentation, you ask? I'm not telling. I may have to recycle this presentation some day.

Here I am saying something hilarious...or, at least, Viki and I think so:

Now, one thing to keep in mind (this will be important to my story in a later post), at this point, my voice is getting hoarser and hoarser.......

More later.....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

TLA Part Four

Okay, so after 8 hours at the airport in Boston, which included three attempts at standby (the last flight I waited for had 37 people on the standby list while they were begging people to sell their seats because they were severely overbooked. American Airlines, I have so many nasty things to say about you.....)

I arrived!
The beautiful Adolphus Hotel in Dallas.

This has never looked so good:

But, pioneer woman that I am, I resisted the calling of the big fluffy bed, jumped in a cab, and headed to the latest Dallas hotspot (according to the cab driver) - to meet up with my DDR bud, Linda Sue Park - and meet for the first time one of my co-presenters for the conference, Gennifer Choldenko.
(l to r) me, Linda Sue, Gennifer

Linda Sue and Gennifer

I was too danged tired to stay for dinnner, but Linda Sue forced me to drink a teeny tiny little Manhattan (I think she and I have many great vices in common.)

Then for once in my life I used self-control, grabbed a cab and headed back to my true love:

More later.....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

TLA Part Three

Texas Library Association conference has been amazing!

Dang - there are a LOT of librarians in Texas!

I have lots of photos (thanks the brilliant and uber efficient FSG marketing associate, Katie Halata) but probably won't have a chance to post them until I get home.

My presentation this morning with Gennifer Choldenko and Betty Birney was fun and we survived the technical equipment nerves - and we had an amazing panel moderator (shout out to Viki Ash here....) - photo and info about the award she won later.

Met a gazillion librarians during my signing.

Tonight: publishers cocktail party and dinner with FSG marketing folks, authors Will Weaver and Mona Kerby and a group of book folks I'm looking forward to meeting.

More later....

Oh - btw - I just tried to print out my AMERICAN AIRLINES (boo hiss) boarding pass and there was a PROBLEM. I can't go into details yet, but wish me luck...

Also - I'm losing my voice!

Also - I DID get to hang with my bud, Linda Sue Park, after all (and have the photos to prove it). More later....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TLA Part Two

I have now been at the airport for five hours.


Count 'em.

And three more to go.

This is not good.

So far I have:
1. Played 219 games of Nintendo and still not beat that big ghost dude in the castle on level 8.
2. Played 43 games of Sudoku.
3. Had my shoes shined. This is the first time in my life I have ever gotten a shoeshine.
4. Made friends with the shoeshine guy. He grew up in Georgia.
5. Made friends with a woman wearing pink stilletos who paid $2000 for a first class one way ticket to Dallas because she was desperate.
6. I'm not that desperate.
7. But getting close.....

I was supposed to be having dinner with Linda Sue Park and Gennifer Choldenko tonight.

That's not gonna happen.

What time is it?

Oh, good....only two hours and forty-five minutes to go...

TLA Part One

Guess which flight I was on....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

I love, love, love using interior monologue.

Interior monologue is a portion of the manuscript wherein the reader enters the character's head and hears her thoughts. (Did I just use the word "wherein"?)

Interior monologue is a handy dandy tool.

Here are my rules for interior monologue:
  • Use it to disclose information that would be difficult to disclose with dialogue.
  • Use it to develop character: show the character's traits and/or emotions
  • Don't overuse it. During revision, look for long portions of interior monologue and cut, cut, cut.
  • Use it to limit the use of speaker (or thought) attributions such as she thought or he wondered. For instance, try converting a sentence with a speaker [thought] attribution to a question. Instead of, "He wondered why he always ended up lying" try: Why did he always end up lying? You don't even need to add "he wondered" if you are 100% inside the character's head. The reader will get it.
  • And remember: Resist the urge to repeat. If you've put that thought into your character's head once - or twice - don't give in to the urge to overdo it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Texas Library Association

I'll be in Texas this week for the Texas Library Association annual conference.

On Thursday, April 17, I'm presenting on a panel entitled 'Tweens in the Twilight: Literature for Life's Challenges - along with authors Gennifer Choldeko and Betty Birney. 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m; Room C 141/143/149.

I'll be signing the same day at Farrar, Straus & Giroux booth #1531 from 10 to 11.

If you're at the conference, come by and see me!

If you're not at the conference, I'll try to post while I'm there or shortly thereafter.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

All I want to do is work in the garden.

Is that so much to ask?

Feeling the love

Karen over at Literate Lives has posted a review of Greetings from Nowhere that I have now read 427 times.

I love hearing what REAL kids think about it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

When I was young and dumb

The first writing I ever had published was a short story in Children's Digest Magazine.

I submitted it on April 8, 1986.

On May 12, 1986, they wrote to me saying: We have decided to hold it for possible publication.

Oh, happy dance!

One year later (April 3, 1987, to be exact), I wrote to them: Please advise if you have reached a decision regarding this story.

They wrote me back: We realize that your material has been in our possession for quite some time. However, we feel that it is good and we would like to continue to hold it for possible future publication.

A somewhat less enthusiastic happy dance...

They accepted that story for publication in January of 1989.

They paid upon publication: April 1989.

Three years after submitting that story, I received $80 (8 cents per word).

So, to anyone new to the writing world - young, dumb, old, smart - I offer this nugget of advice:

Make sure you know your contract wording and understand - and accept - the difference between "pay upon acceptance" and "pay upon publication."

If your mortgage company really needs that loan payment now and simply cannot wait three years, well, I'd recommend passing on the "pay upon publication" contract.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

This is Dialogue 101, but....sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded.

Let's talk about dialogue tags - sometimes referred to as speaker attributions...you know, the "he said" and "she said" stuff.

Here are my Rules for Using Dialogue Tags:

1. Don't use the tag to explain.

Example: he snarled; she apologized.

Let the dialogue or beat (action) show what the tag was explaining.

2. Don't struggle for variety.

Said is usually the best choice. It becomes invisible, which is a good thing.

3. Don't use words that don't denote speech.

Example: "I'm so tired," she sighed. or "That's a good one," he chuckled.

You can't sigh or chuckle words.

You can say something and then sigh or chuckle. ("That's a good one." He chuckled.)

4. Cut or limit the -ly adverbs.

Example: She exclaimed hatefully. or She said angrily.

Show, don't tell. Those adverbs are telling.

Use the dialogue to show what the adverb is telling.

Example: "You're nothing but a pitiful loser" would certainly be hateful.

Or, instead of "She said angrily", how about, "I've had it up to here with you," she snapped. "Now get out of my face and pretend like you never met me."

5. Place the tag where there is a natural break in dialogue.

Reading out loud will help with this. Pay attention to places where you stumble over your words or you're tempted to change something. That's a big clue that maybe it needs to be changed.

6. Eliminate the tags if it's clear who's talking.

Use beats (little bits of action) to help identify the speaker.

But remember - it's very easy to overuse dialogue tags. Trust me, we all do it.

You might try highlighting ALL dialogue tags in red or yellow and then take a look at them. That might reveal even more than actually reading the piece. You will physically see how often you use them and what they are. (Same goes for those -ly adverbs - highlight them.)

Monday, April 7, 2008


It's hard to believe, but my school year is winding down. I've got a couple of visits this week and then - DONE.

To commemorate, I present A-School-Year-in-a-Minute:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Operation TBD April 17


“Operation TBD” puts 10,000 books into North America’s top pediatric hospitals
in celebration of Support Teen Literature Day on April 17

April 14, 2008 (Seattle, Wash.) – Teen patients in pediatric hospitals across the United States and Canada will receive 10,000 young adult novels, audiobooks, and graphic novels Thursday as readergirlz and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) celebrate the second annual Support Teen Lit Day on April 17.

This unprecedented teen literacy program, coined “Operation TBD” (short for Teen Book Drop), will put free books—altogether valued at more than $175,000—donated by 20 book publishers into the hands of many of the teens most in need of solace, entertainment and a sense of personal accomplishment. After all, long-term hospital stays can be difficult on many levels—for teenagers and their families.

Justina Chen Headley, co-founder of readergirlz and award-winning novelist, wanted to find a way to support teen patients going through such difficulties through a massive book drop. “While touring my local children’s hospital to research my novel, Girl Overboard, I couldn’t help noticing that teen patients didn’t seem to have the comfort objects that the little ones did,” she said. “As an author, I knew that YA books—books with exceptional characters and fabulous stories—could provide teen patients with some of the escape and inspiration they needed. And I knew that readergirlz and YALSA were just the groups to spearhead a teen literacy program of this magnitude.”

Operation TBD also aims to encourage teens to choose reading for pleasure as a leisure activity, as young adults now have many options for entertainment and often choose reading less often. This meshes well with YALSA’s Support Teen Literature Day, which kicks off Teen Read Week, a weeklong event held the third week of October that encourages teens to read, just for the fun of it. Teen Read Week 2008 is Oct. 12-18, with the theme of Books with Bite @ your library®.

To help incite the broader teen community to participate in Operation TBD in its drive to spur reading on a national scale, readergirlz has invited all teens and YA authors to leave a book in a public place on April 17. When visiting www.readergirlz.com, participants can download bookplates to insert into the books they’ll leave behind, which explain the surprise to the recipient and tell them to read and enjoy.

”By working with children’s hospitals to connect with teens, generous publishers who are donating the books that will be supplied as a part of Operation TBD and the readergirlz, YALSA is bringing together a powerful partnership uniquely positioned to provide hospitalized teens a chance to explore the growing and vibrant world of teen literature,” said YALSA President Paula Brehm-Heeger. “Teens will be encouraged to pass along the books received through Operation TBD to another teen after they’re finished reading them, allowing this new initiative to ensure that Support Teen Literature Day has lasting impact.”

Participating book publishers who have donated books or audiobooks include Abrams Books, Bloomsbury USA, Candlewick Press, Da Capo Press, Full Cast Audio, Harcourt, HarperCollins, Hyperion Books, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Marshall Cavendish, Mirrorstone (imprint of Wizards of the Coast), Newmarket Press, Orca Book Publishers, Peachtree Publishers, Perseus Book Group, Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster Children's Books, TOKYOPOP, and Tor Books.

“Books have always been a form of escape and entertainment and Mirrorstone is thrilled to have the chance to participate in this very worthy cause,” said Shelly Mazzanoble, associate brand manager for Mirrorstone Books. “Our hope is that the donated books really connect with the teen patients who need them, as well as inspire all teens to turn to reading for pleasure.”

Pediatric hospitals that have signed up to receive books include All Children's Hospital Foundation (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Children's Hospital Boston, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, Children's Medical Center (Dallas, TX), Children's Memorial Hospital (Chicago, Ill.), Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics (Kansas City, MO), Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health—Library Library/Family Resource Center (Palo Alto, CA), Seattle Children's Hospital—Children's Hospital Foundation, SickKids Foundation (Toronto, Ontario), St. Louis Children's Hospital Foundation, Texas Children's Hospital (Houston, TX).

“Participating children’s hospitals are most grateful for the generous donations of books,” said Marion Woyvodich, executive director of The Woodmark Group, an organization that represents 24 prominent children’s hospitals of North America.

Everyone who participates in Operation TBD is invited to celebrate at the TBD Post-Op Party on April 17th on the readergirlz MySpace group forum: http://groups.myspace.com/readergirlz.

About Support Teen Literature Day
For the second consecutive year, Support Teen Literature Day will be celebrated April 17, 2008 in conjunction with ALA’s National Library Week. Librarians all across the country are encouraged to participate in Support Teen Literature Day by hosting events in their library. The purpose of this new celebration is to raise awareness among the general public that young adult literature is a vibrant, growing genre with much to offer today’s teens. Support Teen Literature Day also seeks to showcase some award-winning authors and books in the genre as well as highlight librarians’ expertise in connecting teens with books and other reading materials.

About the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
For 50 years, YALSA has been the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens. For more information about YALSA or for lists of recommended reading, viewing and listening, go to www.ala.org/yalsa or contact the YALSA office by phone, 800-545-2433, ext. 4390.

About readergirlz
readergirlz is the foremost online book community for teen girls, led by four critically-acclaimed YA authors—Dia Calhoun (Avielle of Rhia), Lorie Ann Grover (On Pointe), Justina Chen Headley (Girl Overboard), and Mitali Perkins (First Daughter: White House Rules). readergirlz was co-founded by Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover, and Justina Chen Headley—all four of whom have been touched by children’s hospitals or hospitals in some way or other.

To promote teen literacy and leadership in girls, readergirlz features a different YA novel and corresponding community service project every month. For more information about readergirlz, please visit www.readergirlz.com and www.myspace.com/readergirlz, or contact divas@readergirlz.com

Friday, April 4, 2008

A little fiber, anyone?

This was in my cereal this morning!! (No, not the quarter, you ninny. That's just there for size comparison.)

The cereal was baked onto it!

(Kashi Go-Lean Crunch, by the way...)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I swear I sent it a month ago!

Deadlines? What deadlines?

Now you can cheat, lie and deceive!

Dear Editor: What do you mean you didn't get that email with my revisions? I sent it a month ago! You might check your inbox one more time. If not, I'll send you a copy and you'll see it's dated a month ago!

Cheating, lying, deceiving author

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Just checking in from the nursing home

During my PowerPoint presentation at a school recently, a student noticed the date on my sixth grade report card and commented that it was 37 years before she was born.

I thought she must have been mistaken....

....but she wasn't.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Greetings from Nowhere

Two nice blog reviews of Greetings from Nowhere:

A Year of Reading


Read, Read, Read

and another one at

the Christian Science Monitor.

Yippy skippy!

Writing Tip Tuesday

Good dialogue needs good beats.

What are beats, you ask?

Beats are small pieces of action interspersed throughout the dialogue.

For example, from Moonpie and Ivy, the beats are in bold:

"My mama just up and left." Pearl flung an arm in the direction of the road. "Just perched her butt behind the wheel of that crappy old care and drove away. What do you think of that?"

"Who know. Last I heard, she was running wild over in Macon." Ivy's face got redder. "Makes my blood boil," she said.

From Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia:

"If you had a kid who needed glasses and you didn't have any money, what would you do?"
Miss Delphine tapped her fingernail against her coffee mug. "Well, I suppose I'd start with school," she said.

I LOVE beats! They are critical to the rhythm of the dialogue - and I love rhythm.

Using beats for rhythm takes practice - and reading out loud (or at least hearing the dialogue).

Let beats work for you.

Use beats to:
  • Identify who is speaking (to avoid the use of a dialogue tag)
  • Develop character (especially if the action is unique rather than common)
  • Show the emotions of the speaker
  • Break up the dialogue
  • Allow the reader to visualize the action
  • Vary the rhythm
  • Move the story along

Warning: Watch out for repetitive beats. And don't overdo the specifics. (For example, don't show us every single action involved in eating dinner. This is pointless and boring.)

Now beat it....