Friday, January 28, 2011

Flights of Fantasy

Just two weeks ago I attended a wonderful SCBWI conference - not in the Big Apple, New York, but in Miami! We have lived in Florida for six years but I was never lucky enough to be able to go to one of their conferences.

Although not as big as New York, the Miami conference was terrific with wonderful speakers on pertinent topics.The title and theme of the conference was the Wizarding World of Writing. Many of the presentations centered on fantasy and the different types of fantasy that occur in children's literature. As one speaker said, there are many levels of fantasy, time travel, worlds of make believe and of wizards themselves, and dystopian worlds, as well as the simpler fantasy of young PBs where animals speak.

Authors, illustrators, editors and agents spoke and we were charged up to go out and write wonderful books - perhaps filled with fantasy.

If you were just starting a new book, what type of fantasy would you choose?

As I was driving home from Miami across Alligator Alley, which crosses the Everglades to Naples, about half way back, inspired by the conference, I began a new and exciting fantasy PB. With the vast spreading blue sky arching over the Everglades and the prairies of saw grass stretching as far as the eye can see, flocks of the different varieties of the glorious birds that live in the Everglades flew overhead.

Those of you who know my love of nature won't be surprised to know that I chose as my protagonist one of these great birds. She - Caroline Grace- leads an interesting life!

What inspires you in your stories and what type of fantasy would you incorporate this in?

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking for Alaska Five Years After the Printz Award

John Green.
Where's the Love It button?

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Returning to Life

Today is the first day of my fourth and final semester in Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. If you have read my previous posts on VCFA, you will know that the biannual 10-day Residencies I attend are like entering a different world - Brigadoon, as Tim Wynn-Jones called it my first Residency. Students and faculty spend a week and a half perched atop a hill in Montpelier, Vermont discussing children's books, writing, and all the magic and frustrations that go along with it.

This Residency was bitter-sweet, knowing this is my last semester and my second to last Residency. I am excited, anxious, and a little bit scared at the idea of not having the magic of VCFA to guide me. But those are sentiments for six months from now. I still have to survive this semester with my new advisor, Rita Williams-Garcia.

Rita Williams-Garcia. Let me say it again - Rita Williams-Garcia. If you are not familiar with her, let me just say that recently her publisher has been scrambling to redesign the cover of her book One Crazy Summer so they can fit all the award stickers on it!

Now imagine me, sending my manuscript - which has never been read all the way through by anyone but me - to Rita Williams-Garcia. I'll just say, "Yikes!" But I know Rita's comments - even if she kindly tells me to start over from a blinking cursor - will teach me, inform me, and guide me to become the best writer I can be. And isn't that what all of this is about?

As I drove home yesterday, my head filled with ideas, inspiration, and eagerness, I gradually had to re-enter my Real Life. As I ticked off the states - Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey - as the snow gradually got dirtier, the temperature inched higher, and the traffic got heavier, I left the magic of VCFA/Brigadoon behind. By the time I got to the NY/NJ border, I was thinking about doing laundry, going to the grocery, and the dentist appointment I have next week.

This morning I am back at my computer, not quite ready to surrender to Real Life. I'm trying to recreate the wonder of the last ten days. The laundry still isn't done, I haven't been to the grocery, and I'm thinking of canceling that dentist appointment.

"Never give up! Never surrender!" (Galaxy Quest)

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

History-Making Duo

Newbery Award: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. (See previous post by J.L.)

Caldecott Award: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin Stead. Philip Stead, author.

These 2011 awards, taken together, make medal history. Why?

The Newbery has been won by a first-time author AND the Caldecott has been won by a first-time illustrator. Has never happened before.

In addition, since Erin Stead is 28 years old, she beats Robert McCloskey (by a few months) as the youngest artist to win the Caldecott.

When her world settles down, Erin Stead promises more posts about her award. For now, it's fun browsing Erin's blog to get a sense of her life in Ann Arbor, MI. with author/illustrator husband, Philip. What a talented couple!

Don't you wonder how it would feel to hit the top of your profession on the first try? Would you worry about your long term career?

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The “P” Word Pays Off

Speaking of perseverance (see prior post), has anyone read Moon Over Manifest, this year’s Newbery Medal winner? I haven’t yet, but I can’t wait to crack it open.

Meanwhile, I was encouraged to read first-time author Clare Vanderpool’s personal backstory. Vanderpool’s road to getting published was a long one. She started her book many moons ago, back in 2001. As she replied on the FAQ’s page on her website:

Q. How long did it take to write and publish the book?
A. I can probably answer that easiest by saying my children were 1,3,5, and 7 when I started Moon Over Manifest and they are now 10, 12, 14, and 16. So, a pretty long time. But I wasn't sitting around writing all that time. I was also making lunches, driving to field trips, folding laundry, and saying, "Hurry up, you'll be late."

Vanderpool’s double victory—first, getting her book published; second, winning the Newbery, of all things, is a testament to the fact that perseverance pays off.

As a new year begins, and I continue to work on my own manuscript, also begun many moons ago, Vanderpool’s wonderful achievement spurs me on.

Hey, I make my kids’ lunches, too. I also have a job. And as much as I love my kids and my job (well, most of the time), they really wreak havoc on my writing life.

Still, I refuse to quit, and Vanderpool’s story gives me hope. Hope that maybe my perseverance will pay off someday, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I expect to win the Newbery.

But then again, neither did Vanderpool.

Now you tell me. When the road to getting published grows long, what helps you persevere?

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Word for 2011

On the CW yahoo group, Anastasia Suen challenged writers to come up with our "word" for 2011. What writer wouldn't love such a challenge?

But it has not been an easy challenge for me.

Should my word be "organize"? That's always something I need to work on.

Or should my word be "relax"? Life has been pretty overwhelming for the past two years, but things finally seems to be getting easier.

Or perhaps it should be "celebrate"? After all, last year was the year I got my very first picture book contract. And I'm super-lucky to be working with my fantastic agent and editor!

Yep. All these possibilities could be good choices, but, as I'm writing this post, I'm sitting in bed with a yucky head cold. I have spent three days exhausted and getting nothing done. And so I've decided that my word for 2011 is...


Yes, in 2011, I need to take care of myself and replenish my energy supply. Even when I'm not sick, I'm running on empty far too often.

And what's wonderful is that writing energizes me. So I've got to find more time to write. Yay!

I'm just thinking about it and I'm starting to feel a bit better already. :o)

So, what's your word for 2011?

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I was at the Morgan Library last week peering at one of Queen Elizabeth's letters (nice handwriting,)a letter from Galileo declaring his innocence (if ever a letter needed to be written, this was it) and a sheet from Pope's "Essay on Man," showing his numerous revisions. Samuel Johnson's comment on seeing these revisions was that one could trace Pope's mind from the first ideas to the last.

I had written a thesis on Pope's work for an English honors program, but honestly had no idea of the labor that went into it, the original being unavailable to me fifty years ago. Finished products, the books we have on our night stands or read on Kindles, are error free and look effortless.

So I sit here in the new year staring at the manuscripts I have yet to revise...again. Is the world really waiting for my work? For me, that's the question.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011


Can't add anything to this! Enjoy!

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