Thursday, May 29, 2014

A new article!

After nearly a 4-year blog hiatus... popping in to say I have a new article online today! See "When Your Calling Feels too Small" on Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership blog.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Five fantastic things on Friday

I'm alive! Yeah...it's been months since I posted. Just felt moved to break out the old blog again because there were so many things I was happy about today and I remembered the Friday Five meme! Though it's more like a Thankful Thursday one day late!

Five Fantastic things this Friday:

1. Cozy beds on rainy days
2. Good music
3. Good books
4. Candy
5. Encouraging friends

There are more, so many more...like finally potty-trained 3-year-olds who say cute, loving things, & comfy, lived-in jeans, & thoughtful people, & cooking competition shows on TV, & inexpensive treats that make kids smile, & the right words at the right time...but I'll stop there for today! Thanks for being there, those who are still there ;-) , and may you find more than 5 fantastic things in your life today, too!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

If all goes well...

...the house I'm selling will close tomorrow, 9 long months after we moved here. Time to "March 4th" into the next phase of our lives! :-)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy Haiku Year

Happy 2010! I haven't quite settled on my "theme" for the new year, but it's something along the lines of calmness, peace, rest, & tranquility. Not that I don't want to accomplish anything--far from it--but I want to approach things with a calm, steady attitude instead of getting frazzled or frustrated.

In keeping with that attitude, I've decided, on a lark, to try to write haiku every day of the year. Not "real" haiku with a nature theme and possibly variable lengths, nor anything I'm spending more than a couple of minutes on, but just snippets of words in a 5/7/5 syllable format, to sum up something about the day.

I don't plan to share them all online--some may be too personal, boring, or forced--but I thought I'd share my first two, and maybe some others occasionally through the year, to keep me doing it. These are also subject to revision...I just rewrote the first one from scratch before posting this!

01/01/2010:
Family gathers
to share black-eyed peas and greet
the year we've just met
On 01/02/2010 (note how the date is the same forward and backward), I bought new journals, went over last year's journal to review the year, and watched the 10th Doctor regenerate on Doctor Who:

A palindrome day
is a good day to look back
and to look forward

Farewell, Tenth Doctor
Hello, new journals and year
Let's regenerate

Friday, December 11, 2009

Agent Appreciation Day

Kody Keplinger, author of the forthcoming novel The Duff, came up with the idea of Agent Appreciation Day, which is today! Many writers are blogging about their agents today (see a partial list here).

I wouldn't want my own fabulous agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, to feel unappreciated, so I had to come out of blog hiatus to join the celebration!

A few of the many reasons I appreciate my agent:

1) She loves my work! This is obviously huge. She continues to believe in it, and me, and has complimented my writing in ways that have probably made me blush. She told me that even her daughter loved my manuscripts, so it must be a whole family with good taste! ;-) She has even seen potential in manuscripts I'd already given up on.

2) She stays in touch. I've never had to wait a long time for her to get back to me on anything. Sometimes it's a day or two--sometimes it's only 5 minutes! She has called me and e-mailed me just to check in, and she always keeps me informed about the submission process. Even if I don't hear from her for a few weeks, I have complete confidence that she's on top of things, and will let me know if anything comes up.

3) She's enthusiastic and persistent. I hear about agents who give up after one round of submissions, or who send out manuscripts and let editors sit on them for six months or more without ever following up. Not so with Joan. She continues to seem determined to find just the right home for my manuscripts, and to make sure they don't just languish forever. Sometimes she'll ask me to rework something, but so far her enthusiasm hasn't waned.

4) She's patient. Not only has she not given up on my manuscripts, she hasn't given up on me even when I've been slow with things like revisions, or taken some breaks entirely because of other situations in my life. I assume she's patient with editors, too, though again, not to the point of never following up.

5) I trust her agency and her ability. While I haven't met Joan yet in person, she works for the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and I've heard Erin speak at a conference. Erin's talk convinced me the agency would be a good fit for my writing. They represent picture books as well as novels--and I write both, they're approachable and pleasant, they know the industry well, and they have a great track record of sales. While my books haven't sold yet, Joan has made some great sales since becoming an agent this year. I wondered at first whether to take a chance on a new agent, but I knew she was involved in the writing community and that Erin believed in her, so I happily signed on, and I don't think I could have made a better decision!

6) The agency she works for is a fun, supportive one to be part of, with its own listserv and retreats, and other great writers to rub shoulders with. All the writers I know who are with the same agency are wonderful.

7) She's calm and confident. Every time I talk to her, she's a calming presence as I ramble nervously, and makes me feel like I can do it after all. I assume she projects the same confident, can-do attitude to publishers. While always seeming friendly and laid-back, she also seems like one of those people who can take on 20 projects, get them all done impeccably, and then ask "what next?", which is exactly the type person you'd want as an agent!

8) Joan is a writer herself, and I love writers! Her picture book, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, was named by the Association of Booksellers for Children as one of their Best Books of 2009. I think this also helps her understand the writer's end of the agent-writer relationship.

So, Joan, thanks so much for taking me on as a client, and please know you're very much appreciated! I only hope I can keep up my end of the deal and help you generate some sales! :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why not live in the Austin area? ;-)

I'm updating this post in December to say we've now lowered our home price by more than $18,000 from our starting price! Please tell anyone you know who lives in the Austin area (or wants to!) and needs a house! It's crazy cheap for 4 bedrooms and a big backyard! Great neighborhood with lots of parks and great schools. And there are big government tax credits in effect for both first-time homebuyers and previous homeowners!
==See the house at realtor.com!==

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I aim to be thankful every day, in every circumstance, even when it looks like things are falling down around me. Today started out pretty cloudy, but silver linings started appearing soon. A few writing-related things I'm thankful for today:

1) I'm close to finishing a revision on a picture book that's been a long time coming. I have a little more to do, but...I'm closing in. And I like what I've written.

2) I've heard positive feedback about another manuscript. Still waiting to see if it more will happen with that, but regardless, I'm pumped that real live editors at honest-to-goodness publishing houses have had good things to say about my writing.

3) VCFA in the Lone Star State this weekend!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Have I got a deal for you!

~~~UPDATED 10/1/09: It's been reduced by $9,000, so it's a major bargain. (We're highly motivated since we've already moved and have another house payment.)~~~

Our house near Austin FINALLY went on the market today! Please buy it or tell anyone who might be interested! Nice neighborhood, great schools, big yard, lots of storage space, 5 parks & a public pool in easy walking distance, plenty of shopping and restaurants in the area, 3 miles from the mall, only a few miles north of the Austin city limit...and oh yeah, access to the wonderful Austin chapter of SCBWI! ;-) Cedar Park made Family Circle's list of 10 Best Towns for Families in the US last year.

See the Realtor.com or Zillow listings for the house.

(Now come on, if you already live somewhere else, wouldn't you like a second home near Austin? ;-) We never would have left if my husband's job hadn't kind of dropped in our laps from elsewhere!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What's love got to do with it?

Some weeks back, my friend Rosemary Clement-Moore won the 2009 RITA award for best young adult romance novel for her book Highway to Hell. (Congrats again, Rosemary!) This expanded my definition of "romance novel," because the romance in that book takes a back seat to the paranormal mystery and adventure.

Last week I began to wonder aloud if any of my own writing might qualify as romance...whereupon my husband pointed out I'm more of an anti-romance writer! And, as my husband, he wasn't sure how to feel about having such an anti-romantic wife. At first I thought he was wrong, because most of my YA stories do have romantic subplots, but as I thought through them, I quickly realized he was right. The evidence:

YA novel 1: At first I didn't think the protagonist would have a love interest, but somehow she ended up with 3. Guy #1 blows her off and then makes fun of her to their other friends. Guy #2 flirts a bit but sees her as just a friend, and then moves away. At the end of the book, guy #3 is her best bet, but she's never really liked him that much. (They don't get together in the end, but there's a sense she could end up seeing him in a different light.)

YA novel 2: The protagonist kisses his female friend, but they decide it's a mistake. She ends up with their other friend, which makes the protagonist feel like the odd man out. This book isn't finished and there may be a hint of romance for him with someone else by the time I'm done, but so far there's not.

YA novel 3: A guy asks the protagonist to be his girlfriend. After she says no, he kills himself. (! It's not necessarily cause and effect, but that's what happens.) She later falls hard for another guy, and it seems to be mutual...until he takes off and she never hears from him again. Ever. (You think this would have teen girls throwing rocks at my door if it ever gets published?)

YA short story: A girl has a big crush on a guy, but finds out he's a jerk and realizes she's better off without him.

Published short story with teen narrator: The narrator's mom travels a long way to look for love, only to decide she doesn't need to be that desperate.

Am I warped or what? To be fair, I do have an abandoned YA I started for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, in which a girl has to choose between going to get the slushie she's craving and a spontaneous trip to the beach with the guy she's had a crush on for years (when his little brother invites her). She tries to pursue both, and crazy hijinks ensue that almost keep her from all of it, but she'd ultimately have a happy ending.

I seem able to write completely fluffy, and often absurd, light romances with happy endings. (Maybe they feel less threatening in some subconscious way.) A few years back, an anthology published a story I wrote about a young man and woman--not teens, but it's very light for adults--who fall for each other after she comes to complain about his loudly quacking duck. It's silly, but I still love it and it has a happy romantic ending. I also once wrote a sappy, likely unpublishable story about a couple who get engaged at a flea market and have a wacky wedding where everything goes wrong but it doesn't matter.

When a story came to me out of nowhere last week, the one I recited to myself while driving and then typed up later, it was a light romance, probably a first-romance story about young teens. Reading back over what I had typed, I realized it was sooo fluffy, there was almost no conflict! The only conflict was that the girl is initially too scared to call the guy, and then it turns out she's lost his number, but then she finds it. Then everything works out great for them. If I do more with it, I'll probably have to add some zany conflict. But I liked the idea of a story where the people just really like each other and almost everything goes right. The story was mainly a "how we met" story, which I admit to being a sap for (the Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers both have Sunday columns about how engaged or married couples met, and I love those). So there may be hope for me yet in the romance department!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The write kind of weekend

I've been so overwhelmed by our move and the ongoing stress of trying to get our Austin-area house ready to sell that I haven't been blogging or writing much, though I have been reading blogs and writing boards, etc.

This weekend, though, I got refreshed by going to an Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop--my first time back to Austin since moving in June. While I did cry more than once about not living there anymore...the event itself was a treat! 19 of us met at the lovely home of Meredith Davis, founder of the Austin SCBWI chapter, and broke into small groups for intensive critiques throughout the day. My group, The Ramonas, included Chris Barton, Greg Leitich Smith, Lyn Seippel, and Helen Hemphill, and between us we critiqued picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction. We also had time to talk and hang out with the larger group, and we had fun listening to anonymous first pages by nearly everyone attending. We had dinner afterwards at a casual place on the lake, Ski Shores, where a few more folks were able to join us.

In this lunchtime photo taken by Donna Bowman Bratton, I'm in the front left, and going around clockwise from me are: Lyn Seippel, Don Tate, Debbie Gonzales, Andy Sherrod, Brian Yansky, and Carmen Oliver.



These events are always inspiring! I was also glad to get good feedback on the manuscripts I shared...one of which has been on and off my back burner for 9 years (!), and one of which is almost ready to send back to my agent (I hope!).

It's lucky I got there safely, considering I had to get up at 4:30 am and drive 3 hours to Austin to get to the workshop--and couldn't sleep at all the night before! Not only were my nerves and my toddler keeping me awake, along with my usual night owl nature, but somehow a story started brewing in my head while I lay in bed. I ended up narrating most of it in my mind, in hopes I'd remember it in the morning. Sure enough, I remembered it well enough to recite the general storyline to myself out loud as I drove. I found myself wishing for a tape recorder, but didn't have one handy! But I added more as I went, and saying it aloud helped me remember it, even after hearing everyone else's stories that day. That night, relaxing with my laptop as I spent the night in Austin, I typed up the story from memory, and now I have 2462 words of something--I'm not sure what! It's a light romantic story, somewhat goofy as per usual with me, but I'm not sure if it's the basis of a short story, part of a novel, or just an exercise to get my writing brain jump-started again! Either way, it was kind of fun to have my muse on overdrive like that.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moved!

Wow, it's been over a month since I updated my blog, which is odd for me. I have a good excuse, I think--we just moved, and are still in the process of moving to some degree. Besides the Internet connectivity problems I've had, I've hardly had 5 minutes to think, much less blog! Anyway, there's much I could blog about but nothing that clearly begs for me to blog about it, so this is mainly to say I'm still around.

Even though I knew we were moving for 4 months before I did, and even though I've been preparing for it all that time, and even though I'm actually living in another city & house now (in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where I grew up), it still hasn't completely sunk in that this is where I live now and that we're done living in Austin (still trying to fix up and sell our old house, but mostly done). I'm trying not to think about it much, because for all the positives of living here, I very much love and miss Austin and our lives there. I'd probably be adjusting better if we had some routines and/or it wasn't over 100 degrees every day since I've moved so we could go do more fun stuff, but I'm sure it'll feel more like home every day.

Not much news on the writing front, since I've been so busy and the kids are around all the time. But I do have a couple of picture book manuscripts I need to get back to revising, and have been brainstorming some about my YA projects. Sometimes I fear my stuff is too quirky to find a home with traditional publishers, but a couple of months after signing with a great agent and agency is probably not the time to let myself be overwhelmed with doubt! My resolution for the year is to focus on the positive, after all....

I'm trying to focus on the positive things about change, even though right now change is seeming like way too much trouble. But on the subject of real change being good, in the midst of our move we gathered up all the spare change we'd been collecting for several years and cashed it in at a couple of CoinStar machines, and we turned out to have over $167 worth of change!! I traded it all in for Amazon gift codes (to save the 8.9% fee I'd have to pay if I wanted it in cash), and will probably use it for a new digital camera, or else for some DVD box sets. So, change is good!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If you're in the mood for a movie...

A couple of years ago, my brother Gavin acted in a movie called A Plumm Summer, which won several awards, including Best Family Film at the Austin Film Festival. It's finally out on DVD, and it's also showing on Time Warner's On Demand cable right now.

The Time Warner site currently has the movie trailer online here (you can see the back of my brother's head in the cash register scene, & later he's getting out of a car with the FBI agents...).

Here's the imdb.com listing for it and the Amazon page for the DVD.

My brother plays Wally, described in Variety's positive review of the movie as "a bumbling general store clerk." He doesn't show up for a while, but shows up several times throughout, including at the climax. It really is a good, family-oriented movie if anyone wants to watch.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thankful Thursday

1) Everyone in my family is healthy.

2) I got an agent this month!

3) She started sending my book out yesterday.

4) Isn't that enough? :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A few steps forward

I know it's been 23 days since I posted...things have just been hectic since my husband left town for his new job. He's been in the job for five weeks (and loves it, yay!), and it's six more weeks until the kids get out of school. But I can't imagine we'll be ready to move at that point! Not only are we nowhere close to getting out of here, but we don't have anywhere to move yet. Still, we're working on sorting through the garage today, and my husband has driven around some neighborhoods in our new town and visited a couple of schools. (And he's home with us right now, which is great!)

Meanwhile, remember how I said I wanted this to be a positive, purple year? Well, this is going to be cryptic for the time being, but it looks like things are moving in that direction!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

What a week!

I'm so exhausted, I don't have the energy to post much. But at least I did survive my first week handling the kids and everything else alone with my husband gone (to his new job in another city, until the rest of us can join him), and I'm more than halfway through the second.

He did get to come back on the weekend, so I got to go to Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls book signing at BookPeople! A group of us from the Austin SCBWI had a reception with Laurie before her signing, and she volunteered to do a Q&A session for us at the reception. It was a wonderful, inspiring event, and Laurie is very personable, with plenty of hard-earned wisdom she was glad to share. Wintergirls looks like an amazing book, too. I've put off reading it just because I don't have the time right now to plow straight through it, but I can tell from the excerpts I've read, once I get started I probably won't be able to put it down.

Donna Bratton put some photos of Laurie and the reception group on her blog. You can click on either one to see it bigger. (In the group photo, Laurie Halse Anderson is third from the left on the second row, and I am third from the right.) Cynthia Leitich Smith also put a couple of photos from it near the end of Tuesday's Cynsations post.

Before and after that, I was trying to figure out how to write, write, write, while also managing my very high-maintenance kids--especially the wildly active and strong-minded 2-year-old! I recently increased his preschool days to 4 mornings a week, just for the short term, to help me get stuff done while my husband is gone. And that, plus a night-time offer of babysitting by a friend the other night while I wrote in her spare room, is the only way I made it through the week! I wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to get something out by an approximate deadline of yesterday, and got it done! Whew. Turned out my recent freelance writing gigs really taught me how to get in gear and meet a deadline, whether I felt "inspired" or not. I didn't get nearly enough sleep this week, and when I finally had 8 hours in bed last night...thunderstorms kept me up for most of the last 2 hours. Oh well!

Soon I have to go the "picnic" at my older kids' school (I hope it's indoors, given the muddy ground outside and the high wind advisory!). So, I still don't know when I'll get a moment to clean up the mess my house has become as I've ignored it--let alone start getting ready for our move!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Very hungry heads up

Have you seen today's Very Hungry Caterpillar-themed Google logo for the first day of spring? So cute!

(You can see all their 2009 holiday logos here, including one for Dr. Seuss's birthday earlier this month.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Books, cake, & pi

Last month I was fortunate enough to win a copy of Judy Blundell's National Book Award-winning YA novel, What I Saw and How I Lied, from the Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central Blog. I received it this week and started reading it yesterday...and ended up staying up until 4 am today to finish it! Once I got about halfway through, I never found a place I could put it down. :) The author has a knack for building suspense, and the postwar setting was vivid. It was a very interesting read, though the protagonist deals with so much in this book, I think she must age about 20 years, emotionally, instead of just "coming of age" a little!

I did manage to pull myself out of bed a few hours later to go to the monthly Austin SCBWI meeting and hear Lila Guzman talk about increasing the marketability of your books. She had lots of interesting ideas for tying your books into school curriculum or finding relevant groups to market them to. (And made me realize I need to see if the gum recipes I allude to in one of my manuscripts are actually possible! I do have a make-your-own-bubblegum kit, but haven't tried it out yet.)

After that, it was off to a loud, crazy playplace to take my older two kids to a birthday party (at least I had my comptuer and WiFi there until my battery ran down...), where I had a bit of green-frosted chocolate cake, and soon we'll be having chocolate cream pie (storebought--I've been too busy to cook one!) in a Pi dish in honor of Pi Day!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Writing on the brain

One of the worst things about moving is that my life has to revolve around our move (and daily survival with 3 kids) for the next 12 weeks. And life after that will probably revolve around the other side of the move--unpacking, settling into a new place, developing new routines, etc.--for another few weeks. Which means, unfortunately, writing time falls by the wayside.

But I 've found there's still some time to think about writing. I often find myself stuck in a (stopped) car for a while, or riding in a car I'm not driving, with time to read a little or make notes, and I also find myself stuck under a toddler a lot, which is where most of my computing time comes from (and most of it one-handed, too, with my laptop on the little table next to my couch, which makes it hard to type but too easy to play a lot of online games!).

Anyway, I recently thought of a new book idea...or, more accurately, an idea for a theme I'd like to explore in a book. It didn't really come with a plot or characters attached. Meanwhile, I have some characters and starting points of books in search of a plot, so I thought this idea could work with one of those back burner projects. It kind of fits with two of them. Then I started thinking about ALL the book ideas I have on the back burner and how long it would take me to get them done...and it's really daunting! I started thinking, I need to draft a book a month for a year to get most of my ideas out! I actually find that an intriguing idea, and might even consider it if I had the time, because I tend to write fast when I'm in heavy writing mode, but now is not the time.

I've also been thinking I don't know the main character of my latest YA project well enough. I spent some time brainstorming about her the other day, and when I was in the car yesterday, I browsed a magazine trying to find a photo I thought might look like her. I didn't find one, but did find one that looked a lot like her best friend, and also decided my main character probably has green eyes, which surprised me. So, those are the kinds of things I'm pondering in the minutes between things, so I won't fall out of writing!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Manuscripts and me on the move

I've haven't been quiet because it's been slow here, but because it's been very, very busy! As much as we adore Austin and had no intentions of ever moving away again...we couldn't turn down the excellent job opportunity that came up for my husband. Soon, he'll become the head of reference and adult services for the Arlington Public Library--a place he's worked before and loved--so we're moving to my hometown of Arlington, TX, after being away for 16 years. At least it's only a three-hour drive away, so I plan to be back to Austin often!

With a major move impending that we're not even slightly ready for, it's easy for writing to fall by the wayside. And indeed, I haven't written anything in quite a while. But I did manage to get it together enough to send an applicaton for the SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant today, and also to send an entry to the Writers' League of Texas Manuscript Contest a few days ago. I sent the same basic synopsis and excerpt of my middle grade novel to both. The requirements for both were similar, though the grant application requires more background information than the contest form, and the manuscript contest has a $50 fee. I decided that, other than a little money and time, I had nothing to lose by entering. Now, if I could only finish my taxes, I could turn all my attention to our move!

In older news, in the past week or two I finally read Joni Sensel's middle grade book Reality Leak, which has been one of my son's favorites for a couple of years but which he had misplaced until recently...and also read Ruth McNally Barshaw's latest book, Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School, which is especially relevant to my kids right now when we're moving soon. Both books were lots of fun, and highly recommended for middle grade readers! I also went to the Coraline movie in 3D, which I liked pretty well. I was neither as creeped out as I feared nor as blown away by the 3D as I hoped. (Not that the 3D wasn't great, but I've just become jaded because 4 of the last 5 movies I've seen in the theater were in 3D! The others were Meet the Robinsons, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Bolt.)

And I can't believe I never mentioned our great Austin SCBWI meeting last month, with author/illustrator Mark G. Mitchell speaking about school vists. Donna Bratton posted a nice recap of the event, and even a photo of some of us at lunch afterwards. (I'm on the left between Brian Yansky and Greg Leitich Smith. Hidden behind Greg is Debbie Gonzales, then Frances Hill and Shana Burg are at the end of the table, with Brian Anderson between Shana and Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is hidden behind Jennifer Ziegler. At the near end are author Julie Lake's husband, and the back of Carmen Oliver. Unfortunately, Donna herself was behind the lens, so she's not in the pic!) Cynthia Leitich Smith also posted about this event in her Feb. 27 Cynsations post.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's wishes



Happy Valentine's Day from my little Cupid & me!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Apostrophe catastrophe

It's a catastrophe for the apostrophe in Britain. (Okay, the actual headline removed the apostrophe from "Its" in that sentence to make the point, but I couldn't do it myself!)

The website for the Apostrophe Protection Society is no longer functional, so apostrophes everywhere may soon suffer similar fates. Let's just hope all the apostrophes removed in Britian won't make their way elsewhere, to show up even more often in all the wrong places. (Or should that be "place's"?)

Writers and editors should appreciate Debbie Ridpath Ohi's comic on this topic.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Books in danger!

I was already horrified that the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that goes into effect February 10 is threatening the ability of people to buy or sell children's products through consignment stores, charity stores, small businesses, and even eBay or garage sales. I read that whole chains of children's consignment stores might have to close their doors, and that charities like Goodwill could have to throw away every children's item they have in their stores, just because the cost of testing them for lead (which most clothing items, etc., are very unlikely to have) would be too high! This is especially problematic at a time when many people really need the cost savings of shopping for used products (or the income from selling their old products), and when it would be environmentally crazy to fill our landfills with perfectly good, usable toys and clothing.

Now I have found out that children's books may be affected, too--even books already in libraries and schools! This link is from the ALA so it doesn't mention textbooks, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were affected as well. I suspect it could also affect literacy charities that give gently used books to needy children.

Please read the following link...let's try to change this now!

ALA Action Alert - Save our children's libraries and books!

Here is a Publisher's Weekly article about it, also, and a Forbes article about the whole ridiculous regulation and how it will end up hurting the little companies and individuals. (Some are even calling February 10 National Bankruptcy Day.)

This is just crazy. Yes, a few toys, mostly imported from China, were recalled recently because of lead levels, but has there really a problem with children getting lead poisoning from books?! I have never heard of such, while the lack of access to books would be a real, definite, and major problem that would not be theoretical at all! (Besides, it's not like people are going to get rid of all the old toys, children's clothes, and books in their homes--especially now that there would be nowhere to donate them that they wouldn't have to be thrown out--so the kids won't really be "safer" if libraries stop having books for them!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

First Friday Five of 2009

1) Last Saturday, I went to the Austin SCBWI meeting at BookPeople to hear the lovely and talented Jennifer Ziegler talk about writing mass market books. Over 90 people attended the meeting (standing room only!), and Jennifer's presentation was great!

2) Wednesday, my middle son turned 8! (Coincidentally, the aforementioned Jennifer Ziegler's daughter has the same birthday as my son, which probably means she's pretty cool, as Jenny's blog entry about her proves. Actually, I already knew she was pretty cool, because she liked my manuscript! :-) ) We celebrated my son's birthday with Denny's (his choice!), cake, and of course presents, and will host some of his friends at an indoor playscape this weekend.

3) Take a Chance on Art: purchase one or more $5 raffle tickets to enter to win illustrator Don Tate's painting "Duke Ellington," and support the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund. It's especially important this year in light of devastation caused by Hurricane Ike. To learn more, read Cynthia Leitich Smith's interviews with TLA librarian Jeanette Larson and illustrator Don Tate.



4) I revise my blog entries (and comments, and message board posts....) compulsively, so #4 is different now than if you read this when I first posted it. ;-)

5) Some of the things I've considered blogging about lately include the craziness of toddlers (impossible to overstate), living without a full night's sleep for 2+ years (see previous item re: toddlers), the world-colliding weirdness that is Facebook (I truly spend hours pondering this), my new addiction to Sudoku (via the BrainAge video game I got for Christmas, as well as online places to play), and cartoons as they relate to writing for children in general. And maybe sometime, I really will write about some of those things!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Positive & purple


Happy, Happy New Year to all!!

It's resolution time again! I accomplished my primary resolution for 2008--to finish a stranded writing project--when I dusted off my middle grade novel manuscript and completed it. I didn't do as well in organizing my house, but did get more active for at least a while, participating in a race.

I'm sure I'll set various short-term goals in 2009, but instead of having a lot of individual goals to track from New Year's on, I'm setting only one main, overarching New Year's resolution, which is: Focus on the positive.

I don't just mean looking for the silver lining in bad situations. I'm pretty good at that already. I mean that, in nearly every situation, I hope to remind myself, "How can I respond to this in a positive, productive manner?" or "How can I approach this in a positive way?" So, when the kids whine "Mo-om!" for the tenth time in a row and I'd normally snap "What?!" in an exasperated way, I want to remind myself that won't make the situation better. Likewise, when I walk in the door after being out, I want to greet my family instead of immediately complaining about the mess. I want to notice the good things and say "thank you," instead of taking them for granted.

I also mean that I want to focus on the possibilities and things that could go right, instead of letting fear hold me back as I contemplate what could go wrong. When I face a challenge, whether it's revising a novel or organizing my kitchen, I want to replace "I can't do this," "This is too hard," "It'll never work," or "I'm going to fail," with "I can do this," or at least, "I can do some of this, and see what happens from there" "I'll give it a go," and "It might just work."

I hope to focus on the things that will lift me up, and that will lift up others around me. When I'm overwhelmed by the negatives, as I know I will be at times, I don't want to be overly daunted by them, but rather to dwell on the positive steps I can take to make things better and move things in the right direction.

I also expect this to be a purple year! The manuscript I finished in 2008, Purple Panic, is with an agent right now. Whether or not this agent offers to represent me, I plan to market that novel in the new year, so I've been getting into a purple mood. I'm wearing a purple shirt right now, to usher in the new year (I'll add a purple paper tiara or New Year's hat near midnight). I also bought a purple dress and a purple tote bag and even some purple high heels! So, here's to purple, and here's to a positive 2009!

2008 in review

I'll model this after my 2007 in review post, but with a few tweaks.

The year in summary: 2008 was a year of waiting for me and my family, with few real changes in our lives. It was a hard year. It had some bright spots, of course, but I'll be glad to see it go!

Most outstanding experience: The Awesome Austin Writers’ Workshop I attended in June

Some other great experiences: Connecting with old & new friends online; a trip to Galveston in April; several Austin writing events including an SCBWI conference in April and an Editor Day in December; my kids throwing a carnival for me on Mother's Day; going to my former roommate's wedding; seeing my toddler jump for joy most times that he sees me walk into the room

Favorite new people met: A bunch of writers from the Austin children's writing community (see above!)

Scariest experiences: Heavy-duty economic uncertainty; seeing my toddler (a.k.a. the fearless stuntbaby) perform wild physical feats and risk damage to himself and everything in and around our home (daily)

Saddest experiences: My great-uncle passing away; my husband not getting a job we thought was perfect

Most unexpected experiences: Getting a cat; running on purpose; my toddler jumping right into an indoor swimming pool (which also turned out to be unheated, though it was November); becoming a fan of Doctor Who; finding out my husband hadn't seen the 80s teen movie Better Off Dead, when it's one of my favorites and I thought we'd shared that point of reference for the past 17+ years (I did make him watch it after that!)

Favorite movies seen: Once; Juno; Bolt (it was a good year for one-word titles!)

Favorite TV shows: Survivor; Top Chef; Flight of the Conchords; Doctor Who

Favorite things I read:
Several books by writers I met this year (& a few by writers I haven't met); excerpts of unpublished books by writer friends that I can't wait to see in print; several little books & stories my 7-year-old wrote; some great poems my 10-year-old wrote, including a group of haikus for school and a book of "A-Z Christmas Guess-it Poems" he wrote and illustrated for me for Christmas; a request for my manuscript from an agent I queried

Biggest blessings: My family; great classes & teachers for my kids; the generosity of others; the Austin children's writing community

Most impressive accomplishments: Finishing a middle grade novel manuscript; writing a short story that then got published; winning a bunch of games of Word Twist, Scramble, & PathWords (not as many as some of my other writer friends, though!); getting good feedback on my writing; completing a 5-mile race (though I alternated walking & running)

Things I missed most: Like the previous year--sleep; free time; silence; money

Out with the old: After Hurricane Ike hit, we sadly had to bid farewell to many places in and around Galveston, some of which we'd just visited in April

In with the new: A Taco Bueno opened within 30 minutes of our house, when we'd previously had to drive 90 miles to get to one (this also qualifies for the "great experiences" and "most unexpected experiences" categories!); our niece had a baby girl in March; one of our nephews got married; our toddler started Mother's Day Out in the fall (preschool-type thing 2 mornings a week); our cat Pepper was born in April (probably) and came to live with us in June

Song(s) that will remind me of 2008: Anything from the Once soundtrack

Song lyric that sums up the year for me: "Looks like we made it."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Season's Greetings!

Good tidings to you and yours from me and mine!





Friday, December 12, 2008

Alison is alive and well and posting a Friday Five

Surprise--I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Turns out it's not even possible! I am around and even have a Friday Five.

1) There's a new blog in town... Laura's Review Bookshelf, where Laura McCarthy will be reviewing young adult books and interviewing young adult authors. Check it out! I'm especially fond of this blog because I was lucky enough to win a $25 Amazon gift code from Laura's blog comment contest last week, which I just used to buy some Christmas gifts! :-)

2) Last Saturday, I attended Austin SCBWI's Day with an Editor, co-hosted by editor (and middle grade author) Jill Santopolo of HarperCollins and author Cynthia Leitich Smith. Jill and Cynthia critiqued the first three pages of about 30 submitted manuscripts, including mine, in front of about 50 attendees, with a ton of general Q&A time mixed in. It was very informative! We also got written critique comments from other participants. And fortunately, most of the comments I got were positive. :-) There are a few photos from the event on Cynthia's blog (most of the way down the blog post).

3) Today, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with 15 other Austin-area writers (assuming I counted right) at Central Market--what fun! (Though I was a little daunted when only about 8 of us were still there, and I realized I was the only person at the table without a published book!) Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon for the great idea. Children's writers are cool people.

4) It actually snowed at my house in the Austin area earlier this week! Unfortunately, it only happened after midnight and was gone the next day, so the kids didn't get to see it, but my husband took a snippet of (dark) video of the snow coming down, and they did find some icy slush left in the morning. The weird thing was, it was unseasonably warm earlier that day--according to one site, there was a high of 81 that day and a low of 31!

5) My 22-month old is currently playing around me like a whirling, Looney Tunes-style Tasmanian devil, and let me tell you, if anyone needs a stuntbaby, I've got the child for you! This kid is fearless, has amazing balance, loves running, loves climbing onto everything, and loves throwing himself off things or even just onto the ground--or onto his brothers--with full force. He was just trying to do a somersault (which he can do) down his brother's back while his brother was kneeling, and happily landed on his head on the ground. If he never performs an aerial skateboard, snowboard, or dirt bike trick (or perhaps joins the circus), I'll be surprised! Also, my fondness for children's books aside, Goodnight Moon has nothing on his enthusiastic new "Bye-bye, Moooooo!" yelled out to the moon when we're driving down the street or coming into the house on a moonlit night like tonight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Got children's books?

Got children's books? Want to buy some as holiday gifts? This article by Austin author Lindsey Lane lists some of the many children's books by Austin authors, and could serve as a good shopping list!

Another Austin Treasure: Children's Book Authors
                   from The Good Life magazine

And to her list, let me also add Philip Yates' newest picture book, A Pirate's Night Before Christmas, April Lurie's 3 young adult novels, Dancing in the Streets of Brooklyn, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, and Boyfriends, Brothers, and Other Criminal Minds, and Lila Guzman's many books including George Lopez: King of Latino Comedy and Lorenzo and the Pirate.

The article also didn't mention authors whose books aren't out yet, but Chris Barton's upcoming books, such as his non-fiction book The Day-Glo Brothers (coming out July 2009) will soon be worth a look! And Christy Stallop illustrated K. Pluta's adorable picture book, There's a Yak in My Bed!, from Austin's own Blooming Tree Press.

And come to think of it, also check out the other books from Austin's Blooming Tree Press, including From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom by Greg Fishbone, and Summer Shorts, a fun anthology of summer-themed stories and poems for readers aged 7-12, including a story and poem by me...as well as other selections and art by some of my online friends!

P.S. It's completely unrelated, but my former theatre buddy from 8th-10th grades, Shelley Seale, also has a local business profile in the same issue of The Good Life!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

After the candy rush

Halloween was yesterday, so today must be...Christmas! Well, at least that's what the stores seem to think. (I was in Hallmark yesterday and heard a woman say, "Christmas is sneaking up on us this year!" And I thought, well...it's actually 2 months away, also known as 1/6 of the year. And Hallmark has had ornaments since July, so it hasn't snuck up on them!)

Around here, though, it's Candy Day. Actually, we've been rationing it, but there's still candy everywhere I look. I have never seen so much as my kids got from trick-or-treating this year! (The older boys kept going with their friends' family after the rest of us came home, so they went longer than we normally would.)

Anyway, my 10-year-old was Indiana Jones. I couldn't find a dark jacket for him, but I think he looked pretty good.

My 7-year-old was Prince Caspian...we haven't even seen the movie, so we mainly thought of him as a knight. I saw the costume on sale and he liked it. (My older son and I have read the book, but he hasn't yet.)

So, who would win in a fight between a whip, a sword, and...a bear?

My 21-month-old went trick-or-treating in the Pooh costume I bought when his oldest brother was a toddler:

But because I'm such a sucker for baby costumes, I couldn't help buying him a monkey costume at a consigment store for his school festival...as shown in my previous post...and also a Dumbo costume at Goodwill for $5 new with the original tags still on.



Meanwhile, our cat would like everyone to know she is NOT amused to wear a chicken hat!



And meanwhile I am not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Or at least I didn't sign up. The main reason is that you're supposed to start a new novel for NaNo, but I still need to finish last year's NaNo novel! And yet...if I don't actually finish it, I might as well have started a new one, you know? Because I do have an idea... so, I need to get to work on my old novel! But this weekend I have to write a freelance article, so that comes first.

Happy November to all!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Big day for little book (and candy) lovers

After we took our little monkey to his preschool festival yesterday...

I took my bigger monkeys kids to BookPeople in downtown Austin to attend PJ Hoover's book release party for her middle grade adventure novel, The Emerald Tablet. Here they are with PJ as she signed our copy of the book.



On the right, my 10-year-old is holding (upside down) a guide to the Lemurian alphabet from PJ's book. He did a project on all types of hieroglyphics last year, so this should be right up his alley. On the left, my 7-year-old is holding the cool pumpkin bucket his big brother won for correctly remembering PJ's job before she was a writer (designing computer chips; and since I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up as an electrical engineer himself someday, I'm not surprised he remembered that!).

The bucket contained an Emerald Tablet t-shirt, a couple of glow sticks to stay up reading it, a laminated bookmark, a pencil, and a cool eye-shaped spiral notebook. There may have been more, but I'm not sure because it was buried under the candy my kids grabbed from PJ's generous bucket of candy for the kids! Both kids also got miniature pumpkin or cauldron buckets adorned with laminated Emerald Tablet keytags and filled with candy corn. What a haul! (These kids were spoiled to bits yesterday, between that and the preschool festival, where candy was also plentiful, my 10-year-old ate two slices of pie, and my 7-year-old kept playing a 25-cent game that gave stuffed animals as prizes every time, eek!)

PJ also has a detailed account of the event on her blog--she says over 150 people showed up! It was quite a crowd, and her presentation was great.

Though best, of course, was getting a copy of The Emerald Tablet. We were lucky enough to get one of the last couple of copies before they all sold out...before the event even started! I knew my kids would want to read it right away, and sure enough, Ryan started reading it on the way home and we had to take it out of his hands at dinnertime, because he didn't want to give it up to eat! Good job, PJ. :-) With luck, I will get to read it someday, too!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Writers, writers everywhere

This week my 2nd grader brought home a book from school--Cork & Fuzz: Good Sports by Dori Chaconas. I got all excited, and said, "I know her! She sent us a toy Wienermobile!" My son was slightly amused and interested to remember the toy Wienermobile & other books we'd read by her, but then added that he had just picked it because it looked like a good book. :-) I realized I do this all the time and must sound odd to other people walking past us at the library, bookstore, or school book fairs: "Hey, I know her!" "I know him!" "We already have a signed copy of that at home!" And I know my kids have told their teachers their mom is a writer (who somehow has no books). They probably all think I'm crazy...!

Speaking of writers I know, last week I went to a great Austin Youth Lit social at the fabulous home of Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith. It was fun to mingle with everyone and to meet The Gollywhopper Games author Jody Feldman, who was visiting Austin from St. Louis. Cynthia blogged about the evening...and yes, I'm the one in the vampire cape and bunny ears while the majority of guests were dressed normally! (Just to make it clear, that's not how I normally dress. ;-) )  (P.S. Apologies to Shana Burg for not trying her hard-won caramel apples!)

I also joined JacketFlap yesterday, if any other writers there want to friend me.