Friday, July 30, 2010


As previously mentioned, I'm doing a lot of writing, not reading, this week.  That said, one of my sons picked up a beautiful book that might interest you poetry fans: Garrison Keillor's elegant collection of GOOD POEMS.

And a quick thanks to Kathy Chung, the amazing new coordinator of the Surrey International Writing Conference for sharing my good news about AUDITION with the SIWC community. SIWC is a great conference, this year being held October 22-24, near Vancouver, BC. Unlike SCBWI, it's not just for children's writers but they've got tons of great agents and editors, an amazing writing community, and some terrific classes on craft. I still use the notes I took during Hallie Ephron's 2008 lecture on plotting. And she'll be back at the conference this fall. Check it out!

I can't believe we're here on the verge of August, my first "theme month" for the blog.  Look out for all kinds of thoughts about WRITING IN TANDEM.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


When I write, it is critical that I feel a powerful connection to (even a sense of becoming) my main character.  Yesterday, as I was finishing up a reading & activiting guide for the last book in a super-fun middle-grade sci-fi (and kind of fantasy--okay, there are zombies involved) series, I realized the same is true when I write ABOUT a book.

To produce a strong guide, it's essential to connect with the main character and also think about how the book's reader's are going to do so.  For example, in the story mentioned above, the mc has to make a very difficult choice. So, I ask myself, how do I feel about the character's decision?  If I were a kid, watching this plot unfold as a movie, would I be cheering, crying, gripping the arms of my seat?  If I were standing beside the main character, what would I do?  Really trying to get under the skin of the situation (this, by the way, would be hilarious if you knew the plot of the novel) is a great way to discover how to encourage readers to engage in the story.

When I write my own fiction, the connection process begins very physically, almost like an acting exercise. When I wrote AUDITION, I always spent about 10 minutes dancing before sitting down at the computer. My new protagonist plays a sport and so, before hitting the keyboard, I head for the backyard and smack a ball around. Then, I rush to the keyboard, hands burning, and type as fast as I possibly can before the sweat dries!

How do you connect to your characters?  Music, action, free writing?  Does reading or writing about other novels teach you anything about your own writing-connection process?

Monday, July 26, 2010

BACK-TO-BUSINESS MONDAY: Upcoming Conferences and a Celebration

The 39th Annual SCBWI Summer Conference is just days away. But, alas, I cannot go (sniff). I am buried under deadlines and family commitments. If you're lucky enough to be heading to LA this week and BLOG ABOUT IT, please let me know so I can link back to you and we can all have some vicarious SCBWI fun.

And, for those of you sweltering (or freezing, I suppose) alone at computers around the globe, you can still make it to WRITE ON CON, the free, online conference coming up August 10-12. I'll be attending--and presenting. In fact, today I am putting the finishing touches on my vlog lecture. My topic is DON'T WAIT FOR PUBLICATION TO REACH OUT TO SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES: Tips for pre-published (and already published) authors to get the most from school and library appearances. And, look right! I've officially added the countdown widget to the blog.

On a lighter note, I had the pleasure of attending Holly Cupala's launch for TELL ME A SECRET last night. All I can say is, that girl sure knows how to throw a party! Here's a snap of me and some writer friends with our copies of Holly's book.

Friday, July 23, 2010

FICTION FRIDAY: Is there such a thing as too much reading? And upcoming blog events.

Okay, I've got a ridiculous number of freelance projects to finish up before the big EDITORIAL LETTER arrives from Viking (I've been warned it's coming soon). Plus, I'm closing in on the 1.5th draft (okay, so I've got a weird numbering system) of my new ms which I know I'll have to abandon for a bit when I start revising AUDITION, so I'd like to get it to something of a neat and tidy place.

Don't know about you, but I just can't handle reading much YA while I'm head-down writing. Sure, the occasional grow-up mystery is nice for sitting in the sun (I like modern broads-who-write-Brits like Martha Grimes and Elizabeth George, or classics like Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers), but that's about it besides stuff I have to read for work. Otherwise, my head gets into a funny place and it takes me too much time to ease into my own writing. So, for the next few weeks, Fiction Fridays will be a bit of a smorgasbord.

As I begin the revision journey with my editor, I've been thinking a lot about the many relationships and dialogues involved in book publishing. So, I've decided that August here at the blog will feature the theme "Writing in Tandem" and include interviews with some (awesome!) author teams and fun give-aways.

In October, I'm trying something new. This will be a contest for published or soon-to-be published authors (anything from picture book to YA--published or upcoming 2010 or 2011 titles). The prize will be a reading guide (10 discussion questions; 10 writing and related activities). I've written many of these for Simon & Schuster, Random House, Penguin, Tor Books, and other publishers for a fee, but this one will be on me.

So, back to work now. Hectic but fascinating times. Oh, and still waiting to hear from Missy--otherwise I'll draw an alternate prize winner for the Summer Spectacular swag.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: WINNER! And two upcoming contests here at the blog.

Batman has drawn from the mystical black hat...

...and the winner of my first SWAG SPECTACULAR contest is MISSY!  Stop by her cool book review blog to congratulate her!  Missy, please email me at stasiakehoe AT msn DOT com, providing the mailing address to which you'd like your SPECTACULAR SPECIALIZED SWAG PRIZE mailed.

This contest was so much fun that I've decided to hold two more events here at the blog--one next month and one in October.  Details coming Friday.  Right now, I've got to persuade Batman to stop fighting crime (or his brothers) and get to sleep!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back-to-Business Monday: BACK TO MY DESK...HOW ABOUT YOU?

Whew!  It feels good to be getting back to business at my desk after a month of travels on the east coast.  My Book Extravaganza contest is over now, too, and tomorrow evening will be the ceremonial drawing-of-the-winner!  Sorting through myriad emails, opening packages of manuscripts and arcs, and generally trying to organize chaos, I am reminded of two quotations from American writer, editor and humorist Peter De Vries (1910-1993):

"I love being a writer.  What I can't stand is the paperwork."

"I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning."

With these rueful words of wisdom in mind, I am working hard to get back into my routines.  Obviously I'm not quite there yet as I'm writing my Monday blog post as the sun is heading DOWN in the sky (thanks for your patience)! 

Do you have any favorite "writing life" quotes that give you a laugh or a groan when you try to get back to writing after being on the road--or maybe ones that help you get your word count in despite the sunny summer day luring you out the door?  Please share!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fiction Friday: Bookstravaganza's SUMMER SWAG SPECTACULAR CONTEST

Here it is: My first SUMMER SWAG SPECTACULAR (or at least pretty fun and super-easy) CONTEST with a prize to be awarded to one lucky winner from the US or Canada.  This contest is part of the fabulous Book Extravaganza co-hosted by Bookworming in the 21st Century and The Neverending Shelf.

What'll you win?
An arc of Tony DiTerlizzi's new book - THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA
A copy of my favorite (thus far) summer YA read - THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX by Mary Pearson
A signed copy of the delightful David Elliott's MG novel JEREMY CABBAGE (purchased by yours truly at my favorite New Hampshire indie bookstore Main Street BookEnds)
A box of my favorite tea and my own spectacular spiced iced tea recipe
A suprise selection tailored to the winner's favorite writing genre

How do you enter?
It's as easy as posting a comment on this blog post which INCLUDES a mention of your favorite writing genre between now and 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, July 18th.   No need to follow or send followers (but I wouldn't, say, be offended if you did).  All entry names will be placed into a hat, winner name will be drawn by my four-year-old  (highly impartial, if noisy) and announced (by me) on the blog on Wednesday, July 21st, along with an email address to which you can send your mailing information--so make sure to check back.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: WATER

Sitting on the beach with my notebook, writing the old-fashioned way is a lovely summer treat.  The most amazing thing about this small, pristine body of water to which I have come every summer since I was four years old, is the way it awakens memories in all of my senses. The sun-colored water lillies so pretty but, close up, full of tiny black bugs.  The splash-lap of the water against the boat dock.  The squish of the sand beneath my feet--that icky part just before the sand bar.  The ever-changing colors of the lake itself from hazel like my son's eyes to black before a storm to a rich blue on a sunny morning.  Most of all this place has a particular smell--of heat and decay, of growing things and hope--a smell that, in all my years of writing, I've never been able to perfectly describe.  It makes me aspire to write better and better in hopes of someday capturing that smell, in words, so that others can be here with me forever.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Okay.  I've almost picked my head shot.  It's down to two: the serious and the smiley.  Oh, that patient photographer...and apologies for the delay in the big reveal.  Soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, I've been having some interesting conversations with editor and writer friends about book trailers.  While I think I'm still at the more-questions-than-answers stage in my exploration of this marketing device, I'm going to summarize below a few things I've learned and hope that this is the beginning of an interesting conversation.

1. What is the best length for a book trailer?  Less than a minute is best but 2 to 2-1/2 minutes can work.

2. What are the best uses for a book trailer and/or how do you decide to make a book trailer?  It's good to know where you plan to use the trailer before deciding whether and how to produce it.  Discuss this with your publicist and agent.  Do you have a website, blog and other distribution channels?  If you actively promote appearances for yourself (or use a booking service or online appearance service), make sure to discuss ways to use a trailer to promote your author visits.  Book trailers can be expensive (upwards of $1,000) so think before you film!

3. What should a book trailer look like?  I've explored many publisher websites, YouTube, etc., and concluded that there are three mail book trailer styles:
  • STILL IMAGES overlaid with promotional TEXT and background MUSIC - this is quite common and, in my opinion, very effective as a sort of movie trailer for a book (e.g., "buy your ticket copy")
  • ACTION FOOTAGE (sometimes combined with STILL IMAGES) with VOICE-OVER which is often an actor speaking as the main character of the novel - here we're still in the "movie trailer" area
  • AUTHOR TALK including discussion of inspiration for book, etc., mixed with some of the elements above - this moves more into the educational/library marketing arena where the author is trying to engage the viewer/reader and would probably work well to promote the author for appearances but, in my opinion, isn't as edgy and book-sale driven as the first two styles.
Publisher websites seem to be the best places to find high-quality book trailers, though Trailer Spy has some good ones.  I've also noticed that a number of my favorite trailers (esp. the shorter, text-over-images kind) have been produced by Circle of Seven Productions though I know that there are many resources for this stuff.  Squidoo has a great basic explanation and resource list.

I hope you'll share your thoughts about book trailers--especially some recommendations of good ones!

UPDATING THE POST HERE with another great book trailer production company website courtesy of Kimberley Griffiths Little (thanks!): Nua Music.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fiction Friday: SUMMER SECRETS

Not quite my typical book pairing this week.  If you're a teen or older, read 'em both because they're terrific.  For middle-graders (10 or 12 and up, depending on where you buy the book), stick with my first "summer secrets" suggestion.

In the Louise Fitzhugh's THE LONG SECRET, Harriet of HARRIET THE SPY fame is cast in a winning supporting role in a book of great wit and honesty.

Friendship, secrets and self play important roles in Sarah Ockler's beautiful debut, TWENTY BOY SUMMER as well. 

Posts will be short next week as I'll be "vacationing" to the best of my ability (not so great at lying by the lake but I'm sure going to try) which also means LOTS of work on my new ms.  But I will post all the info on my first contest next Friday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordy Wednesday: THANK YOU!!!

A very belated but heartfelt thank you to my delightful writer-friend Dawn who posted this lovely congrats to me on her blog, Plotting & Scheming, last month.  Dawn read my ms, AUDITION, just before I sent it out to agents and was such a wonderful reader and cheerleader!  Honestly, she's one of the people whose incredible positive energy and passion for writing just make you glad to be part of the kidlit world.  Now, here I am, head down and writing away on a new ms.  Sometimes when I get clutched or worry that the whole thing is a mess, I remind myself that there are folks like Dawn out there who will talk me down off the ledge and remind me why I write in the first place.  Here's hoping you have writer friends as worthy of your thanks in your life!

Monday, July 5, 2010


Argh! No Internet at my parents’ house. To clarify, they’ve lost the WEP code for their wi-fi, which means that, while I can use their computer, I cannot get online with MY computer, Petunia. This is surprisingly disconcerting as Petunia's got a lot of favorite links, saved files, pictures (including my list of favorite pix from my photo shoot), and so on that would make life a lot easier right now. So, on the fifth of July, weary from fireworks and sweaty from the New England heat wave, I am sitting here posting on a very nice but unfamiliar computer trying not to overly cyber-stress.  (A nice reminder here to keep more stuff on a flash drive for travel.)

On a brighter note, I'm happy to announce that I will be holding my first two contests this summer. My "Summer Swag" contest will be part of Book Extravaganza, co-hosted by  Bookworming in the 21st Century and The Neverending Shelf. This contest is for everyone (following not required) and the prize will be books (including one super-cool arc) and fun book-related stuff--details to be announced on Friday, July 16. The "Book Biz Bonanza" contest will be announced on Monday, July 26, and will be geared more toward writers who have had a book published or will soon be published. Details will be coming in late July but, for this one, the prize will be cool free marketing stuff for your book.

Honestly, I’ve gotta sign off now and find some air conditioning. Stay cool!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Spent 14 hours in NYC yesterday and was so exhausted that I didn't write my Friday post before going to sleep.  But, what a wonderful day!  Started with coffee at Simon & Schuster and a wonderful conversation about upcoming books from debut authors and some fun new directions more established authors are taking.  Then, lunch with my editor at Viking which was a true delight.  We both have arts backgrounds and it felt like I was meeting up with an old friend.  I am SO happy to be working on AUDITION with her and feel even more certain that my manuscript found the right home.  Finally, dinner with a friend from Tor Books (super-yummy Indian vegetarian restaurant to which I am definitely returning) and more fun book talk about writing series, online book publicity, and a million other fun topics.  Seriously, this post would be a mile long if I wrote about all this stuff now but I'll cover some of the discussions in upcoming Monday Book Biz posts. 

Meanwhile, today is Fiction Friday and so I'll recommend a weekend read from a very lovely writer.  When I tell people I write verse novels, one book I am frequently recommended is Karen Hesse's OUT OF THE DUST.  I read it on the train to NYC yesterday.  It is a beautifully researched and haunting verse novel set in the heat of the Depression-era dustbowl--an interesting read for summertime in our current economic situation.