Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to Business Monday: Home from NYC - SCBWI Conference, Viking & more!

I got in late last night from a whirlwind four days in NYC.  Met up with friends and colleagues at Simon & Schuster and Tor Books, as usual.  Enjoyed my third trip to the SCBWI Winter Conference.  Most exciting of all was spending time with my editor and other folks at Viking.  Full recap and some fun play-by-plays to come when I'm better rested but, for now, I'll leave you with my three favorite reasons for attending writing conferences (in ascending order).

3. To BUILD your list of things to-read, to-write, to-blog, to-share.

2. To FORM & STRENGTHEN FRIENDSHIPS with the people in your writing community.

1. To LEARN from editors, agents, industry professionals and, especially, fellow-writers.

Notice that "to sell your manuscript" is NOT on this list.  If you concentrate on goals such as the ones above, instead of spending your conference time in frantic sell-mode, you may just find that a path to publication opens up for you.  I've certainly attended conferences both the "right way" and the "wrong way" and, for me, the best insights and opportunities have come when I've had confidence in my writing and not worried so much about what other people think (or want).
So, next time you find yourself headed for a conference... Relax (as best you can).  Reflect on your w-i-p and how you can employ comments from conference presenters and attendees to improve the manuscript.  And remember that these are just a few days in what has probably been a years-long, if not lifetime journey.  No matter what happens, if you believe in yourself, the conference will end with your dreams still intact and your hopes high!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fiction Friday: XVI by Juila Karr

Plot without spoilers...Nina Oberon lives in an austere future world where citizens are closely monitored and futures determined by the Governing Council.  Perhaps scariest of all is the tattoo she will receive on her next birthday--the number sixteen that tells the world she is ready for sex.  Not long before this fateful event, however, Nina loses her mother and begins to uncover many secrets about her family that make turning sixteen the least of her worries. 

Literary highlights...Karr builds an amazingly complete and accessible vocabulary of futuristic words, including DZ, NonCon, sexteen, that makes the world of XVI feel edgy yet authentic.

Finally, just gotta say...This is one of my favorite covers of the year!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: DAY JOB (and cute pooch)

Despite feeling like I never have enough time for fiction writing, here are three reasons I keep working as a freelance writer/marketing professional:

1. I work for trade book publishers, so my work is connecting other authors with their readership through booking appearances and/or writing promotional materials.  Because I'm a writer myself, I like to think I give the authors I support extra tlc, which all of us writers deserve :)

2. Sometimes I think if I had less to do, I might waste more time.  Pressure = butt-in-chair!

(Isn't he cute?  Expensive, but cute!)
3. My secretary recently ate something gravel and plastic-laden (vet thinks it might have been a piece of roofing shingle--don't ask 'cause I don't know), which cost mucho $$$ to "extract."  Regular checks are nice for paying vet bills, among other bills!

What are your three best reasons for punching the clock?  Or have you decided to take the plunge and write full time?  Share, share!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bloggiesta Wrap-up

Welll, it wasn't pretty here at Writer on the Side.  I started off energetically on Friday, wrote my reviews and some other stuff.  Made the lists I planned to make.  Saturday, I struggled with some of the mini-challenges but couldn't make a button that made me happy.  Got a bit blue.  Bluer still when the Jets lost on Sunday--I had this big idea that I could work on the blog in the kitchen while my the crowds of people clustered around the television in the family room yelled at the screen BUT, well, there was noise (and wine) and I wound up watching.

That said, I LOVE Bloggiesta and will definitely be back next year.  Especially because it was such fun to discover new blogs AND I've bookmarked dozens of pages of useful tips and information to which I can refer when I have more time.  So, all in all, it was a very worthy weekend and many thanks to the awesome MAW BOOKS.

Back to Business Monday: NO NAME-CALLING WEEK

January 24-28, 2011, is NO NAME-CALLING WEEK, a now-annual event inspired by James Howe's  2003 novel, THE MISFITS.  It's a week-long effort to encourage schools and communities to discuss ways to eliminate bullying.  Learn more by clicking the link above.  More than ever, we are learning how dangerous bullying can be to our youth.  NNCW is a great resource for making a difference.

What more can you do?  Let people know about No Name-Calling Week by tweeting or facebooking this link.  BETTER STILL, mention this event at your own blog.  And, if you have YA reading recommendations on the topic of bullying, please do share in the comments below.  Let's build a booklist against bullying!

Friday, January 21, 2011

BLOGGIESTA WEEKEND updated 12:08 PM Friday

I'll return to Fiction Friday in February but this weekend is dedicated to Maw Books' Bloggiesta!

Here's the beginning of my to-do list. I'll be updating this post throughout the weekend as my work continues.  I'll also be Tweeting my progress at #bloggiesta.

First two items?

1. Writing reviews for XVI by Julia Karr and THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa & Laura Roecker (arc).
2. Sorting and editing my list of performer-writer contacts to invite them to guest post at A YEAR OF AUDITIONS blog starting in March.

And away we go...

As of 12:08 PM Friday, I've written the XVI review and started outline of ideas for guest posts.  Now ready to start

3. Drafting invitation letter to send to guest posters. 
4. Learning how to make buttons for my blog!!!!

Hope all you other Bloggiesta-ers are having success out there!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Want an interesting read to celebrate?  In  NEVERMORE, author Kelly Creagh weaves bits of Poe's classic (creepy) poetry into a contemporary YA fantasy about a cheerleader who meets a mysterious boy with a strange connection to the troubled author.

(This is free on Kindle)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to Business Monday: GETTING THE BOOK NEWS

Do you subscribe to School Library Journal?  Follow amazing blogs like Alice Pope's SCBWI Children's Market Blog or Adventures in Children's Publishing?  Get weekly email updates from Any New Books?

Keeping up with the publishing news can be challenging.  And that's not even counting reading reviews and maintaining your TBR list.  I give myself about 45 minutes per day to use the resources above and to visit other favorite book sites and blogs (commenting from time-to-time) to stay updated and connect to my bookish community.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?  Comments and advice are MUCH appreciated.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fiction Friday: MATCHED by Ally Condie

Plot without spoilers: This was a gorgeous, un-put-downable book. Ally Condie's MATCHED tells the story of Cassia Reyes, an upstanding teen citizen in a highly-regimented Society. Her bright future sparkles when, at seventeen, she is matched with the handsome Xander. However, when Cassia opens the microcard containing information about her match, another face flashes briefly on the screen--quiet, mysterious Ky--before Xander's profile appears. Wondering how her perfect Society could have made such a mistake is the first of many questions that will change Cassia's understanding of choice, of love, and of her entire world.

Literary highlights: Condie's wonderful use of color and nature imagery throughout. The wrenching love triangle between Cassie, Ky and Xander. On a more theoretical note, dystopian fantasy is an amazingly rich genre these days and Condie's novel made me think about the power of putting teens searching for love and sense of self into an environment where the government or environment presents huge obstacles to self-discovery.

Finally, just gotta say: Cassie's voice is pitch perfect on every page. I was completely drawn in by this unique young woman growing up in a world where fitting in is the goal of every citizen. Oh, and, LOVE THIS COVER!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: CHOREOGRAPHY

Every winter, I have the pleasure of choreographing a musical for the local elementary school.  The project begins with an audition for fifth and sixth graders looking to be cast in leading roles (younger kids are in ensembles and don't have to audition).

As the choreographer, I don't cast parts, but I do have to provide the director with information on kids' dance abilities.  I have a code: N-non-dance role; C-capable & coordinated; S-solo material.  I don't like boiling down everything I see (joy, potential, eagerness, effort) into a single letter but it's got to be done, just like books, in the end, get positive or negative reviews.  It's a tough part of the artistic life.

That said, I try to make the audition fun--to help kids forget their insecurities and show me what they can do if they let themselves go and focus on dancing.  I want to share the joy of moving and help them realize how much they can express onstage without saying a word.

What does this have to do with writing?  When I find myself in a "telling-not-showing" trap, I get up and dance the scene or play-act a dialogue.  I bring my writing to a "stage" where I can reconnect physically with my characters.

I love working with young performers--watching their excitement heighten as opening night approaches and their mastery of the material strengthens.  It's a microcosm of so many experiences they'll have in their lives, be they performers or engineers, lawyers or chefs.  Their story is my story.  Our story.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: XVI

"'s hard being the only person who thinks like me.  Sometimes I wish I could just be like everyone else my age and not think at all."

        -- from chapter II of XVI by Julia Karr

If you want to join the fun of this meme hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading, all you need to do is...

•Grab your current read

•Open to a random page
•Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
•BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
•Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back-to-Business Monday: MAKING IT OFFICIAL

So here's my ready-get-set 2011 Debut Author Challenge reading list along with the occasional note on my choices.  I plan to read many more 2k11 debuts but I'm starting here...

- XVI by Julia Karr (I LOVE this cover)
- LEVERAGE by Joshua Cohen (fascinated by teen athletes and artist who live extreme lives)
- LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa & Laura Roecker (if you don't follow Lisa & Laura Write you're missing a lot of humorous insight into the (writing) life
- WITHER by Lauren DeStefano (gorgeous cover, great buzz, super-cool premise)
- TEN MILES PAST NORMAL by Frances O'Roark Dowell (wonderful MG author of DOVEY COE--can't wait to read her YA)
- BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (since reading THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK as a kid, I've found this period in history fascinating--looking forward to a good dose of historical fiction)
- THIS GIRL IS DIFFERENT by J.J. Johnson (intrigued by premise of home-schooled teen venturing into the world of high school for her senior year--author has a very interesting profile, too)
- BUMPED Megan McCafferty (jazzed to read a YA from this adult author)
- HOURGLASS by Myra McEntyre
- FLUTTER by Erin E. Moulton
- POSESSION by Elana Johnson (an inspiring blogger, a spectacular cover and a plot about LOVE + MIND CONTROL = can't wait!)
- PAPER COVERS ROCK by Jenny Hubbard (love prep school stories--also, interesting to see a photo of a guy with no girl on the cover)
- BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris (not sure what's most amazing: grab-you title, sugar-kissed cover, amazing buzz)
- LOST VOICES by Sarah Porter (mermaids and mayhem...ooh!)
- FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray (contemporary interpretation of the Shakespeare classic told from the POV of Hamlet's misunderstood girlfriend, Ophelia. Seriously, this is my kind of read!)
- THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab (sounds like a fairy tale taken on a wild literary ride)
- DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant (super-intriguing dystopian premise)
- EPIC FAIL by Claire LaZebnik (a romance with THAT title? I'm intrigued...)
- BROKEN WINGS (working title) by Helen Landalf (a contemporary YA set in the PacNW--been waiting to read this for ages)
- THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin (starting over after trauma and loss with a bit of psychic mystery)
- Okay, obviously I've already read my own book but, just mentioning, AUDITION pubs in October!
- VIRTUOSITY by Jessica Martinez (about a young violinist--think it would be a cool read alongside my own book about a dancer)
- DARK INSIDE by Jeyn Roberts
- FETCHING by Kiera Stewart

Have I missed something amazing?  LET ME KNOW (even if you're the author) because I'd love to read some more...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiction Friday: Winner's Choice

Batman has drawn a name from the magical, stainless steel "bat bowl"...

And the winner of the CENTURY PRIZE is...  

The 2010 YA novel they've chosen to receive is...


(This novel was originally
pubished in serial form
in American Magazine.)
 The 1910 classic I'm sending along is Frances Hodgson Burnett's SECRET GARDEN, an homage to things green and growing (hard to imagine amidst the snow and rain right now).  Perfect to read and enjoy by the fire, perhaps with a nice cup of English tea!

AND, JUST FOR FUN...These aren't in the prize package but here some interesting titles requested by non-winning entrants:

A TALE DARK AND GRIM by Adam Gidwitz
FEVER CRUMB by Philip Reeve

Oh, gosh, more to add to my reading list...
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last Chance 2010 YA novel fans!

Closes at 1 PM EST today!

Click the purple words above and enter--your odds are terrific!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordy Wednesday: SNACK

When I've got a lot of writing to do and want to keep myself at the keyboard, I MUST have chocolate.  Not any chocolate, mind you, but Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips mixed, in a small bowl with peanuts (see, carbs and protein!).


And with that, a hot beverage: coffee until 10 AM when I switch to hot apple cider, hot water with lemon or herbal tea.  Fattening, I know, but in my defense, I just have soup or salad for lunch.  I'd rather use up my calories in ways that help the writing.

Do you have a favorite writing snack?
Does revision pack on the pounds for you, too?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Super-psyched to read this arc!

GUESS what my secretary and I will be reading this week?  I've been waiting breathlessly for the arc of this debut novel by awsome sister-bloggers Lisa & Laura Roecker and was so excited when the package arrived yesterday.  (Also, apologies for the demon-like eyes on my dog--apparently red-eye fix does not work on canines.)

More to come about THE LIAR SOCIETY.  Meanwhile, don't forget to enter my Century-Style Giveaway by Thursday to WIN the 2010 YA novel of your choice!


Monday, January 3, 2011

Back-to-Business Monday: BLOGGIESTA

Is improving your blog on your list of New Year's resolutions?  Head on over to Maw Books for the 4th Edition of ...

I've been doing quite a bit of blog maintenance lately, but I'm thinking the Bloggiesta will give me the kick I need to really ramp things up.  Things I'm considering for my Bloggiesta to-do list:

1. Enhance connections.  Joined Elevensies, YALITCHAT and some other cool groups but haven't effectively connected them to the blog.  Going to learn more and make this happen.
2. With my new Kindle at the ready, recommitting to making every Fiction Friday about a newly-read (mostly newly in-print) book.
3. Similarly, refocusing back-to-business Mondays to share more information from my decade-plus of experience working in Education/Library marketing for various trade publishers.
4. Contests...contest...CONTESTS.  Adding at least one contest per month to the blog.
5. Readying A YEAR OF AUDITIONS blog--a sort of forum for writer-performers to share their stories--in conjunction with my author website launch (coming in March).  This includes taking on a few blog partners--hopefully writers with arts backgrounds (LET ME KNOW IF YOU'RE INTERESTED).

Gonna join me?  What's your plan?  Leave a comment AND never hesitate to share some advice!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sunday Starts

Ooh, a Sunday post to start off the new year.  Two fun refreshers if you're on-line today:

Don't forget to enter my CENTURY STYLE CONTEST! and win some cool books!

Now's the perfect time to sign up for the Story Siren's third annual DEBUT AUTHOR CHALLENGE.  Here's the the list of debut authors (I'm on it!) and here's how you can participate.  Check it out!  I'm doing it and will post my reading list soon.