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Friday, March 29, 2013

Children’s Books, Food Network Style

It’s no secret that I love The Food Network~ it’s right over there on my Blogger profile bio. I love it so much that I *nearly* wrote a letter to the network a few years ago, detailing why they should come up with a children’s cartoon called “The Little Chefs.”
*aka, did some thinking about it while looking at Mario Batali marinara sauce and having my little daughter tug on my legs at the grocery store*

That’s right, I wanted them to create a tv show with a 6-year-old Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Sunny Anderson, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Mario Batali, and especially a 6-year-old Alton Brown. 

How adorable would that show be???  Little Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto getting into a playground fight with Little Robert Irvine.

Little Paula Deen getting upset with Little Bobby Flay for setting up a rival lemonade/fried chicken stand?

It still makes me happy just to think about that imaginary show.

Sadly, as far as I know (PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong), a cartoon version of Food Network chefs isn’t coming to your television anytime soon, BUT something even better is:


According to GalleyCat:
Food Network star and cookbook author Giada De Laurentiis has inked a deal with to publish a children’s book series.
The series … is aimed at readers ages 7-10 and follows brother and sister Alfie and Emilia as they are transported to famous food cities around the world, where they learn first-hand how food cannot only take you places but can also bring you back home.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Agent Advice from Twitter (and an internship announcement and a book winner!)


Earlier this week, agent Carly Watters announced that P.S. Literary is accepting applications for two internships: Digital & Social Media Intern and Editorial Intern. Read her post HERE


Random.org has spoken and the winner of Linda Urban's The Center of Everything (see my post/interview with Linda HERE) is...Kirsten Lopresti! Kirsten, please shoot me an email with your address and I'll get that shipped to you.


Every once in awhile an agent takes to Twitter to answer questions about publishing. This past Sunday, agent  Jennifer Laughran (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) was nice enough to do just that. You can follow her at @literaticatHere are some of the questions/answers from the session:

QUESTION: #askagent I see in the AR book finder that they use "LG" for lower grade. Can I query with this or should I say young MG or chapter book?
ANSWER: yes, I'd say chapter book/ young mg. "lower grade" is AR specific methinks, never heard a publishing person use it. #askagent

QUESTION: If an author has Self-pubbed on a small scale, does that affect your consideration of them for future MSs? Thoughts? #askagent
ANSWER: nah, just as long this is a fresh ms. #askagent

QUESTION: do publishers favor agents who are in NY, who they have a relationship with? #askagent
ANSWER: Relationships matter... BUT, some of the best agents in the country don't live in NY. #askagent

QUESTION: once a book gets bought by a publisher, what is the turn around time for print? #askagent
ANSWER: usually one to two years. Unless it is illustrated... Then longer.

QUESTION: does age matter? Would you offer rep to a college student if you had complete confidence in his/her work? Thnks!
ANSWER: sure... college students are adults. Why not. #askagent

QUESTION: real q: when did you know you wanted to be an agent?
ANSWER: when I met an agent and realized what they do. Which is a extension of what I already did, but moreso. :-)

QUESTION: what do you think of the digital only imprints like hydra? #askagent
ANSWER:  I'm interested in imprints that PAY and ARE FAIR TO authors. So. #askagent

QUESTION: What do you think will be the biggest change/shift in the next 5 years in publishing & book selling/consumption? #askagent
ANSWER: That's a thinky question! I think in many ways business has never been better... so. I'm not doom-and-gloomy. :-) #askagent

QUESTION: I'm writing a YA ms in diary form. Some entries r short. What's the preferred format when submitting 2 an agent? Page breaks? Thx! #askagent
ANSWER: presumably you'll have some indications of a new entry -- dates, or asterisks or something? Don't sweat it. #askagent

QUESTION: How does an author's website or social media presence affect your interest in a manuscript? #askagent Thanks!
ANSWER: I'd rather have a kickass book and an author with no social media presence, than a so-so book/great presence. #askagent

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Deadly Kisses by Kerri Cuevas- Blog Tour!

Today we are celebrating fellow blogger and writer Kerri Cuevas! She's stopped by the blog to tell us about her book Deadly Kisses, and to tell us about her journey to publication. *Don't forget to enter Kerri's Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post*

Aiden Grant is seventeen, has a killer kiss, and a boss who used to be President, back in the old days. You see, Aiden is a grim reaper and his kiss welcomes the newly dead. But Aiden’s pleasant grim reaper lifestyle is in jeopardy. And it’s not only because Honest Abe keeps throwing out history lessons with reaping assignments, just to confuse him. It’s because Aiden’s next assignment is to reap the soul of Bee, the only girl he has ever loved.

When Aiden’s kiss of death fails, intertwining their souls, Bee is still very much alive and they are both in trouble. The ancients want Bee, who has special powers of her own, and they’ll do anything to get her.

Some rules are meant to be broken—even if that means Aiden must bargain with his own soul to save Bee. Who knew the afterlife could get so complicated?


Thanks for having me today, Jess. Your blog is awesome, and it’s an honor to be here to tell you about my journey to publication.

An author’s journey to publication is as unique as the stories they tell. Mine began a couple of years ago when I wrote my first story, and queried it. Agents were kinder than they should’ve been. When the requests didn’t come rolling in, I changed my strategy. I wasn’t ready to query, and my writing needed to improve. So, I read…like tons. I studied, and made a list of what made a story good. And then I wrote…and wrote…and wrote.

I educated myself. The blogging community was my biggest resource. I learned from other writers on how to write better, and what works and doesn’t work. Things began to click, and my writing improved. All of you out there had a part to play in me learning the craft, and navigating the publishing world. So, my deepest thanks to each and every one of you.

After I learned everything I could, I wrote a story using my new skills. I had excellent critique partners to help make my story better. I queried again. During this time, I saw a submission contest on a blog for WiDo Publishing. They were offering editorial advice, and someone was guaranteed a contract. All I hoped to get was their editorial advice. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect my story to end up in the top three. 

Although I didn’t get a contract the first time, I was invited to resubmit, which I did.

One day, while I was not so patiently waiting for a reply, I was shopping for tools at Sears with my hubby. The store was quiet, except for the chatter of the sales clerk with my hubby talking about tools. My phone beeped with an email alert. I opened the email, read it, and screeched with excitement that I got offered a contract. I loved everything about WiDo, so of course I accepted.

So, never give up on your dreams! Remember opportunities come when you least expect it, so keep your eyes open, but don’t forget to blink and enjoy the journey.

If anyone has any questions for me, I’ll be popping in all day today to answer them.

Kerri Cuevas was born and raised in Rhode Island. She moved to New Hampshire with her husband, three kids, cats and a rabbit named Hercules in 2005. When she's not writing, she's chasing chickens on her small farm or searching for the ultimate mac-a-cheese recipe.

Kerri went to college for Early Childhood Education but now writes books for young adults full-time. Her storytelling stems from watching too many horror flicks as a teen, but she no longer needs to sleep with the lights on.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Advice You Don't Want To Miss: Author Linda Urban Talks Character Development

Friends, we have a treat today! Linda Urban, a queen of contemporary/realistic middle grade fiction, is going to talk about character development and middle grade protagonists.

Linda has been one of my favorite middle grade authors since I picked up A Crooked Kind of Perfect. Her new book (which I am GIVING AWAY TO A LUCKY SOMEONE) is called The Center of Everything:

For Ruby Pepperdine, the “center of everything” is on the rooftop of Pepperdine Motors in her donut-obsessed town of Bunning, New Hampshire, stargazing from the circle of her grandmother Gigi’s hug. That’s how everything is supposed to be—until Ruby messes up and things spin out of control. But she has one last hope. It all depends on what happens on Bunning Day, when the entire town will hear Ruby read her winning essay. And it depends on her twelfth birthday wish—unless she messes that up too. Can Ruby’s wish set everything straight in her topsy-turvy world?

Hi Linda, thanks for joining us! You now have 3 wonderful middle grade books in the world. How has your writing process evolved from Zoe (A Crooked Kind of Perfect) to Ruby Pepperdine (TCOE)?

Zoe’s book began as a picture book which ended up serving as a brief outline for the novel.  With Ruby’s book, I had no idea what it was to be when I started.   I had an image of a girl standing on the side of a parade route.  I had no idea where it would lead.  So in that way, they were different.

But in general, the processes were similar.  When I’m really engaged, I write every day – but only in short bursts and usually early in the morning before my family is awake.  I reread the previous day’s pages, making edits as I go, and then continue with the new stuff.  Most of the time I write scenes in the order that I expect they will occur in the book, though every once in a while things get rearranged in revision. 

After about 30-40 pages of drafting, I have a pretty clear understanding of how I want the ending to feel and where it might take place.  Then the job is to build a bridge between what I’ve written and that ideal ending.  Often this takes the form of bullet points.  You know: this happens, then this, then this . . .  I try not to think about it too much, but rather to think in it, to stay in the story and with the character and let things spool out.  Too much analysis too early makes me self-conscious.

How do you come up with your middle grade protagonists and tap into their unique voice and perspective?

I don’t know, exactly.  It’s not a very satisfying answer, is it? 
New books often appear to me in first lines, sometimes in images.  If I’m open to them, I can just start typing and discover what is behind them.  It’s not a conscious process, for the most part.  Not until revision, anyway. 

I know there are a lot of writers who use character worksheets or use stock photos to get clear about their character’s physical traits.  Neither of those things work for me.  I work from the inside out and I only come to know my characters by writing them.  They come alive as they move around their world and encounter other characters. 

Agents and editors have said that the middle grade voice is one of the hardest to write. What advice would you give a middle grade writer who has plenty of plot ideas, but struggles to find their characters' authentic voice?

Character usually comes first for me, but if I had a great plot idea and no clear voice or character, I would start writing in first person.  I’d let my main character explain things and try to understand how she felt about them.  Is she proud of what happened?  Embarrassed?  Is she reluctant to tell?  Is she lying?

The answers to those questions don’t always show up in the content of the response, but in the manner that response is given -- in sentence structure and language choice.  I mean, a girl who thinks of herself as brainy, but who has done a stupid thing will describe that action in terms quite different from one who has little confidence and believes that stupid thing she did was par for the course.  One might try to hide her actions or overcompensate by using particularly large words and complicated sentences.  The other might sound resigned to her fate. 

I really think that if we let ourselves get into character and then let that character speak from his or her unique situation, voice will appear.  Most of the time we just have to get out of our own way.
In your opinion, what are three elements that should be part of any middle grade novel? 

First: honesty.  I think we owe it to each other to be truthful.  This idea comes up a lot when we talk about books with difficult subject matter, but it is just important to be truthful about small things.  How does it really feel to have salami for lunch when all around you kids are eating ham and cheese?  It seems like such a small thing and maybe even petty, but if we are honest, we might admit that it matters more than we would like.  And being truthful about the small stuff earns the trust we need to talk honestly about the larger issues.

Second: hope.  This may be a personal thing, but I want even the most despondent dystopia to have a flicker of hope – even if it is only a moment of meaning or connection.

Third: a character the reader wants to spend time with.  I don’t believe this character needs to be “likeable.”  In fact, I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice by suggesting that likeability is the most important character trait in a novel for kids.  But I do think that there has to be something about a character – something intriguing or companionable or engaging – that gives readers a reason to stick around and figure him or her out.

What is your favorite kind of donut?

 I’m a die-hard cider donut fan – fresh out of the grease.  It’s one of my favorite things about Fall in Vermont.

*That's my favorite kind, too (I'm not a big frosting or sprinkles fan)

For a chance of winning a copy of Linda Urban's The Center of Everything, leave a comment for Linda and include your favorite kind of donut! I'll announce the winner next Friday.

Linda's website

Other middle grade books by Linda are:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Critique Partner Love

Me and Tara D. (and chocolate hearts)
*Amy Trueblood has posted another fabulous agent interview here: First Five Frenzy with Stephen Fraser 

*Next Friday, I'll be posting an interview with author LINDA URBAN (yay!) and giving away a copy of her new book The Center of Everything

Critique Partners have changed my writing life. When I first started writing novels, the concept of revision didn't mesh well with my style. I was an excitable newbie with lots of ideas, so I would write a novel, edit, get feedback from one beta reader, and enter query land. After a few partial/full requests and more than a few rejections, I would decide I was too excited by my new project to keep querying or consider revision. My new project was always waaaaay better and more deserving of my attention.
Charlie and Tara D. 
I'd scrap the current novel and move to the next. This was my learning process for a year or so. Instead of working painstakingly on one novel for six months or a year and polishing it, I wrote three. All of which got requests, mind you, but none of which got me an agent. I was happy with the process, figuring I was giving myself an education by writing a lot and learning from what I thought failed in each of the previous novels. 

But about two years ago, I started working with the same two people for multiple manuscripts. We traded back and forth, got to know each other's writing, and got to know each other. Last year, I got to know two more writers.
Charlie and Tara D. and Creme Brulee

These ladies provide a support network and craft-related relationship that rivals some of my best friendships. I feel enriched by and invested in my CPs' writing journeys. Their joys and frustrations become my own, and this world has become a better place because of them. 
Tara D. doing a rare tent reading

By the way, the photos are of THE Tara Dairman, the only writing friend I have who lives close enough to visit. She brought candy and books, put up with an aggressive snuggler (my four-year-old, not me), and was even game to hang out in the tent that we put up in the family room. What a gal, eh? And she has a book coming out next year!

So please go visit the following ladies and follow them on Twitter. They are all very wise and funny (which is the best combination possible):

Joy McCullough-Carranza, @JMCwrites
Becky Wallace, @BeckyWallace1
Tara Dairman, @TaraDairman
Ann Bedichek-Braden, @Bedichek

Send a thank-you email to your own CPs and have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Create a really cool, really FREE image with the Pulp-O-Mizer

(Coming Up: Interview with MG Author Linda Urban!)

Meet the Pulp-o-Mizer: an awesome, FREE online tool to create your own science fiction-y cover! 

Or cards and flyers!

Or oversize wall posters!

Or mugs!

Via a GalleyCat article, I learned that Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual author/illustrator Bradley W. Schenck created this neat way to mimic classic science fiction magazine covers.

I tried it out yesterday, spending a few minutes online customizing the utter brilliance you see above...and, um, yes, the title of my story is "Night of the Toaster-Like Machine from Outer Space." I was waiting for breakfast to pop up at the time.

Click HERE to try it yourself.

Anyway, the Pulp-O-Mizer does a great job of making it easy and FUN to create and download a free image. If you want any of that fancy stuff I mentioned above, you've got to pay for it, but you can use it for blog posts and such free of charge.

If anyone out there is planning on throwing a party soon, I highly suggest making invitations/flyers using this tool (could be fun for birthday parties too~"Night of the intergalactic 40-year-old husband~ run for your life!").

It could also be a cool way to promote a book event!

Speaking of book events, I'll leave you with images from last week's Princes and Princesses party at the library, where the kids read P&P books and then built their own geometric-style toothpick and marshmallow castles (because nothing says "royalty" like toothpicks and marshmallows). Take a look at the pictures below. Think my kid did that herself or do you think the hubby couldn't resist taking over??? Scroll down for the answer.