Monday, December 20, 2010

I Have a New Sister!

Agent-sister, that is!

In an odd twist of fate, the one who brought my agent and me together has now been welcomed into the family.

Yes. Authoress from the Miss Snark's First Victim blog is now represented by my agent, Josh Getzler! You may remember that I won her Secret Agent contest and my prize was to send my full manuscript to Josh, who then offered representation shortly thereafter. And now he's done the same for her.

Authoress has given so much to the writing community, so I am very happy to see her own career moving forward. Way to go, Authoress! And welcome to the family.

(If you'd like to congratulate Authoress yourself, go here for the official announcement.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I've been waiting months for this, and it's finally here!

My dear friend Hélène Boudreau has a lovely new book coming out tomorrow (YAY!), titled Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings. Isn't that the best title ever?!

Anyway, in honor of the launch, she is giving away almost a dozen copies of the book in an awesome contest. And she has kindly asked me to judge her contest along with her agent (Lauren MacLeod), Authoress of Miss Snark's First Victim fame, Jodi Meadows, and Kathleen Peacock. This should be fun!

You can visit Hélène's blog for the complete post, but I've also added the contest info below:


Tweet using the hashtag #realmermaids for a chance to win one of the FIVE twitter copies. For example:

#realmermaids don’t wear toe rings (but that one’s taken ) or I brake for #realmermaids

Funniest tweets win! Winners are totally up to the discretion of the judges @bostonbookgirl, @authoressanon, @jodimeadows, @kathleenpeacock and @elissacruz.

Please keep it PG, though, people! Think of the children!!


Just go ahead and LIKE Hélène's page on Facebook and post in the contest thread for a chance to win one of FIVE Facebook copies. Unlike Twitter, this contest is not limited to 140 characters. You can play with the #realmermaids twitter concept or tell her a joke, or write her a poem, the sky is the limit. Just make her LAUGH! Again, the five funniest WIN!


Post a comment with your funny here for a chance to win one blog copy. That's it. No joke! (But you still have to make Hélène laugh.)

Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Now go! Quick! Before someone else takes your best line!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Waiting

It's official. I am now the World's Foremost Authority on Waiting. (According to me, anyway.)

It's true.

I've been waiting for news for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't recall my BW life (Before Waiting), since it was so long ago and the waiting has somewhat dulled my brain. (At least, that's my theory, anyway.)

But something has happened recently that's made me rethink (start to think?) about waiting.

And that thing is a new kind of waiting.

Recently my husband and I started looking into buying a home. We've been renting since the dawn of time, with two forays into the purchasing a home scenario (all which ended badly, so we tend to pretend they never happened), but recently we've decided to give home ownership a try (third time's the charm, right?). We filled out a loan application and received our lovely pre-approval letter on the same day we started looking at houses.

And, to make a long story, short, we are currently under contract.

Now, as the World's Foremost Authority on Waiting, you'd think that I'd be ready for the waiting that comes when you are purchasing a home, right?


Because this kind of wait, the intense "something's about to happen that will change my life forever" wait, is so different than the long, drawn out, vague "maybe someday something might happen that could change my life forever" type of wait I've been experiencing the last, oh, million years or so. This new kind of waiting is more stressful, I think, than the long, drawn out kind of waiting I've been dealing with, because it compresses so much more emotion into a short time frame. You're more nervous and excited and concerned and overjoyed and stressed out, and suddenly everything seems more...real, I suppose.

As I was pondering this idea of a new kind of waiting, I suddenly realized that these two different types of waiting can be found in this writing business, too. (See, I knew you were trying to figure out how I was going to tie all that personal info into something about writing. Just stick with me long enough and it's bound to happen, I say.) I am really only the World's Foremost Authority on Long, Abstract Waiting. I have yet to really experience the Short, Concrete Waiting that comes when a contract is eminent or an editor has mentioned acquisitions or the next step or given me any indication that my book is being considered in any way. (Yeah, they've spared me that pain and told me all about it AFTER it's been through most of those steps but hasn't made it all the way. Those are fun rejections, let me tell you.)

In this biz, you need to be prepared for both kinds of waiting. The LAW is what you will experience 99% of the time, but that last 1% is the SCW that will sneak up on you when you least expect it. And it's stressful.

Really stressful.

I don't have any really practical suggestions for dealing with it either. But I think knowing about it is the first step. Maybe. I guess.

Though I suppose it could be completely meaningless information. That's possible, I suppose. After all, my brain is a bit muddled after all the waiting it's endured.

Now, what were we talking about, again?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ElNoWriWe 2010: Day 5 (aka THE END!)


I didn't type much--about 630 words got me to the end--but I can proudly say that ElNoWriWe was a complete success. In just 5 days I wrote an entire first draft of my middle-grade manuscript (well, all but the first 6,000 words, which I had finished before I started ElNoWriWe). Official word count for the 5 days was:


I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but at least I now have something to work with.

But I think I'll take the rest of the week off as a reward for completing ElNoWriWe. Plus I need to play catch-up on some things I let slide a little during the week.

Okay. I also want to do a little of this:

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and pry the remote out of my husband's hands...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ElNoWriWe 2010: Day 4

Yes, I was suppose to start back up yesterday, but a bunch of things came up that took the entire day away from me (things that couldn't wait, like a broken window that had to be replaced, a snowy commute that took a lot longer to navigate, among other things). And today wasn't much better, but I vowed to keep going until I had written my 5,000 words.

And with 30 minutes to spare...

Today's word count:

And the total is:

But the best part is that I just finished the climax tonight! WOOHOO! Tomorrow I will wrap up this story and be done with the entire draft (and probably long before I reach 5K).

Whew. What a ride.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ElNoWriWe 2010: Day 3

Yes, it's only Day 3 of ElNoWriWe, even though it's Day 4 of NaNoWriMo. I had to take yesterday off to finish a bunch of non-writing projects that had to be done that day.


I noticed it was much harder to get back into the swing of things today. It took longer to find my momentum, and it was harder to sustain it over the entire day (because, after all, it does take a few hours to write 5,000 words).

In case anyone is curious, my days have been going something like this:

Morning: write for 3 hours (as I also attempt to help my homeschooled son with his schoolwork)

Take a break for lunch/school carpool duties/etc..

Afternoon: write for 1-2 hours (as I also attempt to put the toddler down for a nap)

Take a break for school carpool duties/stretch my legs/etc.

Late Afternoon: write for 1 hour (as I also attempt to get my kids started on their homework)

Since my addition math skills are getting a lot of use these days as I correct my kids' math homework, I am fairly certain that adds up to 5 to 6 solid hours of writing each day. That means I can crank out about 1000 words an hour. That's *gets out calculator for this arithmetic problem* almost 17 words a minute. That's...well, honestly, I don't know what that means. I may be able to do math, but that doesn't mean I have figured out what all those numbers are good for. I know I can certainly type much faster than that, though, so I guess that means my brain can create almost 17 words a minute.

I still have no idea what good that does me, though...


Today's word count:

This week's word count:

I'm halfway there! WOOT!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ElNoWriWe 2010: Day 2

These two images should say it all:


This week:

( I would like to point out that that little bean man who is supposed to be me is drinking root beer. I don't actually drink alcoholic beverages myself, which may or may not come as a surprise to many of you. I would also like to point out that my head is not that big, nor that bald.)

Onward to the end of this first draft!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Day 1 (aka ElNoWriWe 2010: Day 1)

I am officially unofficially participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Yes, go ahead and reread that. It takes a few read-throughs to wrap that idea around the brain, I know. (BTW, NaNoWriMo=National Novel Writing Month, for the two or three people on the planet who haven't heard of it yet.)

Got it? Good.

The reason for this is because, for the last month or two, I've been attempting to write a new WIP (WIP=Work-in-Progress, for you non-writerly folk out there who keep asking if I write in English anymore). I've been stuck at about 5,000 words of a 30,000-word middle-grade novel. And so I needed to kick-start this WIP.

But, you see, NaNoWriMo is all about writing a BRAND NEW 50,000-word novel in one month. And since I didn't want to start a new book--I wanted to kick-start an old(ish) book--I decided to unofficially participate.

However, I'm not really concerned about writing 50,000 words. I'm concerned about getting this stinkin' first draft finished.

Enter ElNoWriWe.

ElNoWriWe is my attempt at finishing this stinkin' first draft. ElNoWriWe=Elissa's Novel Writing Week, where I will attempt to finish an entire middle-grade novel in 5-6 days.

Yes, go ahead and reread that, too. I assure you you probably read it right the first time, but maybe your brain didn't think so.

You caught up with me now? Good.

The goal: write 5K words a day (that's 5,000 for those who...well, quite honestly everyone should know what K stands for) for 5-6 days until the first draft is finished. I'm figuring this draft will be about 30,000 words, give or take.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find 5-6 consecutive days with enough writing time left over after everything else I need to accomplish, so I'm shooting for 5K today, tomorrow, and Thursday this week, then Monday-Wednesday next week (if all goes well).

Now, I know you think there's no way I can do this. Go ahead and laugh at my idiocy. It's okay. It wouldn't be the first time someone's laughed in my face.

And while you laugh, I will calmly point out that I wrote the first draft of my first novel--the novel that I got an agent with and the one that is currently on submission--in three days. Yes. You can reread that, too.

Now that you're not laughing, I'll also calmly point you to my word count for today:

Make your own progress meter at

Rock on, dude.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kidlit Con 2010

I'm back from Kidlit Con, and though my bags are still unpacked (long story), I'm ready to share everything I learned there (an equally long story). This is important stuff, so pay attention here, people!

(Note: I didn't get any photos, so sorry about that. I doubt anyone took photos of me, either, but I'm still looking...)

1. When conference planners tell you the walk between the bus/train station and the hotel is "close," don't believe them.

On Friday, I flew into the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and hopped the lightrail train into downtown Minneapolis. I enjoyed watching my surroundings as they flew by me. First I saw Fort Snelling, and was tempted for an instant to get off the train and take a tour (I love touring old buildings!) but thought that might not go over well with the people waiting for me to arrive at the hotel. Then I saw some place names that made me smile, like Minnehaha and Hiawatha. I saw a community garden whiz by, and plenty of non-descript buildings. People came and went off the lightrail, then the Minneapolis Metrodome came into view and it was my turn to step off the train.

Then came the hike to the hotel. Two blocks north and at least a million blocks east, I walked and walked and walked and walked, lugging, well..luggage. To be fair, it really wasn't a long walk, but it would have been much much easier without the suitcase rolling behind me. But I made it to the hotel, checked in, and met Kurtis Scaletta and Steve Brezenoff in the lobby. They were my official Minneapolis Welcoming Committee. Together we wandered back the way I had come until we made it to Open Book, the scene of the conference.

2. You can learn a lot from celebrities, just not what they expect you to learn.

That night we had about an hour of schmooze time, followed by an appearance of the Merry Sisters of Fate, which consists of Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater, and Brenna Yovanoff. They discussed critique groups and their weekly short story projects. Though the information they shared wasn’t applicable to my current situation (because I have a great critique group and am not interested in writing short stories anytime soon), I did learn a lot about public speaking from watching them. I was hoping some of what I learned would rub off on me the next day.

3. There is such a thing as jetlag.

Let’s just say that getting up at 7am Minneapolis time was REALLY EARLY in Elissa time.

4. When things go well, it’s all a blur, but when things go bad...

Our presentation was the third session of the day, so I spent the morning patiently waiting until it was my turn. And by “patiently” I mean…well, patiently. I waited for my nerves to kick in, but they never did. And when it was time to get up in front of that group, it was all a blur. A good blur. I do remember a few stray thoughts like “I wonder if that camcorder is rolling,” and “I hope I’m not saying something incredibly stupid,” but for the most part it was a smooth presentation, and Kurtis (my co-presenter) and I were poised and well-prepared.

(And you thought things went horribly wrong. I can’t imagine where you got that idea. You really should pay better attention.)

5. People say the darndest things.

My favorites were along these lines:

“Great presentation! Really!”

“I learned SO much!”

“I want to be just like you when I grow up!”

“You’ve inspired me.”

“You nailed that one.”

I’m pleased to announce that not once did someone say “Please don’t come back.” They may have been thinking it, though. I’m not psychic, after all.

6. It's not what you know, it's who you know. Wait...I mean, it’s not who you know, it’s what you know. Okay, it's really who you know AND what you know. Though none of it matters, really. You know?

By far, my favorite thing about this conference was meeting some great kidlit people. It was great talking about writing and books with the people there. I met people I had always wanted to (hi, Alice Pope!), people I learned so much from because they let me listen in and participate in their conversations (hi, Dori Butler, Susan Taylor Brown, and Kellye Carter Crocker!) and online friends who are now friends IRL (hi, Blythe Woolston and Anne Marie!). And so so many others, who I wish I could name but then this post would be very very very long (hi, everyone else!).

7. Kidlit Con is worth every penny.

And then some.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nominate a library today!

I'm posting yet another Mixed-Up Files plug today, but I promise to have some real, live updates about my real, live writing life soon. Promise. No, really. I mean it this time.

But this plug is for a good cause, and one that applies to everyone out there, even those of you don't write children's literature. Heck, you don't even have to write for this to apply to you!

Today we launched The Great Library Giveaway on the From the Mixed-Up Files blog. We have complied a list of almost 50 middle-grade titles that we want to donate to a local or school library. We are asking readers to nominate their favorite library, and our random generator will choose a winning library on November 30th.

So check in and nominate your child's school library, or your favorite public library, or the underserved library across town that you heard needs donations. Just find a worth library and tell us!

(For those who need a little extra push, we are giving the person with the winning entry a $25 gift certificate to their local indie store as well.)

So go! Run! Nominate!

And when you're done, I might have some updates about my writing life posted here for you to read.

Hey, it could happen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For the Homeschooling Writers Out There

My friend [info]lillpluta has revamped her blog, and will now be focusing on blogging for those who homeschool by day and write by night. Since I am one of those people, I am certain I will be reading her blog faithfully.

Oh, and those who only homeschool but don't write, I'm sure you'll find some cool stuff there, too.

And those who only write but don't homeschool...what they hey, check it out, too. You might learn something you didn't know before.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Nothing, Really.

It's been awhile since I've updated here (yeah, so much for keeping on top of things), so I thought today would be a good day to get everyone caught up on the life that is mine.


And there you have it. Exciting stuff, isn't it? "But there's nothing there," you say.



Truth be told, plenty is going on, just not in my writing life. And since this place is all about my writing life and not what I ate for dinner or how much time I spent driving kids to and from school this week, or stories about those two cute pairs of shoes I purchased not too long ago, I have nothing to report.

Noth. ing.

It kinda feels like I've landed in the Twilight Zone, where everything seems fine at first, but then bizarre things start to happen. Like that one where a boy had terrifying mental powers and could kill anyone just by looking at them, so all the adults in the world did everything they could to placate the boy in order to stay alive.

Or that other one where...and then, you know...

Okay, truth be told, that one with the boy is the only Twilight Zone I can remember right now. But the point is, just like that show, nothing in my writing life is "normal." It seems like I'm doing everything backwards. I am currently polishing a presentation I'll be giving at a writing conference, yet I still have no book under contract with any publisher. I am putting a whole lot of time and attention into a high-traffic blog about writing even though my own writing is being systematically ignored (no offence, editors who have it and are not reading it). I feel somewhat like a charlatan. All talk but no substance. You know?

But I suspect plenty of people out there feel that their road to publication isn't "normal" either. But no one talks about it, so we all feel like we're missing something.

Well, I decided it was time to welcome you all into my own little Twilight Zone, in the hopes that it will help all of us realize that normal is way over-rated. I might be doing things backwards, but at least I'm doing something. I've taken the proverbial bull by his proverbial horns, and I'm digging in for the long fight ahead.

I just pray the bull doesn't have any terrifying mental powers that I'm not aware of yet. I'm not sure if I could handle that twist after all I've been through. Or not been through, I suppose.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

And the winner is...


Thanks, Larissa, for all the linky love! Please send me an email and I'll send you the four signed books.

As for the rest of you, thanks for celebrating my blogiversary with me. Hope you'll stick around another year!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Last Day to Earn the 4-Book Linky Love Prize!

Thanks to all those who have already linked to this blog in honor of my 2nd blogiversary. For those who haven't but have been thinking about it, TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO DO SO!

Oh, sorry about all that yelling. I was a little too excited, wasn't I. Yep.

Go here to get the 4-1-1 on how to win the four signed books I am giving to the person with the most linky love. Yes, I'm bribing you to love me. I don't have problem with this, so hopefully you don't, either.

(Okay, actually I do have a problem with bribes. And with paying people to show me love. Yet here we are. Let's face it, I'm an oxy-moron in the flesh.)

Speaking of oxy-moron...Oscar, starring Sylvester Stallone, has some of the best grammar and linguistic jokes ever to grace the silver screen. I laugh every time I watch the show. And yes, I own the DVD, so I watch it quite frequently. In fact, I think I'll go turn it on now. That way I can get my mind off the fact that I'm waiting to pay someone to love me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kidlit Con and Me

Even though it hasn't been officially posted, I thought I should mention to everyone out there that I will be presenting at Kidlit Con this year.

Shocking, I know.

(No, I really mean it. It's shocking that someone would actually WANT me to speak for an hour in front of an audience of people who probably know more than I do. But I digress...)

One of my mixed-up cohorts, Kurtis Scaletta, and I will be teaming up for this one, actually. We will be speaking on MG blogging (of course, since I'm going as the spokesperson for From the Mixed-Up Files).

So, if you've been on the fence, now's the time to sign up. Not only will you be able to prove to everyone else that I am a real human being, with a face and everything, you will also get to use your own face and laugh along as I entertain* the masses.

So go here for more info about Kidlit Con and how to register.

And while you're out trolling the internet, do me a favor and leave some links back to this blog. I'm bribing the one who links the most with four signed books. Come on...I know you want 'em...

See you at Kidlit Con!

*Not guaranteed. Actually, it's more likely that we'll all sit there in awkward silence as I try to figure out how to use the projector.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Keep On Keepin' On

(Please please please share the linky love for my Blogiversary! I'm giving away 4 signed books one lucky reader! Go here for details.)

When I was in college, Barry Williams came to speak and do a book signing for his new tell-all book about his experiences playing Greg on The Brady Bunch. His appearance was lively and exciting, and he signed my book (and others) with the simple yet profound, "Keep on keepin' on."

And after his appearance, I was lucky enough to be one of the representatives chosen by the college to take him and his agent out to lunch. We went to The Dodo Restaurant in Salt Lake City, and had a nice chat over [I forget what we ate, so insert your favorite dish here].

Barry probably doesn't remember this afternoon. I doubt he even wanted to be there, hanging out with three college girls and their male college advisor. In fact, he hardly said much the whole time, and we spent most of the lunch chatting with his agent instead. I remember pitying poor Barry Williams, who looked as if he wasn't happy with his life. From the conversation with him we learned he had divorced and now spent most of his days alone, on the road for his book tour. All he had left was memories of his glory days on the set of the Brady Bunch. And instead of keepin' on, he was wallowing in how things had taken a turn for the worse.

I wished he would have taken his own advice that day. (Maybe has has now. I don't know.)

Today I realized that I've probably been a little like Barry Williams was when I met him. It's no big surprise to my readers out there (hi, all 6 of you!) that my book has not sold yet. It's still on submission, and I keep hoping editors will actually pick it up and read it one of these days. I'll admit it's been frustrating to watch other books sell as mine languishes in the submission piles. And I have been wallowing. I'll admit it.

But I'm not going to be like Barry Williams was at that lunch way back in the mid 90's. I'm actually going to take his advice. I will keep on keepin' on until I, too, have some good news to share. I'm not going to dwell on what has (or hasn't, in my case) happened. I'm going to look to the future instead of dwell on the past.

And for those of you out there who may be in a similar place, either in their writing or life in general...I just have one little piece of advice:

Keep on keepin' on.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm-No-Good-itis Strikes Again...but it could be worse

(Don't forget to go here to enter my Linky Love contest in celebration of my blogiversary. I'm giving away 4 signed books to the lucky winner!)

I recently sat through an entire day of training offered by the Boy Scouts of America. It was training to teach me how to train others to do their jobs more effectively (titled, appropriately, the Trainer's EDGE). There was much taught there that also applied to public speaking. Though I've never been nervous in front of people (trust me, I routinely make a fool out of myself in front of large groups of Scouters and their families, plus I spent my entire childhood/teen years singing in front of full auditoriums), it was enlightening to listen to some of the dos and don'ts they suggested when addressing large or small crowds.

(My favorite part of this training, however, was making and flying paper airplanes. Man, BSA is my kind of organization. Those people know how to have fun.)

Anyway, one thing listed in the training session was: don't apologize for the things you don't do right or well.

I got to thinking about this phrase, and how appropriate it is for writers, too. There have been many times when I've handed a manuscript to my crit buddies and apologized for all the missing parts and rough edges (and I've even been guilty of doing this when handing something to my agent, too). I am embarrassed that it's not perfect, so I make excuses. I have that debilitating disease called "I'm-No-Good-itis."

I am trying to overcome my I'm-No-Good-itis, but it's hard work. It's easy to second-guess yourself, especially in a business where subjectivity rules. One email may say your book is outdated and will never sell, while another uses the word "love" and "offer" in the same paragraph. But we shouldn't ever feel like we need to apologize.

Let me say that again.

We shouldn't ever feel like we need to apologize.

On the other hand, however, I do know a few authors who have the opposite problem: Big Head Syndrome. I hope I'm never one of those people who think my opinion should be revered and that the masses should bow down to me whenever I grace their presence. Humility and I'm-No-Good-itis aren't the same thing, and a little humility never hurt anyone. I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Linky Love Contest: Second Blogiversary Edition (With Double the Prizes)!

This weekend my little blog turned 2. (Well, I started blogging on LJ two years ago, anyway. This Blogspot edition came a little later.)

I am hoping this means it will be potty trained soon and can move quickly through that awkward teenage phase and on to the grown-up blog it was meant to be.

And to help it along, I've decided it's time to shamelessly promote it.


I'm hosting a Linky Love: Second Blogiversary Edition Contest!

I want to see how many links to my blog we can get out there in the world. I will be seriously disappointed if only three people enter. So do me a favor and help me out here.

All I ask is that you share a link to my blog somewhere, asking people to check it out. Then leave a comment telling me where you've shared your linky love--on FB, blog, twitter, message board, email*, in a letter to your grandmother, on the bathroom stall at the local college**, whatever (share a link to your linky love if you can). Each link counts as one entry. You can also earn extra entries if someone sees your link, checks out my blog and leaves a comment telling me you sent them (they must mention your name in the comment for you to earn the additional entry).

The person with the most linky love entries wins. So linking once most likely won't be a winning entry. (It had better not, at least. If it is, I will be so embarrassed.) In case of a tie, the winner will then be chosen by lottery.

Seems simple enough, right?

Since my blog is now TWO, and this is the SECOND Blogiversary edition of a Linky Love contest, I thought I'd stick with the "TWO" theme for the prize. But that didn't seem like it was big enough, so I'm doubling that.

The winner will receive the following FOUR (you know, because 2 X 2 = 4) SIGNED books:

Soul Enchilada (hardcover), David Macinnis Gill

The Healing Spell (hardcover), Kimberley Little

Jungle Crossing (ARC), Sydney Salter

Palace Beautiful (hardcover), Sarah DeFord Williams

(Yes, all four are signed by their respective authors! I'd take pictures, but my camera isn't working. You'll just have to take my word for it.)

Please don't make me feel like a loser. Hopefully the prize is worth a little linky love on your part. And, yes, pity links are as much appreciated as "Ohmygoodnessyouhavetocheckoutthisblogit'sawesomeandthebloggerishysterical" links. I'm not picky.

I do have to mention here that this contest is for US/CAN residents only. Sorry, international friends. I would love to include you but I think shipping these mostly hardcovers would be a little more than I could cover at this time. But you are still welcome to link away. In fact, I would really appreciate it. And I should also mention that this contest is being run simultaneously on my LJ journal and my Blogspot blog (same content, different platform). So if you want to see where your entries stand, you'll have to check both blogs.

To give people time to link and check out links, this contest will run through Thursday, September 30, 2010. All entries must be posted by 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). Winner will be announced once I can tally everything up.

Link away! And thanks for playing!

Oh, and happy blogiversary, little blog.

*Spamming your entire email list will NOT count. Well, it will, but you'll only get one entry. So I don't suggest you do it. It might make your friends and family mad at you. Let's share the love, not the spam, okay?
**On second thought, maybe not on the college bathroom stalls. I don't think anyone would appreciate the vandalism. But putting a flyer up on the college's public bulletin that could work.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Want to Join the MG Group Blog?

Okay, okay. I know. My last few entries have only been about the From the Mixed-Up Files blog, and I promise to post something non-Mixed-Up-blog related soon, but this was news I have to mention here in case the six or so of you who read his blog might be interested.

At From the Mixed-Up Files, we've decided to open our membership doors and add four dedicated MG authors (agented and/or published only, please) to our ranks.

(See, I told you it was juicy news.)

(Okay, not really, but humor me, will ya?)

If you are interested in more information, please check out the announcement here. I would like to mention that we will only be accepting applications until Saturday, September 18, 2010, so be quick about checking in.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

If You Know a Kid...

...please tell them all about the new For Kids pages at From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors. My mixed-up cohorts have been hard at work compiling book-related resources for kids, including crafts, games and activities, homework help, and writing ideas. A shout out to Joanne Prushing Johnson, who spearheaded the For Kids pages and did most of the work. Way to go, Joanne!

And you have to check out the adorable original puzzles created by our very own Bonnie Adamson. She's creating unique puzzles and crafts exclusively for our site. Here are links to the first and second puzzles she's added to the site. Aren't they fun?!

Today the For Kids page mascot posted an entry on the blog, introducing himself and the For Kids pages. He's hoping one of our kid readers will give him a name, since right now he's simply known as M. G.

So, spread the word to all the kids you know. Come help pick a name for our mascot and poke around our new files.

Happy reading, kids!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


...I will not be reading Mockingjay with the rest of the world.

Go ahead. Stone me if you must.

But, truth be told, I haven't read Hunger Games or Catching Fire yet, either. Bring on the torch and pitchforks, I know. It's not that I'm not interested in reading them, it's that I've been focusing so much on MG fiction that the YA stuff has pretty much fallen to the wayside.

So, unless you show up on my door with a YA book in your hands, chances are I won't be reading it anytime soon.

But at least I know that Mockingjay is coming out today. I'm not completely out of it, you know.

Just mostly out of it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the Mixed-Up Files Blog...

I meant to post this yesterday, but my oldest, Dude, had his 12th birthday party yesterday. So, understandably, I forgot to do half the stuff on my To-Do list. And it was a late party (we watched "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" on the side of the house--outdoor movie night!--and then two of the boys spent the night here), so I'm just getting back into the swing of things.

Anyway, though I try not to post too much here about the group blog, because I know plenty of you aren't kidlit (or MG) writers, I'm posting something today. Why? Well, because my post went up yesterday, so I have to do a shout out. It's all about mysteries for middle-grade kids, with a book list of my favorites.

Head on over and check it out. Please?

Pretty please?

Pretty please with a cherry on top?

I'M BEGGING YOU! PLEASE VISIT! And don't forget to leave a comment there telling everyone how intelligent I am. Because I know...intelligent and all.

See you on the mixed-up flip side!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Agentiversary to Me!

Yes, one year ago (yesterday), Agent Man called and offered representation.

I guess this means I'm not newly agented anymore, huh.

Anyway, here's a recap of what has happened since I signed with my agent:

1. I finished some quick revisions on my first book, and Agent Man started subbing it to some pretty awesome editors. (Did I ever mention that Agent Man signed me with the very first novel I ever wrote? I didn't have anything else finished at that point. Yeah, I'm certain that was a mistake on his part, but now he's stuck with me. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
2. I started thinking about Book 2.
3. Agent Man left Writers House and moved to Russell and Volkening, and was kind enough to ask me to move over with him. (I think asking me to stick with him was his 2nd big mistake, but, whatever.)
4. I finally finished the first/second draft of Book 2 and sent it to Agent Man (certain that he would read it and realize his mistake in signing me). He read and gave some amazing suggestions, which I am still incorporating in the manuscript.
5. A small number of those awesome editors finally sent some rejection emails to Agent Man. Only one really hated the book, a few were lukewarm to it, but most liked it but said it didn't fit their list. (Those were the reasons they gave for the R's, anyway.) We're still waiting on the majority of the awesome editors who have the ms.

Okay, totally OT, but what is the grammatically correct way of writing the shortened version of "rejections"? Is it Rs or R's? I need this question answered, because it's keeping me awake at night.

Oh, sorry. Back to the list...

6. I started a group blog *cough cough* because I finally found the nerve to ask people to join me...I figured they might actually take me seriously (getting an agent will do that to you). I should point out that I never take myself seriously. Well, only on rare occasions, and it always turns out badly.
7. An industry professional (translation: a real, honest-to-goodness editor) agreed with Agent Man that I am a funny writer! O HAPPY DAY! (See this post that mentions my life-long wish to be considered funny.)
8. I made it to my first acquisitions meeting with Book 1. Yay! Though I didn't make it THROUGH my first acquisitions meeting. Sigh.
9. I think I've gained 20 lbs. and my first dozen gray hairs from all the suspense of waiting and hoping and wondering. I am not old enough for gray hairs! (Good thing there are few enough of them that I can still pluck them out.) And I am not exactly happy that the submission process is making my butt look big. Curse you, Stress (and Stress Eating)!
10. I'm happily revising Book 2 and working on the first draft of a third book. And working out the plot of a fourth. I'm not exactly the most productive writer out there, but not bad for a year's worth of work, right? (Just nod your head and agree with me here.)

Anyway, thanks for a good year, Agent Man. And here's to the next one, which is gonna be bigger and better, guaranteed.*

Happy Agentiversary!

*'Course, I can't really make any guarantees, but that's beside the point. It's the sentiment that counts, right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

2nd Annual Pity Party! (for those who aren’t going to SCBWI LA this week)

I can’t believe it’s that time again! Yes, I'm talking about the annual summer SCBWI conference in LA. We nobodies need a place to call our own as the somebodies hobnob with the really big somebodies out there in the California sunshine. And I take my job as Biggest of Nobodies very seriously.

So, welcome to the 2nd Annual Pity Party for those not going to the SCBWI Conference!

We have a great lineup this year. First we will have our very own Whine and Cheese Reception, where we will read through the SCBWI Schedule and complain about those lucky enough to be there in person.

Next we’ll have a Breakout in Envy Session titled How to Be a Nobody. Here we will share our jealousy about how we are still not on the list of Really Big Somebodies who are lucky enough to get the honor of speaking at the SCBWI Conference.

Then the real fun begins. We will have our very own, no-holds-barred, razzle-dazzle, in-your-face “Stab My Heart and Squash My Soul Celebration”! Here we will wriggle and writhe the weekend away as we follow the Official SCBWI Conference Blog and #LA10SCBWI tweets that are only there to rub the fun we’re missing in our faces. In real time, no less. Sheesh.

So, pull up the couch, get out your bonbons or other comfort food, and let the Pity Party begin!

(Oh, I forgot to ask. Who's bringing the cheese?)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Six

1. I meant to do a Friday Five yesterday, but I had too much going on. Which I will now explain in #2-6 below.

2. I sent my oldest son and my husband off to a Scout overnight camping trip yesterday. My son was so excited that he had finished packing by about, oh, Tuesday. He did ask why I couldn't go instead of my husband, and I had to explain the whole "it's for guys" thing. But, quite honestly, I would have loved to go instead of my husband. I'm a total camper person, and my hubby isn't. So I do think it's a little funny that my husband is going to be the one who has to go on overnighters with our boys. And our boys are just getting started in Scouting.

3. I heard some good and not so good news this week about my book on subs. The good news: it made it to acquisitions at a pub house. The bad news: it died in acquisitions at the pub house. The good news: less than stellar market conditions was the only reason for the pass (which means the story itself is solid). The bad news: less than stellar market conditions (this is bad for everyone, not just me). The good news: the editor wanted to see anything else I might have. The bad news: it'll be months before I have anything else to show.

But I am happy to just make it this far, honestly. I've been wondering and worrying that the book might need to be revised to make it stronger, but it sounds like I don't need to worry about the manuscript at all. So, though I'd love to have it sell, if it doesn't I can put it aside with a clear conscience. But I'm still hoping another house has a more optimistic outlook on market conditions and will be enthusiastic about my manuscript. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.

4. I've been thinking about a new story idea, and knowing that an editor wants to see anything else I've written (see #3 above) has kicked my imagination into overdrive. I sent a short synopsis to my agent late yesterday (after he left the office, I'm sure, since I'm two hours behind and it was late in the afternoon when I sent it) explaining the vague idea to him. And this weekend I'm going to try to crank out some serious word count and hopefully solidify some of the story.

5. Speaking of story ideas, I need to do some research on foster kids and foster parents, especially for older foster kids 10 and up. If you have any great resources or know someone who is a foster parent, please send (or have them send) me an email at elissadcruz at gmail dot com. I have some questions about how it all works.

6. I ran into an old high school friend at a writing conference a few weeks ago. She friended me on facebook, and suddenly I'm finding all my old high school buddies there as well, since she's already connected with most of them. I've been avoiding doing this, since I'm not sure I want to mix business with pleasure (so far, I've been using FB to connect with other writers), but it's also nice to think that I'll have some non-writing friends I can wow with my writing accomplishments. *snork*

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cookies, cont.

Okay, so enough people asked for the recipe to my absolutely all-time favorite cookie, that I thought it would be easiest to post it here. There are plenty of different recipes out there, but this is the one my mother/father made while I was growing up, so it's the one I like the best. However, there are variations out there on the 'net if you want to experiment. FYI, I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but probably some cookbook somewhere.

No-Bake Cookies

1 C. sugar
1/4 C. milk
1/4 C. cocoa
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 C. peanut butter
1 1/2 C. quick oatmeal (I routinely use regular rolled oats, too)

Combine sugar, milk and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and then remove from heat. Immediately add vanilla and dissolve peanut butter into mixture. Stir in oatmeal and drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper to cool.

Once you take it off the heat, work quickly, because the mixture starts to set up and cool fast at that point. Especially after you add the oatmeal, which sucks up a lot of the liquid and cools the mixture even further.

I should point out that if you are someone who can actually control your portion sizes when it comes to cookies, you can make about 2 dozen if you drop by teaspoonfuls. We like our cookies bigger than that, though. So I always double this recipe. When doubled, I can make about 20 large cookies (and by large, I mean 2-3" in diameter).

You know you've made these right when they are shiny after cooling. Sometimes mine turn out dull, which means they taste a little grainy (since I think it has something to do with the sugar crystallizing or something), but I haven't yet taken the time to figure out what I've done wrong in those instances. I assume it's either they've been cooked too long or not cooked long enough. But it doesn't happen very often so I've not really worried too much about it.

Also, sometimes these cookies set up within a minute or two, and other times it takes a good hour. I have no idea why. Another one of those "haven't taken the time to figure it out" things. I just wanted to let you know in case you were wondering about cooling time.

Anyway, good luck with your own cookie experiment! I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cookies are like...

I'm blogging two days in a row, I know. It's just that I haven't heard from Agent Man and the other new book is still percolating, so my writing time today is being put to good use here instead.

But I made a vow to my blueboard trench buddies (you know, those who are in the submission trenches with me on Verla Kay's message boards) that I wouldn't talk about my submission anymore, since I really have no news to speak of, so today I needed to take my mind of writing completely. That means today's post is all about COOKIES.

Yes. Cookies.


I've been craving cookies lately. Don't ask me why. I've actually been cutting back on my sugar intake because it just doesn't sound good to me anymore, but last week I suddenly wanted cookies and more cookies and even more cookies. I actually bought chocolate chips (a really big bag from Costco) so we could make cookies. I NEVER buy chocolate chips, so this is a big deal, people.

Anyway, here is a countdown of my top three:

#3: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (image by Squid! from Flickr)

I LOVE oatmeal in my cookies. In fact, I love oatmeal. Period. When I was a little girl, I used to eat plain, uncooked rolled oats like a horse (only horses don't usually eat rolled oats, but you get the picture). And when I was a newlywed, someone gave me a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that melt in your mouth. I've been using that recipe ever since.

#2 Rice Crispy Treats (image by stevendepolo from Flickr)

Okay, this really isn't a cookie, but it's still one of my faves. It's quick and easy and so so yummy. And they are perfect treats for those with gluten allergies, since the last time I checked, there was no wheat (still, I suggest you check the packaging and don't just take my word for it). I make them for my cub scouts quite often because we do have boys with wheat issues, and this is one treat I can be certain all of them can enjoy.

And #1 on my list is...

1. No-bake cookies! (image by alibree from Flickr)

I told you I love oatmeal! And these are the best because the oatmeal is still (mostly) raw. Plus I love the chocolate/peanut butter flavor almost as much as I love oatmeal. This is heaven on a tray right here.

Anyway, I love rotating through these three, but I also love trying different cookies. What are your favorites? Do you know of a cookie that is better than my favorites?

(So, there's my post all about cookies. Sorry it's not book-related, but I'm sure there could be a lesson about books or writing hidden in there somewhere, if you dig deep enough.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mixed-Up Monday

I have a few random things to share today. Hence the mixed-up reference. This post has nothing to do with my group blog. I just wanted to make that clear. (Though you are welcome to see that blog in all its awesomeness here, I'm just sayin'.)

1. I've graduated to pictures! See?! Now my entries should be all pretty-like. (BTW, this image is by PunkJr from Flickr.)

Photo from Flickr by PunkJr

Doesn't this pic say it all? Ha ha ha!

2. I haven't said anything yet (not sure why), but I have finished the revisions on my WIP and have shipped it off to my agent for some feedback. I know it still needs a lot of work, but hopefully the characters are acting like they should and the story itself makes sense. I've put it aside until I hear from Agent Man, because I needed some time away from it.

3. I have been spending some time doing some serious thinking about my next book. No, not the sequel-to-the-WIP next book (which I'm supposed to be thinking about), but a brand-new idea book. Well, that's not exactly true. It's the humorous book of mine I talked about in my writing humor for kids entry I wrote a million years ago. I wrote part of it for NaNoWriMo a million and half years ago, and then revised that part and added some more word count with a different character as the MC. I now want to revise it again and change the POV (and the MC once more, too), and actually finish the draft. I thought I had finally settled on who should be the main character, but his POV isn't working. So now I'm thinking of going in a completely different direction and adding a new character as the narrator. It would add depth to the book, but it will also add a serious side to a book that is supposed to be humorous. That could be a really good thing...if I can pull it off. Or it could be a really bad thing, because I'm worried the narrator's character arc will take over the story and the narrator would become the MC, which would completely change the entire mood of the story (and pretty much get rid of the humorous plot). So I'm doing some more thinking as I plot out the story in my head.

4.. I've noticed back to school supplies are in the stores. I LOVE school supplies. This is my favorite time of the year. Back to school time! (Which is funny, since we homeschool and my kids don't actually go back to school.)

5. Speaking of school...I feel a little guilty thinking about this, but there is a new charter school that just opened its doors last year near my husband's work. My younger kids have been asking if they can go to school and see what it's like. As much as I like homeschooling, I don't want to keep them home if they'd rather try a school. My oldest isn't interested, but I'm seriously considering sending the others to school this year. On one hand, the thought of only having two at home during the day (and homeschooling one, my youngest is still a toddler) sounds VERY appealing. On the other hand, I certainly feel like I'm quitting, and I'm stubborn enough that quitting isn't something I like to entertain without a very good reason. I don't know if the charter school has any openings, so it might be a moot point, but I've "applied" for my kids to at least get them on the waiting list. If they actually get a spot, we'll discuss whether or not they really want to go. We're also considering letting them try out the public school next door (literally next door). I feel better about the charter school, which follows the same type of curriculum philosophy that we do at home, but my kids want to go to the PS school so they can be with their friends. Sigh. We'll see what happens in the next month or two.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hey Thanks, City

So...remember how I mentioned that the city holds its Town Days at the park next door? little kids are outside, right now, selling water and popsicles in our driveway as the crowds walk past. Yes, it was my idea, but they are doing all the work. (Don't worry, they get all the money, too. Well, except they do have to pay for the supplies, which are less than $10 and they've already made about half that...and they just set up shop.)

Ah, it's good to live in a country where capitalism is alive and well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's All Fodder...

It's now officially summer at my house (not because the calendar says so, but because the warm weather is FINALLY here), and I am hoping to get a whole bunch of writing done. I have less time to write during the school year, since that pesky little thing called homeschooling four kids takes up so much of my time (not to mention entertaining Child #5, Sweet Pea, who is still a toddler). So I wanted to give the six or seven people who actually read this blog a heads up: I might not be checking in as often until September. I want to really focus and crank out a whole bunch of craptastic writing while I've got the relative free time.

Anyway, speaking of summer, I do like this time of year because I actually see my neighbors outside, communing with nature and smiling at everyone else in a friendly "hey, you look familiar" sort of way. It seems like I haven't seen my neighbors since last October. Though that could be because I was a wimp and stayed indoors pretty much the whole fall, winter and spring. (In my defense, it snowed early and stayed cold and wet later than usual.)

But I also love summer because it's the time for carnivals and fireworks, and both just happen to be scheduled to appear next door to my house. Our side yard shares a fence with a park the city uses for its Town Days. And this is the week scheduled for the festivities, so right now a dozen trucks are driving past my house, loaded with carnival rides in all shapes and sizes. Kids are loitering outside my house, too, because they can get a decent view of the action without getting in trouble for "going" to the park.

I swear, there couldn't be better fodder for a book than what is right outside my window right now.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More MG Awesomeness

I am delighted by all the attention the little group blog idea of mine is getting! Of course, it's not all my doing, so I can't take full credit for the awesomeness, but I am so happy it's doing as well as it is.

And today, LJ friend (and real-live friend, too) [info]denisejaden is celebrating with us. HOORAY! And she's giving away 9 MG ARCS in honor of us. She picked them up at BEA, and wanted to share the wealth. Thank you, Denise!

The ARCs she's giving away are:

THE STEPS ACROSS THE WATER by Adam Gopnik (available Sept. 14, 2010)
CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM by Jenny Han (available Jan. 4, 2011)
THE CANDYMAKERS by Wendy Mass (available Oct. 5, 2010)
HERO by NYT bestselling Mike Lupica (available Nov. 9, 2010)
THE MAGNIFICENT 12: THE CALL by Michael Grant (available Aug. 24, 2010)
MURDER AFLOAT by Jane Leslie Conly (available Oct. 5, 2010)
TUMTUM & NUTMEG: THE ROSE COTTAGE TALES by Emily Bearn (available Oct. 5, 2010)
PRESIDENT OF THE WHOLE FIFTH GRADE by Sherri Winston (available Oct. 5, 2010)
SCHOOL OF FEAR: CLASS IS NOT DISMISSED (available Sept. 14, 2010)

Check out her blog for cover images (some aren't available online anywhere else) and info on how to enter. Here's a link:

And don't forget, the 9-book giveaway at From the Mixed-Up Files is still running. Here's a link to enter:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Balancing Act (or "How To Write and Promote and Still Have a Life")

It feels like forever since I checked in here (What? It's only been a few days? Weird.) because of all the whirlwind activity on another certain blog I am a part of *cough* *cough* fromthemixedupfilesgoseetheawesomenessnow *cough*.

But I have to admit that I haven't been very sociable in person lately. My husband thinks I've left him to pursue a relationship with my computer, my kids have wondered why they must eat hot dogs AGAIN for dinner, and my neighbors think I must have some strange sun disease or lice or something.

And I hate to admit it, but my dear little WIP is languishing in a file somewhere, crying pitiably because of the lack of attention it's getting as well.

It looks like I need to give myself the Balancing Act Pep-talk again.

I figured you might want to listen in, too. Feel free to insert your own name/info where applicable:

Now, listen up, you! I know it's not easy finding time to write, promote your book/blog/website/whatever, spend time with family, and shower, but there needs to be a balance here. You don't HAVE to check your email 57 times each day. You also don't HAVE to chuck your laptop into the nearest canal. FIND A BALANCE, for crying out loud!

But you can do this! You are a smart and capable person. It just takes a little know-how, a little willpower, and a whole lot of buttered popcorn. Now get to it, you!

Wasn't that inspirational?! It usually does the trick for me.

What's that? You need a little more information? Well, I guess you did miss the very first pep-talk I gave myself, where I explained the know-how and the willpower part. (The buttered popcorn part is completely self-explanatory, imo.)

Well, here you go.


There are just a few simple steps you need to help you with your balancing act.

1. Pay attention.

I don't know about you, but I tend to run on autopilot a lot. That means I can waste an entire day on my computer and not realize I've done so. But being aware of how you spend your time is the first step to getting your life back in balance. If I pay attention to what I'm doing and how long I've been doing it, I get a feel for where I'm out of balance and what changes I need to make. More of this, less of that. Sometimes I do an official mental inventory, but usually for me it's informal impressions. You might be more list-oriented than I am, so logging one day on paper might be a good strategy for you.

2. Simply make the decision.

Being aware of how your time is spent is helpful, but it's a passive thing. Action is required for change. You know, Balancing ACT. No where have I said Balancing State of Being. Luckily, the next step simply requires you to make the decision to find that balance again. If you've been paying attention, you should have a pretty good idea what changes you need to make, so this step is pretty easy. Most people recommend you write it out. You can if you want, but that's up to you. The point here is to simply make the decision.

3. Follow through.

This is where I tend to slip up the most. Following through is really hard. Twice today, for example, I decided to turn off my computer and stop wasting time checking for comments on the blog, or messages from blog members, or an email from my agent about my manuscript submission. But did I? I'm still here, aren't I?

So you need to be on the ball. Once you decide to turn off the computer, for example, do it. Before you change your mind. But you also need a plan of what you will do instead. If not, for example, soon you'll find yourself sitting back down and flipping on the switch again (I'm guilty of that one a lot). Part of that "make the decision" step was to decide what to cut out and what to replace it with, in order to get your life back in balance.


It's a known fact that the more willpower you have, the more successful you'll be. (Okay. That's not true. I totally made that up. Sounds good, though, doesn't it?!) In all honestly, we already covered WILLPOWER in step 3 above. I just wanted to remind you that you have to follow through if you ever plan on finding that balance. Sorry. I wish it weren't so, but it is.

Now, where's that bag of buttered popcorn? I swear it was around here somewhere...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's BIG, It's AWESOME, and It's LIVE! (And There's FREE BOOKS, Too!)

(I would like to preface this with, yes, I'm posting this a little earlier than I promised. My husband, who never waits until his birthday or Christmas to open his presents, will be so proud that I'm jumping the gun a bit here. I guess he's rubbing off on me.)

(Okay, truth be told, I forgot to set the time zone on our site, and so the entry posted at midnight all by itself...on Greenwich [UTC] time. Oy. But we're rolling with it.)

I know I've been talking about a MG (for those of you not familiar with kidlit-speak, MG stands for middle-grade) group blog forever. But it's here! It's finally here!

So, without further ado, get thee hence to the most awesome site on the net today. Yeah, I am biased, and proud of it!

*cue fanfare*

And because we are so awesome , in our first post (penned by moi) we are giving away NINE middle-grade books. Yes! NINE!

But, wait! There's more!

Those NINE books are all SIGNED COPIES! (See, I told you we were awesome.) So, really, you need to go there. Now.

In fact, here's the link to the post.

Be off, fair blog readers! (That means "go check it out", for those who don't frequent the Shakespearean festivals.)

(Sigh. I'm deliriously happy right now.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Something BIG is Coming!


...remember a few months back when I said I was going to start a group blog about middle-grade books? And remember how I was flooded with requests to join?


...guess what is launching on Monday, June 7th?

Yes, in THREE DAYS, the world will be introduced to something BIG. So check back here on Monday for all the official information.

(I bet you thought I'd spill all the good stuff, like the site url. I promise I will...on Monday.)

(Yes, I am evil. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To Take Rejection Like a Pro

In case you were wondering, yes, I am a pro at getting rejections. But I'm not talking about the "Ew, I'd never date a loser like you!" kind of rejection. I'm talking about the kind of rejection that comes when you are querying agents/editors with your work.

I entered the official world of rejections way back in 2007. (I know, that was just yesterday in publishing years, but bear with me...) I sent a short, sweet poem about the autumn harvest to a children's magazine. They sent a form rejection (my writing friends and I simply call it an R) that had a checklist for reasons why they were passing. The checklist was completely blank, but there was a short, handwritten note at the bottom that basically said the the poem was nice but they had already purchased something similar.

I do remember getting that rejection. It wasn't pretty. I frowned and furrowed my eyebrows for at least a good minute.

But the real rejections came about a year later when I started querying agents. My novel was finished and (nearly) polished, but I went through rejection after rejection as each agent sent that dreaded R.

Rejection is something every writer has to deal with at one point or another. I'm not going to list here all those bestselling authors who got rejected a million times before they became super famous. You've all heard the stories. But, if you're like me, hearing someone else's eventual success really doesn't help when you are wallowing in your own rejection self-pity. In fact, sometimes it makes you want to take their uber-successful book (which, of course, is on your bookcase because you stood in line for three hours with 40 million other fans so you could purchase it at midnight on the day it came out) and chuck it at the wall.

So, how do you deal with rejection? I'm sure it's different for everyone, since we all have different personalities and ways of coping. But here are a few thoughts I have on the subject:

1) It's nothing personal.

The fact is, the publishing industry takes something that is very personal--a writer's words (and, by extension, thoughts and feelings as well)--and brings it into the very non-personal business world. For a publishing house, the bottom line does matter. For an agent, selling a client's book is important. That doesn't mean they aren't passionate about their work, but it does mean that they can't sign every client or buy every manuscript they see. It's nothing personal, it's just business.

I know it's harsh to hear those words when you've worked on something so hard for so long, but it helps to remember that they aren't rejecting YOU. It truly is nothing personal. Remember that.

2) It'll only hurt for a little bit.

Rejections hurt. Some more than others. But someone wiser than most once said that time heals all wounds. Give yourself some time to grieve. Go ahead and cry or spit or hang a photo of the agent/editor on your oft-used dart board. And, soon enough, you'll get over it.

(NOTE: I would like to make it perfectly clear that it is not okay to throw darts at real agents/editors. And I wouldn't make it a well-known fact that you're throwing darts at photos of these people, either. The publishing biz is a small world, after all. The other agents/editors might not want to work with you if they knew their industry peers' mugs are hanging up all over your house. That borders on creepy, IMO.)

3) It's a subjective world out there.

I once took an art appreciation/art history class in college. I found that I gravitated toward the landscape painters such as Thomas Cole, because it amazed me that they could paint something as magnificent as an entire mountain, for example, but in such minute detail that it looked nearly like a photograph. And I was surprised when others in the class said how much they hated those same paintings, because they did look like photographs and, therefore, weren't imaginative enough. They liked the Cubism paintings by Picasso instead.

I've found that manuscripts are exactly the same. Some people love one style and hate another. So don't despair when those rejections come in. That agent/editor may be looking for a Picasso when you might be a Thomas Cole. It doesn't mean you can't paint--um, I mean write--it just means you haven't found the right audience yet.

4) Learn to keep it all in perspective.

Why are you writing, anyway? I suspect most of you write because you have to. You can't imagine not writing. It's a part of who you are. You couldn't stop writing even if you wanted to, which you don't.

Does a rejection from an agent/editor change that? Certainly not, I say. You will always keep writing because you are a writer, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Besides, you need some great rejection stories for later, when you are a super-successful author. So be grateful. No one likes to hear those "Oh, I've never been rejected!" stories. They are soooo boring. You are so lucky you aren't one of those people. Trust me on this.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yes, I'm Technologically Impaired...

I was having a little trouble on my LiveJournal journal today. I'm creating a website on WordPress, and want to incorporate my blog into it as well. (Don't worry, fellow Blogger buddies, I still plan on crossposting and keeping up on comments here as well). And so I tried to import my LJ blog to WP (because it does have a few extra posts than this blog), and of course I forgot that I had already activated the WP crossposter as a test and hadn't deactivated it. Oops. So I was caught in an endless cycle of importing crossposted entries and had to clean up my own mess once I figured out what I had done. It was not pretty.

I really hate technology some days.

I hope I didn't affect too many of my LJ buddies with my little oops. I'm sure it won't be the last, unfortunately. Sigh. But I'm glad they're hanging in there with me as I click buttons first and ask questions later.

BTW, be watching for the official website announcement. It's coming soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Can Do It! YAY YOU!

I know there is someone out there reading this who is having a hard day.

So today I'm cheering you on. Why? Well, I just feel ridiculously happy for no reason at all. In fact, I even got a rejection letter from an editor today, and I actually wanted to hug it! (It was a nice R, which probably helped.)

Yes, today is all about encouraging you. Having a hard time with your WIP? Getting a whole bunch of form Rs in your inbox? Dealing with sick kids, ornery coworkers, attack dogs?

Don't worry. You'll make it through! You can do it! YAY YOU!

Seriously, everyone has bad days. And everyone needs some encouragement. And if you need some today, I'm happy to help. Now you can get back out there and know someone's cheering you on.

So, one more time...


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why, Yes, I Am a Butcher, and You Can Be One, Too (or Thoughts on Revising)

Since I just finished a somewhat productive butchering session on my current WIP, I thought today would be a great time to share some of my thoughts on revising.

Thought #1: Don't be afraid to get your hands bloody (er, dirty, I mean).

When I first started writing, I never spent much time rewriting. Instead, I was a Reworder. You know what I'm talking about. Sure, I moved sentences (and even paragraphs) around, but I was more concerned about grammar than I was the overarching story or the characterization (or pretty much anything else, come to think of it).

But I've learned a few things in the last, oh, decade or so that I've been writing. And I've learned that a quick polish won't always cure your story problems. Don't be afraid to really dig in and REWRITE. The rewording can come later.

Thought #2: There isn't a right or wrong way to slaughter your darling (um, I mean, revise your story).

I happen to love printing out a copy of my book and revising on paper. There's something about the words on paper that does something for my brain (and I dearly love colored pens, which hardly ever get to come out and play anymore). I don't do it for every revision, but I do try to have a hard copy to reference when I'm working on a manuscript.

And sometimes I like to work on an entire chapter and get it polished before moving on to the next chapter. Other times I choose one major point (such as changing a character's personality) and focus only on that while ignoring any other changes I might need to make.

The point is, it doesn't matter how you revise, as long as you find the way that works best for you. Go ahead and research ways other writers revise, but don't think that there is only one way to do it right. There isn't. Trust me on this.

Thought #3: Be prepared for the pile of remains.

Yes, you will cut things from your story. And, yes, they may be your favorite parts. Wait, don't hyperventilate on me! Take a minute and breathe.

Just breathe.

You still with me? Good. Now, remember, cutting things from your story is a GOOD thing. I promise. In my opinion, your job as a writer is to make a story flow so easily that nothing pulls the reader out of it. And nine times out of ten, those favorite parts of yours may sparkle and shine a little too much. They draw attention to themselves. They make people stop and savor the beauty of the sentence. And unless your entire book is literary in nature, this might not be the effect you were going for. Besides, unless your readers are looking for a literary book, they may be blinded and trip over those shiny parts, and you certainly don't want people stumbling through your book.

On the other hand, you will cut parts that are utter poo. And that's a good thing, too. A REALLY GOOD thing, actually.

Thought #4: Save those remains, since they might be useful later.

There are many ways to do this, but here's my method: when I start a major revision, I save a new copy of my manuscript. All revision changes are then made on the new copy, and my original version is left intact. I can't tell you how many times I've patted myself on the back for keeping an old copy of the manuscript so I can go back to an older version that worked better than a newer one. (In case you were wondering, I work in one Word file for each manuscript. I know plenty of people out there who like to work in scenes or chapters, but I like having everything in one place. I should also mention that my books are very short [20k or so], so this may not work if I ever write something really really long.)

In addition, you might find that an old scene that didn't fit your story might just be the spark for an entirely new novel. Or all those sparkly sentences can be put to good use three novels down the road when one of your characters is an old sage who just happens to make absolutely no sense to anybody but himself. So save those remains and hopefully someday you'll recycle them into a whole new story you can butcher.

Thought #5: Enjoy yourself.

Yes, butchering a story is a lot of work. But it can be fun to see the story emerge from your reeking pile of...I mean, your manuscript. So enjoy yourself. And if you aren't, you're probably in the wrong business. There are plenty of other ways you could spend your days.

It's not a complete list, but those are the thoughts I had today. But since I know there are many more great ideas floating around out there, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. As always, I love hearing from my readers. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kidlit People are Cool

Yes, they are. I can't speak for the adult side of things, though I suspect there are cool people there, too. But kidlit people are awesome.

I love it when I can ask a simple question about a writing-related activity and soon be carrying on a conversation with an award-winning author via email. Where else do you not only get to meet your idols but hang out with them, too?!

Man, I love my job.

Friday, April 30, 2010

On Self-Promotion

There's been a whole lot of talk the last few years about what authors need to do to promote themselves.

Well, I am now going to weigh in on this topic. I know, you readers have been DYING to hear my opinion on the subject, and you can't believe your luck. Quite honestly I'm surprised that you all have hung around reading my snoozapalooza posts long enough to hear my opinion on the subject. But now you're dearest wish is about to be fulfilled.

You are so welcome. Glad I could oblige.

I've been giving this a lot of thought. You see, I've had a lot of time on my hands as I wait to actually sell a book. So I figured I'd get an early start on the self-promotion thing and see what happens.

Well, obviously, not much. Because one thing I have learned is that it's a whole lot easier to self-promote if you have something you're promoting. You know, like a published book you've written.

But I have learned a few things that I do think are important to know. They are (in no particular order):

1. It's more important to enjoy yourself than it is to promote yourself.

Yes, I do believe this. I will let you in on a little secret: I did start this blog because I wanted to get my name out there into the world. Name recognition can be a good thing. However, I also started this blog because I genuinely like to blog. It's kinda like writing those journals I used to write when I was a teenager. (And I wrote a LOT of those. Seriously, I think I filled at least 7 or 8 in about four or five years.) And I really like the freedom of writing something spontaneously, with only a few minor edits as I go. Sometimes the constant revision process really gets to me, and this blog is a place where I can feel a little more free. (I am well aware that it is probably not a good idea to be so spontaneous on a blog, but I doubt I'll be changing that anytime soon. I'm just not very good at plotting things out beforehand. It's the process of making it up as I go along that excites me the most.)

Anyway, through that last paragraph of ramble-y randomness, I was trying to point out how much I ENJOY doing what I'm doing. I genuinely enjoy my silly tweets about my imaginary twitter empire, which is currently locked in a struggle of monumental proportions against another empire who will remain nameless as to not give that empire any leverage with which to thwart me (just check out my tweets to see this struggle in all its glory). I genuinely love reading comments from the few people who actually comment on my FB or blog. I love Verla's message boards where I hang out waaaaaay too much and lament about the weather. (Do you know it has snowed at my house this week? Seriously, what is up with the weather?)

But I also love to talk on the phone. Or hang out in person and chat with someone for hours. I like knowing things and being involved in projects. I like being in the middle of things.

So if I didn't genuinely enjoy social networking, I could self-promote until I'm blue in the face but it probably wouldn't do me any good. Because people can spot a fake a mile away. And if you aren't enjoying yourself, people will know. And they won't want to hang around someone who is such a drag. I'm just sayin'...

2. If you're going to self-promote, the best thing you can do is be approachable.

What do I mean about being approachable? Well, for one, actually reply to comments from your readers. I try to reply to every comment I get (which, sadly enough, is really easy to do since I usually have less than a dozen comments to worry about). I love it when someone takes the time to reply to my comments. I'm betting my readers feel the same way, so I want to make sure to encourage them. Plus I really really love keeping the conversation going, so it's a no-brainer for me.

But being approachable also means leaving your little blog bubble and visiting others'. I don't do it as much as I should, but it's so sad to find a blog post that I've really enjoyed and notice that there has been ZERO comments on it. Don't you think that blogger would love to know how great his/her blog entry was, or how it made me think in a new way about something, or just made me laugh? So comment widely and spread the wealth. I firmly believe that a single blog commenter can change the world for good. Plus it's a great way to enlarge your circle of "friends" while doing something enjoyable. (Well, I find it enjoyable, anyway.)

3. Whatever you do, it's enough.

I know. You're scratching your head over that one. You usually hear "there's always more you can be doing." Well, I disagree. Kinda. Well, not really. Let me explain.

Sure, there is always something more you can do to promote yourself. ALWAYS. But does that mean you should do it?

Absolutely not.

I know so many authors who have done so much to promote themselves that they've practically collapsed from exhaustion. And not a bit of it made any difference to their books' bottom lines. And I've known other authors who've done nothing and have had runaway success. I've also known some who've done a lot and it's made a huge difference in their success as authors. And I've known some who've done nothing and have had nothing happen in return.

So what do I really mean? What I'm trying to say is that you should do what you think you can. And if you do, it'll be enough. Don't feel guilty that you aren't doing more.

Do what you can. It'll be enough.

Repeat with me.

Do what you can. It'll be enough.

4. The best promotion is word of mouth.

So give those mouths something to talk about. Write the BEST BOOK you can, and then get to work on the next BEST BOOK you can write. Writing good books over and over again is the best way to promote yourself.

And if you happen to mention my blog to a friend, I won't mind. Because word of mouth really is the best way to spread the word.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Much Is Too Much?

As you all probably know by now (especially if you actually read my posts), I have been hard at work with about 25 other middle grade writers creating a group blog about MG books.

We are in the final stages and we are getting things ready for our official launch (I'm still not certain of the date, but I'll announce here as soon as I know), and one of the jobs I'm doing is getting our posting schedule figured out.

So, I was wondering what people thought about how often a blog is updated. Do you like to see new content every day? Every other day? Once a week? Once a month?

How many posts per week or month do you think is too much?

Or can there ever be too much of a good thing?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Writing Life: Homeschool-Style

I don't usually write much about my personal life, because...well, it's personal. But I encounter many people who, when hearing how many kids I have ("Five? That's a lot!") and that I homeschool them ("Wow! You must be really busy!"), wonder how I get any writing done ("Do you ever sleep?").

So I wanted to put a few myths to rest.

MYTH #1--Having five kids is a lot of children.

Baloney. Sure, it makes for a hectic house, but it's an average-size family if you ask me. Of course, both my parents came from larger families (7 kids in my mom's family and 8 in my dad's), and I had a friend in high school who was the oldest of 12. Now THAT is a lot of children in one house. Five is peanuts compared to twelve.

MYTH #2--Homeschooling that many kids is impossible.

Baloney. Sure, it's hard work and I don't always succeed (in fact, I hold the self-imposed title of Worst Homeschooling Parent Ever), but my kids manage to learn things even when I drop the ball. And, to my utter delight, every adult that meets them comments on how refreshing it is to see polite but focused kids. My kids speak with respect, answer questions thoughtfully, and don't see the point in "following the crowd." They are different, but in a good way.

MYTH #3--You can't homeschool your kids and write, too.

Double baloney. Sure, I don't get a lot done with my kids at home 24/7, but I can still get some writing done. I may not be in a position to write all day, and it may take me longer than most to finish a book, but it's no different than a writer who works full-time out of the home. And the added bonus is that when I'm not writing, I'm learning alongside my kids. I'm soaking in knowledge that I can turn around and use in my manuscripts.

(The down side: I have to fake it when I write about school settings. But luckily I do remember my own PS [pubic school] days and I am surrounded by friends and family who can fill me in on the details about today's PS system. And it must be working, since the book my agent has on submission is set in an elementary school. It was the manuscript I used to get his attention, in fact.)

The hardest thing about writing and homeschooling is learning to balance the two worlds. I'll admit that some days I wish I could ship the kids off to school so I could have six hours to myself. And other days I'm ready to set aside the writing so I can focus on being a better homeschooling mom. But I've learned that I'm not happy if I can't be doing both. The writing helps refill my creative well, and gives me the energy to keep going in our homeschool. And the homeschool gives me satisfaction I couldn't get any other way (plus I feel less guilty about spending so much time writing when I know most of my day is spent in the service of someone[s] other than myself). (That Mom Guilt is something else, isn't it?)

I can't say whether or not my life will always be this way. My oldest is creeping ever closer to the junior high years, and the thought of high school at home is a little terrifying at this point. But I'm also really grateful for the opportunity to raise my kids the way I want to raise them, teach them the way I want them to be taught, and to watch them grow into the amazing adults I know they will become someday.

And I get to write about it, too. What more could you want in life? (Besides a book contract, that is.) (Hint, hint, editor people.) My books might not be edgy and dark, but they are how I want the world to be; happy and fun, full of life and good. A good life is what I have, and a good life is what I want to share with the world. What's wrong with that?

Nothing, I say. Absolutely nothing.