The Letter A Stands For Agent! Artsyletters! And Aw, Shucks!

So here I am, home again, home again, jiggity jig. And I will tell you all about the Rutgers One-Plus-One Conference…er, tomorrow. But today is for the Letter A (she wrote, showing off her mad rhyming skills).

Agent Courtney shared “Lies Writers Tell Themselves” from Alexander Chee, and it’s absolutely worth dashing over there for a read. And then you must leave a comment for Agent Courtney as she will do a critique contest later in the month if she gets 25 comments. And not like certain folks (Ahem) who might leave a half dozen comments to boost the count (because I already tried that and she didn’t seem too keen on the idea).

Artsyletters–you remember Robyn Hood Black’s very cool new venture?–is still offering the October discount. Don’t forget that you can order anything and get a 15% discount as long as you include CATHY2012 at the checkout. I hope she still has the artsyletter available that I want. Although to be honest, there are lots of artsyletters I like. So a person (say like the Beneficent Mr. Hall) who was searching for a birthday gift for an October birthday girl (say like Cathy C. Hall), could certainly find a delightful present.

Aw, shucks, y’all, it was nothing. (My story, The Chocolate Cake Bait, was over at knowonder! in September. Somehow, I missed the Auspicious debut, but I wanted to give a shout out to knowonder! because they offer stories every day, and maybe you know a couple little readers who might enjoy The Chocolate Cake Bait as well as lots of other fun tales. And I also wanted to let you, the Authors, know that they are closed for submissions now in order to catch up, but will be open again in January. Which gives you plenty of time to write an Awesome story.)

I think that’s about it, except to say…Ahhhh. It’s good to be home again.


Words of Wisdom (From The Younger But Wiser)

Lots of years ago, after a particularly bad day at school, one of the Junior Halls said to me, “Mom, I know I have a lot to learn, but why do I always have to learn it the hard way?”

I think when we learn a lesson the hard way, it tends to stick in our brains. But sometimes, we get to bypass the really crappy teachable moments because someone else has learned the hard way and is willing to share the lesson.  And so I present these two lovely folks who had sparkling blog posts this week.

Agent Rachelle Gardner (who has an awesome blog, packed with awesome information) shares her words of wisdom for those just dying to get published. Specifically, she shares that the dream of being published may be a teensy bit different from the reality. Read, learn,  and don’t say you weren’t warned.

Editor Cheryl Klein (who also has an awesome blog) shares her words of wisdom all the time. But in this particular post, she shares words of wisdom from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park,  on writing, and particularly on plotting. She’s posted these guys’ video on the discussion and even tells us where to listen and learn. Now, frankly, if Cheryl Klein is going to go to all that trouble, I’m going to pay attention.

Because it’s getting a bit old, having to learn all my lessons the hard way. Today, I’m taking the short cut (even if tomorrow, it all falls out of my brain.)

Finding Keepers at an SCBWI Conference

Last weekend, I attended Wik 2011, which is the SCBWI Southern Breeze’s fall conference in the Birmingham area.

You know what? That’s WAY too boring a beginning for the weekend I had. Let’s start again, shall we?

I will never be the same writer again after attending the SCBWI Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference! Thanks to all the speakers, I learned a heckuva lot about writing that I didn’t know before. Thanks to all the attendees, I found fun and games around coffee pots and cookies, down hallways and in elevators, sitting in high school classrooms and scrunched up in the backseat of a car. I can’t really share the fun and games (without incriminating certain friends),  but I can give you a glimpse into who (I know it should be “whom” but that sounds kinda stuffy, doesn’t it?) I met and what I learned.

From funny author, Lisa Yee, I learned to invest in my writer self. Now, honestly, I attend conferences and pay for critiques and keep up my dues in professional organizations. But every year, I lust over the Highlights Foundation workshops. I read the emails and visit the website and imagine myself hanging out with gifted writers and making small talk in the woods. But I’m done with imagining. It’s time to believe in my writing and go! (Hmmm…Lisa did not explain how I was to get over my fear of flying. )

From (also funny) SCBWI co-founder, Lin Oliver, I learned to do the work. I thought I was doing the work, but I can see now that I have more work to do. And no whining about it. She had lots of other lessons, but I think if you do the work, the other lessons will come along nicely.

From lovely agent, Linda Pratt, I learned to support my job of writing (marketing is important!), but to protect the flow of my work. Sheesh. It’s like she’d been hanging out in my office, watching me piddle around on Twitter all morning and never…quite…get…to my manuscript in progress.

From witty Chronicle editor, Melissa Manlove, I learned about using multiple hooks. I’ve put aside several picture book manuscripts, but I may give them a dust off and try, try again. Oh! And here’s something else she mentioned: Don’t put something gross in the middle of your manuscript. It seems like that would be fine, considering some of the gross titles and picture books out there, but if you’re writing a sweet bedtime story and throw in HUGE boogers, right in the middle of it all, you could pull the reader out of the story–and probably beddie-bye dreams, too.

From petite Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, Alexandra Cooper, I learned to do your homework.  Go to Amazon and see what books are out there that might be similar to yours, and visit libraries and bookstores to check out the placement of books (popular books are front and center!) I also learned that the book you’ve written (and by “you”, I really mean “me”) may never make it into the marketplace if the marketplace is saturated with the subject.

I’m sure you can see now how after attending that conference, I’ll never be the same writer again. And you know what? I’m thinking that’s probably a good thing.