Cathy-on-a-Stick Pops Up at Springmingle (And Runs Amok)

Usually, I go to writer’s conferences and walk halfway around a room to avoid the tables with all the books.

I sit on my hands, leave my wallet at home, eschew adult beverages–well, there are all kinds of tricks I use to keep from buying more books. But Cathy-on-a-Stick has a mind of her own. It’s not much a mind, and rather flat, but still. She would keep heading to the book table at Springmingle, the SCBWI Southern Breeze conference this past weekend. Every time a speaker finished, I felt this…this tug. And before I knew it, I had a stack of books.

2014-03-29 05.39.53Agent and author Ammi-Joan Pacquette had all these books about ghosts and they were picture books and middle grade (which come on, ghosts AND PB’s and Middle Grade? I was doomed from the start). Plus Joan was so darn sincere and engaging in her talk. She called to me–so I bought one of her books.

2014-03-29 05.32.26And then Vicky Alvear Shecter went on and on about Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead. She sucked me in with her humor and expertise and Anubis tidbits. Who knew the Land of the Dead could be so darn entertaining? So before I knew it, Cathy-on-a-Stick was in the line for an autograph.

2014-03-29 05.48.12Elizabeth Dulemba was nearby, explaining that her muse had grabbed her in North Georgia and wouldn’t let go till she told the story in A Bird on Water Street. You cannot argue with the muse. And apparently, you cannot argue with Cathy-on-a-Stick either. There she was again, stick-deep in Elizabeth’s book.

2014-03-29 05.53.44I was just about to make a dash for it when, out of the corner of my eye, I spied Ruth Sanderson’s books! A whole pile of books with the most gorgeous covers ever, of woods and castles and princesses and–oh. My. Word. Fairy tales. And stained glass windows of saints. Stick a fork in me, I was done (for).

2014-03-29 05.56.52Wait, I take that back. I was not quite done. Janice Hardy’s book, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, was calling my name. I tried to resist, I really did. But Cathy-on-a-Stick whispered in my ear, “Really? You think you can afford to pass on this gem of writing craft?”


2014-03-29 05.36.37And as I glanced over at Cheryl Klein (Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, a Scholastic imprint), I thought how much her book, Second Sight, An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, had helped me on my writing journey. I’d won her book three years ago, so at least I didn’t have to buy that book at the writer’s conference, too.

But I’m pretty sure she and Cathy-on-a-Stick were up to something. I’m kinda afraid to check my credit card bill.



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 It’s That Time of Year Again (Or What? The Highlights Contest Already???)

As you may recall when I wrote about my mission to acquire Cheryl Klein’s SECOND SIGHT, I am not one to give up easily. And so once again, I shall be rolling up my sleeves, flexing the brain, and looking for an unusual newspaper headline for my Highlights Fiction Contest story.

Yep, it’s that time of year again when hope springs eternal and visions of dollars dance in my head as I write up a scathingly brilliant kiddie story of 750 words or less (475 words if I think up something brilliant for the younger readers of Highlights). Although, I’m a little flummoxed at the moment by this part:


A funny story inspired by an unusual newspaper headline.

I mean, I can do funny, and I read all kinds of newspapers. But I may have to do some digging to come up with an unusual newspaper headline to write this story and send by January 31.

Not that I’m deterred. On the contrary. ‘Cause you know what? I finally won SECOND SIGHT. And Highlights Fiction Contest? You’re next.

Finding Great Writer’s Advice (and a Giveaway, too!)

I am a woman on a mission.

If you read my Finding Something Friday post over at the Hall of Fame last week, you might think the mission is to win Cheryl Klein’s Second Sight. But it’s so much more than that.

I want to write the best darn novel I can write.  So I read and read and read some more. I read the best darn novels I can find out there in the children’s lit world. I read books on writing craft. I read blogs, too, especially the ones filled with great writing advice. Which brings me to today’s darn good writing advice

Zip over to Cheryl Klein’s blog and read her last three posts on Behind the Book: Three Things Writers can learn from Liar’s Moon. You don’t have much time left for the giveaway, but I hope you can find the time to read her examples from Behind the Book. And maybe you’ll have the time to read Star-Crossed and Liar’s Moon by Elizabeth Bunce.

Because if you want to write the best darn novel, you’ll need to know what a darn good novel is, right? (Over and out!)

What I Saw and How I Learned (At Springmingle!)

So, remember a post or two back when I asked about SCBWI?

Several people commented about the SCBWI conferences and the value thereof. And this is the post in which I’ll share my very own personal observations and such about the conference I just attended. To wit, Springmingle ’10, sponsored by Southern Breeze.  (You know, that sounds awfully impressive. And I’m not gonna lie. Springmingle ’10 kinda was.)

From keynote speaker and prolific author, Jane Yolen, I learned that the truth about children’s publishing may not always be rainbows and puppy dogs, but it’s worth enduring. I found that she (thankfully) has a great sense of humor (see Cathy-on-a-Stick’s latest adventure). And I’ll keep her wonderful comment from my First Page critique for a rainy, rejection day. (Okay, you might as well know that I’ve written her comment down and it’s posted over my computer. Because c’mon,  it’s Jane Yolen.) I put one of Jane’s recently released books on my “To Buy List”: My Father Knows the Names of Things because when Jane read it, I got a little flekempt.

From Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, I learned alot about revising and character development.  And I also learned that when speakers give handouts,  I remember more. Here’s a revision technique straight from the handout that’s helpful for any writer: Cut as many adverbs, telling uses of the word “feel” or “felt,” and non-“said” dialogue tags as you possibly can. “I felt like I learned something there,” I whined pitifully.

Josh Adams, agent, from Adams Literary Agency, filled us in on the agent side of children’s publishing, sharing lots of agent secrets. I learned that yeah, you need an agent. And that yeah, it’s not easy.  I could share those tips ’cause they’re not so secret.

From my manuscript critique, I learned that Jessica Alexander (from Peachtree Publishers) made a most excellent point about my main character.  I also learned that  a major rewrite is now in my immediate future.

From Meredith Mundy, senior editor at Sterling Publishers, I learned that when you (and by you, I really mean me) win the opportunity to sit next to someone (and by someone, I mean Meredith)  in the children’s writing business, you can’t get any luckier (and by luckier, I mean Meredith was gracious and generous and put up with a lot from, um, me) than Meredith Mundy. Oh, and I also learned from Meredith that Sterling is always looking for humor. (Wheee!)

And finally, I learned that you really can’t beat  SCBWI for writer value. Not to mention that whole “making new friends” value.