Finding a Few Good Books (Oh! And Coloring Pages!)

If you’re writing for children or teens, I know you’re reading lots and lots of books written for children and teens, right? But sometimes, you want to take a little book vacation, so to speak. And I’ve got the perfect book for you!

My author friend, Amanda Lee/Gayle Trent, is on a blog tour right now with her latest release The Quick and the Thread. She stopped over at the Hall of Fame with this delightfully cozy embroidery mystery. And now I’m giving it away. So scoot over there-right now-and comment for a chance to win this fun read!

Back sew soon? (I’m sorry. I’ve been making really horrible puns like that since The Quick and the Thread showed up.) Anyway, I’ve got another book for you, one that you can sink your teeth into when you return from your reading vacation.

It’s Harold Underdown’s latest edition of The Complete Idiots’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. I have an older edition of this swell book, but I’ve heard (via Twitter) that Harold’s added TONS of new and improved information. Southern Breezer, Tina Nichols Coury, interviewed him for her Publishing Tip of the Day here, where you can hear straight from the Harold’s mouth, a bit of fine information.

Oh! And the coloring pages! Elizabeth Dulemba offers coloring pages at her blog. They’re always fun and always free! Elizabeth also offers TONS of great information for illustrators, so if that’s your thing, you’ll want to follow her.

Now, as I have already read The Quick and the Thread, I should probably get back to work!

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.

Finding a Couple Contests for Children’s Writers

Sure, you can find a ton of poetry contests, or essay contests, even novel contests. But for that sparkly children’s story? Not so much. But today, wheee! I found two. Pick one or try both. What have you got to lose? Um, besides the entry fee. (Sorry.)

The Carteret’s 19th Annual Writing Contest has a category for children and a deadline of March 9th. Yes, there’s an entry fee, but you also have a chance of winning three cash prizes. Check out the site here for more details.

The Annual Writers-Editors International Writing Competition also has a children’s category. You can send fiction or non-fiction, too.  Along with your entry fee. But again, you have a chance to win multiple cash awards. If you send your winning words in by the March 15th deadline. Check out details here.

And while we’re on the subject of contests, I’ll add my own little Wheee! I found my name here (at Georgia McBride’s blog). And while (Hmmm. Didn’t I just say that?) I haven’t won the Big Prize, I still feel pretty darn good about winning a wee weekly prize. Not that Merlin’s Harp is a wee prize. Not at all. But the contest is still running, and there are quite a few weekly winners. And the top winners go on to bigger and better and…okay, here’s the bottom line. You still have a few days left to send in your swell YA and win in this YA contest. (And you might want to read Georgia’s post with Dan Ehrenhaft, the Acquisitions Editor at Sourcebooks Fire. It’s a winner, too!)

A Writer’s Conference Keeper (or Two)

Sometimes, I attend writer’s conferences for the insider info, sometimes for the networking, and sometimes, I just need to be around writers. But even if I’m attending one of those “Oh, you feel that way, too!” conferences, I’ll still get a good keeper here and there.

So, I checked my notes from the weekend “How lovely to meet like-minded writers!” conference and pulled out a keeper or two:

From Donny Seagraves, author of Gone From These Woods , I found a few books that I should keep on my shelf: The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman (I’d heard of this gem before, but I always forget names of books when I get home. Donny gave us handouts with all the book info. Thank goodness.) and Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise, by Darcy Pattison (This is more like a workbook, and it’s about the rewriting process. Which is what writing is really all about. Yes, it is.)

From Michelle Poploff, of Random House Children’s Books, I found out that editors really can tell from the first page if a book’s a keeper. Because she read Donny Seagreave’s first page at a conference, and well, the rest is history. (That was kinda clever, considering Donny’s book is historical fiction!) Moral of that story: Make that first page shine.

From Evelyn Coleman, a woman after my own “pay me and I’ll write” heart, I found this keeper: Look at popular children’s books TODAY. The classics are great, but children’s writing today must start with a bang and grab the reader immediately. No time for dilly-dallying about with sweet descriptions of the sun and the moon and the stars. Oh, no. Jump into that story and run with it!

I’m sure there were other conference keepers, and if I get the chance, I’ll add some more words of wisdom from my notes. But right now, I’ve got some reading…and shining to do!