Look Who I Found! (And What She Wrote!)

Lisa tyre bookOne of my favorite things about being a member of the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI is meeting all the wonderful authors who live right down the road from me. Of course, in the South, right down the road might be miles and miles away, but us Breezers always seem to have an immediate connection wherever we are.

That’s the way it was when I met Lisa Lewis Tyre, and when her first book came out this month—LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS—I had to invite her to come and share this delightful middle grade novel as well as her journey.

Lisa, I just loved these characters! From 12-year-old Lou to her grandmother to football star, Isaac, I was drawn in by their deep authenticity. How many relatives think they’re in your book? (And come on, we won’t tell anyone. How many actually are?)

Ha! There are several, shall we say, similarities between characters in the book and family members. Lou loves UT like a dear cousin, and my father does actually own a dump truck (or two), but all of the characters are works of fiction, despite what my family thinks.

Your book skillfully weaves a Civil War mystery, the Underground Railroad, and modern day racism into a page-turning debut. Tell us a little about your research for LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS.

Thanks so much. I spent a lot of time on Civil War websites, reading. I wanted to make sure that the diary entries matched what was actually happening. I bought a Civil War diary off of Ebay, (best $6.00 dollars I ever spent) and got a lot of information from the TN.gov website. I haven’t received any angry emails from historians saying I got something wrong so far. Fingers crossed!

God, church, the bible—I really liked the way you worked this spiritual element throughout Lou’s story without being heavy-handed. We don’t often see religion in our mainstream books and I’m wondering if there was ever any question about adding religion?

I am happy to say, not once! The religious aspect was important to me for a couple of reasons. One, I felt like it was realistic. Small, Southern towns are full of churches and I would expect Lou to either go, or wonder why her family didn’t. Secondly, because the story takes place over the summer, it gave me a way for the kids to meet/plan.

lisa_tyre_webAnd what about your publishing journey? When did you start writing and how did you end up at Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six, and I’ve written short stories off and on for years. About six years ago, I decided that if I didn’t really give it my all, it would be my one regret. So I finished REBELS, and started looking for an agent. After about a month of querying, where I sent out 5 or so a week, I found my agent, Susan Hawk. (Side note: LOVE her.) Susan sent the book out on submission and we landed, happily, ecstatically, and euphorically with Nancy Paulsen.

So now is the time I ask you to share your writing wisdom and/or gems. What’s the best advice you can give to my readers? And what’s the one thing you will never do again?

One, Get serious. Writing may be a dream, but you have to treat it like work. And secondly, Don’t give up. It’s hard in the beginning to believe it will happen, but I’m proof that it does. If the silliest girl that ever came out of Zollicoffer, TN can do it, anyone can.

The one thing I will never do is disparage another writer. Not every book is my cup of tea, but my hat is off to anyone that sits down and finishes a manuscript.

Amen to that, Lisa! And thanks so much for stopping by!

Honestly, if you have middle grade readers at your house (or in your classrooms), they’re going to zip through LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS. The history and mystery hooked me from the get-go, as Lou’s grandmother might say, and I can’t wait to see what Lisa Lewis Tyre comes up with next! (And maybe she’ll give us a sneak peek this weekend at wik’15, my SCBWI region’s fall writer’s conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Hope to see lots of friends there!)

Oh! Wait a second, y’all! I have an ARC (that’s an Advanced Reader’s Copy) of LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS and I’ll give it away to one of my lucky (and US only, please) readers. All you have to do is…let’s see. One of the things I LOVED in Lisa’s book was her use of Southern expressions. So leave an expression–it doesn’t have to be Southern but it does have to be PG–in the comments and I’ll enter your name in the giveaway. Then I’ll draw a name next week when I get back from conferencin’. (See what I did there? I took a noun and made it a verb. That’s a Southern thing, y’all.)

An SCBWI Two Things Tuesday

scbwi-logoI love Two Things Tuesday–they always remind me of the Doublemint commercials: A double pleasure’s waiting for you!

So Thing One, the SCBWI Southern Breeze conference, coming March 13th-15th in Decatur, Georgia. It’s our Springmingle event and we always have a great time, with a great slate of kidlit professionals. Take a look at the brochure to see the wonderful folks who’ll be presenting and speaking this year. (There’s still time to register!) And new this year is a portfolio reception, book launch and book signing on Friday evening.

We’ve always had all of these events, actually, but we’re doing things a little differently this time around. We’ve invited industry professionals, like librarians and book sellers, reading teachers and literacy advocates to attend the Friday evening activities. It’ll be a fun opportunity to get to know our Southern Breeze authors, both the new ones who’re launching books, and the…er, ones who’ve been around for a while. If you’re attending Springmingle, you’re invited, too. And if you’re one of those kidlit professionals in my neighborhood, and want an invite, please let me know!

But if you’re not in my neighborhood, then I hope you’ll take a look at Thing Two, our Southern Breeze blog. And not just because yours truly happens to be plastered up there, with a post about schmoozes and how you can orchestrate a great workshop event like that in your region. There’s other interesting stuff on the blog, too.

But yeah. Mostly because of the schmooze thing. (And now I’m sending the Beneficent Mr. Hall out for gum. Dang if I’m not craving Doublemint now!)

Springmingle Writers and Illustrators Conference

ImageHaving someone write a lovely post about a topic you were planning to write about is like having a day off. So here’s Janice Hardy (who is quite lovely herself and chock full of writer wisdom!) espousing on an upcoming SCBWI conference:
Springmingle is the annual regional conference for Southern Breeze, offering writing workshops and sessions with agents, authors, and editors to help writers and illustrators learn the skills they need to get published. Meet editors, art directors, and agents who are looking for new talent. Connect with a friendly, supportive group of authors and illustrators. 
It’s a fantastic conference for writers and illustrators of juvenile fiction and non-fiction from picture books to young adult novels. Not a SCBWI member? No problem. Non-members are welcome and encouraged to attend. In fact, it’s a great way to meet the members and see if it’s a group you’d like to join.
The conference faculty includes: Lucy Ruth Cummins, Art Director Simon & Schuster; Cheryl Willis Hudson, Creative Director Just Us Books; Ruth Sanderson, Author/Illustrator; Cheryl Klein, Editor, Arthur Levine Books; Ammi-Joan Paquette, Agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency; and Jo S. Kittinger, Award-Winning Author.
Looking for Feedback? 
Both formal and informal critiques are available. Formal critiques are $40, informal are free. The deadline for face-to-face critiques has passed but you have till Wednesday, February 26 for a written critique so act fast if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity!
For a peek at how agents and editors think, there’s the Image/Eight panel. Attendees can submit the first eight lines of their manuscript or an opening illustration for a free review by a panel of conference faculty.

Springmingle takes place on March 28-30, 2014 at the Atlanta Marriott Century Center. 
Conference tuition is $195 for SCBWI members, $225 for non-members, or $205 for students. 
Advance registration is required and spaces are limited for some activities.
For more information please visit southern-breeze.scbwi.org.

I’ll be there–and Janice will be there, too. Y’all come join us and have some writing fun at Springmingle!


Friday’s Fun Find: Doraine Bennett! (And WIK ’12!)

The Southern Breeze region of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is sponsoring their annual conference, Writing and Illustrating for Kids, ’12, come the weekend of October 19th in Hoover, Alabama. Besides being a TON of FUN for writers, it’s also a great learning experience, no matter where on the learning curve you write. And many of the speakers are touring right now on Breezer blogs to give you a taste of what you’ll get at WIK’12. Which is why the lovely and talented Doraine Bennett is here with me today. Wheee!

Doraine, I can hardly wait for WIK’12 to get here! What’s been your experience with WIK?

 Before my first WIK, someone told me this conference was like drinking from a fire hose. I’d say that was pretty accurate. There are more classes than you can get to, more people than you can connect a name to, and more information than you can possibly absorb in a day. It’s wonderful!

 From attending the conference to speaking at the conference! Wow, that’s quite a journey. Can you share a little about your publishing journey and success?

 Honestly, I feel a bit like I came in through the back door. An acquaintance called me one day to ask if I wanted her job as a sales rep for a book distributor to schools in my geographical area. I wasn’t really looking for a job, but it was all about children’s books and libraries. In her position with the company, she kept being asked for books to meet the Georgia history standards in elementary schools. Most major publishers do not market books that fit the needs of only one state. So, I took her job, she opened a publishing house to publish books that meet those needs, and I became her first author. My State Standards books are in most of the elementary schools in Georgia. And six of them are on the GADOE list of featured books for the Common Core Standards.

 I continue to write for State Standards, but I also have books with three other publishers. These have come as a result of sending in proposals to the publisher before I wrote the books. I like this route into the publishing world, as you aren’t spending as much time on speculative writing that may or may not find a home. Although I do have several of those type manuscripts out looking for a home.

Your workshop is called “Nuts and Bolts.” This sounds like a great introduction to children’s publishing! Can you give us a glimpse into the specifics of the workshop?

 We will be talking about the basics of submitting a manuscript, the differences in the trade market and the educational market, how to target a publisher, and how to network.

Here’s the last question, Doraine, so you’re going to have to think hard! What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a pre-published writer?

 Hone your craft! Taking online classes, attending workshops, finding a critique group. All these are excellent ways to become a better writer. Submit your manuscripts. They will never get published if they are sitting in a file folder somewhere on your computer. Be professional. Children’s publishing is a small world. Really. You’d be surprised. Don’t be afraid to take risks, to walk a nontraditional path, to try something new and unexpected.

Thanks SO much, Doraine, for stopping by today! I’m sure I’ll see you at WIK’12—and I hope I’ll see y’all as well! If you want to see a schedule of the conference, check out the Breezer website for details, and sign up soon!

And if you want to get an inside scoop on the speakers and what fantabulous stuff they have planned for you, check out these fellow Breezer blogs and look for WIK’12:

 Aug. 15 Sharon Pegram at Writers and Wannabes

Aug. 16 Sarah Campbell at Alison Hertz’s blog, On My Mind

Aug. 17 F.T. Bradley at Laura Golden’s blog

Aug. 20 Chuck Galey at Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog

Aug. 21 Jo Kittinger at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 22 Irene Latham at Robyn Hood Black’s blog, Read, Write, Howl

Aug. 23 Vicky Alvear Shecter at S.R. Johannes’ blog

Aug. 24 Doraine Bennett at Cathy Hall’s blog

Aug. 27 Virginia Butler at Bonnie Herold’s blog, Tenacious Teller of Tales

Aug. 28 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen at Diane Sherrouse’s blog, The Reading Road

Aug. 29 Ellen Ruffin at Sarah Frances Hardy’s blog, Picture This

Aug. 30 Donna Jo Napoli at Writers and Wannabes

All in all, it’ll be more fun than a barrel of monkeys, so come join us! (Though I’ve always thought a barrel of monkeys would be more dangerous than fun. Maybe just one monkey in a barrel. One of those tiny little capuchin monkeys. Yeah, that kind of fun.)

Finding A Last Minute Gift for a Writer

Hear that? No, not the jingle bells. That other sound interrupting your happy holiday mood. It’s a tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

Yeah, that’s the holiday clock, reminding you that you still haven’t found the perfect gift for the writer in your life, and time is running out! Fear not, friends. I have the most splendifereous idea: give a writer’s conference!

 Your children’s writer will look great in a writer’s conference–it’s a one-size fits all! All you have to do is find a writer’s conference, and that’s easy-peasy if you check out this link at the SCBWI website. My region, Southern Breeze, has a conference coming up in February. It’s called Springmingle and registration is going on right now. And oh, my jolly jingle bells! If you’re an illustrator, you need to read about the Liz Conrad Scholarship RIGHT NOW.

You can also shop here, at the Poets & Writers listing of conferences, if your children’s writer writes for adults as well. Finding the write gift is as quick as a click.

See? You’re already done! Now you have time for all the merry-making you can handle, so dash away, dash away, dash away all!

(Um, you know to come back after, right? See you in 2012!)