December 30, 2005

Ursula K. LeGuin called this one "a good read for the dark hours."

I didn't intend to read it after dark, having a far too active imagination for my own good, but it turns out that didn't matter at all. It wasn't spooky-scary, at least not to me. It was an adventure. Now, I'm sure the sequel will be much worse (better?), but this one was so full of new things, like the first Potter book, that I was too entranced to be affrighted.

How have I missed this guy? Scott Westerfeld has a whole lot of great YA fantasy series out there. Has anyone else run across him? I'm interested in him as an author because he was a former software engineering person, and I think the orderliness of a mind that can program is reflected in his complex universe... (By the by, this is the FIRST book to a trio of books, and the second one is already out, but the third one won't be out until later this year. Do yourself a favor. DON'T start the first without the second close to hand... the library/bookstores are all closed now, and I'm a bit peeved...)

...the universe of Bixby, Oklahoma. Doesn't seem like it would be much of a universe, actually. It's flat, for starters, with a few stoplights and the odd tree for vertical relief. No skyscrapers. Weird bogs and sinkholes and funny tasting water make for natural oddities as well as the little thirteen pointed stars on every building and every street in town. The sun seems too bright for some newcomers, and a few folks have been known to have really odd dreams - they blame it on the water. Bixby has bizarre curfew ordinances, too. But none of that makes Bixby really, say special. What makes Bixby special is the The Midnighters. The Secret Hour causes time to stop for everyone in Bixby, but them. Then the world belongs to just a few teens, who are too strange to fit in well to the sun-loving world of Bixby High, and who live for the nighttime, the time-stopped hour when they can be who they truly are, and use their strange Talents without fear. One plays with gravity, while another can see where magic has touched. A third plays with numbers on different planes, while the last is a psychic who hears thoughts and tastes emotions. There are other creatures in the dark, the Darklings, but they're just like wild animals, they don't hurt anyone.

Unfortunately, the new girl in town, Jessica Day? She's a midnighter. The darklings don't like her. The psychic might have tampered with the minds of the people around her, and dislikes her on principle. The seer wants to control her -- for her own good -- and the gravity defying acrobat thinks he's in love. And life is about to get very, very strange in Bixby.

A giant girl from an immense state: Lucy from Alaska

Another great one, since the Library of Congress files it under Family Problems, Fishing Boats, Coming of Age, and Alaska. I would hate to have that job -- randomize a novel in four categories or less!

I adore this book because my life's goal is to move to Alaska and write novels in the backcountry. Seriously. I also adore this book about Alaska because this woman to our left is the author, and what I've always loved about writing is that any writer can embody any person for a time and tell their story. That rocks. This woman, Sherri L. Smith, rocks too. Hard. And her story rocks hardest of all, being named an ALA Best Book for 2003 and winning something like that in the Netherlands for 2005. Yay!

But enough with the errata. Lucy the Giant stands over six feet tall in her stocking feet and her problems seem sized to match. Start with being on a first-named basis with every liquor store owner and bartender in town. Start with everyone knowing you're Joe Otswego's girl who has to carry her father home every night, limp, stinking drunk, from one of Sitka's seedy little taverns. Start with being called The Giant by the peppy pale petites at school who used to be her friends, when she was more "normal" sized. Start with having her Native mother abandon her for who-knows-where when she was too little to understand why, and having a sodden father who rarely to never speaks to her, but has a wicked and fast right hook for all her pains at keeping the house clean and aired out and staying out of the way and not asking for anything, ever. Lucy's got problems, and they take a turn for the worse when the one little scrap of sunshine she has going for her, that has kept her happy for two weeks straight, is suddenly and unexpectedly snuffed out. She's burned her bridges and she can't go home. Lucy ends up, through a simple misunderstanding, in Kodiak, even further North, in a bar full of strangers, drinking tequila shots, in a desperate gamble to land herself a job on a crabbing boat.

Six foot something she may be, but Lucy's still only just a kid, only fifteen. She makes enemies, fast. She makes mistakes. She sees how narrow the margin runs between life and death, out there in the subzero and bitter cold and ice of the Bering Sea, and it's terrifying. But, if, at fifteen, you'd had the chance to skip the daily details of miserable adolescence, and head straight to adulthood, Do Not Pass Go, wouldn't you have taken it? And Lucy collects more than $200 for sure. But, there's no skipping any of the steps it takes to become an adult. Lucy's world hits the skids once more, but she finally learns the difference between running away and walking away. It's a big lesson for a young girl, but this book will leave you cheering; Lucy's gonna make it.

An awesome first novel, and I wish Ms. Smith the best, as her second novel comes out from Random House in 2006. Something else to look forward to in the New Year!

'Many' Pages Later...

Periodically, I read "boy books" just to make sure my game's still good. I can't even doodle boys when I draw characters, so I have had grave doubts about 'getting' boys well enough to write them (not that I let that stop me!), and often read male authors' takes on guys and their issues. I found an interesting writer - Paul Many, who, while not just a writer is a writing professor in Toledo, and has written a couple of what are arguably 'boy books.'
These Are The Rules is a straightforward novel of a boy who's life is going, well, in circles. Badly. He'd promised himself he'd never spend another summer out at the boring lake cabin where he'd spent way too much time as a little kid, but here he is. Again. Last summer he'd also promised himself that he'd swim the lake -- all two miles across and who-knows-how-many fathoms deep. He hasn't done that, either. He is going to be a Senior next year, and he has the feeling that nothing in his life is going forward. But then, he notices a couple of things. One is his boss's niece. The other is the girl in the cabin next door. Neither one of them is like he remembers. Could maybe things like his perfectionistic, annoying father and even his own self not be quite as dire as they seem?

Boys books have their own sense of drama. It's not quite like the drama in a book dedicated to a feminine audience, but it's there in the tension and in subtler, smaller ways. I appreciated
Rules because protagonist Colm has a genuine-ness that comes out of his voice -- he continually misjudges the world (and the girls) around him, and makes goofy missteps, but his constant inner dialogue help make him a comprehensible character. Each chapter concludes with a single sentence 'moral du jour' type declaration that is often dead wrong, quite right, or merely amusingly Colm-esque.

Walk Away Home, Many's most recent book, uses the same kind of internal dialogue in the form of soliloquys every chapter which are, unfortunately, too adult to be genuine. The comments are hardly the stream-of-consciousness ramblings of a 17-year-old boy who takes to the road -- on foot because of rampant car sickness -- every time trouble comes. The internal musings, whether they be on paper or sort of voiced in his head, stand alone in the text, and lack the self-consciousness of internal dialogue that would lead the writer/thinker to admit to some sense of hubris in the I Am A Serious Writer/Thinker style in which they come across. Though beautifully written, they add a confusing note to the novel.

The storyline is convoluted anyway. Nick is being sent to a military school for accidentally burning down his aunt's old house, which was vacant, and which is where he's hung out, wistfully, since she disappeared. He knows he's going, he just decides to skip orientation and go and see his aunt first. Nick had, we later find, a brother who died, and parents who never told him how hard a time that was for them. He seems to expect that it was easy for them, and that they resent him for surviving because they never seemed to crack. He also seems to imagine that his aunt won't mind if he looks her up again and expects to crash in her house like he's still five and running away from home, even if she is struggling to make ends meet and dealing with her own demons which include incessant chain smoking and living in basically a dump.

Nick is obviously immature, right? Then how come the storyline twists and thrusts him into the role of a Savior and Father? Yep, all this, without him having any personal epiphanies about his own parents, or with him experiencing any real personal discomfort or angst as a result of striding in to save someone. He rejects his parents, refuses to come home, runs away to Aunt Wanda, and leaves phone messages. He avoids his reality in order to submerge himself into someone else's problems, and that -- a problem in and of itself -- is never addressed.

The 'someone-else's-problem' is weighty as well. A snippy and wealthy troublemaker who, together with her stoner friends, steal the wishing well and pelt garbage at the little hippie neighborhood where he and his aunt live, is dealing with being molested and fearing for her younger sisters. Suddenly she is a sympathetic character (due entirely to her hotness, of course, the only reason why Nick doesn't turn her in when he discovers she's one of the people who routinely throws rotted fruit at his aunt's house) and Nick wades in to save her. Now, understand that this is solely a literary argument and not touching at all on my personal beliefs about karma or anything else crazy, but if this is a boy book intended for a predominantly male YAH audience, why, for once, can't the victim be... male? Especially since this was written by a male author... Why does drama always have to be female? Would it have diminished the hero to save a male friend from being molested? Or, because he could not also have dually played the part of the love interest (and there's ANOTHER issue I won't even touch), would that have completely firebombed the plot? I do believe it's time to stop victimizing women only on this topic already. Okay. Rant over.

I'd be interested in hearing anyone else's take on this topic, or either novel. Both deal with boys having difficult relationships with fathers, and finding out that their parent's personal issues have affected them more than they knew. I did appreciate that the character in Walk Away Home eventually came to the conclusion that it was his own selfishness and treating his parents' opinions as a foregone conclusion that had led to the difficulties he was in, but we really don't get a good glimpse at the process -- it's like suddenly he has a few bad moments when he's told his parents almost divorced when he was a five year old, and voila, he matures. It becomes clear that he assumed his parents; he had recreated them in an image he'd projected from his own mind.

I was disappointed also that Many didn't have the molested daughter turn her father in. It's not even discussed, ever, as an option -- not even when the Aunt finds out what's going on. I'm not sure what it does for humanity to have him move to another town with the daughter holding his collection of illegal underage internet porn over his head when he could be hurting someone else out there, but whatever.

You know, the more I talk about it, the more I don't want someone else to check out this book. Not on my account, anyway.


That's it for boy books, this week.

December 29, 2005

Year End Etc., Etc.

Once again an agent is seeking to cultivate YA writers for her list. Dana West is a junior agent at the Writer's House San Diego office, and will be attending the North Central California Region Spring Spirit II Conference in March. The conference features a lot of interesting editors and illustrators, and might be worthwhile if you're in the area. Something to look forward to in 2006!

Every year one should refresh oneself on the basics of writing. Harold Underdown of The Purple Crayon fame is a nice man who published a guide on how to get out of the slush pile, the ubiquitous place where all unsolicited manuscripts first land. Writers would do themselves a favor to read it at least yearly, so as to avoid the mistakes we're all apt to make when we get too lazy/sloppy/comfortable with this writing life. Since he has written a fabulous Q&A book about children's publishing, you can mine the site for answers, and ask him something specific if you can't already find the answer there.

The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature, which houses a huge collection of children's works for study and research, is announcing a Spring event with illustrator Steven Kellog. Now, I know we're writers, but it's good to Know Your Illustrators, especially when writing for children. Check it out.

The beginning of the year is very slow sometimes for writers - publishing houses are just getting back online from their two week (plus!) vacations, and it may seem like nothing is going on. Never fear, something IS going on! Only it's going on with YOU, hopefully. Right now is when it's a time to get to work! The Writer Magazine has some little workouts for learning how to pace, and a last minute (VERY last minute!) contest from the San Francisco Writer's Conference Writing Contest. Too late for the contest this year, unless you've just got a children's novel handy, (deadline is the 31st!), but there's always next year, and the Conference in February. Meanwhile, work on that pacing!

Auld Lang Syne and all of that.

December 28, 2005

And now a report from the Publisher's Marketing Assoc.


The United States Postal Service Board of Governors has approved the Postal Rate Commission's recommended 5.4 percent increase for most postal rates, effective Jan. 8, 2006.

The Periodicals rate is among those that will increase, but the 5 percent Classroom publication discount will remain in place. That means that the Classroom Periodicals Rate will increase by roughly 5.4 percent. Media and Library rates will increase by an average of 12.7 percent, though Library Mail rates, as required by law, will be set at 5 percent below corresponding Media Mail rates.

As required by law, the Media Mail rate increase is expected to cover Postal Service costs. However, it could have a significant affect on companies that use that subclass to ship a significant percentage of their products. Several groups protested to the USPS Board of Governors with respect to the Postal Rate Commission's Media Mail decision.

What this means for writers, aside from having steeper price increases while sending things to potential publishers or agents, is higher cost of mailing books and those kind of Weekly Reader periodicals to schools that help to sell your books in the classroom. This is also going to impact the publishing agencies, and may trickle down into slightly increased book prices and/or less money being spent by marketing departments on sending out your books. Yes, happy New Year! Feel the love, writers!

Current Rates Listed First, Then New:
First-Class Letter (1 oz.) 37¢ 39¢
First-Class Letter (2 oz.) 60¢ 63¢
Postcard 23¢ 24¢
Priority Mail (1 lb.) $3.85 $4.05
Express Mail (1/2 lb) $13.65 $14.40
Express Mail (2 lb) $17.85 $18.80
Fee and Service Changes
Certified Mail $2.30 $2.40
Delivery Confirmation (Priority) 45¢ 50¢
Delivery Confirmation (First Class Parcels) 55¢ 60¢
Return Receipt (Original Signature) $1.75 $1.85
Return Receipt (Electronic) $1.30 $1.35

FYI, guys.

December 24, 2005

V's R Us

Once again, I just cannot say enough good things about cover art! When it's good, it's really worth the occasional shout-out. I'm quite liking the style of Amy Saiden's work for Simon & Schuster. It's got a certain... je ne sais quoi that reminds me of both artwork of the sixties and kind of an anime feel at the same time. I didn't comment on it before, but now that I've run into her work again, I want to express how it caught my eye, and encouraged me to pick up a book I may not have.

And why wouldn't I have picked up this book? The title! The V Club made me feel like I was going to do a lot of yawning. Though Kate Brian is known to be an able YA writer, the topic seemed horrendous. The trend for teens to join virginity clubs sort of both makes my skin crawl and my teeth ache. Why on earth should something so personal be something about which one makes so public a statement?! (But then, I also question why people put political bumper stickers, 'Baby on Board' signs and fish symbols on their cars... but I digress.)

Kate Brian has written a complex novel that is both entertaining and somewhat predictable. Anyone writing a book about teen virginity and/or virginity clubs is, even indirectly, making a statement. The plot device which brings up the topic - a scholarship only available to those who can show "purity of mind and body" - was believable, because there are people who make unpopular decisions about how to bequeath their estates every day. The fact that everyone was eager to apply for the scholarship, knowing that it was essentially for virgins was less believable, and brought up some minor plot issues. Perhaps in my Christian high school it would have been no big deal for everyone to know that people were applying for the scholarship, but the scholarship, and all who were applying seemed too well known for a public school. The prurient interest of an entire student body could surely not be held on one group for so long.

There are eventual epiphanies voiced by some of the more intelligent characters about the unfairness of someone deciding that, if one has lost one's virginity in high school, one's life is basically not going to be worth living later and so no college help should go to them, but it seems to me that those conclusions could have been reached more speedily. There was a lot of drama in the book but that at times reminded me of the unlikely machinations of a slapstick film, but mostly the drama was realistically rendered popular-girls angst, and, the friendships which bound the girls together seemed to be true. Add a good cover, and you've got a book worth reading at least once.

It HAD to be Read. Really.

Seriously. When you run across a book entitled rob& you simply have to read it. i have to admit that it was a fairly arresting read -- mostly because I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, and the names are cute (robYsarah!), but also because the world of cyberspace creates freefall situations in which people become less of who they are and more of who they wish they were. Mostly. Sometimes they just become more of who they are in a disturbing fashion, but that's another novel...

Sara is just who she is - a poet, an enthusiastic, trusting, and friendly person who isn't as careful (paranoid) as she could be, and takes a chance on exchanging emails with someone who liked a posted poem. Rob, on the other hand, creates multiple life stories for himself, and basically offers Sara the chance to choose one and make of him what she will. As they grow closer, the information they exchange becomes more real, but Sara pulls back time and again with "a case of the shivers" as she learns some hard truths. Rob lives where? And he did what? When they're both grounded, their internet time is limited. Misunderstandings and misdirection create some character surprises but the happy ending is almost promised from the prologue (which is why I wish they hadn't done that). Funny and involving, the book lets the reader in on a private conversation. For a short in-the-line-at-the-mall-after-Christmas-sales book, check it out.

e Happy Chriskwanzukkah.

December 22, 2005

Holiday Hustling

Whoo hoo! I think I have some time to read -- during this wee sanctioned mini-vacay (if my agent can take one, so can I) I have loaded up at the library and who cares if I still have shopping and baking and wrapping to do before the onslaught of family frivolity? I am working on finding my true inner nerd-dom, skillfully multitasking in the face of futility... and I am reading in line. Okay, if I'm driving I try and cut down then. But I do read at a.] the Post Office, which, in my lovely town, is on Valium even on a normal day, b.] waiting in line at Raley's behind the woman with the sixteen cases of beer (what IS Chriskwanzukkah like at her house!?) c.) waiting for my granola parfait at my fave cafe (and being asked questions by the wait staff that I don't hear -- they've taken to writing notes.).

I would love this time of year a lot more if we all took, say, just a week before Christmas and said, "Okay: stores closed. Expectations: none. Let's all just read."
National Book Week! That's what it should REALLY be!

Best holiday gift I'm giving this year? Books on tape to the Littles. My tiny beef with many school systems is that they don't spend enough time on history. (WARNING: former teacher rant upcoming.) Even I find out stuff I never learned in school -- like the fact that the U.S. held Alaskans in interment camps during WWII -- and I think, Man, most kids are clueless even about history that's being made NOW! I got the great little book Baseball Saved Us, which was about a Japanese American boy who learned to love baseball in the middle of a desert. Good stuff.

Well, there's another line calling my name.
Happy Winter, however you're celebrating it.

December 19, 2005

Snippet o'News

I found the following update on the SCBWI Discussion Boards:

"See my Who's Moving Where page for news from Cricket. Their offices are being moved from Peru, IL, to Chicago and several staffers are being let go as a result.

I will post updates on that page as I get them.

Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon"

Cricket is a great magazine and seems like a great market, now that they've expanded into several different magazines for different age groups. (I was going to send my YA short story to them if the contest was a bust!) So, anyone with an interest in submitting to, say, Cicada magazine, might want to stay abreast of this.

December 14, 2005

Because NPR rocks, as always

"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." - C.S. Lewis

A great bunch of writers sat around the other day to talk about kids, fairy tales, and the place for children's fantasy fiction in the modern world. Guests included Neil Gaiman, with whose works I'm not yet familiar; Tamora Pierce, whose books were once singularly spectacular because they gave female characters a strong place in the action; and Christopher Paolini, the homeschooled wunderkind who, at fifteen published the first of his two award-winning dragon novels. If you missed it, take a listen to
an intriguing conversation on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

Okay. I'm avoiding reading movie reviews of the Narnia film, but if you're not, NPR also did a quick review on last week's Morning Edition and there's some good, I understand. Hmph. I won't be convinced that easily.

Off to read the books!

December 12, 2005

Girls' Issues, Historic and Contemporary

Nell's Quilt by Susan Terris was one of those random library finds that appeared on the display shelf and caught my eye. A historical piece set at the turn of the century, the story follows eighteen-year-old Nell as she reluctantly agrees to marry a young widower with a small child. As her dreams of college melt away, and her guilt grows at being a burden to her parents in their hardscrabble farm life, she sinks deeper and deeper into depression until even she hardly recognizes herself. The only thing that sparks any interest in her, any life, is the ever-growing crazy quilt she is piecing together, with squares representing everyone and everything important to her.

Though I was a bit turned off by certain elements that struck me as anachronistic, the story did hold my interest. Nell's descent into anorexia and obsessive-compulsive behavior, her depression, were vividly written. I did question whether it was accurate to transport psychological problems which seem to me to be very much associated with modern-day life and media influence, into a historical time period. That's not to say that there weren't young women suffering similar disorders in 1899, and I certainly don't have the detailed knowledge of history to critique the issue properly. It just struck me as odd from time to time. But it was an interesting premise nonetheless, and the book was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. If you like historical pieces, this might interest you.

If you're more into contemporary young women's stories, then I highly recommend Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. After learning that a different book of hers was one of YALSA's Teens' Top Ten--and after enjoying one of her short stories in the anthology Sixteen--I decided to check out this stand-alone piece about outcast Colie, whose mother is a world-famous fitness guru.

Colie leaves to spend the summer in a tiny beach town with her eccentric aunt, hoping to escape her mother's exuberant fame and the rumors of skankitude that dog her at school. She doesn't expect much out of the summer, but she ends up working at a diner and meeting waitresses Morgan and Isabel, unlikely best friends who take her under their wing. Colie also meets Norman, a college art student who lives in her aunt's basement and is a cook at the diner. The well-drawn cast of characters challenges Colie's view of how the world works, as she discovers that everyone has their own obstacles in life to overcome and their own ways of overcoming them. She finds friendship, wisdom, and strength in unexpected places in this quiet, vivid, funny, and surprisingly deep story.

The Great Chronicles Book Club

The first time I encountered the Chronicles of Narnia, I was in the third grade, and our teacher, Mrs. Wallace, read a scant half hour of it to us, every day. The English-isms and the tricky storyline were slightly daunting when heard aloud, the magical surrealism a little scary, and a daily half-hour simply wasn't enough for me. I wanted to sit down and read it for myself. Maybe if I read it, I could get what all the fuss was about. (Fuss= some indignant parents against children hearing dark fairytales at our small private Christian school. You can assume they'd never read it, but maybe heard there were fauns. How I wish people would read first, object later, but... well, maybe I should stop with wishing "people would READ," but good luck with that...)

Narnia, that grand old city
, is finding new life on film this season. WritingYA will be going where only a few in recent years have gone before -- back to the books! We're reading the Narnia series, and we want you to read too. Some of us will want to read them in the order they were written, others in the order of the story. I'm going to begin with The Magician's Nephew, and read chronologically, since that is the way the series was first introduced to me. As we read through the series, I challenge any of you who've seen the movie to tell me if the book is faithful. Does it fulfill the prerequisites of a 'classic' to you? What makes a classic?

Until I've re-read the novels (and probably not even after that), I'm not going to see the movie. I'm getting a little sick of children's movies that come from books which children hardly know exist - and then the storyline gets changed for maximum special effects, or chopped into mince, a la Potter... But that's perhaps a rant for another day.

When did you first encounter Lewis, the mysterious Wardrobe and the world beyond? Read with us! Post your book review, remembrances and errata on our sister site, and tell us what you think.

December 08, 2005

Talking To Yourself

At first I was put off by the second-person narrative style of Chris Lynch's Freewill. It took me several pages to get accustomed to it, after which its purpose became clearer. Will, the protagonist, seems to have a voice in his head—his conscience, the little devil or angel on his shoulder, or some other internal speaker—and that's who is doing the talking. The "you" isn't you or me, it's Will himself.

Once that became apparent, I got drawn into this brief, fast-moving story. Like the narration, the plot--the backstory--the main character himself--are all a bit mysterious. Clues come in flashes; the story and the character's thoughts are both fragmented, as befits somebody suffering post-traumatic stress. I wasn't even sure what the story was until I finished. (This confusion was one of the major sticking points in the reviews I read on Amazon.) However, if you don't mind constant enigma, it's a decent read--a bit disturbing, a bit surreal. Though it doesn't explore things in quite the depth that I feel the story deserves, there are some surprisingly poignant moments here, and it has a hint of the thriller about it. Mysterious deaths in the town—what does Will know? What won't he let himself know? What does the rather obvious symbolism of his name have to do with all of this? Read it and find out.

Marketing -- because a good story needs wings

Marketing doesn't have to be a dirty word. A writer's least favorite topic in the world is still a topic upon which every one of us should do a bit of solid research... so here I offer my collected wisdom (hah):

A few publishing houses put out guidelines to help their authors market their own books. Recent discussion of the industry on the NorCal
SCBWI list-serv has disclosed the phrase 'no author involvement = no future.' Yikes! Many writers (myself included) have no idea how to market anything, so it's nice to get a leg up on where to start. All of us want our books to have some impact on the market, so here's how to make our publications last.

First, there's apparently a difference between marketing and publicity -- Marketing, as I finally comprehend it (and
J, correct me if I'm wrong), operates within the parameters of paid media, and includes advertising and sales promotions, along with a broader focus on product placement, price, and promotion. Publicity is more about PR hustle, and it's usually associated with image building and management, unpaid media placement like doing readings and appearing at schools or your alma mater, making use of press releases, media kits, press conferences, and that kind of thing. Marketing scans the demographic and creates a need for your book, publicity gives people good feelings about their desire, and the people connected with the product.

For marketing purposes, publisher's agents suggest that writers not fall prey to the vanity gift -- that is, giving away copies of your books to friends and family. They're supposed to buy them. Instead, writers should use the copies their publishers give them to send to the local city library, local high school library, independent bookstores within fifty miles of their city, and make contacts there that allow them to get in the door and give talks, book signings, and get face to face contact with the people for whom they write.

There are some great books about marketing that can help spark some ideas on how to work this.
o The Savvy Author's Guide To Book Publicity, by Lisa Warren,Carrol & Graf Publishers
o The Complete Guide To Book Publicity, by Jodee Blanco,Allworth Press
o Publishing For Profit, by Thomas Wolf, Chicago Review Press
o 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, 5th Ed., by John Kremer,Open Horizons
o John Kremer's Website:
o Publishers Marketing Association Website:
o Selling Your Book: The No-Nonsense, Step-by-Step Guide, by John Vonhof, is on his website.

From John Kremer's Book Marketing Tip of the Week: Online Book Reviews
A new study done at the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management shows that online reviews do impact sales at and The study's authors, Judith Chevalier and Dina Mayzlin, found that:

a. The addition of favorable reviews at one site increases book sales at that site relative to the other retailer.
b. Negative 1-star reviews carry more weight with consumers than do positive 5-star reviews.
c. The impact of a negative review is more powerful in decreasing book sales than a positive review is in increasing sales.
d. Multiple glowing reviews for a book may be perceived as hype generated by an author or publisher (their theory).
e. Reviews at are longer and more detailed in general than those at
You can read the entire study HERE.

Happy writing people, and happy marketing.

December 05, 2005

OH MY GOSH, OH MY GOSH!! Good news!

TWO FRIENDS of mine -- count it -- two of my Mills girlz have received acclaim in the SmartWriters W.I.N. contest!!!! That's just made my Monday morning. I'm so proud I could go all girly and squeal! Go A.Fortis!, who placed third in the YA category, and kudos to you, MeiMei!, who has a very honorable mention - with the words New Yorker and her story mentioned in the same sentence. This is BIG!!!! I'm so excited about them getting in, and connecting with an ANTHOLOGY! (We all know this is my not-so-secret dream.)

[PS:If your stories, like mine, did NOT make it into the anthology, consider reworking them and maybe submitting to Cicada or some other YA magazine. There are plenty of options and places that are looking for good stories.]

In more good news, there's a great bunch of editors who are actively seeking to update their lists for middle-grade and YA writers. reported on a couple of folks looking for expand their lists. Ginger Clark, Anna Olswanger and Lauren Barnhardt have posted their addresses and what they're after specifically. Good luck to those of you making the hard decision about choice about agents.

An ecstatically happy Monday to you!
And congratulations again, girls!!!

December 02, 2005

From Novel Writing Month to Novel Reading Month...

After making it to about 35,500 words of a new piece during NaNoWriMo (I started a week into the month, so I think that's pretty good), we've now entered December, and the gray rainy weather is moving in. Perfect, as TadMack said, for a hot cup of something yummy, a blanket, and a good book. (And in my case, a fat cat who craves lap-warmth.)

There are lots of tidbits for your interest which I've culled from the SCBWI newsletter, and I'll list them here. Firstly, there are a couple of reading outreach programs--always so worthwhile and wonderful to hear about. Reach Out and Read is a nationwide pediatric literacy program that
"promotes early literacy by bringing new books and advice about the importance of reading aloud into the pediatric exam room. Doctors and nurses give new books to children at each well child visit from 6 months of age to 5 years, and accompany these books with developmentally appropriate advice to parents about reading aloud with their child."

Go to the site to find out how you can help them through donations, advocacy, or volunteering.
Another program helping children read is called Book Nooks, and is local to New York's Pleasant Valley. But it's such a great idea. Says the article,
"The Traver Road Primary School Building Level Team has initiated the Book Nook project to encourage children to read while they wait at restaurants and other places around town. Businesses such as restaurants, a bank and a car dealership are now homes to the Book Nook's polished wood shelves — filled with all sorts of children's books."

This immediately brought back memories for me of going to the China Garden restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga with my parents and reading a children's book retelling a Chinese folk tale called Tikki Tikki Tembo (not to be confused with Rikki Tikki Tavi) again and again. So I can personally vouch for the fact that this is a good idea.

More tidbits soon!