Friday, December 2, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Patti is now an assistant branch manager in Austin after working for many years as a teen services librarian. She is very active with the Texas Library Association, serving twice on the Local Arrangement Committee (go Placement Center go!), she has served on the Tayshas High School Reading list in two different capacities and is currently Chair-Elect of the Young Adult Round Table.
Joanna is a teen services librarian turned stay at home mom of two boys. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida where she can often be found visiting the local libraries and appreciating that they always have something fun for her boys to do. In her illustrious 9 year librarian career, she was active in the Texas Library Association (serving as Chair of the Young Adult Round Table), a SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Honoree, and a totally rock star NYT Librarian of the Year. (*high five!*)
TXS&S: What is your biggest surprise since becoming a librarian?
P: The Conferences! Who knew library conferences would be so incredibly awesome? You not only get the important professional development that you would expect, but there is a wealth of resources at your fingertips. Author panels, the publishers in the exhibit hall, your fellow librarians. We are especially lucky to live in Texas and be able to become involved in the Texas Library Association.
Becoming involved with TLA, and YART in particular really helped us both to grow professionally.
J: I agree 100%!
We were both able to find our own opportunities to pursue interests in literature, librarianship, and leadership that were beyond what we could at our jobs.
I would say that I had one other big surprise: the close community of YA - readers, librarians, authors, publishers, book sellers.
TXS&S: How do you see the future of reading changing, and how do you think readers and libraries can stay current?
J: The lines between genres and formats have blurred if not exploded. Also, there isn’t much of a distinction for “these are boy books and these are girl books.” If it is a good story, people will read it - be it on their electronic whatsit or with a bound paper version. Libraries are aware of what’s current and what’s coming. The problem is getting the money to be able to do it and then wading through government bureaucracy to get the green light.
P: Despite what the newspapers will have you believe, libraries are not some quaint notion of the past. We’re busier than ever with more people coming through our doors, using our computers, taking our computer classes, enjoying our varied programming for all ages, checking out library material, and basically taking advantage of everything a library card can get you.
TXS&S: Would your friends and colleagues consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?
Once a teen librarian, always a scoundrel!
TXS&S: Can you tell us what motivated you to start your blog, Oops…Wrong Cookie?
P: We started this blog in 2007 along with several of our colleagues as a way to continue the discussion of books that we were having in real life in a more public forum. It was a way for us to try to improve our writing skills (improved and still improving) and try out new things and share our love of literature with anyone who was interested in reading.
J: The blog became self-guided professional development. I am just one reader and YA publishes so much each year. Oops was a way to pool our reading resources and learn about books that maybe we wouldn’t read but would know a teen (or adult!) who would be interested.
P: We really love to talk about books and we really love to do live blogging during ALA award broadcasts. Our reactions are immediate and uncensored, honest, and we think pretty funny. We especially appreciate these posts because we now live in different states and we don't get to have these conversations in person any more. A couple highlights are:
● Joanna and Patti React...to the Youth Media Awards
● Joanna and Patti Discuss...Mockingjay!
TXS&S: What or who keeps you both motivated?
J: I’ll admit I thought being at home would give me more time to blog. Sometimes there’s a great book that I just have to talk about. My 2 year old is a pleasant enough audience, but it’s more satisfying to shout my undying love for Gary D. Schmidt and the Red Blazer Girls to my friends through the blog. It’s out there... forever!
P: Its fun to share your opinion on things. You never know who you’ll run into online. Having Kathleen Duey comment on our blog was pretty fabulous and then we got the chance to meet her at TLA and she was so interesting. She doesn’t plot her books beforehand! We were blown away. If you’ve never read her Skin Hunger series you’re missing out (and you’ll be doubly amazed by the non-pre-plotting. How does she do it?!?).
TXS&S What are some ways you support each other?
J: Patti is my reading buddy. Not just that she reads voraciously (anything and everything where I tend to stick to certain things) but she’s also so willing to talk about what she’s reading and listen to me talk about what I’m reading. When you have someone like that, it makes it easier to, for instance, stay up until 2 a.m. reading the rest of Monsters of Men because you have to email Patti tomorrow morning and ask her a zillion questions about Todd and Viola and his mom and what-the-heck-The Mayor-omg! Plus, Patti mailed me ARCs from ALA so that I can keep up. She won’t let me slack.
P: It’s nice to have someone to share your enthusiasm with. Especially if you’re two different types of readers. Joanna introduced me to Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief and for that I will be forever grateful!
TXS&S: You are both not originally from Texas, where did you two meet?
J: I’m originally from Clearwater, Florida
P: I’m originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
P: We met in library school at the University of Texas and then were reunited when we both were lucky enough to get jobs when we graduated. We were both hired, coincidentally, by Jeanette Larson,one of the Texas Sweetheart authors.
TXS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for young adult literature?
J: I interned at the public library after graduation hoping that would lead to a reference job, but completely fell in love with working in the youth/teen department. Being a teen librarian in the early 2000’s meant inclusion into this exciting, growing library movement dedicated to services for teens and providing a library experience tailored for their needs - developmental and recreational. I became a youth advocate and part of that meant advocating for what young people liked to read... which easily became what I liked to read.
Plus, there’s living in the city of Austin, a city with a passion for YA. The vibrant author community, several yearly author visits at Book People, the delightfully fab Forever YA blog, the Texas Book Festival which started a teen program in the early 2000s, and now the fantastic Austin Teen Book Festival coming up October 1.
P: I don’t have much to add to that, that seems pretty comprehensive! I will say that serving on the Tayshas committee helped me a lot as a reader. You have to read every book nominated to the list which can mean you’re reading about 200 teen books a year. It really knocks down a lot of your pre-conceived notions of what you think you’ll enjoy. That sort of experience pays dividends in readers advisory.
TXS&S: Thank you so much for joining us!
Thursday, November 10, 2011
TXS&S: You’re a big proponent for innovation in publishing, even going so far as to teach students how to use QR codes to promote and learn about their favorite books. What’s next for you?
JS: My students are wild about Picture Book Month. They are connecting with schools in
TXS&S: What are your top three technological ways (website, device, application, etc) that parents and kids can connect with books?
JS: 1. I teach a popular unit during which first graders explore characters and series websites. They try to outrun Babymouse’s locker, travel with Jack and Annie, and color with Charlie and Lola.
2. Ummm....book trailers. My blog is dedicated to them. Book trailers are one of my favorite ways to connect kids with books.
3. I have friends on Goodreads who share an account with their children. I love when families write reviews and reactions together.
TXS&S: What are your top three non-technological ways that parents and kids can connect with books?
JS: 1. A child should read with an adult at least twenty minutes a day. Richard Peck says it best, “Read to your children. Twenty minutes a day; You have the time, And so do they.”
2. Children need to see that authors are real people. Take your child to author and literacy events at local bookshops and public libraries. Sometimes this gives them the confidence they need to become active readers.
3. Model good reading behaviors. Explore different formats, such as magazines, comic books, graphic novels, recipes, and newspapers.
TXS&S: What aspect of your job is the most rewarding? The most challenging?
JS: The most rewarding aspect of my job is chatting with kids about books. There’s nothing better than when a child stops you in the hall, or comes running into the library, shouting, “OH MY GOODNESS, MR. SCHU! YOU WERE RIGHT! THIS REALLY IS THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN.”
The most challenging part of my job is convincing parents and teachers that graphic novels are real books. They are! Please respect readers.
TXS&S: Thanks so much, Mr. Schu! The world can always use more librarians like you. :-)
Thursday, October 27, 2011
In celebration of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Charlesbridge, 2011), a new book illustrated by Texas Scoundrel, Don Tate, written by Anna Harwell Celenza, Don is giving away 10 free copies and a grand prize!
The grand prize: A signed copy of Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (signed by the artist), choice of a $25 iTunes or Amazon gift certificate (winner’s choice), DVD of Jazz Legends: Duke Ellington & His Orchestra 1929-1943. And don’t forget, every book comes with a CD filled with Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite holiday jazz music!
Single prizes: Ten individuals will win one signed book.
Several ways to enter — Do one (1) of the following:
**Tweet this blog post. Let Don know that you’ve tweeted so he can enter you in the drawing. Here’s a suggested tweet:
Enter to win a copy of DUKE ELLINGTON’S NUTCRACKER SUITE, a jazzy holiday book, illus. by Don Tate (@devas_T): http://bit.ly/qOvwgH #kidlit
**Announce Don's giveaway on Facebook. Let him know so he can enter you in the drawing. Here’s a suggested status update:
Enter to win a copy of DUKE ELLINGTON’S NUTCRACKER SUITE, a jazzy holiday book, illustrated by Don Tate: http://bit.ly/qOvwgH
**Like Don on Facebook! Let him know that he's ‘liked’ so he can enter you in the drawing.
**Or you can simply comment on this post (or email him directly). Be sure to include an email address (formatted like: don at donate dot com), or you can send him a link to your email address.
The drawing will be held and announced on Friday November 5th, 2011 (Deadline: midnight CST Nov. 4). Don will put all the names in a hat. Those who have announced the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook will earn a double entry into the drawing. Let Don know if you are a teacher or librarian, you’ll earn a triple entry!
Due to the high costs of postage, Don limited the eligibility to folks in the United States and Canada.
Again, 10 signed books given away, in addition to the grand prize.
A special thanks to Charlesbridge Publishing, for donating books!
Thank you all for your support.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
John Warren Stewig began writing professional books for teachers, librarians, and parents. He has presented lectures and workshops in over 30 states and two such professional organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English, The International Reading Association, and the American Library Association. He served on, and subsequently was chair of the Caldecott Committee.
His writing for children includes eleven picture books. Most recently published was The Animals Watched (Holiday House) an alphabet book which retells the tale of Noah. Forthcoming in 2012 is Nobody Asked the Pea, a retelling in several different first person voices.
TXS&S: Can you tell us about the Center for Children's Literature and your role as the director?
JS: The Center bases its public programing for teachers, parents, and librarians on a collection of about 25,000 recently published books. We maintain a website http://www.carthage.edu/childrens-literature/ which includes reviews of recently published books as well as additional information about the center. A major effort is bringing authors, illustrators, and others involved in children's books to campus to speak about the nature of their work. A workshop "The Business of Children's Publishing" offered every other year, explores the nature of editing and art directing.
TXS&S: What drew you to the field of children's literature? What is your hope for the future of children's literature?
JS: My mother drew me in a wagon to children's books. We went to the Carnegie Library in the small town where I grew up every single week and hauled home a wagon load full of books. My love of books began even before I could read myself.
My hope for children's literature is twofold. 1) I hope we can convince more and more adults about the importance of reading to every child every day. There is no more effective way to enhance general literacy then immersion in books. 2) My hope for publishing is that imaginative and courageous editors can continue to produce books with wide child appeal, which do not necessarily follow the most popular trends. Enough of vampires already!
TXS&S: As a multi-published author, do you have any writing or marketing advice you can share with aspiring writers?
JS: Regarding writing, I'd suggest that every piece of writing can be improved by skillful editing, either the editing the writer does or editing by some other person. I have been lucky enough to publish children's books, books for adults, a language arts series, journal articles, and newspaper opinion pieces. Each is a very different format with different constraints. My experience has been that my work has always been improved by the editors with whom I have worked.
For marketing advice, you really must seek other sources. I was quite surprised when I talked with a published author at a recent ALA convention and she told me as a matter of course that to even get a manuscript considered, a writer must have their own website, blog, facebook, and other electronic avenues to promote their work. Clearly this is the wave of the future in marketing.
TXS&S: Also, as someone who has taught methods courses in the schools, plus conducted many workshops and author programs, any public speaking tips you could enlighten us with?
JS: Know your audience. I've worked with 3 year olds and done presentations in retirement homes as well as scores of public schools and libraries. Frequently I am bemused to discover when something doesn't go over well with an audience, that it's because I didn't learn enough about my listeners before I began. Still vivid in my memory is an experience I had in a small Midwestern town when I was to be the only presenter for an entire day. I opened with Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice and thought perhaps I was going to be run out of town by 11:00am, so intense was the negative reaction. Clearly it was a case of not knowing enough about who I was talking to. (If you want to hear the rest of the story, ask me when I see you at a convention.)
TXS&S: Lastly, would your friends and colleagues consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?
JS: To answer this, you need to talk to the many student workers who have helped me keep the Center running for many years. They undoubtedly have a much clearer answer to that question. But I'm not going to give you their names.
JS: Thank you Jessica for offering me this opportunity, a first of its kind experience for me.
TXS&S: Thank you for being here, John!
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I wrote the book while I was teaching E/LA beginning my second year in the classroom. I asked students to write personal narratives, tired as they were and I was of the overly-taught and therefore ineffective five-paragraph essay then the form of choice for the TAAS. I wasn’t literally writing these cuentitos down, but telling them instead. I gave them as examples to my students: I’d share a piece on a certain subject and then ask them to write something similar, putting to use all the stuff I introduced them to about writing: character, character development, action, description, dialogue, etc. After several years of doing this I finally put them to paper and started reading them at different cafes. To some success. I constantly revise based on student and audience reactions. I met Austin/South Texas writer and film maker, David Rice, around this time and he saw me read a few times. We became fast friends because both our visions for Valley youth are perfectly aligned: they need to read and write our Valley stories, they need to excel, they need to DO to attain that success. But it all begins with reading. Well, he’s the one who introduced me to Lauri Hornik, who was then a senior editor at Random House/Delacorte. He said I should submit to her what I had, he’d email her to let her know it was en route. About two or three months later, I had a message on my machine asking if I wanted to sell Random House my book, and if so to give her a callback, and the rest is history, so to speak.
TS&S: How much of your writing is based on yourself and your life?
TS&S: Can you share a bit about your teaching career? How does what you teach and your interactions with students impact your writing?
RS: You know, aside from what I’ve already shared above, today not at all. I teach in a college of education, mostly children’s and YA literatures. In that sense, that I’m always reading the newer stuff out there, I do get some influence from them. Matt de la Pena, for example, shows me so much about writing when I read him. I’m reading his I Will Save You right now, and he’s a writer’s writer, especially in this book. Much in the same way that Ben Saenz is in Last Night I Sang to the Monster. These guys are making very intentional decisions about language (not just choosing the best word or the most lyrical, but something else completely different). The shifting in Matt’s novel from the past to the present to another time in Kidd’s head and memory all remind me of what Faulkner would do with shifting perspectives. So in that way, sure, my classes inspire me to do likewise in my own ways.
TS&S: Although you started out as pretty avid reader, I understand you became a non-reader (or at least a reluctant reader) as a teen. What changed you back into a reader? How does an aliterate person become a professor of language and literacy?
RS: You know, there are a couple of different answers to this question. In an upcoming article in The ALAN Review (fall 2011) I document for the first time the author who kept me reading on the sly, that is to say, reading material other than class-sanctioned stories. The author was Piri Thomas, though back then and for the longest time I had no clue of his name (the title of the book is Stories from El Barrio). I just remembered two of his stories, not by title but by character or subject matter. But that I found him in my junior high school library on my own kept me coming back. That my librarians back then and throughout high school knew enough not to bother me but to let me peruse the shelves on my own also helped me keep reading. So I was an aliterate reader in the classroom, did just enough of it to keep passing, but not ever to say, "Hey, I’m a reader,” because by classroom standards I wasn’t. Now I know that I was very much a reader, but back then, if it wasn’t part of school, then it didn’t exist, right? Anyway, in 11th grade, my teacher, Ida Garcia, assigned Salinger’s Catcher.
TS&S: What has been your most rewarding experience as a teacher? As a writer?
RS: As a teacher, I love to be able to talk to my students at the college level today about my sons’ reading and writing habits. What we’re teaching our students about literacy I put to practice in the home, and it works. These government joes have no clue about what all is really taking place in our classrooms and in the public school classrooms across the nation. Kids get it, we (in the general sense) don’t. That is to say, kids are learning, in spite of what the government is requiring of them. My oldest son, Lukas, this past summer, read aloud to a group of ten students from his first favorite book: Broch’s Butterflies In My Stomach. How does that happen? Sure, his parents are reading to him and his brothers on a daily basis, but teachers are doing the same thing.
As for a rewarding experience as a writer: a few months back, I was down in the Valley again with Reading Rock Stars. I was reading with James Luna. He had just finished performing to the younger set of students and he’d begun handing out his autographed copies of his picture book Runaway Piggy. This one boy who used a walker to get from one place to another was in line, and I wondered how this transaction was going to take place. James later told me he’d wondered the same. You see, the boy needed both hands on his walker to move around. But when the time came, James stretched out his hand and the boy let go hold of his walker, he used his left hand to reach for James’ book, he managed to slip it under his arm, thanked James, and pushed off. An adult, I imagine she was a teacher, came up to the boy and asked if he needed help carrying the book. The boy stopped his walker, looked up at the teacher, and said, almost defiantly (or so I imagine it in retrospect; I so wanted him to have an attitude about it all that I’ve imposed my desire onto the actual action; or was the defiance really there? I don’t know, but that’s how I’ll tell it): “No, no, I’ve got it.” Man! That moment showed me what we write for, for readers who own what they read. I don’t mean literally that boy owned a copy of James’ book, though now he did. But that he’d heard James perform the story, he internalized it, made it his own, and I guarantee that kid along with the 300 plus other kids could do the same: they could go home and retell the story to their parents, grandparents, or younger siblings. The book was the boy’s now. That is so satisfying! I was overjoyed to share in James’ treasure that day!
TS&S: The second book in your mystery series comes out in October. What will be next for Mickey Rangel? Will you be writing other mysteries?
RS: Yes, the second in the series, The Lemon Tree Caper/La intriga del limonero will soon enough be out, and I am working on the third, which is under contract with Arte Público Press/Piñata Books. This one will be taking place out in West Texas, where I’ve been teaching for the last five years. It will be set in Post, where my two oldest sons and I go to watch, and soon to ourselves race our remote control cars. Well, my oldest, actually will be the one racing after he gets his 8th birthday present in early September. Mickey will be visiting a cousin, who himself has his own version of Bucho, the bully. I’ve also been contracted by McGraw to write a three-act play. Interestingly, they wanted a Latino mystery for sixth graders, so I had already created Mickey, and they fell in love with him, so it worked out perfectly. But I hope the series sells well so that I can keep writing them for APP/PB. The first one has been recorded in both English and Spanish, my first ever audiobook. And Scholastic has chosen it for their READ 180 program, so I just might have to keep putting these out.
TS&S: What one question do you wish I had asked you? And, of course, what is the answer?
RS: Maybe something like: what kind of writing are you attracted to that could also be attractive to teen readers?
You know, I love reading stories that involve violence. Sure, it can’t be gratuitous. There’s got to be a solid reason for including it, but the more on the stage the better. I hate it when a writer shies away from writing ugly violence and instead opts for the off-stage violence: you know the kind: “And then they fought horribly.” And they leave it at that. Folks who do this really well are Markus Zusak in his early work, de la Peña, Saenz, A.S. King in Vera Dietz (although in this book and also in some of Dana Reinhardt, a lot of this violence indeed happens offstage, but not strictly). Ralph Fletcher argues that boys should be allowed to read stories of violence and be given the power to write the same stories. That they need models to do it right. But why make it a guy thing strictly? I think young women readers could also enjoy these kinds of stories. They already do.
TS&S: Are you a sweetheart or a scoundrel and why?
RS: I want to be a scoundrel. I’m a guy from Texas. What else would I be?
Learn more about René and his writing at his blog, On Writing, On Reading.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
TXS&S: Can you share with us what you do and what keeps you motivated?
JB: This year I will be a full-time student again as I start my doctoral studies. Because I am involved with Lone Star and Librarians' Choices (and because I love it!), I am an AVID reader of young adult literature. I blog about my reading on www.jilliciousreading.com. I also volunteer at a local middle school to stay in touch with young readers.
My favorite thing about being a librarian is connecting kids with books. Even as a librarian without a library :) , I am constantly recommending books and trying to match the kids (and adults!) I know with the right book ... the book that will "hook" them or keep them reading. Wanting to always be prepared and to know the latest & greatest in books keeps me very motivated. I am constantly reading books and reading ABOUT books!
Another way I stay motivated is by striving to continually learn, grow, and take on new challenges professionally. This is what led me to pursue my PhD, and I am looking forward to this new adventure!
TXS&S: What (or who) inspired you to become such an awesome reading advocate?
JB: I am inspired by non-readers. Sometimes called "reluctant readers," I believe these are just kids who haven't found the right book yet. So, that's my challenge! To get to know these students and to work to find that book. My greatest joy is seeing the excitement of kids after finally finding the book they can't put down! When they come running in the next day wanting to tell me all about it and to check out something else, it just makes my heart sing! :)
I also believe our kids have rights as readers ... the right to choose what they want to read .... the right to like what they like and not what they don't! .... the right to read books outside their "reading level".... the right to just look at the pictures! My belief in these rights - the rights I enjoyed as a young, developing reader - inspire me to advocate for my students.
TXS&S: What are some things you're looking forward to?
JB: I am looking forward to starting classes and working with new colleagues.
I am looking forward to exploring Google+; I broke-up with Facebook last year and am wondering if I will fall for these Google Circles! Right now we are dating, and I'm definitely interested. :)
I am looking forward to a week in sunny Cabo San Lucas with my husband and lots & lots of books!
After that, I am looking forward to some cooler weather! Come on, fall! Come on, football season!
And, I am always looking forward to the next box of books that will arrive on my doorstep!
TXS&S: If you could make a wish for children and reading in the future, what would it be?
JB: It is my wish, that as wonderful as e-books are, that children will always have their first reading experiences with books they can touch, pages they can turn, and illustrations they can look at for hours (without needing recharging!) and that these books would be shared with them by people they love. I would hope these positive experiences would lead them to a lifelong love affair with the written word and that they would always treasure the feel & the power of a great book!
TXS&S: Would your friends and colleagues consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel, and why?
JB: I want to be a Scoundrel, because it just sounds so much more fun! But, I think my friends would consider me a Sweetheart. I enjoy people - especially the quirky! - and try to always look for the best in everyone. :)
JB: It is a true honor to be a part of the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels Blog!
TXS&S: And we are honored to have you here!
BIO (In Jill's own words):
Most of my childhood was spent in Midland, Texas (except for a few years in Stavanger, Norway). After graduating from Texas A&M University, I taught elementary and middle school in the Dallas area. I earned my Master's of Library Science at the University of North Texas and then worked as an elementary and middle school librarian. I served as a member of the Texas Lone Star Reading List Committee and am now the committee chair. I also recently joined the Librarians' Choices Project. This fall I will begin doctoral classes at Texas Woman's University.
On a personal level, I have been married to my college sweetheart, Jason, for 18 years. We live in Dallas with our two very spoiled dogs. We love sports, art, live music, traveling, eating, and spending time with our family. We hope to someday live in the Texas Hill Country.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
About Caleb Breakey
A former award-winning journalist, Caleb Jennings Breakey loves all things writing and is represented by David Van Diest of D.C. Jacobson and Associates. He was one of seven writers fortunate enough to sit at the feet of Left Behind author Jerry B. Jenkins, and he's also studied under wordsmiths Brock and Bodie Thoene. Caleb is always busy operating CalebBreakey.com—a site designed to encourage and equip the often ignored, yet immensely talented field of young writers. He teaches at popular writing conferences such as the Blue Ridge, Oregon, Colorado, and CLASS Christian writers conferences.
About Brittney Breakey
Brittney is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and the Christian Writers Guild. She’s currently working on a humorous middle grade mystery novel—and loving it. She also operates Author Turf, a blog exclusively created to showcase authors.
TxS&S: Can you tell us what motivated you to start your blog, Author Turf?
Brittney: The aim of Author Turf is to usher authors into the spotlight. The spillover, of course, is we readers benefit from their wisdom and encouragement.
TxS&S: What pleasant surprises have you had since starting the blog?
Brittney: When you start anything—a new book, a garden, a relationship—you don’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if Author Turf would flop or grow. I remember sending my first letter to Amanda Thrasher in January, asking her if she’d like to participate in something that barely existed. Five months later, I had over 180 interviews sitting in my inbox. That surprised me.
I was at a writers conference recently and a stranger walked up to me and said, “I just love Author Turf. I didn’t know about some of those authors and I’m always looking for a good book to read.”
But really, the whip cream on the cake for me is, I get to interact with beloved and respected authors. Sometimes the interactions can be so surreal. For instance, today I was emailing Marissa Moss, author of the Amelia’s Notebook series. As a young girl, I adored her books, but thought she was dead. So, to be conversing with her a decade later is like, spooky cool.
TxS&S: Can you tell us the many different hats you wear and how you stay organized?
Caleb: Hats I wear: Teen writer mentor, inspirational speaker, thriller/urban fantasy fiction writer, Jesus lovin’ non-fiction writer, online media sidekick, and all-around visionary and out-of-the-box thinker.
Creative machine McNair Wilson talked about a four-quadrant piece of paper on which one of our presidents would write: 1) Urgent and Important; 2) Important but not Urgent; 3) Urgent but not Important; and 4) Not important and Not Urgent. He’d then rip off the side of the "not importants." This is a skill I'm trying to teach myself. Desperately.
Brittney: I own four big hats: Willow’s Night Manager, Church Secretary, English Tutor, and Writer. For this reason, I heartily embrace organizational doohickeys. Like excel spreadsheets, email labels, sticky notes, Desktop files, online bookmarks, To Do lists, car organizers, etc.
I’m also an active member of the Clean Desk Club. Can’t stand clutter. And the more hats I wear, the more organized I become. I’m sure it has something to do with keeping my brain intact. I think I’d forget to go to the bathroom if I didn’t have cell phone reminder.
TxS&S: What or who keeps you both motivated?
Caleb: The thought of doing something I’m meant to do. Contributing to this world. Writing the exact words I believe God wants me to write. I can get up in the morning and fight Resistance not only with my own will but with what I believe is the will of my heavenly father.
One of the key things I’ve learned is that motivation doesn’t produce words. Words produce motivation (thank you Tom Connellan, author of the 1 Percent Solution). It’s the doing--the writing of words--that kick-starts the part of our mind that says, “Yes, this is what I was meant to do.”
Brittney: I’m the type of person who loves surprises. So the more my story grows, the more motivated I am to keep momentum. I love searching in my email archive and realizing, “Whoa, a month ago I was on chapter four? Now I’m on chapter twelve!”
From spark to bonfire, I love the entire experience. The way it begins as a tiny thought in your head. You race home and create a word document with one line in it. Maybe it’s a question. And soon that question ignites into thousands upon thousands of words. Quirky characters pop up and say crazy things. Interesting settings construct themselves out of dust. The plot takes unexpected turns…maybe even off-road adventures. All because you pursued a tiny thought.
TxS&S What are some ways you support each other?
Brittney: Morning coffee dates. This is where we bounce off ideas, talk through plot problems, play the trombone, recite excerpts from Shakespeare, sing ballads, knit dish rags, polish our shoes, play tic-tac-toe….okay, so the last six were complete lies.
But really, just the simple act of sitting in the same room, day after day, quietly chipping away on our books is the most powerful boost. Writing means journeying into your own head, which can get lonely (and at times, dark and weird and blank) but when you have someone a desk a way who supports your mission one million percent, it’s so rejuvenating.
TxS&S: Would your friends and family members consider you Sweethearts or Scoundrels?
Brittney: Definitely both. On the sweetheart side, we sit in the same booth when we got out to dinner, we hold hands a lot, and strangers assume we’ve been married three days instead of three years.
The scoundrel side is more like the fun side. Our parents call us ding-a-lings. We have brutal tickle wars. We prank call people. We imitate voices. We spray water on each other. We enjoy little boy humor. We make dorky videos. We lock each other out of the house. We make up words, (like tote bag perf, delonchuss, apple chonk, perfonculated, and so forth.) The answer key is not provided.
When Caleb says, “I love you, honey,” I respond in my infamous man-voice: “I love you too, sugar butt.” And Caleb has five fictional characters in his head, including a dude named Jody who lives with his grandma, loves the color red, and works at Jody’s Bowling Alley.
We even robbed a bank once. Actually, while the real bank robber fled town with the loot, seven cop cars from three different counties nabbed our yellow Mustang on a freeway overpass during rush hour traffic. Three pistols and a shotgun, lying flat on the pavement, handcuffs, reading of rights, the offering of therapy afterwards, the whole burrito). P.S. We were on our honeymoon.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Lara Perkins works with my agent Laura Rennert at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency as her publishing manager. Prior to that, Lara was Laura's assistant. (I know...the Lara/Laura thing can be confusing). Anyway...Lara's help editing SOLSTICE was priceless and really helped shape it into so much more that I could have ever imagined.
So anyway, I asked Lara Perkins some questions, and she was kind enough to take time out of her (very busy) day to answer them.
PJH: So your title is "Publishing Manager for Laura Rennert." What does this mean and what does this involve?
LP: I'm delighted that this is your first question, Tricia, because I'm very excited about my new role with Laura. As Laura's Publishing Manager, I work closely with Laura as a part of her business, and my work combines some of the duties of an editor/agent with those of a business manager. On the editorial side, I work directly with Laura's very talented authors (like the brilliant author of SOLSTICE, for example!) to develop their manuscripts and story ideas. I also evaluate potential clients' work, make recommendations for representation, and draft pitch letters to editors. On the business side, I manage many of the financial and administrative aspects of Laura's business.
But one of the most exciting parts of this job, and something that's very relevant to SOLSTICE, is that I also help authors publish their works digitally and independently. In this capacity, I work with the author on the final line edit of the manuscript and then coordinate copyediting, cover art, and formatting. I put together the front and back matter and the jacket copy, and then I upload the book for the author, make it available for sale across all platforms, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. Once the book is on sale, I help the author track sales and marketing efforts. I've always been passionate about editorial work, but helping authors publish their works digitally has been an amazing experience--and tremendous fun!
PJH: What are the plans for more titles coming out the same way as SOLSTICE?
LP: There will be more titles forthcoming, as some other ABLA authors have also made the choice to independently publish projects with ABLA's help. ABLA's goal is to help its authors independently publish very high quality works that are indistinguishable from traditionally published books in terms of the content and the whole package (cover, formatting, copyediting, etc.). The process is both labor and cost-intensive, so ABLA is beginning with just a few authors and projects, and it will grow from there. But you are the trailblazer! The first ABLA author to independently publish a frontlist title with the agency's help.
PJH: What changes do you foresee in publishing in the next year?
LP: What's happening in publishing now is very exciting, and authors, agents, and publishers all have some fantastic new opportunities. Authors in particular have been empowered by these new changes, and all authors, published or unpublished, should pay close attention to the changes happening in the industry because these changes have a direct bearing on what will happen to to their work in both the short and the long term. That's been one of the great things about working with an ABLA agent; ABLA is doing more than almost any other agency to adapt to the new realities of publishing and to focus on the long-term upside for their authors.
As the publication of SOLSTICE indicates, there's been a shift in just the last few months towards embracing these new opportunities. We've seen bestselling authors turning down big traditional deals to explore new publishing models, traditional publishers launching promising new online platforms, and new agency models that embrace independent/digital publishing as well as traditional publishing. I think that we'll see even more of this in the next year. Given the speed at which these changes are taking place, I think that in the next year or two, the dust will settle, and everyone will have a clearer sense of the industry's new landscape.
PJH: Having edited manuscripts, what advice would you give authors looking for representation?
LP: Most writers already know how important the first few pages of a manuscript are, and I'll reiterate that. Your query letter is very important, of course; an agent needs to know that your idea is unique and commercial enough to sell, and how you communicate your book's premise tells an agent a lot about your skill with pacing and your sense of story. But, in many ways, your writing sample is the most important part of your query--the make it or break it part. A killer query letter with a weak writing sample is a much bigger problem than a weak query letter with a killer writing sample. So let's say you've already made sure that your first chapter showcases your writerly skill and your individual voice. You've made sure that your pages are clean and that they've been vetted by at least 3 trusted readers. Is there anything else to look for before sending out your writing sample?
I think there is. In my experience, great first chapters--the ones that make an agent or editor sit up and take notice--are those that strike a balance between the unfamiliar and the familiar. I know that sounds a bit vague, so I'll explain. A writer needs to hook his or her reader in the first few pages by giving the reader a compelling reason to keep turning the pages--some kind of mystery or puzzle or unresolved tension that points forward to the rest of the book. This is true across the board, regardless of genre and age group. (Even self-help books follow this pattern, destabilizing your expectations in the first chapter--"I ate cookies all day and still lost 100 pounds!"--so that you'll want to read on and solve the mystery of how that's possible.) So in your first few pages, you want to (productively) destabilize your reader and engage his or her curiosity. In short, you want to give your reader something unfamiliar.
But your reader also needs a way into the story, a foothold in your world. This means that your reader needs someone to identify with, or a familiar emotion or situation, so that he or she has a reason to invest emotionally in your story and to believe in the world you're creating. So your reader also needs to recognize something familiar in your world and/or in your characters.
If the whole first chapter is unfamiliar, your reader has no way in to the story. If it's all familiar, your reader has no reason to keep reading. So you need to strike that balance right off the bat, and it can be a real challenge. I've seen many first chapters that have one but not the other, and it's almost always a problem.
Now, getting all of that into the first chapter can be a real challenge, but it's worth it. Because the truth is that when your book hits the shelves, a potential reader may not give you much more than the first chapter before he or she decides whether or not to buy your book anyway. Even with ebooks, a potential buyer can sample the beginning of the book before purchasing it. In short, those first pages will be your first impression to your reader at every stage.
The rest of the ms has to hold up too, of course, so before you query, make sure that your whole manuscript is as strong as you can get it. If you think that there may still be problems in your manuscript, there probably are, and you don't want to miss a chance at your dream agent because of flaws you could have fixed. Even agents who enjoy working editorially have limited bandwidths, and if it seems like a work needs a great deal of editorial work, they will be more hesitant to take it on, even if it is very strong in other ways.
A final note: make sure that you query agents whose literary interests and prior sales match up with your work's category. For example, querying an agent who specializes in commercial thrillers, and who has never sold an autobiography, in the hopes that he or she will represent your quiet, literary autobiography probably won't result in a request, even if your work is strong. The agent won't hold it against you, but why query that agent when there are agents out there who have actually sold similar titles? Who would be excited to read "literary autobiography" in a query letter? Unless you have a definite reason to believe that your work will be an exception, focus on querying agents who have successfully sold similar titles or who have said that they're looking to take on works in that genre.
PJH: Thank you so much, Lara! I'm so happy I am able to work with you!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
E. Kristin Anderson's Bio:
E. Kristin Anderson grew up in Westbrook, Maine and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has a fancy diploma that says “B.A. in Classics,” which makes her sound smart but has not helped her get any jobs in Ancient Rome. Once upon a time she worked for The New Yorker magazine, but she decided being a grown up just wasn’t for her. Currently living in Austin, Texas, Ms. Anderson is active in her local chapter of SCBWI and as a poet has been published worldwide in around two dozen literary journals from the indie-queen Fuselit, to the prestigious Cimarron Review. She also has published work in recent and forthcoming issues of Hunger Mountain. She is in the process of querying a couple young adult novels and keeps herself busy writing and revising other novel projects. She wrote her first trunk book at sixteen. It was about the band Hanson and may or may not still be in a notebook at her parents’ house. Look out for Ms. Anderson’s work the forthcoming anthology COIN OPERA II, a collection of poems about video games from Sidekick Books.
Miranda Kenneally's Bio:
TXS&S: Can you tell us about Dear Teen Me and how it got started?
EKA: Dear Teen Me is an online anthology of letters from authors to their teenage selves. It was an idea that hit me like a stroke of lightning as I was walking out of a Hanson concert this past November -- I told my boyfriend that when I got home I was going to write a letter to my teen self about our first Hanson concert. I wanted to tell Teen Me about how amazing Hanson was, about how much fun we had, about how Hanson has changed over the years and about how she/I had changed. I wrote the letter. I put it on my blog. But then I thought, crap, I have so much to tell Teen Me. And I asked some of my writing friends if they wanted to write to their teen selves, too. And it exploded. Thank GOD Miranda volunteered to be my partner in crime.
TXS&S: How has starting Dear Teen Me impacted you and others?
EKA: Personally, it's given my teen self a voice that she didn't have before. She's getting to tell teens out there things that they need to hear. I think the struggle of being a teen is universal -- it doesn't matter if you're Miss Popularity or a total outcast. Some might seem to have it better than others, but a lot of us have a lot of pain and fear. I've had teachers tell me they read the stories aloud to their students. Teens and adults leave comments saying "me too!" It's incredibly fulfilling to feel that sharing your experience is making a difference.
MK: Agreed. I have made many new friends through Dear Teen Me because we all relate to each other based on stuff that happened in high school! My favorite response to Dear Teen Me so far is that a group of teenagers crowded around a computer at a high school library in Virginia and read through all the letters together!
TXS&S: You both are huge advocates of young adult literature--what or who inspires you?
EKA: Any author who puts it out there, no apologies, with respect for her readers really makes my heart move. Laurie Halse Anderson, Lauren Myracle, Ellen Hopkins, and John Green come to mind. All of these authors are pioneers in their own way. And, heck, they've all had their books challenged in schools and libraries. I also am hugely inspired by Francesca Lia Block. Whenever I feel like I can't write, like I'm all dried up, I read FLB and my reasons for writing all come flooding back to me. Her lyrical prose style just blows my mind.
MK: I love reading books that are real and don't try to teach a lesson. To me, YA literature is all about relating and feeling a bond with someone else. I don't like heavy-handed writing and in my own stories, I try never to talk down to teenagers. Some of my favorite authors are: Jennifer Echols, CK Kelly Martin, Simone Elkeles, Carolyn Mackler, A.S. King, Kristin Cashore, Sarah Ockler, Kody Keplinger, Lauren Barnholdt, and David Levithan.
TXS&S: What is the most interesting or exciting thing you have learned while writing your books?
EKA: I've learned that when authors say that their characters talk to them, they're not crazy. Or maybe they are crazy, but in the artsy way. Because, holy crap, sometimes I wake up and my character has to say something, and I have to actually start writing, like, right now. I've also learned a lot about cryptozoology as research for a book I wrote last year. I might have to write more cryptid books, if only as an excuse to keep reading about this super cool area of science!
MK: Yes - my characters talk to me too! In every book I've written, the main love interest has just shown up out of the blue. Even if I go in with a love interest in mind, some random character will appear and sweep me and my main character off our feet. Also, I have two characters that call each other "bro" and "sis." In real life, I have never called my brother and sister "bro" and "sis" and find it way corny, but for some reasons my characters do that and I listen to them. :)
TXS&S: Any writing tips you wish you could share with your teen selves or others?
EKA: Keep writing. Even if you feel like the weird kid who's writing a novel about Hanson in study hall (uh, hi, I totally did that), keep writing. And save it! In a safe place! I have almost all of my teen journals, but I wish I could find the fiction I wrote back then. And, in general, as a writer, find your community! There are writing communities almost everywhere, and now with things like Twitter, and places Absolute Write and the Verla Kay Blue Boards, you can TOTALLY find some compatriots in your area.
MK: YES! Keep writing and keep trying to get published by putting in lots of hard work and you'll get there. I had plenty of people telling me that the market is too tough and people write for years without ever getting published... but I wrote the book I wanted to read and then agents wanted to read it and now I'm getting published. It can happen!
Thank you so much!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
And also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jen!
Jen was born in Oklahoma (don't boo, you look silly)
Jen has one husband and two kids that are taller than her.
Jen believes that reading is a first class ticket to freedom.
Jen owns too many books and they are all in piles all over her house.
Jen always has a camera in her hand.
Jen is a master cupcaker.
Jen needs a haircut.
Stephanie wrote her first novel in second grade about a boy heart who falls in love with a girl heart, only to learn her “heart” is already taken. The school librarian posted it on the bulletin board and to this day Stephanie still wonders why none of her classmates asked for her autograph. When not working on her young adult novel (which has no love triangles involving talking hearts) you can find her consuming copious amounts of coffee and watching House Hunters. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband and is currently seeking representation.
TXS&S: You are both not originally from Texas, where did you two meet?
Stephanie: I moved to Texas in 2007 when my husband and I got married and he got a job here. I had made a few friends in the area, but not many. I was talking to Heidi Kling on Twitter one day in 2009 and she said, "Hey my childhood next door neighbor is @JenBigheart, she's a youth librarian in Austin, maybe y'all should hook up!" So I shot Jen a message and we met at Panera Bread the following week, and we've been friends ever since.
Jen: I think that's how it happened! I know Heidi put us in the same tweet and that was that. I think she said we both have the same sense of humor - - which is totally true!
TXS&S: Can you tell us about Literary Lonestars and what inspired this great group?
Jen: Everyone kept asking us when and where events were, or would be sad that they missed a signing that they didn’t know about. We started discussing what we needed to do to keep people informed of events in Texas at our holiday book blogger party.
Stephanie: For me I think it was more I was looking forward to getting to know other book bloggers and writers in the Texas area and networking with them, LL became a place we could keep in touch with one another easily.
Jen: Yeah, at the time I was compiling a list of Texas book bloggers, and was amazed at how many of us there were. I knew some of us knew each other, but I also knew that there were bloggers at events that I wouldn't recognize in real life. We needed one location for everyone to go to for info and event information.
Stephanie: We didn’t want LL to be just another blog for people to go to, we thought if we made it a Facebook page it might give people easier access to things, and have people be more involved in the group as a whole.
TXS&S: What are some pleasant surprises you’ve had since forming Literary Lonestars?
Jen: For me it was getting to know others who share our love of reading and literacy. I was also very surprised at the number of Texas book bloggers, we have over 50!
Stephanie: And for me it was how receptive authors were about LL. I remember being so excited when the first author ‘liked’ our page! We were also genuinely surprised at the support everyone showed for our book drive for the Austin Children’s Shelter. We were hoping to get 100 books and ended up with nearly 600 total.
Jen: Agree! We had books left over from our holiday blogger party and wanted them to go to a place that needed books. When we showed up with our 6 boxes, our hearts were called to do more. We reached out to bloggers, authors, and other readers, and they blew us away with their support. Today, the shelter is in much better shape and we are looking for another location in need. We are still taking donations to this day.
TXS&S: To what do you attribute your passion for young adult literature?
Stephanie: Honestly? Because I feel like I never actually grew up. I may be 25 on the outside, but internally I still feel 15. I feel like I identify more with teenagers than I do other adults my age.
Jen: Well I am not 25, but still feel young(ish)! About six years ago, I was volunteering at my daughter's school and lo and behold, there was a book fair. They were short handed, so I tried my best to help. I picked up a copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry and that was the beginning of my return to children's literature. I've been an addict ever since and turned that into a career when I went back for my MLS in 2009.
TXS&S: Any tips you can share for aspiring writers or librarians?
Stephanie: To me, networking was key. Once I found a group of writers (both online and in real life) that I could talk to about my writing with I got a whole lot happier. Being a writer is a hard road to go down, and I think it’s important to remember that it’s a journey that doesn’t have to be taken alone. Reach out to other writers, and don’t shun writers when they try to reach out to you.
Jen: Being a librarian isn’t just about recommending and checking out books, times have changed. Think outside of the box and get creative about drawing people to your library, department, and finally the bookshelf. You know, some people go to the library just to use the computer - that's okay, but we hope that books eventually make their way home. Use every tool possible, including social media, and reach out for support. There are fantastic library blogs out there that specialize in anything and everything.
TXS&S: What are some things you’re looking forward to?
Jen: Definitely ALA in New Orleans this June! We had a fantastic time at TLA with fellow TX bloggers, and can't wait to do it all over again in The Big Easy!
Stephanie: We had a Texas book blogger party around Christmas last year and had the best time! We’re hoping to do that again sometime this summer, I think it’ll be bigger (and possibly crazier) than our last party. We should have details soon!
Thank you so much!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Alex Bennett is the fourteen year old guy behind Electrifying Reviews, a popular young adult book blog. Along with reading and reviewing YA novels, he also writes them. Alex wants to be a published author when he gets out of high school, maybe even before that. He'd like to work in publishing, or be a psychotherapist. Maybe both. When not living in the world of books, Alex enjoys immersing himself in the other arts, including singing and acting.
TXS&S: Can you share with us what makes you so passionate about reading and young adult literature?
AB: I guess it's because I get to live out realities I could never experience in my own life. It's not like I'm trying to escape anything, but to live in worlds where anything can happen is like a breath of life.
TXS&S: As book reviewer, literary agent intern, and writer (just a few of the many different hats you wear!), are there any tips you could share with writers looking to break into this business?
AB: I think it's important to just...communicate. It's really not about knowing the right people, because if you are open and try to get to know lots of people, you may meet some people who can help you out. Then again, it's really about you writing something good that people think will sell. It's a complicated world, this writing business.
TXS&S: How do you see the future of reading changing, and what do you think writers/readers can do to stay current?
AB: I see reading changing in a lot of ways. Just like everything else, books go through phases. Before 2009, YA was all about contemporary, then in 2009 came the vampire phase, then angels in 2010, and now we are in a dystopian stage. And there will surely be something else next. I think people should just see what others are liking and see what looks best to them. It's not always about reading the latest and greatest, since a lot of the best YA books are ones that are already out and have been for a while.
TXS&S: What are some of your goals, and what or who keeps you motivated?
AB: A big goal of mine is to be published. And if I do, I'd like to be a writer full time. Besides that, I really want to be a psychotherapist. Another goal of mine is to keep reading YA long after I am a young adult. Oh, and to finish more books. I am usually the one to drive myself to reach my goals. My family isn't big on reading or writing, in fact I haven't seen my parents ever reading a book. Also, I have a lot of friends who are writers and just seeing how they were published after working so hard is inspiration to me.
TXS&S: Would your friends, family, and teachers consider you a Sweetheart or Scoundrel?
AB: Hmm... I'm always open to speaking my mind, and letting people know when they are annoying me. I don't take crap from anybody, and I can be very brash. But I'm totally not like that in the writing world, actually. I'm pretty nice to people online. I am well-behaved and caring to the people I do care about, but I am not afraid to be bold. So...I guess it just depends on who you ask.
TXS&S: Thank you, Alex! Best of luck!
Please email us your nominations for Featured Sweethearts.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS send Texas-sized congrats to P.J. Hoover for the release of her red-hot young adult novel, SOLSTICE!