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street music

Mar. 13th, 2010 | 11:08 pm
location: Frankfurt

So what music did I hear today as I walked on the pedestrian street downtown? (Closed to cars.)

Dixieland Jazz-- a group of four musicians.
Classical--a violinist and cellist playing Handel. They are obviously professionals.

Sometimes when I'm out I see a man with a music box of sorts. He turns a handle and music comes out. It is very German. I think it is called a hand cranked barrel organ in English. (Drehorgeln  in German.)
Or I hear drums.
Jazz--all types.
I hear all sorts of music--Frankfurt is an international city. (40% of those who live here are foreign passport holders, so there are people here from all over the world.)

This is one thing that is fun about living in a big city, no matter what country it is in--the street musicians.
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An interview I did with a publisher is on Cynsations!

Feb. 24th, 2010 | 03:57 pm

Head on over to Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations and read the interview I did for SCBWI Bologna with Gita Wolf, publisher of Tara Books.

Tara Books, in India, makes awesome books. The books are available in the United States. I fell in love with their books when I ran across The Night Life of Trees in a bookstore in downtown Frankfurt. I bought the limited edition, handmade (hand printed on handmade paper) book even though it was in German. (It is a translation.) I plan to buy an English copy of this book. This book is the most stunning and gorgeous book I own. It is more than a book. It is art.

Try to find a copy of any of Tara Books books. You will be impressed.

I'm headed to the Bologna Book Fair next month. I'm excited. Children's books, from publishers all over the world. It will be great fun and I'll post a few photos after I get back.


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Semester Recap

Dec. 19th, 2009 | 10:22 pm

A brief look back at my just-finished semester at Vermont College. My advisor was Shelley Tanaka. It was wonderful to work with her. I feel so lucky that she was my advisor. I learned so much from her and my writing improved each month.

Some of what I did:

I read 38 novels, 37 picture books, 5 short story collections, 5 craft books, 1 nonfiction (though some of the PBs were also nonfiction) and 3 graphic novels.

I wrote 2 critical essays.

I wrote:
*A non-fiction picture book. This is finished. It was a wonderful experience to work with Shelley through the process from the beginning to the end with a nonfiction book.

*A YA short story. I wanted to learn more about writing short stories, as well as successfully make one work. (I did try 2 short stories my first semester, but one is probably a novel, and the other one I didn't quite pull off--though I want to go back at some point and figure it out.) I am workshopping this short story at VCFA residency--Shelley suggested I get feedback from others, as well use the group as a way to gauge if my intended effect works or not.

*A YA novel, the one I drafted 1st semester. At the beginning of the semester, Shelley read a near-first draft; I had done a little large scale revision on it, but it wasn't a second draft yet. I spent a lot of time revising this throughout the semester. I changed the premise and combined some characters and did a lot of deep character development. I made great progress. I'll be continuing to work on this book this coming semester.

* A picture book. I showed Shelley one of my PBs from last semester that I really like, but I felt needed a little bit more of something. She gave me feedback and this book is now polished.

I also turned in some first drafts with my last packet, because I wanted her feedback.
*The first chapter of a MG novel, that I've been thinking about for over a year. It is amazing what Shelley can tell me about a book by only reading the first few pages. I'm excited to write this one; as soon as I have time I'll draft it.
*I also turned in 2 picture books drafts. One is an idea I can't figure out, so it was good to talk with her about that and the possibilities. The concept will appear in a book at some point. The other picture book is easier and I plan to revise it.

I just got the workshop book for January residency at VCFA. They try to make it so we work as many faculty advisors as possible, so we are typically put with someone we've not worked with before.
The faulty leaders of the workshop group I'm in are Cynthia Leithich Smith and Sharon Darrow.
I'm excited to both get to know them better and learn from them.

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Today is my Writing Anniversary

Dec. 14th, 2009 | 12:06 pm

Today is my fourth writing anniversary!

Four years ago, I became a writer. I went to bed one person, and the next morning I woke up a writer.
That early dark Finnish morning, when I turned on our computer and began to write a story (it became a novel), was a turning point in my life.
I didn’t know it that day, or even that month, but I had become a writer. It took me another 3 years for me to think about myself as a writer and to be able to call myself a writer.

The last four years have included three international moves; lots of writing--books, blogs, essays; meeting many writers who have become my friends; reading many wonderful manuscripts; and having the incredible opportunity for intense mentoring as I work toward my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

I want to thank all of you for your friendship and support in my life journey.
I wish I could have all of you over at my home to help me celebrate.

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Hunger Mountain Fundraiser--Critique auction

Dec. 10th, 2009 | 02:10 pm

Hunger Mountain, Vermont College's literary magazine is auctioning off critiques and other things. This auction runs until Saturday.
carriejones offers a full novel critique. Tim Wynne-Jones, An Na, other authors, editors and agents also offer critiques.

Go here to find the auction:

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Book Previews

Dec. 1st, 2009 | 01:21 pm

Sometimes I get to read a manuscript for another writer. It is always fun to read a work in progress, as well as an honor to be asked to give feedback. Writers often have a few other writers (sometimes called beta readers) read their book before they send it to an agent or editor.

In the next few months some of manuscripts I’ve read will become published books. The books will likely be a little different from what I read because a lot can change during the editorial process. Follow the links to learn more about these books and authors.

All of these books have memorable characters, great plots, and are fun to read!

The Dark Divine
by Bree Despain. Y
oung adult paranormal. Available December 22nd. If you want to read the first few chapters you can go here. This is not the normal genre I read, but I loved this book.

Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams. Middle grade fiction. Available April 15th. Her characters are still vivid in my mind and I read this book about 2 years ago.

Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner. Young Adult Fantasy. Available April 27th. This is set in modern day Iceland, yet uses some characters from the Icelandic sagas. Very authentic and a very cool book.

I don't know where to go to get the images for the covers or quite how to link to them. If anyone knows how, let me know and I'll edit this post.

There is another book coming out super soon that I’m also looking forward to.

One fun part of Vermont College of Fine Arts' residencies is that faculty and graduating students give readings. Often the faculty read from works in process. There are a lot of books I’m excited to read, yet I need to wait a year or two. But Rita Williams-Garcia's book, One Crazy Summer is coming out January 26th. Rita was a National Book Award finalist this year for her incredible young adult book, Jumped.

Not a preview, but there is another book I want to recommend. Marion Dane Bauer read The Longest Night to us last July. It was released in August. This wonderful picture book, which has stunning illustrations, is a perfect book to read this winter.

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Nano winner

Nov. 23rd, 2009 | 08:07 pm

My 16 year old daughter heard about Nano on her birthday, Halloween.
The NEXT day, Nov 1st, she dove in and started writing. Yesterday she finished her 50,000 words!
Congratulations, E.!

Now she plans to revise her book, in between Varsity basketball, and a heavy load of IB (International Baccalaureate) classes, which include two foreign languages.

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Children's Non-fiction

Nov. 21st, 2009 | 02:43 pm

This year's National Book Award Winner (Young People’s Literature category) is a non-fiction book. This is the first time a non-fiction young adult book has won this award. Two of the National Book Award finalists are also non-fiction.

Today at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention Shelley Tanaka receives the Orbis Pictus Award for Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator. Yay, Shelley. (She's my advisor this semester at VCFA.)

I’ve been thinking about what makes a good non-fiction book because one of the books I’m working on this semester with Shelley is a non-fiction picture book.

I wrote a rough draft of this concept, workshopped it as a PB almost a year ago, and set it aside. I didn't open the file when I wrote a totally new draft, designed for an older reader and sent it with my first packet. Shelley and I talked about it and I decided to go back to a picture book approach (instead of MG, but for an older audience than my original) and totally rewrote the book. She gave me a few things to think about and work on while I revised. This helped me find the voice for the book.

The interesting thing about this book is I'll be the illustrator, well, actually, the photographer. A professional illustrator and Shelley (who have seen my photos) have both encouraged me to use my own photos. So I have an interesting opportunity. It is very different approaching a text as an author-illustrator and I'm learning from this.

Now I have a draft that I like and I'm revising it. My general approach is a simple text, with about 5 to 10 words on each page. With this revision I've developed sidebars that will answer questions a child might have. I've also worked on captions.

With non-fiction it is important that each element works together. Also each element (main text and sidebars) needs to have a narrative arc, though it might not be obvious to the reader. This makes it so the book can be read by different levels of reader.
I have the main text, sidebars, and captions to balance. I might add a couple floating blocks, which are slightly different than sidebars.

Yesterday I dummied this book. I took 8 pieces of paper, folded them in half and sewed them together. That makes a 32 page book. Then I cut out every sentence and each thumbnail photo. (Normally I dummy a book with only words so this feels different to me.) I had about 125 pieces and I taped them in the book. Then I moved things around, deleted things, scribbled, cut and retaped. I even moved one major section of the book, near the end. Structurally, there are 6 sections. I spent a lot of time deciding the best locations of the sidebars and altering them. I looked at key points, and moved some around. I thought about page turns. A lot will still change and pages might not be where I envision, but this process help words drop out and helps me revise.

Today I'm making all the changes in the computer file. The formatting of a manuscript is a little different for non-fiction. I have a few more questions for Shelley about how to format a few things so it looks professional.
My last packet is due in 2 weeks. I'll finish this revision today and can set it aside. That way I can see it fresh and revise it one more time before I turn it in. While it is resting, I'll work on novel revisions.

I'm sure I'll learn more about non-fiction at January's Vermont College residency. We were assigned to read the 3 non-fiction National Book Award books for residency in January. (The 2 honor books and the winner.) It will be fun to discuss them from a craft angle.

I also wrote about non-fiction on my Explorations blog. Feel free to check it out.

What do you think makes a non-fiction book excellent as well as one that kids want to read?

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Dark Divine by Bree Despain is coming out--sneak preview

Nov. 18th, 2009 | 10:36 am

Bree and I met at the only conference I've gone to. We were in the same workshop together, with Martine Leavitt.
Bree's writing is emotionally rich, her characters are vivid, and her stories are wonderful. I still want to read the complete book of what she workshopped.

I read Dark Divine in a manuscript form in April 2008 and even though I don't read much paranormal because I prefer other genres, I fell in love with the characters and enjoyed the story. I'm excited to reread it with the whole experience of a stunning cover and turning pages.

It is exciting to see a book published that I was privileged to read at an early stage. I'm looking forward to reading many more. A couple books I read are coming out in the spring.

You can read the first chapter in Romantic Times book reviews. A chapter will be released each week. Click here to read.
Dark Divine is coming out next month, just in time for Christmas.

To learn more about Bree Biesinger Despain go to her website.

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Choosing workshop submission

Nov. 12th, 2009 | 10:59 am

I'm trying to choose what to submit for my workshop at VCFA. It's due on the 20th.  In 8 days.
VCFA's workshops are incredible writing laboratories and I learn as much from what other writers submit as from what I submit. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to submit. This time--I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out.

I can turn in something new--as in a first draft, or something I've revised.
I can turn in 3 PBs, or 15-20 pages of middle grade or young adult.
I can turn in a short story, non-fiction, or part of a novel.
Or I can turn in a mix, for example I could turn in two pieces of writing, like a PB and a short story, as long as I stay within the page limit.

I don't want to turn in something that I'll revise and send to my advisor in December.

I find we usually learn more from a piece that hasn't been revise umpteen times.

Right now I'm leaning toward something new--I've been drafting the beginning of a novel during the last few days. It's very drafty, as in first draft.

Or I could turn in a short story I've worked on a bit this semester. It is 8 pages long. (I've been trying to figure out how to write short stories--they don't come as easily to me as a novel or PB. Or maybe I just need more practice.)

Or maybe a non-fiction.

I'll talk with my advisor early next week. Maybe she'll have a suggestion.

I better get back to the novel I mentioned. If I turn it in for workshop, I'll need more than four pages. Perhaps I can finish chapter one today.

Happy writing everyone.
And good luck to all who are doing Nano.


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