Monday, October 1, 2012

The Prism of Roles: Another View of Character Identity and Narrative

My article, "The Prism of Roles: Another View of Character Identity and Narrative" was recently published in Hunger Mountain, the VCFA journal of the arts.

I examine roles and look at how they are an external expression of character. In addition, I delve into the multiplicity of roles, character development, and how writers can use roles as they create or revise their plot, plus I touch on character awareness and perception.

Please visit the Hunger Mountain website. You can find the article by clicking HERE.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Link medley: book giveaway, writers' viewpoints, and craft videos for writers


Kimberley Griffiths Little is giving away nine books to celebrate the cover reveal for her next book, When the Butterflies Came Check out her blog post for the details. (Deadline is coming up in about a week.)
Isn't that a gorgeous cover!!!
  
Here's some interesting recent links:
Janni Lee Simner talks about anthologies and writer compensation on her blog.

Tracy Abell talks about “How do you know when to let go?” on her blog.

Elizabeth Bird at Fuse#8 on  School Library Journal is sharing a countdown of the top one hundred children's novels.  I wonder what novel will be #1.

 Michael Hague's website has a lot of great tips for writers. Here's a link to his “ten simple keys to plot structure.”

 Online video lessons on writing craft:

Videos of Brandon Sanderson's creative writing class at Brigham Young University.  It's a great way to listen in on his class.

 Martha Alderson also has online videos available, the series of lessons on plot.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jane Kurtz--a conversation about Ethiopia Reads and volunteerism

Jane Kurtz joins me today to talk about Ethiopia Reads, an organization that works to increase literacy in Ethiopia. Jane is an author of many picture books and novels and is on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

[Sarah] Great to have you here, Jane. When and how did you become involved in Ethiopia Reads? What was your role?

[Jane] I've been involved as a volunteer with Ethiopia Reads from its very beginning--sometimes people call me the founder, but I was only part of a team.  I'm not the one who went to Ethiopia to see what could be done on the streets of Addis Ababa, for instance.  That was Yohannes Gebregeorgis who had come to the US as a political refugee and became a librarian and was wanting to get books to kids in Ethiopia.  My role was to raise money and organize a board and volunteers and other support.  Now Yohannes and Ethiopia Reads have parted ways--Yohannes runs a library in the northern region of Tigre and Ethiopia Reads is focused on the 55 school libraries and communities libraries that got planted and need to be nurtured into true book-reading, book-loving places.

My involvement grew out of my own childhood in Ethiopia, a fascinating place that has been the setting for about ten of my children's books.  I learned to read in Ethiopia.
I grew up in a rural area getting to see the determination of young Ethiopians getting a chance at school for the first time.  It's a thrill to be part of the team planting the very first libraries for kids and bringing professional development in literacy to the teachers who will teach them.

[Sarah]  Ethiopia Reads' goal is to "create a reading culture in Ethiopia by connecting children with books." One way they do this is by creating libraries. What types of libraries do they open? How are books selected for these libraries? Also, what languages are represented?

[Jane] We started with a community library in a rented house in one neighborhood.  Rents have zoomed upward in Addis Ababa, though.  Soon we started a pilot project with public schools that were willing to donate a room and a person to run the library.  We found donors--individuals, schools, churches, communities--who wanted to plant a library and the money those donors gave paid to build furniture and buy local books and ship containers of books from the U.S.

I think in the beginning of that project, I naively thought once a library was planted it was self-sustaining.  Some simple assessments, though, showed that we also had to work on what is sometimes called "human capital"--developing the skills of the people who run those libraries, Ethiopians who mostly didn't grow up around books or with libraries themselves.

We buy whatever books are available in local languages (there are 80 such languages in Ethiopia), which isn't a lot.  For all practical purposes, there is no children's publishing industry in Ethiopia at all.  Some authors do self-publish books, and we've tried to encourage that from the beginning of Ethiopia Reads.  A local authors' organization has asked to officially collaborate with us--and we've also done book making with teachers and kids.  A fun process...but slow!  In the meantime, since the curriculum is in English after seventh grade, there's also a great need for kids to learn to read in English, so we get donations of gently used books and a volunteer sorts and stores them until we can raise enough money to ship 40-foot containers full of books for the libraries.

[Sarah] I was delighted to view a video about the Donkey Mobile Libraries. How many books are carried by one of these libraries? Could you explain how these libraries work?

[Jane] The Donkey Mobile Libraries were created as a way to try community libraries that could go to where children are.  Because the carts were heavy, the donkeys couldn't really pull them far.  They stayed in town...the regional capital of Awassa and several nearby towns.  Now we're trying to re-invent this program to be Four Legged Literacy using horses, as well as donkeys, using lighter methods for the books themselves, and investing (ah-hah...a theme) more in the PEOPLE who will travel along and teach basic literacy.  If we can pull this off, we can do more of a reach into deep rural areas where kids aren't getting to school at all.

[Sarah] Ethiopia Reads has a goal of creating one hundred libraries. What progress has been made? What is the cost of starting a library?

[Jane] We've planted 60 libraries--mostly in public schools but with a few pilot projects in, for example, a kindergarten program started for poor families in one of the most crowded of Addis Ababa neighborhoods and into a private secondary school for girls.  But we're slowing down, now.  It can be so exciting to see the STUFF go in.  Stuff doesn't grow deep roots into communities, though.  People do.


For the past seven years or so, we've managed to plant libraries for $10,000 each.  We'll probably still slowly do that--plant new libraries--but we want to be sure we're focusing on some pilot projects for professional development as our main focus.

Also we're developing a strategic partnership with The Tesfa Foundation, which has been looking at increasing access to education.  Recently, they began a project to build five schools in the rural area of Kembata-Tembaro over the next three years.  Those schools will also be literacy labs and a chance for good investment in people and jobs.

[Sarah] How does Ethiopia Reads choose where to put the libraries?

[Jane] Dana Roskey, our executive director, says he rarely visits a school anymore that doesn't have a room allocated as a "library."  Often those rooms have no books or only a small and lousy collection of books.  Even where we've put 5000 books on shelves, the person running the library may or may not have an understanding of the power those books represent.  So we have, for instance, a monthly library support group in Addis Ababa so people running the libraries can share ideas and talk with each other about what works and doesn't in overcrowded schools (where a classroom can easily have 60 children).  In 2012, 8 library managers volunteered to try a book club in their libraries.  Next school year, 8 more will join that effort.  That's an example of the pilot projects to experiment with making sure real literacy is going on inside the libraries.

[Sarah] What stories can you share about how has access to books has changed children's lives?

[Jane] The stories that keep me going are ones that have come from a lifetime of living.  My mom was the only child in her family to go to college--in fact, just to get to high school, considering her upbringing in rural Iowa, she had to make her own way to a bigger town and find families to live with.  What a difference to our lives (as I look at my Iowa cousins) it made to have a mom who loved books and words and stories.

Ethiopians who are avid readers have told me stories of standing under street lights to get enough light to read at night.  One woman who told me such a story is now a supreme court judge in Ethiopia.  An Ethiopia Reads board members, an Ethiopian-American realtor in the Bay Area, talks about getting access to a good school in Ethiopia because of who his father was--"but a rural boy," he said, "who got access because he was a good student taught himself to read in Braille so he could keep reading after the lights were out."  There's such a hunger for good education all over Ethiopia.  I recently met a graduate student from Ethiopia (in school in DC) who was the first from his village to go to a nearby university; when he returned home periodically, he would take reading material and give it to the kids who came to ask how he had managed to get an education.  Now he's working with us on his dream--to build a library in his community.

[Sarah] Wow! Learning to read Braille so he could read in the dark.
How has access to books changed over time in Ethiopia? Are there now a wide range of choices and publishers of Ethiopian children's books?
[Jane] Access to education is still the big struggle in Ethiopia.  500% more kids are in school than a few years ago, but that is putting even more stress on overcrowded classrooms where a child will often wait for her turn to hold a pencil and copy a sentence the teacher has written.  There are too few children's books available locally and many schools that have no books at all.

[Sarah] Some of your books are set in Ethiopia or are about Ethiopians. Could you tell us about these books?

[Jane] I spent my childhood coming back to visit in the US every five years and finding very little interest in what life was like in Ethiopia.  Luckily for me, now there are pockets of intense interest.  Some interest comes from families who've adopted kids from Ethiopia.  Some interest comes from curious readers, including the editors who--particularly in the 1990s--were looking for books that would show a glimpse into life in countries like Ethiopia. 

I was lucky enough to publish my own retellings of folktales such as Fire on the Mountain, Trouble (now available in a bilingual version at www.ethiopiareads.org), Pulling the Lion's Tail--and stories of contemporary Ethiopia such as Only a Pigeon (soon to be re-released as Pigeon Boys of Ethiopia)--and stories of children with two homes, such as Faraway Home and In the Small, Small Night.  My first novel for young readers, The Storyteller's Beads, tells the story of Ethiopian Jewish families fleeing from Ethiopia in a time of war and pain.  I've written historical fiction--Saba: Under the Hyena's Foot--set in the ancient castles of Gondar.  And Ethiopia has woven its way into many of my other books. For example, when I wrote the Lanie stories for the American Girl Doll of the Year, I created a friend for Lanie who gets to go off to an international school for the year--and I drew on my memories of being an outside girl in Ethiopia.

[Sarah] Ethiopia Reads partners with other organizations and individuals to bring books to children. Could you talk about this? Also, what types of fundraising events are used to raise money for Ethiopia Reads?

[Jane] We always look and hope for little or big support of our ongoing efforts.

For anyone looking for powerful ways to thank a teacher or librarian or celebrate a graduate at the end of the year, we have new gift cards on the site at www.ethiopiareads.org and fun reading gifts that give 40% to Ethiopia Reads at this link:
 http://gonereading.com/ethiopiareads/

Also, this fall we are hoping to get some churches and schools to help with a fun project called Bring a Book Buy a Book.  My brother's school, which has done it twice, has found it a winner with parents, teachers, administrators, and kids.  Grand prize: a free visit from Jane and Chris Kurtz!--but of course the real winners are all the kids in Ethiopia getting to read books.

Jennifer, a wonderful new volunteer in the Minneapolis area, has put together a Power Point presentation that explains step by step how it works:  http://www.ethiopiareads.org/babbab   (If you're on Facebook, she has also put together a great page there.)  Here's how it works:  school kids clear their shelves of gently used books (parents love that) and bring them to school.  Once those books are arranged on tables, often an older class can take charge of the selling.  Kids buy each other's books for a dollar or two.  Voila...it's a recycling, celebration-of-reading and power-to-help project that only requires a little effort.

[Sarah] How else can people help?

[Jane] We have several events volunteers put together and are always looking for donations of items and fun experiences for those.  People have done walks and runs and birthday-for-a-cause fundraisers.  Everyone can visit the Ethiopia Reads Facebook page and share the updates with friends or share about Ethiopia Reads in other ways.  It's amazing to see the ripple effect of little things!

 [Sarah]  Thanks Jane for joining me today! It's been wonderful to learn more about Ethiopia Reads and hear how so many people are working together to increase literacy and access to books in Ethiopia.

To learn more about Ethiopia Reads check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Ethiopia Reads Website
Ethiopia Reads Twitter
Ethiopia Reads Facebook

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Botanical Garden: Palmengarten in Frankfurt

One of my favorite places in Frankfurt is Palmengarten, a very large (over 70 acres) botanical garden. It isn't far from where I live, so I often walk through the gardens and various plant halls.
Sometimes I take a notebook, sit on a bench, and write.

Here are a few photos I've taken over the past couple years.

Palmengarten and the entrance building

Spring bulbs. The lawns are filled with color during April and May

An autumn view of the lake. A waterfall is to the left and underneath is a cavern.
Flower in front of one of the garden halls
Rowboats on a lake in Palmengarten

Small greenhouse--this is one of the smallest in Palmengarten. Most greenhouses are very large halls.

One of the many statues that are carefully placed in the gardens.
Palmenhouse--one of the large buildings filled with plants. This one is filled with tropical plants. The ceiling is about 40 feet above the floor.
I use my time in Palmengarten to both enjoy the scenery and to think about whatever I happen to be working on with my writing at that moment.

I also enjoy seeing the various birds and their babies. Most are waterfowl (such as swans, ducks, moorhens, geese--brown European geese and bar-headed geese, and a heron) but there are also many other birds including blackcaps, pigeons, crows, magpies, dunnocks and more. I've also seen rooks while walking to the gardens.
Here are two bird photos:

Bar-headed geese in Palmengarten. (They are stunningly beautiful.)

Gray Heron at the lake. Normally these turtles don't have to share their sunny log. The other side of the lake has rowboats and paddle boats.

Sometimes after I walk through the gardens with my family, we drop by Siesmayer (restaurant/cafe/confectionary shop) and buy some treats. I highly recommend visiting Siesmayer if you are ever in Frankfurt!
The box has plastic windows: brilliant marketing!

 My favorite is the chocolate framboise--a gluten free chocolate-raspberry cake, with a pistachio on top! Yum! I'll miss this when I move away.

 A few more of their desserts.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Advertising on book covers and inside books


 Ads on book covers?
Last week a book was published in China with an advertisement on the back cover. It isn't intrusive--the ad is a small logo of a textile firm. The deputy director of the Publishers' Association of China announced his association's deal with an advertising agency in March. He talks about it in this article in People Daily. (Well worth reading.)
Though ads on covers may be new, ads inside books are not new. 

I remember reading books with ads in them. The ads weren't for products, they were for other books by the publisher. But they are ads! I went to my bookshelves to see if I could find these ads in some of my older books.
First, I found a picture book I bought when I lived in China. The back cover shows photos of other picture books: advertising. (As I thumb through this book, I now wish I had bought more copies of this book and bought some of the other books shown.)

Some books advertise other books published by the author--these advertisements use several pages at the back of the book and show book covers and include pitches or blurbs. (Some books published today still mention other books by the author, but they don't have the tone or look or feel of an advertisement.)

I own some recent children's books that include the first chapter of another book by the same author. This is a type of advertisement, one that can hook the reader. (It can also frustrate the reader if the book isn't yet published!)

Historically, some publishing houses included mail order forms on the back pages of their books.
Here are some of the publishing houses (who used these types of ads) that I found while browsing my shelves.

-Vintage Random House (1984): the back four pages lists "Vintage" classics: "Available at your bookstore or call toll-free to order." Plus, there is another page (and order form) to order the book on audio-cassette.

-Avon/Harper Collins (1990) published a Newbery Honor book. The back page has lists of books and prices, plus a coupon for ordering books.

-Apple Scholastic (no date) has the same type of form in the back of their Apple Classic Black Beauty. The books available are classics and are offered for around $3, with $2 for shipping.

-Ballentine (1976) Tolkien Books have information about ordering other Tolkien books. Plus, one book has ads for both Lord of the Ring Maps and posters on one back page and an ad for the MS Read-a-thon on another page.

Tolkien: Smith of Wooten Major and Farmer Giles of Ham; The Tolkien Reader.

-Other publishers on my shelves that have order forms are Dell (1973, 1990); Bantam (1974); Penguin (1986; 7 pages with 4 order forms! But no prices, yet it says, "please include sales tax); and Signet (1965 and 1984).

A more recent Scholastic Book (2002) has three (!) pages in the back with illustrated advertisements with mail order blanks to fill in.

What about picture books?
Golden Books and some Scholastic books and others show either book covers or a list of books--and I've bought books because of this--but these books give no way to order directly.

Next, I wondered if there were any books from a long time ago that included advertising. I found an example online from 1776: about 3/4 the way down the page shows an ad on an endpage of Aristotle’s Masterpiece.

At some point, most US publishers went away from selling directly to the public. I wonder why that decision was made; I think a few publishers are now again selling e-books directly to customers.

Advertisements could be intrusive and take away from the reading experience. (I can imagine a poorly done ad being placed right at a cliffhanger.) But perhaps the right type of ads placed in the right place would be acceptable to readers.

Here are a few questions that I'm now asking myself:
  • Would advertisements in the back pages of a book irritate me as a reader? (I remember when I was a child, I would always read these ads and wish I could get some of the books mentioned.)
  • What about ads on book covers? What if it was only a small logo?
  • What about a book where the author was paid to insert and highlight a product? (This has happened, by the way.) 
  • What if advertising meant that high quality books (edited and published by reputable firms) were available inexpensively?
  • Or should books, as one of the last few places we go for entertainment without marketing and advertising, remain ad-free?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Revision: links to authors who share early drafts


I'm always fascinated at how different writers revise their manuscripts.

I gave examples in a past post about Lewis Carroll and also shared my rainbow manuscript revision technique.

I recently found out that CBCC of University of Wisconsin placed Ellen Raskin's drafts of The Westing Game online. (The Westing Game won the Newbery award in 1979.)

Here's a link to the drafts and to the audio of Raskin talking about her manuscripts! 
The information and background about the book design (Raskin was very involved) is fascinating. (The first printing was shredded.)
The working notes and intro to the project are also excellent.

Deep revision for me often means cutting characters, adding characters, changing plot points, strengthening desire lines, and once *gasp* changing the premise, which meant rewriting that entire novel. Deep revision also includes cutting chapters and writing new chapters and scenes.

Below are links to other authors who share their revision process. All their examples are excellent.

Janni Simner posted various versions and an excellent analysis of the opening paragraphs of her short story, "Song for Two Voices" in 2005. In this post she also talks about finding the right voice for this story. She often shares thoughts about revision on her blog.

Melissa Marr shared early drafts from pages in her notebooks in 2009. See here and here.

More recently, earlier this year, Maggie Stiefvater shared her some of her revisions on her blog.
She also asked other authors to share their revision thoughts and process: Stiefvater gives links on her blog to ten authors who share their drafts.

Cheryl Klein talks about the Process of Publishing Second Sight


Photo by Cal Werry
It’s a treat to visit with Cheryl Klein today in my third of three interviews with authors and publishing professionals about indie-publishing. She joins me to discuss what was involved in publishing her book, Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults.

Cheryl Klein is an Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, and is the author of Second Sight. Her website is filled with information and resources for writers.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.] 

[Sarah] How did you prepare your book, Second Sight, for publication? What extra steps did you need to take because you published it yourself?

[Cheryl] I write my talks in outline form to keep them and me loose as I speak, so first I had to revise them for print — which involved a lot of revising altogether; I think I more or less rewrote my speech on voice completely. After that, I sent it to a freelance book designer I’d hired, and she came up with a sample interior design, which I approved. She and I then went through two rounds of proofs (which sometimes involved me rewriting more than I should) before finalizing the interiors. It was all very much like the standard editorial process we use at Scholastic.

The designer and I also collaborated on the cover, with both of us generating ideas, settling on a concept, and then tweaking the details until we had something I liked — something I love, actually. My personal style — in everything from the clothes I wear to the art I love to how I edit my books — emphasizes very classical, clean structures and lines combined with bright colors and textures and patterns, and this book cover is a wonderful example of that.

Finally, I registered for an ISBN so the book could be included in various online systems, and a bar code so it could be scanned and sold in stores. And I researched book printers and distributors online, and reached out to a number of services for quotes.

[Sarah] Who else was involved in the publication process?

[Cheryl] My designer was named Whitney Lyle — she’s now a full-time book designer for Scholastic. The books themselves were printed by McNaughton & Gunn in Michigan. Several of my editorial friends consulted on the copyediting and flap copy.

[Sarah] What are the advantages of publishing your book in print form? What were the biggest challenges you faced?

[Cheryl] I never considered publishing it solely in e-form — in part because I grew up on real, physical books, and I love them madly, and I wanted to have one of my very own. So one great advantage was just to be able to hold a book I’d written in my hands. . . . It was really satisfying, if that doesn’t sound too egotistical. On a practical level, the biggest advantages are probably having something physical to sell at my speaking appearances, as I do a fair number of those, and that the book can reach an audience beyond people who own e-readers (as that’s still just a limited subset of readers, and will probably remain so for quite some time to come).

The biggest challenge was trying to figure out the proper distribution for the books — how many books should go where, and which were the right services to use that would answer the particular needs I had.

[Sarah] You used Kickstarter as a way to raise money to print your book. Why did you choose Kickstarter?

[Cheryl] At the time I did it (July of 2009), Kickstarter had just opened for business earlier that year, and it was the only crowdsourced-fundraising website for artistic activities that I knew of.

[Sarah] You started your own small press: Asterisk Books. Could you talk about how this was helpful in publishing Second Sight? Also, how have you distributed your book?

[Cheryl] Well, I have to confess that Asterisk came into existence basically because of Second Sight — I wanted to have a proper imprint name to put on the spine and title page! I chose “Asterisk” because I love stars and punctuation, and because I love the additions and amendments and digressions the mark represents.

Second Sight is available online through Amazon.com’s Advantage consignment program and through Mybookorders.com, an independent distributor out of Minneapolis. Working with Mybookorders was really important and useful to me early on because (a) I wanted a non-Amazon option for people who are concerned about the company and (b) I needed a distributor that could handle discounts at various levels, so the people who sponsored me on Kickstarter could receive the proper credit for their sponsorship (for instance, a $10 sponsorship = $10 off the book), and Amazon doesn’t offer such an option. The book has also been for sale at my local independent bookstore near work, the wonderful McNally Jackson Booksellers, and I’ve been selling it at my various appearances since it’s come out.

I owe my mother a HUGE thanks here, as she and my dad are not only storing over a thousand books (at present) in their garage, she’s also been shipping books to Amazon and to my appearances as necessary. (They know her really well at the local FedEx.) Thanks, Mom!

[Sarah] The Asterisk graphic and name “Asterisk Books” do add a nice touch to the spine and title page! One last question: Second Sight is a popular book and is now in it’s second printing. Do you plan to release it as an e-book?

[Cheryl] At present, I do not have plans to release it as an e-book.

[Sarah] Thank you, Cheryl, for a great interview!

Be sure to visit Cheryl at her useful website (that includes many of her craft talks) and her wonderful blog. Cheryl is also on twitter. (There is important info on her website about the various option of placing orders for her book, Second Sight. Her book is an excellent resource for writers, one I highly recommend.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Debi Faulkner on the Teamwork of Indie-Publishing


It’s a pleasure to visit with Debi Faulkner today as I continue my series of interviews about e-books and indie-publishing. Originally from Detroit, Debi has lived in Europe for over ten years.


Debi is a poet and the author of four novels, including the chapter book, Lilypad Princess, and the young adult novel, Summoning. Her middle grade novel, Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat?, was recently released in its print version.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.] 

[Sarah] Publishing a book is always a team effort. Who did you choose to help prepare your books and what did they do?

[Debi] While I’ve always relied on my wonderful and talented critique partners and writing buddies to help me prepare my manuscripts in the initial stages, going past that into the indie-publishing field has been a real learning experience.

My first novel, Summoning, went through several rounds of revisions with my own writing circle, then several more based on advice from agents who’d suggested changes. Though none of those agents ultimately took on the book, I believed that it was a story that deserved a chance.

My husband was the one who convinced me to publish the book myself, and when I discovered that it was possible to publish electronically, I tried to learn everything I could about the process. Having a small (extremely small) bit of experience with digital photography and art, I made the original cover myself. Formatting was a bit trickier, because each of the venues available to create and sell an ebook has its own methods and its own formatting rules. For this book, I took on the (sometimes very frustrating) task myself.

I pushed the “publish” buttons on the various sites, and viola! a book was born!

It didn’t take long for me to learn that my cover was amateurish and that some of the paragraphs on the Kindle edition did not format correctly.

It was time for help.

A fellow indie author on the Kindle Board’s Writer’s Cafe, Thea Atkinson, created the current cover and various other members helped me correct the formatting errors.

But I’d learned my lesson, and I’d found a wealth of resources including Editor Extraordinaire, Lynn O’Dell, and Cover Artist to the Stars, Glendon Haddix.

[Sarah] You chose an experienced and well-known editor to edit your books. What was it like working with her?

[Debi] One of the main criticisms of indie-books is that they are poorly edited. Unfortunately, that statement can be all too true. It’s possible to write a horrible first draft, decide it’s pure gold and hit that publish button before a book is ready.

But writing is my career. My reputation is on the line every time someone samples or downloads my books. I wanted them to be the very best. I wanted them to be professional. As every serious writer knows, professional editing is a must in producing a professional book. And getting the right editor is important.

That’s where Lynn O’Dell of Red Adept Publishing Services came in. This woman is amazing. Not only does she have a copyeditor’s eye for all things grammatical, but her ability to analyze story arc, characterization, pacing, plot holes – everything a good editor needs to help an author fine-tune a manuscript – is spot on.

I hired her to work with me on Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat?, and it was definitely my best decision in this entire journey so far. She is tough, and she knows how to motivate a writer to work harder, dig deeper and find a story’s underlying “truth.”

Because she is so good, and because she is extremely popular with indie-authors, I booked a place on her schedule for my next book before I’d even started writing it!

[Sarah] How involved were you in choosing the covers for your books?

[Debi] As I described above, Summoning‘s original cover was my own. While it no longer has my cover, I did learn quite a bit creating it and through the criticism of it. On my second book, LilyPad Princess, I took the lessons I’d learned and designed the cover myself.

One of the biggest issues with ebooks is making the cover completely legible in a thumbnail format – that’s the size prospective buyers see, so making any part of the title or author name too small, or adding too much clutter that is not easily distinguishable at a small size, is counter productive. What works well for a print cover doesn’t necessarily work for an ebook.

For WereWhat?, I chose to hire a professional cover designer for two reasons: the story did not really lend itself to a photo-centric cover, and the genre/age-range (mid-grade paranormal aimed at boys) seemed to scream for something hand drawn. That’s when I found Glendon Haddix with Streetlight Graphicswww.streetlightgraphics.com. Glendon and his wife, Tabitha, were extremely accommodating, but it’s Glendon’s vision of Jack Henry’s world that is on the cover of the book. He took my suggestions, my concerns and the main themes of the story and worked them into a fun, attractive cover. When something didn’t quite match my vision, he revised it. For me, it was an amazing process to watch – and have input on – my characters coming to life visually.

When I chose to add a print version of WereWhat?, Glendon expanded the cover to include the spine and back, too.

Streetlight Graphics also did all of the formatting for WereWhat?, both in all ebook and print versions. Glendon also included the lobsterclaw from the cover at the beginning of each chapter, which I absolutely love.

[Sarah] Which e-books formats did you choose? Why? [Did you need a company to help with publication and distribution?]

[Debi] This is another one of the ever-changing aspects of indie-publishing. When I began with Summoning, in October of 2010, there were three main venues: Smashwords (which distributes to various outlets such as Apple, Sony and Kobo, among others), Amazon for the Kindle and Barnes and Noble for Nook users. There seem to be more options now, though to be honest, I’m not as versed in them as I should be.

One of the areas of flux for this particular issue has been the addition of Kindle Select through Amazon. An indie-author can achieve higher rankings and visibility by choosing to include a book in the Select program, which is a plus, but in order to participate, the book cannot be offered in ebook format on any other site for the duration of the commitment (which is 90-days at a time).
The arguments both for and against this practice are lengthy, and I won’t go into them. I will say, though, that I am currently experimenting with Select, and both Summoning and WereWhat? are signed up in the project. For the time being.

[Sarah] What advantages do you see with e-books?

[Debi] For me, there are two major advantages and one really nice “perk” ebooks have over a printed book. First is the ease of reading and storing entire novels. My Kindle is much easier to hold than a 500-page hard cover, and it fits easily into my purse, so I almost always have it with me. Of course, I no longer have to beg to buy more book shelves, either. I have to admit to loving the feel of a new, hard-bound book in my hands and smelling that new-paper smell, but when it comes to really diving into and living in an imaginary world with well-written characters, I can do that just fine electronically!

The second major advantage for me is the ease of purchasing books. Believe me, that’s a big one, too. I live in a non-English speaking country, and while I can find English books in the local store, they’re not usually the ones I’d like to read and the variety is very small. Ordering books and paying for the overseas delivery is also very cost prohibitive. Even ordering books through the local bookstore has proven out of my price range, because the stores must charge me all the additional costs they incur in getting the book. With my Kindle, I can go online, choose a book and start reading it within seconds.
That same ease of purchasing is one that I hope translates to buyers of my own books. Anyone can go online, find one of my books and be reading it without ever leaving the couch. Of course, getting the visibility for my books has proven to be the challenge.

The “perk” is that the cost of most ebooks is less than the print versions. It means I can buy more books!

[Sarah] Your book, Year of the WereCurse: WereWhat? was first released as an e-book. Recently it became available in a print version. What did you need to do to prepare it for print publication? Why did you choose to take time and effort so it would also be available as a paper book?

[Debi] You’ve hit on one of the pitfalls of ereaders for me – not many kids have them yet. Sure, as parents upgrade to the newer versions, kids will get the hand-me-downs, but right now there are just too few kids, 9-12 years old, who have their own Kindles. Or their own Kindle accounts.
I decided to add the print option to WereWhat? mostly due to the age range. I want to make it more available to my target audience. This is a new venture for me, but the print books are available on Amazon and can be ordered through bookstores, which should make it more available to the kids who may want to read it.

As of this moment, I have not begun the process for my other books, but if WereWhat? does well, I would definitely consider adding print versions of them all.

[Sarah] What are your plans for future books?

[Debi] In the long run, I would like to pursue both indie and traditional publishing. They each have their strengths, and I believe pursuing both is the best strategy for authors at this point.

Of course, one of the biggest things about traditional publishing that holds appeal for me may be an emotional one: validation. Having someone read your work and believe in it enough to want to invest time and money into putting it out there into the big, wide world…well, I’m sure there’s no feeling like it.

But I also know that I have other options. I don’t have to place all of my worth as an author on what a particular imprint is looking for at any particular moment or whether or not my manuscript is commercial enough or too commercial or if it can be easily categorized. If I truly believe in a story, and if I can work with a team of professionals to put out a professional product, then I have that choice and the freedom, knowledge and resources to do it.

Whether a book is indie or traditionally published, it still comes down to story – whether the book will attract and engage readers. If it’s a good story well told, I believe people will want to read it.

[Sarah] Thank you, Debi! It's been so fun to learn about your publishing journey.
You can find out more about Debi and her books by visiting her website.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Margaret J. Anderson on publishing out of print books as e-books

It’s a delight to visit with Margaret J Anderson today! It is really cool to talk with one of my favorite childhood authors! I discovered her books when I was in middle school, and I loved reading them over and over again. Her historical fiction books swept me away on adventures to foreign lands and earlier times. (Searching for Shona is a book I still vividly remember today.) I particularly loved her fantasy time travel books.

[This interview is also simultaneously posted on Through the Tollbooth, a group blog by VCFA alumni.]

Margaret J Anderson has been writing for publication for over thirty-five years and has published 12 novels. Her nonfiction books include biographies and science books. Her most recent books are Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification and Bugged-Out Insects (2011).

Her out-of-print novel, In the Keep of Time, was recently released as an e-book.

[Sarah] Did your rights revert back to you or did you work with your publisher to regain your rights to your books?

[Margaret] Years ago, after my early fiction books had been out of print for a while, I asked my publisher (Knopf) for the rights back. I had the idea of getting a regional press interested in publishing some of them as paperbacks that I could sell when I was giving school presentations, but I was too involved with new projects to follow through. This was before the era of Nooks and Kindles, so I had no thought of issuing electronic versions of the books – and neither did Knopf. I’ve heard that publishers aren’t so quick to relinquish rights these days.

[Sarah] Could you explain the process you went through as you prepared In the Keep of Time to be published as an e-book?

[Margaret] Six years ago, I wrote a historical novel called Olla Piska about the botanist David Douglas (of the Douglas fir). A couple of months after it was published by the Oregon Historical Society, they went out of the publishing business, leaving Olla-Piska as an orphan child. They returned all the rights, so with the help of Ellen Beier, who had done the cover, I began to look into publishing it as an e-book. We learned the names of companies like Smashwords and BookBaby, but the big question of how you let people know the book is out there hung over us. In the end, I decided to get my feet wet by publishing a book that already had potential readers. I get quite a number of e-mails from people who read In the Keep of Time and my other early books as children and are sad that they can’t find copies to read to their children.

When I decided to start with In the Keep of Time, I was faced with a problem. The book was published in 1977 before I owned a computer, so I had no digital version. I would have to retype the entire book into Microsoft Word. Somewhere I’d read that scanning the pages could introduce mistakes that are hard to fix. Besides, I’d have to tear one of my few copies apart to scan it and I wasn’t sure my scanner was up to the task. On the upside, retyping meant I could avoid the five most common formatting mistakes cited in the Smashwords style guide. (Don’t use the tab key to indent a new paragraph, etc.) By the time I was finished, I had a new admiration for my younger self – hammering out all those long-ago books on a typewriter and correcting mistakes with whiteout!

[Sarah] Which e-books formats did you choose? Why?

[Margaret] I chose to go with BookBaby, though I can’t claim this was the result of extensive research. It was mostly based on their response to an email I sent them asking (among other things) what was the advantage of using BookBaby rather than one of the other companies out there. Someone named Meghan wrote back saying, “I believe that the best part about using BookBaby is that if you need help, you can pick up the phone and dial us and a real live human being will answer you!”  That’s very reassuring when you’re dealing with all this uncanny stuff like an entire book arriving on your Kindle with the click of a mouse! I’ve already talked to Meghan a couple of times. Also, BookBaby is located in Portland, so it feels local. As well as formatting the manuscript for all the popular reading devices: Kindle, i-Pad, Nook, Kobo, etc., they handle the financial dealings, collecting royalties and sending them on to the author.

[Sarah] Why did you choose to release In the Keep of Time first?

[Margaret] As I mentioned earlier, In the Keep of Time has loyal followers—if  I can find a way to reach them. Although the book was written years ago I think it will connect with today’s children.  It is a time-slip adventure in which the key to Smailholm Tower unlocks the past, taking four children back to 15th century Scotland, where border raiding was a common practice. The next time they use the key, the children find themselves in the 22nd century in a post climate-change world—a world without technology. Today’s kids are aware of climate change, but it wasn’t on many people’s radar back when the book was published 35 years ago.

[Sarah] You chose a photograph you took of the tower for your new cover. Where did you take the photo? Did the photo require any editing or photoshopping?


[Margaret] The photograph on the cover is of Smailholm Tower, a Scottish border keep near Kelso where my parents lived after I’d emigrated to Oregon. It’s the setting that inspired my story, and I worked in some legends associated with the tower. We always visited the tower when we went back to see my parents, and I’ve taken dozens of pictures over the years. Laszlo Kubinyi, who did the original cover, based his artwork on a photo I sent him. I couldn’t use his cover for the e-book edition because of copyright restrictions, but I did choose a similar view of the tower.

Ellen Beier helped me design the cover.  Yes, we did do some photoshopping. The first step was to straighten the tower. Ellen pointed out that my photo had a slight leaning-tower-of-Pisa slant to it that I hadn’t noticed! Then we changed the background colors to give the picture a more interesting science-fiction look. Finally we picked the font for the title, which was hard because there are so many choices.  I’m excited about what finally emerged.

[Sarah] What other books do you plan to release as e-books? When?

[Margaret] That depends on how long my enthusiasm for typing lasts! And also how the current project fares. I feel as if I’m climbing a fairly steep learning curve! But I’m already more than halfway  through typing In the Circle of Time, a sequel to In the Keep of Time, which focuses on the future people.  There’s a third book, The Mists of Time, but before I do that one I want to do my earliest novel, To Nowhere and Back. It has also generated a lot of letters and was a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year in 1975.  After that, I may do Journey of the Shadow Bairns, which is based on my husband’s family history in northern Saskatchewan. Next in line is Searching for Shona, a World War II story that draws heavily on my own background.  And somewhere in between I’ll do Olla-Piska.

[Sarah] What advantages do you see with using e-books?

[Margaret] It will be interesting to see how this technology evolves, but I do think it’s a great way to make books that might have a limited audience available to readers. It’s hard for publishers to justify the production and storage costs for a physical book that isn’t going to jump off the shelves. E-books don’t take up space in warehouses or on bookshelves. They can also be sold at a much lower price. I’ll receive a 70% royalty for In the Keep of  Time from most reading devices, so I can price it as low as $2.99, which will give me $2.00 per book, the equivalent of a 10% royalty on a $20 book. The buyer benefits from the cheaper price as well.

Like most authors, I’ve always been in love with books and have a whole wall of them behind me as I write. But when I look at my grandchildren I see the writing on that wall! They like their electronic devices!  It used to be that the paperback edition was the poor relative of the hardbound book. Then readers wanted the lighter, cheaper paperbacks. Pretty soon they’ll all be turning pages on their Nooks and Kindles with their busy thumbs.  Personally, I still love the look and feel of a book, but I do like being able to adjust the font size on my Kindle!

[Sarah] Do any of the e-book formats allow a reader to order a print copy of the book? In other words, is there a way for a reader to buy a paper copy of the book?

[Margaret] There are ways to publish your book in a format that allows the reader to buy a print copy, but I didn’t go that route, partly because there still are a few physical copies of my early books out there through Amazon etc. Though the prices can be crazy! I just checked Amazon and a used hardback edition of To Nowhere and Back sells for anywhere from $39-$319! In 1975 it sold for $5.50.

[Sarah] When you were retyping the story, did you ever have the urge to change anything?

[Margaret] I have found myself doing some tweaking and editing! I’ve had 35 years of writing experience since I wrote In the Keep of Time.  I was a bit too fond of run-on sentences in those days, so I have eliminated some “ands.” I’m making a few bigger changes while re-typing In the Circle of Time, where Robert and Jennifer find themselves two hundred years in the future. The present time in the book is around 1979, the year I wrote the book, and I haven’t changed that. There is, however, mention of something that happened in 2010, which must have seemed quite far into the future back then. Seeing it didn’t happen in 2010, I’m jumping the event forward to 2050!

[Sarah] How does it feel to work with this book again?

[Margaret] Re-reading a book I wrote all those years ago is a bit like a time-slip adventure! It takes me back! Some of the incidents in the story were triggered by real events. One evening, when we went into the tower with our four young children, a black bird fluttered down from somewhere up near the roof and fell dead at our feet. I used this incident in the opening chapter of In the Keep of Time. The characters in the book weren’t based on my own children, but they do bring back happy memories of those visits to Scotland. And the book also brings back memories of children’s eager questions in response to the many slideshow presentations I’ve given over the years.

I really am enjoying re-visiting these old books. It’s a dark day when you get word from your publisher that your precious book is going out of print. I started this project thinking that turning my books into e-books would confer some sort of immortality on them! It turns out that isn’t the case. I have to pay BookBaby $20 per year to keep a book alive!  And the real truth is that a book is only alive when someone reads it. So I hope my old titles will spring to life again when today’s kids reach for their Sony or iPad, their Copia, Kobo, Nook or Kindle.  I love those names!

[Sarah] Thank you, Margaret, for visiting with me today. Now I have a great reason to buy an e-reader.

You can find out more about Margaret and her book on her website.
In the Keep of Time is available on Kobo, Kindle, Nook and other ebook formats.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Doors--like the cover of a novel--are an invitation to look inside


 I always wonder what is behind closed doors—especially fascinating and unique doors.

Door in Bruges, Belgium
Art Nouveau entrance in Brussels, Belgium

This long cord makes me want to pull on it and hear what the doorbell sounds like.
Long cord, to left of door, is what one pulls to ring the bell.

Some places don't have doors, but only openings, such as this stick house in Keukenhof Gardens in Holland. It reminds me of the story of the Three Little Pigs.

Stick House--I'm in the photo so you can see the scale
This door leads directly to a canal.
 Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium.

Just like a great cover or opening page of the novel, a door is an invitation to peek inside.

Front of Art Nouveau house in Brussels, Belgium
Detail of door. I'm standing in front.
 Occasionally, we are invited inside when we don't expect the opportunity. The inside can be even more amazing than we could have imagined.

Stained glass windows from inside of house.
The owner of the Art Nouveau house (pictured in the 3 photos above) saw us and invited us into his home! The windows are so clear and almost glow when seen from inside! They are gorgeous!

I took these photos on a recent trip we took to the Netherlands and Belgium. (Neither country is that far of a drive from Frankfurt.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bologna Book Fair 2012- Awards and Interviews

I enjoy following the Bologna Book Fair each year.  Two years ago I attended the fair. It's a great way to get a pulse of what is going on in children's publishing. Plus, it's fun see all the international publisher's booths and displays.

The BolognaRagazzi Awards are given each year in several categories. New this year is the BolognaRagazzi digital award, which is given to apps.  Seeing the covers (and reading the descriptions) of the award and honor books give me a good glimpse into the most stunning books of the previous year.

Also new this year is the Children's Museum Award. It was announced by HRH Princess Sibille of Luxembourg. How cool is that? The short list of museums looks intriguing. I hope next year a museum from the U.S. is on the list.

SCBWI is also involved in the book fair and has a booth. Interviews with authors and illustrators and others involved in children's publishing can be found at the 2012 SCBWI Bologna series on Cynsations.

I interviewed Paul O. Zelinsky, Caldecott Medal winner, for this series. If you want to learn more about Zelinsky and his amazing work, you can read my interview at this link.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Greg Leitich Smith: Dinosaurs, Writing, and Research


Greg Leitich Smith's newest book, Chronal Engine, is an exciting time travel adventure back to the time of dinosaurs.

Greg Leitich Smith in the Houston Museum of Natural Science

Greg is also the author of the middle grade novels, Tofu and T Rex and Ninjas, Pirahnas and Galileo. Plus, he co-authored the picture book, Santa Knows, with his wife, Cynthia Leitich Smith.

I'm excited to talk with Greg today about his writing process, research, and of course, dinosaurs.

[Sarah] Could you share your journey to becoming a writer? 
 
[Greg] I think everyone who is a writer starts out as a reader.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy reading, and pretty much read everything I could get my hands on (and still do).  In general, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction and enjoy mysteries, humor, and science fiction and fantasy.

In high school, I thought it might be fun to write for a living, but recognized that planning on something like that without having a day job or trust fund was not the wisest career plan.  I eventually put the idea aside and pursued my interests in engineering and, later, law.

When Cynthia started writing, she learned the business and brought home tons of books, the new generation of children’s and YA books, and I started reading them.  And that’s when I decided to try my hand at writing again.  I went to a couple workshops, submitted the manuscript for NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO around, and got some nice personal rejections.  Eventually I revised and submitted to Cynthia’s agent, Ginger Knowlton, who was probably not overjoyed to receive the manuscript of a client’s spouse. :).  She did, however, agree to represent me.  I think she sold the manuscript on the first submission after that.
     
[Greg] How has your writing process changed with each of your novels?

Each novel has tended to be completely different.  My first, NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO, was written essentially straight through without any kind of outlining whatsoever.  I had an idea that I wanted to do the Galileo story as a comedy in junior high, so I had sort of the broad contours of the plot, but nothing beyond that.  There was a significant amount of backtracking, though, and trying to keep things organized when you couldn’t “see” everything was difficult.

With CHRONAL ENGINE and my more recent projects, I now generally try to come up with an interesting character and a plot beginning, middle, and end, and then will attempt a preliminary draft.  This usually is only about fifty to seventy five pages long, but it’s enough to give me a sense of what’s going on.  I’ll then do a next draft, which will still be on the short side.  At this point, I’ll put together a table outline.  Basically, it’s a word processing document with a five column table.  Each cell in the table is either a scene or a chapter and I’ll write a brief description.  I’ll also put the whole thing in 8 point type so I fit the whole outline on a single page.  That way, it’s easy to see the entire story and figure out what’s wrong with the flow and whether any scenes need to be inserted or moved.

After that, I’ll try to come up with what I call my first draft – a novel length manuscript with a compelling protagonist and internal and external arc.  Once I have that, I’ll revise.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that that first draft and all its story arcs will be thrown out.  With CHRONAL ENGINE, the only things that really remain from the first draft are the title, one of the early scenes when they get to the Cretaceous, and the name of the protagonist.

When I do a revision, I like to print out the manuscript as two pages per sheet – it makes it seem like a book, cuts down on the sheets of paper, and seems more manageable somehow.  If I need to insert scenes, I’ll either write on the back of the printed out manuscript or use a legal pad.  I think one draft of CHRONAL ENGINE I did completely by hand on about five legal pads.
       
[Sarah] In an article you wrote for the Association for Library Service you discussed how you used children’s and adult books when you did research about dinosaurs for Chronal Engine. What other types of research did you do?

[Greg] The research really ran the whole gamut of books from picture books to professional texts and papers.  My wife and I also watched a lot of dinosaur documentaries and pseudo-documentaries (of varying quality) on Discovery Channel and the like. The BBC series "Walking with Dinosaurs" was enormously helpful in getting a visual on the ecosystem, although they did take some liberties with the dinosaurs.

Most fun, of course, was that it gave us an excuse to go to every natural history museum in every city we happened to visit.  Some of the museums we've visited include the Texas Memorial Museum here in Austin; the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman;the University of Michigan Natural History Museum; the Field Museum of Natural History; and the National Museum of Natural History.  Here in Austin, we also have the Hartmann Prehistoric Garden, which features plants that are of types that were around in the Mesozoic.  And, we also went to the JURASSIC PARK area of Universal Studios Florida and DINOLAND USA at Disney World.  For research purposes only :-).

Of course, it wasn’t just the dinosaurs that needed to be researched.  I also had to figure out the whole wilderness survival business and time travel.   For the survival stuff, I read books like the US Army Survival Manual and the SAS Survival Guide, as well as the Boy Scout’s Handbook (I’ve never actually been a camper…).  In addition, I made Cynthia watch far too many episodes of Survivorman and Man vs. Wild – at least, the episodes that were set in tropical locales.

[Sarah] Do you do most of the research before you begin writing or do you research while writing your books?

[Greg] Research was pretty much an ongoing thing.  I did a bunch of preliminary research to get an overview of the environment that I wanted to use: generally based on the Late Cretaceous Aguja and Javelina Formations of the Big Bend area in southwest Texas.

Once I go that, I sort of had a handle on the basics (and having been to the museums, etc., gave me an idea for the size of creatures and sense of scale, etc.), but there was a lot along the way that I had to look up and had to make sure of.  Essentially, every time I wanted to reference a new plant or animal, I got compulsive to make sure there was evidence of it in the fossil record (as of the Late Cretaceous).

For example, when I first decided to put in, say, crayfish and earthworms, I had to find out if there had been crayfish and earthworms in the Late Cretaceous of Texas (I figured there were, but wanted to make sure there was something in the fossil record).  My first go-to was the dinosaur references that I had accumulated, but in many cases they weren’t quite as comprehensive or time and region specific as I was looking for, so I often went to original scientific papers, many of which are available online.

I also perused books like the US Army Survival Manual to get ideas on what Max and the gang would’ve needed to do to obtain food, shelter, water, etc., and not get themselves trampled or eaten.  In early drafts, too, there were a lot of Swiss Family Robinson type scenes, where I went on in detail about how they built shelter, fish traps, snares, etc.  Fortunately, for the flow of the story, most of that got edited out…
    
I did do the time travel research from the beginning, because I wanted to have an actual time machine and have that machine be an integral part of the story.  Also, I wanted to make sure everything I did was consistent with the “mode” I picked, but also leave it a bit ambiguous (which it would be for the characters, anyway).
    
[Sarah] Could you tell us more about your fascination with dinosaurs?

[Greg] Dinosaurs are intrinsically, of course, totally cool. :).  When I was a kid, I had the advantage of parents who bought me books and took me to the library, and also to the Field Museum of Natural History, one of the world’s great natural history museums.  There was just something completely amazing about these giant, awesome creatures, and the fact that they’re no longer around.

And I think that’s basically the thing that draws people to dinosaurs:  they were real.  Not monsters, not dragons, but real flesh-and-blood animals that walked the earth.  Even better, they’re a kind of science that’s easy for laypeople to participate in, at museums or even hunting for fossils on their own (There are some amazing specimens that were discovered by children and teens).
 
And today, I think we’re in kind of a golden age of dinosaur science – new areas of the globe are open for exploration and new techniques are being used to examine specimens.  New discoveries are being made every day, and many of them are reported (with varying degrees of accuracy) in the popular media.  There’s also a very accessible blogosphere of paleontologists and paleo-enthusiasts and paleo-artists who make for some interesting conversation. 

[Sarah] Austin has a strong writing community. What types of involvement have you had and how has this helped you grow as a writer?


[Greg] As a community, Austin got its start in the mid-nineties when Meredith Davis founded the Austin SCBWI chapter.  Kathi Appelt, who was at the time the Regional Advisor for the Brazos Valley chapter, also was an early supporter of the Austin community.  In fact, early on, the chapters did joint events together, one of which was a workshop where an early draft of my first novel got a gratifyingly good reception from an editor at Harcourt.

Since that time, Cynthia and I have been happy to be a part of a group that has seen many members make their first sales and, importantly, stay in the community afterwards.  There’s a sensibility that we’re all in it together and that, as we were mentored, so we should mentor others. 

Thank you, Greg, for joining me today!

You can learn more about Greg at his website.  Also, be sure to visit his blog.

Friday, March 9, 2012

View From My Desk: Wrecking Ball (movie)


Here is what I see when I look out my window:


Yes, the view from my desk can be distracting at time.

They've been tearing down this building for over 6 months.  Some days the BOOMS and BEEPS are so loud that I hear all the noise even when the window is shut. I've been amazed how hard it is to rip apart a building.