July 30, 2010

Here's a Story . . .

Hubby and I've wanted to go to Austin, TX for years. We'd love to enjoy their music and literary scene. I'm talking to you, BookPeople!

So, this past Christmas/Hannukah, I decided it was time to stop wanting. For hubby's gift, I wrapped up a certificate. "Good for one trip to Austin, TX."

But Hubby's work/travel schedule kept us from going this summer, and it looked like Austin got shoved to the back burner. Again.

Then one evening, I went on the Whole Foods Market site to look up store hours. What jumped out at me was a contest. In 300 words or fewer, write why you love Whole Foods. (We LOVE Whole Foods. Used to drive nearly an hour to get there before they opened one nearby.)

The top 30 entries (judged on creativity, relevance to theme, etc.) would win a trip to the city where Whole Foods began 30 years ago.

Can you see where this is going?

Each winner gets to travel with a guest for a weekend to AUSTIN, TX.

I got busy scribbling all the reasons we love Whole Foods, then researched the company's history, then wrote a submission to the tune of The Brady Bunch theme song. "Here's a story of a store named Whole Foods . . ."

I won't post my entry because, while it was heartfelt, it was also dreadfully off meter. But I submitted it just before the deadline and then waited . . . and waited . . . and . . . waited.

The date for choosing a winner came and went. Days passed. No phone call. No letter.

"I guess we didn't win," hubby said one night at dinner.

"I guess not," I said.

Then, after returning late from a writer's meeting, there was an e-mail waiting for me. It said, "Congratulations! You've won the Whole Foods Market trip to Austin, TX . . ."

I read through the e-mail a bazillion times to make sure it was genuine. It was!

There was jumping. There was dancing. There was screaming. And that was just the dogs!

Hubby and I are heading to Austin, TX thanks to something I wrote.

Reason # 3,825,694 why I love what I do -- you never know where it might take you.

Thank you, Whole Foods! Can't wait to celebrate your 30th birthday with you in Austin, TX!

July 28, 2010


This morning, I decided to blog about my first knitting experience.

I like to try new things. Like, when I turned 40, I learned to play the violin. Badly. But I was able to play "Happy Birthday" to Hubby on his birthday. (Take that, Philadelphia public school system, who told me I was qualified to take violin lessons, but -- Sorry -- we have no violins.)

So, thirty-five years after my aunt promised to teach me to knit, then promptly passed away, I sat with a bunch of ladies and learned to knit. It took a few . . . okay . . . a lot of tries till I could do the basic stitch. (Kind of like learning to tie one's shoes.) After 1-1/2 hours of intense concentration and LOTS of mistakes, I had four lovely rows.

Even though I might not have "accomplished" much, I had a blast. My friend Nancy and I cracked up over our complete ineptitude. It was all a barrel of laughs until some pinch-lipped lady examined Nancy's work, shook her head and clucked her tongue. Who asked you, Judgemental Lady?! We're not doing rocket science here. We're making flippin' pot holders!

Well, I'm assuming that after much struggle and perhaps a little blood, there might be a flippin', lopsided potholder by, oh, 2012.

So I wanted to share the photo of my lovely four rows with you, but my new, much-loved Mac let me down. Iphoto didn't recognize my photo. What?! I know it was a paltry four rows of stitches, but not to even recognize it? Well, I never!

So . . . instead of spending the morning doing what I'd intended -- ahem, WRITING -- I decided I couldn't possibly pen a single word until I figured out why I couldn't upload my flippin' photo.

This landed me at the Genius Bar at the Apple store at the mall. Are they giving out free heroin there or something? That place was bursting with annoying customers, most of whom were both younger and smarter than I am.

But I was smart enough to make an appointment, so I had to wait only half an hour for a Genius. Thank goodness. Only half an hour to listen to an inane conversation about Lady Gaga that for some unknown reason, required the use of the F-word about four hundred and seventeen times.

Guess what? Turns out the Genius guy was not actually a genius. He was just a guy. And he was unable to capture my fabulous four rows of knitting. He said something like, "Third party blah, blah, blah. Can't read photo. Blah. You're screwed. Blah." Or at least, that's what I heard.

And because I HATE GOING TO THE MALL (I could not possibly make that font large enough), I never know where to park and ALWAYS end up on the exact opposite side from where I need to be. This meant I had to actually walk through the entire mall, which is only slightly less painful than getting root canal without anesthesia or listening to two potty-mouthed teens discussing Lady Gaga. I mean, who can stand all those mall people with their perfect hair and just-so makeup and spiky high heels -- and that's just the guys!

The whole experience sucked out a little piece of my soul. (I need a stroll in a forest to regenerate it.)

So, back home, when I should have been, you know, WRITING, I googled the problem and found it was probably just the card inside my camera. I'll need to reformat it, blah, blah, blah, Lady Friggin' Gaga, blah.

I popped out the card and took a picture with just the camera and -- Tah dah! -- it worked.

But I'm sort of pissed at myself for spending practically my whole precious day on this stupid problem, when I should have been, you know, composing the great american tween novel . . . or strolling in a forest . . . or cruising to Alaska with Paul Rudd. (And by Paul Rudd, of course I mean my most wonderful, excellent and exalted Hubby, who got to hear "Happy Birthday" on the violin one sorry morning.)

So, I hope you enjoy the photo of those flippin' four rows of stitches! I've gotta go now. I think I hear Paul Rudd calling. Oh nevermind. It's just my kids, screaming for dinner.

Hey, anyone want to buy a barely-finished pot holder? Yeah, I didn't think so.

July 25, 2010

New to Use . . .

Yikes! Lots going on at Wild About Words.

1. Thanks to Nathan Bransford for mentioning 6 1/2 Book Promotion Tips by the amazing Cynthia Leitich Smith. And thanks to Cynthia for sharing her expertise!

2. Exciting 6 1/2 Lists are on the horizon. Agent, Tina Wexler from I.C.M. Talent, will be sharing tips. And Paul May shares his funny list about what waiting for "the call" is like for a writer.

3. Hurry! Win a copy of AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT! in paperback from GOODREADS. (Contest expires, um, right this minute.) Or buy a hardback copy for a strangely low price. (Great way to get in good with your kid's teacher this fall -- donate a copy to the classroom library.)

4. Looks like there might be some exciting book news to share soon. But right now -- Shhhh! -- it's a secret.

5. Finally, this sweet girl posted about a billion . . . or maybe a zillion clips on YouTube of her reading HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL.

I love this for many reasons.

A. The book is about a boy who creates videos for YouTube, and I'd hoped young readers would connect with that element and be inspired to create their own videos.
B. I can't imagine how much time she spent doing this.
C. She looks like I did at that age, except I didn't wear glasses . . . yet.
D. Check out her fun yellow nail polish!

July 20, 2010

Promote Your Book Like a Pro -- Cynthia Leitich Smith -- Top 6 1/2 List

Cynthia Leitich Smith is everything that is wonderful about the children's literature community. She shares industry information, insightful interviews and book giveaways on her blog, CYNSATIONS. She is a community builder and a consummate professional.

Today, Cynthia is sharing tips about book promotion.

Cynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and Publishers Weekly best-selling author of ETERNAL and TANTALIZE (both Candlewick). Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (all HarperCollins). She looks forward to the release of HOLLER LOUDLY (Dutton, Nov. 2010) and both BLESSED and TANTALIZE: KIEREN'S STORY (both Candlewick, Feb. 2011).

Cynthia is a member of faculty at the Vermont College M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer's Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/was listed as among the top two read by the children's/YA publishing community in the SCBWI "To Market" column.


1. Research what has worked for other authors with titles that appeal to the same audience. Talk to them, read their blogs, offer to buy them lunch and pick their brains. Youth literature authors are big on paying it forward. That resource person may turn into one of your most effective advocates.

2. Make a plan. Think about your goals, audience, contacts, competing time demands, budget, other resources, and what kinds of things you enjoy doing. Is this a book that will be stocked in bookstores or will it go primarily to the school/library market? Do you have a curriculum tie-in? A news hook? Is your audience made up of 4 to 7 year olds or high school and college readers? The formula for every book and every author will be different.

3. Give yourself deadlines, and do what you can before the release date. Put together your readers' guide and media kit. Order bling. Hire a web designer or publicist. Contact bloggers. Plan the launch party. Work now to make it easier on yourself later.

4. Start buzzing. Announce the illustrator, cover art, the flap copy. Show off your book trailer. Promote upcoming tie-in events. Let your excitement show.

5. Launch the book. This is the time to go full-out with your plan. Enjoy it! You've got your plan. Many of the elements are already in place. And be flexible. Keep your eyes and ears open for new, unforeseen marketing opportunities.

6. Keep pounding that drum-not only while the book is on the front list but for its life in print. Publishers have limited staffs and season after season of new books to think about. You're the best, most consistent spokesperson for your book.

6 ½. All of that said, your most important job is to get your next book written. Nothing sells a back-list book like a new release. So have fun with marketing and promotion, but remember that you're a writer-first, last, and always!

Thank you, Cynthia!

Couldn't agree more with 6 1/2. The best advice my agent, Tina Wexler, has given me is simply: "Write the next book."

What's YOUR best promotion idea?

July 16, 2010

Lights, Camera . . . ACTION!

I don't know about you, but I love watching previews at the movies. It's like getting the best parts of a movie in only a few minutes.

So it's no wonder that I enjoy clever book trailers.

Here's Josh Berk's "Release Day" music video that's so filled with joy, you can't help but grin . . .

How about this sweet rap video from Mark Peter Hughes, when he finds out his novel, Lemonade Mouth, will be produced by Disney.

For an explosion of creativity, check out Maggie Stiefvater's trailer for her novel Shiver. Maggie created paper cut-outs for stop motion AND the music!

And check out her fabulous trailer for her brand new book, Linger . . .

"What's that, Hammy? Really? Okay. I'll tell them."

Ahem, Hammy the Hamster wants you to watch his video. He says it's the only way he can become a famous movie star.

(For being small, furry creatures, hamsters can have such big heads!)

Thanks for joining us today at the movies! And, incidentally, for our 300th blog post! Wahoo! *** Throws confetti ***

July 15, 2010

Beginnings . . .

When I finish writing a novel, I don't rush into a new one. I can't.

I read once that best-selling novelist, Jodi Picoult, begins a new novel the minute she finishes writing her old one. Immediately. If I did that, the new novel would sound a whole lot like the old one.

I spend about a month (sometimes longer) emptying, letting the characters and their story go. I also get neurotic, convinced I'm doing nothing of importance with my life and must get a new career. Immediately. I drift. I get irritated with myself for "wasting" time and not writing. I'm cranky sometimes and joyous others. Mostly cranky. (It's no fun living with a writer.)

And then something happens. I start to notice things and think, now THAT would make a great character name. What a funny tidbit. I've got to include THAT in my next book.

Newbery Medal winner, Linda Sue Park, calls this period, where she's sure she must get a job teaching (not writing), RESETTING from one book to the next. I love that term because it's apt. I call this process FILLING THE WELL.

And once it begins, it's a lot of fun -- preparing the mind to begin an entirely new project, full of hope and potential.

If YOU'RE filling YOUR well, here are a few gems from the book: THE SECRET MIRACLE: THE NOVELIST'S HANDBOOK, edited by Daniel Alarcon, which incidentally, came out the same day my new novel did -- April 13, 2010.

"The best first chapters . . . should contain the DNA of the entire book in miniature." Jonathan Lethem

"You shouldn't write a check with your first chapter that your novel can't cash." Adam Mansbach

On the difference between writing a novel and a short story: "Novels are longer and have more shit in them." Stephen King

"I try to get a thousand new words every writing day, five days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. Try." Michael Chabon

On moving forward when you are blocked:

"Go for more walks. Don't take a book. Throw my mind on its own resources." Stephen King

"I just write anyway, even knowing it's lousy. Ten pages of bad writing are more useful to me than giving up for the afternoon -- let alone the week, or the year." Daniel Handler

If you are beginning, I leave you with this simple, but brilliant quote by Lewis Carroll: "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."

July 9, 2010


"It takes twenty years to become an overnight success," Eddie Cantor said.

Since I sold my first bit of writing -- cryptogram puzzles for $1.50 a piece -- when I was twenty and sold my first novel when I was forty, I can attest to that!

It's a long journey, but a fun one if you love what you do. And it's even more fun when we help each other along the way.

Here are some excellent resources for information, inspiration and a warm, welcoming community:

For Industry News:

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog CYNSATIONS. You'll learn much about what's happening in the industry as well as have opportunities to win books.
  • Nathan Bransford's BLOG gives tips and hints about successful queries as well as poses questions about all things publishing.
  • Arthur A. Levine just started a BLOG with an interesting discussion going on right now.

For Agent Info:

  • Verla Kay's MESSAGE BOARD offers a wealth of information about agents and everything else! It's a vibrant and generous community.
  • Casey L. McCormick has a series of interviews with agents as well as other links and info. Check out the Q & A she did with my agent, TINA WEXLER from ICM.

For inspiration:

  • MIKE JUNG talks about signing with an agent after much patience and persistence.
  • STEPHANIE J. BLAKE signed her first book contract after years of close calls.
  • ROBIN MELLOM, a third of the Disco Mermaids, talks about the sweet deal negotiated by her agent, JILL CORCORAN, after a long road of writing, revision and rejection.
It happened to them. It happened to me (after half a dozen rejected and UNpublished novels that are sitting in a drawer). It can happen to you!

If you know of any other resources for writers and/or illustrators, please share in the comment section. And if you have any good news, please share that, too!

July 5, 2010

Born on July 5th . . .

1. P.T. Barnum
2. This blog
3. Jason Wade
4. Huey Lewis
5. Me
6. Edie Falco

Who was born on YOUR birthday?

July 2, 2010


The sensational Cynthia Leitich Smith is giving away a copy of HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL on her wonderful blog, CYNSATIONS. (Head over and win yourself a copy.)

If you'd rather win a copy of the new paperback version of AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!, you can do that over at GOODREADS.

And if you'd prefer a REALLY cheap hardback version of AS IF BEING 12 3/4 . . ., you can get that here.

Here's hoping that whatever you're reading this summer, you are enjoying yourself immensely.

I just finished Nature Girl by Jane Kelley. What a FUN read!