Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A fab new singer!

Even though my blog is mostly about writing for Children and Young Adults I wanted to share a wonderful new talent in the music world - Debra Fotheringham.

Debra is the sister of a very good friend of mine and she recently cut her first CD. She's been traveling all over the country as well as Europe singing her own concerts the past year. She does the guitar work as well as sings, and her writing is very impressive, too.

Debra's music and voice reminds me of Norah Jones. Check out her website. The lead song plays as soon as the site comes up. Her other songs are also listed and you can listen to them AND buy the album directly from her website.

I got to meet her for the first time last week and hear her perform. She's darling and awesome.

Enjoy a great new artist!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Such a powerful book!

I got to meet Erin in L.A., the author of this incredibly moving memoir, and we instantly connected when we realized that our lives took a similar, terrible path when we were both 14 and lost our parents; Erin's mother and father in a car accident and my father and my cousin Brett in a plane crash. She had me crying before I'd even cracked open the book. Talking in L.A. we were teary-eyed and hugging each other and had barely met. Meeting her and reading a book like this was something I never expected to happen when I signed up for the SCBWI conference.

The book is beautiful and moving. I think Erin is so very, very brave to write this and go through the terrible pain and depression she experienced while writing the memoir. Read her husband's heart-wrenching account here: griefgirl . I'm so amazed Erin got through it and wrote it anyway even though she could have quit. I tried once, about 17 years ago, to write about the experience of losing my father. I fictionalized it, changed people and events - and it did not work. The story was stiff and melodramatic and I never tried again. Even though it's been thirty years since the accident, it sometimes still feels too close to get the right perspective, if that can make any possible sense.

Reading GRIEF GIRL had me crying of course, but a flood of details and memories kept rushing into my mind, things I'd pushed away with the effort to move forward and go on with my life, but reading Erin's account also made me want to try to write my story again. I'm not sure I'd write it for publication, but I'd really like to put the horribleness my family lived through and the grief and pain I personally went through at 14 years old down on paper. And tell it true this time. The real story. The actual facts. What really happened. I'm getting this strange feeling like I NEED to do this, not only for myself, but as a gift, a remembrance, for my family; my mother, my brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles and cousins when we lost two family members that horrible December day when my father's plane came crashing down to earth and burst into flames 5 days before Christmas, and the day of my little brother's 5th birthday.

It's scary to think about reliving the tragedy and loss in excruciating detail - but I'm feeling this need to have a tangible account of that time and the aftermath that went on for years. To have a record. To talk about it. Because my family didn't talk much - we mostly held all the grief inside. As well as all our secrets.

To see Erin talking about the book go to her MySpace page and click on the video. I just love her.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Home Again

24 hours of driving in three days to take my son back to college this last weekend sucks. I hope I'm done with all the car trips for awhile. I'm TIRED! And we've already been back to school for almost two weeks here. What is with that?!? Starting school on August 10th!!! I've lived in New Mexico for two decades now and I'm still not used to it. This California girl knows in her bones that school should not start until after Labor Day. So there.

At the moment I've got a tormenting question about Tracey Adams, agent extraordinaire in North Carolina.

For those of you who went to SCBWI LA, I cannot find *anywhere* in my notes what Tracey said about subbing to her. I know that she'll take submissions after a conference, but I don't know whether it's just a query letter or query with synopsis, or query with three chapters or what . . .

Anybody know and can drop me a line? I didn't make it to any of Tracey's break-out sessions, but I did get to talk to her Saturday night at the Silvery Moon party and she gave me her card!!! Does that mean anything? I hope, I hope, I hope! She did say she would remember me and we did get to talk about a couple of my projects (albeit very briefly).

But my problem now is HOW to sub to her exactly. THANKS for any help!!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Books I read this Summer

And the list is PATHETICALLY small. I've been frustrated not to have more time to read. It's like if I want to read a book I can do that and still get everything done that's going on in my household or if I want to write a little, maybe I can do that. But my days are too packed to be able to read a book AND write both. Maybe someday when my boys don't take so much time, attention and worrying. Because, of course, I can't NOT worry, can I? Nope. Impossible.

1. ENCHANTED, INC. by Shanna Swendson (adult chick-lit fantasy)
2. I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS (Laura Ruby, adult novel by a fab children's writer. She's awesome with this book, too!)
3. BURIED by Robin MacCready (YA suspense)
4. ANGEL MONSTER by Veronica Bennett (Stunning historical fiction about Mary Shelley who wrote "Frankenstein")
5. GOLDEN by Jennifer Barnes (YA paranormal)
6. THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick (self-explanatory!)
8. THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS by Kate Coombs (MG/YA fantasy)
10. WHAT HAPPENED TO CASS MCBRIDE? by Gail Giles (nail-biting YA thriller)
11. STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr (YA contemporary)
12. OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder (read for a book group. Very interesting)
13. JOHNNY VOODOO by Dakota Lane (YA romance)
14. TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith (YA vampire romance)
15. VANISHING ACTS by Jody Picoult (adult suspense)
16. GRIEF GIRL by Erin Vincent (YA memoir) I'll be posting about this next week when I get back in town. I met Erin in LA and this is an incredible book!

Only 16 books for three months! That's gotta be a record for the least amount of reading in my entire life!!! And I have at least 20 books waiting to be read. I ALWAYS have about 20 books waiting. And research. And school lessons to be prepared. And I keep hearing about great books out there and put them on hold at the library or buy them and the stack just keeps multiplying.

Confession: I'm supposed to be reading WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy this summer, too, for my book group's discussion in September. Ha, ha, ha! (Ssh! I rented the movie.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Get a Free Book - before it's even published!

HarperCollins is giving away free Advanced Reading Editions (ARE) of books coming out this fall. Sign up with your email and snail mail (so they can send you the copy when they do the drawing) and then you get to write a review and answer questions about the book. The books offered look fabulous.
Especially check out my friend Alex Flinn's newest book, due out in October, BEASTLY!
What a cool idea! Don't miss out.
Here's the link:
Hope you're a winner!
Hope I am, too!
P. S. Sign up your teenagers and tell the teenagers you know. They can get a free ARE, too!


Drat, for some reason the You Tube link isn't working. I've tried repeatedly. Sorry and hmmph!
Just Google "Britain's Got Talent, six year old Connie singing" and you'll go right to it. Pretty amazing. She even made one of the judges cry.

You gotta see this!

This little girl is ADORABLE! Wow, what an amazing voice, timbre and pitch! She even gets Simon smiling.

On pins and needles for news from seaheidi!

I'm also printing up my handouts for the SCBWI monthly schmooze tonight. Yep, I'm speaking - about synopses. For some strange - but very nice - reason I've been having a lot of luck with mine. I have, like, a 75% YES rate from agents on my query/synopsis who want to see my manuscript. Of course, getting a YES for representation is a whole 'nother problem - but one I WILL lick. For starters, I've figured out a couple problems that I'm going to revise before I do any more querying.

Pointers from my little presentation will be posted tomorrow! Right now I gotta get dressed and get out of here. It's a 45 minute drive to Albuquerque and I'm meeting a writer friend for dinner beforehand. And yet, I'm fixing dinner to leave for the family. Hey, how come it always works like that for us Moms? The only way we can get out of the house is to make sure everyone is fed and happy first. :-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Juicy Bits

From the L.A. Conference that is . . .

Rubin Pfeffer, Publishing Director of Simon & Schuster:

"A great book is one which sends the reader off to find the next book."

Ellen Wittlinger, author of ParrotFish:

"Art (or books) can take you out of a small world and open the door to a larger world. Art can save you."

John Green, Author of Looking for Alaska:

"Writing is an act of translation as much as it is an act of creation. "
"The great challenge is to translate a feeling or emotion or experience into a story that lets the reader feel the same emotion and have the same experience. "
"Truth doesn't lie inside the facts, it lies inside the people of your story."

Emma Dryden, Vice-President and Publisher at McElderry Books

"If an editor doesn't feel the story and love it and have it resonate to them, then publishing the book would be a disservice to the author. "

Kate Schafer, Agent at Janklow & Nesbit

She wants a book that makes her feel like something big and wonderful is happening.
Word of the Day: Optimism

Linda Sue Park, Newbery winner for A Single Shard:

"Finish. The. Book." (borrowed from Jane Yolen)
"Write the book more than you talk about the book."

Dinah Stevenson, Publisher at Clarion

"No two people define well-written in the same way."

In other news, this afternoon the whole gang (my family that is) went to see Bourne Ultimatum. Loved it! Very thrilling. I love mysteries and thrillers, but I've been too chicken to try writing one myself even though all my books have suspense and danger built into them. But they're not considered *thriller* per se.

Speaking of movies, we finally rented "Bridge to Terabithia" a couple weeks ago and I ADORED it. I thought it was very true to the book and I cried at the end, just like I cry when I read the novel. It was very emotionally stirring and I thought Jess and Leslie were PERFECTLY cast. The movie haunted my thoughts for days. The ending was perfect, too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Notes from Emma Dryden, McElderry Books

Emma was so smart and wise in her keynote address and in her workshop on writing the novel. I really liked her a lot.

Here are a few tidbits:

1. Write what you know, write what you feel, write what you care about.

2. Books are for the soul. Books are how we preserve our culture. (I never thought about books in quite that way before, but how true it is. We can see our culture change throughout the decades through the books we have and the books that have lasted.)

3. All writers are working their way through a darkness and into the light just like our young readers are trying to do as they grow up. (I'm realizing this more and more about myself the longer I write.)

My themes and premises change depending on what I'm going through at the moment or what I've gone through during my life in the past. Maybe I'm confessing more than I should! Ha! But a writer's theme is never written down as such in the pages of their manuscript or even spoken in concrete words by a character. And that *take away* value a reader gets from a book might be something completely different for another reader. But a good book, a meaningful, emotional story always has one.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Opening L.A. Keynote

First up: The incredible Mr. Walter Dean Myers. He was raised in a foster family. His father was a janitor and he told us that to this day his parents still don't quite *get* what he does for a living. Once he heard his mother on the phone talking to a friend and she told the friend, "Walter's job is typing stories". Ha!

The following part of is talk is where I really connected with Mr. Myers. My roommate, Kristin, and I had this very discussion on the plane the previous evening as we flew over so I was pretty wowed when Walter talked about it in the very first hour. It felt like he was talking to me.

He posed the question: Why am I - or why are you - a writer? Here are some typical assumptions from the outside world:
Is he a writer because he comes from a family of storytellers?: NO
Is it because he loves words?: NO
Is it because he loves to play with language?: NO

He's a writer because he loves to create and he loves building world that only he can envision and create and then try to bring it to life for others. Books always took me out of the boring real world and into a new, better, and more exciting place and that's the reason I wanted to be a writer, too, from the time I was very young. I think books are BETTER than real life.

Walter went on to discuss searching for the details of our *world* and our characters. Not only physical details, but emotional details. Details that explode the moment, that re-create a moment, that re-define a moment in a familiar but new way that connects you to your readers. Selecting the right detail is what we do every time we sit down to write. Find the details that convince your reader.

I'm off to search for the right details for my WIP, The Healing Spell. Happy searching to you, too!


Gosh, why did it take me 11 years to get back to this conference? I am so psyched and so pumped and so filled with emotions and energy and inspiration I want to jump up and down and gush and cry.

Believe me, we all cried and sniffed and pulled out our tissues during so many moments throughout the whole weekend. And laughed and hugged and talked. More like yakked our heads off!

Of course, editors, agents, and keynote authors abounded the halls and dining tables, but one of the best parts of all, for me, was meeting such great new friends. Something I never expected.

Cool people I got to meet for the FIRST TIME after knowing them online:


Some awesome people I met and "friended" as soon as I got home:


A totally cool, smart chick I got to meet again:


And some other people I've known online that I was thrilled to meet in person in LA!

Other writers I talked to during workshops and between keynote speeches like:

Carrie Watson
Rachel Rodriguez
Clark Leland Childers - who only gave me an email address and not a website, silly boy!
Vicki Thomas
Suzanne Taylor (who is gorgeous, expecting her first baby, and won a FREE conference next year!)

A few gals during the Historical Fiction writers group Sunday night:
Carole Estby Dagg
Lynda Pflueger
Sarah Wiseley Croley

MORE conference news the rest of the week so stay tuned!



Winner of The Southwest Book Award!

Time travel, war, love, rattlesnakes, magic . . .

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