Will Write for Food (and Love)

News flash! You have two (count them: TWO!) opportunities to buy anthologies with my work in them this month.

If you’re a lover of personal essays, chock full of humor and (gasp!) recipes, check out the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love edition.

Why not buy a dozen?


Or, if you’re more of a black turtleneck and beret type (and don’t we all have those days? Come on, admit it.), you might be interested in Improbable Worlds: an anthology of Texas and Louisiana Poets.

This cover gives me great joy.


Actually, I had a fainting spell when I saw the names of the other poets in this anthology. I’m still a little overcome by the whole thing.

Now, I don’t have time to mess around. I have a whole lotta words to churn out to meet my next deadline. So, answer me this: if Santa were planning on bringing you a recently-published book (in addition to these lovely anthologies), what book would you ask for?

Did Santa ever bring you a book when you were small? Or was that considered socks-and-underwear-ish?

Write well, Friends!

Stray Poems and Homeless Stories

I have a problem, Writer Friends. I have a short story AND a poem ready for submission. Okay, it’s not exactly a problem. More a quandary.

I have no idea where to send them. You see, I really, really like this poem and story, but they both will have to fall into just the right lap to find their way out into the big wide world of publication. (Translation: they’re both weird.) And even though I’ve had similar work published before, these new pieces are just different enough to send me scurrying to all the corners of the Internet (not to mention the magazine racks, the bookstores, and my own bookshelves) to hunt down just the right venues.

I get emails from writers fairly frequently, asking me where good markets are for this, that, and the other. The truth is, I don’t know. No one seems to — and if they say they do, I’m not sure they aren’t trying to sell you (and me) snake oil. I think there is some not-so-small measure of serendipity that leads you to the right editor.

Of course, chance favors the prepared writer – so doing your homework, and surfing all those sites to find new markets is a step you can’t skip, no matter how you wish you could.

This shouldn’t even be an issue for me right now. I’m hip deep in second pass pages (the final round of editing for Sinister Sweetness), a draft of my agent-anticipated WIP, and prep for the holidays. But these short pieces are begging for attention, too. Heck, my pets are strays. I guess I’m a sucker for little brown dogs — and the “little brown dogs” that howl on my hard drive, too.

Any of you have short pieces you can’t find a home for? Where do you go to find them homes, other than duotrope?

Happy Thanksgiving, Writer Friends! May you all win your personal NaNos, or at least get the biggest piece of pie. 😉

Book Launch Envy

Austin has a lot: great music, wonderful food, a laid-back, wear-your-jeans-to-the opera vibe… and books.

Oh, do we love our books.

I’ve been hanging out at the local indie bookstore, Bookpeople, a WHOLE lot recently. Not only am I attending to support my Writer Friends’ book launches, I’m also being dragged there by my kids, who also love them some readin’.

Last week I noticed something… interesting. Book launches are getting more and more exciting.

I mean, seriously. At Cory Putman Oake’s launch for her new YA novel, The Veil, there were… cheerleaders.

Also brownies, but that may only be exciting to me.

My kid and his friend with their hero, Mr. Flanagan.

And then, at John Flanagan’s launch for Book One: The Outcasts of his new series, The Brotherband Chronicles, there was honest-to-goodness sword fighting. (By trained professionals. If they’d given swords to all the kids, there would have been a higher body count.)

Also, knights in real armor, and more Ranger’s Apprentice look-alikes than you can shake a bow staff at. I thought I’d wandered into the Renaissance Festival for a minute.

It was absolutely cool.

I can’t even express how much I approve of this new trend. But it has me a little worried. How will I make my own launch next year stand out?

Have a gingerbread school contest?

Get impoverished and/or child actors to act out the scariest scenes?

Hire a local coven to come with a cauldron full of fake body parts… or worse?

I could use some help here. 🙂 I don’t think I can work the sword fighting in at this stage – I’m proofing the final pass pages this month! (And can I just say that seeing my name on the copyright page is the HUGEST rush?)




Books for Bastrop

Good Monday morning, Writer Friends!

Most of you probably heard about the devastating wildfires earlier this year that virtually destroyed the town of Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I live. It was a horrible time for so many – and continues to be, with years of rebuilding ahead. The Bastrop Library didn’t burn down – thank goodness – but MANY books were checked out when the fires came, and the homes they were in were consumed by the fire.

So the library needs books (and/or money, of course). And, on their December 10th Open House, they plan to give the kids in the community two gift-wrapped children’s books…. since, in addition to the checked-out library books, the children’s own books were also burned up.

Wow. Think about that. We have a town full of kids who have NO BOOKS. And a library who wants to give those kids books. And us, reading about this, and wondering what we could do.

Do this:

Send your checks, made out to the Austin SCBWI  with Bastrop Library Fund written in the memo portion of the check, to ASCBWI, 709 Wood Mesa Ct., Round Rock, TX 78665. Book donations can be sent to that address, as well. (For more details, read this post at the Austin SCBWI posted by our excellent RA, Debbie Gonzales.)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we all have a lot to be thankful for, right? Why not say a big old THANK YOU to the libraries that helped you grow into your Awesome Writer Selves, and give to the Bastrop Library.  Or to your own local library!

Keep on writing!



The Power of Naps

I’m going to come clean about a part of my writing process that might look… suspicious, if you actually saw me doing it.

(And I’ll come clean about why I’m coming clean: I’m about to write a “Day in the Writing Life” post for the Apocalypsie blog, and this part of my “process” will be there. Better to make a clean breast of it, right? Haha I said breast. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

The part of my writing day I’m talking about is this one:

Except I'm not nearly as cute as these puppies.

I know, I know. It sounds like such a cop-out. “I’m not sleeping, I’m resting my eyes” — or in this case — “I’m not sleeping, I’m pre-writing/writing/revising.” But it’s true. A good nap – not a real, deep sleep one, but a cat nap when you’re thinking about your manuscript – can be just the thing.

Try it! Maybe you’ll have the sorts of epiphanies I’ve been having with startling frequency these days with your own manuscript. If you don’t, who cares? You still win. Because, seriously, you need the sleep.

We all do.

Now get some rest! Then go back to your crazy NaNoWriMo lives. 🙂





A Good Writing Day

Happy NaNoWriMo day, or whatever those lovely people call this day. Me? I’m not doing NaNo, as usual. But I have been writing up a storm, also as usual. I have a self-imposed deadline of December 16 for the first draft of my current WIP, which now has a title I (sort of) like: Chloe Green in the Grimoire Garden. What do you think?

Most days, I write about a thousand words. Not so much on weekends, more when inspiration shows up. Yeterday was a good writing day – 2.5 K.

But there are so many ways to measure a good writing day, aren’t there? I mean, come on, is word count as important as finally figuring out how to make  a tricky plot point work?

Yesterday, my son asked how the writing had gone. I didn’t bother to tell him how many words I’d written – he doesn’t care about numbers outside of video game scores. “Awesome Possum,” I answered him, in Texan Middle-Grade Boy Language. “I got to use the words ‘explosive diarrhea’ in this chapter.”

“Awesome,” he agreed. Then a pause. “Can you work ‘spontaneous human combustion’ in next week?”

Why, yes. I thought, sensing another good writing day on the horizon. I think I can.

How do you measure your good writing days? Word count? How you feel at the end of the day? By the number of empty candy wrappers around your chair?

Cool Stuff: For those of you who don’t aspire to use words like “explosive diarrhea” in your children’s fiction, check out Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog post on Picture Book Month – also November! And then go buy some picture books for all your nieces and nephews. Heaven knows they don’t need any more toys. 🙂


How To Get My Agent

First off, no. I will NOT give you her phone number. But I’m going to give you something better.

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I signed with the supertalented, ninja-agent-of-awesomeness Suzie Townsend in late 2009. At the time, she was an agent at Fineprint Literary Management. I “found” her – or rather, she found me – when I entered my query and first pages in a contest for the Backspace Conference in New York.

When she called, I had no idea who she was. She’d read my pages (since she shared an office with the contest judges), she was just starting out as an agent, and would I pretty please send her the full manuscript?

I think you can guess the rest of the story. But it all started with that query, and a contest.

Now, thanks to my Agent Extraordinaire, you have the chance to get her attention JUST LIKE I DID. Or, almost. She’s having a query contest to celebrate her move to Nancy Coffey Literary. (And, yes, I “moved” with her. Of course!) So, Writer Friends, polish up your queries, and hop on over to Suzie’s blog. But be quick! You only have one hour on Tuesday morning to get your query in.

Be brave! Enter!

Also, check out Jill Corcoran’s blog post on How To Get An Agent. Lots of great info there.


The Biggest Book Nerd Ever

I think it might be me, friends.

Let me explain. This weekend was the Texas Book Festival, the most wonderful, free, fabulous event ever in Austin. I did it right this year.

I sat in on panels with authors I know and love like Elaine Scott, Varian Johnson, Jeanette Larson, Chris Barton, and Jennifer Ziegler — and authors I don’t know as well, but still love, like Rosemary Clement-Moore, Jill Alexander, and Joe Schreiber. I had lunch with the amazing Mary Johnson and other writer friends at Z’Tejas on Saturday, then took the Texas State Cemetery tour after dark.

At the cemetery, I shook Louis Sachar’s hand (then couldn’t wash it until I got home and rubbed the talent germs on both my sons, not kidding, I KNOW), then hung out with Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Jessica Lee Anserson, Shelli Cornelison, Jen Bigheart, Emily Kristin Anderson, oh and let’s not forget freaking Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen and… I can’t remember them all.

On Sunday, I listened to Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo talk about their writing processes and what it’s like to win a Newbery (frightening and wonderful and dangerous if you believe it means you are the bomb because of it, according to these two). They were hilarious. I skulked around their signing tent with my husband and son until we were able to snap these pics.

Kate DiCamillo talks about books to my kid. Seriously. *flails*


I love how D. can't stop looking at Kate. I'm wondering whether Newbery Germs are contagious. Hoping so.


Afterward, I went to MORE panels, bought books, visited with magazine editors – ones I’d worked with before who I’d never met (which was so cool) and ones I may work with in the future (yay!) — librarians, booksellers and even some official Penguin people. Squee!

That night, after dinner, I was exhausted, but so happy.

Then I heard that Johnny Depp was playing an unscheduled gig (who knew he played guitar?) at the Nutty Brown Cafe, a hot hill country music venue at the end of my street. (I knew he really was in town, since a bunch of my friends had their pics of him from the night before up on Facebook.) We were driving past the Cafe, the music was going, and Dave said – “wanna go?” It wasn’t even that crowded.

I thought about it.

I mean, this guy?

But then I thought – no big. I’d already been in the presence of my rock stars all weekend- the authors who write so well, feel so passionately, and are so incredibly generous with their time and energy. Johnny Depp has nothing on Kate D. or Louis S.

And it was a school night, after all. And… I *did* have a new book I’d gotten at the Festival to read…

So we drove on.

And that, my friends is how I know I am the Biggest Book Nerd Ever.

Now, I’m off to write another thousand words on my Shiny New Manuscript. I might stare at a few Johnny Depp pictures later. You know. Just for inspiration.

The Only Place to Be — Texas Book Festival Time!

Y’all, seriously. It’s free, it’s fabulous, they give away candy and stuff for kids.

There are books everywhere. Stacks of them. And people who love them almost as much as you do.

You can hear Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen, Ernie Cline and Rebecca Stead, Kate DiFreakingCamillo, for crying out loud. You can meet them.

Why are you not in Austin, or coming as fast as you can?

Check this out. The Texas Book Festival is the only place you’ll find me this weekend.


Write the Next Book

Some of my friends in the Writing World are going through tough times. I hate this for them — writing is hard enough without dealing with rejected manuscripts, agent-loss, and endless rounds of inadequate revision.

You may not know it, my dear sweet Writer Friends, but over the past few years, I’ve had those times, too. Really, really bad times. I just don’t blog about them.

(Someday I will, but I’ll need to sell a few more books before I feel safe enough to share those parts of my writing journey in all their gory detail. I might also need some awards or something. A Newbery, and I will tell ALL, in a long-winded, Gwyneth Paltrow-worthy speech to people eating hotel-kitchen baked chicken and white rolls.

Give me a minute to step back from that crazy fantasy. (*slaps self to regain sanity*) )

The thing is, if you’re pursuing traditional publication, there are going to be some really bad days. Bad months, even, when the novel you’ve been working on doesn’t turn out to be the next Best Book in the World.

And on those days? After the chocolate has been eaten, the wine drunk, and the kids yelled at?

Go back to the page, Dear Friends. Run back to the page, and write the next damn book.

A poem I memorized when I was a little girl came into my mind today, when I got a sad email from a friend about a manuscript that might be laid to rest soon. It’s “We Play at Paste,” by Emily Dickinson, and the line goes “…our new hands — learned gem-tactics — practicing sands.”

The next book might be the gem. And the time you spent on the last ones? Never wasted, never lost. You learned gem tactics, practicing on those lovely early stories.

Now go and write, my wonderful dear, talented Writer Friends.