On Reading & Writing: When a Monster Calls in a Hotel Room

I was in Virginia at a writing conference this past weekend, doing critiques, meeting with authors, and being on a panel of agents, with the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI. There are so many things I can talk about regarding the conference: how well it was run; why I think everyone who writes for kids should be an SCBWI member, what a lovely group of writers I met; the fantastic opportunity of watching Kwame Alexander and Judith Viorst in conversation; how lucky I feel to be a part of the children’s literature community, as a publishing professional and a writer. Really, I could continue this list for a very long time.

61guqyj17pl-_sx394_bo1204203200_But I want to talk about reading, and being a writer, and something that happened in my hotel room on Saturday night, after my long day of meetings and conversations with writers. I was so very tired. After dinner I went up to my room and got in my pajamas and took my book and crawled into bed. I’m in an MFA program right now, and one of the books I was assigned to read this week was A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness. For a variety of reasons it probably isn’t something I would have thought to pick up on my own. But it’s remarkably well written. It’s beautiful to look at. The level of craft in this novel is phenomenal. Now let me tell you the thing that happened.

I had to put the book down. I had to put it down because it made me cry. I don’t mean that I teared up but kept reading, like when Beth March or Fred Weasley died. Nobody had died, but I got to a point in the story where I was moved so much that I was crying. Crying, not tearing up or something. I had to put the book down so I could pull myself together. Of course I picked it up again, and finished it, and teared up a few times along the way. But when I had to put the book down? Well, that was something else.

I’m sharing this because that’s what I’m looking for when I look for new clients, and that’s what I strive to achieve as a writer myself. Not necessarily making people cry, but making people feel. That can be LOLs, tears, fear, compassion, connection…feeling. A fellow writer and friend of mine (hi Meghan!) says, “You know me, I’m all about the feels,” regarding what she’s looking for as a reader. And I wholeheartedly concur!

So, how do we achieve that, as writers? I think Lin Oliver, author, Executive Director of SCBWI, as well as one of SCBWI’s founders, really said it best at this past weekend’s conference. Lin quite succinctly said, “Be fierce. Create from the depths of what you feel.” Again, I concur. I believe that when we allow ourselves to be present to our feelings, and as artists we mine those feelings, that the results—our creations—can achieve the ability to authentically evoke feelings in others. Being present to the essence of funny. Being present to the finality of our own mortality. Being present to our grief or relief or fear or love or whatever. Being fierce.

So go do that, fellow writers! Be fierce.





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“Never Have I Ever” for Writers

imagesRules of the game: I make a statement about writers or writing. Anyone who has done the thing that I’ve said, must take a drink (or whatever your vice might be).

Warning – of course you must be legally eligible to take said drink and not planning to be responsible for small children or operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery any time soon. Writing is serious business, folks! 😜
So, here we go…
  1. Never have I ever finished writing my novel, novella, short story or poem
  2. Never have I ever gone back to revise one more time, after I said I was done
  3. Never have I ever had writers block
  4. Never have I ever written a stereotypical character
  5. Never have I ever info dumped
  6. Never have I ever used the words “just” or “almost” too many times
  7. Never have I ever been jealous of another writer’s success
  8. Never have I ever made an egregious grammar error
  9. Never have I ever used a word incorrectly
  10. Never have I ever looked down my nose at <fill in some genre of writing>
  11. Never have I ever wanted to quit writing altogether.
  12. Never have I ever told something when I could have shown it
  13. Never have I ever had a kind of dumb idea for a story and written it anyway
  14. Never have I ever written awful dialogue
  15. Never have I ever switched points of view without realizing it

Bonus, double shot question: Never have I ever thought I might have written the next blockbuster bestseller!

This is so disgusting to me I almost couldn't put it in the post.

This is so disgusting to me I almost couldn’t put it in the post.

Ok! Are you still standing? Did you get to the end without drinking (or whatever)? If you’re still standing and can see straight, go back and ask the same questions in Truth or Dare. Or while playing beer pong or quarters. Or from your Ouija board or tarot cards. Or just for the heck of it. If you’re not swinging full out, risking it all, making mistakes, sometimes falling into a pit of despair, chances are you’re not a writer and you meant to read a blog about 12 ways to clean your bathtub drain or something. That’s cool. Never have I ever successfully gotten all the hair out of my bathtub drain. I feel you.

Wait, you weren’t dumb about this, right? Because, you know, this blog post was metaphorically speaking. You knew that, right?  Um… Hey! Would someone out there get this reader some coffee, please?!


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Apples and Honey and Book Deals

imagesToday is the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, a celebration of the beginning of the new year according to the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar. It’s a time of reflection and reconciliation for Jewish people. For me, it’s a time of gathering with my family, checking in with my own spiritual beliefs, and cooking and eating traditional holiday foods. We Jews traditionally dip apples in honey on this holiday, wishing for a sweet year to come. As such, I’d like to acknowledge on the blog some sweetness from this past year and more sweetness that I’m looking forward to in the year to come.

imgresThe past year brought a big change for me, as I began working at Emerald City Literary Agency with Mandy Hubbard and Lindsay Mealing. I’m happy as a flying monkey in my new digs, and very grateful for the opportunity to be on the ground floor of building ECLA.

girlmansup (1)I’m so delighted for the recent publication of M-E Girard‘s young adult novel, Girl Mans Up, which is getting somevery  lovely recognition. Yes, this is an important book, but it’s also just a great read.

13879203_10210761791699981_1471649385510257844_nWhere are the Words?, Jodi McKay‘s debut picture book, will be out this November! I’ve never been so excited by punctuation in my life! Seriously. (Why don’t you believe me?

imagesWe get to hear what happens next with Rafe and Ben! The sequel to the award winning Openly Straight comes out this spring, as Bill Konigsberg‘s Honestly Ben (Scholastic, Spring 2017) hits shelves.

Are We Still Friends coverVery much looking forward to the publication of Ruth Horowitz‘s Are We Still Friends?(Scholastic, Spring 2017), illustrated by Blanca Gomez, which has been in the works for quite some time. It’s a story about apples, honey, bees, trees, and friendship! Mazel tov, Ruth!

Lisa Rosinsky‘s debut YA novel, Inevitable and Only (Boyds Mills Press, Fall 2017) is also on the horizon! You can read a little about Lisa over here, in an article The Boston Globe did about her. This has been an unbelievably sweet year for her!

Last week I announced the sale of Miriam McNamara‘s debut YA novel, The Unbinding Of Mary Reade (Sky Pony Press, Fall 2017) a YA novel based on the actual historical pirate Mary Reade. I’m pretty darn psyched about it. Raising a glass of grog to Miriam! 🦄⚔☠⚔🦄

The sequel to Joe McGee‘s Peanut Butter and Brains will be coming out next fall! It’s called Aliens and Jelly (Abrams, Fall 2017) and again is being illustrated by Charles Santoso. You guys… this book is SO cute. Joe and Charles did a great job, again!

I’ve got a couple of other pretty awesome picture book deals that haven’t been announced yet, as the publishers are still solidifying the illustrators attached. I know how difficult it is for my clients to remain patient and only privately celebrate their book deals, so I will “acknowledge” them here. We’ll be able to crow about these soon, my chickadees!

And a film deal! I can’t publicly say anything about it yet. But one of my clients’ books has been optioned to be made into a movie! Which is ridiculously exciting.

There have been foreign sales and translated copies of previous books. There have been kudos left and right, in the way of awards, recognitions, and acknowledgments.

As I reflect in synagogue today, it won’t be difficult for me to tap into how grateful I am for all that I have. I will also be renewing my commitment to being a good human being, wife, mother, relative, friend, and agent, and always looking for ways to be better.

Shanah tova, to those who celebrate. Peace & love, to everyone.red-scribble-heart







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