Tag Archives: reading

One Huge Thing Authors Can Do To Improve Their Writing

open-book1I recently attended a 3 day writing retreat for children’s book writers, in a beautiful beach house on the New Jersey shore. My job was to critique manuscripts, have one-on-one meetings with the participants, and generally make myself available to hang out and talk. It was small and quite intimate and the participants were a lovely group of people. It was a very nice retreat and I truly hope I made a difference for the writers who attended.

There was one participant who stood out for me though. She was a woman who is brand new to writing. Before the retreat, when I received her manuscript, I did an internal WTF. Was the short piece she submitted for critique the beginning of a middle grade or young adult novel? Was it a picture book? What was her intention with this? With nothing but the work to go on, I made an executive decision and decided to go with picture book. But I couldn’t and didn’t want to critique it using the same criteria I used for the other manuscripts. If I did, I could very easily rip it to shreds and subsequently crush and destroy a fledgling writer. That’s just not how I roll.

I can’t tell if this author has what it takes or not to be successful. The writing is decent, but not yet kid-friendly or focused. She’s clearly at the beginning of this journey. And that’s more than ok. That’s fantastic! When talking to any of the authors, I tried to drive home that where their focus needs to be is on their work, not on “how to get my book published.” With this author, we didn’t even speak about publishing. We talked about what her intention is and why she wants to tell this particular story (which was pretty interesting, by the way). I gave her a picture book lesson, explaining some of the many different structures picture books can be written within. We spoke about looking at the world with the eyes of a child and trying to leave our adult filter off the page. I told her about picture book lay outs, and page numbers, and all that jazz. But I think the best advice I gave her, which I’d like to share with you, is this:

Read in your genre. Know what books came before you. Know what’s in bookstores right now. Read books that are successful in achieving a similar goal to what you intend to accomplish with your manuscript. Allow yourself to be inspired. Immerse yourself in reading books in your genre; swim in the water of your intention.

I wish that new author all the best of luck, as she tries on being a writer. I hope that she finds her voice and perseveres.

How much do you read within the genre in which you write?



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Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2015

GROUNDHOG DAYHappy Groundhog’s Day! I’m afraid Punxsutawny Phil saw his shadow this morning and here in the Northern Hemisphere we’re in for another six weeks of winter, folks. (By the way, how weird is Groundhog’s Day, anyway?)

Anyway, more snow and cold. More fires in the fireplace. More scotch and bourbon and hot chocolate and hot toddies. More skiing and snowboarding and shoveling. More gloves and hats and scarves and cold, runny noses. And more reading! Reading, reading, reading! The real reason I want winter to be over is to see the publication of some books that I’m anticipating coming out.

At the top of my list, of course, are my client’s books! First, there’s THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH the next book by Bill Konigsberg (coming in May from AAL Books/Scholastic). It’s just gotten it’s first publishing industry acknowledgment, a starred review from Booklist. And, Andrew Smith, award-winning author of GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, said “Bill Konigsberg’s THE PORCUPINE OF TRUTH is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking, a funny and thought-provoking road trip with remarkable friends Carson and Aisha, who share tough lessons about mending fractures, forging bonds, and discovering grace. Undeniably human and unforgettably wise, this book is a gift for us all.”

Then, I can’t wait to be able to go into a bookstore and see THE FIX in the YA section. THE FIX is a moving, intense debut by Natasha Sinel (coming in September from Sky Pony Press). Carrie Mesrobian, award-winning author of SEX AND VIOLENCE and PERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY, said THE FIX is, “A bewitching, beautiful, and brave debut. Readers will marvel at Macy’s resilience. Natasha Sinel’s writing devastates and uplifts, by turns. An important story of one girl’s journey to rewrite the blueprint of her own life by facing the truth inside herself.”

Come late summer, PEANUT BUTTER AND BRAINS: A ZOMBIE CULINARY TALE, will be the debut picture book of the very talented Joe McGee (in August from Abrams). It’s illustrated by the gifted Charles Santoso. Librarians, book stores, and elementary school teachers interested in school visits in the fall, around Halloween (it’s zombies, after all!), should definitely get in touch with Joe soon. The book is fun and funny and Joe is quite entertaining himself.

And then, of course, I have a very long list of books I’m looking forward to reading this year, by people who aren’t my clients.

What are you looking forward to reading?


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Guest Post: Separating our Reader and Writer Selves. Or not.

The following is a guest post by client, Rhonda Saunders. Rhonda is a fantastic  MG fiction writer who lives in the Florida Keys among everyone else’s vacation. I met Rhonda on Twitter, where she stalked me for a few years, but ultimately she caught my attention with her sense of humor, strong narrative voice, tenacious commitment to the revision process and of course, excellent writing. Rhonda blogs at rhondasaunders.wordpress.com

If I’m reading a sad story that’s moving just perfectly, and my husband notes my absorption and says, “Good book?” I’ll say through my tears, “Oh my god, he cannot handle another let down right now. And she has like effing nailed the pacing.”

This type of response doesn’t even confuse my husband anymore. He understands that this probably means the main character is a boy who’s going through a crappy time and he’s breaking my heart, written by a woman whose mad pacing skills are blowing my brain.

As a fiction writer and reader, I’m constantly making mental notes and judgments about things like voice, character, and plot. But I do this simultaneously with immersing myself in the story.

Some people say they can separate the two–they can turn off their internal editor–if the book is good enough. Not me. My reader self and my writer self got married and I can’t split them up. Believe me, I tried harder than a kid who hates her new stepmom’s guts.

And why do that, anyway? It’s a fine relationship. They’re made for each other, my reader and writer selves. I don’t think I enjoy a good book any less than I did before I started writing fiction. It’s just a different level of enjoyment.

It’s like an insurance salesperson or a Realtor making new contacts at the bar during happy hour. I’m having fun while enhancing my chances of succeeding with my craft. Win-win?

Writers, can you separate your reader and writer selves?


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