Posted in So Many Good Books, YA Novels

The Third Twin

3rdtwin.jpgIt was the title that drew my attention to The Third Twin (Delacorte, 2015) by CJ Omololu. And the insides rewarded me in this fascinating book.
Told from the viewpoint of Lexie, their fun and games with “Alicia”–the made up triplet–go horribly wrong when a boy who “Alicia” escapes from turns up murdered the next night. How can Lexie not suspect her identical twin Ava of killing him when she’s shown a video of a girl who looks just like her at the scene? Lexie knows she wasn’t there. But Ava denies being there, too.
I loved the multiple twists in this story of a girl caught in a nightmare.
If you like mysteries such as the ones April Henry writes, you’ll like this one, too.
Visit the author at her site and you can find out the source of her interesting last name.

Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Writing Process Blog Tour

image courtesy of cgiraldez on morguefile.com
turismo.jpg
The lovely Heather Trent Beers tagged me for this blog tour. We met in Kansas and she’s definitely one of the peeps I miss now I’m back in the Pacific Northwest. Heather is an encourager. Read about her writing processes here: http://heathertrentbeers.blogspot.com/2014/05/blog-tour-my-writing-process.html. I like that she, like me, does a variety of types of writing.
What am I working on?
Usually I’m working on more than one project–often a novel and a picture book or a short story. Sometimes two novels. Right now I’m working on an upper middle grade novel–I’m not the fastest writer (see more than one project), but this story is about 2/3s done. On the back burner is a ya novel. I have some not-there-yet picture books in process, as well.
My chapter book called “Imagine That” is on submission with an agent–I should be hearing something soon and I need to get it sent out to others if she isn’t interested. I also have a picture book called “Pizza Dog” on submission to an editor. Both of these were requested manuscripts from critiques at writing events.
I occasionally dig out some of my short stories and look for homes for them. Sometimes they are new stories–sometimes I’m selling reprint rights, etc.
As a writing instructor and editor, I’m frequently commenting on the work of others. It’s hard for me just to tell someone something is wrong–I want to give a resource to explain it further, too. That’s one of the reasons I have a bunch of resources here on my website.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Who made up this question? It’s a hard one to answer. *grin*
My novels often have a theme of “facing your fears.” I didn’t realize I was doing that for a long time, but from my one out-of-print novel to my current WIP all of them deal with that issue in one way or another.
Why do I write what I do?
I love writing for children from the little guys through teens. I dreamed of being an adult writer and have some novel manuscripts languishing in the drawer, but I then I got hooked by kids’ magazines and books when I took a correspondence course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I still read some adult books for enjoyment, but I think children’s books are often better written than many adult books.
How does my writing process work?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m often working on more than one project at a time. That means if I get stuck on one project, I switch to another project for a while and let the first story simmer in my subconscious.
The actual how is I write on my desktop (a PC) or on my laptop (a Mac). I have a standing station for my desktop and of course the laptop can go anywhere–often a recliner in the living room. My favorite way to write is to meet with other writers away from home and have dedicated time to write. I’m not as easily distracted there.
I’m definitely not an out-liner. Instead I start with a character and his/her situation. I have an idea of how it might end. I start writing and learn about my characters as I go. Sometimes I do some writing exercises to learn more about my character. I usually write in scenes with a page turn at the end and like to write at least a few lines of the next scene before stopping–that way I don’t forget what I had in mind. I usually go back and revise what I wrote the previous time before continuing on. That reminds me where I am and what’s happening. It helps me get in the flow again.
Eventually, I start taking chapters to a critique group, which causes more rewriting. I go to a conference or writing event and something said there makes me think of something I need to add or change in my WIP and I rewrite some more. Something happens with my character and I realize I need to go plant some seeds earlier in the story, so more rewriting.
Some writers know how many versions of a story they have–I don’t. The only time I keep old versions if I change the story majorly, e.g. from 1st person to 3rd person. Otherwise, I just keep saving each revised chapter in the same document.
When I’ve done all that, I put it in one document and search for weasel words and overused works. I use a story ladder to check the flow and frequency of subplot mentions or small details that should be repeated in some way or another.
When I think it is as good as I can make it, I have trusted readers read the whole thing. I know I’m weak in going deep into characters so I ask for help there. Then I rewrite again.
Writers I’d like you to meet:
I first met SueBE, as she is affectionately, called online. I was in the Seattle area–she in the St. Louis area. When I moved to Kansas, we got to meet face-to-face and she’s just as gracious in person as online. When I met her she was the long-time Regional Advisor for SCBWI Missouri.
In addition to writing a wide variety of nonfiction, Sue Bradford Edwards teaches Writing Nonfiction for Kids and Teens through WOW! Women on Writing. She writes fiction too but nonfiction is her bread-and-butter. To find out more about her, visit her blog (suebe.wordpress.com) or her site (www.suebradfordedwards.com).


Another former SCBWI Regional Advisor I’d like to introduce you to is Erin Dealey. We met at an LA conference, where we’ve continued to meet annually and we are in touch online. She also writes in a variety of genres, from board books to YA.
Erin’s newest picture book, DECK THE WALLS (Sleeping Bear Press/ Fall 2013) is a kids’-eye view of a holiday food fight and family. Her picture books with Atheneum, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX, and LITTLE BO PEEP CAN’T GET TO SLEEP have taken her to school visits as far south as Brazil and as far north as Tok, Alaska. Check out her Writer’s Rap at http://www.erindealey.com, her blog at http://erindealey.com/blog/, and follow her on Twitter: @ErinDealey.


I met Martha Brockenbrough through mutual Western Washington friends. I really like the thoughtful posts on her blog: http://marthabrockenbrough.squarespace.com/blog. She wrote an educational humor column for Encarta for nine years, and founded National Grammar Day and SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. A friend after my own heart.
Martha is the author of seven books, five for young readers. The three out now are the YA novel DEVINE INTERVENTION (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books), which was one of Kirkus Reviews Top 100 Books for teens in 2012; FINDING BIGFOOT (Feiwel and Friends); and THE DINOSAUR TOOTH FAIRY (Scholastic/AAL). A second YA novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, comes out in spring of 2015. Another picture book, LOVE, SANTA, comes out in Fall of 2016. Both are with Arthur Levine at Scholastic. You can follow Martha on Twitter, too: @mbrockenbrough


These gals will post their writing processes on Monday, May 19th. Check out what they have to say.

Posted in Award Winners, PB, Read-aloud, So Many Good Books

Creepy Carrots

CCarrotsCreepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown is one of those fun books where the images and words are telling different stories…or are they? I love the idea of the story–Jasper Rabbit can’t get enough carrots…until they start following him. This 2013 Caldecott honor book was published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2012. (Thanks to editor Dani Young for introducing me to this book last fall!)
Looking at author Aaron Reynold’s website, I see I need to read more of his books. Just by reading the titles, it’s obvious that his sense of humor extends beyond one title.
Illustrator Peter Brown has a vimeo on how he created the art. Visit his website at www.peterbrownstudio.com/. I was first introduced to Peter’s fabulously fun art with the book Chowder (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007).
On either the illustrator or author website, you can see listings of the many awards and lists where this book is included.

Posted in Promotion, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

WEBSITE Q and A

(image courtesy of mantasmagorical on morguefile.com)

internet.jpgPost by Don and Sue Ford

Q: Should authors/illustrators have their own website?
A: In our opinion, yes. Once you are published it is helpful to have a site to answer questions, advertise what you do, a place for people to learn more about you, find out what else you have published, share speaker information, and more.
Q: Where do I start?
A: First, purchase a domain name; often, it is something as simple as www.yourname.com. Domain names can cost around $10 per year. See resources below.* Next you’ll need to decide where or who will host your site.
Q: Host my site. What’s that mean? And how much does it cost?
A: Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may already provide website hosting included in your Internet access fees. Check it out. If not, you will need a hosting service. Comparisons and reviews can be found at sites such as findmyhosting.com and webhostingstuff.com. Cost ranges from $1.50 a month upward depending on storage provided, data transfer limits, number of email addresses provided, and various other services. A basic plan is appropriate for your first website.
Q: Are there downsides to having my own site?
A: Yes, in the fact that it must be maintained and be kept current. Nothing worse than someone landing on a website and finding inaccurate and out-of-date information.
Q: What elements should a website have?
A: The basics for a book creator are: a book list, a bio, a picture of the author/illustrator, and contact info or a contact link.
Q: Does that all go on one page?
A: Not necessarily, unless that’s all the info you plan to share. First, you’ll have what’s called a “home page.” This is the “index page” or the page seen first. Try to find a happy balance between almost no text (i.e. “click here to enter Website” which annoys both of us) and an overwhelming amount of text. You’ll have links from your home page to other pages, plus a menu of other pages offered.
Q: Is that what is sometimes called a site map?
A: No. A site map or site index is a graphical representation of all of the pages in the website. This is usually a separate page, but is not required. Each page of your site should include a navigational area (a set of links) to help visitors find their way around your website. It can be a bar across the top, or a box on one side of the page. Often the bar across the top appears on every page, whereas the box may only have info applicable to each individual page. It is important for each page to have an obvious way to get back to the home page.
Q: What else can be on a website?
A: Your imagination is the limit. However, here is a list of possibilities:
• Your book covers
• Summary of each book
• Where to purchase the book(s)
• Testimonials to your writing or illustrating
• Book excerpts
• Upcoming projects or what’s next
• Writing or illustrating activities for kids or adults
• Links to other sites
• Articles or essays
• Speaking or school visit information
• Other services
• A blog
• Podcasts
• Your favorite books or authors or illustrators
• Pictures of your childhood, family, pets, office
• A downloadable press release
• Behind the scenes info (i.e. what inspired you to write a particular book)
Q: How many pages should I have on my website?
A: That’s a two-fold question. Your host may limit the number of pages. Otherwise, if your content is interesting, people will keep clicking to see what else they can find.
Q: Is it okay if someone can only see part of a page at a time on their screen?
A: Left and right, it’s better to fit one page. Top to bottom, sure, most browsers have a scroll bar and users are used to scrolling down for more info. You can have links with in a page to go to other sections of the same page, too.
Q: You mentioned links to other sites and now links within a page. How does that work?
A: Depends on whether you are building your website using HTML (the actual computer code for websites) or website building software. Basically, the former takes one off your site to another site. I like the open in another window option, so your site is still up. The latter is a clickable link that takes one to another page of your site or to another section on your page.
Q: Everyone seems to be blogging. How does that fit into websites?
A: It’s one way to have active content on your website. It’s also a forum to say what you want to say–though, of course, it should relate in some way to your website. Some blogs are set up so readers can sign up to receive posts automatically (recommended). Blogging works best when using special purpose blogging software provided by a web hosting service.
Q: Are there downsides to blogging?
A: Yes, of course. It requires a time commitment. Blog posts should be well written, free from grammatical and punctuation errors. Controversial posts can raise a furor of email.
Q: What’s a podcast?
A: A recording downloadable from a website for use on an MP3 player. The content of a podcast would be a complete discussion in itself. Podcasts are usually hosted on dedicated podcast hosting services that provide specialized software to support them.
Q: Okay. I want to create a website. I’ve purchased a domain name and have a hosting site. Now what?
A: Many hosting sites offer some type of user friendly software to create a website. These can include templates, formatting options for text and pictures. You may take a class or seminar on website building, where you get information and help as you build your website yourself.
Q: Speaking of pictures, what format do I use?
A: The easiest format is a jpeg (.jpg). When posting pictures, you want the images to be small (say less than 150 kbytes ) so that your website doesn’t take a long time to load. The more images per page, the longer it can take. Don’t use animated gifs (or Don will come after you). Okay, you can use one on your website, but that is it.
Q: I’m not computer savvy enough to create a website myself, so how do I get a one?
A: You can hire it done, or make friends with a nerd, who will build it for you for the fun of it. In either case, don’t forget you’ll need them to teach you how to update your website or have a maintenance plan as part of your agreement.
Q: I want to post original art, but don’t want anyone to be able to copy my images. How do I protect these pictures?
A: First, of all, posting small pictures (limited number of pixels) means these images won’t enlarge well. If someone copies one and tries to make it bigger, the resultant picture will be grainy and obviously not their original work. Some artists save a version of their work with a copyright notice or “for viewing only” or their name in “watermark style” lettering across the image itself.
Q: What can you tell me about fonts and colors?
A: You want your website to be readable and attractive. Fonts should be easy to read. No flashing text. Colors shouldn’t hinder readability. Look at websites you like and see what they’ve done. Compare them to websites you don’t like. This applies not only to fonts, colors, but formatting, etc.
Q: What else can you tell me about website formatting?
A: Your webpage formatting may change when viewed in different internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.) If possible, view your website in more than one to see any problems.
Q: Will I make money selling books on my website?
A: Probably not much. Don’t forget you’ll have shipping for getting the books, and have to pay sales tax. If mailing books to customers, not only do you have postage, but you must pay for shipping containers. Reselling books is a lot of work that includes quite a bit of recordkeeping. Plus not all publishers allow their authors/illustrators to resell books–check your contract.
Q: Wow, there is so much to learn. It’s overwhelming. Maybe I should just forget it.
A: It can be overwhelming. But start with the basics and keep your website as simple as possible at first. As you get more experienced, you can add more to your website. See our list of resources, too.
Internet Resources about Websites
*Domain Registration Services aka Domain Registars
Five Best Domain Name Registrars
List Of Top 10 Domain Name Registrars

What Every Authors Website Should Contain

Why should an author have a website?

P.S. I have an article on website design in Writer’s Guide to 2012.