h1

Blog has moved

July 10, 2011

DayByDayWriter has moved. I figured it was time to have a URL with my name. :)

So, please come and join in over at SamanthaClark.wordpress.com.

Write On!

h1

Children need books

June 1, 2011

I read some really troubling news today. In the U.K., three out of every 10 children do not own any books — none! No bookcases in their bedroom with Where the Wild Things Are, The Little Prince, Harry Potter… No parents reading to them before they go to bed. I hope they at least borrow books at a library.

As a children’s book writer, this doesn’t look good for my future financial prospects, but that’s not why it’s troubling. I feel for these kids. They don’t know what they’re missing. I couldn’t imagine my childhood without books. They were my escape when I needed help. Books gave me confidence. The characters were my friends. They were always there for me. And my love of books then has shaped the person I am today.

According to the Guardian‘s report on the U.K.’s National Literacy Trust’s survey, not owning books is potentially damaging to children. Here’s a quote:

Children who did not own books were two-and-a-half times more likely (19%) to read below their expected level than children who had their own books (7.6%), and were also significantly less likely (35.7%) to read above their expected level than book-owning children (54.9%).

And here’s another:

Children who don’t own books “are less likely to have positive experiences of reading, less likely to do well at school and less likely to be engaged in reading in any form,” according to the research. “It is not a case of books being irrelevant now technology has superseded printed matter,” wrote the National Literacy Trust’s researchers Christina Clark and Lizzie Poulton. “Children with no books of their own are less likely to be sending emails, reading websites or engaging with their peers through the written word on social networking sites. Children who grow up without books and without positive associations around reading are at a disadvantage in the modern world.”

The Guardian‘s report says the problem is worse with boys, where 4 in 10 books don’t own books.

Parents are to blame. They set the standard for their children. They are the primary gift buyers.

Couldn’t books be thrown in with the Xbox games? Books are much less expensive. And what are parents reading to their kids before bedtime? The newspaper? It’s sad to think these children are missing out on that bedtime tradition.

But there is something we can all do to stop this problem — because I’d be willing to bet there are similar numbers in the U.S. too. Whenever we’re buying gifts for children, our own or friends’, buy them books.

How did books help you when were a kid?

Write On!

h1

Fear and keeping your head

May 20, 2011

My husband and I were talking about fear the other day and he mentioned the saying that’s painted over the player’s entrance to centre court at Wimbledon: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…” It’s a small section of poet Rudyard Kipling‘s poem If, and it reminded me of the ups and downs writers face every day.

If you don’t know If, you can find it at EveryPoet.com, and it’s worth reading. A lot of lines fit what we go through:

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you / But make allowance for their doubting too

We get lots of opinions about our writing, from critique groups, family members, friends (you know, when they inwardly roll their eyes when you say you’re working on another novel), agents, editors, etc., and it can be hard to digest. Even from those people we trust, we sometimes get conflicting ideas. But as writers, our loyalty has to be to our writing. Our job is to take in all the approvals and criticisms, process them and use only what we feel will help our work get to a new level. We have to take all the doubts and push them aside, fully believing in ourselves and our work, while also recognizing that we can always learn more.

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master

If we didn’t have the dream of being published, we probably would never show our writing to anyone. Dreaming is a big part of writing, not only for our creativity but also to power our drive, but the challenge is to not get so caught up in our dream that we don’t enjoy our lives. Writing requires a lot of waiting, and in that time, we must live — and write even more.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone / And so hold on when there is nothing in you / Except the Will which says to them “Hold on”

I’ve read about and talked to a lot of writers who’ve had moments when they’ve thought about quitting, not wanting to face any more disappointment, but if they didn’t, they would miss out on the best part of writing: the creation — not to mention the book signings when their book is finally in print.

If we can do all that and more, as Kipling says:

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

(Or woman!)

So writers, fear will always be with us, we  just have to keep our heads.

Write On!

h1

Beautiful first paragraph: Myra McEntire’s Hourglass

May 3, 2011

I had a blast volunteering for my local Austin SCBWI chapter a few weeks ago at the Texas Library Association. It was my first time at the conference, and the rumors of all the free advanced reading copies of upcoming books were not exaggerated. I saw people walking out with big bags full of books. Very exciting!

I was working our SCBWI booth, promoting our awesome children’s book authors in Texas, so I didn’t walk out with armfulls — plus, I gotta admit, as it was my first time, I was a little too much in awe to move! But, I did visit the Egmont booth and the kind ladies there happily shared the books in Egmont’s upcoming line.

HourglassThe first one I’m reading was called by one Egmont lady her “favorite” and after starting it, I can immediately see why.

Hourglass is the debut novel by Myra McEntire, a YA paranormal/science-fiction book about Emerson Cole, a young lady who, since the age of 14, has been able to see strange things, like Southern Belles, soldiers and eerie apparitions. When she meets Michael Weaver, she learns that there are others like her and she can get help at an organization called the Hourglass. The more she delives into that world, the more she learns about her past, her future and her life.

I’m on page 44 and totally hooked, but I was hooked from the opening paragraph. It immediately set the book’s tone, pulled me into its world and intrigued me enough to want to keep reading — exactly what a good opening should do.

Here it is:

My small Southern hometown is beautiful in the haunting way an aging debutante is beautiful. The bones are exquisite, but the skin could use a lift. You could say my brother, the architect, is Ivy Spring’s plastic surgeon.

Gorgeous! I can totally see why Egmont picked up this book, and that beautiful imagery continues throughout — at least for what I’ve read so far.

I’m one of those people who reads first pages in the bookstore before I take a book home with me. Sure I read the jacket cover, but then I look at the opening of the novel. If it doesn’t immediately pull me in, I put the book down.

At conferences, I’ve heard from agents and editors that they’ll give a manuscript 150 words. That’s all they have time for. If they’re not interested in 150 words, they’ll stop reading and move on to the next. There are enough manuscripts out there.

You might think, that’s not enough. 150 words is nothing. But you’d be wrong. Myra McEntire set up her book in 38!

And of course, this isn’t the only example. Charlotte’s Web anyone? Best first line of a book — ever!

So, if you want to stand out in front agents, editors and ultimately readers, make sure your first paragraph is amazing, then follow it with hundreds more. That’s how you write a great novel. Take Hourglass as inspiration.

The back of the ARC says Hourglass will debut in May, but Amazon says it’s coming June 14. So, either it has been delayed or some other retailer has an exclusive for a while. Either way, get it when it comes out. I know you won’t be disapppointed.

Write On!

h1

Rest in Peace L.K. Madigan

February 26, 2011
L.K. Madigan headshot

L.K. Madigan

In January, I wrote about the wonderful community that children’s book writing has and how they were supporting young adult author L.K. Madigan, who had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Madigan passed away this week, and the support for her family continues. Fellow author April Henry has written that, if you want to do something in memory of this writer, you can donate to her son’s college fund.

I didn’t know Madigan, but I’ve read wonderful advice she gave via former agent Colleen Lindsay: “The main thing is to WRITE. Some days it might be 2,000 words. Some days, you might tinker with two sentences until you get them just right. Both days belong in the writing life. Some days, you may watch a Doctor Who marathon or become immersed a book that is so good you can’t stop reading. Some days, you may be in love or in mourning. Those days belong in the writing life too. Live them without guilt.”

Madigan’s husband wrote a lovely post on her blog after she passed away.

Whether you know Madigan’s work or not, please spread the word about her and her books. She will always be remembered through those.

Write On!

h1

Self-publishing and ebooks

February 24, 2011

Going into the Austin SCBWI chapter’s annual conference this weekend — it was great, by the way — I was curious to find out how middle-grade novels are selling in ebooks, as that’s what I write. I’ve seen lots of articles in the Publishers Lunch enewsletter saying that ebook sales are rocketing in adult books and even taking off in young adult, but I suspected that middle-grade was behind. According to Egmont‘s Elizabeth Law, I was right. She said they’re not seeing noticeable ebook sales in middle grade.

Anathema book cover

Megg Jensen's self-published YA novel Anathema

Even though MG is slower to this technology, it’s great to see ebooks being embraced so quickly. As I wrote in January, sales of ereaders were stellar for the Christmas season, with many places selling out. Although I still love — LOVE — physical books, whether a book is printed on paper or eink, it’s still a story. And if this new technology is enticing more readers to stories, that can only be good.

The new technology also is changing the publishing landscape. With ebooks, it’s easier than ever — and less expensive — to self-publish books. Author J.A. Konrath has written about this extensively on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. He had gone the traditional route before he started publishing his books on his own as ebooks, but he gives good arguments of why that doesn’t matter. YA author Amanda Hocking is an example, selling more than 185,000 ebook copies of her self-published novels.

Now, I’m not saying all writers should stop submitting to agents and editors of traditional publishing houses and go it alone. There are definite advantages to being signed by an agent and getting your work published by someone else. Let’s face it, most writers are not so great at the business end. And throwing an ebook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever doesn’t automatically mean it will sell; there’s marketing, publicity … oh, and the book should be good (editors are invaluable) or repeat sales won’t be much.

But the advent of ebooks has made it easier for writers to take the publishing of their work into their own hands, and blogs and social networking make it easier to build publicity.

YA author Megg Jensen is trying just that with her novel Anathema. And so far, it looks like she’s off to a great start. The book launched on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, she had already sold 50 copies. She’s hosting a contest right now where people can guess how many books she will have sold by March 11, and the main prize? An ereader. Now that’s what I call promoting future business.

What do you think? Would you be willing to read a book if it’s self-published, either in print or as an ebook?

Write On!

h1

New Enid Blyton book uncovered

February 23, 2011

Being British — to my American readers, yep, that’s right, if I was talking instead of typing, I’d have a funny accent :) — the first author I knew by name because I loved her books so much was Enid Blyton. I keep naming things in my books Nod after her Noddy!

So seeing the news from the BBC that an unpublished novel of hers has been found, I got goosebumps. I, for one, am dieing to read it. How about you?

If you had the chance to read a lost manuscript from a children’s book author, whose would it be?

Write On!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.