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Book recommendation

February 22, 2011

I don’t write book reviews — I’m not a fast reader — but when I find a book that I really love, I like to write it. Today’s book recommendation is for Gayle Forman‘s young adult novel If I Stay.

If I Stay book coverI discovered this book when Gayle was a speaker at the Teen Book Con in Houston last year. When I go to writers’ events, I try to support the industry by buying a few of the speakers’ books, and If I Stay was one of the novels I picked up that day.

The book’s premise intrigued me immediately: After being in a car accident with her parents and young brother, a teenager falls into a coma. But her spirit stands outside her body, and as she watches her family, friends, doctors and nurses try to keep her alive, she considers if it’s worth it.

You could say I’m drawn to the dark, and this book was no exception.

But what also touched me was the way Gayle talked about it. She said that when we’re writing, we shouldn’t worry about the market or whether a book will sell when we’re done. We should follow our heart and write the story we want to tell. That’s what she did with this novel, putting her whole heart into the writing, and that’s what made me want to read it.

If I Stay pulled me in from the first few pages, and I couldn’t put it down. I finished the book in less than a week, which is fast for me — the only time I get to read is while I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed.

It’s a touching and beautifully written novel that has a lot of heart.

I highly recommend it.

What book did you read recently that you’d like to recommend?

Write On!

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Authors helping authors

January 18, 2011

The Mermaid's Mirror book coverWhen I joined the children’s book writing community, one of the things I was immediately impressed with was how supportive everyone was. Not all writing communities — or all creative communities — are like that, and it’s wonderful that children’s book writers are. On Verla Kay’s board yesterday, I saw another example, author Cindy Pon writing about and supporting fellow author L.K. Madigan.

Madigan, author of Flash Burnout and The Mermaid’s Mirror, was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and Pon put out a call for support. Pon and the other 2009 Debutantes are giving away copies of Madigan’s books to create awareness, but she also hopes you’ll add them to your Goodreads lists, tell your friends about them (if you’ve read them) and do whatever else you can to spread the word.

I haven’t read Madigan’s books, but they sound great and have gone on my plan-to-buy list.

So, if you haven’t read Madigan’s books, check them out and spread the word about this wonderful author.

Write On!

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Patience, perseverance and a whole lotta reading

January 17, 2011

Pile of booksSaturday was the monthly meeting of the great Austin chapter of the SCBWI at the awesome independent bookstore BookPeople, and all who attended got a healthy dose of inspiration.

The speaker was author Jessica Lee Anderson, who taught about dealing with the ups and downs of publishing through songs — and yep, she even sang.

Jessica reinforced the idea I wrote about in my last post, that the writing is the best part of the journey, so stop worrying about publication. But how to do that? Well, with a little Patience (from Guns ‘n Roses), R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (from Aretha Franklin) for ourselves as writers and people, and the knowledge that I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor). (Jessica’s talk had a wonderful soundtrack!)

Jessica also reminded us that reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer, and she said she had set a goal for 2011 to read a book a week. A book a week! And she’s running ahead of that goal right now!

I was amazed. I can’t read that fast. (She did admit to me later that she listens to a lot of audio books in her car and has to drive a lot, so that’s one way you can fit them in.)

Although I won’t be matching Jessica’s pace any time soon, she did inspire me to push harder to get more books read. Spurred on, this weekend I picked up my book whenever I had a few spare minutes, instead of browsing the Web. I was determined to finish the novel I was reading and start another. I finished on Sunday afternoon and immediately went to my unread pile and picked up a new book. I’m already racing through that one — as often as I can at least. We’ll see if I can finish it in a week.

So, stop worrying, be patient, keep writing and make reading a priority.

Do you have a reading goal?

Write On!

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The writer’s journey is the best part

January 14, 2011

Peaceful Warrior movie posterMy husband and I watched the movie Peaceful Warrior last night — based on the book by Dan Millman, whose life is supposedly the basis for the book and movie — and I found myself nodding and smiling a lot. Not that I’m half as wise as the movie’s Nick Nolte character, but I understand the film’s main message, which is, the journey is the best part.

In the film, a college gymnast (Millman) is on track to get it all; he already gets the girls, but he’s aiming for Olympic gold too. A chance encounter with an odd older man (Nolte) makes Millman think he’s missing something and that he could be even greater. Along the way, he discovers that gold medals are not the most important things in life and that being the best you can be is really about letting go of your worries for the future and concentrating on the present.

It made me think of writing. I’m halfway through my third novel and, like many writers, I think ahead to the time that it will — hopefully — be published. The story is a bit experimental, a 10-year-old protagonist with some pretty heavy — adult — issues, and often my thoughts question whether a publisher will take on the book because of it. But it’s a story that I like, that I feel and want to write, and ultimately that’s what counts.

The journey we take when we’re writing our books is the best part. Although I’m not yet published as a novelist, I have been a journalist/editor for 19 years and have seen my name in print over and over again. It was thrilling the first few times, but then it’s over. What stays with me most from my career is the moments when I’ve written a particularly poignant lead and learned something really amazing during research for a story, like when I wrote about an art exhibit by Croatian children who used their painting as therapy. I wrote that story some, hmm, 13 years ago? And yet it’s one of the closest to my heart. And it’s not because of when I saw my name on top of it in the newspaper. It’s because of the journey I took for the article.

I imagine it’ll be the same when one of my novels is finally published. Sure, it’ll be thrilling for a while — a long while — but that will fade, as writer Anne Lamott describes in her great book Bird By Bird. The best part of my novel will be the time I spent writing it.

So, if you’re worrying about publication and looking ahead to seeing your words in print, stop. Don’t dwell on that, because if you do, you’ll miss the best part of your work — right now, when you’re writing.

Write On!

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Need a good book to read?

January 12, 2011

We writers always have a stack of books waiting to be read, but when reading the best books helps us becoming better writers, what are the best books for us to read? The bestsellers and award winners in our genres are a great place to start.

The Association for Library Service to Children has just announced this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, for picture books, and Newbery Medal winner, for novels, plus honor books.

And there’s the Printz Award winners, for excellence in young adult literature.

On the bestseller side, Scholastic Book Clubs has launched a monthly children’s book bestsellers list, which will be available the second Tuesday of every month starting this month. The list will have the most popular five books, according to unit sales data, in these categories:

  • picture books
  • transitional readers
  • early chapter books
  • chapter books
  • middle grade
  • young adult
  • and nonfiction.

The list is available at the Scholastic Book Clubs Book Talk blog, but you can also request to get it emailed to you every month by sending an email to bookclubsbestsellers@scholastic.com.

Go grab a list and get reading.

Write On!

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Fun writing news

January 6, 2011

Lots of fun publishing news out the last couple days, so I thought I’d compile it for you:

Invasion book coverThomas Nelson has launched its science-fiction fantasy Chaos series for young adults with Invasion by Jon S. Lewis. Here’s the jacket cover:

When sixteen-year-old Colt McAllister’s parents are killed in a car crash, he learns it was no accident — his mother, a journalist, was writing an expose of the powerful biotech corporation Trident Industries.  Now, Colt has been targeted, and he and his friends Oz and Danielle find themselves battling the same sinister forces that took his parents’ lives.  A gateway between worlds has been opened, and Earth is in mortal danger.

Thomas Nelson says Invasion has “crackling plot twists, cliffhanger chapter endings, cyber attacks, alien invaders, and an undercurrent of teen romance.” As a sci-fi fan and writer, sounds good to me!

New York Times best-selling author Emma Walton Hamilton has launches the children’s writers’ salon Children’s Book Hub, a membership-based forum to provide information, resources and support for aspiring and established children’s book authors. There is a fee, $19.95, and members will reportedly have access to regular teleseminars with authors, editors, agents and other members of the children’s book industry. The site also will offer monthly newsletters, a members’ forum and lists of publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts, among others. The industry has lots of other places to get info and support, but another can’t hurt.

And in September, I wrote about the MeeGenius contest. They’ve now picked their winners:

Grand Prize: Pajama Girl by Sarah Perry and Ingvard the Terrible

1st Runner Up: The Cat Just Sat in the Chair by D.T. Walsh

2nd Runner Up: Floppity Phillip Flaut, words by Gary Guthrie, illustrations by Sunyoung Kim, characters by Taylor Lewis Guthrie

3rd Runner Up: Who Is the Most Beautiful Bird in the Barnyard? by Sharon Mann

and 4th Runner Up: The Little Green Bubbles by Kevin Malone, illustrated by Lee Hadziyianis.

Congratulations!

Got any news to share?

Write On!

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Going digital

January 5, 2011

KindleHappy New Year!

It’s a new year, and, now that I’m finally starting to settle down after my monster move, I’m back on Day By Day Writer. I’m excited and pledge that I’ll be with you at least three times a week.

So, with the new year comes good news and bad in the publishing industry: Borders is still in financial trouble and delaying payments to vendors in a short-term effort to fix things. But on the upside, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble reported strong sales of their ebook readers, the Kindle and Nook, respectively. Amazon says 2010 Kindle sales were at more than 8 million units, with B&N claiming “millions” of Nooks were sold.

I can attest to this, as I had a hard time finding one this Christmas.

Although a paper-book lover, I definitely see the benefits of going digital. Aside from the obvious benefit to trees, e-readers are great for avid readers who travel a lot. My father is one of those. He makes long trips a few times a year, and on those trips, he carries a good four or five, maybe more books. And I’m not talking about little thin books. When he left my house a couple days ago after the Christmas and New Year holidays, he left with me the James Bond Union Trilogy — a three-book pack — because it couldn’t fit in his suitcase. He had another three books already in there!

For people like my dad, an e-reader, at a little more than 8 pounds for the Kindle, is a great idea. And although we had had conversations about how we both preferred the feel of paper, I took a leap and bought an e-reader for my dad for Christmas. After much research, I chose the Kindle, but both Best Buy and Target — all my local stores — were completely sold out of the devices when I was shopping, proving their popularity. Amazon happily sent one my way, however, and my dad was surprised and pleased. A gadget lover, he quickly loaded it up with his favorite books, and I caught him reading his Kindle on the couch a few times before he left. Next time he flies across the world, his suitcase will be a lot lighter, but he’ll be able to carry with him many, many more books to enjoy.

The popularity of e-readers is great news for publishers and us writers. Book sales have been waning the last few years. But, if people like their e-readers, they’ll want books to read on them.

And good books are good stories no matter whether they’re printed on paper or e-ink.

So, this year, keep up the writing. E-reader lovers need more stories.

Write On!