Posts Tagged ‘books’


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!


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!


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!


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

Go grab a list and get reading.

Write On!


More on query letters

January 27, 2010

Manuscript update: Still perfecting my query letter and synopsis. I’m attending the Austin SCBWI conference on Saturday — so excited — and hope to have a fantastic, shiny, brilliant query letter and synopsis ready to start sending out to the conference speakers soon after.

Yesterday, I wrote about why it’s important to write the perfect query letter and synopsis, and then I read a really great article on the subject and wanted to share.

One thought before I do: Your query letter and synopsis are supporting players to your manuscript. Ultimately, it’s your manuscript that will get an agent to sign you as a client, so working hard and as long as it takes to make your manuscript perfect is essential. But once that’s done, don’t short-change this next part. Even though the query letter and synopsis are supporting players, they are the first ones on stage, and if they don’t shine with brilliance, your audience won’t stay for the full show. So, take the time, do the work, no matter how frustrating it can be. If necessary, shelve your query letter and synopsis for a few weeks, just as you would your manuscript, to make sure it’s the best it can be before you send it out.

When I was submitting my first novel to agents, I worked hard on my query letter and synopsis, and my first query letter got a good many requests for the full manuscript — the goal — but it also got many no thank yous. Later in the process, I revised the query letter, and my ratio of requests to no thank yous rose enormously on the side of requests. (Ultimately, my first manuscript got back very positive comments about my writing, the story, characters, etc., but the agents I submitted to said they felt it wasn’t right for them right now. As I had finished my second novel and started revising it, I decided to stop submitting my first book and start again with my second, which is what I’m doing now.)

Ok, now for the sharing part. Writer’s Digest just posted a really great article about query letters by literary agent Ann Rittenberg, Basics of a Solid 3-Paragraph Query Letter. Ann gives an example of a query letter that worked for her and dissects the parts of a query letter and how they should be used.

But what I like best about Ann’s article is the statistics she gives at the beginning. They might be daunting, scary even, but they’re the reality, and the way to look at them is as a challenge. Let’s face it, with these statistics, the odds are against anyone getting a request from a query letter, but people do get requests (see above) and books from debut authors are published every year. There’s nothing to say that it can’t be your book or mine, as long as we put in the work that’s necessary.

Read Ann’s article but don’t feel discouraged. Feel energized, charged up that you are now closer to getting that request, closer to being a debut author, because you have something other writers must not: You have the keys that Ann is giving you about how to write a query that will get a Yes.

Coming next, more on writing a brilliant synopsis.

P.S. You’ve got til the end of this week to enter the contest to win a PDF copy of Laura Cross‘ book Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Need to Know to Become Successfully Published. Go to my post about ghostwriting and leave a question about this great writing option for Laura. I’ll send all the questions to Laura on Feb. 1 and she’ll fill us in on the details of this lucrative field in an interview on Day By Day Writer on Feb. 12. The person who submits Laura’s favorite question will get a PDF copy of her book. And make sure you come back on Feb. 12 to read Laura’s answers to your questions.

Write On!


Read to write

December 12, 2009

Revision update: I can always tell the parts of my first draft where I was struggling. This morning, I found one of those parts at the beginning of this next chapter I’m working on, and I found a much better way to get into the story.

One of the many — far too many — blogs in my blog reader is Frenetic Reader, and she had a cool post today called I Would Read ___’s Books Just For ___. As she explains, she would read Beth Kephart‘s books just for the writing, Scott Westerfeld‘s books for the plots, Maureen Johnson‘s books for the charters, etc.

I love this. But it also gave me an idea about research for us writers.

If there’s an area we want to work on — plot, characters, word choices — we can read books that excel in those areas. We can learn something new, something good in every book we read. But, like Frenetic Reader points out, writers tend to be strongest in one or two areas, and the rest follows.

If you want to know what books to read for these different areas, read the reviews. Look at what’s on the bestseller lists and honors lists that are in the genre you’re writing and read what reviewers say. If you’re looking for books strong on plot, read the books reviewers say have a strong plot, or Google search review, your genre and plot and see what kind of results you get.

Most of the books in my must-read list I’ve found through reading about them in blogs, but I was only looking for popular books in the genre I write. From now on, I’m going to scour reviews and let them be my guide based on what I’m looking to build on.


Building a book with Blurb

December 10, 2009

Revision update: Two chapters done yesterday. None today. Work too hectic.

A lot of print-on-demand options have popped up over the last few years, making self-publishing more of an option for writers. I recently tried one,, not for self-publishing, but for my mother’s 60th birthday gift.

Mum wrote a bunch of poems a few years ago, so for her birthday, I gathered the ones I like the best, matched them with various photos my husband and I have taken over the years as well as old family shots, put them into a cool page design and uploaded them to the Blurb website.

Blurb offers to print books in a variety of shapes of sizes and provides templates for InDesign, but it will also take PDF files made in other design programs, as long as they match up with Blurb’s page size specifications. I had a little problem with this — and I was using Blurb’s InDesign templates — but it turned out, after a conversation with customer service, that I also needed Blurb’s PDF-making template. That wasn’t entirely clear in the instructions, and I found a few bugs in the site’s customer service — there’s no phone number, just email by forms, and if they’re not working, you’re stuck — but I finally got everything uploaded and my mum’s book on the way.

The final product arrived in the mail about a week later, and I must admit, I was impressed. I ordered an image-wrap hardcover book, and the picture on the cover was a bit muddy, but that’s my fault. It looked muddy on my print out but I went ahead with it anyway. The inside pages, though, looked wonderful. Even my old family pictures, which I had scanned into the computer, kept their quality. And the newer pictures, taken with our good camera, printed wonderfully.

Like other print-on-demand services, Blurb will list your book for sale to the public and you share the sale price, but you can order just one or a few copies for your personal use and keep the book off the site for public sales, which is what I did for my mother’s gift.

My mother opened her book last week and, once she got over the fact that her name was on the cover, she lifted it up proudly and said, “I’m published!”

Dreams can come true. 🙂

Write On!