Pay it Forward Friday: David Macinnis Gill and his Halloween Teen Read

Yesterday I stopped by the website of one of my crit buddies, David Macinnis Gill. It had been a while since I’d visited and I was blown away with the “busy-ness” of it all.

I adore “busy” websites because they give me that amusement park feel. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, because some amusement parks are rather sleazy. But many are exciting, clean and fun. Just like David’s site. It’s completely professional and begs to be explored.

So I clicked from link to link, perusing pages of rich content – especially in his “News” blog which features lots of meaty advice and provocative thought on fiction writing.

And of course I love reading the latest news and reviews for his terrific teen novel SOUL ENCHILADA. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read about Bug’s adventures keeping one step ahead of the Devil himself, Halloween might be the perfect time to pick it up.

David’s second novel is due out next year. But in the meantime, stop by his site – and be ready for a fun ride.

Ask an Agent Panel

Last night, several top agents held a Twitter Q&A panel. Participants included:

Rebecca Sherman, Literary Agent, Writers House

Elana Roth, Literary Agent, Caren Johnson Literary Agency

Colleen Lindsay, Fine Print Literary Management

Sara Kase, Assistant Editor at Sourcebooks

See what they had to say here.

A Thank You Gift for My Blog Followers

Since November is the month of Thanksgiving, I want to say thank you to my loyal followers with a:

Private Picture Book Peek Week Coming November 2nd!
A picture book manuscript critique contest for my blog followers only.

To be eligible, you must be a member of my followers list in the sidebar of this blog.
Enter by submitting your PB WORKING TITLE in the comment section of this blog post anytime (midnight to midnight Mountain Time) on November 2nd. Titles submitted before or after November 2nd will not be considered.

I’ll throw all titles into a hat and pick 1 for critique.

Keep in mind:

* Manuscripts must be 1000 words or less.

* I accept only fiction.

* Level of detail in the critique will vary based on my impression of the caliber of the writing.

* Please understand that I’m not an editor and will not be providing line-editing of your work. My critique will be comprised of suggestions for improving your manuscript. So please send me your most polished piece.

* The winning author must e-mail me his/her manuscript as a Word attachment on the day the winner is announced. The manuscript will be kept completely private. When I receive the manuscript, I’ll let the author know when to expect my critique.

* As with any art form, likes and dislikes are entirely subjective. Please understand that my critiques are only one reader’s/writer’s opinion. It’s always wise to seek feedback from a few different readers. If my ideas resonate with you, they’re yours to use. If you disagree, I encourage you to compare my comments with those of other readers. But in the end, it’s your book. Stay true to your vision.

I look forward to reading your work.

P.S. For little “fashionistas” everywhere- TOO PURPLEY!Preorder it now!

The Vibrant Triangle Part II

I try to remember now that my words on the page, my manuscripts, even (one day!) my published books are not the finished product. The experience of a child listening to my story completes the process. I just love that idea. It connects me to something bigger than my own self in my own room, writing away.” Tam Smith

Smart stuff, right? Maybe a fresh perspective on picture book writing. Read more about The Vibrant Triangle in Liz Garton Scanlon’s interview with Tam Smith.

The Vibrant Triangle in Picture Books

Why are certain picture books read over and over again? Why do some become beloved bedtime or story time tales? According to Tam Smith, children’s author, the answer is found in The Vibrant Triangle.

This is no Da Vinci Code, folks.

According to Smith, “The Vibrant Triangle is the dynamic between the picture book, the adult reader and the child listener.” What creates the magic when a picture book is read out loud to a child? Read Part 1 of Liz Garton Scanlon’s (author of All the World) interview with Tam.

National Novel Writing Month – I’m Jumping In

I just signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m s-o-o-o-o excited.

NaNoWriMo begins November 1st. It’s touted as “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon!” How can I resist?

I’ve written three other novels which are at various stages of resting and revision. But they weren’t written under pressure. I noodled around with them for months. They’re layered and complicated and have some trajectory problems – I think.

I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will force me to write quickly and linearly. And I’m anxious to see if the ticking clock and butt-in-chair motivation will keep some of my trajectory issues from creeping in.

But if you need an even better explanation as to why writers might subject themselves to such pressure, read Alegra Clarke’s “Writing With the Bulls.”

In the meantime, I’m doing a little outlining, brainstorming and all that honeymoon-stage prep.

If you’re signed up too, here’s some great advice:

If you’re in this with me, please buddy me. I’m “JFReidy.” If not, wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Pay it Forward Friday: Deb Cushman and WRITER SITES

Deb Cushman fired up her blog, Writer Sites, just a few months ago as “A place where Deb Cushman organizes her favorite writer websites and blogs!” And it’s one of my favorite feeds.

I was instantly drawn to Deb’s mission because a) I’m always on the lookout for new writing resources and b) I started A Totally Random Romp as a place to organize much of my writing stuff.

But Deb’s “stuff” is much better defined. And that’s the beauty of this blog. It sticks to its mission and features a different writing website or blog – with a screen shot and brief description – in each post. She’s featured old favorites as well as newer, lesser-known resources. And she’s always looking for site recommendations.

I may soon be able to delete my scores and scores of writing bookmarks! Thanks, Deb.

Talking about Titles

In many of my manuscript critiques, I discuss the importance of titles. As a matter of fact, the only part of a story posted for my Picture Book Peek Weeks is a working title. I understand that titles submitted are often not finalized – maybe a first thought or afterthought. Perhaps the writer intends to go back and spruce it up later. But some writers refuse to put much effort into titles. Why waste time when an editor will probably change it?

Remember the old saying? You only get one chance to make a first impression? Well that can apply to titles too. When it’s time for submission, consider brainstorming your best title. It’s not only a nod to your creativity, but more importantly, it’s a promise of the story to come.

Consider books you might pull from a shelf based on the title alone. That’s the first step. A great title, gets readers to take notice. But what about its story promise?

Let’s say you approach a Victorian home with exterior trim and shutters painted in whimsical colors. What might you expect to find inside? What if you knock on the door, because you love all things Victorian and you adore the playful exterior, but when you enter you find stark, modern, white rooms and contemporary furnishings? Would you be disappointed? Would you have to regroup? Would you want to look further?

Here’s an exercise. Think of three or four titles for your story. Then, with your title alone, approach a variety of readers who know nothing about your story and ask them to guess what it’s about. Don’t look for an exact plot match. That might be a little creepy. But look for the first impression your title gives as far as tone and premise. Will it be humorous? Sentimental? Dark? Listen for expectations that stray far from the core of your story. That might be a clue that your reader will have to work too hard to get over their initial expectation and that your story – even if well written – might disappoint.

I’m not saying that a title will make or break a book deal. But in this competitive market, why not put your best writing out there – right from the start?

Jessica at Bookends Literary has a great post about the importance of titles and the September 2009 Writer’s Digest features “The Art of Entitlement.” Need help coming up with that perfect title? Picture book author, Tammi Sauer, tells you how.

Or for feedback on your title, post it here and see what my blog readers have to say.

A final thought: A few editors have tuned into my blog. Could your Picture Book Peek Week title catch an editors eye?