Random Acts of Publicity Week – Judith Snyder

Darcy Pattison’s Random Acts of Publicity Week began last Tuesday and I’ve decided to focus my not-so-random acts on one of my crit buddies, Judith Snyder. Judith is a teacher, school librarian and storyteller – she knows children’s literature. And even though she’s so very talented, Judith is soft-spoken and VERY humble. Tooting her own horn doesn’t come naturally. So I’m doing it for her.

Not only has she written WHAT DO YOU SEE? a darling, interactive picture book coming out this fall, but she’s also published three user-friendly manuals for school librarians – the JUMP START YOUR LIBRARY series.

So Tuesday I discussed Judith’s books with my mom – a seasoned book buyer who has made books the gift of choice for her 6 kids, 20 grandkids and 20 great-grandkids. Wednesday I reviewed Judith’s books on Amazon. And today I’m linking like crazy to Judith and her books. Visit her website or read even more about Judith on JacketFlap.

Thanks for the great idea, Darcy, I’m anxiously awaiting my marching orders for Friday.

Parenting the Nearly-Grown: Guest Post by Masha Hamilton

Guest Post: Parenting the Nearly-Grown
by Masha Hamilton (Photo by Briana Orr)

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.

Not long after the second of my three children was born, I sat at the kitchen table late one evening talking to my dad about parental responsibility. It’s a big topic and we were covering lots of philosophical ground, but what I remember most is my pronouncement that my primary job could be boiled down quite simply and starkly: I had to keep safe these beings released into my charge. I needed to keep them alive.

These were the musings of a new parent, of course. The circumstances, too, should be considered; the first child had been born in Jerusalem during the intefadeh, and the second was born as I was reporting from Moscow during the collapse of Communism. In both situations, I repeatedly came face-to-face with life’s fragility.

But even in calmer times, even after the birth of my third child, I never lost the feeling that my main duty was to pass them on into adulthood as unscathed as possible, as healthy in every way as they could be.

It sounds pretty simple, on the face of it. We perform many jobs as parents: nurturers, playmates, cheerleaders, short-order cooks, nurses, disciplinarians, detectives, spiritual leaders. Keeping them safe should not be the hardest, not with the help of baby monitors, plastic devices to cover electrical outlets, pads for sharp corners, child-proof medicine bottles, the list goes on.
And in fact, we passed through well, with just the usual rounds of stitches, one violent dog attack, a rabies scare and a few months when my youngest fell so often and got so many bumps on his forehead that my husband and I joked someone was surely going to call child services on us.

Now, though, my youngest is 14, and as they’ve grown, I recognize my job has been transformed. It is to give them trust and space so they can develop confidence in their ability to make their own lives. And yet the two oldest, at ages 19 and 20, are in a period of time that seems almost like a parentheses in their lives. They are certainly not children, but nor are they quite adults. Meanwhile, I say and think all the usual things parents have been saying and thinking since—well, perhaps ever since Cicero, whose words I keep taped to my office wall: it’s rougher out there than it was in my time. More chaotic. More violent. More dangerous.

And everyone is writing a book.

It was, in fact, into my latest novel, 31 Hours, that I channeled my fears. Among other things, the novel offered a chance to explore what it means to be the parent of someone on the cusp of adulthood but not yet there. The mother in 31 Hours, Carol, is strong and independent, free of empty nest syndrome, but her maternal intuition is strong and she’s concerned about her 21-year-old son’s growing emotional distance, the way he seems tense and depressed. Her fears are amorphous and hard to convey; nevertheless, as she lies awake in the dark, she decides to trust the hunch that something is wrong, and to spend the next day trying to track her son Jonas down and “mother him until he shrugs her off.”

There are many themes in the novel, but one question it asks—one pertinent to all parents and one I’m still trying to answer for myself—is this: after years of being vigilant and protecting our kids, what should we do—and what are we allowed to do—to keep them safe once they are nearly, but not quite, grown?

Masha’s latest book 31 HOURS comes out tomorrow:

31 HOURS Book Trailer from Unbridled Books on Vimeo.

Enter to win a free copy of 31 HOURS at: http://mashahamilton.com/31_hours/contest.php

Check out Masha’s other books and more of her work at http://mashahamilton.com/

Random Acts of Publicity Week

The amazing writer/teacher/mentor/blogger Darcy Pattison has declared September 7-11 Random Acts of Publicity Week. And I’m excited about these fun four days of spreading the word about my fellow authors and their work. Darcy will offer daily suggestions for both online and offline promotion activities. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday: Word of Mouth
Wednesday: Reviews
Thursday: Links
Friday: Social Media

If you’re interested, check it out at

ABC’s of Writing – Verla Tells All

Here’s a question I see frequently in my inbox.

I’ve got a friend/uncle/daughter who’s written a children’s book. She needs a publisher. Do you have any advice?

And the answer is certainly “YES, YES, YES!” Generally I respond to these queries with links to my favorite writing websites, blogs, boards and books. But the generous Verla Kay has summed up the kidlit process – from start to finish – beautifully on her blog, where she, too, offers links to handy resources. Check it out here:

I’ve got F &Gs! Now what are those again?

My F & Gs for TOO PURPLEY! arrived last week. And they look terrific.

Since I’m rather new to publishing, I had to Google “F & G” again because I’d completely forgotten the term. Turn out it stands for “folded and gathered.”

But honestly, that term doesn’t do these babies justice. They look quite nice. They’re simply flimsier, paperback versions of my book. Their structure is a bit like the wonderful books my kids “published” in grade school.

Eventually I’ll need to figure out what to do with them. But for now I’m just dancing around the house – celebrating another exciting step in this amazing process.

For the Love of 49 Words: You say “Purply” and I say “Purpley.”

I couldn’t be more excited about finding TOO PURPLEY! on Amazon. And if you should search on my author name, you’ll see the paperback U.K. version right there next to the U.S. hardcover. Now look closely. The U.K. title is actually TOO PURPLY! That makes me smile.

Why? Because my editor spent tons of time with her U.K. counterparts deciding on the spellings of all my made-up words. And there are quite a few. She explained their thought processes which were highly intelligent and completely logical. And it was decided that “purply” would work better for the Brits.

I love that these wonderful editors – both here, and across the pond – take my precious words – both real and made-up – as seriously as I do. All 49 of them.

Thoughts from Picture Book Peek #2

After this round of critiques, including my Take the Dare, Show You Care critique, I think I’ve hit on a good number. Three or four manuscripts per Peek Week feels about right.

Some of you may wonder why not more. The answer – they take a ton of time.

The initial read through and text markup is quite fast. And if that’s all I was doing, I could turn them around in less than an hour. But often, as I read, I sense that something isn’t working. Nothing is more frustrating than to have a reader simply say “this is great” or “this doesn’t work for me” without at least exploring reasons why.

So in order for my critiques to be most helpful I need to explore that “why” and then attempt to verbalize it in my critique letter. That takes time and energy. And since I don’t want feelings from one manuscript to carry over into the next, I often need a bit of a break between readings.

Picture Book Peek Week #2 had some terrific submissions. Here are some general take-aways from my critiques:

  • PBs are not easy readers. Simple language still needs to be rich. Seek out wonderful words.
  • Figure out whose story you’re writing – it had better be the kid’s.
  • Be wary of adult abstractions that wheedle their way into kid’s stories.
  • Remember, even non-rhyming stories have a rhythm.

That’s it for now. Watch for Picture Book Peek Week #3 coming this Fall?

Picture Book Peek Week #2 – And the Winners Are …

Oh, I hate that I only have time for 3 this week.

There were so many titles I loved. So many manuscripts I wanted to read -proving I need to do this more often. But I’m absolutely thrilled with the winners. And I’ll have you know that the selection process was extremely official. My husband, who’s a CPA (think Price Waterhouse at the Oscars) drew the titles.

And the winners of Picture Book Peek Week #2 are …


Please e-mail your manuscripts as Word attachments to reidy(dot)jean(at)gmail(dot)com.