Practice Makes Perfect – or at Least Very, Very Good.

OUTLIERS, by Malcolm Gladwell, heads up my to-read list, and there’s a lot of blogging going on about his 10,000 hours to success theory. I buy it. And today a friend directed me to this NEW YORK TIMES op-ed piece about practice as compared to genius. I like that Brooks actually uses a writer as his primary example. The theories have merit – or at least they offer me a hefty dose of rationalization for the writing hours I put in and the stack of books on my nightstand.

Tell Me About Your “Lilly” moments and Win a Book!

If you haven’t been following Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Picture Book Poll you’re not too late to join in the fun. This NYC children’s librarian polled her blog readers on their top 10 picture books. Now she’s not only tallied the results, but she’s compiled comments, reviews, pictures and more, for each of the 100 selections. And she’s awarding even bigger blog blurbs to her top 20.

I was thrilled to see Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse make it to #15. Hooray!

Why do I love this book so much? Because I’ve had “Lilly” moments – even as an adult. My face gets hot just thinking of them – ah, that melting point of anger and embarrassment. Sheesh! If you don’t know what that means, please check out the book – a sweet, funny, smart story about a mouse having a little-bit-naughty day and her terrific teacher who gets it. It’s completely honest and totally charming.

How about you? Do you remember one of your little-bit-naughty days? To celebrate Lilly on the list, tell me about your own Lilly moments. And as a reward for fessing up, I’ll award a copy of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse to the best story.

1. Stories must be true, from your childhood and G-rated.
2. Stories must appear in the comments section of my blog by midnight MST on May 8th.
3. Stories will be judged on several factors but especially on how well they mimic the authenticity of the”Lilly” moment. By the way, it’s a requirement that you did get caught.
4. I’ll conduct voting via e-mail when the contest closes.

In this world of pressure and perfectionism, it’s refreshing to laugh at the little bit of Lilly in each one of us.

I Need to Be Rescued!

Tonight I’m being abducted. Right here. In downtown Denver. As a show of solidarity with Uganda’s night commuters – the Invisible Children. My sons have visited the IDP camps. They’ve slept where the night commuters have slept. The tragedy is real.

Please, if you know any Denver moguls – Mayor Hickenlooper, Governor Ritter, John Elway, The Fray – anyone who can lend a face and a voice to this cause – please let them know that we must be rescued. All they have to do is show up. We’ll be walking from Civic Center Park and spending the night at Cheesman Park.

But even if you don’t have those connections, please join our efforts by checking out this site Read about the Invisible Children. Watch the videos. Then send the link to a friend.

Thank you!

What do you think of the WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Trailer?

I’m just not sure how I feel about this. I so love the story with its simple truth. I fear when too much is added to it – the truth will blur, and the children who read the book after seeing the movie might lose the ability to put themselves in the story – the quality of the book I find most endearing. What do you think?

View Where the Wild Things Are trailer now.

Creating the perfect “inciting incident”

When I’ve finished reading Les Edgerton’s HOOKED: WRITE FICTION THAT GRABS READERS AT PAGE ONE AND NEVER LETS THEM GO, I plan on writing a review – a stellar review – because I’m completely taken with his pin-point logic, instruction and examples. I’m about halfway through so you’ll have to hold your breath.

But in the meantime, I’ve begun incorporating Edgerton’s advice in my own process.

I’m currently revising a very rough draft of one of my MG novels. I’m back on those first few pages and first scenes – always the toughest for me – trying to get them just right.

Yesterday I focused on clearly defining what Edgerton calls the “inciting incident.” He describes it as “the event that creates the character’s initial surface problem and introduces the first inklings of the story-worth problem.” Essentially, it’s where the real story begins.

Thankfully, early in my revision process, I spent some time crystallizing my story into one sentence – an exercise I recommend to every novel writer. That sentence beats in my brain as a constant reminder of the heart of my story as I rewrite. But it also revealed a buried treasure. Because there in that 15-word sentence lies the inciting incident. Hurray!

Problem: In my draft I had broken up that incident into two scenes separated by a few other surface problems. Consequently my inciting incident lost the power it could have to really get the ball rolling in my story. I needed to clarify it, rev it up and spend more time with it early on.

How will I accomplish that? I’ll couple the two separated scenes into one in my opening chapters and rearrange those other surface problems – which really have nothing to do with the inciting incident – by moving them to later chapters. Then I’ll work on energizing that opening scene with more humor and higher stakes for my MC.

When I’m done that scene should shout from the pages “THE STORY STARTS NOW!”
And hopefully my reader will be hooked. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

You’re Gonna Love this Bug!

Gas up the car and get ready to roll to your favorite Indie because David Macinnis Gill’s (my crit buddy) SOUL ENCHILADA is hitting the stores on 4/7!!

I LOVE this book. But don’t take my word for it.
Here’s what folks in the know have to say:

An “action-packed, power-punch of a debut” –Kirkus (starred)

“Delightfully wacky” –Horn Book

“Gill knows what will make teens laugh” –Publishers Weekly

“Bug is a refreshingly gutsy female protagonist…that will win over
readers.” –Booklist

“A powerful voice of young adult literature” –Chris Crutcher

“Wonderful and unexpectedly touching…” –Melissa Marr

“Tasty” –Teri Lesesne

“Warm, funny, and full of grace….Highly recommended.” –Greg Leitich Smith

Hanging with the Stars in NYC

Last week I spent 4 crazy-busy but completely fun days in New York with my husband and kids for Spring Break. Yup, we’re weird that way. We don’t often rocket south like heat seeking missiles this time of year. And having lived in the Big Apple in my long ago past, I still consider East 46th Street one of my beloved homes. So it was wonderful going “home” again.

Of course, we visited the Belmont as well as other favorite haunts, and took in an eclectic trio of shows. But I also budgeted time for two “business” stops.

The first was for coffee with one of my editors, Michelle Nagler. Rather than meeting at one of the ten bazillion Starbucks dotted around the city, we chose to visit in her office among her shelves and shelves of children’s books. As a matter of fact, every angled wall in that editorial division was filled floor to ceiling with books. It seemed fitting that the famous, funky Flatiron building housed this creative commune called Bloomsbury.

And for an hour, we talked about my books, her books, funny books, award-winning books, best sellers, illustrators, art – pulling examples from the shelves as we discussed, oohing and aahing over color schemes, word choice, diorama art, perfect titles. She mentioned a bit of happy news – TOO PURPLEY! will also be released in the U.K. Hurrah! And I even got a peek at her slush pile. Sigh! We both agreed, we could have chatted all day.

My second “business” stop was at none other than the Children’s Center at the 42nd Street New York Public Library. Nostalgia flooded me as this was my first child’s very first library – not to mention his favorite from Ghost Buster fame. I stopped there to soak it all in once again, but also to meet that blogging rock star librarian from Fuse #8 – the kid lit guru Elizabeth Bird.

The Children’s Center buzzed — toddlers on computers, babies teething on board books, school age kids combing the shelves, parents chatting and reading and enjoying this warm, rainbowed refuge on that misty New York day. And wouldn’t you know it, Elizabeth was sitting right there at the front door as if to eyeball each little entering patron and pair him/her with a perfect book match.

Even though I tried to bribe her with Dylan’s candy and threatened to rearrange her Dewey Decimal System, she wouldn’t reveal the contenders in her Top 100 Picture Book Poll. She only hinted at a few surprises. NYPL is certainly lucky to have Elizabeth in their kid’s court.

So in addition to chance meetings with The Take Home Chef and Ed Norton (no kidding) I got to meet these two lovely literary stars. And both further affirmed that the folks in children’s publishing and children’s literature are among the kindest in the world. I can’t wait to go back.