Kidlit Giveaway: DIMENSION WHY by John Cusick

To celebrate the release of DIMENSION WHY: HOW TO SAVE THE UNIVERSE WITHOUT REALLY TRYING and my podcast interview with John Cusick, author and literary agent at Folio Jr. (and dear friend), I’m giving away a finished copy of his latest middle grade, DIMENSION WHY (September 2020, Harper)!

Listen to our podcast interview here:

 

And fill out the form below to enter the giveaway by the deadline: November 6th, 2020!

Gail Carson Levine Podcast and Giveaway!

I had the incredible pleasure of interviewing Gail Carson Levine for the Good Story Podcast. Her episode debuts today and I’d love for you to have a listen!

As part of the interview, I’m giving away my ARC copy of Gail’s latest, A Ceiling Made of Eggshells, debuting on May 12th, 2020, for HarperCollins.

To win your copy, all you have to do is share this episode of the Good Story Podcast somewhere on your social media, and supply the URL for your share. (All Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts, for example, have individual post addresses that you can copy and paste into the form below.)

Feel free to use this graphic if you want to blog or post about this episode:

Gail Carson Levine

To facilitate the giveaway process, I’m linking you to a Google Form to collect your entry, including your mailing address, since this is an ARC giveaway.  Once you’re ready, you can fill it out, below. Entries are due April 22nd, 2020 at midnight, CST!

Good luck! I can’t wait to share this amazing story with one lucky winner. For more on the wonderful Gail Carson Levine, please check out her Instagram and blog.

Interview and Giveaway

Please head over to Literary Rambles today to win a copy of WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT! I’m sorry for the lack of substantial posting over the last few weeks and all the book talk. But I have discovered just what a different beast it is to promote a book than to just dream about having a book be published. I’m learning and will share some thoughts on marketing once I get the hang of it. (If that ever happens!)

Not only was my publication date moved up by about six weeks, but I am also coming to terms with the realization that you can’t put off important things until…you feel less tired, or until the stars are perfectly aligned, or until the house is clean. That’s what I was trying to do with marketing the book. “I’ll start talking about it more once I have my head around book promotion and once I know I can do it well,” I said to myself. Then I got real. You’re never going to feel less tired (coffee helps you forget this sometimes), the stars will always be just a degree or two off, and the house…well…the house is what it is. A reminder never to put off all the hard and exciting work of publicizing, writing, and chasing after your goals!

So expect some more book promotion talk and some giveaways just in time for the holidays. I’ll post interviews and other things I’ve done across the web for the guide as I get them. At some point in the next few months, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming. Until then, I’m going to trip and flounder through some book promotion and see what happens. 🙂

ETA: Updated the link, sorry guys! I had my wires crossed because I was sharing with someone the Bravo page of the sous chef for my boyfriend’s new restaurant.

Wise Words About Picture Books and Contest!

One of my very favorite picture book writers, Amy Krouse Rosenthal (LITTLE HOOT, DUCK! RABBIT!, and many more) gave an interview in the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET book that I would love to excerpt here the day before my picture book webinar at 1 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, January 12th, which is still open for registration. As a reminder, you will get a 90-minute craft intensive talk on picture books, the opportunity to ask all the questions you have (every question gets answered, either live during the presentation or in an email afterward), and a critique of one picture book manuscript (up to 1,000 words in length).

During the webinar, I’ll talk about how to find the right hooks and universality to really make your picture books marketable on today’s shelves. I’ll also talk about the writer and illustrator relationship in publishing, as well as how writers need to think more like illustrators (and vice versa) in order to come up with truly successful picture book projects.

This excerpt features Rosenthal’s thoughts on finding just the right book idea, as well as working together with an illustrator and how that creative collaboration takes her work to new heights. Read on:

“When my kids were small, there were countless stories told. Often for the boys, I’d tell them stories about dinosaurs, monsters or something in a cape—all these nonsense stories they loved. Ninety-nine percent of the stories I made up for my kids were nonsensical things. But once in a while there was some kind of cool stuff. You have to tell one thousand bad ones to get to the one good one.”

Rosenthal says finding that one good one amidst all the others is a little bit like dating. “When a relationship isn’t right, even if you think I know this is going to work out, he’s really cute, it always has some convoluted glitch—this non-fluid, non-seamless barrage of obstacles. But true love is this flawless, shiny, perfectly smooth thing, at least in the beginning. When I’m writing something, I’m coming at it from a number of different angles. With the ones that end up working, everything falls into place more fluidly.”

That feeling of fluidity can also come from working well with an illustrator. For one of her most recent books, Plant a Kiss (which explores what might grow if you, quite literally, planted a kiss), Rosenthal worked closely with illustrator Peter Reynolds to develop the vision and feel of the book—a process she says has “been a dream.” Not only was it a chance for her to work with one of her favorite artists, but she was thrilled with the vision he brought to the book.

“When I started, I had mocked up the book with stick-figure illustrations. It was tidy, executed visually 100 percent. There was a moment of talk when we thought maybe the book should look like this. It was kind of cute. But thank goodness we reached out to Peter and he said yes. During the first conference call he said he’d send us some sketches. Later, I opened the document, and he had illustrated the entire book. And it was just this moment of ‘Oh my god, he nailed it.’ The characters are beautiful.”

With all of her picture books, Rosenthal has strived for this type of creative partnership. “I really value the collaboration. Oftentimes the writers are kept apart from the illustrator, but that paradigm never made sense to me. From the first ‘yes’ [for Little Pea and Cookies] I made the plea to be involved. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. The books gain so much by the writer and illustrator interacting.”

Interview excerpt of Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Meg Leder from 2012 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (c) 2011 Writer’s Digest Books. All materials used by permission of F+W Media. All rights reserved

Now that you’ve heard one picture book creator’s thoughts, you can hear even more thoughts on the craft of PBs during the webinar. To sweeten the pot just a little bit, I am going to give away one more copy of CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, edited by Chuck Sambuchino, but this contest is a quickie. You can enter in the comments below through 1 p.m. Eastern tomorrow (Thursday, January 12th). I will announce the winner during the webinar (and on the blog next week). If you are taking the webinar, do mention that in your entry. US residents only, please.

Forward this post around and let’s give away another copy of CWIM. Those picture writers out there registered for the webinar will hear more from me tomorrow afternoon!

For those blog readers wondering when I’ll get back to the craft posts here, those are coming up next week. It’s just that 2012 has so many exciting things going on right out of the gate that I have to spread the word. I’ll resume my regular programming once the Writer’s Digest Conference excitement dies down. I seriously can’t wait for this year’s conference. You can check out more details here, and be sure to email me if you still need a special $115 discount code!

Writer’s Digest Conference and Contest!

This January 20th to 22nd, I will be participating in the Writer’s Digest Conference at the Sheraton in New York City! I’m very excited about this conference.

On Saturday morning, I will be speaking on an agent panel and taking agent- and publishing-related Q&A with some fellow agents and moderated by 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET editor and Guide to Literary Agents blogger Chuck Sambuchino.

Then, Saturday afternoon, I will be in a room with over 60 literary agents for the annual Pitch Slam. You will have unprecedented access to come and pitch your book to some of the brightest and most hungry agents in the business. There is a nice mix of kidlit, adult, and non-fiction agents represented (and representing!).

On Sunday, I will be speaking about today’s kidlit marketplace and how to get published there. Yep, I am all over this conference, guys. But I’m not the only fantastic speaker. The Saturday keynote is digital/indie publishing guru and adult thriller writer Barry Eisler and I just saw that Chris Baty, the genius behind NaNoWriMo, which I know some of you just finished, has been added as a speaker, too!

The great thing about the Writer’s Digest Conference is that they’re running a special holiday promotion right this minute. If you register for the conference before midnight on December 16th, you will get a $50 discount. Just click here and use the following promo code: HOLIDAYWDC

If you’re going, spread the word on Twitter and Facebook by mentioning @WritersDigest and the hashtag #WDC12

It’s not too late to book that dream trip to NYC and get your 2012 writing goals off to a strong start at the Writer’s Digest Conference. And, of course, if you’re reader and planning on going, I would love to meet you!

Now, I also have a super special holiday gift for you guys. Speaking of Chuck Sambuchino and the new 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, I have two copies to give away!

Inside this handy volume, you will find articles on craft, writing, submitting, and landing an agent, interviews with kidlit glitterati like M.T. Anderson and Meg Cabot, and updated listings for agents, publishers, and magazines that take work from children’s writers and illustrators. If you want to land an agent or find a market for your work in 2012, this is the book for you.

I highly recommend it. In fact, you will see a familiar face featured on the back cover, and an official blurb from me that reads:

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is the most complete, trusted, definitive, and inspiring source of publishing opportunities for children’s writers and illustrators working today.

It’s true. Not only did I lend my mug and stamp of approval to the book, but I have two articles featured inside. One is about writer’s conferences, like the Writer’s Digest Conference this very January in NYC, and how to make the best of your investment in them (whether it’s your first or your fiftieth), and the other covers my three favorite craft issues: Voice, Character, and Authority, with lots of juicy annotated examples from my favorite MG and YA books on shelves.

So if you want to see examples of Voice that works — an especially tricky topic that lots of writers struggle with — pick up a copy today! This elegant guide is crammed full of useful information and updated agency, publisher, and magazine listings to make your quest toward publication a no-brainer. Let 2012 be the year you really MARKET your writing!

Because I want you to have an awesome writer’s holiday gift this year, either for you or for a loved one, I am giving away two free copies of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET to two writers randomly selected from the comments. Leave a comment below (make sure to include your email address in the comment form, though know that only I will be able to see it and it won’t be published on the site). Deadline for entries is midnight, Tuesday, December 20th. The winner will be announced in Wednesday the 21st’s blog, and then I will ship your copy to you next week. (US residents only, please.)

Craft Book Giveaway Winner

The winner of K.L. Going’s WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL is Sam S.! Thanks for playing, everyone! Now go out and buy this book if you didn’t end up winning it, it’s a great resource.

Writing Book Giveaway: WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL by K.L. Going

I had so many responses on my post about giving away a copy of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET edited by Chuck Sambuchino (I know only one of you won it…the rest should go out and buy it immediately, read it, love it, then leave glowing Amazon and Goodreads reviews), that I wanted to give away another craft book on the blog that I’ve recently read and really enjoyed. Clearly, you guys are craving some craft books!

This one is WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL by novelist K.L. Going, out from Writer’s Digest Books, but it’s also great for writers of middle grade. One of my favorite small things in this book is a list of fantastic considerations when writing historical — it’s a checklist of all those small things you don’t necessarily think about immediately when world-building. She also does a great job of putting you in the head of teen readers and including feedback from real teens on the books they like, the characters they bond with, etc. It’s a great resource by a very talented fiction writer.

It’s the usual drill for book giveaways. Leave a comment on this entry to win. No international shipping, so if you live outside the US, enlist a buddy who can receive the book on your behalf. Don’t worry about an email address, just enter it in the comment field that asks for it and know that it will be for my eyes only…it won’t be published on the site. Deadline for entries is October 5th at midnight, Eastern time. I’ll announce a winner on October 6th!

CWIM Winner!

We have a winner for the 2012 edition of CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, edited by Chuck Sambuchino and out from Writer’s Digest Books: Gail Terp!

Sorry I don’t have more copies to give away, but those who got all excited about reading this year’s CWIM should go out and buy it anyway. It’s a really great resource.

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market on Sale Today!

Today is the official publication day for the 2012 edition of the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, out from Writer’s Digest Books and edited by Chuck Sambuchino.

Inside this handy volume, you will find articles on craft, writing, submitting, and landing an agent, interviews with kidlit glitterati like M.T. Anderson and Meg Cabot, and updated listings for agents, publishers, and magazines that take work from children’s writers and illustrators. If you want to land an agent or find a market for your work this year, this is the book for you.

I highly recommend it. In fact, you will see a familiar face featured on the back cover, and an official blurb from me that reads:

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is the most complete, trusted, definitive, and inspiring source of publishing opportunities for children’s writers and illustrators working today.

It’s true. Not only did I lend my mug and stamp of approval to the book, but I have two articles featured inside. One is about writer’s conferences and how to make the best of your investment in them (whether it’s your first or your fiftieth), and the other covers my three favorite craft issues: Voice, Character, and Authority, with lots of juicy annotated examples from my favorite MG and YA books on shelves.

So if you want to read about and see examples of Voice that works — an especially tricky topic that lots of writers struggle with — pick up a copy today! This elegant guide is crammed full of useful information and updated agency, publisher, and magazine listings to make your quest toward publication a no-brainer. Let 2012 be the year you really MARKET your writing!

Because I’m so proud of this year’s book, I am giving away one free copy of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET to a writer randomly selected from the comments. Leave a comment below (make sure to include your email address in the comment form, though know that only I will be able to see it and it won’t be published on the site). Deadline for entries is midnight, Tuesday, September 20th. The winner will be announced in Wednesday the 21st’s blog, and then I will ship your copy to you next week. (US residents only, please.)

First Line Winner Analysis

Thank you all so much for your patience as I break down some first lines from the comments and critique exercise we did the other day. Whew! Almost 200 comments and entries, from PB first lines to YA fantasy and everything in between. Here is a selection of my favorite ones, with comments from me, and then a crowning of the winners. That’s right! This contest has two winning first lines.

First, though, the Honorable Mentions:

So let’s go through them in the order they were posted. First up is Crystal:

I never got the Bloodlust.

Some of my favorite first lines are the ones that plant the kernel of a question in a reader’s head. Here, there’s the question raised of “What is the Bloodlust?” but also some implied tension. Whoever this character is, I’m betting s/he either will get the Bloodlust soon or is one of the very few who never got this mysterious Bloodlust, which makes her an outcast, and there’s conflict in that. So we raise a juicy question and also imply that something is going to be fraught about this Bloodlust situation.

Here’s Silvia:

When Misha started seeing holes in people, she told her mother.

I’m not sure I’m crazy about this as a first line, because it’s telling (I’d rather see this instance in scene) and because of the use of the dry, more old-fashioned word “mother,” but the shock value of it can’t be denied, as you can see from the comments. The image certainly is arresting, and it starts with punch. You don’t want to make these kinds of “stunt” first lines a habit, but this one works because I want to read more.

Here’s Lyla:

On the night that Gabriel Durante harvested his one hundredth soul, he bought himself a pack of cigarettes and a drink.

This line cracks me up in a bit of a dark way. There’s a lot going on — this is our longest chosen line — but it’s very specific. There’s clearly something important about the one hundredth soul. There’s a reward for Gabriel here, or a release, but it’s a self-destructive one, hence the dark appeal. I immediately want to know what the one hundredth soul means and what’s waiting for Gabriel after…and that’s the perfect introduction to a book that, I assume, is going to be about just that. This feels like just the right first line for what I can imagine this story will be about. If the story is not about what happens after the one hundredth soul, this writer isn’t setting expectations correctly!

Here’s Stephanie:

People used to smile at me a lot more than they do now.

There’s some good first person pain in this line, which speaks to good voice. And not only do I want to know what happened to make them stop smiling as much, I want to know what it was like before and what it’s like now. Lots of good questions in this line. (Are we seeing a common theme?)

Here’s Amy:

Everything Sophie drew came to life.

This, just like the hole-people line, caught my eye because it’s a unique premise. Again, though, it does suffer from a bit of the telling. It’s a rather dry way of expressing your premise…showing this magic in action would be a much more active choice. You can, of course, use telling to reinforce key ideas occasionally (see good telling vs. bad telling) but I wouldn’t recommend as the first line. Still, I would keep reading this.

Here’s Kayla:

Siven smiles at me as she tightens her fingers around my neck.

This is a great example of starting in medias res (“in the middle of things” in Greek). We jump right into the action. There’s also the great tension of the smile as it clashes against the violent act of the fingers around the neck. This first line has lots of punch (bad pun fully intended)!

Here’s Kalen:

It kinda sucks being a mind-reader when everyone hates your guts and wishes you were dead.

I haven’t written a blog post about setting expectations, but it’s something I discuss a lot when I speak at conferences. Before I do my longer post on it, let me just say that setting expectations is something you have to do in the first 5 pages of your book. From those first 5 pages, an image will bloom in your readers’ minds about what the rest of the story will be like. From the premise presented here — with good voice, might I add — I don’t know exactly what to expect from the rest of the book, but my imagination is already whirring, going in a million different directions, imagining all the painful (and, let’s face it, pretty funny…a tone set by the voice) moments that this character will experience. There is, of course, the question of what this character did to incur such wrath, as well as the introduction of the paranormal element, all in one fell swoop. Great work!

Here’s Kait:

I was thirteen when I found out why my mother left me.

This is another one of those telling lines, but there is a haunting tone to it that hints at good voice down the road. The question is so big and so ache-inducing that it begs the reader to keep going. An emotional connection in a first line is important.

Here’s Ashley:

“What do you want your name to be this time?”

Normally I tell writers to not start their novels with unattributed lines of dialogue. It’s too disorienting right off the bat. This line is a good one, though! It sparks a lot, a lot of questions! If you’re going to do it, make sure it’s something electric like this, and not, say, “Did you finish your cereal?” or whatever.

Finally, for the Honorable Mentions, Miles:

Camilla Bradford counted to ten, then walked out into the street.

There’s tension involved in counting to ten — she’s either doing it in anticipation of something or in anger, as a way to quiet her reaction. By setting up the suspense in this one line, Miles makes us want to keep reading. That’s good, because this project is apparently a YA thriller!

And now, The Winners:

Here’s the unveiling of our first one, Kathryn:

Bea had broken at least six of the Ten Commandments.

The voice here is great! Plus, I want to know more about this character. There’s tension in the breaking of the Commandments…clearly the Commandments matter to the character, because she references them, but not enough to keep from breaking them. This line is tongue-in-cheek and voice-y, also. Overall, just very appealing. The obvious question is, of course: Which Commandments, and how?

And here’s our second winner, Kalen:

It kinda sucks being a mind-reader when everyone hates your guts and wishes you were dead.

I haven’t written a blog post about setting expectations, but it’s something I discuss a lot when I speak at conferences. Before I do my longer post on it, let me just say that setting expectations is something you have to do in the first 5 pages of your book. From those first 5 pages, an image will bloom in your readers’ minds about what the rest of the story will be like. From the premise presented here — with good voice, might I add — I don’t know exactly what to expect from the rest of the book, but my imagination is already whirring, going in a million different directions, imagining all the painful (and, let’s face it, pretty funny…a tone set by the voice) moments that this character will experience. There is, of course, the question of what this character did to incur such wrath, as well as the introduction of the paranormal element, all in one fell swoop. Great work!

Kathryn and Kalen both get a critique of their first 250 words (email me, winners, at mary at kidlit dot com with the subject line: First Line Critique). Thanks for playing along, everyone!