August 31, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The Sixth Pitch!

Grab your Cheetos and settle into the recliner!  It's time for Would You Read It!

What?

Yes, Cheetos are a healthy breakfast! (they have cheese, which is dairy, duh!  Just make sure you wipe your fingers before you touch your computer or you'll get that orange dust everywhere...)

And no, first thing in the morning is not too early for the recliner! (after you're done with Would You Read It you will be perfectly positioned to enjoy all those other morning game shows!  Besides, you can't really enjoy Cheetos properly on the exercise bike.)

So now, are you ready?

I hope so, because here comes today's pitch *sounds of cheering and wild excitement*

Today's pitch comes to us from Laynie, a children's author from Texas.  She is writing a series about Moochie Mockingbird and this title is to be the second in the series.  (For you fellow campaigners out there, Laynie is also taking part in Rachael Harrie's Writer's Platform Building Campaign so head on out and look her up!)

Title:  Hidden Oaks Camp Or Else!
Genre/Age: MG
The Pitch:  Moochie Mockingbird and other animal friends lead endangered animals away from a huge, deadly Texas Hill Country wildfire to the safety of 'firewise community' Hidden Oaks, a summer youth camp. 



So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Laynie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  (I figured y'all would get tired of me rewriting the same paragraph every week about the rules of the game so I put them up there :))

Laynie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

And once Laynie's pitch has had a couple days to be evaluated, I will put up the official poll so you can all vote on whose pitch should be sent to Erin!  Really, the excitement is practically unbearable!  Where are my Cheetos?  :)

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August 30, 2011

Poll Test - Take 2


Okay, so yesterday's polling attempt was an interesting experiment which turned out to have more shortcomings than usefulness.

So today, even though it's Tuesday and I don't usually post, I'm trying a different polling method.  I think I'm about to find out if Poll Daddy works on Blogger or only WordPress...

So let's try this one.  Short.  Sweet.  To the point.  With pink for Elizabethanne :)  And if you vote, I will hopefully be able to figure out how you voted and what the results are... although that may require more technical ability than I am blessed with...
And if you're having fun and want to continue...

What is your quest?

And what is the air-speed velocity of a sparrow?  (Laden or unladen?)

(Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of my all time favorites :))
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August 29, 2011

Poll Test For The Big Day!

As you know, we are mere days away from having our first monthly vote for Would You Read It to see which of our intrepid participants will win a pitch read from editor Erin Molta!!!  So exciting I can barely articulate... and you are probably having trouble reading... and maybe even breathing...!

I thought it would behoove me (by which I mean I thought it would be a good idea, not that I'm planning on sprouting hooves) to figure out how to do a poll.

I found a rather circuitous but ultimately (hopefully) useful set of instructions by googling "how do you add a poll to a blog post" (isn't it wonderful what you can find at the touch of a button?)  Of course, the instructions weren't exactly right, so I would never have figured it out without my tech savvy  children... but all's well that ends well, right?

So.  In the spirit of getting things in working order (and making me practice how to do this!) before the crucial moment, let's try out some polls!

Are you game?

Okay!  Here we go!  There is nothing even remotely biased about these questions either.

Who is your favorite chldren's author?

What is your favorite picture book?

Who is your favorite children's book character?

What is your favorite color?
Please vote, everyone, so I can figure out if it works! I may still want to try poll daddy.  Then we'll be ready for the big Would You Read It vote sometime after this week's post, coming Wednesday from Laynie, our second MG entrant!

Also, on another note - for those of you who have been asking about following by email/getting post notification by email, my awesome wonderfully talented works-even-on-Sunday designer, Donna Farrell, has created a place for you to enter your email address and do that.  It's right there in the right hand column near the followers area.  Thank you, Donna, and thanks to you interested folks who want to know the minute a new post is up :)

P.S.  I think I can already tell I don't like this polling method.  Is it just me, or once there's a vote up is everyone seeing the vote status?  Do you consider that a good thing or would it be better if you didn't know how the vote was going?
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August 24, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The Fifth Pitch! And A Surprise!!!

It's Wednesday folks, and you know what that means...  Time for the world's most awesome game, Would You Read It!

But before I give you today's pitch, I have some super awesome exciting news!  A new twist to Would You Read It.

So far, I have posted people's pitches (I just have to stop and admire that accidental alliteration :)) and you all have written in with your opinions and helpful comments.

NOW, in addition, we are going to have a vote once a month where you all get to say which of the pitches for that month you thought was best.  The winner's pitch will be read by none other than Erin Molta, editor extraordinaire!!!

Erin is an experienced senior editor of picture book, early readers, chapter, middle grade, and YA books, as well as novelty and licensed titles. She has been in children's publishing for more than twenty years and has a keen understanding of early reader through YA audiences. She has an excellent reputation with established authors, illustrators, and agents.

She is currently evaluating manuscripts for publishers as well as freelance editing for prospective authors before submission to publishing houses.


What an opportunity!

Erin will read each month's winning pitch and supply valuable feedback to the author on how to improve it.  And who knows?  If she likes it enough, she may ask for a partial or complete ms to read!

And you thought Would You Read It couldn't get any better :)

I must also add that Erin has a special place in my heart... it was she who purchased my very first ms for publication, The House That Mack Built for Little Simon :) ... so you know she has good taste :)

Because the first 2 Would You Read It entries were in July and there were only 2, the first vote will include them with the August entries, which means there will be 5 or 6 instead of 4 or 5 and the vote will take place after the final August entry.  (Which gives me a week to figure out Poll Daddy or some other voting scheme - advice welcome :))

But isn't this so exciting???!!!

OKAY!  So onward to today's pitch, which comes to us from the lovely Pam, a writer, mother, and teacher of maritime history and seamanship at the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Pam presents us with this entry:

Title:  When This Is Over, I Will Go To School And I Will Learn To Read: A Story Of Hope And Friendship For One Young Kenyan Orphan
Genre: PB
The Pitch:  No one knows the story of Kenya better than the children who live it, and it is their truth that is certain to nudge the hearts and minds of parents, teachers and children everywhere.


So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?


If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Pam improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  (I figured y'all would get tired of me rewriting the same paragraph every week about the rules of the game so I put them up there :))

As an added note, this week's entry is a little different.  Pam has self-published and is looking for ways to bring attention to her book, hence her interest in improving her pitch.  If you're interested in learning more about Pam and her book, please visit her website and view her trailer on YouTube (the link for which I cannot get to work in spite of just trying 400 times so please search When This Is Over.mp4 by mabeldog4).

Pam eagerly awaits your comments and suggestions, and Erin is waiting excitedly in the wings for the first pitch winner in a week or two!!!
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August 22, 2011

The Writer's Platform Building Campaign

Monday starts off with a bang this week!  It's time for Rachael Harrie's 3rd Writer's Platform Building Campaign!
This is a great opportunity for writers, parents, teachers and librarians!

For writers, it's a chance to connect with other writers, both in your own specific genre and across the board.

For parents. teachers, and librarians, it's a great way to explore the blogs and books of lots of writers whose work you might not be familiar with yet.

If you're a writer, I think you'll want to check it out!  Not only will you get to meet new people who share your interests, learn new things about your craft, and exchange ideas with other writers, you'll get to join in writing challenges, a Yahoo group, and all kinds of other fun including giveaways of all kinds.

If you're a parent, teacher or librarian, you can go to the list of Campaigners here and check out all the blogs and books of writers in every category of children's literature (as well as adult literature.)  Many writers' blogs have a lot of information on the world of children's books where you can get to know the authors who write the books your children read or whose books you use in your classroom, and there are often giveaways where you can win books for your personal, classroom, or school library.

I did the 2nd Writer's Platform Building Campaign and had a wonderful time, finding lots of interesting blogs and meeting people who are now friends.

So go check it out and let me know what you think!

Remember to check back here Wednesday for a new Would You Read It which, this week, is going to include some VERY EXCITING NEWS!!!

See you then :)
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August 17, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The Fourth Pitch!

Hurray!  It's Wednesday!  That means it's time for everybody's favorite game...  duhn-duhn, duhn-duhn - (dramatic music!) Would You Read It!

Now, I know a lot of you authors out there are up to your eyebrows in WriteOnCon (which is totally awesome, BTW, and if you haven't checked it out you owe yourself a trip over there to see what's up!), but surely you will have a moment around midnight, or at least mid-afternoon Thursday while you're refilling your tea cup, or certainly by Friday when WriteOnCon is over, to help out this week's Would You Read It contender!  And parents, teachers, and librarians - this is your chance to get your two cents in before the writers :)

This week's entry comes to us from Paul, a New York City area art director who is quite new to the world of writing children's books and will be grateful for any pointers you can give him.

Here it is:

Title: The Big Red Boat
Genre: Picture Book Series entitled Adventures With Benjamin Blueberry and Wally The Goat.
The Pitch:  Wally the Goat is steering the boat... Look at him go around that duck and through the waves.  He sure is saving the day.

So.  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Paul improve his pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  (I figured y'all would get tired of me rewriting the same paragraph every week about the rules of the game so I put them up there :))

Paul is eager to hear your thoughts on his pitch!
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August 15, 2011

Skype Author Visits?

It's August 15, which means here in New York school hasn't started yet but it will soon.

With the start of the new school year comes a new opportunity for school visits, one of my favorite parts of being a children's author.
Thus far, I have always visited in person.  I get to meet the kids face-to-face, hear their laughter and excited comments, let them pat Phyllis :)
But school budgets, as always, are being cut further and further.  Fewer and fewer schools have the resources to pay authors to visit - especially lesser known authors like me.  And this means fewer kids get the chance to meet authors and illustrators and see that these are paths that are open to them in their lives.

But before you get too depressed over the state of affairs, there's a new solution - Skype!

It's free.  Anyone can download and use it.  And many authors and schools are now doing visits by Skype.

I am terrified eager to give it a try!  (Because as you all know, I am so gifted with technology!)

As I see it, here are the pros:
1. Skype is free.  Any library or classroom with a computer can access it.
2. An author can visit any school or library regardless of distance - no travel fees, no overnights away from home, etc.
3. Most authors will do a 15 minute visit for free provided the school gives the student participants the chance to buy the author's books and encourages them to do so.  A longer visit may cost up to $300, but that's still significantly less than an actual visit.
4. The author can do the visit right from home.

...and here are the cons:
1. It's harder to visit a large number of children at once because you're limited by the computer screen.  But this might actually be a pro in disguise because smaller groups mean more interaction per child.
2. The author (and the teacher/librarian on the other end) has to be technologically savvy enough to make Skype work :)  (And there's the chance, in bad weather, that you might lose your internet connection.)
3. There's a bit of juggling involved to get the viewing angles right - the author shouldn't look as though she's talking to the floor :)  This may require skill in architecture or engineering (or at least balancing things) to get your computer in the right position relative to you.
4. Some background shows up, which means the author has to find a clean uncluttered space in her house that looks as though she has in fact vacuumed the dog hair in the last millennium :)

One thing I don't know, since I haven't done this yet, is whether the interaction still feels the same.  Do the kids get as much out of a virtual visit as they do from an actual one, or do they end up feeling like they're watching TV?  What do you think?

Teachers and other writers, I am very interested in your thoughts on Skype visits!  Have you done them?  How have they worked?  What do you see as pros and cons?  Please share!

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August 10, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The Third Pitch!

Good morning, folks!  Grab your coffee and a donut an apple (and for those of you who, like me are finding it a little harder to read the computer screen these days, your reading glasses) and GET READY!  It's time for everybody's favorite game, Would You Read It!

I just have to say, before we get started, that it has warmed the cockles of my heart to see what a wonderful response you've all given our participants!  Those who have been brave enough to submit a pitch have been so grateful for your helpful comments!

(And please don't ask me what a cockle is or what they're doing in your ventricular space.  A cockle sounds like something that should shackle you to a chicken coop, which seems like a sniglet, but I digress...!)

Okay.  Ready?

Today's pitch comes to us from Alisha, an elementary school music teacher, flutist, and chicken farmer :)  Welcome, Alisha, and thanks so much for playing our game!

Alisha presents us with this entry:

Title: Finding the Reindeer Beat
Genre: Picture Book
Pitch: "When Santa’s sleigh team decided to retire, a new group of reindeer trained with Coach Dasher, almost crashed in front of Santa, and discovered the secret to staying together."



So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Alisha improve her pitch.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks and spread the word to all your writer friends so we can keep playing!!!

Rules For The Game: send your working title if you have one, the age/genre you're writing for, and The Pitch, (and your pitch can be anonymous if you prefer - just let me know) to susanna@susannahill.com (or use the handy Email Me button on the right-hand side.)  Try out pitches you're polishing for submission to get a sense of how they're working, or try out pitches for ideas you're mulling over to see if they have merit.  Writers and readers are here to help!

Alisha is anxiously awaiting your thoughts on her pitch!
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August 8, 2011

How To Write A Novel

There are millions of great books out there that will tell you how to write a novel.

Witness exhibits A...
 ...B...
...and C.... (and these are just randomly selected drops in the bucket!)
But I'm going to tell you the real way, the way that doesn't get told in those books.  Pay close attention now because this is worth millions of dollars and I'm giving it to you for FREE.  Because I like to share :)

Ready?

Turn on your computer.

While it's booting up and sorting itself out (shaking off the cobwebs as it were,) make a pot of coffee.

While the coffee's brewing do not do anything so constructive as think about your novel.  Instead, play with the dogs, organize your daughters' nail polish alphabetically or by color (without devoting too much energy to what it's doing on the kitchen counter,) or watch Ellen Degeneres on YouTube in her cameo Harry Potter 7 role.  (Actually, you should do that last one no matter what!)

When the coffee is ready, bring a cup to the kitchen table your office and sit down in front of your computer.

Check your email.

Open the word document with your story in it, but don't look at it yet!  It's not ready to be looked at yet.  It just woke up.  It has sleep in its eyes and bed head.  It needs a minute, if you please!

Read and comment on a couple of your favorite blogs.

Sip your coffee.

Decide the coffee is too cold, take it to the microwave for a warm-up, come back and sit down in front of your computer again.

Think about how your chair is really uncomfortable - an obstacle to the creative process, truth be told - and fantasize about the ergonomically designed Chair Of Awesomeness you will buy when you sell your novel and get a $50,000 advance.

It's important to think realistically.

Check your email to see if anyone commented on your blog yet.

Now.

Deep breath.

Look at your NIP (Novel-In-Progress for the uninitiated) but don't look it straight in the eye.  Keep your head slightly averted lest it think you're issuing a challenge.
Read the very last sentence you wrote yesterday and get ready to type onward full speed ahead the way you're supposed to.

But decide you're not quite sure where to go.  So go back and read the last paragraph.

Wow.  You wrote that pretty darn well!  Maybe you should read a little more of your awesome prose, just to get in the mood.  You know.  Get the old juices flowing.

Read all of the chapter you're currently writing.  And maybe the one before that.  Maybe even start from the beginning so you can really get into it.  Change a few words.  Cut out a sentence and add another.

Sip your coffee.

Check your email in case anything that really demands your attention has come in since you last checked, perhaps an email from your agent telling you that there is a dog-eat-dog bidding war going on for your current ms on sub.

Did I mention it's important to think realistically?

Look at your computer clock.

Gracious!  You've been working for a whole hour already.  What a disciplined worker you are!  But you have read that people who work at desks for a living are Some-Giant-Percent more likely to die of a heart attack, so you'd really better get up and stretch and take the dogs for a short walk before you get back to work.  For your health.

Walk the dogs.

Return to your computer like the disciplined worker you are.

Look at you NIP.

Place your fingers on the keyboard... (music swells in the background as the audience realizes that you are, at last, about to Really Start Typing!!!)

... and realize you're STARVING!  In your zeal to get to work you have entirely neglected breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Your brain needs fuel to be creative!  Really, how could you short-change yourself so?

Go find something sweet and breakfasty, preferably with something healthy, like fruit, involved.  Mmmm!  Raspberry Danish!  Perfect!

Okay.  Seriously.

Fingers on the keyboard.

Here you go.

Type.

Type type type.

Type type type type type.

Phew!  You're working now!  The words are really flying!  You've written a whole paragraph in under 4 hours!  Stephen King, look out!

But darn!  Look at the time!  You've still got to get to the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the post office and the bank, put gas in the car, vacuum dog hair off the surface of your entire house, and be ready to meet the school bus by 3.  Not to mention what the heck are we having for dinner tonight?

Good thing you got so much done so fast!

Check you email one more time in case an editor has written to tell you she sold world-wide rights in every known language for your last book and, when you see she hasn't - yet! - close your computer.

Repeat every day for as long as it takes to get to the end of your novel!

Wasn't that helpful? :)

Please share your tips for how to work productively and how to write a novel (or a picture book or early chapter book or poetry or whatever you write!)  Alternatively, tell us how to get dog hair out of the car upholstery in 1 easy step because that would be VERY helpful too! :)
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August 5, 2011

Hooked

I was fighting the urge.

I really was.

I told myself Quite Sternly! that I was not going to overwhelm you with billions of pictures of our exquisite new granddaughter.  And I'm really not.  Except I just have to post these two.  Because I'm totally hooked.  But then I'll stop.  I promise :)

One of her beautiful face - she looks a lot different with her eyes open, doesn't she?

... and one of her tiny feet, because baby feet are simply irresistible :)
Okay.  That's it.  I'm done :)

But speaking of being hooked, I am, coincidentally, reading Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers At Page One and Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton.  And it's got me thinking about first sentences.

So I'd like to challenge everyone to a new twist on a combination of Monday and Wednesday's posts.  Here's what to do:  pick up the book you're currently reading.  Type into the comments the title and author of the book and the very first sentence.  I'm assuming it hooked you because you're reading the book, but please say whether it did or whether you were just willing to be patient for some reason, and please also say whether the book is delivering on it's promise so far.  Not only will this be fun for writers to learn from, it will give all of us some recommendations for good reading :)

I'll go first.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
"They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me."
YES - I was hooked, and YES, so far the book has more than delivered on its opening promise - it's terrific!

I can't wait to see what you guys are reading and how good (or not) the first sentences are!

Have a great weekend!
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August 3, 2011

Would You Read It Wednesday - The Second Pitch!

Good morning everyone!  It's time, once again, for everybody's favorite game show: Would You Read It!
(Really, that would be so much more fun if it was lit up and sparkly, but I am not that talented at technology :))

Today's pitch comes to us from the lovely Megan in Indiana.  Welcome, Megan, and thanks so much for playing the game!

Megan presents us with this entry:

Title:  The Rhyme Machine
Age/Genre:  PB
Pitch:   “Chaos breaks out in a classroom when an imaginary ‘rhyme machine’ springs to life and starts creating things that rhyme with anything that’s said.”



So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE, or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Megan improve her pitch.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

And now, seriously!, please send your pitches for the coming weeks and spread the word to all your writer friends or this game will die on the vine!  We can only play if we have pitches.  I know a lot of you have big writer followings, so I would be most grateful if you wouldn't mind spreading the word!

Rules For The Game: send your working title if you have one, the age/genre you're writing for, and The Pitch, (and your pitch can be anonymous if you prefer - just let me know) to susanna@susannahill.com (or use the handy Email Me button on the right-hand side.)  Try out pitches you're polishing for submission to get a sense of how they're working, or try out pitches for ideas you're mulling over to see if they have merit.  Writers and readers are here to help!

Megan looks forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
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August 1, 2011

You Can Call Me Granny :)

Today is full of fun!

First:

It's true, it's true!  I have reached granny status :)  Just goes to show, you can be a grandma at 29 :)  Our first grandchild, Annabelle, arrived yesterday afternoon, 7 lbs. 7 oz., and perfect in every way!  Mother and baby are doing well.  Here she is:


Second:

I have been featured in the August Author Spotlight on What's Up Sippy Cup (good timing, no?)  Please pop over and enjoy their site, full of all kinds of great information for expectant parents as well as parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (including such helpful nuggets as DON'T feed them chocolate pudding and cream before their first birthday! - OK, not really, but that could be there...)  To read the author spotlight interview, go here and scroll about halfway down the page.

Third:

It is apparently National Book Week (who knew?) and Face Book has a game that I'm borrowing and altering slightly because it's fun.  Here are the rules:

Pick up the book you are currently reading.  Go to page 56.  Copy the 5th sentence on that page in your comment below just for fun.  Do not mention the title or author (but if anyone has guesses, by all means guess!)  Here's mine:

"We listen to Dr. Dre and Tupac, and then we blast "Baby Got Back" and all sing along."

I have to say, that is by far the shortest, least informative sentence on that page!  The 4 before it are so long that that one is half way down!

So, share your sentence, check out What's Up Sippy Cup, and feel free to leave comments on cute baby picture!  Have a great Monday!
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