Monday, January 23, 2017

Getting It Out There

You've written you book. And re-written it a number of times. You've sent it through critique groups, re-edited and sent it back to the critique group and repeated the process till you and your group decide you've written your story in the best possible way..
No it's time to submit it. What do you do? Look for an Agent to do it for you?
Send directly to publishers? Both of the above.
Rules have changed. In the age of eBook and self-publishing, very few publishers claim the right to exclusively sit on your manuscript while they take six or seven months to decide if they wish to see more of your work.

The Right Agent.

Method one: You can put together a list of recent books that you admire or that you think are similar to your work. Then, find out who represents those authors.. Many authors list their agents on the acknowledgments page in the front or back of their books. If you can’t find the agents this way, contact the publishing companies of the books on your list and ask their publicity departments who agented the books you are interested in.
 Method two: Go to, The internet's largest free database of literary agents. There you will find all kinds of wonderful tools to help you come up with a list of agents to query. Put in the keyword "Juvenile" and it will bring up another list.  I choose this method.
Method three: Go to Manuscript Wish List. This is the twitter link/site. Search the tags for your type of book.
Here's a link to the FAQ sheet for Manuscript Wish
Bypass the Agent. Go to the Publisher
Submit directly to a publisher. SCBWI publishes The Book with a list of publishers. Author's Publishing is a free magazine which tells who is accepting manuscripts. I know there are other methods. I use these.
However you choose to do it, get it done. I know how hard it is to submit. I sent one out yesterday. Good luck to all of us.




Monday, January 16, 2017

In Honor of MLK day. Flygirl by Sherri L Smith.

by Hilde Garcia
This is a repost.  And if you are looking for the Feel Good movie of the year, race to see Hidden Figures.
Sherri's most recent book is The Toymaker's Apprentice Winner of the
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Award
for Middle Grade.
Flygirl, a YA novel by Sherri L. Smith, tells the story of Ida Mae Jones, a girl with a passion to fly. There’s only one problem. She’s a light skinned black girl and isn’t allowed. So when the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) is formed during WWII, Ida Mae Jones faces a fork in the road. Does she sign up and pass for white? Or does she stay in Slidell, New Orleans and continue to clean the Wilson’s home?

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Smith at The Mother/Daughter Book Party at The Flintridge Bookstore this past January, where 11 fabulous YA/MG authors came and chatted with young ladies and their moms about books, writing and life. 

Sherri, when you heard the NPR broadcast about the WASP, how did you know you were meant to write Flygirl?

That's an interesting way of putting it. I don't think of it as "meant" to be, but rather "wouldn't that be interesting?" I start out hoping to write a story, but you don't know whether or not it will end up being what you intended to write. Listening to the Radio Diaries piece, there was a line that sparked my interest—about farm girls and heiresses being thrown together for training. I thought it, "What a great story." And then I put my own ideas into it—what it would mean for an African-American girl in the same situation, and went from there. 

How did you balance all the facts we needed to know without losing your strong fictional voice of Ida? 

I have a funny way of researching projects. I start with picture books on the topic, because they give the straight scoop. Then I read the bibliographies on those books and sort of work my way up the reading levels. If I've got my story ideas, I'll write them first. I knew Ida's story, so I outlined it, wrote the parts I knew, then researched until I knew more, and kept going back and forth between writing and more research until the book filled in completely. But I always knew Ida Mae. 

What kind of research did you do? Did you fly an airplane? Have things changed for black female pilots in today’s world? 

Most of my research was secondary sources—books, documentaries, museum exhibits. There was not as much available on the WASP when I wrote the book as there is today. So I did a lot of WWII research in general, and went to airplane museums. I spoke to friends that are pilots, but I didn't fly in any vintage planes myself. (No, I am not a pilot!) I don't know the stats on black women in aviation today, but I'd say things have changed for female pilots in general, if not by the leaps and bounds. According to the American Airlines website, of the 115,000 commercial pilots in the US in 2007, only 7,100 are female. That's what, 6%? Not a lot, but considering the first female pilot wasn't hired until 1973, and men have been flying since the days of Orville and Wilbur Wright, I guess its progress. 

Tell me about your thesis project and how Flygirl became part of it. 

I was working on an MA in Humanities with a concentration in Creative Writing from CSU Dominguez Hills and I knew my thesis was going to be a novel. In fact, it's part of a novel and includes a scholarly analysis of young adult literature, which really informs my philosophy on writing YA. At the time I had two ideas I was developing, which became Flygirl and my third novel, Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. My thesis advisor, Dr. Abe Ravitz, had served in WWII, so it seemed like a natural fit. 

You mentioned that Flygirl was developed as a thesis project. Was this part of an MFA program? Do you think Flygirl would still be grounded if it weren’t for the program? Is there anything unique about the project that ensured the completion of FG? 

While I believe Dr. Ravitz' input was invaluable, there's no way I would have not written this book, degree or no degree. It was more a matter of when I would write it. Where Dr. Ravitz really helped was in encouraging me to make the book as complex as it is. There were times when I thought the WASP story was enough. I didn't need to add the racial element, even though that's what made it sing to me personally. Sometimes it takes a cheerleader saying you can do it to help you get it done. 

I noticed the long list of accolades for Flygirl. Is there any of them that really surprised you when you received the honor? 

All of them. When I write, my goal is to do the best job I can with a book and not "muff it up" as we used to say when I was kid. Then it's to send it out into the world and hope it does well. Any time an email or a letter shows up saying "hey, we liked this," I'm thrilled. Books are like my kids—I'd like to think I'm raising fools, but you never really know until someone from the outside says "Well Done!" 

When you visit schools, how do the boys react to Flygirl? Do they seem shocked that women flew the planes during the World War II, as well, if not better than most men? 

I actually think that's a prejudice reserved for older generations. Boys like the airplane stuff—the details of flight, but so do the girls. I think the sense of adventure in the story speaks to both genders. I've heard from a lot of girls that want to be pilots (grown women too!), and older men who are WWII buffs. I'd say that's the biggest compliment, when a white-haired gentleman in an army green flight jacket and WWII commemorative baseball cap comes up and asks me to sign the book. That's priceless. 

The reader never knows if Ida will be caught passing for white. The reader doesn’t expect what happens to her friends. And what if she is caught posing as a white woman? What would have been the consequences? Did you and your agent consider a different ending for the book? 

The consequences could have been quite severe, especially depending on who caught her. She's breaking military law and social norms. That could be a court marshal, jail, or violence if she was caught by civilians. I never considered a different ending for the book because I think of Ida's situation as being that of all of the women in that period. Once she finds where she belongs, she can still be so easily ousted, as so many women were once the war ended and the men needed their jobs back. It's a terrible position to be in, and I wanted the reader to be there with her. 

Passing as white is still a controversial topic. In your NPR interview, you said that “it’s not glorious, it’s just factual, it’s part of life.” Do you think African-American people today still “pass for white?” How have perceptions changed? 

Absolutely, people still pass today, and not just for white. People pass for the "not persecuted" group, if they think it's safer or more beneficial. They pass for religious in the Bible belt, or not religious in the agnostic big city, for rich, for poor, for gay, for straight. I was in college during the first Iraq war and I very clearly remember hearing an Iranian girl describe herself as something other than Iranian for fear of reprisal. Consider "don’t' ask, don't tell" in the military. That's government sanctioned passing! The world has not changed as much as we might like to think. 

How did race affect your selection of subject matter? Were you particularly drawn to it because of your ethnicity? 

I was drawn to the story of the WASP because of the classic underdog narrative, and the strange bedfellows it made. As I said, the idea of farm girls and heiresses bunking together just grabbed me. The ethnic element came about because I was riffing on the idea of rights, expectations and the second-class citizen. Stories my mother told me about her childhood in the South came to mind, and the rest grew from the marriage of the two. 

Was your ethnicity an advantage for you as an author? Is this bicultural trend here to stay? 

The word "bicultural" makes me angry. What does that mean? There is the American culture, and if you want to break ethnicity down into cultures, then there are certainly more than two. As long as there are as many different types of people in this world as there are, we will write about them. That's not a trend, that's just life. As far as the advantages of being a black writer, I'm not sure what they are. There is a tendency in the publishing world to think that black writers should "write black." My main characters are people from all walks of life. I have to do my research to make them sound authentic, but the world is my palette. I don't believe in sticking to monochromes.

Tell us about your fifth novel. It also takes place in New Orleans, but present day. Now, according to your biography, you have lived all over the country, but not in New Orleans. Any reason you seem to be drawn to this area? 

The novel you are speaking of is actually set in the near-future, not the present. It's speculative fiction that takes place in a possible New Orleans. I'm drawn to New Orleans because my mother is from there and it is a fantastic city. I visited my grandparents in the house my mom grew up in every summer of my childhood. I'm not a native, but it's a part of me as much as any other city in which I've lived. 

During the event at the Bookstore, we discussed a high school writing program for students that would span all four years, beginning with their freshman year and an idea for a novel and ending in their senior year graduation with a completed novel. Do you think it is possible? 

Actually, I think four years is almost too long. I would love to do something along these lines over the course of one year, at least for the first draft. I do think this is possible, but the question is whether the curriculum would allow for it. We live in a test-taking age, and that would have to be considered. Still, wouldn't it be fantastic to have a novel-writing track at school? What would that do for the book world—readers and writers alike! 

The young ladies at your table were excited. Both of them were very good short story writers, but their biggest fear was how to make that into a whole book.  Do you think this type of program could give birth to a new generation of young and strong writers? 

Undoubtedly. We're told that books are a fading form that people don't want to read, but I disagree. Everyone loves a story, whether it's gossip, news, a movie or the printed word. Video games are so compelling in part because they involve the player in the world of the game. If we gave kids that sort of access, by having them create the world and invent the story, I think it could lead to an exciting new wave of creative intelligence and engagement. 

I’d like to thank Sherri for this interview. For more about Sherri L. Smith, visit her website at

Monday, January 9, 2017

7 first Lines/Paragraphs from Books published in 2016


Seven is my favorite number and it's 2017. I pulled the picture books from the NY Times Notable Book list. The other two are my favorite reads of the year

They All Saw A Cat Written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel (debut book)

The cat walked through the world with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . and the child saw A CAT, and the dog saw A CAT, and the fox saw A CAT. Yes, they all saw the cat.

I AM PAN! Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein


THE JOURNEY Written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna (debut book?)

I live with my family in a city close to the sea. Every summer we used to spend many weekends at the beach. But we never go there anymore, because last year, our lives changed forever . . .

LEAVE ME ALONE! Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol. 

An Epic tale about one grandmother, a giant sack of yarn and her quest to finish her knitting.

There was once an old lady who lived in a small house.

Teacup by Rebecca Young Illustrated by Matt Ottley  (Looks like a debut book.)

Once there was a boy who had to find his home . . . and find another.
Now my two favorite reads for the year.
The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner  
I’ve only seen the ice flowers once. It was winter vacation when I was six and Abby was twelve. She came flying into my bedroom in her green flannel pajamas. “Charlie, wake up! You have to come see before they are gone.
I read this book because I was going to be reading it to fifth graders at Leo Politi. I thought it was going to be about a wishing fish and wishes and best friends and Irish dancing. My kind of a read. Nah! It’s a chocolate chip cookie of a book that, on page 102 ,turned into a steak dinner. It’s really brilliant and I cannot recommend it highly enough. But I am so glad I did not get to page 102 with the fifth graders. I think it should be required reading for middle school.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton.
I wish we had flown to Vermont
instead of riding
on a bus, train, train, bus
all the way from Berkley.
Ten hours would have soared, compared to six days.
But two plane tickets--
one for me and one for Mama--
would have cost a lot of money,
and Papa already spent so much
when he flew home at Thanksgiving.

Mama is sewing buttons on my new slacks
and helping me fill out the forms
for my new school in Hillsborough, our new town.
This might be a new year
but seventh grade is halfway done,
and I'll be the new girl.

I'm stuck at the ethnicity part.
Check only one, it says.
The choices are:
Puerto Rican

I am
half Mama,
half Papa,
and all me.
Isn't that all anyone needs to know?
But the form says All items must be completed,
so I ask,  "Other?"
Mama pushes her brows together,
making what papa calls her Toshirô-Mifune face.
"Check all that apply," she says.
"But it says just one."
"Do you listen to your mother or a piece of paper?"

I do not usually read verse novels. This one captivated me.  Written in verse the book tells the story of a half black, half Japanese girl who moved with her family to Vermont to be the new girl halfway through seventh grade. It's 1969 and she dreams of being an astronaut. 
I raced through it, loving every sentence.
The what was not said was as important as what was said. Highly recommend. 

What is your favorite book from last year? If you have a diversity one, all the better.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dispatch #60: The Spiritual in The Writing Life

by Lupe Fernandez

The Contemplation
The contemplation of a autumnal leaf. Brown, crispy, damp. Hold it up to the sun and the dried capillaries that once pulsed solar kisses of electric fluid. I may need that detail to provide insight into a character, or merely to show off my skills.

The Why?
The why does a flying teen feels unworthy of love? Why does a jovial ten year old skeleton boy frighten the humans of his world? Why does a high school slacker post a humiliating viral video? Why does evil exist? It’s not enough to say, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” I have to know why. Causation. Motivations. Psychology. Emotional trauma. Behavioral conditioning.

The Calling
I write to tell stories. But what do I gain? Freshly printed pages. Words smell of hot toner ink. Edits scrawled in red pen. Years of rewrites. No money. No prestige. A pauper’s life. One among thousands who want to publish. Maybe I’m not good. I wasn’t born with a story in my head. I’m no literary prodigy. I thought about giving up. Of course, would I do instead? Questions ripen. My nose wrinkles at the goal like fruit left too long in a bowl.

I have colleagues who have their own stories, their own reasons for writing between the rush of children, the stomp of jobs and the heartbeat of time.

The Message
What do I want to say? I see a cumulus cloud, ringed by sun gold, dark underside, brilliant white trim, drifting across the sky. My cheeks are cold. White vapor spouts from chapped lips. I witness the Hand of God moving across the Earth.* How do I translate this sublime vision into a story?

The Comfort
When my stomach roils, when my mouth is dry, when the bottom of my stomach drops out through my feet, when I can’t nothing can be done, I sit at the computer and type. Alone. Just click, click of keystrokes to comfort me by. Nouns. Verbs. Conjunctions. Adjectives. Order out of chaos. There are rules to follow. What does the protagonist want? What obstacles confront the protagonist? What are the consequences to the protagonist if the goal isn’t achieved? How does the story end? More questions than answers. Plenty of thick and thin books to read for guidance. Schools of authors to fish for advice. Fellow acolytes to compare and contrast.

I am alone and in good company.

The Pilgrimage
Where do I go to pay homage to great writers, and not so great ones? I confess I've never visited the homes of Gabriel Marquez Garcia, Ray Bradbury or Eduardo Galeano. I did live in Los Angeles for thirty odd years. Plenty of renowned writers began their careers in that city. I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to past, present and future authors of note.

Perhaps, my temples are books stores. Browsing the aisles, pulling a book off the shelf, thumbing through the crisp pages, smelling the paper. Or any public library. Rows upon rows of aisles, my fingers touching a rough spine, then the smooth plastic cover of the adjacent book. A musty scent. Central heating in winter. Cool air in the summer. I read author names known and unknown. Subjects popular and arcane.

The Doubt

*I also see condensed water vapor in motion due to differentials in air temperature and pressure, a confluence of cold and warm fronts influenced by the Coriolis Effect, and rejoice at the hard-earned knowledge gained by scientists of yore.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Interview with Cheryl C. Malandrinos & #giveaway

By Susan J. Berger
 Meet Cheryl Malandrinos whose book Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving. Delightful, well-written story of a little girl who figures out how to save the day when the turkey meets an untimely end. I've given the Goodreads link, but if you would like to acquire it for your eReader, the 5.00 PDF is available here.
Cheryl has a lovely blog called the Children and Teen Book Connection. She's giving away a copy of the book at the end of this post.

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a wife and mother of three who is also a licensed real estate agent. Our son is married, but our two girls are still at home. We also have three cats and two hamsters. In my spare time, I like to garden and cook.
I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your first book.
This was so exciting because I had read many books by Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP) prior to submitting Little Shepherd to them. GAP believes “we can change the world by investing in children, one child at a time.” This is a powerful mission that I wholeheartedly support. As soon as Lynda sent me the contract, I started texting, emailing, and calling everyone I knew.                             

Please tell us about Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving.
Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving finds Macy employing quick thinking and ingenuity to help save dinner when the dog swipes the turkey off the table.


What inspired you to write it?
In 2010, I participated in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) for the first time. This annual event challenges writers to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. Believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. This was idea number 24.

I really wanted a book that wasn’t simply about being thankful. There are plenty of kid’s books about Thanksgiving with that message. This review captured the essence of the book well, “The author has written a story about a family, much like yours or mine, perhaps, that works together when life doesn’t turn out the way they want it to. They take a situation and make the best of it… And in working together, they also discover that being with family is more important than what they eat.”

What do you want kids to get out of this book?
Be creative. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t do it differently.

Since we are in the Holiday season, what is your favorite Christmas/Kwanza/Hannukah Tradition?
I am a huge Christmas fanatic. If it weren’t for the cats, the tree would stay up all year long. Spending time together at Christmas has always been important to us. It’s fun to see the traditions carry on from generation to generation.

Are you working on anything else right now?
I’m gearing up to participate in PiBoIdMo this coming January (it used to be in November). My sincere hope is that I can finish the middle grade historical I’ve been working on and get it ready for submission. I also have several picture books that are looking for homes.  

 And finally, where can we find you?
My friends say I am all over the internet. Here are the best places to find me:
Website Address:
Blog Address:
Twitter Address: @ccmalandrinos
Facebook Address:
Goodreads Address:

Thank you for being here, Cheryl.
If you would like to win a copy of Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving, please leave your email in a comment so I can get in touch with you. What's the most unusual dish you ate/served for Thanksgiving or Christmas?  Happy Reading and a wonderful last few days of 2016. We'll see you in 2017.