Thursday, September 30, 2010

iPhone for Writers

Lupe Fernandez

Sure you've seen iPhone apps here and iPhone apps there, but you've never seen iPhone apps like these. Revolutionary. Groundbreaking. Surreal. It's everything a writer will ever need in an electronic device whose  specific absorption rate is enough to roast a frozen 50lb turkey.

The iWriter

 Take No Prisoners!
Monitors keyboard use and transmits motivational message after 5 Second Pause. For Writers needing a prompt to keep writing. Default message: “STOP GOOFING AROUND! KEEP WRITING!”

Leave Me Alone!
Jams all electronic message devices. Prevents needless interruptions.

Be Seeing You
Hacks into WiFi devices. Spys on colleagues to see if they are writing.

Previews manuscript pages as perfection.Random generator produces back jacket promotional blubs.

The SuperNova
Self-Destruct for this device; Ten second timer.

Cruise Control
Uses complex algorithms to write manuscript without writer input.

Orders gourmet chocolate for home delivery by attractive person.

Transmits radio waves at 1000MHz to frontal lobe to induce relaxation. Prevents writer from destroying manuscript.

Gimme The Money!
Calculates amount of money spend on writing manuscript. Displays countdown of dwindling bank account.

Batteries and SAR shield not included.
Not recommended for use near pregnant women, turtleneck sweaters, pace makers, Tequila bottles, stock market, post cards, granny apples, apple pie, apple cheeks and the hat check girl at Hip & Trendy's.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with Publisher Lynda Burch - Guardian Angel Publishing

by Susan Berger
With the development of the iPad, I believe eBooks are going to be more popular than ever. I’d like to introduce you to Lynda Burch who is the owner of Guardian Angel Publishing - a small press which is now listed with SCBWI. Guardian Angel is an eBook publisher which also does POD.

Why did you start Guardian Angel?

Lynda: I saw a need for children's eBooks. When I started writing musical eBooks to be played on the computer, I got wonderful feedback from big publishers and agents but they didn't know what to do with them. So I started Guardian Angel as an eBook publisher and opened to submissions, but within about a year we expanded our lines of books and we started going to print with our books, too.

What are the biggest hurdles you have had to overcome?

Lynda: Our first printer although quite large had huge fulfillment issues taking up to 3 months to fill an order and the quality of the books continually grew worse. So I jumped ship and went with Lightning Source who is a remarkable innovator in the publishing industry and gave our books broader visibility around the globe.

Another big hurdle was people thinking publishers using POD (Print On Demand) printer as a business model meant they were providing services as a self-publisher- which couldn't be farther from the truth.

But that is a whole topic by itself. We are now finally recognized as a small press publisher by SCBW&I and others, as we have been all along. We haven't changed- just their conception of us has changed. And guess what? Much, much larger companies than GAP are beginning to see the benefits of Print on Demand technology.

How do you choose which illustrator to put with an author?

Lynda: Sometimes I envision the art when I first read the story and think which style would suit it and will steer a book to an artist. But usually, I allow the author to choose a style then 2 or 3 artists. And depending on work load I send the story to one of the artists to find out if the artist "sees" the story. If they do and the artist accepts then a match is made and artist agreements are sent out.

What steps do you take once an eBook is published?

Lynda: Actually all books are created in multiple e-formats, 7 or more, and they are loaded to the various sales sites. We add new formats all the time as new eBook formats are demanded- for instance, for Kindle (chapbooks), & iPod and iPad markets. When new formats are required we stop and ready them for loading to sites.

What steps do you take once a POD is published?

Lynda: After processing them through three programs, the 2 print book files (interior and cover) with the metadata are sent to our printer, the proof comes back to me to approve and then the book is released to the various distribution networks. Once the book is off to the printer the sales & info pages are built for the website.

What is the authors’ responsibility in sales and promotion for eBooks?

Lynda: Authors don't generally get too involved in selling eBooks except the eBooks on CD. And in reality when you promote a book it doesn't matter whether it’s in print or an eBook download or on CD or DVD, it is an inter-related promotion.

Which are your best markets? TOSS? Fictionwise? Amazon? etc.

Lynda: TOSS and the Homeschool market has been a good place to sell our books. They are savvy and good eBook buyers too. Our children's fiction and nonfiction books are almost always on the bestseller's list on Fictionwise. EBook markets are growing rapidly. Amazon just announced (July 2010) that they sold more eBooks than print books this year- a sign of the times. I said that was coming for over 5 years.

Our print book distribution network sells at too many places to list and grows larger each year: Amazon, B&N, Border, Books a Million, in Canada, Europe and even show up for sale in
 India. (Most English speaking countries- that's the beauty of the internet- it’s so global.) We've sold books to little islands off the coast of Africa or in the Caribbean, Australia and more. Kind of neat to see where our books find a home.

Where do you get the energy to put in these twelve hour days?

Lynda: Well, believe it or not I am not a very high energy person. And I am definitely not a morning person. I am a slow starter with my day and gather speed as the day and evening progress and usually shut down the computers at 12:30 or so every night and then read for a couple of hours. But I am very good at organizational capabilities in my head. My brain never stops and luckily my fingers and hands follow. When I swim laps I am usually planning my day's activities if I haven't already done so in my sleep.

Where is GAP headed? (I am thinking of the iPad but I bet there are more things out there?)

Lynda: Yes, the iPad is the next step, although ALL of our eBook PDF's can already be read on the iPad right now! The EPUB program just makes them a little snappier with page turns which kids love.

The innovative is another avenue for our eBooks to sell in. They are soft launching in July 2010- a great way for families to stay connected from a distance by reading and recording themselves reading books by video online to read to kids.

So I guess I'm not sure where we are going except up. Keeping up is the name of the game in this ever-changing marketplace for books. I'm on my toes to grab onto the next wave of new technology for Guardian Angel to embrace.

If you had it to do over again, would you have started GAP.

Lynda: Yes. Yes. Yes. I love what I do. I love the accomplishment of the finished product. My authors and artists and books from around the world have made me proud. They are winning awards and getting noticed.

But best of all our books are making a difference one child at a time. What could be better than that?

Thank you Lynda for your time.

Guardian Angel Submission Guidelines
Please note: Submissions will be closed between October 1st 2010 and April 1st 2011

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Social Media Week Los Angeles September 20-24 2010

by Kris Kahrs

I’d like to make an introduction. SCBWI, Bloggers, Writers meet Social Media Week Los Angeles. Social Media Week is a part of your online platform. Yes it is. Of course, this means leaving the house. I know, I know – a scary proposition, but take a friend and it can be done.

What can Social Media Week do for you? As of today, there are over 75 confirmed events that you can attend at various locales next week. See the event schedule. Some of these events are free, some have a small fee. For the recluses out there, some of these events are streaming, so you can participate without leaving the discomfort of your swivel chair. 

Some of the Social Media Week events are seminars where you can play improvisation games based on biomimicry at the Viterbi School at USC while teleconferencing with a board meeting and Alan Alda, at the new Center for Science Communication. Pretty cool stuff.

For the schmoozers among us, those 24/7 party animals that just want to network ‘til their texting thumbs fall off, there are a myriad of parties: the opening beach party on Sunday, September 19th at 11 am; the Whole Foods twEat up on Monday, September 20th at 3 pm or the L.A. Foodie Beach Bash at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 21st.

Why should you slog your ever-expanding, exercise-challenged physique out to one of these darling events you ask? So many reasons. There is an event for every palate at SMW. 
  • Yoga-fan? Hit up Yoga for Real Life for the complimentary class at 7 pm on Sunday, September 19th at the Exhale Center for Sacred Movement.
  • Are you a Realtor in your other incarnation? Check out, Google vs. Facebook: Best Practices for the Realtor at 3:30 pm on Monday, September 20th. 
  • Looking for venture capital to expand your blog into an inter-galactic empire? Make sure to drop in on the Clean Tech LA and Venture Capital event at 2 pm on Tuesday, September 21st.
The locations range from Santa Monica to Pasadena, so there’s a location for all. The companies and organizations that will be in force range from IML Blue Lab to the City of L.A. to Live Nation.

If you absolutely love this type of thing and want to volunteer, or just want to try and score admission to certain events, then by all means contact Toby Daniels (SMW is his lovechild). Go to the bottom of the page and click on Get Involved. From there, just fill in the template.Go forth and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


by Lupe Fernandez

I’ve read a lot of novel acknowledgements. The order of gratitude is roughly as follows:
Assorted Teachers, Pets and Cosmic Forces
I look forward to the day when I can write my own acknowledgement page, and express my thanks to people who have helped the manuscript get published. Agent. Editor. Publisher. Pen & Ink Colleagues, Etc…

I’d like to thank the real people who affect my life. They determined my themes, plots, characters and style. Let me turn back the neurons of time, to those thrilling days of yester-year….

The short list: The Seventies, OPEC Oil Embargo, The International Communist Conspiracy, Rocky Road Ice Cream, Pork Rinds, Head Cheese, Romita - Mexico, Bernard Hermann, James Bond, Raquel Welch, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, a ray of sunshine, the speed of light, the Apollo Space Program, and the planet Mars.

I’d like to thank the Cardiac Surgeon at Oakland Children’s Hospital who sewned up my heart in 1966. Far out man.

I’d like to thank Stephanine E., who during my first day of kindergarten, alerted Mrs. Mean, “Teacher! He’s crying.” I’m still cry during my first day of any class.

I’d like to thank my father for buying me a clarinet instead of a trumpet. I felt like a girl playing a reed instrument.

I’d like to thank Georgina C. for being a distant object of adoration in the fourth grade. At the summer SCBWI Conference, I struggled with the urge to hide behind a tree due to the presence of so many women.

I’d like to thank my brothers for letting me read their comic books as long as I washed my hands and didn’t tear the pages. I still wash my hands when I read my own comics.

I’d like to thank Marlene G. for stirring my manly desire in the eighth grade and remaining out of reach. I’m still stirred.

I’d like to thank all the guys on the varsity football team who showed me that playing the clarinet and being skinny is not the path to dating. I’ve put on weight since high school.

I’d like to thank Melissa who turned me down for the high school senior prom. “I have a boyfriend,” she said. That’s okay. I really didn’t want to go. Nope. I needed to stay home and study.

I'd like to thank all the lovely ladies in SCBWI.

Lastly You Dear Readers of this Fine Blog. You. Yes you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Depression - The Motion Picture

Depression is not a glamorous mental illness. Brad Pitt won’t be starring in a major motion picture joy that becomes a franchise about depression. It’s not an active condition like Bi-Polar Disorder, Schizophrenia, or Dissociative Identity Disorder. Depression is a passive condition. Lots of crying. Sleeping. Prolonged malaise. Not photogenic.

Dude, where’s the laughs?

Depression is not about getting the “blues” or “feeling down.” It’s a prolonged state of melancholy, of helplessness, of inactivity and no amount of cheerful encouragement helps.

This blog ain’t helping.

I should know. I deal with depression.

Now why did you have to go and write that? Some big time agent could read this and think “this guy’s a nut. I’m not going to touch him with 1350 miligrams of Luvox.”

I consider depression the ultimate writer’s block. Due to joining SCBWI, reading YA and MG books, attending various conferences, and joining two writing critique groups, my writing craft has improved. I am now more prolific than I was five years ago…and yet the depressive episodes continue to intensify in severity.

At least post a goofy image?

My first blog for Pen & Ink was called Failure Is An Option. I wrote about the need to accept failure as part of the process of writing. Not every sentence works. Not every plot point is necessary. That’s what revision is about. When something doesn’t work, I, the Writer rewrite and fix it. Depression requires constant management.

A weekend in Vegas should take care of you.

I care about writing. I have a passion for it. I have a modicum of talent for creating stories. I gather resources like books, conferences and critique groups to achieve my goal of creating a work of great beauty and a great story. So too, I gather resources to deal with the depression. One of those resources is to write about it. Depression is an isolative, secretive condition.

I wish you’d kept this blog a secret.

If you deal with depression, get help. Don’t suffer in silence. If someone you know deals with depression…listen to them.

I’m tuning you out after this. And what’s with this phony dialog?

The dialog device was used by early philosophers to discuss sensitive or complex subjects. The Galileo used this method to compare and contrast the Copernican system of planetary movement with the traditional Ptolemaic system.

Galileo? Okay, that one I know. That’s the name of the shuttle craft on the Starship Enterprise. Original series, of course.

Of course. Now back to writing.

(Photos by Senor Guadalupe Fernandez)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Outside The Box

by Susan Berger

Do you have a manuscript that you have perhaps discarded because you were told it wasn’t a story? Some of today’s children’s picture books are not stories. Not very many of them but they do exist.

Marla Frazee and her editor Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Books discussed the process of creating a picture book at Once Upon a Time bookstore in Montrose. They repeated this lecture at the New England SCBWI Conference.

“All The World” written by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee and edited by Allyn Johnston. This book is a poem: sparse, rich and beautiful. There are no words of description in the poem. It is a beautiful read, simply as a poem. Marla made a world and a journey from the words. The pictures also tell a complete story.

The visual that came to me while Allyn and Marla spoke was two hands woven together finger to finger. The words formed a perfect story. The pictures formed a perfect story. Neither repeated the other.

“A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever” had it’s origins in a ‘thank you’ note Marla wrote Allyn’s parents, after Allyn’s and Marla’s sons spent the weekend with them.

If you close your eyes and have someone read the text, you hear a cute little ‘thank you’ note – not particularly memorable, but cute. The pictures tell an entirely different story. When you put the two stories together, you have a funny, delightful read. In this case, Marla was both author and illustrator. (With a lot of input from Allyn). Again hands clasped and the resulting creation is amazing.

Both of these books are Caldecott Honor Books. Both of these books are out of the ordinary. They are not straight forward Once Upon A time stories. They do not solve a problem. “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever” speaks to me from my funny bone. “All The World” awes me with its simple beauty. Both are outside the “accepted box” for children’s picture books.

I wondered if the non Once Upon A time story might be part of a trend. This thought sent me to the New York Times Best Seller list. Lo and behold, there was another “outside the box” picture book. Weighing in at number two on the list is:

THE QUIET BOOK, by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $12.95.) Friends enjoy the shades of quiet. (Ages 3 to 5)

“The Quiet Book” explores all kinds of quiet than can fill a child’s day from morning to night. This is an emotional book that speaks to the heart.

It begins with a morning quiet sound and ends with three night quiet sounds. In between there are many quiet sounds which will children and grown ups will recognize. They could not have happened on the same day. So the arc is a loose one.

Her editor was Kate O'Sullivan who has edited many “out of the box “books.

These books give me hope.

I have at least one discarded PB manuscript that I want to take another look at. First I will re edit and ruthlessly slaughter all description that should be left to the illustrator.

If it turns out that I have a story that is lyrical or emotionally engaging, I may have a saleable story.