Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Giveaway

Want to win an autographed copy of Struck by Jennifer Bosworth?

If you're a loyal follower, then you've read our interview with this distinguished YA author, and know what the book is about.

We know, we know. It's too good to be true. Believe it, non-believers.

To win a copy of Struck, all you have to do is visit Jennifer's author page on Facebook and tell her how much you want to read her book. Be sure to tell her The Pen & Ink Blogspot sent you.

We'll be watching Jennifer's author page and be selecting a winner at random. It could be you. What are the odds? Better than being hit by lightning.

The deadline is Midnight, September 30st.

The Management

Monday, September 24, 2012

Author Jennifer Bosworth
In Conversation

Jennifer Bosworth
by Lupe Fernandez

Jennifer Bosworth is the author of Struck, a YA novel set in post-earthquake Los Angeles, a city full of cults, prophecies and Mia, a girl with a fatal attraction to lightning.

1. I attended your amazing talk at the 2012 SCBWI Conference – The Conspicuous Writer: Helping Readings Discover Your Work. How did you score that gig?
I made threats that if they didn't put me on staff I would spike the Purple Haze cocktail at the Hippie Hop with LSD. And when that didn't work, my agent pulled some strings.

Actually, I never would have thought I could make it onto the SCBWI conference staff, but my agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton, who used to be one of the conference organizers, suggested I write a few proposals for breakout sessions and panels just to see if they’d accept me. I chose topics I had some insight into, wrote my proposals, and my agent sent them in. I was quite pleasantly surprised (and terrified) when they accepted my Conspicuous Writer proposal and also put me on a success story panel. I have chronic “I don’t deserve this” syndrome.

2. The amazing Struck book trailer screams professionalism. Any advice for us amateurs about creating book trailers?
One of my favorite topics! I could jibber jabber about this subject all day, but I’ll keep my advice brief.  I want to speak specifically to live action book trailers, because that’s what I chose to create for “Struck.” 
  • When writing the script for your book trailer, don’t try to deliver a synopsis. If potential readers want to know what your book is about, they can read the jacket copy. Trailers should help them feel what the book is about, and live action trailers especially need to pack a punch, so pick the most visually compelling scenes to adapt, and write theme-based copy rather than plot-based.
  • Hold a casting session and pay your principle actors, even if it’s only $50 a day. Casting is one of the most important parts of a live action book trailer, because this is often where potential readers will get their first introduction to your characters. A bad actor or a miscast actor can alienate a reader. Also you’ll widen your pool of available talent if you offer compensation.
  • Music is your best tool for manipulating the audience, so don’t choose sleepy, classical music unless you want the audience to take a nap. There’s no shortage of music licensing sites online where you can find inexpensive options for music that won’t cause narcolepsy.

3. Have you ever had a close encounter with lightning?
I've never been struck by lightning, but I did have one strange experience while I was working on “Struck.” I’d just finished a long revising session and was heading to bed. I looked out my bedroom window, and I got a strange feeling. Then a bolt of lightning flashed through the sky right outside my window. There weren't even any clouds that night. I swear I’m not making this up. You believe me, don’t you? Don’t you?!

4. Your main character Mia mentions a lightning strike triggering the Puente Hills Thrust Fault. I’ve heard of the mythical earthquake weather, but I haven’t heard of lightning effecting fault lines. Where did you get this idea? (Any complaints from seismologists?)
So far no complaints from seismologists, but I’d love to get a professional’s take on the possibility of lightning causing earthquakes. The truth is, no one really understands lightning, and it can do amazing, inexplicable things. Scientists can argue with that, so they might also have a hard time arguing with my fictional science.

5. Do you think the end is coming? Do you have a personal “End of the World” scenario?
Have you seen “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”? Because if you watch it, you might be convinced that the world has already come to an end.

Seriously, though, I don’t want to believe the end is coming, but whenever I watch the news, I can’t help myself. I have a survival plan for an earthquake in Los Angeles, but my husband keeps drinking our earthquake water, and I keep eating our Progresso soup when we run out of groceries. I don’t think we’re going to last long. My backup plan is to learn how to make moonshine so I have a trade that will increase my post-apocalyptic, societal value.

6. Some years ago, I dreamed of a Los Angeles basin covered in garbage. Gray sky. No people. Just garbage obscuring everything. On the beach, possibly Santa Monica, I saw tires mounted on pylons rising up above the garbage field like monuments. Should I worry?
Yes. Absolutely. If there’s one thing my main character, Mia Price, and I have in common, it’s that we expect the worst. Now I’m worried that you’re having psychic visions and my city will soon be a wasteland.

Side note: I checked an online dream dictionary and it said: to see piles of garbage in your dream represents rejected or unwanted aspects of yourself.

Something to consider . . .
The Management would like to thank Jennifer Bosworth for granting this interview. For more about Jennifer, visit her website
Plus don't miss Jennifer's appearance at the Orange County Children's Book Festival, Saturday, September 30th.

Your Foreign Correspondent here: Jennifer's a swell gal and wrote a great book, so you better buy her book at your local independent book store.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Writing for the Transitional Reader

by Susan Berger

I attended Bonnie Bader's breakout session, Writing for the Transitional Reader. Early Chapter Books at the SCBWI Summer Conference because I wanted to know more about them. 

I find it a confusing subject.

Bonnie clarified many things for me. I did some internet research to try fill in the gaps. As best I can figure out, this information varies by house, so take it with a grain of salt.

Leveled readers: Usually 32-48 pages. Leveled readers have a structured vocabulary.

The best known structured vocabulary list is is the Dolch List I've linked to the one that is alphabetical by grade.

Beginning Readers:
This is taken from Mary Koles's Kid

Early readers are the earliest “chapter” stories that a kid can get. They’re very short in terms of manuscript length (1,500 words max) but are broken up into either chapters or vignettes that will give the reader the feeling of reading a book with real chapters in it. Your target audience for these is kids ages 4 to 8. Early readers feature a smaller trim size, some the size of or slightly bigger than a paperback novel, and can go from about 32 to 60 pages. The font size is smaller and they feature spot illustrations in either color or black and white instead of full color throughout, like a picture book.  Even if you think you have a great early reader idea, it has to be a very precise fit for a publisher’s established vocab/sentence/word count guidelines.

Some examples of early readers: LING AND TING: NOT EXACTLY THE SAME by Grace Lin and Good Night Good Knight by Shelly Moore Thomas.

If you use the "look inside me" feature, you can get a very good idea of this format.

Bonnie's example was Young Cam Jensen, (a level three book) 4 chapters. Color illustrations Probably under 48 pages. But, I believe more words than Ting and Ling

Easy Chapter Books

The Princess Posy series:
These books have 10 chapters, and black and white illustrations. They run 96 pages, 2400-3000 words per book - approximately 300 words a chapter. If you go to the link, you can see how the illustrations meld with the text, making some description unnecessary. "She slipped a spoonfull of green peas into Danny's mouth." (Yes you can add an art note to your manuscript Mom feeding Danny in High Chair.) The illustrations shows a mom feeding a baby in a high chair.

Bonnie said this type of book requires simple plot lines,memorable characters with a short hook, and familiar settings. We need to know who the character is and what their problem is right from the beginning. The sentences are shorter in these books. You have to figure out your chapter breaks carefully so that you reader is left with a hook and a sense of accomplishment in finishing the chapter.

Henry and Mudge, by Cynthia Rylant. Color illustrations Seven chapters. 100 words per chapter. Average 25 words per page)
The ever popular Captain Underpants series
These are longer books. 29 chapters LOTS of black and white cartoon illustrations. about 185 pages long.
Boys and girls love this series.

You may have noticed these books are all series books. That's what publishers prefer. Is there room for a single book? Why, yes. Deborah Underwood's Pirate Mom is a stand alone level three reader published by Random House (Three chapters 48 pages color illustrations) I bought a copy at the SCBWI Summer Conference and I think it's hilarious and very accessible to young readers.

Early Chapter Books

These are aimed at ages 7-9, Grades 2-4, depending on the level of reading competence. They run around 128 pages and 10,000 words. The illustrations are black and white and the number of them seem to vary by series. The characters are usually aged 8-10

Bonnie says George Brown Class Clown is about 10,000 words. Take a look at the layout.

The Author, Nancy Krulik, also writes the very popular Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo  Katie looks to be a bit more word dense than George Brown,(smaller print. I counted 100 words on on page and 10 pages in the chapter.) but they are both listed for the same reading level.
My current favorite early chapter books is Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee. This one breaks some rules. There is no Chapter 2. It goes from chapter 1 to chapter 3. I believe it is seven chapters for the days of her "not so good of a week. " I love the humor and the wonderful first person voice.

Another popular early chapter books is Judy Moody  This one had 141 pages but many full page illustrations.

My friend and fellow author Nancy Stewart's blog post Early Chapter Books for Young Readers.  mentions several books I want to check out. 

I hope this clarifies a few things. If you want to look further for information on leveled readers, the best place I found was Here's a link to their criteria for Early emergent readers, Level aa to Z. (phew!!) and here is the list of books that match their criteria. If you click on the books. you will see a picture and a word count. Levels aa-books have 17-24 word. Levels A-C seem to average 50 words and use a High frequency word list.

Happy writing and researching.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hot Links!
All the Best Links
Hot and Fresh for You

Photo courtesy of Illustration Friday & Melissa Sweet
by Kris Kahrs

Because we never have enough new friends around here at The Pen and Ink Blog, we'd like to share some of our favs with you.  The talented, the creative, the brave, the committed -- Illustrators and Authors alike.  They have been our favorite partners in crime:

Megan Frances - Illustrator and Writer
Megan is always a delight.  Her illustrations are imaginative and ethereal.

Amy Goldman Koss
Reading Amy is like eating chocolate.

Judy Enderle, Stephanie Gordon - Writers
Judy and Stephanie have played pirates with us and mentored hamsters.  Their blog is as inspired as they are.
Judy, Dawne Knobbe, Chheryl Zach and Laurie Knowlton started a new blog this week.  The Book Mavens

Ann Whitford Paul - Writer
Ann has a beautiful, playful blog.

Catherine Lee - Illustrator/Writer
Catherine has a couple of well-done sites: blog, website & facebook page.  Beautiful to behold.

Paula Yoo - Writer
Always, always, fun and fab.

If these sites don't inspire, then ye hearts be made of stone!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Writers of Eastwick

The Writers of Eastwick
by Hilde Garcia
(yes, she is one of the four Pen and Inkers)

“Well, if you don’t write or have pages every time we meet, how will I know that this group won’t disband?” Lupe looked worried as he communicated his deepest fear to the three ladies sitting across from him.

“We’re busy,” I said defensively as I fold laundry at this first critique meeting. “I have twins and they rule my world. It’s not always easy to find time to write.”

“Well, then don’t volunteer so much,” he replied a bit envious.

“You don’t understand, it’s the way it is for parents these days,” said Kris, Writer Number 2.

Writer Number 3, our Mama Sue, remained quiet as she understood how we felt. But her kids are now grown, so what’s her excuse?

Grand kids.

“I had an audition,” Sue explained, “and I didn't have a laptop with me to write my pages.”
“Then get a note pad,” Lupe said abruptly. He has a legal pad and everyone else should too.

This was a typical conversation on any given critique night when one of the three of us did not get to, forget, or plain spaced out on turning in our pages. Lupe prided himself on always turning in his pages by the agreed on deadline. Most nights, we three ladies finished our critiques in the company of our critique partners.

However, Lupe is the most dedicated writer I know and he has inspired me to be the writer I am and to not give up. His insistence on my writing more was simply because he knew I could do it and he didn't want to see me “leave it on the back burner.”

Lupe loved my life, although he wouldn't often tell me. The chaos that is my home- filled with 3 kids, 3 fish, 2 hamsters and 1 loud dog- often scares away anyone without children. In fact, a few friends with only one child didn't want to stick around. I think they were afraid they might be asked to do laundry.

Note- anyone that comes to my house and offers to fold clean laundry so I can manage to find my bed and sleep in it is a friend for life and will get an endless amount of chocolate chip cookies- made by me, of course- no store bought kind for laundry folders.

Anyway, I fight the clock, I fight the kids, I fight the dog for time to write. I tend to everyone, leaving little time for me. And when I do tend to me, it’s to play Farm Town on FB or some such nonsense. Anything to deadened my mind which is filled with TO DO Lists, PTA meetings, soccer schedules, and what can I make for dinner with a bag of corn, a can of black beans, some turkey sausage, rice, a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles, an onion, some garlic and fresh cilantro (go figure I had fresh anything)… a yummy Mexican Sausage Skillet… ready in 15 minutes… from scratch… thank you Pampered Chef.

Note- Click here for the Recipe .

SO writing has been really on the back burner, like somewhere in New Jersey. And then Lupe, after years of bugging us to be more on task- and by the way, I managed to finish my novel and submit it and post on our blog, so I HAVE written and worked on my craft, just not enough for Lupe- he breaks the news to the three of us- the Writers of Eastwick- that he is leaving town for the love of his life, the dream girl, the one that got away, the inspiration… did I miss a cliche?

Well, that hit me like a ton of manuscripts.

I couldn't believe it. What the heck do we do now? Without Lupe? The man who managed to make us all feel guilty and worthy at the same time? We all got our novels done, got them submitted, went to conferences and schmoozes together, and made a name for ourselves. And now he was leaving?

I went into a tailspin and decided I needed more excuses not to write.

What was going to happen to our group?

And then cyberspace saved us.

My husband finally bought that flat screen TV he always wanted, and it came with Skype capabilities. Lupe downloaded Skype and packed up his stuff and left town. (Sniff) And then came time for our dreaded first meeting without him. Would it work? Would it feel normal? How could we continue to meet when he was 500 miles away?

So, David, my husband and our silent Pen and Inker, tech guru that he is, programmed the Skype through the TV. We sat on the couch, the three Writer’s of Eastwick, anxiously awaiting the familiar beep and dial tone that is the Skype ring.

No answer.

We ate some more Baked Jalapeno Cheddar Snacks from Trader Joe’s and drank some cherry lemonade. We tried again. Nothing. David jiggled some cables- what a tech guy he is- and voila, it rings and LUPE answered.

The cheers could be heard in Brooklyn. We all sat on the couch and began what was our first cyber space teleconference.

“My work here is done,” David said as he made a quick exit.

My dog got in on the action and chewed his bone loudly for Lupe to see. The dog was also missing him. The hamsters made an appearance and squeaked hello to their little cyber friend. My kids thankfully were in bed, upset that they couldn't be part of the teleconference.

We spent the next 30 minutes bugging Lupe about leaving us, since he was worried we would leave him. We spent time talking about making dinners and letting in the ant exterminator- it seems that Lupe’s girlfriend and her girls expect his domestication to be instant. Lupe chuckled because he now had to make dinner too, and that ate up writing time.

“Hey, I will send you my Mexican Sausage Skillet recipe,” I said.

“Thanks, amiga.” He smiled.

And we proceeded to critique each other’s pages, share stories, ideas, and what to do next with each of our projects. The hours rolled by. We laughed as the baked jalapeno cheddar puffs and lemonade were gobbled up.

And one by one the wives, I mean witches, I mean Writers of Eastwick- well really Burbank, or the San Fernando Valley, or maybe just LA, said goodbye to their favorite Lupe. I stayed on a little longer, feeling like Dorothy saying to the scarecrow, “I will miss you most of all,” and I read to Lupe my daughter’s newest picture book, The Princess and the Doctor’s Office. We laughed that she will be published before the two of us. (She’s 6, but a darn good writer).

“I have no idea how to turn this thing off,” I said to Lupe. “So I will say my goodbye now and if I accidentally hit the correct off button-- there are so many to choose from-- you will know I figured out how to disconnect the call.”

Tech man had gone to bed as had the dog.
The hamsters had begun their evening party routine on the wheel.

“Ok, sounds good,” Lupe said, “see you in two- ”

I found the button. The screen went black. Lupe was gone. I sat there for a few minutes thinking about the last three years and how we had all grown as people and as writers.

“Well ok, time to go and fold laundry,” I said to myself.

Instead I sat on my couch and read a book.

I would write tomorrow. (Indeed write I did, inspired by our cyber teleconference.) I hope to make this a usual occurrence, me, writing on our blog, consistently, but I wouldn't hold your breath, because school just started and although I have been hiding out at home so I can’t get suckered into volunteering, people do have my email, my phone, and know where I live… although I am not answering the door either.

Thank you for being great Pen and Ink supporters and for supporting our literary antics. We love Lupe and the Northern California area is lucky to have him. But from now until whenever fate stop us, we Three Writers of Burbank, will meet every two weeks on my living room couch to speak to the man that has been our biggest fan, the man formerly known as The Token Mexican or the Mexican-In-Residence, now known as our Foreign Correspondent to the Far Hinderlands of the North.

Enjoy the photos, because in addition to all the catching up on laundry, recipes, and kid stories, of which now Lupe takes part in instead of telling us to “Get to the topic at hand,” we spent part of our group time taking ridiculous photos of Lupe on the TV screen.