Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cool and Dreamy Links for Monday
July 29, 2013

by Kris Kahrs

Because it's July and National Ice Cream Month and because it's hot and the SCBWI Summer Conference starts this Friday and because I'm damn hungry, here are some links that are too cool to miss...

Quirk Books, my favorite publisher by far, had this post from books to ice cream flavors.    
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
Make a wish, look inside your dish
Inside your dish, there's candy fish
Candy fish in chocolatey goo
inside the goo are marshmallows too
All this combines for the perfect snacks
The perfect snacks to share with a Zax


Chuck Palahniuk, he of Fight Club fame, once wrote 36 essays on writing.  I've never read such well-written advice on writing.  It's not kidlit writing, but I think it is beyond useful and have the link here to LitReactor where it now all resides in its glory.(Blogger's note: Sue clued me into the fact that a membership is needed at this website, so instead I've linked to the free essay of 13 Writer Tips by Chuck Palahniuk.)


This blog post from Experiments in Library Science has some suggestions for threatening bookplates that will keep friends in line when borrowing from your beloved book collection.


Last link from Tumblr blog, Struck by Chris, before the SCBWI conference that is so much fun, an animated gif that lets you know how empowered you really are with a library card in your pocket.

               Happy Writing and Publishing!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dispatch #10: Author Janet Tashjian
In Conversation

Janet Tashjian
by Lupe Fernandez

Janet Tashjian is a prolific author of young adult and children's books such as My Life as a Stuntboy, The Gospel According to Larry, TruConfessions, Faultline and Marty Fry, Private Eye.

Your Foreign Correspondent met Janet at the a signing at Hicklebee's book store in San Jose for her latest book, My Life as a Cartoonist, cartoons by Jake Tashjian. After she signed my copy, Janet recommended For What It’s Worth.

In For What It’s Worth, 14 year old Quinn, rock n’ roll devotee and budding musician deals with his first girlfriend, his band, the spirits of Rock Legends and the Viet Nam war.

Music is central to the story and to Quinn’s character.  As the story takes place between the years 1971 and 1972, did you worry that readers, not familiar with the music of that period, would not understand Quinn?  
I didn't really worry about that because I know so many kids now who are into Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Joni Mitchell...I wrote it for all the music nerds.

Was the character’s name Quinn taken from “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann?  
Yes, but it's actually a Dylan song.  Manfred Mann did a great cover.

The images at the beginning of each chapter alternate from an acoustic to an electric guitar Are they a specific brand of guitar? 
I'd love to take credit for the artwork but that was all my editor and the great art department at Macmillan.  My son has an electric guitar that he hardly ever plays - that's my closest experience with a guitar.

What was harder to revise? The manuscript or the book’s discography?  
Hilarious.  Always the manuscript.

Todd Rundgren
Did you ever meet any of the musicians mentioned in the novel?
I've met Todd Rundgren several times; I'm a giant Todd fan.  I've never met Joni but that would be the biggest score of all time - I fantasize about running into her here in L.A.  I'm glad I haven't because it would be embarrassing.

Do you think today’s music affects youth today as the music affected Quinn in his time? This is not a question of taste, but rather do musicians still make music as opposed to contributing to the cult of celebrity?  
It's a really tough question that I think about a lot. If you try to compare someone like Jay Z to Bob Dylan, it kind of DOES come down to taste.  There's no way to compare the two as artists without stating a personal preference.  I think kids are STILL affected by music today - my niece was just dancing in my living room, singing along to Taylor Swift - but there's just so much more of it now. Because of streaming, the internet, and the pure mobility of music, I'm not sure kids are as attached to songs as much as a kid like Quinn was.  I'm not sure kids are sitting around analyzing lyrics anymore, although of course, I hope they are.

Jim Morrison
Mind altering substances were part of the music culture of that period – no doubt today as well. Was the subject of drugs aesthetically beyond the scope of For What it’s Worth or were there more practical considerations? 
It was a personal choice - I wanted to focus on other parts of the story, like the war, Quinn's first girlfriend, etc. I felt the whole drug thing was relevant to the time, but not to Quinn's story.

1972 Photo by Huỳnh Công "Nick" Út
As the Viet Nam war still rages in the novel – and in certain current political circles - you portray Brett, a “draft dodger”, as a sympathetic character. Given the current positive attitude toward military service, did you receive any compliments about Brett and/or your portrayal of anti-war sentiment? For instance, I can’t think of any anti-war songs recorded within the last 10 years. 
A lot of people liked the portrayal of Brett - I wanted to give kids and teachers something to really debate.  Was Brett wrong or right to resist?  Was Quinn wrong or right to help him.  I wanted kids to see there are no easy answers. As far as anti-war songs go, I can think of a few (The Dixie Chicks, Pink) but certainly it's not a giant category anymore.  Too bad, maybe they'd help bring home some of our troops.

The problems the characters face in For What It’s Worth still resonant today. War. Peace. Music. Love. Divorce. Was it difficult balancing Quinn’s story and political issues of that time, Viet Nam, Kent State, Watergate, and keep the novel from becoming too polemic? 
I am always vigilant about becoming too polemic - when you write about subjects like anti-consumerism, war, dating violence, and presidential elections, you have to be super-aware or you'll lose your readers in a second.  I try to temper the serious subjects with humor.  When I sat down to write For What It's Worth, the New York Times had an article saying that the war in Afghanistan was officially the longest running war in U.S. History.  I don't know why kids AREN'T talking about war now.

This Foreign Correspondent's favorite songs heard in For What It’s Worth in no particular order:
“Wipe Out” – The Surfaris
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys
“Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
“Battle of Evermore” – Led Zeppelin
“Break on Through to the Other Side” – The Doors
“Eve of Destruction” – Barry McGuire
“Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band
“Fortunate Son” - CCR
“What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
“Peace Train” – Cat Stevens
“Pinball Wizard” – The Who
“Paint It Black” – The Rolling Stones
“My Generation” – The Who
“Morning Has Broken” – Cat Stevens

"All great songs!" Janet said of my list.

The Management would like to thank Janet Tashjian for this interview.
For more about Janet visit

So rock, don't run, to your nearest independent book store and buy anything by Janet Tashjian.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I sold my novel, Second Chances!

By Susan J Berger
On October 28th, 2009, I wrote my first pen and Ink post, November is Officially Write a Novel Month.

In order to get the information to write it, I had to register for the 2009 NanoWriMo . I had no intention of joining that year's marathon. But my inner voice kept nagging me. You signed up for it. The least you can do is try. So on Monday, November 2nd, 2009 I sat down at my computer with not an idea in my head. On November 30th I finished the first draft of an adult time travel romance, Second Chances.

I couldn't wait to show it off. But, of course it wasn't in any shape to be seen. In April 2010 I showed it to my sister, Kelly, who is my biggest fan and she loved it.

In May, 2010, I bid on a critique of the first forty pages of a manuscript from Kelley Armstrong in Brenda Novak's On-line Auction for Diabetes Research and won it.
Then I got sidelined by unexpected open heart surgery. I finally got the manuscript to Kelley in August. Her critique was both kind and blunt. I had a lot of work to do.
In 2011, two rewrites later, I ran it by a few agents. No response.

At the 2012 Brenda Novak's On-line Auction for Diabetes Research, I bid on a critique from Soul Mate Publishing and didn't win it. But I like the sound of the company.

So I got their submission guidelines and queried them. And I was sure I needed an eBook publisher. There is a logic problem if two women in their sixties time travel back to 1969, and it's published later than 2014
I got a request from Cheryl Yeko asking for a more complete synopsis. I revised the synopsis and sent it to her with hope in my heart. She replied requesting the full manuscript. Needless to say, I was over the moon.

I sent her the manuscript and four days later I get a letter from her detailing revisions to be made before they could offer a contract.

Now I don't have a romance critique group, and I felt odd sending it through Pen and Ink because it's a children's book writers critique group and Lupe's a guy and I was afraid his eyes would bleed. But they said send it. So I did and, chapter by chapter, Kris and Hilde and Lupe helped make the manuscript so much better. I sent it back through one more time for a full read. I also sent it to Nancy Stewart, a fellow GAP writer who returned it with a fabulous line edit.

Last month I sent the heavily revised manuscript to Cheryl. Four days later I got a contract offer. After an email shout of joy to my critique group and family, I printed out and read the contract. I emailed back my questions and Deborah Gilbert, founder and senior editor answered them. I signed the contract.

Soul Mate Publishing  is an eBook publisher that publishes all genres of Romances. I just bought my first book from them, Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel.

The name and the cover intrigued me.  Soul Mate uses Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. I read the first chapter and got hooked.

One of the things I am supposed to do now is write cover flap copy. I know this is one of the most important things I will write. If it isn't good, I won't get read. Debby also invited me to give my ideas on a proper cover. All I can think of is a phone book flying through time and space and that idea's been taken.

HELP!!  (Really. Please help.)

I've got lots to think about before I get my first editorial letter. I have two middle grade books I am revising and a vague flicker of an idea for this year's Nano.

Write on!

NB: The RWA National Convention convenes in Atlanta this week. Soul Mate's editors are accepting pitching appointments at the convention. Soul Mate has been in business less than three years. They will be listed on the RWA publisher list on October, 2014. If any of you also write in this genre, you should check out their website for their individual preferences.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hot Links for July 9th 2013 - A Fork in the Road


Having just come off a four-day binge-fest also known as the Fourth of July, I couldn't help but notice how many kids books were about food.  It's no surprise that kids love food as much as grownups do.  Here are some of my favorites, memorialized in hot fudge:

1) In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. Published 1971.  In this Caldecott winner, Mickey is awoken by a racket in the night.  A rather surreal story with delightful Sendak illustrations.  A narrated version can be found on Youtube.

2) Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  Published 1960.  From Android app to Audible audiobook to a Chinese language version, there are endless ways that Dr. Seuss serves up this perennial fav.

3) Strega Nonna by Tomie dePaola. Published 1975.  Although a popular misconception thinks that Strega Nonna is a classic Italian folktale, here's a link that explains how the actual character came to be.  An interesting genesis as explained by Tomie dePaola.

4) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  Published 1969.  Eric Carle has some terrific coloring pages on his website.  One of them is of a voracious caterpillar and all of the many foods that he eats on his way to transformation.  There's also a newsletter, downloads and some games for your wee reader.

5) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.  Published 1978.  This 'tale within a tale' book has a Grandfather telling his grandkids about the town of Chewandswallow where food falls from the sky.  This book was later made into a successful film and sequel that bear little resemblance to the original but were popular nevertheless.

What are your favorite kidlit books you read with your little foodie?
Please share your comments below.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dispatch #9: How is Wedding Planning Like Writing a Manuscript?

The Happy Couple
by Lupe Fernandez

Wedding planning and manuscript writing have items in common? Is this another excuse to post vacation images?


First there is the engagement, a proposal of commitment to start something with a goal in mind.

Kauai, North Shore
Then find a venue, a location. Where will all the characters meet? Who will be invited? What roles will the participants play?

Once the venue is found, how will it be decorated? The place needs a color scheme, a lighting design and furniture.

Will characters, participants be able to move around? How will they get to the venue? Will they come earlier or later in the event?

Bubba's Burgers
What will everyone eat? What kind of food to the characters like? Not everyone will be satisfied.

Everyone loves music. Live or recorded. What genre? What emotions will the music evoke?

There's a rehearsal dinner for the characters to practice. If something doesn't go right, then a change, a revision of action is required.

Rugged Adventure Garb
What will the main characters- the bride, the groom, maid of honor, best man - wear?

The actual wedding starts with the ceremony, the matrimonial inciting incident.

Other details like cake, invitations or flowers will come up as the planning/writing progresses. Will these items be the cause of "Oh My God How Will We Pay for This?" or "This detail needs to be included in the story."

Once the event occurs, the vows done and edits done, when the couple become newlyweds and the manuscript transforms into a book, will it last?

How many anniversaries will they celebrate? We all hope many years of productive and profitable years.

We'd like congratulate for Foreign Correspondent for his recent engagement and forth coming marriage. This in no way excuses him from writing posts for this blog.
The Management