Wednesday, May 25, 2011


First of all, a big thank you to Deane at for the blog awards!

Now, as I’m sure you all know, Memorial Day is creeping up on us. Never mind that I’m not at all sure where May went to, I love this holiday when we commemorate U.S. soldiers who died while in service to our country. There isn't enough gratitude. Did you know that Memorial Day was first enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers? After World War I, the day expanded to honor all American soldiers who died for this country. That alone makes Memorial Day very special.

However, Memorial Day also unofficially kicks off summer, right? And with summertime comes a change in work habits for many. Schools close their doors and some office hours change (I'm thinking of publishing houses and some agents, in particular). Also, the days are longer. I don’t know about you, but the more sunlight I have, the more I read and write. It’s a beautiful thing. But there are also those summertime distractions. Like opportunities to hit a beach or a pool, to meet friends for outdoor lunches, to garden, and to just be outside. For me, writing outside is never as productive as writing in an office, so spending more time outside isn't quite as productive. Reading outside, though, is one of my favorite things.

How about you? How will your life change during the summer?

Happy Memorial Day to everyone! *toasting you with a lemonade*

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Best Advice Ever?

At a recent library visit, a young reader asked me the following question:

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?

I love this question, but it’s sort of massive, when I think about it. I mean, the best advice ever? Wow. My first thought was that Don’t run into traffic was pretty decent advice once upon a time, when I was five-ish. Now, though, it sort of seems like pointing out the obvious.

Since my library visit was an author thing, I answered in terms of writing. I said that the best advice anyone ever gave me was to read as much as possible and to write just as much--all while being persistent about going after my dreams of having my writing published.

This is the best piece of writing advice I’ve received. Without a doubt. But on the way home from my library visit, I kept remembering other bits of wisdom thrown my way: My grandmother warning me to NOT get too involved with a certain guy (because, she thought, he had a weak handshake), my mother advising me about the pitfalls of blindly following a crowd, a sales lady pointing out that wearing yellow or orange of any shade would not be a good idea for me, other voices pointing out the benefits of staying away from certain drinks and junk

food. All great pieces of advice that rescued me at one point or another. Still, since writing is my love, I think I'll stick with my original answer as the best piece of advice ever. Being persistent about going after your dreams isn't such a bad idea, is it?

How about you? What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lessons from Alfred Hitchcock

I’ve learned a lot about writing from reading about screenwriting. So, when someone recently mentioned Alfred Hitchcock as the master of suspense, I couldn’t resist looking into some of his techniques. I thought I’d share some summarized tid-bits of what I found that could apply to novel writing.

Everything should be done for the audience. Each scene should affect them, should engage them, and pull them deeper into the story. The characters should tease and make the audience desperately want more.

This might seem obvious, but I, for one, cannot be reminded of this enough.

Emotion is the goal of each scene. Be aware of the emotions coming from the characters. As an assist, think about what musical score would capture or elicit the emotions for each scene.

I love this idea of considering the music that would accompany each scene.

Help the audience to feel as if they are a part of the story or one of the characters in the story. In a suspense film, the viewer should be considered to be a part of the film. Let the audience make discoveries.

A character should be the exact opposite of what the audience expects him to be. Dumb blondes should be smart and rationale. A cute kitten might be a rabid killer.

Ah, misdirection. . . . intriguing.

Alfred Hitchcock once said: “People don’t always express their inner thoughts to one another… conversation may be quite trivial, but often the eyes will reveal what a person thinks or needs. The focus of the image should never be on what is said, but rather on what the character is doing...”

Wow, is this great advice or what?

What do you think about these snippets of wisdom from the great film-maker?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Do Librarians Want?

Happy Children’s Book Week!

In honor of this week, I thought that I'd share what I've learned about what librarians who work with kids and young adults want from authors and publishers. Ready?

Due to limited budgets for bringing authors into libraries and schools, Skype sessions are becoming more popular. These cyber visits are becoming a great way for kids to meet an author (as long as the technology is available and behaves). Of course, not a lot of books get signed. . .

Book trailers seem to be useful. I didn’t have a book trailer for Dog Gone made, but librarians have told me that the trailer for Buck Fever has been a hit with kids and teachers. And, when I'm presenting in a library (or school), I’ve found that showing the book trailer is a good way to begin.

A middle school librarian once mentioned that she’d welcome any information that would let her know if the story content was appropriate for her readers. By appropriate, she meant stories without sex, violence, drugs, etc. But you probably knew that.

Some librarians welcome bookmarks, but not necessarily posters and other give-away stuff. On the other hand, book cover images are great for grabbing attention. Apparently the book cover paired with information about the story can be really helpful.

ARCs (advanced reader copies) are, of course, highly sought after. However, when ARCs are not available, sample chapters of a novel seem to be the next best thing. The idea here is that the text of the story often says more about it than reviews or book summaries.

Thoughts? Anything to add? Any surprises?

For more information about Children’s Book Week, visit:

I hope you enjoy it! : )