Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Advice and Ex-President Zombies

Doling out advice can be a lot like handing out Halloween candy. I came to this conclusion this past weekend, at a killer Halloween party. There, an ex-president zombie discovered that I was not just a black cat, but also an author of middle-grade novels. He asked me how he could best transform his ideas for children’s stories into best-selling books. Good question, right? Still, that zombie sort of caught me off guard. Maybe

because I was having tail issues (it’s not easy impersonating a cat), or maybe because I didn’t expect the undead to be into kid lit. Foolish.

As I wrestled with my wayward tail, I offered advice the way I hand out Halloween Candy. I suggested that Mr. Zombie President check out The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I pointed out that going to conferences is an excellent way to break into the business of writing books for children, and I recommended Gail Carson Levine’s Writing Magic as well as Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, by Deborah Halverson. Since my zombie friend gobbled these suggestions (What else would a zombie do?), I rambled on about novels and picture books he might read. By the time he ambled off, he seemed grateful (as grateful as a zombie and ex-president can be).

The next morning, while downing a couple mini Milky Way bars with candy corn chasers for breakfast (which do not fall under the dairy and veggie sections of the food pyramid... please don't judge), I wondered if I gave out the best advice.

What do you think? What would you have said or suggested to our ex-president zombie friend?

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?


  1. I think that's great advice, it gives him somewhere to start. If it had been me I would have been quite grateful!

    The best advice I ever received? That's a tough one. My mom and stepmom have had some real gems but one of the best was my dad's: "Let them tell you no", in other words, even if it seems like a longshot, try anyway. Put yourself out there. Go for it.

    Great post.

  2. I agree, the best advice is always to learn about the craft and mingle with others at different stages of the journey.

  3. Great advice - practical and do-able!! He's one lucky zombie to have found such a cool cat! Yay!

    Take care

  4. I think any advice you can give is just advice. People take it or leave it, but you said what came to your mind and what was in your heart. That's all that matters!

  5. Deborah Halverson's book is a great place to start!! and the SCBWI too. I think you did just fine. It gives him a base to jump off from, to start accumulating info. Good job. :)

  6. I think you were right on! SCBWI and offering knowledge through all those sources is a great start.

  7. Good advice specific to the children's lit industry. It will at least give him a place to start and that is often the hardest part--getting started.

    Like the rest of us, he'll move from item to item, topic to topic, learning things along the way. It's a process we each have to go through individually, tailored for our own specific genre. Ya done good!

  8. I think your advice was excellent. I might have added that he take a writing course through The Institute of Children's Literature.

  9. Lisa, your dad's advice is fantastic. Love it!

    Mingling with others is so important, Julie. Thanks!

    Aww, thanks Old Kitty! : )

    I hadn't thought about it that way, E.R. Very nice!

    Thanks, Carol and Lisa!

    Nancy, I loved what you wrote about each of us going through a process tailored for our own specific genre. Great point.

    Thanks, Bish. And you're so right--recommending The Institute of Children's Literature would have been perfect. Hopefully he'll find it along the way.

  10. yep, you gave the zombie good advice. The best advice I ever got was, "Just keep writing." Simple, but effective.

  11. I've gotten this question too. I also tell them to find good crit buddies, be willing to get some harsh feedback about how to improve their writing, and grow a thick skin!

  12. Cynthia, I think you gave good advice. Also, I honed my writing on a writing networks. The best advice I've got is to always assume that the reader is more intelligent than I am and not write down to him.

  13. I think you gave him some great advice, Cynthia. I agree with Lydia about the crit buddies. They can make a world of difference.

  14. Great advice for a zombie or anyone. Also more great advice in the comments. Hope you finally got that wayward tail under control :)

  15. Your advice was right on, in my opinion. The Verla Kay boards helped me, too.

    "I didn’t expect the undead to be into kid lit." Foolish indeed! :)

  16. Black cat, you gave great advice! I always tell people about SCBWI -- you can learn and meet people who write for kids/teens.

    Plus reading is always the best thing too.

    P.S. I've eaten so many mini peanut butter cups, I had a minor sugar-high moment looking at your pic. LOL.

  17. I like that advice, Lynda. Simple is often the most effective.

    Lydia, that is perfect! I wish I'd thought to share those words of wisdom with the zombie.

    J.L., advice regarding never talking down to a reader is fantastic advice. A wise and wonderful person once suggested the same to me. I am ever grateful.

    Absolutely, Stina! I wish I'd thought to recommend that he find crit buddies. Where would we be without them?

    Ha! Well Carol, the tail was an ongoing issue. Ah well.

    Te Verla Kay message boards! Of course! *slaps forehead* Thanks, MG. Shoot, why didn't I think of that?

    Karen, I feel your "pain." Those peanut butter cups are killer. And you're so right: reading is ALWAYS the best thing.

    Such great advice everyone!!! Thanks!

  18. Your advice was great. I wish I had someone tell me these things earlier.

    Ooh, candy.

  19. Excellent advice. SCBWI, read, and Verla Kay's blueboards.

    And man, I have had way too much Halloween candy this week.

  20. I think that was a great start. Probably the best thing anyone can do other than read, read, read is to join a group of writers. That's the best way to share knowledge and grow as a writer. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  21. I agree, Medeia: I could have used some more direct advice early on.

    Kelly, I am regretting not mentioning the blueboards. Big mistake there.

    Great, great point, Angela. Joining a group of fellow writers has so many benefits.

  22. Hi Cynthia - The best advice I ever received was to join SCBWI, start a blog and never stop writing. Still loving all three!

  23. What a great way to put it. I think it's great advice, even if he doesn't take it, it's still good advice.

  24. Most people don't want to hear the advice I have to offer, which is write because you love it and don't ever stop. Read extensively in whatever genre you want to write in. Keep your expectations in check. It takes most people years of writing to break in.

    In my experience, people at cocktail parties have a great "idea" for a children's book and either want me to write it for them or give them the name of an agent or editor who will snap it up.

  25. I think you gave excellent advice! I know that starting with SCBWI was a great place for me to start. Their resources are excellent, plus I met some of my best writing buddies through that organization. You did the right thing!

    Oh, and I'm not judging you when it comes to candy. *stares at empty Twix wrappers*

  26. You told this in such a funny way! And I think it was great advice. Read all you can; learn all you can; write all you can. I think that pretty much covers it.

  27. I agree, Maeve. And joining the SCBWI was definitely the best move I've made.

    Thanks, Christy!

    I must admit that I've had those experiences, too, Shannon. Lots of people don't want to hear about how hard it is to find success in publishing. Mr. Zombie did seem receptive, though. But that might have been the punch. : )

    Julie, you cracked me up with your Twix comment. I am guessing (just guessing, mind you) that we're not the only ones who have indulged in Halloween treats. : )

    Thanks, Peggy!

  28. I think you gave great advice! I've learned so much through blogging, that's another thing I would recommend to an aspiring writer.