Turbo Monkey Tales is a group blog focusing on the craft, production, marketing and consumption of Children's Literature. We are illustrators, writers, animators and media mongrels. We are readers! We are published, unpublished and self-published; agented and searching, and 100% dedicated to our Kid Lit journey, no matter where we are on the path. Join our Tribe and grab a vine. The more the merrier!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Book Review on Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

by Ellen

Last month while exploring my local bookstore, I found and purchased a book by Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. Once home, I settled in with interest to read and investigate my new book  . . . hours later, I was still reading, and I asked myself, how had I not discovered this book before? 

As a writer, stories come to me in scenes . . . like snapshots in a photo album. Each page of the album is a chapter, and the individual photos are the scenes. I envision a still life, and then as a film director would, call action! My scene, setting and characters, come to life . . . however, sometimes not the way I would like! 
So when I found Make a Scene I was thrilled. Everything a writer needs to know about constructing a powerful, well-thought out scene, with character, setting, dramatic tension, dialogue . . . can be found within the 270 pages of this book.

I’ll share a bit with you today about what’s inside Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time.  

First, the book is divided into four parts, which makes it easy to navigate.

 Part I Architecture of a Scene: part I explains the functions of a scene. Rosenfeld notes that a scene should have “characters that are complex and layered, and who undergo change throughout your narrative, conflict and drama that tests them and ultimately reveals their personalities. Your scene should have meaningful and revealing dialogue. It should have a rich physical setting that calls on the senses and allows the reader to enter the world you created. A scene should also have a sparse amount of narrative summary or exposition.” 

Part II The Core Element and the Scene: part II examines setting, the senses, character development and plot. Rosenfeld states that “plot and character are married to one another. In every scene you should ask: What is plot relevant? What is character-relevant? How are the two related? Your plot should be unable to carry on without your protagonist.” And most importantly . . .  Ask yourself what does my protagonist want, need, and intend to do?”

Part III Scene Types: there’s a lot of information in this section, but since I’m sure we can all agree on the importance of the first scene of any story, this is what Rosenfeld has to say: “the first scene in your narrative bears the greatest burden of all. It must do the following: hatch your plot, introduce your protagonist and provide a brief glance into his inner struggles, establish a rich setting, set up a feeling of dramatic tension and hint at complications and conflict to come. Your opening scene belongs to your main character.”

Part IV Other Scene Considerations: In the last chapter of her book, Rosenfeld explains scene assessment and revision, something every writer has experienced. She suggests once you have a finished draft, or a tough scene, step back. Put your work away for a couple of weeks and then get reacquainted, scene by scene. The last chapter also has a lengthy check-off list you can refer to. Here’s some of what Rosenfeld lists: do your scenes “fulfill the goals of setting and the senses, have well-developed characters, and contain enough tension to keep the reader’s interest? Engage the senses to create a sense of realism and authenticity? Use voice, dialogue, and behavior, rather than narrative summary, to reveal character? In plot, does each scene introduce at least one new piece of information in regards to who, what, where, when, how, or why? Does the plot create a tense atmosphere through setting and senses?”

I highly recommend owning a copy of Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time.  I’ve barely touched upon the vast amount of information the book offers on developing strong and powerful scenes. It’s well worth reading.

And so on an ending note, I’d love to hear from you! What books on the craft of writing can you suggest I add to my library?      

Rosenfeld, Jordan E. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. Cincinnati, Ohio. Writer’s Digest Books, 2008.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

So What?

by Sarah

In my Creative Writing class, we’ve been asking ‘so what?’ a lot. You see, we started writing memoir. After a little brainstorming, I had the class jump in and write at least 400 words about a memory of their choice.For many students, it began to get frustrating right after that. They knew what they wanted to write about, but the more they wrote, the more unwieldy it became.

How could we wrangle a memory into something that a reader could navigate?

We ask, “So what?” (Bless you, Nancie Atwell!)*
This is different from Jen Rofe’s wonderful ‘So What’ factor. She’s asking why the reader should care. But I would suggest that first drafts are too early to ask that question. The caring begins with the writer. 
So I asked my students why they cared. Why that memory? That moment? What was so important about it? Why did they return to it? Or why did they never want to revisit it?
This question gave the class a way to handle the memory. For some, their ‘so what’ wasn’t obvious at first. But once it was clear, they knew how to structure the memoir. It also gave me something to work with. If I knew their ‘so what’ we could discuss ways to shape the memoir so that a reader could care as much as they did.
Knowing the ‘so what’ is important in memoir. It's just as vital in fiction. When I first start writing a rough draft, I try to pin as many moments to the page as possible. But later, I need to know why scenes burned inside me. What made that scene so powerful to me? Why do I care? What grabs me in that story? When I know that, I can shape the rest of the story with that in mind.

Knowing ‘so what’ is even more important when we revise. A while ago, I wasn’t getting good feedback from my local crit group about two chapters in the middle of Valiant. I wasn’t surprised by it– I knew something was off. So I asked myself ‘so what’? What did I need the chapters to do? What did I care about? Why did I write them? After a while, the only answer I had was: they’re what comes next.
Lamest reason EVER for a chapter’s existence.
Once I knew what was going on, though, I knew how to revise. I condensed the bulk of the writing into one paragraph. The part that had a reason other than ‘it comes next’ was revised to reflect all my initial interest in it.
I’m convinced that we have to know what matters to us before we can make the reader care. The reader cares because we did. It begins with us. Perhaps boring spots in our manuscript (or entire manuscripts that meander!) are due more to mental fuzziness on our part than not using the right words. We’ve lost our focus, and the reader can tell.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that if I care about what I've written, the reader must like it. Readers don't owe me anything. I am saying, however, that if I don't understand why I care about a story– a chapter, a scene– it will be difficult to structure it in a way that captivates any reader.

I love the duality of writing! There are times when we hold the story outside of us and make sure that we've created something a reader can walk into. (It reminds me of welcoming a guest into our home. There's a sense of hospitality to it.) Yet, we also seek to pull that story, that home, from the deepest places within us. For me, asking 'so what' is one way of getting to the center and soul of my story. 

What about you? How do you find the heart of your story?

*I have absolutely loved her curriculum, Lessons that Change Writers!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hybrid Publishing: What it is...and what it might become.

by Amy

From our tree house here, high above the publishing jungle, we hear things. (I hear things in coffee shops, too, and sometimes they end up in my books.) Lately, the term “hybrid publishing” has been tickling our ears. Monkeys love tickles and I was intrigued, so I snuffled around to see what all the hub-bub was about.

Hybrid publishing was originally minted to refer to those lucky self-published books that were later picked up by a traditional publisher. There are many examples of these 'cross-over' books, but I’ll point out PJ Hoover and her book Solstice, because she’s my Facebook friend and I like her.

(My tiara. I wear it on Wednesdays.)
Ironically, the term also applies to the opposite situation.  Books that were originally published by a traditional publisher and have gone out of print or are stuck on a backlist are being reclaimed by the authors, repackaged and re-released, either as ebooks or POD. I personally know of three well-published authors in the midst of this now. The process isn’t always easy – publishers are sometimes reluctant to let go of the rights. But those authors who can swing it get 100% royalties, lots of freedom and massive power. And a tiara. And a cape. (Part of that might be a lie.) Hybrid publishing is also used to describe traditionally published authors who decide to go the self-published route with their later books. But to me, that’s just self-publishing by a famous person.

Teams are fun!
The last example of hybrid publishing is one that I’m really excited about and one I expect we’ll see happening more and more. It’s a team approach—where an author and/or illustrator join forces with others to bring a project to life. Editors, digital content people, publicists, PR people…any number of folks can be added to the team, depending on what the writer and/or illustrator need, creating a process somewhere between traditional and self-publishing. I foresee a not-so-distant future where hybrid published titles like this are marketed on the street cred of the team members. Some free-lance editors (like our Fairy-Godmonkeys Emma Dryden & Harold Underdown) already have great name recognition and since they don’t work with everyone who knocks on their door, their vetting process offers a level of confidence to a potential buyer/reader.

A company called NetMinds is focusing on this ‘team approach’ with their Disruptive Team Publishing Platform, touted as “an alternative to traditional and self-publishing.” From their press release:  

Net Minds has built a software platform that allows authors to find any member of the publishing value chain, such as editors, designers, publicists, etc., selecting potential collaborators through a discovery system that includes ratings and commentary on a professional’s work. These teammates are invited into, or can request to join a project, offered traditional transactional and non-traditional compensation options, like percentages of the book’s financial performance, and the community then produces the book.”

In a similar-but-slightly-different vein, there is Diversion Books, headed by Scott Waxman, of Waxman Leavall Literary Agency (no stranger to traditional publishing.) Diversion offers “…a full service approach to production, marketing, and publicity, and engages the latest tools and technologies in order to produce and promote its titles in the best possible way.” To over-simplify their services...they help you self-publish your book, BUT there is a submission process and they don’t accept every project. They also take more in royalties than self-publishers but the author’s cut is still significantly higher than with traditional publishing—50% or more. Sadly, Diversion does not accept children’s, MG or YA titles at this time.

So, all of this is VERY cool stuff, but what do you guys think? Is this the way of the future? What are the drawbacks? Would you hybrid publish?

Monday, February 18, 2013

While You Wait: Freelance gigs for writers

by Marilyn Hilton

You're in the writer's waiting room: you just turned in the final proofread on your latest novel, or you just emailed a requested full manuscript to your dream agent or editor, or you’re between contracts, or you’re just plain discouraged over the waiting and wondering of being a writer. And you need to pay the electric bill or make the tuition payment or fix that growing crack in the ceiling.

You decide to take a part-time or temporary job to finance these needs while you’re waiting for real career to get moving. But you don’t want to wait tables or stuff envelopes or make sales calls. You’re a writer, and you want to write.

A few years ago I did a survey of freelance writing and editing jobs and came up with a nice list. Below is a subset of the most relevant jobs. (I left out fortune cookie writer, cereal box copywriter, and “Real Housewives” blogger—even though it’s my secret addiction.) So, if you’re thinking about taking on some freelance writing or editing work, this list might give you some ideas.

A note about the pay rates: They’re average, and depend on the writer’s experience and the job’s location.

Advertising copywriter
Writes advertising copy for a variety of clients’ products, services. Meets with the account executive, creative director, and artist to better understand the client’s needs, and then develops a creative strategy to meet those needs. A copywriter might write for print, as well as other media (such as radio, TV, and the web).
Skills: Ability to write clearly and persuasively, and think outside of the box.
Pay: $42K–$60K annually.

Corporate or marketing communications writer
Produces documents for print and the web about the organization to employees, clients, and customers. Includes in-house and customer newsletters, articles, journals, and web content, press releases, corporate backgrounders and white papers. Prepares technical overviews of products and services. Works with copyeditors, designers, production specialists for accuracy of information and consistency of style. Establishes relationships with press, trade, and industry contacts.
Skills: Degree in journalism, marketing, English, or communications, or experience in a technical writing or editing or marketing communications environment.
Pay: $50K annually.

Marketing communications editor
Edits brochures, white papers, data sheets, web copy, anything else the client company creates. Edits for errors in punctuation, grammar, and style, for consistent voice, and that style adheres to company’s standards. May provide developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and proofreading of project at different stages of production cycle. Requires excellent grammar skills (current) and people skills, ability to be tactful, flexible, detail oriented.
Skills: Requires specialized training through classes and certificate programs (many colleges and extension programs offer them), and on-the-job training.
Pay: As freelancer, $30–$75 hourly; $52K annually.

Education writer
Writes theme- and subject-based workbooks, reading books, and other materials for K-12 classroom use on work-for-hire basis. Requires curiosity, love of teaching, love of research, and the ability to explain concepts in pictures and text.
Skills: Knowledge and/or experience in subject, degree and/or experience in education, teaching, or curriculum development, knowledge of education standards.
Pay: Varies by publisher/packager.

Proposal writer for new business/business development (corporate)
Develops and writes new business proposals to potential clients based on client/customers’ requests and needs. Also develops and writes contract proposals for new clients/customers. Commonly works in the financial planning and investment, insurance, and health care industries. This job is detail oriented and deadline driven. It requires an understanding of the customer. Also requires good people skills, meticulous research skills, ability to translate complex facts and statistics into understandable language.
Skills: Excellent persuasive, expository, and technical writing skills. Excellent research skills. Knowledge of industry and RFP (request for proposal) database use and management.
Pay: $45K–$100K annually.

Grants proposal writer (nonprofit)
Develops and writes proposals to solicit funds for projects or services provided by organization. Commonly works in education, religious, and volunteer-based organizations. Researches funding sources and is familiar with various organizations and foundations that administer grant funds. This job is detail oriented and deadline driven. It requires an understanding of the customer. Also requires good people skills, meticulous research skills, ability to translate complex facts and statistics into understandable language.
Skills: Excellent persuasive, expository, and technical writing skills. Excellent research skills. Knowledge of industry. 
Pay: $25K–$45K annually.

Greeting card writer
Writes messages, poems, and verse for greeting cards. May suggest art. Develops ideas according to the publisher’s guidelines; works with editors. Requires patience, persistence, love of words, and the ability to work independently.
Skills: No formal education needed, but an understanding of how to write a personal message with a command of language is required. For inspirational card writers, understand the quoted Bible verse in context.
Pay: $25–$100 per idea. Sometimes additional payment if you develop the card’s graphic design.

Public relations consultant
Working for the client or employer, identifies story ideas for the trade, business and general press. Researches, writes, or edits articles, press releases/fact sheets, backgrounders; follows up press releases with press contacts, tracks news stories and company profiles in the press; develops relationships with press. Consultants may also do strategic planning, writing and supervising video productions. Requires good listening skills, flexibility, resourcefulness, the ability to work independently, make good recommendations for the organization, and be businesslike, professional, and responsive to customers’ needs.
Skills: B.A. in journalism, communication, or marketing. Accreditation through a professional organization like PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) is extremely helpful.
Pay: $100–$250 hourly.

Resume writer
Writes and edits client resumes and cover letters, from scratch or using existing material. Requires strong business writing skills with a marketing focus (because a resume sells the applicant), good people skills, an ability to turn excellent product around quickly.
Skills: Experience or background in marketing, finance, advertising, law, IT, legal, human resources, military, or business helpful.
Pay: $20–$25 hourly.

Freelance editor
Performs developmental editing, line- and copy-editing, and proofreading on manuscripts prior to publishing. May also do indexing. Clients can be authors, publishers, or corporations. Requires excellent time management and project management skills, good people skills, attention to detail, and a desire for excellence.
Skills: Excellent editing and proofreading skills; knowledge of how story works (for fiction); excellent knowledge of language and grammar.
Pay: Basic copyediting: $25–$50 hourly; In-depth line-by-line copyediting: $30–$75 hourly; Developmental/content editing: $30–$100 hourly; Ghostwriting/coauthoring rates: vary.

Proofreads, reviews, and edits materials for accurate use of grammar and content. Corrects grammatical, typographical, or compositional errors in the original copy. This job is detail oriented and deadline driven.
Skills: Excellent spelling and grammar skills; knows proofreading standards. Knowledge of the subject matter or industry is helpful.
Pay: As freelancer, $2–$4 per page; $25–$30 hourly; $36K annually.

Creates an index from electronic manuscript or typeset page proofs provided by the client (author, publisher, or corporation).
Skills: No formal degree required, but expertise in the subject matter is desirable. Requires excellent language skills, ability to focus on details, accuracy, excellent organization skills, and excellent time management skills. Requires curiosity, accuracy, attention to detail, ability to work independently and be disciplined.
Pay: $25–$30 hourly, up to $50K annually.

There you have it--a short list of freelance writing and editing jobs for your waiting room.

What jobs have you done? What jobs would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

10 Writerly Things to Love by Kristen Crowley Held

In honor of Valentine's Day,
a list of ten things that make my writer's heart go pitty-pat:

1. Up by Jawbone

You can track your sleep, activity, food and drink with this wristband plus app, but what I love about it is that it wakes me with a gentle buzz so I can get up and at my computer at the crack of dawn (or before) without disturbing my husband or my easily awakened small children.

2. Monday Coffee: Birdcage Tumbler 

Okay, I actually use it for tea, but this mug rocks! Thermal insulated, shatterproof, it holds eighteen ounces, is microwave and top dishwasher safe and it has a lid. What's not to love?

  3. Harney & Sons English Breakfast Tea Sachets

These "silken sachets" are faster and easier to use than loose leaf tea so I can get my caffeine on and get to writing ASAP.

4. Silicone Keyboard Cover

Fun and functional! Liven up your laptop and protect your keyboard from spills and toddler goo. Need I say more?

Knit mitts by Pia Barile (not my sis).

5. Arm Warmers

For some reason my office is the coldest room in the house, so my loving sis knitted some fabulous arm warmers to help keep my fingers flying despite the chill. If there's no accommodating knitter in your life, get thee to Etsy (the mitts pictured to the left are available from Pia Barile's shop).

6. Scrivener

The tagline says it all, "Outline. Edit. Storyboard. Write." And you don't even have to be a Mac user anymore to take advantage of this fabulous software program. If you're both meticulous and fragmented, like me, you'll love Scrivener too.


7. The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale

This corpulent tome never fails to assuage my polydipsia for a superlative word. Use it to add some pulchritude to your magnum opus, or even an opuscule.

8. The JuJuBe GigaBe Laptop bag

I discovered JuJuBe back in my diaper bag days and while I don't miss the diapers I did miss my tough, thoughtfully designed bag. So imagine my joy when I discovered they now make laptop bags! There are a number of patterns to choose from, as well as black and brown earth leather versions. There's also a smaller version called the MicraBe. Trust me, you'll love these "super smart bags."

9. Laplander Lap Desk

This lovely lap desk has a large surface area, elastic straps to keep your pens, notebook, cord, etc. from slipping, and the pillow detaches so you can easily pack it for travel.

10. Dropbox

"Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website." Back up your writing files, share your manuscript with your critique group, or access your files from another device. And even if every electronic device you own dies, your files are safe!

There you have it! Ten things I'll be loving on Valentine's Day morning when I tackle my WIP yet again. How about you? What would you put on your list of writerly things to love?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Interview with Author Heidi Ayarbe by Julie Dillard

Back in grad school at the University of Nevada, Reno, I met Heidi Ayarbe. I lucked into being her roommate--I think there may have been enchiladas verdes involved in some kind of bribe, but the details grow fuzzy. What I'm sure of is that Heidi is through and through one of the kindest, funniest, most thoughtful people you'll meet on campus, in the writing world, or anywhere. It's surprising I didn't go all Single White Female, come to think of it... And Heidi's life grows ever more amazing to me--full of travel adventures, a growing family, more books...

Pick up any one of her novels--Wanted, Compulsion, Compromised, or Freeze Frame, and you'll see that (besides being a particularly nifty human being) she's got imagination and talent to spare.

So, let's pick her brain, shall we?

How did a girl from Carson City, Nevada end up in Colombia?
It was a bit of a crap shoot, really. One weekend, I borrowed YOUR book (if you remember) called WORKING AROUND THE WORLD. And I sent out random resumes to places all over the world. Six months later, I got a call from a bi-national institute in Pereira, Colombia, asking me if I’d like to come work. I looked at a map. I saw mountains and said, “Okay. I’ll be there in January.”

I was only supposed to stay two years (now sixteen years ago), but I met my husband, we now have two beautiful girls, and fifteen years of traveling, backpacking, and crazy stories in us. Hey!  I’m not one to miss out on a great love story! Especially if I get to be part of it.

What do you miss most about your hometown? 
My family!! And the history of growing up in a place where you get all the jokes and nuances. History with people who've known me since I was born. 

What do you appreciate most about Colombia? 
How open the people are – family isn't just a blood-tie. I am grateful for how gracious Colombians are. I've learned a lot about tolerance living down here.

How did you come to be a published author? A lot of work and a smidgen of luck. (I know I’m not supposed to say the second part, but I do believe there’s an element of timing. Never fear … some people’s timing takes years to “happen” … others months. It WILL happen.) Anyway, I suppose you want the nitty gritty.
When I was 27, I was working at a local sporting goods store. The local arts center posted a sign, inviting people to come listen to a children’s author speak. That author was Ellen Hopkins.
I always read. Constantly. From the time I was little. But I never wanted to be a writer because I thought it was impossible. I went to see Ellen. At the time she was writing non fiction novels for the school market. It sounded so possible. She invited me to join a writer’s group called “Writers of the Purple Sage.” I did.
I began writing for local family magazines, subbing articles for Highlights for Children Magazine and wrote ANYTHING anybody asked me. I even wrote “how to” manuals for an Argentinian publishing house: one about how to get kids to sleep (ha! I have two now and just have to say, Ha! That was probably bad karma.) and one on natural hormone replacement therapy for menopause (not there yet, not looking forward to it). In the meantime I was working on my novels. Freeze Frame, my first published, was my third novel. (The other two are too dreadful to even name.) I took about a year and a half to write the first draft, researched the agent market like crazy, and was so fortunate to get an offer from Stephen Barbara to rep me! That was in 2006. It’s been almost seven years, and he’s sold five of my books. I’m so fortunate!

What has surprised you most about being a professional writer?
Well, it never gets any easier. Ever … I have a real tough time with first drafts and I thought that would change. Ha! Doesn't. And the pressure is still there – just different.  
Also, I don’t feel any more “professional” than the “to be published” authors. I know such talented people with ideas that crack your brain. Publishing is in a hard place right now – big houses, medium houses … are up against a “commercial” wall. But great books get published every year. Risks are taken on projects that many turn down. So … it’s surprising what becomes big. It’s always something unexpected!

What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of the writing life?
I love the writing (most of the time … J ). I get excited about revisions. LOVE LOVE revisions. Truly and totally. And I so rarely get to be with readers, that I love doing school visits and launch parties etc. Living in Colombia limits my access to readers. Also, having two kids limits my availability.
I don’t usually tell people I’m a writer because we live in a world where people are valued by numbers (numbers sold, numbers made etc.) and not the actual act of sitting and writing. I hate having to “explain” what I do to people. And I hate the question: What is your book about? That sounds weird, but I feel lame whenever I talk about my books. 
What have you found to be most useful in developing as a writer—I mean, what has helped you make progress with craft?
Working with GREAT editors always helps! J I've worked with Jill Santopolo, Ruta Rimas, Sara Sargent, a touch with Tamra Tuller … it’s like an all-star lineup of great minds. I LOVE when editors push me to my limits.
Outside of the editor realm: reading great books. But not just reading. Paying attention to craft. Even while watching movies and TV shows, it’s super important to watch how the plot unravels, characters reveal themselves. I LOVE that. And, since I've “become” a writer, I rarely am surprised. This last year I read a novel by Ann Patchett, State of Wonder, and the ending just completely blew me away. Totally. I loved that!
Most of all, time. Dedication. BIC (Butt In Chair) inspiration. I have learned I have to give myself the space to write badly. There’s ALWAYS revision, but pushing through and getting a project done is incredibly important.

Have you used the same process for writing and revising your novels, or …?
Writing has changed from the lofty marathon pace I had with Freeze Frame to the wind sprints I've done with my subsequent novels. Why? I’m now a Mom. Wow. When I sit to write, it’s like fire coming out of my keyboard.

Revisions never change. When I get my revision letter, the first thing I do is hit my head against anything really hard until I’m ready to actually get to work. Then I read the revision letter again, and I start to write notes – mad writing, brain storming, stream of consciousness thoughts. I clean that up and after a few days of that, I send the letter back to my editor and wait for the thumbs up. Then … sprints to revise.

Do you have any least favorite writing advice? Any “writing tips” that irk you?
I don’t write every day. I don’t have characters that wake me up and talk to me at night. I don’t have a notebook by my bedside to write down good ideas (Are you KIDDING me? I wake up and TRY to get back to sleep before the baby wakes up). I don’t have files of ideas. I've never kept a diary. I was never broody and never wrote dark poetry while growing up. I had a great childhood. Yeah: I’m a writer!
How? I. Love. Words. I love stories. I love characters.
I think writers have stories to tell. That’s the drive behind what we do. The stories have to come out sometime, so we make time to get them on the page. Everybody’s process is different. Every process is valid. If you’re a new writer, though, remember it’s hard … bloody hard. Just push through and finish a project however you can. If that means setting word count goals. Do it. Time goals. Do it. Just do it.

Speaking of craft, can you give a hint about what you are working on now? 
Yes. I’m invoking Dan Brown inspiration! I’m working on my first thriller with, hopefully, lots of creepy elements. It’s about Cate, whose family’s home burned down in a house fire during a summer when four other homes burned down, too. She’s been badly hurt and can’t dance anymore. She suffers from insomnia. To pass the nights, she begins to go night caching (geocaching is like treasure hunting for adults, using GPS instruments, clues etc.) While caching, somebody starts leaving her clues about the fires from the year before. So she begins her own investigation. Things escalate and … And I have to finish it in the next ten days, so we’ll see what happens!

What is your writing space like? Your schedule?
Pretty cluttered. I’m a bit of a clutter person. I often find interesting things on my desks months after having lost them!
And my schedule depends on how close I am to deadline. Kind of. Three days/week we have a babysitter come in, and I work those days from 9:30ish until 4:00ish (when my oldest gets home from Kindergarten). I sometimes sneak in a Sunday here and there. This last month, we've invoked the help of our babysitter to come a fourth day and I’m sneaking in Sundays. Luckily, my husband works from home, so he’s a pretty great help when things get down to the wire.
I don’t write at night, though. Almost never. I’m just too tired. I’m in bed pretty early, anyway.
What writers/books do you most admire/enjoy?
So many! I’m just going to list my favorite books, though: Going Bovine, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Five Flavors of Dumb, The Book Thief, Feed, Speak and Winter Girls, Burned, Bull Rider, As I Lay Dying, Cannery Row, The Road
So many to choose from!

Advice to writers on their own journeys?
Follow the stories in your heart and finish them! Then learn about the market (don’t WRITE to the market), but learn everything you can. Stay away from negativity and surround yourself with supportive people. (You’ll go through the ringer enough with critiques and bad reviews later on.) Read. Read. Read. And write. It’s what you've said you want to do, said you’re going to do-- stop saying it, just write it!

Thank you so much, Heidi! Keep those stories coming!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Illustrator's Bucket List by Hazel Mitchell

Last night I thought, 'Oh lummee! It's my turn to blog tomorrow.  And I hadn't a clue what I was going to write about. And then, happily, two illustrator friends messaged me on much the same subject: AGENTS.

Alright, that's a misnomer, I am NOT going to yak on about agents. (Important though they are.)

What those conversations did get me thinking about was my 'ILLUSTRATION BUCKET LIST'.

This began just about as soon as I started to think seriously about my 'career'. (Or lack of one.)

IN THE BEGINNING the list was pretty short:
  • Have the nads to spend more than 10 minutes in a children's book store without feeling overwhelmed/excited/suicidal.
  • Get published and be fabulously famous. And rich.

I missed a hell of a lot of interim steps out! Like the whole illustration process for one (and two, three, four and five). Luckily I got me to a workshop.

  • Learn more about kid's books. 
  • Go to a conference. Meet some people.
  • Get published and be fabulously famous. (And rich).
I reacquainted myself with the children's library and recalled books I loved as a kid plus reading a **** load of new books.
I went to an SCBWI conference.

  • I know nothing. (Do something about it.)
  • Create a portfolio. One that I would dare show to people.
  • Create a website.
  • Get a platform.
  • Get an agent.
  • Get published and be fabulously famous. (And rich).
I DID do something. I read, I listened, I networked, I went to more conferences.I began to draw like I hadn't in years. I started working on dummies. I submitted. I got rejected. I got rejected. I got rejected.

  • I know nothing. (Do more about it.)
  • Create a portfolio. With better work in it.
  • GET A STYLE. (What is style??)
  • Change website (again).
  • Mail out postcards.
  • Work on platform. And Blog. And Facebook. And Twitter. And ...
  • GET an agent.
  • Create more time to work on CRAFT. (gulp. This will mean analyzing my life and work)
  • Get published and be fabulously famous. (And rich).
I continued to immerse myself in gaining as much knowledge as I could. I worked on my illustration. I submitted and mailed out. I got rejected. AGAIN. and AGAIN.

  • I know nothing. (Do more about it.)
  • Work on portfolio.
  • Try not to worry about style.
  • Simplify website.
  •  Mail out postcards. Work on contact list.
  •  Work on platform. And Blog. And Facebook. And Twitter.  Don't spend too much time online.
  • Get an agent.
  • Work on CRAFT. 
  • Get published and be fabulously famous. (And rich).

So a few years passed. I found I could now spend a lot of time in bookstores without breaking out in a sweat and feeling totally inadequate.
I was beginning to recognize a glimmer in my work that looked like SOMETHING and not the hodge podge of regurgitated learning from my past life as a fine artist/graphic designer/other. It was - voice.
The time and effort in giving myself a fast education in the children's book industry (via conferences, workshops, internet, books) was paying off.

I got my first real book to illustrate.

  • Work on CRAFT. Seek out places to learn more. Be a sponge. Be INSPIRED!
  • Create.
  • Enjoy.
  • Promote.
  • Wait for the right agent.
  • Hope to work with great art directors and editors.
  • Find the balance between work, supporting everyday life, living, and letting the stories out.
All I want to say, (really), is that everyone's list is different, and rightly so. I am amazed at the paths of my fellow artists and writers. There's NO right or wrong way, there is only YOUR way. Our wants and needs change. For me it was from a 'tick list' that gave me a lot of stress, all of those things I thought would lead me on the path to 'success'. Not that we don't find those things helpful along the way! And I needed them to get me motivated. But the 'along the way' is where we are, not where we are going. The most important thing to me now, is to do work that inspires the reader and inspires me. That's where satisfaction lies.

So far I wouldn't change a thing.


My newest book is out March 1st '1,2,3 by the Sea',
written by Dianne Moritz and published by Kane Miller.

In the coming months I will be presenting workshops at 'Europolitan 2013' Paris, France and NESCBWI 2013 Springfield, MA.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fund your dream with Crowdfunding!

Lemme throw the “I want to publish my book” equation at you.
Line editing $6,000 + Limited income +
Printing  $1,500 + Mortgage +
Illustrator $3,500 +    =      1.5 kids +
Marketing $2,000 + Car Payment 
 ------------------------------                   --------------------------
                      $12,000                           ( -$57.23 + X)

                               How do you solve for X?

The answer is:
  1. Marry a millionaire
  2. Sell a kidney
  3. Win the Lotto
  4. Crowdfunding.
If you chose a-c, more power to you but the only answer that does not require drugs or luck is crowdfunding.

But what is crowdfunding?

Think of crowdfunding as gift giving on a global scale.

It is not venture capital investing, where you must show a profit. Nor are you selling your rights to your work. With crowdfunding, Individuals from around the world offer donations to your project, prior to publication, in exchange for a gift.

A gift?  Like a set of purple earphones?

Not exactly. 

If you’re a writer you might offer to “give” your benefactors a signed copy of your book for $20 that will cost you $10 per book to publish.  The gap between the cost and the donation is what you use to fund your editing, printing, cover design etc.

With my AR graphic novel, The Goths, I offered my benefactors the opportunity to play one of the characters in the Augmented Reality elements.  For a lesser amount we would name a character in the book after them or have their artwork used as graffiti in the background of a scene.  

So how do you go about crowdfunding?

First choose an online crowdfunding service.  Here is a list of just some of the more popular sites.

Do your research.  Not all the services are the same or charge the same percentage.  

Kickstarter uses an all or nothing model where you only receive funds (minus their fees) if you meet or exceed your funding target.   They are also the most well known crowdfunding site but they don't accept every project that is submitted.

Indiegogo has a flexible funding option where you receive all the funds contributed minus fees regardless of your funding target.

I chose Indiegogo over Rockethub for my "Smittens Says" campaign because it requires fewer clicks to make donations.

After you  choose your crowdfunding service, then you get "jiggy with it."
  1. You create a project proposal including a synopsis, pictures, list of team members
  2. record a pitch video.  That’s right.  It’s you talking, juggling your dog or pony.   Whatever fits your personality and your project just as long as it’s you.
  3. create a list of gifts that people will want, your book, their name in the credits...etc. 
  4. establish a paypal account
  5. upload your proposal
  6. market online 
  7. keep marketing
  8. prod friends to share your link **
  9. prod them harder 
  10. add project updates that include "George Clooney wants to play the lead role"
  11. prod your friends with your boot, a hot fire poker and pepper spray **
  12. get funded!!!
Twelve easy steps.  That's all it takes!

Lemme know if you launch a campaign.  I promise to share.  I hate pepper spray.  

** Shares are essential for any chance of success.  "Likes" won't get anyone to your campaign.  The key to funding success is volume, so you need to reach beyond your own sphere of influence.  You need the 6 degrees of online friends to achieve success.  So even if your close friends don't back you with money... REAL friends SHARE!