Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, June 28, 2013


It's time to get serious about writing!

Here are 19 sites to visit to stir you up and get you moving. It's too easy to say, it's too hot. I'm too tired. Here's a variety of topics of interest to anyone writing for kids. From self-publishing to thinking about dialogue to best books.

12. http://www.ruccl.org/application_%20information.html (Only a couple days left to sign up for this fabulous conference!!)

(The Children’s Literature Web Guide –Canadian)

Kay Vandergrift’s Page

Writing YA

Ever wondered what a McGuffin is?

Go to the PW site for new summer books, read the first paragraphs, but read this first!

19. http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com  THIS IS A RUDE, BUT FUN SITE!!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Beach Work

Check off beach reading for the day. My book, tucked away next to the tube of sunblock, requires that I put on my readers, under my sunglasses--a very uncool look that doesn't work very well anyway. It's one lens too many. I've finished my traditional miniature beach village built of natural materials littering the sand. This year, it's just a simple fort constructed of smelly, stacked reeds surrounded by a moat. A gull feather and a grass frond decorate the entrance (though there is an impressive shark trap in the rear that might provide the tiny beach people with meat for the rest of the summer). Once our son and his family arrive we'll create something much more vast and impressive. So, with an hour or more of collagen destroying sunshine left, I've decided to work in the shade of my umbrella. The work is around the same issue that always plagues me when I'm considering a new project. I can get hightly motivated by my chosen setting, era, and general story line. But until I get a bead on my main character and what it is they want, I'm fighting the undertoe. So I've decided to study my fellow beachbums, all of whom suddenly appear to be packing up and leaving. It seems the beach patrol is ordering everyone from the water. I can't figure out why until I glance behind myself at the bank of low slung, gun-metal gray clouds that have blown suddenly in from nowhere and appear to be positively filled with electrical charge. As my beach neighbor's straw hat blows past our shark trap, I decide that tomorrow I'm not opening my book until I've found my main character somewhere on this beach and realize what it is they're searching for.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Character Vs. Plot: A Riddle

by Cynthia Light Brown

Here’s a riddle. Where does this come from (and NO USING GOOGLE to find out)?

“A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.”

If you guess it, leave a comment that gives a hint.

The dichotomy between character and plot is a false one. To speak of whether one is more than the other is to miss the point that you can’t really have one without also fully developing the other. Indeed, why would you want to?

The best way for us to know and understand a character is through what she does. Yes, her internal thoughts can be revealing. But what she does (which includes what she says, by the way) is even more important. “Telling” has its place in good writing, but it’s rarely a good method of revealing character in a novel.

But it doesn’t just work one way. To understand a plot – why things are happening as they do, we must understand character. Certainly it’s true that we only care about things that happen if we care about the characters, but it’s even more than that. The plot only makes sense in light of understanding the characters that are driving the plot. And if your characters aren’t driving the plot…they need to. Even in a murder mystery, where the precipitating event may not be related to your main character, from then on in, your characters—especially your main character—need to drive what happens.

And then we come full circle. The things that happen in your story (your plot) also will change your characters. If they’re not changing, we as a reader aren’t interested.

The quote in the riddle is referring in particular to someone shrouded in mystery. Which is what your characters are to your reader: shrouded in mystery. You as the writer must reveal your characters, and your best method of doing that is use action. As we know and understand your characters, their actions will be understandable (even if they sometimes surprising).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Deadline Approaching!

The Rutgers One on One Conference
One of the best kid's writing conferences out there, has a deadline for entry:
July 1st!!!!

This conference is for the advanced writer who is ready to publish. You should have several manuscripts completed. The one you submit (although you only give 3 pages) should be finished and gone through peer review.

Go here for more information.

Friday, June 21, 2013

At the Young Writers Institute, A Good Time Was Had by All!

I recently had the pleasure of poetry workshopping  with the Mt. Lebanon contingent of this summer's Young Writers Institute.  What a delightful experience!  I can honestly say that it has been quite a while since I witnessed such unbridled enthusiasm. For each workshop the students arrived eager and excited, their notebooks and pencils ever at the ready.  Their enthusiasm was infectious and made me hope that I could match their level of excitement.  The pencils flew, the students driven by the goofy outside-of-the-box writing requests I made of them.  Each one was eager to share, eager to do more, eager to create. 
For those of you unfamiliar with YWI, it is a University of Pittsburgh program for young people in grades 4-8 and 9-12 who like to write and who want to develop their craft in a community of writers.  The summer institute locations are the University of Pittsburgh (Cathedral of Learning), Mt. Lebanon, and Pine Richland.  The cost of the two week experience is $295 though scholarships are available. I encourage you to visit their website for more detailed information as well as videos of participants sharing their experiences. 
In my first group I want to thank Ryan, the sole male in a room full of delightful middle school young ladies, who did not hesitate to share any of his writing with all of us.
I also want to give a shout out to the young lady who coined the clever term for a collection of ogres as a 'roar.'
I want to pat on the back the other young lady who claimed her notebook was "exploding with write-citement".
And to the little girl who literally took my advice to get up and do jumping jacks as a way to combat writers' block, I hope it helped.
Thanks to all of you for a lovely morning, as well as for your enthusiasm. You made me proud to be a writer and hopeful for the future. 

Respectfully submitted by Andrea Perry

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thank You New Jersey SCBWI - 19 Reasons to Attend the New Jersey SCBWI Annual Conference



Dave Amaditz

1) An unbelievably friendly and helpful staff - beginning with Leeza Hernandez, regional advisor, as seen here giving the welcoming address on Saturday, June 8, 2013
Leeza Hernandez

2) An amazing, kind and welcoming membership that made me feel, as a first-time attendee to their conference, like I'd always been part of the group.

3) The ability to communicate with talented writers who have won numerous awards, such as Ame Dyckman, winner of this year's crystal kite award.

4) Access to agents, such as my one-on-one critique mentor, Stephen Barbara, from Foundry Literary. Other mentors that I had the privilege to sit with at lunch, Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Agency and Jessica Regel of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc. All were pleasures to speak with, and all, a wealth of information.

5) Access to editors, such as Connie Hsu, from Little Brown Books. I enjoyed finally being able to meet her in person, after not being able to attend the spring retreat hosted by WPA SCBWI in 2011 because I'd taken ill. Jenn Abramowitz, Senior Editor, Scholastic was also there, as was Melissa Faulner, Editorial Assistant, Abrams, and many others.

6) Fantastic and up-to-date sessions -some of my favorites, listed below.

7) Sitting in on a wonderful session by Kathy Temean. Her tips for how to market yourself before you have sold your book, after you have signed a contract, four months to launch, one month prior and launch date were fantastic. There's no doubt I'll use each and every one of them should I be fortunate enough to land a contract.

8) Sitting in on book trailer session by Kim McDougall. Wow! I knew I'd watched some good trailers and some that were awfully bad, but I never knew everything that went into making the really good ones. I'll use all of her fantastic tips.

9) Blueprinting a novel by Wendy Mass. She gave a super interesting approach to outlining a novel. She made it sound so easy, and although I've never had success with outlining before, the whole idea made me think that it might be worth a try.

1 0) Battling your inner censor with Jen Hubbard and Kit Grindstaff. All of us have had scenes we had difficulty writing, some more so than others. We received a few strategies, among them visualization, to help us push through the block.

11) Online registration. It may sound so simple, but the process of registering via computer was made so simple. Paperless. Effortless. Thanks. I hope we soon implement something similar to this with my local chapter.

12) Early registration. I received my initial e-mail on March 10. The preplanning for this conference was fantastic, one of the reasons, I believe, for its success.

13) The ability to select agents you wish to meet. A list of agents willing to give critiques were made available. Applicants were taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, and because I registered early enough, I was able to get the one-on-one critique from my agent of choice.

14) Electronic submissions for all manuscripts needing to be reviewed and a cut-off date for uploading the documents. This gave ample time for the editor or agent to thoroughly review your material. By the way, it was made quite clear, that if you were late uploading the document your timeslot would be lost. Very fair, indeed.

15) Dining arrangements - Editors and agents were seated at various dining tables. All attendees had the option, especially if they registered early enough, to choose the table where they wished to sit. Once again, early registration allowed me to sit with my agents of choice. I learned a heck of a lot about the business while enjoying a couple fantastic meals.

16) Critique groups. Peer critique groups were made available to those who wished to participate. I knew I would've run out of energy, so I didn't sign up for those, but I understand from other attendees that they were fantastic.

17) First page sessions. Editors and agents listened to first pages, which we know are the most important part of the manuscript.

18) Fantastic keynote speakers - Peter Brown, author illustrator - Tara Lazar, (seen here during her keynote speech) picture book author - Lauren Oliver, New York Times best-selling author. All three gave uplifting speeches. My notebook is full of their words of wisdom.
Tara Lazar
19) A large chapter with a hometown feel - This is what impressed me the most. The entire process was run with business-like precision, and even though this chapter boasts a large membership, which could lend to the process being impersonalized, I was made to feel as comfortable as if I were in my own hometown. I never felt isolated or out of place even though I traveled nearly 400 miles to attend and had never met any of the members.

The bottom line is: I was promised by two of my Route 19 fellow writers, Marcy Collier and Kitty Griffin, that I would have an amazing experience if I attended the June 7-9, 2013, New Jersey SCBWI conference.

Wow! Promises kept.

Now, just like them, I recommend this conference to anyone looking for a fantastic learning experience with a fantastic group of people. And... I plan to join them again next year.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kids Love Animal Stories!

My ferret, Cece

I’ve decided to put a ferret in my latest novel. Why? Because over the years we’ve been owned by four ferrets. You’ll note that I say WE WERE OWNED. This is true. You don’t own a ferret. They are in charge. They are the most charming, destructive, curious, destructive, delightful, destructive, pets ever.

You’ll notice the repetition of a word in that last paragraph. Destructive. Ferrets are amazingly destructive for being less than two pounds. After the last one passed we were able to have every (EVERY) screen in the house repaired. There wasn’t one screen than wasn’t clawed through. We were able to keep inserts in our shoes. I now am able to have TWO earrings.

Yes. Shoe inserts. Why? I don’t know.
Earrings. Why? I don’t know.

Ferrets don’t wear earrings. Nor, do they wear shoes.

But that was a small price to pay for little critters that made us laugh until we cried. They had more personality than some people I’ve encountered. They are thieves. They are clowns. They are incorrigible. They make terrible pets because they are so curious they get into dreadful trouble. I won’t tell you how much we spent on emergency surgeries or emergency visits to the vets. They are escape artists of the most amazing sorts.

They make wonderful pets. They make terrible pets.

See why I want one in my novel?

Kids love animal stories. Going all the way back to the “Just So Stories” or even further back to Aesop’s Fables, animals have been used to help children understand the world around them.

There are stories that are purely animal, like the Brian Jacques books. There are some that blend human and animal, like “Charlotte’s Web.” Sniff, that still makes me tear up. There are books that involve animals like Walter Farley’s horse books (The Black Stallion) or Marguerite Henry’s Horse stories (Misty of Chincoteague).

Are you thinking about writing an animal story?
Here are some good ones to read, these are classics:
The Wind in the Willows
Stuart Little
The Trumpet of the Swan
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Dr. Doolittle
The Black Stallion Series

Here are some more modern ones
Wooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
Bear Snores on by Karma Wilson
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien

This one may be hard to find, but it is so worth the read:

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Kids love animal stories. I’m sure you can probably think of a bunch that I haven’t mentioned.

Just remember, stay true to the animal.