Thursday, March 14, 2013

CRITIQUE GROUPS; REMOVING THE ROSE-COLORED WRITER GOGGLES


I don’t know of any successful writer who doesn’t belong to a critique group of their peers. A good critique group can be invaluable. Never, and I mean NEVER, submit your work without several critiques. Yes, I know that when you finish your manuscript it feels good. You sit back and revel in your own brilliance. You have no doubts. You know it is perfect and once an editor lays eyes on it, they will scoop it up and it will need no changes. But even though you’ve written fiction, you’ve got to come back down to the real world. Although your work just might be brilliant, it probably isn’t perfect. As the writer, you are blind to its imperfections. We all hope an editor will love and accept our work as-is, but that just isn’t reality. And it is your job as the author to make sure you submit a manuscript as close to perfect as you can get it. But this task is nearly impossible while wearing your rose-colored writer goggles.


Rose-colored writer goggles are something every writer unconsciously wears when they’ve finished a manuscript they’re excited about. Similar to the beer goggle phenomena, which makes everybody look sexier than they really are; writer goggles make every word of your manuscript seem more magnificent than they really are. As long as the goggles remain in place, you will never see your manuscript for what it really is. Unfortunately, you can’t remove your writer goggles on your own. The best and easiest way to get those goggles off is to have them surgically removed by your critique group. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt – much.


The first job of your critique group is to read your manuscript and tell you what the strong points are. At this, you might feel the goggles getting tighter. But then, truth be told, it is their duty to tell you also what doesn’t work. Plot issues, inconsistencies, point of view, whatever. Your critique group can point out where you lose your voice, where you’ve stopped being true to your character and other areas that just need more work. Here, the goggles get ripped off like a Band-Aid that’s been stuck on too long. 


I’m not going to kid you.  Removal of the rose-colored writer goggles can smart. You have to be strong and ready to receive criticism. It isn’t always easy. A good critique partner not only points out where you’ve gone astray but can also offer tips and ideas on improvement. Instead of telling you, “This doesn’t work,” you want to find someone who can tell you, “This doesn’t work, and here’s why and maybe you could try this instead.” Through it all you have to listen to what they have to say. You may not agree with all of it. That’s okay. Even so, you need to be open to their opinion and use it to your advantage. Take the advice you think works and disregard the rest. But be smart, if more than one critiquer points out the same issue, more than likely they’ve honed in on a weak spot that probably needs a revision. If they just don’t “get it” then go back and make sure you've written it in a way that fully shows your intentions. Sometimes, as writers, we forget to let the reader in on what's still in our heads. Don't take any criticism personally. Remember, you asked for the truth and you've got to realize all critiques are subjective. Not everyone is going to love your work, no matter how good it is. Now that the goggles are off, you should have a better view of your manuscript. Now it is time to jump in and add the gravy to the meat and potatoes you’ve already got. After all, we all know the gravy makes it taste better – right?


I have a critique group that I belong to on line with other picture book writers. We submit our work in a forum and add our critiques in the comments section. It is a closed group that only members can access. This group is perfect for pointing out the little things my writer’s goggles hid from me. This is where I start my revision process. I also belong to a critique group that meets face to face twice a month. We’ve come to know each other personally and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The fun part of meeting like this is that when something isn’t working we pop into brainstorm mode which isn't as easy to do on the internet. For instance, I had a great premise for a new picture book and although I had an idea for the ending, it wasn’t a very strong one. Within seconds they all started throwing out ideas and each idea hatched another one and soon I had a terrific ending that I never would have thought of on my own. As I said before, a good critique group is invaluable.


Where do you find a critique group? Well, it really isn’t hard. Use what you’re familiar with to your advantage. Send out a call on Twitter, on Facebook, LinkedIn, through SCBWI, and other places you have access to. I found my online group through Verla Kay’s site (www.verlakay.com) by posting on her message board. My face-to-face group was the product of SCBWI. If you can’t find one, start one. Again, use the above tools to your advantage. Put it out there. If you build it, they will come. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Author Visits


Now that my book, DON'T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE!, has officially been released it is time for me to start scheduling author visits. You would think that once that beautiful picture book was in my hands, it would bring relief. After all, the hard work is over, right? Wrong! Now there is a whole new chapter I find myself embarking on. It is called promotion. (Yikes!) For me, and I’m sure for most writers, the writing was the easy part. Not that writing is easy, it’s not. But it is the area in which I am most comfortable. I am a writer, and I think as a published author I can consider myself a professional. So writing is what comes natural. It is an extension of who I am. It is what I do. But promotion, well, that is a whole different animal and something, I must confess, I’m a bit nervous about.

Being a writer is a solitary commitment. I sit by myself every day to write. In my little office, dressed in sweats or jammies, I disappear into a world inside my head and if all goes well, I put that world on paper and make it real and exciting for my readers. Promotion is the exact opposite. It is NOT a solitary thing. It is a very social thing. And if I showed up in my jammies and disappeared into my own head, they’d put me in a straight jacket for sure! But, maybe a glimpse of what’s inside my head could be my marketing strategy. What if I could take others with me into the dark recesses of my brain? It sounds scary. It sounds ridiculous. It sounds really awesome! A little ride on my “train of thought” might not be a bad idea.  

So, with that in mind, I’ve come up with a plan. Not only would I enjoy reading my book to the little ones, but I’d also like to talk to them about stories. Where they come from and what an imagination is. Then, I’d like to kick start theirs with a fun prompt so we can come up with a silly and exciting story together; one with a beginning, middle and end. I will have activities planned for them as well as giveaways based on my book. And hey, let’s not forget some educational tidbits about lady bugs and other beneficial insects to go with my book!

For older kids I’d like to do a small workshop. Since “Bedbugs” is a rhyming picture book, I think a lesson on poetry is in order. I hope to bring some excitement to my presentation by getting everyone involved in a quick and fun Mad Libs style game where we create a poem about their school. I can only imagine the creativity those kids will bring to the table! (Watch out faculty! It could get messy!) I will also be happy to answer any questions they have on the craft of writing as well as the business side of it. 


And speaking of business, (which is what my publisher is most interested in.) the whole point of this is to sell books. I hope to autograph many of them for my cute little fans along the way. But the whole reason I write for children is not for fame and fortune, (But I wouldn't turn down a guest appearance on Oprah!) but because I want to reach them. I want to open their imaginations and show them that anything is possible. Dreams are worth having and goals are worth perusing. I want to teach as well as entertain. This is my ultimate goal. Besides, books are just cool. How lucky am I to be one of the many who create them? 

So at this point, I am scheduling some book signings and visits in my home town and vicinity. As you can imagine the response has been tremendous. I knew the awesome folks of Ware, MA would rally behind me. That’s why my heart is still there.  I am also planning to book some appearances here in the Concord/Charlotte area. And hey, just to make it clear, I’m always willing to consider other venues. (Hello, Hawaii, are you listening?) If you’re interested in having me visit your area, shoot me a message. Let’s see what we can work out. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bedbug Delivery


     Okay, so here it is! Got my first shipment of DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE!  The books are gorgeous! They’re striking, they’re colorful, they smell wonderful and I’m on cloud nine. Shenanigan Books did a great job putting this together. When the bedbug epidemic resurfaced, they didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, they worked with me and through revision we crafted an even more wonderful story. Bedbugs be darned, DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE will show children that not all bugs are bad. In fact, some are believed to bring luck. 

     As I said, the books are striking. One look at the cover and I can tell it has that “pull me off the shelf” appeal. This is thanks to the illustrator John Wes Thomas. He did a fabulous job bringing my story to life and he has given me the cutest little “bedbug” you ever saw! What a talented guy. Mr. Thomas you can illustrate my picture books anytime!

     So the official release date is October 1st, which is Monday. The book is available from the publisher Shenanigan Books or on Amazon. It’s cute, it’s funny and way less itchy than actual bedbugs. So put down that bug spray and go get a copy! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

THE DEMON OF DAUNTING: Writing my 1st Novel

I did it! I finally did it!

 What am I talking about? Why, my novel of course. You see, as a predominant picture book writer I write in short bursts. It may take months to get a picture book “just right” but it only takes a few days to get the “bare bones” on paper. I like that. Within a few days, I have a manuscript in front of me. It is not a polished manuscript, but it is a manuscript nonetheless. Something I can work from. As someone who loves the revision process, this is my favorite part. I have lots of fun dissecting my work and making it better.

 But a novel is a whole different animal. It is like comparing a kitten to an elephant. A novel takes waaaay longer than a few days to pump out a first draft. Compared to my 500 word picture books, a 50,000 word novel is a huge undertaking and a daunting task. Here’s what I see in my mind when I sit down to write one.


As a writer, I write. I constantly have book ideas rolling around in my head. Many of them are too mature for the picture book scene. So I thought, why limit myself to just picture books? When an idea hits me hard and strong I have to run with it. As always, the story starts off fast and furious. I type like a madwoman in my attempt to get it on paper before I lose it. But with a novel, this goes on for days. And as I sit at my computer, that looming shadow grows bigger and bigger. I try to ignore it, but it hangs over me with dark claws and glowing eyes. At this point I recall that character Glum, from the old Gulliver’s Travels cartoon and I hear his mantra floating over me. “You’re never gonna make it!” Then the self-doubt takes over and I find myself avoiding the computer because, well, ITS SCARY!

 So I meet with my critique buddies. They remind me that I am not alone. They tell me to put on my big girl panties and confront my demons. I sit back down at my computer. My drawing of the big scary shadow sits over my desk to remind me that he is a figment of my imagination, and I type. And I type. And I type. Sometimes, without thinking, I glance up at the Demon of Daunting and a shiver runs through me, but as the word count grows the monster gets smaller and smaller and smaller . I finally type the last word and POOF! The demon is gone!

 Hooray! First draft!

 Then I let it stew a while. I let all the flavors mesh with the characters and the plot. Then, because I am a picture book writer and I write short and to the point, I go back in and add my meat and potatoes to the mixture. This is my favorite part. Like a puzzle I go through it and look for inconsistencies. I add new ideas. I flesh out my characters and wrap up all the storylines until the whole thing feels like it has come full circle.

 Hooray! Second draft!

 Now this is the draft I’m willing to share. Is it finished? Of course not! When is a book ever finished? Right up to the time it is printed, changes can still take place. But for my novel, the Bones and the flesh are here and if I’ve done my job right, only cosmetics are left.

 After a round with my critique group I am ready to tackle draft number three. Nothing major, but changes definitely have to be made. I’m excited. I’ve accomplished something. I CAN write a novel. I beat the Demon of Daunting and survived to write again. So I do. As the first paragraphs of my new novel appear on the blank page, the demon arrives. He takes his usual spot to loom over me, but this time I’m ready for him and he isn’t half as scary. Bring it on!

Monday, June 6, 2011

IS IT REAL? The Truth About Fiction





On June first, a line of devastating storms sped through the state of Massachusetts bringing with it numerous tornados. My home town of Ware, sitting snug in the valley was spared, but much of the surrounding areas weren’t so lucky. In fact, Monson, a neighboring town will be picking up the pieces for a long time to come. As news of the destruction played out across our television screen and family and friends posted pictures on Facebook my four year old daughter became worried and confused.

“Was it a real tornado, Mommy? Or just a make-believe one like in the movie TWISTER?” she asked.

Now keep in mind, TWISTER is one of her favorite movies. Something about the storm scenes amazes her much more than it frightens her. Maybe she is destined to become a Storm Chaser or Meteorologist. Either way, at four, she is confused by the images she is seeing so close to her grandmother’s home. Of course this prompted a discussion of what is real and what is not real. This is a difficult concept for a young child to grasp. The “real” images from the June first tornado are eerily similar to the “fake” ones from the movie. I tried to explain that the movie is fiction; a story somebody made up.

“Why does it seem so real?” She wanted to know.

And herein lays the real root of the problem. As a fiction writer myself, the answer is simple. After all, if it didn’t seem real, it wouldn’t be believable. Who wants to watch a movie or read a book that isn’t believable? The key to writing good fiction is making the reader believe it. Whether you’ve brought your reader to a post-apocalyptic country where children are forced to play deadly games to win food for their village, or, like in my upcoming picture book, you introduce your reader to a slipper wearing bedbug who doesn’t want to share her bed with a human, it must draw the reader in.

If the tornados in the movie TWISTER looked like the funnel in a soda bottle science experiment it certainly wouldn’t have been nominated for an Academy Award and the effects department would find themselves standing in line at the unemployment office. The realistic feel of the movie is what made it a hit. It is what drew audiences to see it.

But not all fiction is cut and dry. Of course my smarty pants daughter wanted to know if the recent documentary we watched on Pompeii was real or fiction.

“That was real,” I said.

“You mean they videotaped it while it happened?” she asked.

Oh boy, this kid never allows for an easy answer. I explained the film we saw was a reenactment of the true story, which is called non-fiction, and the people were all actors. That seemed to appease her for the moment, but now, every story she comes across, either in print or film, spurs a burning need to know if it is fiction or non-fiction. This whole episode had me second guessing my own take on fiction. Therefore I did a little research. Webster’s definition of Fiction is, literature made up of imaginary events and characters. But as I mentioned earlier, fiction is not cut and dry. I came across a few sub-categories which will help straighten out my daughter’s confusions and hopefully yours too.


1. Realistic Fiction: A story which is not true but could actually happen. I think the movie TWISTER is a good example of this.
2. Non-Realistic Fiction: A story where the events couldn’t really happen. Like Nick Jr’s TEAM UMIZOOMI.
3. Non-Fiction: Based solely on fact like the Pompeii documentary.
4. Semi-Fiction, which is a fictional account based on a true story like the 1995 animated film, BALTO.


There are obviously more categories such as Science Fiction or Historical Fiction and more, but that delves a little deeper than this discussion warrants and I’m trying to make sense of this for a four year old after all. Who, by the way, seems to be catching on. This morning, while watching TEAM UMIZOOMI, she proudly announced the show was fiction because there obviously is no real “tiny team,” although she is unsure of the existence of Umi City. Even so, her deduction tells me she’s learning. The concept is not beyond her. The brain-sponge is soaking it in and sending a few drops my way. We’re learning together.

Another lesson we're learning together is compassion in the wake of this tornado disaster. I've sent in my monetary donation and wish I didn't live so far so I could do more. Please keep these people in your prayers.








I’d like to thank Sherri Pelski for use of the photo images of the Monson Tornado. As I mentioned earlier, this community will be picking up the pieces for a long time to come. Monson is a typical Norman-Rockwell type small town and it needs your help in order to rebuild. If you’re able, please take a moment to send in your donation at the following web site: https://www.kintera.org/site/c.kkLRJ7MQKtH/b.6626855/k.275A/Massachusetts_Tornado_Relief_Fund/apps/ka/sd/donor.asp?c=kkLRJ7MQKtH&b=6626855&en=gpKGLLOrH8ICKMOqGeJKJLMrGdKTJ6PFKcJKLTMwFfLKLSOrHhI1G

Friday, May 27, 2011

Children's Book Diva, Jane Yolen, Fires Letter to LA Administrator Regarding Firing of School Librarians


If you're a children's writer or even a fan of children's literature you surely know who Jane Yolen is. To me she is the ultimate children's book diva and a woman who is very respected in her field. When Jane talks books, people listen. Recently, an infuriated Yolen penned a letter to administrators in the LA area regarding an issue where the Board of Education and their lawyers questioned school librarians to assess their "teaching" skills. Here it is in Jane's own words:



Letter to the administrator in charge of firing LA school librarians who had the Board of Ed's lawyers take the librarians into the school basement and asked them to prove they were teachers with such questions as "Do you take attendance?".



Dear Mr. Deasy:


As the author of 300 published books (yes, that is not a typo!), many of them winners of the highest awards given for children's and adult books,

I have to commend you for closing libraries. You are turning out the lights in children's minds. It will make them much easier to recruit as cannon fodder,much easier to move them on conveyor belts, much easier to treat them as cattle.

Of all the people who work in a school, teachers and librarians are the heart and soul of the place. Not administrators. My late husband

was a professor and later on an administrator. You should have heard what he had to say about top-heavy administrations. I suggest you

take the administrators (yourself included) and ask them the same questions the lawyers are asking the librarians in the basement: do YOU take attendance? Do YOU teach in the classroom? Perhaps you should fire the administrators first. And the overpriced lawyers. And when you do, you will no doubt find you have the money to keep the librarians.

And the library.

The ones who turn on lights in children's minds and guard the flame in their hearts. With or without taking attendance.


Yours very truly and to tell the truth angrily as well,


Jane Yolen




At this point, all we can do is hope that Administrator Deasy sits up and takes notice. As far as I am concerned a library is the heart of any school. Can you even imagine a school without books? Thanks for your efforts Jane!

-Niki Masse Schoenfeldt

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BE TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTERS

There is nothing more frustrating than when someone critiques your work and says, “Your character wouldn’t do that!” or “Your character wouldn’t say that!”

I must admit, hearing that totally grates on me. How can anyone possibly tell ME what my character wouldn’t do or say? Hello. It is my character. I made them up and they do what I tell them to do. End of story.

I admit, this is something I’m not happy to hear. But I’m in a critique group for a reason and I need to keep an open mind. So even though I don’t initially agree with this statement, I do try to take a closer look at the problem. Although I don’t fully understand the concept of other people telling me what my character would or would not do, I do realize my critique partners aren’t totally wrong in their assessment. Very often what they’ve pointed out, is an area where my voice has come through instead of the character’s. Either the adult me has made an appearance or the 80’s teenager from my past has honed in on my contemporary protagonist. Usually it is a quick fix and I move on. But again, this is an issue that I couldn’t fully comprehend. Until recently.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book that nearly had me pulling my hair out. It was a sequel to another book I had read and enjoyed. I can honestly say I was pretty invested in the main character. Enough that I liked her and wanted to read more about her. However, in book two she consistently did things that totally made no sense to me. At least no sense in the terms of who she was or who I had perceived her to be. I really struggled to finish the book and found myself yelling at it often. “No! Why would you do that?” I think my husband was ready to have me committed. And it hit me. This is what my critique partners were talking about. I was finally able to wrap my brain around the concept of being true to your characters.

It is quite an easy concept if you think about it. For example, if your character is afraid of dogs then it is obvious she is not going to pet someone’s dog in passing or hang out in front of the pet store window fawning over the puppies. In fact, she will probably cross to the other side of the street when confronted by a dog walker and may even steer clear of the block where the pet store is located.

If your story has an "a-ha" moment where the character overcomes her fear of dogs, it must come at a price. For example, your character can not just suddenly decide she likes dogs now and happy, happy, joy, joy she heads to the pet store to get one. Something has to happen to change her opinion. And it has to be big. You can’t just have some guy with a nice dog come up to her and say, “Look, not all dogs bite. Pet mine and you’ll see.” It has to be something significant and it has to ring true to your character; her fears and her personality. A life threatening situation might come in handy for this example. What if a rescue dog saved her from a flash flood or a burning building? But even so, it can’t be easy. She can’t simply overcome her fear of the dog in order to be rescued. You’d need to show that her fear of the rising water or deadly flames has become greater than her fear of the dog. This isn’t easy to do and should impose a lot of inner as well as outer conflict. The situation must get more dire. (Outer conflict) Flames and smoke choke her. Parts of the building is collapsing all around. Meanwhile, she is struggling with herself. Should she trust the darn dog? (Inner conflict.) Finally, the situation comes down to a do or die moment where she makes up her mind to take her chances on the dog who of course, pulls her to safety.

I realize the above example is pretty easy and straightforward. The places in your manuscript where you might find yourself being less than true to your characters will probably be more subtle. But whether your dishonesty is big, like my example, or small, like a morsel of your own voice shining through, an invested reader will still pick up on it. And if they lose faith in your character, they will lose faith in you too. An unhappy audience doesn’t bode well for selling books. You can take that to the bank but leave your dog at home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

BE TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTERS

There is nothing more frustrating than when someone critiques your work and says, “Your character wouldn’t do that!” or “Your character wouldn’t say that!”

I must admit, hearing that totally grates on me. How can anyone possibly tell ME what my character wouldn’t do or say? Hello. It is my character. I made them up and they do what I tell them to do. End of story.

I admit, this is something I’m not happy to hear. But I’m in a critique group for a reason and I need to keep an open mind. So even though I don’t initially agree with this statement, I do try to take a closer look at the problem. Although I don’t fully understand the concept of other people telling me what my character would or would not do, I do realize my critique partners aren’t totally wrong in their assessment. Very often what they’ve pointed out, is an area where my voice has come through instead of the character’s. Either the adult me has made an appearance or the 80’s teenager from my past has honed in on my contemporary protagonist. Usually it is a quick fix and I move on. But again, this is an issue that I couldn’t fully comprehend. Until recently.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book that nearly had me pulling my hair out. It was a sequel to another book I had read and enjoyed. I can honestly say I was pretty invested in the main character. Enough that I liked her and wanted to read more about her. However, in book two she consistently did things that totally made no sense to me. At least no sense in the terms of who she was or who I had perceived her to be. I really struggled to finish the book and found myself yelling at it often. “No! Why would you do that?” I think my husband was ready to have me committed. And it hit me. This is what my critique partners were talking about. I was finally able to wrap my brain around the concept of being true to your characters.

It is quite an easy concept if you think about it. For example, if your character is afraid of dogs then it is obvious she is not going to pet someone’s dog in passing or hang out in front of the pet store window fawning over the puppies. In fact, she will probably cross to the other side of the street when confronted by a dog walker and may even steer clear of the block where the pet store is located.

If your story has an "a-ha" moment where the character overcomes her fear of dogs, it must come at a price. For example, your character can not just suddenly decide she likes dogs now and happy, happy, joy, joy she heads to the pet store to get one. Something has to happen to change her opinion. And it has to be big. You can’t just have some guy with a nice dog come up to her and say, “Look, not all dogs bite. Pet mine and you’ll see.” It has to be something significant and it has to ring true to your character; her fears and her personality. A life threatening situation might come in handy for this example. What if a rescue dog saved her from a flash flood or a burning building? But even so, it can’t be easy. She can’t simply overcome her fear of the dog in order to be rescued. You’d need to show that her fear of the rising water or deadly flames has become greater than her fear of the dog. This isn’t easy to do and should impose a lot of inner as well as outer conflict. The situation must get more dire. (Outer conflict) Flames and smoke choke her. Parts of the building is collapsing all around. Meanwhile, she is struggling with herself. Should she trust the darn dog? (Inner conflict.) Finally, the situation comes down to a do or die moment where she makes up her mind to take her chances on the dog who of course, pulls her to safety.

I realize the above example is pretty easy and straightforward. The places in your manuscript where you might find yourself being less than true to your characters will probably be more subtle. But whether your dishonesty is big, like my example, or small, like a morsel of your own voice shining through, an invested reader will still pick up on it. And if they lose faith in your character, they will lose faith in you too. An unhappy audience doesn’t bode well for selling books. You can take that to the bank but leave your dog at home.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

AND HERE'S THE PITCH!


This weekend I attended the annual SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference. I learned lots of amazing things and came away with a head full of new knowledge and a muse loaded with ideas. But there is one thing that has been nagging at me and I thought I’d like to share.

The amazingly talented marketing guru and writer, Shelli Johannes-Wells hosted a workshop Sunday morning called DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE M WORD. It was a very insightful lesson on the ins and outs of branding for authors. One thing she said that stuck with me was, “Know your pitch!” She said most people tend to zone out after the first ten words!

Wow, really? It got me thinking about the pitch for my novel, BLOOD TIES. This is my next “big” work. This is the piece of heart and soul that I hope to catch an agent with. And until Sunday, I wasn’t worried about my pitch. I had it. It was done. Heck you may have read it here on my blog. It was short (45 words), it was simple and to the point. So what was the problem? It didn’t seem natural. Shelli said your pitch should simply start like this: “My book is about. . .”

Instead, mine was more formal. It read much like a book flap or query letter. Take a gander:

His Dad is in jail, his mother is an alcoholic and his little brother is a pint-sized Goth freak. Life isn’t easy for Talon Cooley,
so when Dad calls from prison looking for another hand-out to save his worthless life, what's a guy to do?

Not bad. I mean, it didn’t suck and you got the gist. My problem was that it didn’t flow easily in conversation. If someone says to me, “So, what’s your book about?” I will look like a total dork if I suddenly turn on my James Earl Jones narrator voice and spout the above pitch. So I decided to make it more personal, more easily accessible and likely to hold up in conversation. Here’s my attempt:

My book is about . . . a teenage boy stuck in the shadow of his father’s jailhouse rep. So when neighborhood pets start
disappearing and an arson roams the area, fingers automatically point toward “that Cooey boy.” Talon’s struggle to clear
his name initiates a risky game with a dangerous drug dealer and leads to a discovery that just might give him a new outlook
on the man he calls Dad.

Whew! It went from 45 to 72 words. I’ve heard a pitch should never go above 150-200 words and I’ve managed to stay below that. Although it would never fit on Twitter. Does it still need work? Hell yeah. But my novel is still a work in progress and I’m thinking I might have a better handle on it once it is complete. In the meantime, It’ll still be rolling around my brain looking for improvement.

Now let’s talk about you. How’s your pitch? Is it formal like mine or can you tell me about it in casual conversation? Do you know it by heart? Will it fit on Twitter? (There are agents/editors who sometimes take pitches there and also sponsor contests.)

Let’s see what you’ve got. Pretend I’m Joan Q. Editor. We’re together at a social gathering and I look at you point blank and say, “So, what’s your book about?”

Share your best pitch in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WriteOnCon

WriteOnCon, a FREE online conference for writers is over. If you missed it, you totally missed out on a great event. But have no fear, the founders, Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Shannon Messenger, Jennifer Stayrook and Lisa and Laura Roecker have more up their sleeves.

The conference, which was held August 10-12, 2010 was attended by so many writers their server couldn't handle all the traffic. In order to host another epic event they'll need to pay for a better web hosting service. So, in order to finance this whole shebang, they have come up with the grand idea of giveaway promotions and will also be accepting donations. If you haven't done so already, please go check out the WriteOnCon website for details. www.writeoncon.com/2010/09/critique-by-author-tess-gratton

In addition to the giveaways listed on the WriteOnCon site, you will find additional giveaways on each of the founders websites/blogs. Casey McCormick is giving away an ARC of EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin and a hardcover of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. There will be two winners, one book to each. www.caseylmccormick.blogspot.com

Lisa & Laura Roecker are giving away an ARC and a sneak peek at the 1st chapter of their book LIAR SOCIETY and a 50 page manuscript critique. www.lisa-laura.blogspot.com

Shannon Messenger is giving ways some much sought after autographed books. For you Rick Riordan fans she has THE LIGHTNING THIEF, THE ALCHEMIST signed by Michael Scott, MISTBORN signed by Brandon Sanderson, THE NAME OF THE WIND signed by Patrick Rothfuss and LEVIATHAN signed by Scott Westerfeld. www.ramblingsofawannabescribe.blogspot.com

Elana Johnson is also donating autographed books for the cause. Sign up to win LOSING FAITH signed by Denise Jaden and BREAK signed by Hannah Moskowitz.
www.elanajohnson.blogspot.com

Author Jamie Harrington has some autographed goodies also. If you'd like a gander at PROM DATES FROM HELL signed by Rosemary Clement-Moore or GIL'S ALL FRIGHT DINER signed by A. Lee Martinez, Jamie's blog is the place to go. www.totallythebomb.com

So lets help these wonderful ladies help us. Sign up for giveaways and make donations to keep WriteOnCon on the web! And a special thank you goes out to the founders for their effort and commitment. Organizing anything is tough work and you've done it without any monetary benefit to yourselves. Please know, YOU ARE APPRECIATED!

-Niki Masse Schoenfeldt