Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Author readings vs signings

Just recently I did both a reading and a bookstore signing of my book, Roll Up the Streets. I’ve been giving it some thought as to which is better for an author to do.
I think most people would assume, and I always have, that a reading is better than a signing. You get to sit down with a group of interested listeners, read a couple of chapters—I did a bit of acting with props and a squeaky voice I worked on, don’t ask why I gave my villain a squeaky voice—interact with the audience and actually see and hear their reaction to your story.
My reading at the Tinman Too bookstore went very well and I got to hear the laughs in person. That’s always rewarding for any writer used to working in isolation. I also spoke with a couple of 11-year olds, my core audience, both of whom wanted to be writers. So as well as being entertaining, I could also encourage future writers. I also managed to sell a few books. All in all it was as good of an experience as I expected.

The signing was a bit different, and I was uncertain what to expect. Like everyone I’d heard stories, and actually seen, authors sitting alone behind a pile of their unsold books, looking bored, while shoppers walked by desperately avoiding eye contact. The bookstore I signed at, Aunties in Spokane, Washington, even put my signing table in front of the psychology section in case I needed to consult books on coping with depression.

But I was pleasantly surprised. The signing went for two hours, and although there were lulls, none were so long as to make me feel like I’d been abandoned. My table was placed in a spot everyone who entered the store passed by, without being directly in the entrance. It was also Librarian and Teacher appreciation day, and I talked to a number of librarians who promised to put Roll Up the Streets into their middle school libraries. Without this special event the signing probably would not have gone as well. But for this first experience of both a reading and a signing I sold out the bookstores’ supply of Roll Up the Streets, so I have to consider both a success.

As I was about to close up shop at the signing, I met a man who spends his retirement years photographing artists and writers for free. While he took my picture, he talked about how he thought signings were actually better for getting to talk to people because you get to spend some one-on-one time with each person who asks for an autograph. And as he put it, while you’re writing that dedication and your name, you’re thinking only of that for the moment, and leaving a record of it behind. That’s a nice thought.

I suppose if you’re doing a reading to a big audience the one-on-one interaction might be hard to work in. But my experience reading was with a small group of people who asked questions and with whom I spoke individually. So for me, at least this time, the reading was more fun, but the signing was a pretty close second.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Roll Up the Streets! Book reading

Stop by and see my book reading of Roll Up the Streets!

Saturday, Oct. 9, 1:00 pm. Tinman Too Chidren's Book Store.
809 W. Garland Ave. Spokane, Wa.
For more info call the Tinman Too Bookstore:
(509) 325-3001
Or email:
Directions: Map

Monday, October 4, 2010

SCBWI Conference

For those of you who don't know, SCBWI is the tongue-twisting acronym for Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators. It's a professional organization for writers and illustrators, and would-be writers and illustrators, all looking to make contacts, improve their skills, and generally be better at their craft. SCBWI holds a yearly conference during the summer in Los Angeles, where the headquarters are, and regional conferences all over the country and world during the whole year.

This past weekend I had a great time attending the regional conference in Spokane, Wa, my home region. If you're serious about writing you should consider attending some kind of conference. The guest speakers are usually other writers or illustrators, and editors and agents who are available to also do critiques for the attendees. This is a good way see how you writing looks to someone from the biz and not just your spouse or even critique group. It's also a good way to make contacts. I met my agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton of Andrea Brown Lit. at the regional conference two years ago, so it's well worth the effort to get to one.

I suggest if you are going, check out the speakers beforehand, find out what they write or the kinds of work they represent, and taylor your conference attendence accordingly. If you find a conference with an agent who just loves your style of writing and reprpesents the genre you work in, it just may help you to go and get some face-time. That's why it's also important to get an idea of who's who in the industry, so when they do show up, you know enough to make the right connection. The more you know about publishing, the better your chances. Of course you still have to be able to write, or illustrate, but know where and who to sell to puts you that much further ahead.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I love being interviewed! So check out this one by D.L.Kingwriter. I answer all of your questions, or hers actually, and only make up a few things.

Book Readings

Book readings are the best way to see the reaction of an audience to your work, especially for a children's writer. Reading to a critique group of adults is great for the writing process, and scanning a review once in awhile, well, that's a mixed bag. Too many reviews are much too brief to be of any help. But reading to a group of kids can tell you a lot about how your intended readers will respond to your story.

I wrote my book, Roll Up the Streets! while reading it a chapter at a time to fifth graders at Holmes elementary school in Spokane, Wa. Every Friday I'd sit down over lunch and read a new chapter while watching the kids chomp on whatever horrifying public school lunch was offered that day. The whole idea of centering my story around evil corndogs came from those lunch readings as well as half the gross passages in the book. I owe a lot to those kids.

I'm holding a book reading on Oct. 9 at the Tinman Too childrens bookstore in Spokane on Oct. 9. It's the first one where I'll actually be able to read from the published book, and not just a handful of papers in my lap. I'm crossing my fingers, and hoping it will be as rewarding as those trips to Holmes.

So when you read in public, don't just read. Watch too. You might just pick up a few gross, disgusting tidbits to brightening up your writing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roll Up the Streets! release

Roll Up the Streets! hit the streets this week! My first book, finally available. Book readings/signings to follow. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Critique groups

How do writers break out of the isolation of their own writing to share it with others before sending it to an agent or editor? Everyone knows writing can be a lonely business and that writers are the worst judges of their own work. Some think everything they write is gold, others hate every word. Rarely is either true.
I have a great first reader who happens to be a writer herself and a good and honest judge of my work. She doesn't coddle me, but always gives great advice and isn't afraid to tell me when something makes no sense or just doesn't work. I also have an agent who does the same thing, but she sees things at a later stage.
But I also have a third, invaluable source of criticism, my critique group.This group of writers meets every month to share new work and give constructive criticism to any and all. We focus on childrens books from picture books to middle-grade, my thing, to Young Adult.I would never have been published without the criticism of the people on this group.
Finding the right group can be hard, I got lucky the first time around and now that I'm coordinating it the group fits my style even better. But finding one is well worth it. Very few successful writers will say that they never had anyone to read they're work. You need those extra eyes if you're going to sell what you've written.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review Copies

Review copies are the coolest thing in the world. I just got a big box of my new book, Roll Up the Streets! dropped on my front porch. Inside were these glorious brand-spanking new books with shiny covers and filled with words that I had written. Now all those people who thought I'd made up those stories about getting published can see the actual proof. A real hardcover book is so much cooler than a flickering image on a screen.

I just love the corndogs and the swirling ketchup and mustard on the cover.

My favorite image is this one from the back cover. You'll have to read the book to find out who the lovely, and for some reason annoyed looking woman is.

Now to get it into other people's hands.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Book

It's almost here! My new middle-grade humor novel, Roll Up the Streets! is nearly here. Barnes & Noble has finally put up the cover art (what's up with you, Amazon.com?) so you can see what it looks like.

I'm pretty excited. Corndogs will do that to you, especially if they're EVIL corndogs. It's a fun story about a sarcastic 12 year old, (is there any other kind?) Jake Machet, who moves to a small town that smells like the inside of his shoe, and I think we all know what a 12-year-old boy's shoes smell like. The only problem is that he's the only person who can smell it. Well, that's not the only problem, there's the greasy, plastic tasting corndogs everyone eats all the time, and the gooey streets and some kind of conspiracy to take over the world. But other than that things are just peachy for our hero Jake and his only friend Sammie, a smart-alecky girl with a history of pig-poop busting.

Did I mention that it's funny too? Pick up a copy for your sarcastic 12-year-old.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

IPAD takes over the world

You may have heard about the upcoming April 3, release of Apple's new Ipad, the world's most expensive feminine hygiene product. But in case you haven't been keeping up with the computer company and seller of the iPhone's attempts to recreate the very nature of reading and writing, here's the most recent news from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple.

(AP) April 1, San Francisco: Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs announced today in advance of the release of the company's newest gadget, the iPad, that "henceforth, publishing and writing will be a totally different experience, an experience completely controlled by yours truly."

The publishing industry has been rampant with rumors over the past year in expectation of the impact of the iPad on their business models, and today they were given the word from Jobs. "Publishing as we know it is dead," Jobs intoned. "The dinosaurs of the business have just been hit with a comet called the iPad and the iBookstore. No longer will elitist, effeminate, east coast liberal editors be in control of what you read. Writers as well will need to adjust to the new world order."

When asked just what this new paradigm would mean for writers, Jobs replied, "For years people have taken as writ that getting rid of the middleman would lower prices and increase efficiency. We at Apple are all about efficiency, but rather than get rid of the middleman, which is us, we chose to get rid of the front end of the publishing process, that is the writer. Writers will still exist, someone has to supply the drivel that will sell on the iBookstore and be read on the iPad, but they will no longer be paid. In this new world writers are a dime a dozen and Apple would just as soon keep that dime. Writers will instead work for free, competing for the honor of having their words seen on an iPad. Experience is king, content is meaningless. I mean, can you really call writing work, anyway? Sitting on your rear-end all day, pecking away at the keyboard of your Macbook pro, which by the way will be required of all contributors, that they compose on an Apple product."

Jobs went on to remark about the origins of this shift in creativity and intellectual property, which will be the sole property of Apple inc. "We got the idea from the adjunct professor model used in most American colleges and universities. Most people don't realize it, but 60-70% of college-level classes are taught by tempts working for reduced rate parking passes."

I don't know about you, but I think it's about time someone brought the unruly writers of this world to heel. For too long they have been holding us hostage by demanding to be paid for their so-called "work." J.K. Rowling, author of the celebrated Harry Potter series, the tale of a boy wizard and his magic stick, became a billionaire pedaling her writing. But do you really believe people bought her books because they enjoyed reading about Harry's exploits against the dark wizard Lord Voldemort? Of course not. Books are not about content, they are about experience. It's the choice of font and the feel of the crisp paper that draws people to reading. Ms. Rowling's contribution was relatively minor, yet she gets all the accolades. And with the iPad, the experience will be even greater. You can't turn a real book on its side and have the picture flip like you can on an iPad.

Yes, I for one welcome the new world order. I have an iPod, and life has never been this fantastic. The iPad can only make things better. And did you know that Random House publishing is owned by a German corporation? Jobs is a true patriot for putting them out of business.

April Fools!
Is this really necessary to write?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How I sold my book, part 1

For aspiring authors the question of how an author sold his/her first book is always of great interest. They're looking to do the same thing, so of course they'd like to get the ins and outs from someone who has been there. At all the writing conferences I've attended, this question is tops when the panels convene to answer queries from the audience.

Writers working diligently to get their creative genius down on paper aren't always the best at selling, so any tips can help. There are lots of blogs out there giving advice, most of it useful to a certain extent. But one can only be told to spell correctly and use proper grammar so many times. Another popular tip is telling people to "develop a unique voice." But again, that's not much in the way of advice, everyone knows that already. And no one I've yet heard has ever been able to define a "unique voice," let alone explain how you develop one. So in the end that particular piece of advice isn't much more helpful than telling a theoretical physicist to "become more of a genius."

What I've found is that many of these writers are actually looking to find a shortcut, a magic spell that they can whip out when they meet an editor or agent that so enraptures them they cannot help but make an offer.

Luckily there is such a magic spell, and they used to sell them in comic book ads. It's called a hypno-wheel. Spin it in the eyes of your intended target, and they become puppets in your hands. Mu-hahahaha!

Actually, the spell is call writing. If you do it well you will capture an editor's or agent's attention. I know it's not much, but it's the truth. But when you tell writers that, they want more. "But how did you sell your book? They want your story.

I've found that telling your personal story about how you were trapped in an elevator with an editor or how you rescued an agent from a burning building is a lot of fun, but in the end doesn't go much further than "develop your own voice." And burning buildings and stuck elevators are hard to recreate, and probably should send you to jail for trying.

It's fun to hear these stories, but in the end your writing is what will tell. That, and hard work.

Tomorrow, how I got a book contract. (Yes, I will tell you my story.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just write it down

I had an idea for a picture book this morning while putting on my sock. Actually I was checking my email on my IPOD while putting on my sock, but something I saw there gave me a story idea. I shoved the IPOD in my pocket, ran for a pad of paper with one shoe on, and started scribbling my thoughts down before they turned to breakfast. Oatmeal can ruin any idea.

Halfway through my frantic scratching there was a knock on the door. Someone wanted to trim my shrubs. But rather than interrupt my thoughts, and say that I don't want my shrubs trimmed no matter what they look like, I dashed into the basement with my pad and pen and finished writing while sitting next to the washer and dryer. (My shrubs really need trimming).

Once I had my idea down on paper it was safe to eat. I now had time to get out the laptop and commit my masterpiece to digital form.

This of course leads to today's question.

What do you do when you have an idea for a story?

Do you write it down immediately while it's still fresh like that beer you just opened? Flat beer is the curse of modern civilization.

Do you let it simmer in your brain, maturing like a fine wine?

Can you stand having it in your head and not getting it written down?

And what are you doing when you get your ideas?

Mine seem to come to me at almost any time. I get them while showering, pulling cans of refried beans off the shelf at the grocery store, mowing the lawn, or fixing the plumbing. Although the ideas that come to me while fixing the plumbing are usually not printable, especially in the children's market.

Just wondering. But if you're a writer, you've got lots of ideas, and a burning need to get them written down and read by other people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

So you're a writer...

So you're a writer?

I get that question a lot. People are often interested in the answer, even if they don't like to read that much. And when I say I'm a children's author, they like it even more, because even if they don't read their kids are darn sure going to if they know what's good for them. It's much more fun to tell people that you're a writer than say, a gas station attendant or a shoe salesmen.

The trick comes with the follow up question. Where can I get your books?

Well, if you're like most of the writers I personally know, the answer is, "I'm still working on getting an agent or an editor."

That usually ends the conversation. But if you are in that situation, don't fret. You will sell your work one of these days. An agent or editor is going to recognize all the effort and skill you've put into that manuscript and they will get it on the shelf, or into a Kindle. Your day will come.

I know this because an agent and then an editor did recognize my manuscript as marketable, and that's what it has to be to make it to a shelf or a Kindle.

So do you tell people that you're a writer even if you haven't sold anything?

The answer is "yes." The key is to say "writer," rather than "author," which implies that you've been published. If you think of yourself as a writer, if you're serious about it, if you are writing, then say, "Yes, I am a writer."

Don't worry about ending the conversation, it's only just begun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First post!

This is it, my first blog post. And the question you're all asking is, why?

Is it because I want to be famous?

Blogs don't make you famous.

Is it because I've gotten too big for my britches?


Is it because I like spending so much time with my computer?


No, it's really because I want to share my writing with as many people as possible, and to pass out free advice on writing, getting an agent, getting published, junk like that. I'm a sharer.