Query Nerves

I’m sitting here, ready to finally send my contemporary MG novel into the crowded inboxes of kidlit agents, and I’m relieved and overwhelmed all at once. Is this similar to how I’ll feel when I eventually send my son to his first day of school? Excited for him to stand on his own among other kids but terrified that he’s not ready to be without me?

It’s time to let go. I know that. I feel it. My novel is practically whispering, “Query me.” But gosh, it’s nerve wracking!

It all goes back to self-doubt and that nagging feeling that no matter how many times I’ve worked over my manuscript, it isn’t ready. I’m beyond proud of the story. My critique group has offered kudos and feedback on multiple versions. As the current draft stands, they can’t poke anymore holes in it. A good sign. A sign to set it free and forget about it for a while.

The writer and editor in me knows that there’s always room for improvement. That no matter how many drafts I write, there’s another direction to take the story. A different way of framing it. An alternative take on a scene, a chapter, a piece of dialogue. The possibilities never end. Iterations are endless. But at a certain point in time, after working on a novel for years, I have to let it try to stand on its legs.

The mama in me wants to coddle it, hold onto it a bit longer. But I know if I’m going to learn anything about what I’ve done, I need to set it free, at least for a little while. See where it goes, if it comes back to me, or if it makes it out there in the wide world.

So here I go.

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Conference Magic

A conference hangover is the best kind of hangover. On the heels of SCBWI OC Writers Day, I find myself full of energy. It happens after every conference—I get doused with this magic that makes me want to keep on keeping on with my craft, no matter how exhausted or busy I am.

That magic helped me complete a final read-through of my middle grade novel before I soon send it off to agents. Not only that, I’m ready to start my next novel. You know that middle grade horror story I’ve wanted to write since earlier this year? Just this past week, an idea sparked and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Yep, that productivity is the result of conference fairy dust, people. And every time I leave another SCBWI event, I walk away with that magic sprinkled atop my shoulders.

To maximize my experience, these are the things I do at events. I encourage you to try one or two at the next conference you attend.

  1. Temper your expectations. Walk in expecting to learn, learn, learn. I’m not saying you can’t expect an agent or editor to swoon over your work, but remember that this industry is competitive. The more open you are to other ideas, the more you grow.
  2. Be friendly. Like you, many of the other attendees are breaking from their writer bubbles. It can be difficult to step out of your comfort zone, but making friends can lead to new critique partners, submission opportunities, and more. Plus, kidlit writers are the nicest people on the planet.
  3. Listen for the nuggets. Even if you’ve attended many conferences and have heard the same topics covered again and again, be receptive. The speakers have valuable insight that could propel you forward in some way.
  4. Pay for the extras if you can. Industry-expert feedback on your work is SO valuable. Take advantage of that manuscript critique or pitch session. Who knows, it could be a door to something great if your piece resonates with even one person.

What do you do to capture that conference magic?

Writing Middle Grade Horror

As I plug away at the third draft of my middle grade adventure/friendship novel, I find myself daydreaming about my next project. I really want to write a middle grade horror novel. No concrete ideas yet, but I want to write something scary for the 8 to 12-year-old audience.

The problem is I’ve never even dabbled in the horror genre as a writer. Not a-once. And even worse, I’m having a hard time finding resources and analysis that I can really sink my teeth into. The internet is full of articles and thoughts on other MG genres. But horror? Not so much. At least according to my googling.

I’m reading a few MG horror novels now to get perspective. Mentor texts are amazing. But I’d love some direction from MG horror authors. So I turn to all of you.

Have you read articles or books on the genre? Taken classes or attended webinars? Anything you’d like to share? Brilliant mentor texts?

Please and thank you!

PB Gush: Best Frints in the Whole Universe

At the 2016 summer SCBWI conference I had the pleasure of attending a session led by editor Neil Porter. During that hour, he invited author/illustrator Antoinette Portis on stage to discuss and read from her picture book, Best Frints in the Whole Universe. I fell in love with this PB instantly. It has everything I love in a PB: quirk, humor, and a lot of heart. It’s one of my favorites and I’m excited to gush about it today.

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Meet the Characters of Jackie Azua Kramer’s The Green Umbrella + Giveaway

Today is a special day on the blog because I’m gushing about The Green Umbrella, a darling picture book written by Jackie Azua Kramer and illustrated by Maral Sassouni!

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I was given an opportunity to read it last fall and I instantly tumbled head over heels for this story about imagination. The language is gorgeous, and the texture and intricacies of the illustrations had me finding new details each time I read. I COULD NOT put this book down.

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PB Gush: Oh No, Astro!

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s Astro! And he’s picking up speed fast. Oh No, Astro! written by Matt Roeser and illustrated by Brad Woodard is filled with fun words, stellar illustrations, and space-y facts, all sure to enthuse future space cadets. And to top it off, the humor will have little ones laughing from cover to cover. Grab your telescope and prepare for some serious gushing. I love this book!

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My 2016 Halloweensie Entry

It’s my favorite time of year—Halloween! For a month (or maybe three) it’s socially acceptable (I think) to watch Hocus Pocus on a loop. Don’t judge me.

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It’s also time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s 6th Annual Halloweensie Contest! To enter, you must write a 100-word-or-less Halloween story containing the words spider, ghost, and moon. Judging criteria include kid-friendliness, Halloweeniness, story quality, writing quality, and creativity/originality.

I encourage you to participate. It’s spooktacular fun! Read my entry below.

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How to Revisit “Kid” You

If only I could go back in time to walk in young me’s shoes. Sure, research via reading books and talking to kids is arguably just as effective for churning out kid-friendly stories, but wouldn’t it help to be 7- or 12-year-old you for even an hour? To relive those kid feelings and write them into your current stories?

Well, if you wrote stories when you were a kid, I suggest you dust off those gems and read. As a kidlit writer, you strive to capture how children feel in your stories and characters. When I reread my old stories, I’m transported back to that time and, even if just momentarily, feel those kid feelings of excitement, wonder, possibility, and fear.

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PB Gush: President Squid

I first heard part of this book read aloud at the SCBWI LA Conference in August. Editor Melissa Manlove read it with gusto during a panel and she had the audience of 1,000+ people cracking up. So when she abruptly closed the book halfway through, you bet your bottom I had to finish it. President Squid by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Sara Varon is a fun and LOL-worthy PB with one ridiculous protagonist. This (very current and relevant) political satire will get the whole room rolling.

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Celebrations and Inspirations

It feels good to be back on the blog! The past five weeks have been busy to say the least. Not only have I been settling into my new digs and working on a massive project at work, I’ve also been writing my second middle grade novel. And after spending hundreds of hours clacking away on my laptop with film scores buzzing in my ears (I can’t listen to music with words when I write), I’VE FINALLY FINISHED THE DRAFT.

Where’s the champagne?

I’ve still got a long way to go with revising and fine-tuning, but first drafts are my least favorite. Ever. So this is yuuuge.

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