Kate Gale on blogging

kate_snake One of the best aspects of the Writing Away Retreat is the opportunity it provides for writers to pick the brains of all those lovely keepers of the keys in the New York publishing industry. Or the LA publishing industry, as in the case of poet/editor/publisher/(unofficial) stand-up comedian Kate Gale.

Kate was one of the two folks I asked to critique my nonfiction children’s books projects…a conversation that quickly evolved into a discussion of the future of the children’s nonfiction book market. Since I’ve devoted years of my life to working on these two nf projects, you can imagine this is a subject near and dear to my heart.

See, here’s the deal: I started on the nf projects years before because nonfiction, theoretically, is easier to sell; I have a science background; and I actively enjoying researching and writing about my latest obsession in the nf world. The problem is this: now I’m a bit farther along in my writing career, and I’ve done quite a bit of market research, I’m realizing that the children’s nf book market is actually much smaller that I’d first believed. And most of the nf market is educational publishing, which is fun and all, but my two pet nf projects (the almost-finished, I’d-like-to-send-them-out-soon projects) definitely don’t fit most educational publishers’ lists. And I’m not sure they appeal to a wide enough audience to appeal to many trade publishers.

Wisdom from Kate: the future of children’s nf lies in online content associated with the book. Science teachers want the kind of stuff I’m writing—but I have a much stronger platform if I can offer online content to augment material in an actual book. For instance, can I include additional info on the books’ topics in my website? How about a choose-your-own adventure approach to expanding the material? An hour critique appointment transformed into an hour-and-a-half brainstorming session and ongoing conversations throughout the weekend on ways to add value to my book concepts.

What’s the blogging connection? Well, Kate authors a smart, funny blog that covers everything from her latest speaking engagement to her thoughts on news, education, and nude beaches. It also includes pieces that will appear in one of her own nf book projects. She sees the blog as a way to discipline herself to produce the material for her book as well as building a platform on the topic.

Hmm. One of my ongoing blogging concerns is what value I add to the blogging community. I mean, sure, I love blogging, I love reading about other writers’ ups and downs in their writing lives, and I love collecting my thoughts on how the heck we thrive in the crazy writing life some of us choose—but I also want to reach beyond my circle of writers to the folks who might, someday, become my readers. I want my writing to reach a wider audience. I’ve never had a good idea how to do that.

Thanks for the food for thought, Kate! And for my fantastic readers, I’ll add this: someday, somewhere, find a time and place where you can ask smart people in the publishing industry smart questions about writing, career, marketplace, and so on. Those conversations are valuable beyond measure.

Plus people who share this weird writing life have GOT to be the best, most interesting people in the world, so you’ll have a darned lot of fun, too :)


The Conversational Shoplifter reports on all things retreat….


In case you’re interested in a different perspective on the retreat thus far—or if you just want to laugh your socks off for a bit—check on new friend Deb C’s hysterical observations on characters, conversations, and the happy mix of writers, editors, agents, hot tub, and fine food and drink we have here at the 2009 Writing Away Retreat.

Plus she manages to overhear some of the funniest bits of dialog I’ve ever heard anywhere. And yes, I’m officially joining her team of conversation spies. What can I say? She’s irresistible!

:) Cheryl

Breckenridge, writing, and a lovely dose of creative energy


I’m about to start the second session of the Fall 2010 Writing Away Retreat—and I’m in a very different place than at the start of the first session. I showed up for the first session exhausted, stressed about leaving kids and dogs, with my focus scattered between multiple projects. Now, I’m rested, recharged, with renewed focus on what kind of writing I need to be doing right now.

I wasn’t sure about coming to two sessions. It’s a pretty big deal for any mom to leave her family for ten days, never mind the financial side of things, but it’s turned out to be a valuable gift to my writing self. I feel like I spent the first days stripping away a lot of the “shoulds” and “have-to’s.” Maybe I could have accomplished that at home; but I’m not sure I would have. I would have kept plowing forward, trying to do everything, rather than questioning which part of “everything” is really important.

Today’s quiet and snowy—I plan to sit in front of the fireplace and immerse myself in story.

:) Cheryl

Where is Cheryl, take 2

I have, thankfully, completed my research into all things illness. (if confused, check out my previous post!) In fact, I believe I’ve done enough research on the subject to last me quite a while, so if you have any influence with the flu/bronchitis/pneumonia and other agents of mass destruction, please mention that I can be taken off their lists.

It’s kind of nice to return to the real world (at least, at least as real as the world of the writer ever gets….)


Actually, I’m not in the real world at all right now. I’m at a ridiculously wonderful writing retreat in Breckenridge, CO, basking in all things creative. This session, I’ve had the chance to meet "officially" with editor Kate Gale of Red Hen Press, author Justin Taylor, agent Sorche Fairbank, and agent Scott Hoffman of Folio Literary Agency. They’re all very nice and human. And smart. And funny.

And can you imagine any other setting where you have official one-hour meetings with so many different people in the industry? Pretty cool. Add in amazing food, a hot tub, and a seemingly bottomless bowl of peanut M&M’s, I’m definitely feeling inspired! Especially now that I stopped trying to grind out the projects I thought I *ought* to be working on in favor of the project I *want* to be working on.

Message for the week: when writing, follow your heart. Maybe that’s not always the right answer, but it’s definitely working for me right now! So I’m off to write more about Cassandra Fort as she drops into the sleepy community of Rodger’s Island, WA, with all the subtlety of a breaching whale…a character who makes me laugh aloud when I write about her. More later!