Thursday’s Thing to Love About Being a Writer: the Power of Words

Today’s thing to love is the magic of words combined. Stitched together, words can create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts—poetry, prose, art in written form.
For your writerly enjoyment, here’s Taylor’ Mali’s poetic satire of the use of speech devices such as “like,” “okay,” and “ya know”:

Like, ya know?

Smile Cheryl

Fun Publishing News

My friend and fellow writer, the fabulous Anna-Maria Crum, announced the release of her new interactive picture book Monster Numbers. It is SOOOO cute! This is an app for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The program will read the story and count the monster parts—or you can record your own narration for a personal touch.

imageI’ve purchased a few picture/photo books for the Kindle and been sorely disappointed. The Kindle format is great for text, but isn’t kind to a book’s layout—resulting in picture books where the pictures are divorced from the relevant text and captions and graphs are difficult or impossible to read.

I love Anna-Maria’s book/app, because it takes advantage of the medium to accomplish more than a picture book could. It’s not a game, though—it retains that picture book feel but adds an interactive touch seldom found in an actual hard-copy book.

Plus it’s easier to pack :).

Another successful book-for-iPad effort I’ve seen recently is Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, by nonfiction children’s book author Mary Kay Carson. This book/app is written slightly older readers, but it’s so filled with fascinating facts, illustrations, text, and animations that my high school kids confiscated it to read. This book, too, takes advantage of the medium with panoramic screen shots that give you the feeling that you’re flying through the forest. “Callouts” offer sketches, additional facts, and photos.

I’ve never seen a book experience quite like this one…but then again, I’m not an expert in the growing electronic picture book world.

Have you seen any great book apps for the tablets, smart phones, or other devices? Any features that work especially well for the electronic format?

Five Ways to Find the Right Publisher for Your Book

The (Almost) Shortest-Ever Blog Series

In today’s news…I’m announcing the conclusion of the shortest-ever blog “series”—if you can even call it a series when it includes only five posts.


I like the idea of featuring different publishers who accept unagented submissions, but the more time I’ve spent on it, the more convinced I’ve become that this series wasn’t the most effective place for me to put my time.

The problem is that I don’t feel like I have a lot of value to add. It’s not actually that difficult to locate information about publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. With a little digging, you can come up with editor interviews, Amazon rankings, books published, market needs, etc.—and even if I sum up that info here, because this is the kind of information that changes from week to week. You’ll need to do your research anyway.

So: today’s post marks the official end of our series on small publishers. I won’t be profiling individual publishing companies from here out. I will, however, leave you with this list of how to find and evaluate publishers when you are ready to start submitting.

Five Ways to Find the Right Publisher

image1. Big Six Publishers

  • A few accept unagented submissions, but your manuscript will fall into a huge slush pile and may never emerge again. Be forewarned.
  • Increase your chances (and up your odds) by meeting editors at conferences.
  • Get to know the imprints and how they differ from one another.
  • It’s okay to submit to two different imprints at the same house, but probably not at the same time.
  • It’s NOT okay to submit to two different editors at the same imprint—a “no” from one is a “no” from all of them.
  • Many will respond only if interested.
  • Many will only look at agented submissions or submissions from authors they met at writing conferences. This means they have fewer manuscripts to wade through.

2. Start with a list of publishers’ websites, like this list of children’s book publishers, to streamline your search.

3. Start with a market guide, such as the 2012 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.

4. Peruse bookstore shelves for similar titles to find publishers that might be interested in your work.

5. Finally: always, always, always check the publisher’s websites. Market information changes quickly; just because a third-party website says that a publisher accepts unagented submissions doesn’t meant that they still do. Find their submission guidelines. FOLLOW them. Trust me, editors do NOT appreciate cutesy tricks such as singing telegrams, confetti, or pastel paper.

Each publishing house and imprint has its own personality, so just because a publisher accepts young adult fantasy doesn’t mean they will appreciate all young adult fantasy. Look at their most recent catalog. Pick up copies of their recent books at the library or your local bookstore, or download the free samples on Kindle. (Note: you don’t need a Kindle for this—you can run a Kindle app on your laptop or desktop machine)

If you take time to research different houses and different imprints, you might just find the right home for your manuscript!

Summertime Writing Toolbox: Surviving Schedule Upheaval, Vacations, Kids, and Other Fair-Weather Distractions

Isn’t summer wonderful? It’s a time for travel, kids home from school, vacations, barbecues, family visits, pool parties…and a host of other fun distractions. Fun as these things are, though, they can make it extraordinarily difficult to get any writing done.


I’m all for enjoying time with friends and family, but I also know my limits: if I don’t spend some time writing each week (preferably each day!) I won’t be a happy camper. Besides that, my family counts on me* earning something to help pay the bills, so shutting down my writing life for the next three months really isn’t an option. But how the heck do you find time to focus on creative work when your schedule, space, and life are turned upside down?

Here are some strategies that are helping me stay creative amidst the craziness:

  1. Know your limits. What is the absolute minimum amount of writing time you need each week—for sanity, finances, or to keep your publisher happy?
  2. Set a schedule. I’ve found it’s helpful to create a very loose schedule within which to work every day. In the morning, I exercise, work on fiction projects, and blog; in the early afternoon, I work on nonfiction, bid on jobs, and earn money. Since I never know what interruptions I’ll face in a day, it helps me to set goals based on time slots rather than page counts or to-do lists.
  3. Be flexible. This might sound like the opposite of schedule-setting, but it’s not. If you face a host of uncertainties in your day, a flexible schedule is key to getting anything done. Last week, I eliminated my fiction-writing time block to attend my 8th-grader’s graduation ceremony (yikes! I now have two high schoolers!). This week, I will probably need to skip an afternoon or two for other appointments and errands. My goal is to keep a relative balance between the different parts of my writing life without falling below my “minimum requirement”.
  4. Identify obstacles and solutions. Now that I have older kids in the house, I’m less likely to be interrupted every five minutes during the day. That’s not the case for those of us with younger children! What obstacle will you face when you sit down to write? Interruptions from children? Errands? Noise? Experiment with writing at different times, in different places, to find a way to minimize distractions.
  5. Ask for help. Who will support your desire to write? Maybe a spouse can handle morning household tasks so you can snag an early hour at the computer, or maybe an older sibling will entertain the younger while you have a twenty-minute brainstorming session. I’ve had great success engaging my kids in the process, too. If you write for young people, there’s a good chance YOUR young people will be interested in your stories and research!
  6. Embrace the chaos. You won’t always get as much writing time as you might wish—but in exchange, you get extra time with friends and family. Make sure you enjoy this summer, chaos and all!

* Son’s response when I told him I was going to quit writing to crochet full time: “You can’t do that! I like your writing. And I like electricity, too. And food.”

What writing obstacles do you face this summer? How will you overcome them?