Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Moment #105: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

Hey, all! I come to you live today from the Newark airport. Exciting, I know.

What truly was exciting was live blogging from the conference floor at the SCBWI Winter Conference, and what a conference it was.

I look forward to telling you more about the personal side of it, but if you haven't taken a the opportunity to get a little taste of the conference by visiting the Official Conference Blog , check it out. Team Blog covered it from A to Z. Great keynotes. Great editor/agent breakouts. Great panels. Great people.

As I stare at my computer screen, the clock currently says, 3:36 AM. Yes! Back home, that's what time it is, which means I was getting on a bus at 1:00 AM. This was NOT the flight I was supposed to be on. Nope. I booked this flight (as in we were on the phone booking at the exact same moment) with fellow Team Blogger, Martha Brockenbrough . We would take the 9:10 AM flight into Newark and fly the 6:30 PM back. Perfect. Well, perfect until I received my pre-flight information that said that I was not flying back at 6:30 PM, but rather 7:30 AM!


How could I have made such a horrible mistake?I tried to convince myself that it must have been somebody else's mistake. I check these things. I double check. I triple check. I DO NOT get it. What did I do? I tried to talk to the nice people at the airline. Surely they would understand my dilemma. I'm sure you know how far that got me.

Yeah. It got me right on the flight I didn't want to be on at 7:30 in the morning. But I can now say I have been on the streets of NYC at 4:00 AM. Although, I'm not sure if that's a good thing, or a bad thing. But let me say this, I was very happy to be hanging with NYC police officer who was on his way to St. Thomas as I waited for the bus.

What mistake has your character made that ruined his/her plans or another person's plans?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SCBWI TEAM Blog Pre-Conference Interview: Executive Editor Lisa Sandell

Lisa Ann Sandell is an executive editor at Scholastic Inc., where she focuses her attention on acquiring and editing middle grade and young adult hardcover novels for Scholastic Press, and she manages the Dear America series. Lisa is also the author of three young adult novels, The Weight of the Sky, Song of the Sparrow, and A Map of the Known World. She lives in New York City.

Lisa will be presenting during the breakout sessions at the upcoming 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, and she took time from her busy day to answer some qestions for us here.

Do you have any suggestions for conference attendees when it comes to speaking to an editor while at the conference?

I would advise attendees to be prepared when meeting with an editor at the conference—figure out what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse it if you have to; know how to best and briefly describe your book project, and make it interesting. Finally, cornering editors in the bathroom is always a bad idea!

When you switch from your editor hat to your writing hat, do you have to completely turn off the editor?

It is extremely difficult for me to turn off the editor when I’m writing. I have a very hard time keeping myself from going back over each sentence as soon as it’s written and editing and re-editing and copyediting it. I can agonize over a single comma for ages, wondering if it needs to be there. So, yes, the editor voice is constantly creeping into my head, often taking over, as I write. Conversely, however, I hope that when I edit, the writer part of me sneaks in and contributes, too, helping me to be more sympathetic and empathetic and sensitive to the needs of the writers I work with as an editor.

Many conference attendees will be coming from out of town, many visiting NYC for the first time. Any must haves or must sees you can share?

The High Line is definitely a must-see when visiting the city. It is a park built on old elevated train tracks along Manhattan’s west side. It provides gorgeous cityscape and Hudson River views, running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 20th Street on Tenth Avenue. It’s one of my favorite spots in New York!


SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC

The SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC is only days away. Mere days! Like TWO. Day after tomorrow.

Thought I'd piggyback on my fellow Team Bloggers' posts. Martha Brockenbrough has a great post on Getting Ready for a Manuscript Intensive and Lee Wind has The 2011 SCBWI Winter Conference - The Top 7 Things You Need to Know. Check 'em out!

I thought I'd add my own piece of advice for the Writers Intensive and a Number 8 to Lee's Top 7. Plus, read on and I'll tell you what you really want to know!

First the Intensive: Lee Wind and Sara Easterly shared great advice on Martha's blog regarding the experience. Since I wasn't quick enough to contribute, I'll add my own here.

I've had the opportunity to participate in three NY Intensives and had great experiences. That said, it can be a bit overwhelming. Expect  a very large ballroom with more tables that you can count and a couple hundred people. That's a WOW. I know how it is, you're already nervous about reading your work in front an editor/agent and your peers. But my advice is this: you've done all the preparing, so let it be what it's going to be. Don't get so caught up in the nerves of reading your work that you miss all there is to learn from the experience. Really tune into each manuscript being read and to the feedback being offered. Then when it's your turn to receive feedback, listen, take notes, and offer a thank you. Plus, make connections with the other writers at the table. I've developed dear friendships from my experiences.

Now to add a Number 8 to add to Lee's Top 7:

Okay, maybe this is more like a 4.3 and 4.7 because I'm going to add a couple of thoughts to Lee's number 4. First to build on Lee's thoughts about having your thrity-second pitch ready. I'd suggest you also have a one sentence (25-ish words) pitch, too. It will be even easier to rattle off should the opportunity present itself. Depending on the situation, you'll know which pitch to pull out. Now for suggestion 4.7, adding to the talking-to-editors-and-agents advice. Be yourself! Have a conversation with an editor/agent. Don't think about pitching your manuscript. They're really people just like us, and if they have a nice conversation with you, they're likely to ask you what you're working on, and remember you (in a good way).

Okay, moving on. I mentioned earlier knowing what you really want to know (at least for most of you, especially if this is your first conference). You want to know...

What to wear! Yes?

Well, let's start with this. It's flipping freezing in NYC. So packing smart is important.

So, clothing for the actual conference. My advice? When it comes to clothes, be yourself and be professional. You don't need to dress to the nines, but treat it like a day in the office minus any stuffiness. Jeans are fine, just dress 'em up a bit. You will be doing a bit of walking, so wear sensible shoes or realize your feet might be barking. Wear layers. You know how ballrooms are: air on, air off. Shed a layer, pull on layer. But this is NYC in January so you need a whole other wardrobe for heading outside. Think about how you can add to the clothes you are bringing so you don't suffer when you step out into the freezing cold air. My own personal outerwear tip for the trip: wear it all on the plane, including your bulky boots (if there's no room in the suitcase). They don't charge you to schlep warm things on the plane. So bring lots (warm coat, gloves, hat or earmuff, and a scarf). Okay, now I will stop talking to you like I'm your mother (but I just want you to be warm).

Can't wait to see many of you there. And for those of you who won't be there, I hope you'll be with us on the OFFICIAL SCBWI BLOG. TEAM BLOG will be providing LIVE blogging straight from the ballroom floor, and the breakout session. We'll also be tweeting with the official conference hashtag #NY11SCBWI.

Here's the crew (blogs and Twitter IDs):

and ME - @cuppajolie
and @scbwi.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Moment #104: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

Preparing for a big event is trying, exciting, overwhelming, and exhausting!

The big SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC is this weekend, and I fly away on Thursday morning. Really I need to leave on Wednesday night, given my distance from the airport. (Add to my to-do list: check with buddies to see if I can crash at their place on Wednesday night.)

What is it with big events? I'm so excited for it. Been looking forward to it. But there is SOOO much to do before I leave. And why do things always come up when preparing to leave town, like my hubby having to suddenly leave town and my kid getting pneumonia (Again! But she's already on the mend, so no worries.).

There's this massive build up of preparing to be out of town. There's also the preparation to be ready for the conference itself. How 'bout the laundry? Preparing the kids? Preparing those who will take care of the kids? Other work? Volunteer commitments? It's enough to make a person eat a whole plate of cupcakes, or just go to bed, or work until collapse, or a great opportunity for procrastination.

Me? I make lists. Lots of lists. And then start plugging through them. It feels so very lovely to cross things off. And I'm this close to hitting "publish post" so I can cross this Monday Moment off the list. Phew. Feels good!

How does your character react to the stress of preparing for a big upcoming event?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Moment #103: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

Saturdays mean watching our girlies play basketball. I look forward to each and every weekend. But this weekend, during one of the games, I was completely distracted and missed most of it. BOO!

I snuck away to the restroom when my kiddo wasn't in the game, and as I made my way back to the court, a little dog ran in from outside, onto the court. It was just like a scene from a kid's TV show or movie. The pup was shooed back outside, but because I was making my way by the door I could see that dog really wanted back in the gym, back onto the court.

I decided I should poke my head out and see if I could see any signs of an owner. I didn't want the dog running around loose. But I saw no one. I checked its tags and it had many, including a recovery tag with a number and ID in case the dog was lost. I was pretty sure he was exactly that. Lost.

The rest of the game I spent with my hand wrapped around a dog collar, on hold with the recovery company as they tried to reach the owner. The pup's name was Harry. He was sure a cute little guy (he reminded us of Harry the Dirty Dog, but brown) and all that he wanted to do was play ball with those girls.

I spent almost the entire game attempting to watch it from the door. A custodian finally got me a jump rope to put around Harry's collar so I could hang onto him more easily. Needless to say, I missed a lot of the game, including a basket made my girlie. *sigh*

The recovery company had still not reached the owner by the time the game ended so Harry headed home with us (Luna, our pup, was not happy). And now I know why that little dog wanted on the court so badly. He loves basketballs. That little pup could push around a basketball as well as some World Cup Soccer players.

The happy ending? Harry's owner came and picked him up, grateful we had found him. She had been in the same area and left a window down then returned to her car to find it missing her pup. Clearly nothing was keeping Harry from making his way to the sounds of fun spilling from the gym.

What unexpected distraction has made your character miss something important to them?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Moment #102: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

As embarrassing as it is, I'm calling myself out right now. (Well, I actually already called myself out of Facebook, but in case you missed it there, here it is. This time with more detail.)

Several nights ago I was at the gym. I headed out to the dark parking lot, keys in hand. Just like always I pressed the unlock button on my key fob, but there was no click of the car door unlocking. I tried again and again. No luck. It had been acting up lately, so it didn't surprise me. (Do these things take batteries? I'm thinking it needs batteries.)

No problem though. I have one of those nifty number code things on the door. For years I've been typing in that code to unlock the door for one reason or another. Uh...wait...what was that code again? I went completely, totally, ridiculously blank. But I gave it try, hoping feel alone would guide me.

No luck.

Try again.

And again.

Okay. Time to regroup. I headed back into the gym to rifle through my wallet for the card that has the code on it. I was pretty sure I had it in there. Or did I get rid of it? Looking...looking...looking...and NOTHING.

Back out to the car.

Try again. I punched button after button after button until the lit-up number keys started flashing and so did the lights inside the car. I'm pretty sure the car though I was trying to break in at this point and wouldn't let me in even if I did get the code correct.

What to do?

I know. Call my husband. Maybe he remembers the code.

I took out my phone and started to dial. One ring. Two...

That's when it hit me. I left the gym with keys in my hand. Keys typically start a car, but they also UNLOCK doors. The more frightening things was (yes...calling myself out) I wondered if there was even a keyhole in the car door. I certainly had never used it. But, sure enough there was the keyhole. And the key fit. In fact, it even turned and...


Car unlocked.

How novel. A key that unlocks a door.

*hangs head in shame*

 What has your character become so used to doing that when an element changes they don't know what to do?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Moment #101: a writing prompt for your work-in-progress

(If you’ve already read this then skip past all the italicized blah-di-blah and start writing.) Monday Moments are writing prompts for your work-in-progress. They are questions that come from my experiences and are my favorite way to find out more about my characters. I find I learn a lot. Some of it I use. Some of it I don’t. But I always, always get to know my characters better just by answering the question. I hope you do too.)

Happy 2011!

I hope it's off to a spectacular start for you.

I'm not sure how I'm doing in 2011 yet. I started it by believing my children were returning back to school today. I was sure. Then yesterday my oldest (who had just returned from a sleepover) said, "Are you sure we have school tomorrow?" Yeah, I was sure. The she said, "Because Donna said we don't have school tomorrow."

Checks school calendar. January 3 blocked out as Winter Break. Great.

Me: Okay, girlies. You don't have school tomorrow.

Perhaps I was just anxious to get back to a schedule and regular work. Or, I don't pay careful enough attention. Hopefully I can only do better from here.

Topic switch...

Just prior to Christmas, Monday Moments hit number 100. Woot-woot! A cool milestone for me. I knew it was a bad time to celebrate, but that's when it hit and I'm so glad some of you left a comment. I placed your names in a box, pulled one out, and... *drum roll*

Wanda Vaughn I want send you a cuppa. :)
(And now you should go check out Wanda's blog because she's a polar bear. CrAzY. That is something I will never do. But I'm impressed. Hats off! )

Thank you so much for a being a reader. To all of you for being readers.

It's fun to a be a winner, of things big and small.

What something your character has won?