Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A BIG change...

Hello all!

It's funny, I started this blog as a way to document my path to publishing. But then, when it all happened so quickly, I never had a chance to specify each piece of my journey.

Guess that's just the way life goes.

But, I do have some BIG news to share!


How about that! :D 

It is called "Imani's Moon" and it'll be published by Mackinack Island Press/Charlesbridge Publishing. I am so thrilled!!!

And not only that, I have a new website and blog that I have started, and I'd be honored if you followed me on that blog as well.  My website is www.janaybrownwood.com and my new blog is on the same site, but under the "Blog" heading.  Here's the quick link to it: http://www.janaybrownwood.com/blog .

So with that said, this will be my last post in JaNay With Words (at least for the time being. Who knows what the future holds).  It has been a lot of fun thinking about writing and discussing the "writerly" thoughts that run through my head.  But no worries, I'll continue to do much of the same on my new blog, while talking about experiences I have on my new road: The Road of a Published Author. I'll also talk about some of the milestones I've gone through (like how my editorial processes went and events I've attended, etc.)

Thanks again for reading JaNay With Words, and I hope you continue to join me on this new adventure. You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/janaybrownwood?ref=hl .

Onward I go!

JBW :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Silly Post on Booga-Booga

Do you believe in good booga-booga? 

I wouldn’t even say I do, in my regular day-to-day life.  But it’s funny, each time I close an envelope to send my work out to publishers/agents/editors, I feel compelled to pour in a little booga-booga for luck (wiggling fingers and all). 

Do you know what I mean by this? 

I’m not using it in the sense of scaring someone, like the Urban Dictionary says.  Not thinking about the boogeyman that has a similar sound.  Not even thinking of it in the voodoo sense that it is associated—you know, cursing others. 

No, instead, in my head, booga-booga is that special energy you can put into something that lets you know everything will be okay.  It’s good vibes.  Positivity.  Optimism.  Faith.  Maybe you know it by another name?  But even if you do, I am re-defining booga-booga today, in my case, to be that little extra something that’ll get my work noticed.

Or maybe I just need a four leaf clover.

Well, anyway, my husband and I put some good booga-booga into the envelope right before I sealed it to send it off.  Hopefully it’ll be enough to get me a worthwhile response.


Cheers to good booga-booga! 

And Happy March!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

NEW PFTP and Books I Love

Hi everyone!
I added two new posts for you to enjoy.
1.  Jim Averbeck's Interview on my Points from the Published page
2.  The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz on my Books I Love page.
Check them out if you'd like to learn a little more about a published author's path (or tributaries) to publishing, and my feelings on a new version of The Three Little Pigs.

Happy February!!

Points from the Published--Sue Fliess

Sue Fliess

My next interview was with the fabulous Sue Fliess who agreed to answer my interview questions. Her answers give such wonderful insight about her own path to publishing! Furthermore, I had the chance to read two of her lovely books "A Dress for Me!" and "Shoes for Me!" which both include a character who I can certainly relate to! I hope you learn as much from it as I did!

Photo Credit: Jessie Salas Photography

1. What was your path to publishing a book?

I credit my successful publication to being an active member of SCBWI. And being an active member to me means attending conferences, networking with other authors, meeting editors, paying for professional critiques, and participating in an SCBWI-based critique group. I had two toddler boys (18 months apart) and wrote during naps and after they were in bed. I had taken some time off from work to be home with them, and every spare minute I had (which wasn’t a lot) I was writing, researching editors/houses, or submitting. I attended my first conference in 2006 where I had the good fortune to lunch with an editor in the outside eating area. She was very nice (a real person!) and was very encouraging to me about writing in general and the pursuit of publication. (side story: I sent her my Tons of Trucks manuscripts in 2008, but she left the pub house shortly after. In 2009, I was contacted by a different editor at the house who had been passed my manuscript as promising. And now it’s coming out this July!) A few other writers were very welcoming when they learned it was my first conference, and I immediately knew that I’d done the right thing by attending, nervous as I was. I continued to attend conferences, pay for critiques, joined a critique group and networked. I also applied for the Barbara Karlin Grant for picture book writing in 2007 and 2008 and both manuscripts received the letters of commendations. I highly recommend applying for grants. The judges usually include some editors, and it’s all about the extra exposure, even if you don’t win. During this time, I also picked up a freelance writing gig for an education-based website, writing parenting articles, in order to have relevant credentials on my cover letters. Eventually I was lucky enough to show a fellow author some of my work at a conference and she said, “You need to send these to my editor—I think she’d like it.” She was right. I sold Shoes for Me! in 2009.

2. How long have you been in this business? When did you start? When did you get your first book published?

I guess you could say I started in the business the second I had my first idea for a children’s picture book, which would be 2005. Before I had kids, I wrote a lot of poetry and had even started an adult novel! I was in a critique group in New York City, bit it wasn’t until I moved to California with my husband and had a baby I was reading to, that I thought, “Maybe I can write children’s books.” I jotted a few lines down, and coincidentally, a friend called me (this is back in the day when we all still called each other!) and asked me if I wanted to take a one-day class with her called “Writing for Children.” It was so serendipitous, I couldn’t say no. In the end, my friend wasn’t able to attend the class, but I did, and was determined to give the whole thing a try. I wrote several pretty terrible manuscripts after that one, but finally wrote one that I and others were getting excited about in 2006. It was called Shoes for Me! (first called “Shoes on, Shoes off”). I rewrote it about 75 times until I felt it was ready to submit. I started submitting in 2007—in the meantime it received a Letter of Commendation from the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant and it finally sold in January 2009.

3. What inspired you and motivates you to carry on?
This answer has evolved for me over the last few years. What drove me in the beginning was the hunt. I loved finding editors whom I thought would be a good fit, and loved the feeling of dropping a manuscript in the mail. I referred to it as ‘mailing hope.’ I was inspired by reading tons of picture books and trying to come up with my own twist on fun topics, or everyday situations my own children were experiencing. Every rejection stung, but I was starting to receive personal notes about my work. That was very encouraging. One day my husband took in the mail and handed me 3 of my SASEs. I knew they were rejections. He asked in the nicest way “How long do you think you’ll keep at this?” I was shocked, as it had never occurred to me to give up. I answered “Until I get published.” Now I am motivated by the quality of books being published all around me, and the amazing writers who I aspire to emulate in creativity. There is a new pressure to ‘stay current’, and a feeling of only being as good as my last book, but I try not to let that get in the way or be discouraging. My critique group has been a fantastic way to keep me writing and motivated. If it weren’t for them, I’d be producing very little, as I am now working nearly full time.

4. Do you have another job or is writing your only job?
Yes, I really say I have 3 jobs. I write nearly full time for eBay in their Seller Marketing Group, I am a mom of 2 boys, age 8 and 7, and I write my children’s stories—by doing book events, publicizing my books, and doing the actual writing of new material. I was taking on side corporate copywriting projects, but decided that just was too stressful, so part of my new year’s resolution was to not take on more than I can actually handle. What a concept!

5. Do you have an agent? If yes, what steps did you take to obtain one?
I do have an agent. She is wonderful. Her name is Jennifer Unter and I signed on with her in late 2009. I started looking for an agent in 2008, and would research agents and then submit to them in small groups, maybe 2-4 at a time. While I was waiting for responses, I was writing picture books and even a young adult novel. I don’t think my YA is something I will ever put out there, but it certainly helped me get an agent. In fact, I had 2 agents offer me representation at the same time, and another seriously considering me. It was a bit overwhelming. In the end, I knew I may never get the novel to be where it needed to be, and I went with Jennifer, who was willing to take me on irrespective of whether or not I ever finished it. She loved my picture books and was willing to take a chance on me. And now I have one book out, one coming out next month, and 3 in production!

6. What advice would you give to a new writer?
Don’t give up. Only you can write the story in your head, but you can’t write it in a vacuum either. It often goes against our nature, but you need to get yourself out there and put your work out there. Tell people you are writing, and they are happy to remind you when they see you again—‘how’s that book you’re writing?—and it keeps you accountable. It’s a slow business (possibly getting faster in this digital world), so what may seem like a long time, is actually not in the grand scheme of things. Don’t rush your projects, but do figure out when your project is done, and start submitting.

Thank you to Sue Fliess for taking the time to answer my “Points from the Published” questions. And thank you to Sue and her publisher for the lovely books! I truly enjoyed them!

Here are some of Sue Fliess's wonderful books:

You can learn more about Sue Fliess at:

And her publisher Marshall Cavendish Children:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is NOT a sales pitch...

As we all know, technology advances at break-neck speed.  Something that just came out today will probably have three new versions by this time tomorrow.  And then you’ll be looking at your antiquated version peevishly, wondering “why do I even bother?”

With that said, I have always been somewhat reluctant to keep up with the trends of the newest hot-tech items.  I didn’t get my first i-pod until it had shrunk two sizes.  I barely got an i-Home as a gift this past Christmas.  And I’m usually one of the last to get the newest cell phones.

However, I have recently fallen head over heels for a relatively new piece of technology: The Kindle Fire.

I promise you, this is not a sales pitch.

Along with my i-Home, I also got a Kindle as a gift, after years of deciding I’d never fall victim to the page-less book.  I used to always think “a book without actual pages is no book at all” or “I prefer the feel and smell of real books fresh of the bookshelf.”  But, I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked for a Kindle, and I’m never looking back.

Benefits?  One of the best practices you’d hear from any writer is to read, read, read!  Understand the current market.  Read old stuff and new stuff, great stuff and awful stuff, classics and populars, genres you prefer to write and more.  The Kindle (or any e-book or tablet with book capabilities, I figure) allows you to do this with such ease, it’s almost cloying.  I’ve had my Kindle since December 25th, and I’m already onto my fourth book (and that’s while having a two jobs, a husband, and a life).  Not only can I research what’s new and hot, but I can look at the ratings of the book, read a synopsis, and buy it for my own electronic bookshelf all from the comfort of my bed.

And that’s not all.  I am a lover of words (hint the title of my blog).  I love learning new words and challenging myself to use them.  The Kindle comes with the capability to touch a word, prompting the word’s definition to automatically pop up onto the screen, which helps me to expand my vocabulary AND study for the GRE at the same time.  I’m smitten.

Once again, I assure you, this isn’t a sales pitch for Amazon.  No.  It’s just a thankful author joining this century and sharing her excitement with other book-lovers and writers who are looking for some motivation to make their passion that much easier (no more “I just don’t have time to write/read”).  I’m sure there’s a way to download a notebook right onto your e-book so you can read and write as inspiration hits you.

What this is is me showing gratitude.  Paying homage.  Homage to a device that I know is going to help me continue to grow as a writer.  So, if you have pushed e-books out of your mind, consider reconsidering.  You might find yourself to be an e-book lover too.

What's your pick: book or ebook? Why?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year in 2013

With each New Year, brings a time for reflection.  On a personal realm, this year has been incredibly eventful for me.  1) I got married (YAY!!!), 2) I welcomed a new nephew into the world (HOORAY!!!), 3) I started teaching a community college class (AWESOME!!!), and 4) I was blessed with many, wonderful experiences (Hawaii wedding and honeymoon, watching the Endeavor space shuttle move through the streets of LA, bringing in the New Year on the Las Vegas strip, and so on and so on and so on).

And aren’t these experiences the stuff of our stories?  Inspirations packaged in our everyday lives.  Sometimes, we may not realize that these happenings have inspired anything, until we find them captured on our pages, maybe looking a little different than we had actually experienced; but now being experienced by our characters.  Though this year didn't bring my ultimate writing goal of publication, it was definitely a momentous year.

I have had a number of positive steps in the right direction:

1)      Myself and a fellow writer (correction: a fellow fabulous writer) Rosi Hollinbeck completed and submitted our poetry collection about seasons.  What a fantastic accomplishment that was, especially the number of poems we wrote.
2)      I attended a conference and received positive feedback from an editor on one of my manuscripts, in addition to the names of two houses I should consider submitting it to.
3)      I sent out a large number of manuscripts to agents and publishing houses, and eagerly await a response.
4)      I have joined a middle grade critique group, and am working diligently on improving my middle grade book.  This was a big step for me, especially since my previous foci has always been picture books and poetry.

And now, #5, the most exciting news of all (duhn-duhn-nuh-nuuuuh!):

5)      I received a bite for one of my manuscripts from a publishing house, who deemed it “charming” and asked me if it were still available.  It feels incredible to receive an interest from an editor, and I hope the house decides to pursue it (fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes crossed!).

I have a great feeling about this year, and I am hoping that it too will be filled with many more positive experiences, and even larger strides toward my goal of becoming a published author.
Moving forward!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some thoughts on writing fiction...and J.K. Rowling

Writing fiction is no easy endeavor.  I mean, think about all that goes into it.  You have to figure out what you want to say, who your characters are, where your story takes place, when it takes place, what happens and what the plot includes, what the conflict is and how it’s solved (and that’s just general fiction).  And then, once you have that idea, you have to make each of these aspects real, believable, and of course interesting, or else no one would want to read your work.  Then you have to worry about word count or page count, tenses and grammar (of course those have to be accurate), consistency in the world you create (time, place, character) and so on.  And after all that is done, now you must edit and cut and revise (over and over and over again!).  And even after all that, there’s no guarantee that your “masterpiece” will even reach the bookshelves through publication.

But that’s okay, because, despite the struggle and time, those who enjoy writing, keep coming back to it.  Like myself.  We continue to challenge ourselves to see what we can create, and how we can make our work and ourselves even better.  We consistently allow ourselves to be moved by inspiration, and work to capture it onto our pages.  I am becoming a firmer believer about the importance of the process, the motion of what it takes to get there.  Like the words of India Arie’s song A Beautiful Day “Life is a journey, not a destination/ There are no mistakes, just chances we’ve taken”.  Of course, I’ll be excited to see what my finished product will be, but the unpredictability of the “getting there” is just as exciting.  A little daunting, and sometimes a little disheartening, but exciting nonetheless.

So, after thinking about all that it takes to be a writer, I sit in awe of those who have done it and who have done it so well.  Enter: J.K. Rowling.
I thought I’d write a little about J.K. Rowling because her work is awe-inspiring.  I have read the Harry Potter series and I have watched the movies over and over again.  And each time, I continue to be in awe of her work:  her characters and their quirks and imperfections; her settings and their “real-life feel”; her plot lines within each book as well as spread across seven books total; her creation of a new language (muggles, mudbloods, and so on) and of a new culture all together.  It’s no wonder why her World of Harry Potter has become such a world-wide phenomenon.  Her words have certainly had an effect on me that is difficult to explain; all I can do is sit back and continue to be enthralled in the world she created.

So Ms. Rowling, thank you for being such a talented writer.  Thank you for creating something that I have fallen in love with, something that me and my sisters have created so much history and so many memories with, something that I hope to share with my own kids one day when I have them, and something that inspires me to keep at my craft and become a better writer.  Thank you!

Now to figure out how to do it myself!