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?