Archive for October, 2011

You are the boss of your book

October 25, 2011

This weekend I traveled by train to Fresno to sign books at the IBBY Conference at the Arne Nixon Center at CSUF and to visit friends in my old college town. 

On Sunday afternoon I took the train home and sat next to a college gal who was attending school at Stanislaus State.  I was reading a book, but  soon I became aware of a man who stood across from me and next to the stairs.

At first I thought he was talking on a cell phone.  No.  This was no cell phone chatter.

Then I hoped he was standing there in preparation for the next station which was Madera. Unfortunately, when the Madera people got off, he didn’t.

He was facing my seatmate and me and said, “*%#!  I TOLD you two to get off the train NOW. *%#!.”

I glanced and saw he held a green garbage bag but no suitcase. Then I turned to my seatmate who was wide-eyed and scared. “I’ll get the porter, ” I said.

“Good,” she whispered.

I placed my book on my seat.  Fortunately he didn’t sit there, but when I came back he was leaning toward her swearing more.  She exhaled when I sat down.  “Oh thank goodness,” she said. 

A moment later the train guy came (fortunately a big guy) and announced, “Merced is next.” Then he said to the man with problems, “Come with me.”

Both my seatmate and I sighed and relaxed. A few minutes later a kid about 13 or 14 started bouncing around, coming to the stairs and acting weird.  What was this kid on?


The young man turned abruptly and went back to his seat.   Everyone in our area laughed.

Next time I shall wear a super-mom cape that says Don’t Mess with Me.

Writing Prompt: 

Where in your writing project do you really need to take control?  Writers must make decisions.  Be brave.  Take risks.  Go out on a limb.  Tell the truth!  Write your soul out.  You can always pull back later.  But you will be surprised.  After you’ve written the scary stuff, all of your difficult feelings, you may discover that is your richest writing ever.  You are the boss of your book.

Finding the “Thread” in your Book Project

October 20, 2011

I’ve been working on the latest book of mine , researching and writing as I go along and I am very near the depth, the tie that binds all those loose threads together, and I know I’m close but I feel like I’m blindfolded; I’m waving my arms around, grasping wildly in the air for that thread.

My writing partner and I meet over breakfast to read and talk about our work, and I tell her I know I’m getting close, but it’s so frustrating not to find the words I need.  Once I get those words in a sentence I know the other clues will fall into place.   I feel like a detective trying to solve a mystery.  What am I missing? 

She tells me what she likes about the book.  Then it hits me.  The words come out in the sentence I need. 

“That’s it!” she says.  

“Thank you,” I say. 

Without our conversation, I wouldn’t have found it until much, much later . . . if at all. 

It reminds me when I was compiling The ABCs of Writing for Children, Thacher Hurd said that when an author writes a book, it’s really a community effort.  Sometimes the author has a writing group, a writing partner, an agent, one or more editors . . . so that by the time the book is finished, the community has created the art. 

I also recall other authors telling me it took years to discover their themes, or plots, or characters.  Time is your friend.  So don’t despair if it doesn’t all fall into place right away.  You may need to bounce ideas off of people.  And then you need it to simmer in your thought process for a while. 

The next day, when I awake, I get the next layer of depth.  It falls right into place with the words I had found yesterday.  Now I feel shock that it took so long for me to discover what was with me all along.  A past which was buried so deeply it didn’t occur me to even consider it.

And now, I forget who said it originally, I shall open a vein.

K-8 Student Writing Contest: Scholastic Kids Are Authors!

October 14, 2011

Guidelines   Deadline:  March 15, 2012


Entries must be written in picture book format for both fiction and nonfiction books.
Make sure the text complements the artwork.
Keep text pages separate from illustration pages. The text and illustrations will be combined in the pre-printing stage for the winning books. See format for submissions below.
Before mailing your submission, make sure the pages of your book are in the proper order and number the pages lightly on the back.


Do not use trademarked, brand-name items, or licensed characters and products. (Mickey Mouse, Snickers, McDonald’s, Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, etc.). The right to use such names is protected by law.
You can create artwork using, paints, inks, crayons, markers, original computer graphics, cut paper, and print processes (such as linoleum block, silk screen, sponge painting, potato stamping, etc.).
To maintain a constant look, it is best not to use too much variation in the media.
Use bright, vibrant colors and bold lines to create reproducible illustrations that make a strong overall impression. In general, pencil drawings are not recommended.
Create illustrations that fill most of the page by centering and enlarging the subject or including an appropriate background. Do not use newspaper print as a background.
Consider making use of contrast in the artwork to create surprise and add life to pictures. Put dark colors next to light colors, thin lines next to thick lines, or use sharply contrasting figures.

Format for Submissions

In order for your entry to be submitted into the contest, you must follow the required format for entries.
All entries must contain illustrated artwork and be received in its original format.
Three-dimensional artwork (pop-ups, flaps, movable parts, plasticine, etc.) will not be accepted.
Artwork may be computer generated only if it is the students’ original creation.
Use one side of the page only. Keep text separate from illustrated artwork.
Artwork and text must be separate. A mock-up should also be included.
Text may be typed, computer generated, or handwritten.
Both text and artwork must be the sole creation of the students.
Based on your design, use either 8 ½” x 11″ or 9″ x 12″ paper (we recommend that you submit your illustrations on quality paper or construction paper).
Do not staple, laminate, or bind the book.

Steps to Organize and Submit Your Entry

1. Organize original artwork in page order (mark page number on back) and place in a folder or envelope. Do not bind the pages.
2. Organize text pages in page order and number on the back to correspond with illustration page. Place in a folder or envelope. Do not bind the pages.
3. Provide cover art and a dedication page. These will not be counted as part of the page count.
4. A mock-up is intended to show how you want your book to look in its final form. Use photocopies of your original artwork and text to create your mock-up. Photocopies may be in black and white or color. Place bound mock-up in a folder or envelope.
5. Include the completed Entry Form. (PDF)
6. Send all of the above in a sturdy folder or box to the address listed on the entry form.
7. Each entry must be submitted separately following the above steps.
8. Remember that the entry should be the students’ work only. Try to limit inserting your opinions. Your role is to offer guidance, mediate, and provide instruction and examples of story elements, such as plot, theme, character development, and setting.

Frequenty Asked Questions

Can an entry be submitted by one student?
No. Each entry must be submitted by a group of 3 or more students. This contest was designed to encourage students to work together as a team. Collaborating as a team helps provide a natural environment to practice editing, teamwork, and communication skills.

Does the title page, dedication page, or picture of the group count as part of the 21-29 pages required?
No. Just the story – illustrations and text.

What do you mean by submitting the artwork and text separately?
If your pages have text on or over the illustrations, each must be submitted separately. Mark the back of each page, i.e. page 1 of text goes on page 1 of illustrations. Prepare a mock-up by making a color or black and white copy to show how you want the final product to look.

When are the entries due?
All entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2012 to be eligible for the 2012 Competition.

Do we send in the entry form separate from the entry?
No. Each entry must have an entry form attached to it. The signature of the parent or guardian signature of each student participating in the entry must be submitted. Copies may be made of the entry form.

Does the project coordinator have to be a teacher?
No. A librarian, teacher’s aide, or parent can be the project coordinator. The project coordinator assures that the entry adheres to the rules and regulations and that the spelling and grammar are correct. The story and illustrations must be the students’ work.

Can the team consist of different grade levels?

How many entries can one school send?
There is no limit, but each entry must be done in groups of 3 or more students.

Will I be notified when my entry is received?
Entrants will receive a letter of acknowledgement and a certificate of participation by April 15.

Will I be notified when the winner is selected?
Yes, by May 31 we will announce the winners for the contest by sending a postcard to everyone who has submitted an entry. RESULTS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE ONLINE.

How can I purchase the Kids Are Authors books?
The Kids Are Authors books are $4.99 and can be purchased at a Scholastic Book Fair near you or from our School Resource Catalog by calling 1-800-799-7323. Some past winners may be out of print.

For more information and specific guidelines visit:

High Concept Books with Veronica Rossi

October 13, 2011

On Saturday at the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch, we were treated to a highly entertaining talk by young adult novelist Veronica Rossi, whose book, Under the Never Sky, will be released in January by HarperCollins. Her three-book-deal, which has also been optioned for a movie, is a can’t-wait-for-event!

Veronica filled us in on high concept:  it’s actually a Hollywood term which is an idea that sells itself.    As quoted from James Bonnet: ” . . . it is an intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all.” 

Basically, Veronica says, it’s a promise.  As you watch movies, can you state it in a few words?

“Date Night”    What happens when a bored married couple’s date goes very, very wrong?

“Snakes on a Plane”     The title is enough to describe it.

(Disclaimer:  Just because a movie or book is high concept, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s high quality.)

Writing Prompt: 

Describe your project within 25 words or less.  If your pitch can be short and succinct, you will have a better chance at focusing your writing, whether or not you’ve got a high concept writing idea or not. 

Next, go through your manuscript and make sure you’ve adhered to your pitch. 

How do you write a good pitch?  Veronica says, “Tell us who your hero is, what she is up against, and what is at stake.” 

Remember to add character development, suspense and a terrific voice so that your novel will be a great high concept read.

Enter The Ladies’ Home Journal Essay Contest

October 6, 2011


Void outside the 50 United States and where prohibited. Do not proceed to enter if you are not at least 21 years of age and a legal resident of, and located within, one of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia at the time of entry.
The Ladies’ Home Journal Personal Essay Contest begins at 12:01a.m. Eastern Time(“E.T.”) on August 9, 2011 and ends at 11:59 p.m., E.T. on December 13, 2011. Mail entries must be postmarked no later than December 13, 2011, and received no later than December 23, 2011. Sponsor: Meredith Corporation, 1716 Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa.


  1. Mail Entry: Write an essay (first-person narratives) of personal growth, for example: a life lesson or personal challenge at a minimum of 1,500 words and a maximum of 2,500 words, typed, double-spaced and page numbered on 8-1/2x11paper. Include your name, address, daytime telephone number and e-mail address (optional) on each page and send to: Personal Essay Contest, Ladies’ Home Journal, 805 Third Avenue, 26th Fl., New York, NY, 10017.
  2. Online Entry: Visit and complete the registration from, then follow the steps to submit your essay.

Entries must be original (written by entrant), unpublished and may not have won any prize or award. Entries handwritten, fictional, or exceeding the required length may be disqualified. Entries may not contain brand names or trademarks. All entries are final upon submission. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject and/or disqualify any entries, subjects, or related materials that Sponsor deems to be obscene, defamatory, profane, offensive, lewd, pornographic, false, misleading, deceptive, or otherwise inconsistent with its editorial standards, audience expectations, or reputational interests or that Sponsor believes may violate any applicable law or regulation or the rights of any third party. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to verify any element of any entry or related materials, request additional information and to disqualify any entrant whose participation may subject the contest, Sponsor, or Sponsor’s advertisers, clients, or customers to controversy, negative publicity, scorn, or ridicule.

LIMIT: One entry per person, regardless of method of entry. Any attempt by an entrant, or any other person, to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations, logins, or any other methods may result in disqualification by Sponsor, in its sole discretion.

ELIGIBILITY: Legal residents of the 50 United States, and the District of Columbia, 21 years of age or older are eligible to enter, except employees of Sponsor, and any other organizations affiliated with the sponsorship, fulfillment, administration, prize support, advertisement or promotion of the Contest and/or their respective agents, affiliates, subsidiaries and members of their immediate families or household members. “Immediate family members” shall mean parents, step-parents, children, step-children, siblings, step-siblings, or spouses. “Household members” shall mean people who share the same residence at least three months a year.
WINNER SELECTION: On or about January 2, 2012, a qualified panel of judges appointed by Sponsor will select one (1) winner from among the eligible entries based on originality 25%, essay theme 25%, use of language 25%, and overall creativity 25%. In the event of a tie, the winner will be the entry among the tied entries with the higher score in overall creativity. Potential winner will be notified by phone and/or email and prize will be delivered approximately thirty (30) days from date of winner verification. Decisions of judges are final and binding in all respects.
PRIZING: One (1) winner will receive a check for $3000. Winner’s essay may be published in a future issue of Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. Publication of essay is at the sole discretion of the editors and is not guaranteed. This element of the prize has no retail value, and if it becomes impractical or impossible to fulfill this element, Sponsor will have fulfilled its prize obligation by having provided the remaining elements of the prize.

Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize (or portions thereof) of equal or greater value if prize (or portions thereof) cannot be awarded as described. Sponsor will determine all elements of prizing in its sole discretion. Prize may not be assigned, transferred, or changed, except at the sole discretion of Sponsor. Prize is awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee express or implied by Sponsor. Sponsor disclaims all and any liability for the actual provision, quality or nature of any third party product or service accepted by the winner. All taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner. The awarding of any prize is contingent upon full compliance with these Official Rules.
CONDITIONS/WARRANTIES: Entrants agree to be bound by Official Rules and agree that if any winner fails to provide proof of identity, refuses to provide documentation, is found to have violated the Official Rules or otherwise does not meet eligibility criteria, prize will be forfeited and awarded to an alternate winner with the next highest score. Entrants understand that Sponsor is not liable for injuries, losses or damages of any kind arising from participation in this promotion and acceptance, possession and use of prize. Sponsor is not responsible for any typographical or other error in the printing of the offer, administration of the contest or in the announcement of the prize. Decisions of Sponsor are final and binding in all respects.
Sponsor assumes no responsibility for entries it is unable to process due to network, hardware or other technical failures; or any other reason, or incomplete, damaged, misdirected, illegible, stolen or lost online or mail entries. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion to disqualify any person tampering with the entry process, the operation of the web site or otherwise in violation of these Official Rules. Sponsor further reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, terminate or modify this promotion if not capable of completion as planned, including infection by computer virus, technical corruption, non-authorized human intervention, or any other causes beyond the control of the Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, or integrity of the contest. In the event of cancellation, Sponsor reserves the right to select winner from among all eligible entries received prior to date of cancellation. The use of automated entry systems or any other conduct that impedes the integrity of the contest is prohibited. In the event of a dispute regarding online entry, entry will be deemed made by the holder of an established e-mail account associated with the entry.
RELEASES: By participating in this contest and accepting any prize that they may win, entrants agree to release Sponsor, its parent, subsidiary, affiliated and successor companies, advertising and promotion agencies and prize suppliers, and each of their respective officers, directors, agents, representatives and employees, as well as each of their respective successors, representatives and assigns (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from any and all actions, claims, injury, loss or damage arising in any manner, directly or indirectly, from participation in this contest and/or acceptance or use of the prize.
Entrants authorize the Released Parties to use their name, voice, likeness, biographical data, city and state of residence and entry materials in all media now known or hereafter discovered, for any purpose, including without limitation, in connection with, and to promote, market or advertise, the contest, in whole or in part, without review, approval, credit or attribution, notification or payment from or to entrant or any person or entity, worldwide, in perpetuity, or on a winner’s list, if applicable, unless prohibited by law. Sponsor is not obligated to use any of the above-mentioned information or materials, but may do so and may edit such information or materials, at Sponsor’s sole discretion, without further obligation or compensation.
By submitting entry materials, entrants certify that such materials are original and created by entrant, that entrants have the necessary rights, permission and authority to submit such materials, and, if applicable, that entrants maintain a valid copyright in the materials.
By submitting entry materials, entrants acknowledge that they understand and agree that the Released Parties’ use of material containing features and elements similar to or identical with those contained in entrants’ entry materials does not entitle entrants to any compensation. By entering, entrants waive any right of action against the Released Parties in connection with the Released Parties’ use of any material (or any part thereof), whether or not the material contains features or elements similar or identical to those contained in entrants’ entry materials.
PRIVACY: Registration for Sponsor’s website is required to enter the Contest online. When you register, we collect personally identifying information about you, including your name, mailing address, and email address. The information that you provide will be added to a centralized Sponsor database so that you will simultaneously be registered for Sponsor’s other websites as well.

By entering and/or providing the required registration information, you acknowledge that Sponsor may send you information, samples, or special offers it believes may be of interest to you about its publications or other complementary goods offered by Sponsor. Sponsor may also include your name and postal address in postal address lists that Sponsor sells or rents to third parties for marketing purposes. For more information about how Sponsor uses the information you provide, see Sponsor’s privacy policy at IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO SHARE YOUR INFORMATION, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER THIS PROMOTION.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION: Except where prohibited, by participating Contest entrants agree that: All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of participant(s) and Sponsor and its agents shall be governed by and construed exclusively in accordance with the laws of the State of New York without giving effect to any principles of conflicts of law of any jurisdiction. Entrant agrees that any action at law or in equity arising out of or relating to this Contest, or awarding of the prize, shall be filed only in the state or federal courts located in the State of New York and entrant hereby consents and submits to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action. Except where prohibited, by participating in this Contest, entrant agrees that: (a) any and all disputes, claims, and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Contest, or awarding of the prize, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action; and (b) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with participating in this Contest but in no event attorneys’ fees; and (c) under no circumstances will any participant be permitted to obtain awards for and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental and consequential damages and any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses, and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased. Some jurisdictions do not allow the limitations or exclusion of liability for incidental or consequential damages, so the above may not apply to you.
GENERAL: Except where prohibited by law, potential winner will be required to complete and return an Affidavit of Eligibility and IRS W9 Form, Publicity Release and License of Pre-Existing Work within ten (10) days of notification or the entry with the next highest score may become an alternate winner. If winner notification is returned as undeliverable, the entry with the next highest score may become an alternate winner. Subject to all U.S. federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited. Taxes on prize are the sole responsibility of winner. Winner will be issued an IRS 1099 tax form in the amount of the prize retail value as stated herein. For winners’ list, available after March 1, 2012, send a separate, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Winners’ List/Essay Contest, Ladies’ Home Journal, 805 Third Avenue, 26th Fl., New York, NY 10017.

 For more information, visit: