Sunday, May 24, 2009

Interview with Amanda Noll, author of I NEED MY MONSTER, and a contest!

Did you know that some kids need a monster to get to sleep? Well, Amanda Noll does. Her debut book, I Need My Monster, is about a boy who cannot get to sleep until he gets the right monster--his monster--back under the bed.

"First, and foremost," says Amanda, "it’s a book about monsters under the bed." But there's a twist. This boy wants his monster. Gabe, the boy's regular monster had the nerve to take off and go fishing. How's a boy to get to sleep? Howard McWilliam illustrates an array of cutely-cranky monsters who try to appease the boy and are not happy that they won't do whether it's because of polished nails or a long tongue.

What? You don't think a long tongue is scary either? My kids have found this book to be hilarious and have been having fun quoting it and changing things around. They've been threatening each other with a long lip--the book has definitely kindled their imagination.

Amanda has stopped by to answer a few questions about her book and her writing. Plus, she's going to give away a signed copy of I Need My Monster! Just leave a comment on this post (more details at the end of the interview.)

Amanda, I Need My Monster has been getting some great reviews, what inspired you to write the story?

Wishing my 3 year old would have a monster under her bed so she would stay in bed. Then wondering why the monster was doing such a lousy job (because she was out of bed again!). Then I imagined even monsters needed a break.

(Amanda! You are funny!)

I Need My Monster is your first published book. What was your road to publication like?

The road was long and rocky, like most people's.

(Ahem. Yup.)

How many manuscripts did you write before I Need My Monster? What have you done with them?

I have written many picture books and several novels. Most of them will stay in my drawer forever. I hope one or two of my novels see the light of day.

How does it feel to be able to call yourself an author now?


Are there any similarities between you and your main character?

No, but after the process I looked back and recognized several family members personified as monsters!?!

(Ha! But did they recognize themselves?)

What is the most fun thing you’ve done to support the publication of your book?

I created a “toe cake” to accompany my launch party.

(Who doesn't like to eat toes?!)

Do you have any other books in the works? Tell us about your work-in-progress.

I’m a little suspicious about talking about works in progress, but I will say I have a middle grade ghost story up my sleeve.

(Oh, sorry, don't wanna jinx ya.)

If you could live in any book, which one would it be and why?

I think that I would love to be in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Singer, because I love dragons and have always wanted a fire lizard.

I Need My Monster is published by Flashlight Press. You can read more about Amanda at her website,

Like I said, Amanda is giving away a signed copy of I Need My Monster right here! Just leave a comment on this post. If you want, you can tell us what your monster needs to keep you in bed. Mine has lots of rejection letters--they keep me in bed and writing! His name is Querrel.
The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. I'll do the draw on Friday, May 29th at 8:00p.m. and will post then, as long as my kid's monsters keep them in bed.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Query Letter Vexation

So, here I am working on this query letter. I’ve been working on it for a really long time, off and on, for a number of hours, days, and weeks that have blended together into a letter writing blur.

Sometimes query letter come easily. I know my hook right from the start. My description is dead on. That definitely happened with Bedtime Monster.

Other times, I work and write and rethink and rewrite. Then when I can’t get it right I go back and look at my manuscript, which I thought was finished, and rethink and rewrite it, again, for the bazillionth time because if I can’t write a great hook and description, there’s probably(most likely? definitely?) something wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to second guess yourself in this business. Here I am rewriting a query letter that has already garnered requests. Why? I think it can be better. I think I can give more of a flavor of the book. Yet, I’m beginning to be tempted to just leave it as it was.

But... I won’t. I WILL KEEP WORKING ON IT UNTIL I GET IT RIGHT! Even if it takes me much longer than I expected. And what doesn't these days.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Stella Michel

Today for The Unread, I'm interviewing someone who isn't totally unread, but she hasn't had a book published--yet. Stella Michel is one of my fabulous critique partners. She always gives her honest opinion, and she knows her stuff. Stella is a children's library media specialist and has an amazing feel for the poetry of words. I always look forward to what she tells me about my work and to reading whatever she writes.

I really want to know, Stella, why do you write?

I write because I love story and the process of crafting other worlds. I love being transported to another time, another place, and delving into the lives of characters, both real and imagined. It’s exciting to create something where once there was nothing. I also enjoy the music of language. I can’t sing – I just don’t have the voice for it – so writing is, in a sense, my own way of singing, or at least trying to.

(Stella has a beautiful writing voice, even if she says she can't sing.)

How many manuscripts have you written?

I’ve written about 4 picture book manuscripts, scads of poetry, several short stories and am still working on my WIP, Winging It. I hope to finish that this summer then let it rest a while before deciding what to do with it –revise it or chalk it up to writing experience.

(My vote is for revising, not just chalking it up!)

What have you done with the stories and poems you've written?

Most of them are saved on floppies (Floppies! That's old school! Stella you rock!) and are still going through revisions. I’ve had a few poems published (she won the SCBWI "June Looms" contest!) and, most recently, an article published in the SCBWI Bulletin. (See, she's not totally unread. Her article, Verse-atility, in the Bulletin this month is awesome!) I’m a member of an online critique group called the Poet’s Garage, as well as Loose Change, and last year two leaders of The Poet’s Garage, Laura Wyncoop and Jennifer Judd – both very accomplished and talented poets, began subbing out a collection of our spooky poems to various publishing houses. We called it simply, Project Spooky. They received many many rejections but also a few notes of encouragement. At long last, one publisher – Marshall Cavendish – offered to publish our work. We’re thrilled. Our book will come out in 2010 and will be titled The Eyeball In My Garden, after Bill Peary’s poem by the same title. The book will consist of 44 of our poems, accompanied by illustrations. We knew this was an unusual project and weren’t sure what to expect or if we should expect anything.

(That is such great news! I hope I can do a group interview. Hint hint.)

Tell us about your work-in-progress.

Winging It is a middle grade fantasy about impulsive 14 year old Esperenza, an aspiring fairy godmother with an aptitude for trouble, who bungles one spell too many. As punishment, Mirelda, the fairy queen, forbids her from using her wings or her wand until she can prove one thing – that she can help somebody without the use of magic.

(That Esperenza has alot of spunk! She's in such trouble right now I can't wait to see how she manages to get out of it.)

How long have you been writing and what keeps you going?

I guess I’ve been writing on and off since college, but loved it even at an early age. I remember writing poems in my early teens and stories as a grade school student. I began writing more seriously for children in 2004.

How do you make the time?

I write during the summer, after work (if I’m not totally exhausted) and on weekends. It’s easy to find excuses not to write but I’ve decided that if I really wanted to do this, I had to stop making up excuses and find the time instead.

(Stella works with kids all day, then she comes home and writes for kids. She's amazing!)

How does your family feel about your writing?

I think there are times when my husband wishes I didn’t write, then the garden would be planted and the house a little cleaner, but he’s come to accept the fact that it’s important to respect my creative urges. I also draw and paint. My boys recently left the house to strike out on their own but when they were kids, I really didn’t have any much time to write. I started writing poetry during my son’s high school wrestling tournaments, which went on all day – sometimes all weekend – as a way to pass the time and found I loved the challenge.

(Now that's a challenge--writing at a high school wrestling match!)

What are your writing goals and what have you done to further them?

My writing goals mostly consist of writing the best stories and poems I can. Maybe somebody will want to publish them, maybe not, but I just want to craft the best stories and poems I’m capable of. I’ve attended some writing workshops, joined two critique groups, the SCBWI and read several great books about writing, all with the hopes of improving my writing skills.

How far would you go to get your book published?

If I really believe I have something worth publishing, I’ll persevere with it until I run out of options and finally stick it in my junk drawer.

And I love the answers I get to this question, so, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and wouldn’t mind living in Shannon Hale’s book, The Goose Girl. I love the characters and the setting, the story and the language, and the magic, of course – everything about it really.

How did I know that you would want to live in a fairy tale?
Thank you, Stella, for letting me interview you. I can't wait for THE EYEBALL IN MY GARDEN to be released!
You can read more from Stella at her blog, Shore Lines.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Plan

I have a plan for my blog, an actual plan that I wrote out on a piece of paper with a schedule with actual dates for author interviews, Unread interviews, book reviews, library displays, writing posts, and blabbly posts about whatnot. I’d like to share it with you, I really would.

The problem is, if I tell you then you might be expecting something on a certain date and I’d have to be, like, on time. And the problem with being on time is that I always have a zillion different things pulling me in all directions. Do this, do that! Besides, most of the time I don’t even know what day it is. (I just looked. Can you believe that it’s May 17th already? I’m shocked!)

Really, I have things planned, they just probably won’t come on a specific date like I’d like them to. I like to think that I'm in sync with publishing time--lots of waiting.

Besides that, I lost the piece of paper with the schedule on it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Hazards of Writing in Bed

Someone asked what our special place to write was during #writechat on Twitter a couple of Sundays ago. Yes, I'm a super-slow blog poster. Anyway, it's an easy answer for me: bed. I thought that writing in bed was maybe kinda weird, but I told everyone anyway. I've come to accept my writing habits and actually like the fact that I wrote Bedtime Monster in bed. But writing in bed does have its dangers.

First of all, there's the pen marks. You can tell a bed writer by the pen marks on their hands and arms. That's from from falling asleep with the pen in their hand, of course. A face streaked with ink is a dead giveaway.

The pen is a dangerous weapon. Not only can writers cast a deadly word-lashing if so inclined, pens are sharp. It is quite shocking to wake up with a pen stabbing you in the back or the eye. Which leads me to...

Alienating your significant other. My husband actually told me this, so obviously, bed writing affects more than just the bed writer. I know that more than once I've woken up to, "what the heck is this?", followed by the sound of a pen... or two... or three, hitting the floor. When I wake up to paper crinkling, I have to jump up to save my slanting, illegible, written-as-I-was-falling-asleep words from being irreplaceably lost if my hubby is a little to irritated in his sleep. Not that he has ever ripped up my papers, but you never know, someday it just might be one time too many. At least he doesn't mind the ink stains all over the sheets. They're on my side anyway--mostly.

Then there's the losing stuff. When you're a bedtime writer you tend to, um, fall asleep--if you haven't figured that out already. So, sometimes I write something then forget where I wrote it. (I have this other annoying habit of writing in every different room in the house--all in different notebooks, but that's another story.) Then I spend days tearing apart all my notebooks looking for it. Someday I will learn to look between the wall and the bed first.

Falling asleep before I get everything written down is pretty annoying, but it comes with the territory. As I get more into a story or more tired, whichever comes first, I tend to sink lower into the bed. As I sink lower I get more warm and cuddly. It doesn't take long before I am hiding my face under the covers and closing my eyes while I think. And that can only lead to sleep.

Even though there are hazards, writing in bed is my number one spot. And now I have clearly given you too much information.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I’ve decided to do a new series of interviews with writers. Unpublished writers—they get no glory! They do put in the hard work like everyone else, plus they have to manage to find something within themselves that keeps them going. This is what The Unread is all about.

For my first interview I asked my fabulous critique partner, fellow group administrator, great friend, and all around crazy-fun chick, Linda Duddridge (some of you may know her as SBK), to answer some questions. Okay, okay, I actually twisted her arm and threatened her. We’d better get to it before she changes her mind.

Okay, Linda, inquiring minds want to know, why do you write anyway?

I’m a control freak. I love being able to tell people what to do, what to say and even what to wear – unlike my own children, my characters have to listen. They comply with every evil plot I throw at them. It’s a power trip, I think.

How many manuscripts have you written?

Well, I wrote one lousy picture book years ago that will never see the light of day. (It’s not lousy like she says. Plus the concept was “stolen” and used in a major motion picture--sorry I can't help but comment. It is my blog after all.)And I have three novels – one is now shelved permanently, one is shelved temporarily, and my special baby from this year’s NaNoWriMo is heading into major revisions.

What have you done with them?

I’d love to say burn them, but I’m no pyromaniac. Nah, the first ones were all practice novels – ways for me to learn as I go. One made rounds to some agents, but I never really expected much from that. (Ahem, almost every agent she queried for it asked to see more.) I have big plans for the one I’m working on now, though.

Tell us about your work-in-progress.

CRAZED is set in a small town in the Canadian Rockies in the future, after catastrophic global climate change has killed almost everything. The residents of the town follow the teachings of a man who believes the world can be cured by using a sort of emotional butterfly effect. For example, happiness spreads positive energy and encourages plants to grow, but bitterness and anger bring huge storms or disease. My main character, Stephanie, finds herself in trouble when she loses her temper too many times and starts to question her beliefs. When a deadly disease arrives in town, everyone blames her and believes she brought it on purpose. They call her a witch and decide her death is a sacrifice worth making to protect the greater good.

Throw in a bit of angst over parental approval, romance and obsession and that pretty much covers it.

(OMG! They want to kill her? I haven’t gotten to that part yet!)

How long have you been writing and what keeps you going?

It’s been around 6 years now, I guess. I know many people say things like, ‘my ambition to be published keeps me going,’ but honestly, I don’t care about that. I just love creating something I can be proud of. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I try.

(She does care. She just hides it well!)

How do you make the time?

This is the easiest question for me. All my kids are in school full time now, so I have all day to browse the net, write blogs and play on Twitter and Facebook … er … I mean write. I have all day to write.

(She bugs me a lot too. ;-)

How does your family feel about your writing?

Well, they say they support it, but sometimes I think they wish I didn’t write. We’d have a much cleaner house and less take-out if I were one of those dedicated, non-obsessed moms.

What are your writing goals and what have you done to further them?

My writing goals are simple: Avoid insanity. Of course, I’m failing. Honestly, at this point, I don’t know what my goals are. Success scares me. Promotion terrifies me. Being all cozy in my house and obsessing about characters and plot thrills me. So at this point, I’m avoiding the stuff that scares me and focusing on the fun stuff. When I’m ready, I’ll move on. Slowly.

(She also goes to quite a few conferences and has started going to SCBWI meetings. Watch out! The snail train is leaving the station.)

How far would you go to get your book published?

If it meant being published, I'd eat all the Skittles in Canada. I know they're bad for me (and my hips), but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

(See, I told you she cared.)

A couple of special, agent inspired questions for you. Ice or no ice? Can or glass?

Absolutely ice, unless it’s milk. And it’s kinda tough to put ice in a can, so I’m sure you can guess that my answer is glass.

And here’s what I really want to know, if you could live in any book which one would it be and why?

My automatic response is Harry Potter, but when I give it serious thought (and trust me, I’ve dedicated far too much time to this), I’m not sure I could handle the whole Voldemort thing. So after rethinking it some, I’d have to say I’d love to live in the book, Savvy by Ingrid Law. I’d be eager to know what my Savvy is and frankly, Mibs would make an awesome friend.

You can read more from Linda at her blog, Jumbled Ramblings and you can follow her on twitter. She’s @sbklinda.

Thank you, Linda, for being my guinea pig today and being the first to answer questions for The Unread. I loved making you answer... I mean, getting to ask you questions.

You’re welcome! It was fun and I didn’t obsess about the answers at all! Nope. Not one bit. True story. :-)

Readers, watch out! You may be next…