Tuesday, December 31, 2013


With the start of a New Year writing and submitting time seems to reset. It just can't help but feel like an exciting time to kick up our heels, freshen up those goals, and make some brand spaking new ones.
As writers, goals can really help us move forward instead of flailing around in limbo trying to decide what we should do next. But this is important: MAKE YOUR GOALS REALISTIC!

I've seen this sort of thing so many times. People say they are going to sell a book this year (or five!) Or are going to get an agent (or even a specific agent!) These things are absolutely, positively NOT UNDER YOUR CONTROL! You cannot force an agent to love your work. And selling a book? It can take a multitude of people to say yes at one house alone for you to be offered a publishing contract. Not that it can't happen. I know you've heard it before, just write the best book you can! The rest is not totally up to you.

Of course, there are great goals you can make that are under your control. What do you want to write in the New Year? Do you have partially finished manuscripts that you want to get completed? What about submissions? Submission goals are great! (That's why I love Sub It Club!) There are cover and query letters to write. Maybe a synopsis. And research! Plus there's all that extra online stuff. Need to freshen up that blog? *raises hand. Update your about pages on your social media? *raises hand again.

So much to do! For sure, the more great things you write and the more well targeted submissions you make, the more chances you give yourself for publishing success. But, a successful year is going to be different for each and every one of us. Be sure to take your time constraints along with the way you work into consideration when making your goals. Of course, big goals are good, but be sure to put smaller ones in there too. Small successes can definitely help you keep going.

My goals can tend to get a bit out of hand. I have lots of things I want to write and not enough time to write them all. I'm in the process of going through my humongous list of picture book manuscripts and picking out the ones I think are most viable. I also have more than a few new titles I want to complete as well. I want to get my chapter book out for critique and ready for the next phase, which is hopefully submission. And I have a YA that keeps knocking on my brain. I'm 6 chapters in and feel like completion in 2014 as a goal is iffy. But, I can't help but put it on my list anyway. I'm a dreamer, and sometimes I surprise even myself.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Mary Cummings of Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises

Mary Cummings is the literary agent representing children's writers at Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises where she has been since 2008. According to the website, Mary represents children's fiction and poetry but not nonfiction.

There isn't too much online information on Ms. Cummings but I learned from a former client that, "she is kind, professional, and supportive, she loves lyric and she loves sweet!" Also, Mary works book by book.

There is a 2009 article, Made in Minnesota: The Rise of Agent Mary Cummings at Children's Literature Network.

You can see a few comments on submissions writers have made on Mary Cummings' listing at Querytracker.

Writer Maria Ashworth lists that she is represented by Mary Cummings on her website.

Mary Cummings can be queried via email with the entire picture book manuscript pasted into the body of the email. Read her entire submission guidelines on the Betsy Amster Literary website.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Avoid Clichés Like the Plague

Avoid clichés like the plague. ßHa! See what I did there?

Yup, we use clichés all the time. It seems to me that clichés come to be because they hold some element of truth. But haven’t we heard them enough?

Here's a fun game: pick out all of the cliche's that you hear in this song. I've never been able to make it to the end before rolling my eyes so hard I get a migrane.

Yup, it seems that songwriters can get away with using as many clichés as they want. Maybe because it makes it so easy to remember the words to the songs.

As writers we need our work to be fresh. Exciting! New! Surprising! A feast for the eyes. ßOkay, I’m cutting it close there. ßAnd there.

You see, it’s a lot quicker and easier to fall back on simple descriptions and clichés than it is to make something truly your own. That takes time, thought, and creativity-- those same old key elements of success. Dang it, it's hard work, but it's worth it!

So, if you need to fall back on cliche's, it's fine to do so in your first draft. Then come back and revise them within an inch of their lives. Your readers will thank you for it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Monster List Logo!

I've been posting to The Monster List of Picture Book Agents for a while now. Yes, sometimes there are can be longish periods of time in-between posts but I am for sure dedicated to updating the list as often as I can. So I'd like to present The Monster List of Picture Book Agents logo by Dana Carey!

I love the imagery Dana created to represent the list. Mysterious. A little intimidating perhaps. But behind the door there is opportunity! There are many agents out there who represent what you write. You have to open that door and find the agent for you!

I've known Dana Carey for a while now. Since a bit before she did her Unread interview with me I suppose. Not only is Dana is the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI France, she's a fabulous writer and illustrator (obviously). Not too long after that interview I got brave and asked Dana if she wanted to trade picture book manuscripts with me. She did! I'm so glad I asked because now not only is she my good friend with a level head that I can also count on for good advice, she's also my partner in Sub It Club.

I didn't know this when I asked her to help me head up Sub It Club, but Dana was a graphic designer in New York City before she moved to France. I feel so lucky to have her in charge of all of Sub It Club's graphic design along with the Monthly Goalpost, Illustrator Postcard Posts, and day to day duties!

And now, not only will my Monster List posts look great, I can post them to Pinterest and make them a resource on the Sub It Club Pinterest pages as well!


Dana Carey for being a wonderful friend, a fabulous critique partner, and for giving me the gift of a beautifully designed logo!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I Track Submissions

Keeping track of submissions is important! I posted this over at Sub It Club, but thought I would post it here too because so many of you come here looking for submission information. Plus I've been really bad about blogging lately and it will make me feel so good to get something posted! So, here's how I track submissions:

Yes, I’ve heard the news. We should use a spreadsheet to keep track of our submissions. Lisha Cauthen showed us how to keep track of our submissions using fancy dancy newfangled technology. Pretty spiffy! But me, well, I prefer to keep track of my submissions the old fashioned way—with pencil and paper.

I know, it’s hard to believe!
There actually are a couple of reasons I like going old school for this. The biggest one? There are so many things that have to be done on the computer! Typing up manuscripts, blogging, social media, agent and publisher research… it goes on and on and on! If I can eliminate even one thing that I have to do in front of a screen, I’m doing it.
The other thing is, I like to be able to sit down and look through my submissions in a leisurely fashion. I can flip through pages. I have something tangible to hold on to while everything else about submissions being out is beyond my reach. I can look at every single sub I have out. The subs I’ve done for one manuscript, or all the subs I’ve sent to a particular publisher. My submission book holds all the information I need.
Back when I was starting out I didn’t need much. I didn’t have much to keep track of. But these days I like to have in depth information. My submission book has evolved into three sections:
• A Master List of all submissions that are out
• A Manuscript Page for each manuscript that is out on submission
• A Publisher Page for each publisher I have looked into
Now this may seem like overkill but it is a system I have found to be the most useful.
The Master List is a quick way to see everything I have out in one glance. I list date sent, publisher or agent, company, what sent and by which method, and expected response time. When I get a reply I simply put a thin line through the submission to cross it off the list.
Each Manuscript Page has the title of the manuscript on the top. I write the date submitted, who submitted to (both publisher and editor or agent and agency when applicable), how submitted (esub, snail query, etc.), expected response time, and actual response date. Plus I leave room for notes on response. (Form, personal, etc.)
When you do a lot of research on publishers, you see the beauty of having a page or two for each. On the Publisher Pages I list manuscripts sent, along with all the pertinent information I have listed previously. I also keep notes on things I find in my research. Tidbits on what a certain editor or publisher likes. Notable books that compare with mine. Stuff like that. The thing that has been especially helpful is writing down my manuscripts that might be a future match with someone while I am doing research for submitting a different manuscript-from manuscripts I’m not sending yet to works in progress. I am doing future research as well as working on getting a submission out and tracked. Far out man!
Now, you may have noticed that I write the same information in more than one place, but it really does make it easier later. When you’re only doing a sub or two at a time it really isn’t a big deal. It can actually feel like an accomplishment!
Tracking your manuscripts the old fashioned way really doesn’t have to be a big production, and keeping track of things on paper definitely does not have to be messy! There are a few “rules” that make it easier. Write neatly. Leave yourself enough room for response notes. Use a three-ring binder. That way you can add pages where and when you need to. It’s sort of like creating your own personal Writer’s Market, but with the information tailor made for you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Hazards of Being a Professional Waiter

I am pretty darn good at waiting. I actually like to think of myself as a professional waiter. No, not the kind that waits on tables. The kind that waits to hear back on manuscripts. If you're a writer you'd better get good at waiting because there's a lot of it.

That doesn't mean that waiting is always easy. Sure, sometimes it is. Like when you know the response time is three months and you've just sent the manuscript. Chances are it's going to be at least three months before you hear back. You can sub more, write more, etc. to keep yourself busy while you're waiting. But sometimes we just want to hear. Right now. Does anyone we've subbed to like our manuscript? Did they even open it yet? What if it didn't even get there? *gasp*

Well, in some situations we'll just never know. So many publishing houses and even agents have a no response is no policy now. I understand, it can be frustrating. We spend loads of time researching where to send our manuscripts. We know ridiculous amounts of information about people(agents and editors) we don't even know. Of course, we'd like to know them, that's why we're sending them our manuscripts. I've even gone so far as to send a submission to a publisher that insists on a three month exclusive but gives no response. So, I wait three months on my very well targeted, personalized submission that I spent hours on, then cross it off my list if I hear nothing. Pretty anti-climatic.

Another thing I've noticed as of late it that there are many houses and agents who are not reaching their goals on stated response time. I find this completely understandable. I can only imagine the piles of submissions they have to go through. And all the other things they have to do before they can take the time to read unsolicited submissions. It just means that I have to wait even longer than I had hoped I'd have to wait. And that I have to keep up with the various places I can find the agent or publisher's response time information if I am trying to figure out if I need to status query, which I am always reluctant to do. And also if I am dying to know. Which, if course I am.

Ooo, you know what stinks the most? When you've been waiting on a submission that is due. You go re-check the submission guidelines, and they have been changed to a no response or even a no submissions policy. *Sigh. It can be hard for a writer to keep up!

Why am I telling you all this? I just seem to be having one of those impatient moments. When I'd like to hear back on a submission. Even just one. Of course, I'd like it to be a good response. I've learned from experience that those definitely take longer to hear back on.

Yes, it's okay to feel impatient.What it's not okay to do is pester those you've subbed to. That will bring you a definite no. Plus it's just rude. Having to deal with all this waiting is just one of the hazards of being a writer.

Guess I'd better get back to revising the chapter book I'm working on getting ready to send out. Somehow having more to wait on makes it easier. If you're waiting on manuscripts feel free to hit me up. I'll wait along with you! You are, of course, invited to join our group at Sub It Club where we wait together. It somehow makes it a little easier, having others who understand, to share the waiting with.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Beware the Agent Bio

As you probably would figure, I try to keep on top of agent news for the Monster List of Picture Book Agents as well as for Sub It Club. Plus I'm a writer and I just can't help it! Anyway, I've come across something a couple of times that made me go, huh? Now, this is definitely not the norm and I am not even going to point out who they are, but I have actually found and agent or two who has used being a parent in their bio as their qualification to represent picture books.

You do know that as writers if we put that in our bio there is a 99.999% chance that we will get the old eye roll.
Since when has being a parent become a qualification to sell children’s literature?
Now, I’m not saying that as a parent you might not be completely immersed in picture books. I hope you are! I don’t discredit the hours and hours spent reading with children. On the contrary. I think it’s fabulous. You find out what kids respond to. What they love in a story and why. What they don’t like and why not. Plus there’s lots of great snuggle time!

But, if you’re going to have someone work to sell your writing, don’t you want them to have stronger qualifications? Or at least know enough to not to use being a parent as their qualification? You need someone who knows the intricacies of picture books. Understands how the words and illustrations support each other. And if you write in rhyme you need someone who is in sync with rhythm and meter as well. All in all, when you're looking for someone to help you make writing your career, you want someone you can trust.

So, read those bios before querying, my friends! And make the best decision for you and your writing. Like the old saying goes, having a bad agent is worse than having no agent at all.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Carly Watters, P.S. Literary Agency

Update 10/7/2015: Carly Watters is not looking to represent picture books at this time. Please check her "Who We Are" listing on the P.S. Literary website for the latest in what she is looking for.

Carly Watters is a literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency. She's quite active online and you can learn a lot about her to help you decide whether or not she might be the right agent for you.

Carly's website, carlywatters.com is a great place to start. She has a blog, a list of clients, and a What I'm Looking For page where she lists, "High Concept Picture Books." From looking at Carly's sales page it looks like she has one picture book sale, ELLA AND THE BALLOONS IN THE SKY, written by Danny Appleby and Illustrated by Lauren Pirie, both of whom are clients. Carly's post on picture books on her blog goes into a bit more detail about what she's interested in when it comes to picture books.

There's an informative November 2012 interview with Carly at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) There's an interesting tidbit or two at Literary Rejections about Ms. Watters' career and she has done a lengthy interview there as well. Missouri Writers' Guild has a January 2013 interview.

At the P.S. Literary website, you will find Carly's Bio on the About Us page. specific submission guidelines along with some specific query letter instructions and approximate response time. Their FAQ's may be of interest as well. You might also want to read Carly's post on pitching your book.

Carly Watters is quite active on Twitter. You can find her at @carlywatters. She is also on Linkedin and Instagram.

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Geeks, Girls, and Me

You’ve probably heard of GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES by the great Mike Jung. In case you haven't, the story is about Vincent Wu (he's one of the so called geeks) who has a crush on Polly Wincot Lee (she's the girl, obviously). Vincent, along with a couple of his friends, is a major fan of the local superhero, Captain Stupendous. And that is where the secret identities come in. This isn’t your average superhero story. Yes there’s action. And Mayhem. And life threatening robots. And warring fan clubs. But you will be surprised! So is Vincent. This action packed middle-grade superhero story has great twists, meaningful moments, and just plain fun.

You know what else there is? Me!

Illustrated by Mike Maihack!

Ha! No, I have never actually ever lived in a city where I get text messages so I can run out and watch the local superhero fight the evil villain. It would be pretty exciting though. I know I’d get sick if I was flown through the air at warp speed while being rescued, and probably even while being secretly transported in a garden shed.

So where am I? Page 33, that’s where. And a few other pages later on. You see, Mike used my name in his book! How cool is that? (Yes, I know! It’s extremely cool!) Who am I? Mrs. Burnell, the nice smelling teacher who whips out her freakishly emotionless robot voice to get the kids in class under control when they get riled up.

No, of course, that's not really me. That's the magic of Mike's magnificent writing. What I have done is tuck the essence Mrs. Burnell's voice away in my brain for those times when I need kids to settle down. I have also bought some perfume. You see, Mike Jung may be able to tell the future. I started doing some subbing at school not long after GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES came out. Yes, Mike is one multi-talented man. He writes books... he plays the ukulele... he tells the future!

Why did Mike choose my last name to use in his book? I don’t know. Back in the old days before Mike was too famous and before I was so busy that I run around with garlic, beekeeping equipment, an extra change of clothes, my notebooks, my computer, a full on kitchen, and soccer balls in my truck just so I can keep up with life at any given moment, we used to play around on Twitter. Mike was the ruler of #mikesempire. He granted me a super powered sleigh with a hot chocolate maker and made me the roller skating queen. It was a glorious time in the empire when I spent my days rolling through the streets as fast as I could, and my nights sipping divine hot drinks.

So yeah, Mike knows my name. I’m not sure that it’s really an unusual last name, but I’ve certainly never read it in a book before. Or really heard it much of anywhere besides in my family until Burnell Taylor sang on American Idol. (Didn’t ever hear it as a first name until then either. I like it!)

And now, whenever I’m in the library and have a middle grade reader’s ear, I tell them about Mike’s book. (Okay, yes, I have done this to teens and adults too.)  I’d do this whether Mike had used my name for a character or not. But it’s fun to show them page 33 too. Yes, they think it’s stupendous.

GEEKS, GIRLS, AND SECRET IDENTITIES is published by ArthurA. Levine books. Read it! Or give it to a young reader. It's fast pace and humor is sure to appeal. Want to know more? You can read tons of great reviews about the book on Goodreads.

You can find Mike Jung on his little bloggy wog: http://captainstupendous.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Phoenix, Great Northern Garlic, and Sub It Club aka My Life

So yeah, I've been a little bit busy lately. Let's see...what have I been up to?

The Phoenix Cafe & Gallery where we lived and served up some great breakfast.  Just thinking about it makes me want Eggs Benedict.
Well, first of all we moved out of the Inn we were care-taking and back to our house on the mountain. The Inn was fun. Who wouldn't want to live right outside of a ghost town? The kids loved riding their bikes down to Old Molson to play. The first winter we were there we ran a restaurant out of the house. We had music nights and lots of parties. Can't really beat that, or can you?

It is a beautiful house built from 80% reclaimed materials, and designed by the fabulous artist Dan Hulphers. It's for sale if you're looking to run an inn! 
We decided that having a restaurant in our house wasn't much fun for the kids so the next winter my husband and I worked at the local ski hill. On Thursdays schools brought kids up on field trips. My husband taught the snowboarders, I taught skiiers. On weekends we gave some lessons too but mostly we skied with our kids. There's nothing better for a kid than skiing all weekend, every weekend. If there is, we need to try that next. ;)

Yes, I tried snowboarding too. But I'm much better at skiing.
But, life can't be fun and games all the time I suppose. My husband and I have also been working on our farming business. Working for yourself and getting to be outside all day is pretty darn nice in my book, but it is also a lot of work, of course. We've been planting and planning daily. Over the winter we built our Great Northern Garlic website and are looking forward to our first year selling organic seed garlic! You can check out our gardening capers at Great Northern Garlic on Facebook and at @OkanoganOrganics on Twitter. Oh yeah, and I've been trying in earnest, finally, to figure out Pinterest.
We got some goslings. I refer to them as The Ryans.                                

Lambing season has come and gone already!
And of course, I keep up with Sub It Club every day. It's been really great keeping up with other writers who are working towards publication. SCBWI France RA and my partner in subbing, Dana Carey motivates us to set goals every month, and the Facebook chat is always open for questions and encouragement. Making goals and "saying them out loud" has certainly kept me on task as I work to get my work out there!

Some of the beautiful Sub It Club artwork created by Dana Carey.
So...have I been writing? The answer is... yes! I keep a notebook in my pocket. Every day I write down ideas for all sorts of things. As you can see I run a lot of social media pages now and I like to keep those going. I've been working on some farm & garden articles. (Imagine that!) I'm still working on my picture books and am so close to having my chapter reader done, if I could just have enough brain power to do it when I finally get to open the file.

Fun on the farm!
Yeah, it's been a lot lately. (Did I mention that I'm coaching soccer?) But things are going to slow down a bit soon. Summer is coming! I looked at my calendar today and there is actually nothing scheduled on it after this week! I know there will be a lot of farming but it's fun being out there with the family. Work and play really mixes when you're outside. There will be lots of sun, lots of food, and there are lakes on the way to and from the farm in the valley to our house in the mountains. I'm sure we'll be taking lots of dips!
Bet you we'll be running in to some more of these guys soon.

Okay, that's enough about me. I know, it's my blog, but if you have any questions you'll have to ask. I've got to get back to doing monster list posts and interviews and that sort of good stuff. Here's to living a full life! You all have fun out there!

Friday, April 5, 2013


In the front of my writing notebook I have some notes I’ve gleaned from here and there. Words. Little notes reminding me of the things that need to find their way into what I write if I want to have a salable book. Of course, they aren’t all required, they just help. Here’s what I’ve got:

Spunky character
Narrative arc
Great hook
Commercial plot
Likable characters
Witty dialogue

I also have the word breakout. Can’t really plan that can you. But still, it's a good reminder of something to strive for. I feel like I need more words to add to my list!  What words do you use to remind yourself of all those elements you need to have in your manuscripts?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Monster List of Picture Book Agents -- Carly Watters, P.S. Literary

Carly Watters is an agent at P.S. Literary Agency. She is looking for "high concept picture books". You can read Carly's bio on the P.S. Literary About Us page. You can also read her about page on her blog agentcarlywatters.wordpress.com. Ms. Watters keeps a great list of her links on the bottom of her about page. Love that! Go there to find links to her interviews and articles and her list of clients.

I could only find one picture book sale, and it's on the P.S. Literary website news page. Carly posted about signing the author, Danny Appleby on her blog.

You can find Carly Watters on Twitter.

That's it. Short and sweet!

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have any changes that you think should be made to this listing, please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Making the Decision to Illustrate your Picture Book Manuscript...or Not

I received a question regarding my Monster List of Picture Book Agents pertaining to something I say in the introduction to the list. With the permission of the sender I'm going to answer it here on my blog. Here's the question:

I am confused. I was looking at your Monster reference list of agents that consider PB manuscripts. Then you say "how I wish I could illustrate." 

"As a picture book writer I know it can be difficult to track down which agents represent picture book authors. Not author/illustrators(how I wish I could illustrate!)but authors only. I've decided to create a monster list of picture book agents with info and links to help picture book authors find an agent."

I have a picture book, 32 pages, 382 words, for which I did a few illustrations on Illustrator. My very first book. I was told to forget the illustrations. Publishers pick their illustrators. Yet, you are an author of Picture Books and you wish you could illustrate them? Can you explain? Would you submit both writing + illustrations together if you draw and color? Should I finish illustrating the book? Or should I submit it as manuscript only?

There are great picture book writers. There are great picture book illustrators. And there are great picture book author/illustrators. I can write. I’ve been at this long enough to almost not blush when I type that. When I write picture books I see the illustrations in my head. Sure, I can draw, but when I try to draw what I see it fails to come close. I’m no illustrator. My drawings would never be good enough to carry anything let alone a 32-page picture book where, besides all the other illustrative nuances, the characters have to be consistent from page to page.

Why do I wish I could illustrate? It would be nice to be able to carry a manuscript through the way I see it. No, I'm not a control freak. Collaboration is one of the great parts of being a picture book author. But I do sometimes see certain sub-plots that could be played out through illustrations. Yes, sometimes I put illustration notes into a manuscript. But only when absolutely necessary like in my book, Bedtime Monster, where the illustration of dad also being a bit of a monster is essential to the story but isn't apparent in the text. It's always best to give the illustrator the freedom to create their own wonderful vision of the manuscript.

All that being said, the reason I say I wish I could illustrate in the introduction to the Monster List is pure business. Being an author/illustrator is more attractive to agents than being solely a picture book author. Why? More potential earnings of course. It is much more lucrative to get an advance for both the writing and illustrating of a book than solely for the text. Not that there’s usually a ton of money in picture books anyway, but it’s enough to make a difference.

That’s the reason I started the Monster List. It can be sort of frustrating looking for agents as a picture book author. First, you have to track down the agents that actually represent picture books only to find at least half the time they are only interested in author/illustrators. (No, I don’t have a factual number statistic on this but it sure would be interesting to know!)

Each person that is stepping into the children's book world with visions of both writing and illustrating has the decision to make for themselves. Take a step back. Try to be subjective. Is your art of the caliber that can carry a picture book? If it is take the time to create a submission package that shows the absolute best of your writing and illustration.

If your illustrating isn't professional caliber, it's okay. Congratulations on telling yourself a hard creative truth! And remember, we all have to start somewhere. Keep working. Craft can be developed. And there's nothing to stop a person who's a strong writer or illustrator to start with one craft and develop the other as time goes by. It's all part of the process of creation.

There are debut authors. There are debut illustrators. And there are debut author/illustrators. What you decide to pursue depends on you.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

An Obsession. And It's Not Writing. *gasp*

Okay, so I've been neglecting my little blog here a bit more than usual. Yes, I've been busy with Sub It Club. What a fun group it's turning out to be! But, I've also been pretty obsessed with something else. And it doesn't have anything to do with writing. *gasp!*

I know I've blogged about this before, but my family has been care-taking an Inn for the past year and a half. We do it because the school bus comes right to the end of the driveway and makes it easy to get the kids to school, unlike our mountain house where we sled, ski cross country, or snowmobile to the car, then drive the snowy road to town. Last winter we ran a cafe & gallery out of the Inn. And we had lots of parties with all of our musically inclined friends.

But, running a restaurant out of your home, especially when you have three kids, can be pretty tiring. So is having a party every couple of weeks. But hey, it was A LOT of fun. Plus, last winter there wasn't much snow. This year though, things are different.

Yes, people still stop by randomly. The house seems to attract people, and we've made a lot of friends because of it. But we're not running a restaurant or gallery or even having parties. This winter my husband and I are busy at the local ski hill. He's the head snowboard instructor and I'm a ski instructor!

I've been skiing since I was old enough to be put onto skis. Before that my mom skied with me in a backpack. It's no wonder I love zipping down the hill. I never would have guessed that I'd get to be a ski instructor though. Skiing three days a week? Heaven!

Every Thursday one of the schools brings up a group of kids and we teach them how to ski. We've had from 20 to 70! It is really fun to get kids going on skis and boards. They are always so excited. There's a lot of comedy involved too from the, "I keep falling because there are too many people in my way" to the ones who have never skied before wanting to go straight up the mountain and ski down the face.Um, no. But skiing is a great thing to learn and we try to make sure all the kids have a good time and have some skills by the time they leave. They don't all always get to go up to the top, but we try to get them there if they can do it. The kids that come for weekend classes get a series of days so I really get to ski a lot with some of them. I've gotten to ski with so many great kids this winter, it has really been super fun.

And my kids LOVE it. The ski hill is a great place for the local kids to hang out on the weekends and we've amassed quite a ski gang. Many of the regulars get their season passes by doing volunteer work on the hill either in the summer or as cadet instructors on the weekends. Pretty cool deal. They ski so much that they do fun stuff like try to tackle each other. That never would have occurred to me but it's pretty standard with the gang. And they like to play games like cops and robbers. There are plenty of good places to hide. Ah yes, there's no boring weekends here and everyone sleeps well at night.
Skiing with a big group of kids is too fun!
Since I've been skiing so much I also decided I had time to learn something new snowboarding. Wow. I hardly ever fall skiing but I fall at least 4 times a run on a snowboard. Okay, I think I'm being generous there. Seriously, I feel like I've been in a car wreck after a day of slamming to the ground 50 times or so. But I guess I'm a glutton for punishment because it's fun. The gang certainly finds it entertaining. Nothing like watching people fall! I really want to get snowboarding down though, so there should be more entertainment to come. Hopefully I'll get to do it at least one more time before the season ends...after I recover from all the slamming I did the other day.

This is where I spend most of my time while snowboarding.
But sometimes I do this!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Critiques, Chocolate, & Chat!

I've been busy working on all things Sub It Club lately but I definitely want all of my blog readers to know about a couple of fun things we have going on.

First of all, we've scheduled our first chat for Tuesday, January 29th at 9 a.m. PST.

And secondly, we've opened up for our first query letter critique and just to sweeten the deal we're adding a chance to win some chocolate.

You can read the details about both these events on the Sub It Club blog. Sorry to be so short, but the family is starting to complain that I'm on the computer too much!

Anyway, I'd love to have you join us as we work our way towards publication!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sub It Club is Open!

Hesitant to query and submit manuscripts? Have I got an idea for you!

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Too long. So long that I can’t hold back any longer. You see, I wanted to make a club like Fight Club—without the fighting. But, I sort of have to break rule number one if I’m going to get anyone to join me.
(*Fight Club spoiler* I don’t have a crazed alter ego to go secretly recruit people.) Besides, we children’s book writers aren’t really the violent type. But we do have to fight to get our manuscripts out there. We fight time and fear and doubt. We fight the common idea that writing and publishing is easy. We fight the odds!

I used to be terrified to query. Now? I see it as a necessary part of the process. I see you, all my kidlit peeps out there in cyberspace, talking about how hard you work on your manuscripts. We spend so much time perfecting our craft. Going to conferences. Reading books. Networking. Dreaming of seeing our stories as a real live book. Our dreams deserve a chance! Yet I hear from so many people who are too scared to give their manuscripts a fair shot.

So what the heck is this Sub It Club? We're a support group for writers and illustrators getting their work out on submission (or thinking about it). Go check out the first post on the Sub It Club blog and our About the Club page. You can also learn about our partners in submission, Dana Carey and Lisha Cauthen. We're opening up the private chatroom and the closed Facebook group today where we can all feel safe busting out the details of submissions. We're also giving it a one-two punch with Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Hop on over to the Sub It Club website and check us out. I hope you’ll join us as we work toward publication!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

20,000 Cloves, Acquisitions, Submissions, and Something New for You and Me

Welp, another year has passed. A year a week and a day to be exact. I’ve been thinking about what I accomplished in the last year. It’s never enough. But I did have more than one manuscript go to acquisitions at more than one house. Actually several. Exciting! And typical that I still haven’t sold a book. Ha! But I won’t give up. What does having manuscripts go to acquisitions make me know? That my writing is good. It’s just finding the right editor at the right house at the right time. Typically, there are a lot of people that have to agree to buy a manuscript. It’s a tall order. Everything will line up one of these days, and I will have fun trying. Just to have an editor who has worked on some majorly popular books gush over my writing is enough to keep me going for a while.

But, as my husband likes to remind me, there is more to life than writing. So this year I also started helping artists with their social media, got approved to be a substitute teacher, planted 20,000 cloves of garlic, and started building a website for the garlic business. Oh! And the family acquired a cabin on a pond that we are remodeling into a very cool retreat aka guest house. And, contrary to my stay behind the scenes personality, I have agreed to be in a musical review. That is a big deal. I do not take getting up in front of people and singing lightly. This past year I have also worked my way into having a full blown teenager at my house. Life is definitely full.

Back to writing though. (I can’t help myself!) I wrote a lot this year. Dozens of manuscripts. Some that will never see the light of day. Some that I am revising. Some that my kids keep bugging me to finish! It’s my process to have a lot of things written and revise bit by bit as things strike me. This year I told my critique group that I didn’t know how to work on just one manuscript. They said to work on the one that pulls at me the most. I said they all do. I think they felt sorry for me. Yes, there were looks of pity. But, having multiple projects works for me. I decided that I’m not going to fight it anymore, but instead accept that that is the way I work.

As usual for a writer, I had an up and down year. I started the year with an agent and after much discussion we both decided that it would be better for me to seek representation elsewhere. That I need someone who can send out more of my work. Yes, sometimes I delve into the potty jokes and that is not for everyone. Educational manuscripts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea either. I can say that I have made a wonderful friend for life and that is the best thing that happened to me when I obtained representation. I’m actually having a hard time knowing which agents to send submissions to now, since I had such a nice agent.

So, I decided to push myself over the last two months of 2012. I did something I’d never done before. Something I’ve often found difficult. I focused on submissions to publishers. Sure, I’ve sent a few out here and there over the years, (that is how I sold Bedtime Monster, after all) but this time I made myself delve deep into world of publishers, and you know what? The more I did it the easier it got. When I quit sending out submissions a few weeks before Christmas I had a grand total of 38 well researched, targeted submissions out. I surprised even myself! It’s great to be going into 2013 with so many possibilities.

Sending out all those submissions also gave me the courage to do something I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time. I've gotten together with a couple of my friends and we’re creating a support group for writers and illustrators who are ready to send their work out on submission! We’ll be opening up our website and chatroom soon, but for now we have a chatty facebook page if you’re interested in taking a look. I'd love for you to join us.

No matter what you do, I hope that 2013 is a wonderfully creative and prosperous year for you!