Friday, March 30, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy and My Wonderful Critique Groups!

Whoa, I have been busy this week! I have three manuscripts due on April 15th and my magic wand has been cracking.

First the easy reads for Picture Window Books, I've got the manuscripts together but have loads of back matter to write. I've got the glossaries, the guided questions, the websites recommendations, and the activities to complete. Ooooh, so fun.

Here's my glossary tip. Read children's dictionaries. Buy them and read them. A certain form of "dictionary" osmosis takes place and you will be writing glossary entries like, well, dictionary entries. I've got about half of my back matter completed. After that I will take it all into my picture book/easy read group for a look. I can see their thrilled faces now. Yes, I bring my glossaries in for critique. Hey, somebody might read one of those entries!

Next up is my picture book, Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs (official title now) for Barron's. Oh, this is so exciting to be pulling together. It's amazing how many details have to be tied up. I can't wait until it is illustrated.

I thought I would chat about my wonderful critique groups. I have two because I am insanely prolific. No one group would put up with the stacks of stuff I need eyes to plow through.

My novel group (supposed to be, because I sometimes bring in short stuff): Louise Spiegler is the author of a YA fantasy novel from Clarion called Amethyst Road. Her book was a 2006 Kansas State Reading Circle Recommendation, on the 2006 NYPL Books for the Teen Age List, was a 2006 SFWA Andre Norton Award Finalist and is now 2007 Amelia Bloomer List of Feminist Books for Youth. Not bad for a first book! Catherine Benson is a former RA of SCBWI and writes middle grade fantasy and historical fiction and mixes of both genres. Conrad Wesselhoeft writes YA historical fiction and is agented. No sells yet, but that is soon to change. Shelly Seely writes contemporary middle grade novels. You might know her as Hairaplenty out there on the boards. Megan Bilder writes historical and contemporary novels in verse. Susan Greenway is another fantasy/contemporary middle grade writer. Marion Holland works on contemporary YA novels and picture books. I know, I know, that's a lot of people. The good news is we rarely all show up at the same time.

I've part of this dynamic group for nine years. We bring pages, often 20 at time. We groan over rocky rough drafts, agonize over the twentieth rewrite of the same chapter and rejoice when there is magic in the story-telling. I can not stress to writers enough that you need to join a critique group. Bringing powerful literary forces together in the same place leads to revelatory writing. Believe me. Don't dream about being an Inkling, get out there into the ebb and flow and make it happen.

My second group is supposed to be my picture book/easy read group (I sometimes bring in novel chapters). This is the group where I let my science side show. The members are so talented. Vijaya Bodach writes books and magazine articles and is on her way to winning every contest available to children's writers -- HM for Work in Progress Grant, SCBWI; Children's Writer YA contest winner and a third place finish in the Pockets Contest. Lois Brandt is another brilliant writer who is reeling in contest awards. She won the 2005 Pockets Contest. Now comes the ever so brilliant Kevan Atteberry. Kevan created Clippy in Word and has illustrated several children's books, notably the Lunch Box and the Aliens and sequels from Henry Holt. We also have the talented Karen Dunn, the brilliant Allyson Valentine Shrier, the savvy Jen Heger and the dedicated Eileen Anderson. All have published or have up and coming picture books and easy reads. Notably we meet where spirits may be purchased. This group bursts with firecracker energy. We are a read aloud crowd -- mainly because the genres we work in needs to be read out loud to critique accurately.

What did I read this week? Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein's Letters to and from Children (Hardcover). This book made me laugh and cry and I couldn't put it down. I want to join the Six Little Scientists!

On the home front, fortuitous writing money has led to the purchase of Flash. Exciting cartoons are in my future. The Easter eggs are this week; be looking for a new hipper version of the Justice League.

So now a few thoughts on being busy.

I had all the material for a long time, but I was just too busy. Sometimes we'd sit around at home and sing some of these songs at family things, and everyone always said I should record them. June Carter Cash

Here, on the river's verge, I could be busy for months without changing my place, simply leaning a little more to right or left. Paul Cezanne

A man has always to be busy with his thoughts if anything is to be accomplished. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Henry David Thoreau

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