When I attended the SDSU Writer’s Conference

San Diego State University (SDSU) Extensions Program had their 31st annual Writer’s Conference this January, featuring all writing genres. As a 198–(you guess) SDSU Journalism grad, I’ve wanted to attend this conference for several years. Now that my daughter attends SDSU and my sister agreed to fly down from the Bay Area and join me afterward, it seemed a no-brainer, right?

I looked forward to meeting children’s books agent, Caryn Wiseman, from Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. and Simon & Shuster Children’s Picture Book Editor, Alyson Haler. Allotted ten minutes each, in a semi-pitch session that resembled speed-dating meets American Idol, I received great feedback from both and a request for re-submission after editing.

I’d like to share a few nuggets gathered at the conference that apply to most genres.
From Agent Betsy Amster of Betsy Amster Literary:
*Regarding queries–make sure the first paragraph is easy to understand. “This ______ (word count) _________(genre, like distopian or historical, etc.)__________________(category, like YA, etc) is about…..
In the second paragraph, plunge into the scene.
In the third paragraph of your query, it’s okay to say you’re excited about this book and why.

*Amster said, “Agents love blogs.” Nuff said.

Book Architecture, an author-help website (www.bookarchitecture.com) encourage blogging, too, using wordpress, (wordpress.com) the easiest site. (I’ll vouch for that) Blogging ideas offered: writing advice, excerpts from your manuscript, how hard the writing life is. Blogs, along with newsletters, increase traffic to your web site or social media page.

Picture book author, Susan Katz (“My Mama Earth,” “ABC, Baby Me,” and Scholastic’s upcoming “ABC, School’s For Me!”) said publishers are scrambling for non-fiction because of the recent adoption of new common core standards. You can download the ap for Common Core Standards to align with your manuscript. Social Studies and Science curriculums are not the same statewide but the other subjects are.

Katz said you can form a focus group of age appropriate kids and ask them what they want to know about the topic you’re writing about, whether non-fiction or fiction.

I enjoyed this three day conference, even managing to soak up a few minutes of San Diego poolside sun, between workshops, and meeting some lovely writers–one from my home state, Colorado. Great mid winter break!


February 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Cabin Fever: Like half the country right now.

Over the past frigid week I’ve edited four pages of my YA, cleaned the oven and the guest bedroom, laid shelf paper in the laundry room, sent out agent queries, gained three pounds and shoveled more snow than your typical Siberian suburbanite. Today we rose above zero, then we kept rising.  Kiki and I looked at each other and said, (well, I said) “Let’s get outta here and go for a run.” If a dog could laugh, she did.Image

I decided to drive until my car thermometer hit 23, arriving at one of our favorite trailheads off of Baseline Rd in S. Boulder.  The sun actually came out then.  Every single person I passed on the trail, with or without dog, smiled as if to say, “Cabin fever, too, eh?” Sunlight etched the melted stream as it flowed between banks of emerald ice.  In the distance another flurry cascaded over the flatirons and scattered across Boulder.  But it never came our way.  

My cabin fever broke as I ran through the tunnel beneath S. Boulder Rd. and out toward a snowy pasture, dotted with cattle.  But a foreigner lurked among the cattle, erratic and sneaky.  Wiley Coyote. Ain’t nothin’ worse than a varmint after a week of -17 nights and this guy looked like he wanted hamburgers for dinner.  My chicken Mcnugget and I did a U-turn and ran as fast as we could.  Which isn’t very fast in runner’s world. Thank God Wiley didn’t spot us because, at our pace, he probably could have overtaken us at a trot.

ImageIt’s amazing how, after days of arctic temps and snow–so unusual for Boulder– that the teens look good, actually bring a smile to your face.  And when the temps rise even more, into the 20’s, things come into focus, like sun glitter on snow, and a balmier kinder breeze that maybe, just maybe, hints at spring.

February 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Flood Rhymes With Mud and Crud

Day 4:  More Rain

What did Colorado do wrong?  More rain. Really?  Unfathomable, after a foot and a half already, even with a break of sun in Day 3, lighting hope everywhere.  We knew it was possible yesterday, just hoped it wasn’t true, or at least not as bad a rain.  But it’s pretty steady, even torrents at times this morning, and I think of my next door neighbor with the flooded basement we all just cleaned up and those still evacuated or stranded, like one of my friends.  Family and friends suddenly come into focus as I spend most of my time on the phone or computer, ignoring work and dishes that have piled up, just to connect, vent, be thankful.  It has been quite the voyage.


Day 3:  Sun came out and so did the neighbors.

As I drive back from the mall with the last pair of size 8 rain boots possible left in the city, I look in my rear view at the charcoaled clouds smothering Denver and beyond.  The emergency broadcast rips over the station that there’s a flood warning there, seek higher ground or you could die.  I drive back to my neighborhood with pink rimmed clouds layered in yellow and gray, popcorning throughout the skies, to see how my husband is doing, bouncing along on the tractor in our cul-de-sac, like Eddie Albert in Green Acres.  Many wonderful neighbors help shovel leaden mud into the tractor and then Rick dumps it into the cul-de-sac center so flood debris doesn’t clog our storm drain again.  My shoulders hurt so I took a break for a little retail rain boot therapy.  Amazing what a pair of purple rain boots can do for a flooded soul.  The first picture is of “Joel,” who just showed up from Wonderland Hill, and was traveling around the hardest hit areas just to see where he could help.  I took a picture because I thought he might be one of those angels that shows up at emergencies and then disappears before anyone can acknowledge him.Image ImageImage

Day 2: Still raining but not so bad.

We head out with the dog to see the house on the corner of 19th and Upland that motivated yesterdays partial evacuation.  Class 3 rapids from its bordering creek slammed into the house and made it lean, ready to topple over, firefighters feared, and wash down Upland towards our cul-de-sac.  Break in the weather so Rick goes to work and I head to Target to find rain boots, since my Merrell boots are still drying out and they’re useless in the flood waters since only calf-high. Target’s only had about a million requests, the clerk says.  I buy bottled water and few groceries to tide over.  We help all of the local news station’s ratings, with constant vigilance of the devastation.  Finally, the emergency sirens that practice monthly and are largely ignored, are sounded.  11 p.m. sirens gargle in the driving rain with a muffled announcement.  I call the emergency center and they tell me we don’t need to evacuate but the mouth of the canyon to Broadway does.  I don’t sleep very well, with rushing brown water images imprinted behind my eyelids.ImageImage

Day 1: 5 a.m. The smacking rain, accompanied by river sounds never heard from our bedroom window, awaken me.  The flood is here. Everything shuts down throughout the city, and we find, across the Front Range.  It is biblical proportions, as the National Weather Center announces, unprecedented, relentless almost tropical feeling rain, so bizarre for us in our droughtish land.  Boulder Creek swells to over twice its normal table and rivers and lakes form from our cul-de-sac to pasture lands and streets.  Sadly, a few have died, including a couple of seventeen-year-olds and the numbers will probably rise over the coming week.  Crawdads and cactus, mingled with an odd assortment of colanders, baby seats, washing machines, wood and a shag carpet of mud line now-river banks and sidewalks where the flood waters swept.  Some have water up to their car handles.  Some of no running water or electricity.  We have blessedly skated through, with no water damage, though several on our street have flooded basements.  My husband works with a flashlight in the dark rain to keep the storm drain clear, though it keeps plugging up, filling our cul-de-sac.ImageImageImageImage


September 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Promoting your Book on Facebook and Twitter is a Total Waste of Time

Reposting this link from my publisher. Something to chew on for all of us in the publishing industry, hitting our collective heads against the wall.

The Militant Writer

"Facebook author pages (like this one of mine) are a waste of time" Mary W. WaltersWorse, it’s probably turning off many of your on-line friends.

After being told for several years by every guru in the business (most of them styled as “social media experts”) that as a writer I must focus my attention on self-promotion through social media, I now consider myself to have become a social media expert myself — at least when it comes to matters writerly.

And I am telling you that those other social-media experts (and the publishers that parrot them) are full of crap. When it comes to book promotion, your time is far better spent on other kinds of marketing activities, or even in writing your next novel, than it is being anywhere on social media.

For about five years I have read books, blog posts, articles and tweets on the subject of book marketing and networking, and I have Facebooked and Tweeted and LinkedIned until my smile…

View original post 1,005 more words

June 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

The Next Big Thing


Today I’m hosting the Next Big Thing Blog Campaign, which originated in Australia, and is now international.  From picture books to YA, authors and illustrators answer questions about their recently published books or those soon to release.  Each nominated author then “tags” the next authors to participate, like a big fun game of “You’re it.” You’ll find out who’s next when you get to the end.

What is the working title of your next book?

My publisher is considering my next holiday whodunit picture book.  So I’d like to talk about my recent release “Tallie’s Christmas Lights Surprise! A Holiday Whodunit.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

One day in March, there was a news segment about a woman whose holiday lights had been taken.  She thought it was an angry neighbor, since it was March, and decided to investigate by hiding behind a bush with a camera, after she’d replaced the lights.  When they flashed the culprit across the screen, I knew I had to turn the gist of the story into a picture book, where readers discover the clues along with Tallie.

What genre does your book fall under?

Picture book holiday whodunit.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Love this intriguing question… hmmm.  The little girl, Clara, who played Tallie in my book trailer, was the best casting ever..  She was smart, cute and precocious– all of Tallie’s traits. See the video for yourself on Youtube on my web site www.peasepodbooks.com. Now, for Fuego, her puppy, well, that was my Kiki, all along. Mr. Mailman might be Cliff, on “Cheers.”

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Tallie’s Christmas is turning crummy–somebody swiped her candy cane lights!

Who is publishing your book?

Pelican Publishing

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft, and keep in mind this was very different than the final story, took about a month.  Several rough dummies and about ten or twelve versions later, it was finally nearing the final revision stages, about a year process total.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

She’s a young Nancy Drew and Fancy Nancy, rolled into one.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’m nuts about mysteries (and some may say I’m just nuts.  Which is fine by me because you need to be a little nuts to truly be creative).  I wanted to introduce the very young to the mystery genre and the fun of clue-solving, wrapped in a warm-hearted holiday story.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story is a gentle message about selfless giving and can be read and appreciated anytime.

Next up on the Next Big Thing…  Eunice Boeve, June 20, 2013

Eunice Boeve grew up in Montana and Idaho but has lived in Kansas most of her adult life.  She began writing in her late forties and has authored five middle grade historical fiction books and two adult westerns as well various short stories and articles. Her books have won several awards including Kansas Notable book award, Kansas Reading Circle, Kansas Author’s Club Coffin Award, and KART.Image



June 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm 3 comments

The book store is your friend

Went to my home-away-from-home yesterday–Barnes & Noble– to research for my current w.i.p picture book.  If you don’t do this already, when you’re about to start a first draft, or even in the process of, you need to.  The shelves speak volumes (pun intended) for everything you’re looking for.  Well, almost everything.  I looked for a St. Patrick’s Day or leprechaun book, or something with some of the elements contained in my story–mystery, clue solving, magical.  Nothing.  Though I did discover a few other interesting things which helped me tremendously.  

Which brings me to my main point: the book store is your friend.  I learned there is a new release board book out with the same working title as another manuscript of mine, “Ball.” Now the premise of this book is entirely different, but I will now have to detach myself from my affection for that title: simple, to-the-point, easy to remember. It would have been my first one-word title release.  Oh well.

 I run a critique group and one of the members is currently working on a picture book similar to one I found on the shelves.  It’s different enough, but will help her see what is currently marketable, how that character compares with her own, and the writing style.  I wish I’d found one nugget like that to help with my own story.  But I think I realized I haveImage a niche, since there didn’t seem to be anything like what I’m doing, which is a holiday whodunit series.

And, of course, I always like to see if my books are in stock, and chat with the friendly CRM there.  I feel at home in book stores.  They are my friends.

April 26, 2013 at 11:38 am 3 comments

What does your picture book character want?

I held a very casual, intimate picture book workshop the other day.  It was so enjoyable, hearing the beginning writers read their manuscripts a loud, albeit tentatively.  The stories had merit, charm and a lot of the hallmarks of a good picture book manuscript.  Except they lacked one thing: the main characters didn’t seem to want something enough, whether clearly or at all.  Especially if you are a beginning writer, it’s imperative to know what drives your character, what gives them the joie de vivre, their motivation, their angst? Even if we’re talking about the angst of a duck who everyone makes fun of “The Ugly Duckling,” a boy’s adventure on a fantasy train “The Polar Express,” or a baby bear who’s afraid of the dark in “Can’t you sleep, Little Bear?” there is some kind of conflict that propels the reader forward to root for the main character, to make sure everything turns out okay.

Look closely at your manuscript.  Does your main character have a real motivation or problem(s) free of cliches?  Do the obstacles your m.c. encounters form an arc until the “black moment” or climax, around p. 25 in a 32 pg. book?  Make a 32 pg. dummy with sketches and copy roughly penciled in to see how your story lays out, warts and all.  It will save you time.. and tears.

February 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm Leave a comment

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