Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Inspiration!

Happy New Year to all of you!  Here's some inspiration for the new year.  I just came across this and had to share it.  It's Ira Glass on storytelling from David Shiyang Liu.  Wow!  Enjoy...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

PiBoIdMo Update!

Well, it's December 1st and time to report how I did during this month's challenge.  I have to admit that I have been on a writer's "break" recently.  Needed to recharge after a few rejections that came REALLY close.  After awhile, it was stinging a little too much.  So, less than enthusiastically, I decided to sign up for this challenge.  Maybe it would be just the boost that I needed... 

It turns out it was exactly what I needed!  I ended up with 45 shiny new ideas for picture books - some that I am VERY excited to start working on.  (It also gave me an idea for a middle grade book and one for a YA novel - which is very strange because I've never written either of those types of books before.)  Reading all of the guest blogs and that daily advice on picture books also helped me to identify some areas to work on in my other picture book manuscripts.  I'm really looking forward to digging into all of my picture books - new and old - and whipping them into shape. 

Thank you so much Tara Lazar for coming up with the wonderful idea for PiBoIdMo and coordinating all of the inspirational guest blogs and the Facebook group camaraderie.  It really was time well spent.  I am so thankful that I decided to participate.  If you've ever considered doing it but thought the task seemed too daunting - I encourage you to sign up.  Even if you tell yourself that you'll just do it for a week.  I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised and will want to continue.  I'm surprised that even though it's December and the challenge is over - I'm still coming up with more ideas than usual. 

I guess once you give your muse that extra boost you never know what can happen...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Picture Book Month!

November is picture book month!  If you haven't had a chance yet, definitely check out the website  What a great way to remind everyone why the world needs printed picture books.  There's nothing like holding a real book in your hands and sharing it with a child.  In my opinion, the digital version can't compare. 

So, gather a big stack of picture books from your shelves at home or head out to the library.  I think I've reached my library card's limit this month.  (Might have to find another place for the huge stacks before Thanksgiving dinner.)  That's one thing I'm very thankful for...picture books!    Share them with someone you love!  
                                    Read * Share * Celebrate!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PiBoIdMo Update!

We're past the half way mark and I'm right on target!  So far 16 solid picture book ideas down.  (Still need to write today's idea down.)  I've had lots of ideas beyond that but am only counting the ones that I feel are the most solid.  I've also tried to make sure to jot down the skeleton of the story as well.  And a few of them have morphed into rough drafts...but not too many.

Although I am keeping up with the writing part, I am not able to keep up with all of the posts and blogs each day.  They are all so fantastic that I try to at least catch up on them every few days or at least once a week.  All of the participants and the guest bloggers are very inspiring. 

Yesterday a big highlight came from Tammi Sauer who shared some big news in our PiBoIdMo Facebook Group.  Tammi's recent sale of "Nugget and Fang" to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's was an idea that she came up with during PiBoIdMo 2009.  Hooray for Tammi!

2011 SCBWI-Illinois' Prairie Writer's Day

Saturday's Prairie Writer's Day: Get Hooked! was a huge success.  This year's speakers and sessions were informative and inspiring.  (And full of lots of fishing metaphors.)  The all-star line up included:  Josh Adams, Co-founder Adams Literary, Stacey Barney, Editor at G.P. Putnams's Sons, Michele Burke, Editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Karen Kohn, Senior Art Director for Carus Publishing, Kathy Landwehr, Vice President & Associate Publisher for Peachtree Publishers, Daniel Nayeri, Editor for Clarion Books, Molly O'Neill, Editor for Katherine Tegen Books and Mary Rodgers, Editor-in-Chief for Lerner Publishing Groups.  Also, Author Bruce Hale, Author Esther Hershenhorn, Literary Attorney Debra Kass Orenstein, and Chair of the Teacher Education department at DePaul University Roxanne Owens.   

Something new this year was a skype visit by Bruce Hale on humor in your writing.  He did a fabulous job and it was so neat to see a skype visit in action.  Bruce was a pro!  I really enjoyed it.

I have tons of notes to sort through this week and lots of submissions to polish up!  It's also always so great to to be with all of my writer pals for the day.  Thanks so much to the hard working committee.  Now, off to write!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

November is PiBoIdMo...

November is Picture Book Idea Month and I've, nervously, decided to take on the challenge.  That's shiny new picture book idea each day for a whole month.  Looking forward to doing this with my writing pals.  A challenge is always much more fun with their support and encouragement.  Here goes! 

And for anyone out there that's considering joining in, I say do it.  Sign up on Tara's website  The more the merrier!

Happy Halloween!

This month's "Highlights High Five" includes my poem "Jack-o'-lantern".  It's a hidden picture page and they did such a great job.  Perfect for little trick-or-treaters. 

Thrilled to have two poems out there this month.  Happy Halloween!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fall Fun!

I just received my copies of the September/October issue of Turtle magazine.  They did a fantastic job with the illustration for my poem "Beasty Feast".  It's also a hidden picture page which is so fun.  Be sure to check it out.  Happy Fall!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hooray for NaPiBoWriWee!

Last day of NaPiBoWriWee and I am done with seven new picture book manuscripts!  This was a super busy week so I thought it was a little crazy to take on the challenge but...I'm so glad I did.  Something different happens to you when you are writing under a deadline like this.  You don't have time to listen to your inner critic, just need to get it down on paper.  And then, magic happens...

Last night I was so tired and thought I'd just sit down and at least outline my idea.  Then, not sure what happened, but the manuscript took a completely different turn and it's so fun.  I love it when that happens.  Looking forward to spending more time on it.  

My next idea came to me in the middle of the night.  It's a young PB but came to me pretty much fleshed out.  So I forced myself to wake up, pull out a notebook and get it all down.  We'll see if I can read that "middle of the night chicken scratch".  It's a cute idea.
Congrats to everyone who participated!  Thanks so much to Paula Yoo for putting this together, and to our little FB support group.  Wow, that was so terrific to read everyone's posts and words of encouragement each day.  Made it so much more fun.  Hooray!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Just received my author copies of the May / June issue of Humpty Dumpty magazine.  Robin Boyer did such a great job with the illustration for my poem "Pinata".  It's a two page spread with hidden pictures and it's so cute.  So celebrate Cinco De Mayo with your own copy of Pinata!

To purchase Humpty Dumpty magazine visit or call 1-800-558-2376 for a subscription or back issue.  Enjoy! 

Almost there!

I can't believe that it's Day 5 already of the NaPiBoWriWee Challenge and I have five bright and shiny new manuscripts already.  (Well, some aren't shiny yet... but they will be.)  Two more to go! 

This morning inspiration hit on a silly idea of mine while I was on the front porch in my pj's saying good bye to one of my kiddos.  My son was laughing at me as he ran to the bus.  I rushed inside and got it all down on paper.  And my youngest may have almost been late to school, but hey...I really like this new one.

Many thanks to Paula Yoo for organizing this, because if it wasn't for her challenge, I definitely would not have written 7 new manuscripts this week.  May is always so crazy busy that I usually give myself a little slack.  But I guess this proves that even at the busiest times, I can create new work and still get all of the other stuff done!  It will be so nice to have the summer to critique all of these new pieces.

Keep going everyone that's participating!  We can do it.  And thank you Paula!  You are wonderful!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Happy May!

I can't believe it's May 1st.  How did that happen? Even though the weather doesn't feel like it - we've already started a countdown to summer in our house.  (And in case you were wondering, there are only 24 school days left!)

May 1st is also the first day of the National Picture Book Writing Week challenge (NaPiBoWriWee).  Write seven picture books in seven days.  I'm ready to go and have my list of story ideas mapped out.  For more information, check out Paula Yoo's website  She has the rules, words of encouragement and interviews different picture book authors each day.  I'm looking forward to it! 

Off to start on my new manuscript for Day 1....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turtle Magazine - Coming Soon...

I just found out that my poem "Beasty Feast" will appear in the September/October issue of Turtle magazine.  I got a little inside scoop today on the illustration plans.  Should be really cute so keep an eye out for it.  Can't wait to see it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Publishing Scene with Arthur Levine

On Saturday I attended SCBWI's Spring Thaw program with author & editor extraordinaire Arthur Levine.  What a fabulous speaker.  Arthur covered the key ingredients for remaining savvy in the current children's publishing market and also offered his perspective on launching picture books during a time when the format is considered "a tough sell".  It was definitely a day well spent.  Thank you so much to Arthur and to the committee that made this great event happen.  It's always wonderful to get together with my writing friends. 

I was also able to purchase Arthur's new book "Monday is One Day".  A heartwarming story about how hard it is for parents and children to say good-bye when Monday comes and parents head off to work, and children to daycare or school.  Sure to be a new family favorite. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Literacy Night!

Thanks so much to my friends at the Montessori Children's Garden for inviting me back for their Literacy Night.  What fun we had.  They had beautiful poems posted all around the room.  During the evening they made "Cat in the Hat" hats, bookmarks, caterpillars...  And helped me by coloring illustrations that I did for several of my poems.  We even played rhyming games.  They are a very talented group.  Keep reading and writing guys.  I hope that many of you send some of your beautiful work out to the magazines that we talked about.  You can do it!

Here's a picture of a few of my new friends that stayed after to show off their projects for the camera.  Great work guys!

The Happiness Project

I usually only talk about children's books on my blog, but I have an adult book that I just have to mention.  I picked up "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin recently and am really enjoying it.  If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, I highly recommend it.  No wonder it's been a #1 New York Times Bestseller!

On the back cover she writes of an epiphany that she has one afternoon.  "The days are long, but the years are short.  Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."  In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

Gretchen does such a great job sharing her research, experiences and lessons learned on happiness.  Many of the quotes are so good that I had to highlight them.  Her writing is so conversational and comfortable that I felt like we were talking over coffee.  So what do you think?  Are you up for the the happiness challenge?

Are you a Binge Blogger?

I sure am.  It's been six weeks since my last post and they have flown by.  I've been out of town quite a bit but have still been busy writing and revising.  Love the direction my new manuscripts are taking. 

Last night I pulled out all of my new picture book files from the marathon - fully expecting that the majority would need to be filed away.  I've been so busy working on other things that I honestly forgot what many of the manuscript ideas were.  What a fun surprise to reread those drafts.  I was able to eliminate some, but I still have about 20 that I really like.  Hmmm... now to figure out which ones to tackle first.  Here we go!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Boot Camp was Amazing!

I just returned from Lisa Wheeler's Picture Book Boot Camp and it was fantastic!  I'm so glad I could be there.  Lisa has so many terrific picture books that it's impossible to pick one favorite.  I'm a huge fan of hers!  I love One Dark Night, Turk and Runt and Porcupining, A Prickly Love Story - just to name a few.  Lisa is also an amazing presenter.  She supplied us with terrific examples of each topic covered which helped so much with soaking it all in.  The weekend was over way too quickly.  I can't wait to apply everything to all of the manuscripts I wrote for the marathon this past month.  Many thanks to Lisa - and the fabulous SCBWI planning committee - for a job well done!  If you've considered attending one of her workshops - do it!  You'll be so glad you did.

The weekend began at the children's museum with a presentation by illustrator Robin Luebs.  Robin spoke about the journey she and her sister Deborah Ruddell took with the publication of their book Who Said Coo? published by Beach Lane Books.  This is such a darling book.  My youngest son and I read it before bed the night I got home.  He loved the illustrations so much that he kept turning pages back to see them again.  I'm so glad that he loved the facial expressions on these darling characters as much as I did.  She also led us in an illustration exercise that was so fun.  We were given a first line of a picture book and told to make the illustration with tissue paper.  Of course it was timed.   Here's how mine turned out.  It really made me think about illustrations in a whole new way.  Thanks Robin!  

Another boot camp highlight were the critiques.  We were all assigned to a small critique group prior to the conference.  Everyone did written critiques for each other and then we had a breakout session together.  The brainstorming as a group was fantastic!   This happened after learning all day Saturday from Lisa.  It was so interesting to see how that changed things for everyone.  Very valuable.  Lisa also provided everyone with a fantastic written critique as well as meetings with each small group. 

Amazing conference!   Can't wait to tackle my manuscripts. 

Highlights High Five - coming soon...

I just received word that my poem "Jack-o'-Lantern" will be appearing in the October issue of Highlights High Five.  Hooray!  Be sure to check it out at your local bookstore or library.  I always look forward to seeing their illustrations.  It's such a fun surprise! 

I did it!

The Picture Book Marathon is officially over.  I am very proud to report that I completed the marathon with 26 new manuscripts!  This was such a great experience and I learned so much.   I definitely plan to participate next year.  And if you're one of those people that's been thinking about it, but afraid to commit...I say give it a try.  You won't regret it.

Thanks so much for all of the support from my writer friends and from my family.  My parents are the best cheerleaders a girl could ever hope for.  Before this all started they surprised me with a cute pink marathon t-shirt and a big box of chocolates.  A piece for each day that I completed a manuscript.  (In March I'm going on a diet.)  And my mom sent daily e-mails to keep me motivated.  ;-)

My husband and kiddos were really great too.  Didn't let me get lazy.  Let me have my writing time, even at night.  And the kids were so into it that they were coming up with new ideas for me too.  Then I'd hear "Mom, did you write about ____ yet?  That will be a really good one."  They also endured endless nights of take-out and frozen dinners.  (I'm really going on a diet in March.)  Thank you guys - love you!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 24 - Packing...

I've been busy doing critiques and reading TONS of picture books in preparation for the Picture Book Boot Camp that starts tomorrow.  I read a huge stack by Lisa Wheeler and can I just say, she is brilliant.  There are so many of hers that I had to read over again to analyze how she does it.  I just can't wait to learn more from her this weekend.  Should be amazing.  I met her almost 10 years ago at a conference in Detroit and she was hilarious and so talented. 

I also got my manuscript done for the day.  A silly idea that ended up combining two old ideas.  I'll have to find my old notes on those to compare.  I really hope that I still like these ideas next month.  After reading all of Lisa's books, well... can't wait for her wisdom. 

Probably won't blog the next few days while I'm out of town but will catch up when I return. Off to pack.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 23 - Only 5 days left!

I just can't believe that there are only 5 days left of the marathon.  Another benefit of participating - no time for anyone to have the "winter blahs".  You stay so super busy that the month is over before you know it!  :-) 

Got my manuscript done for today.  And I was so happy to find that because there were two days when I wrote more than one manuscript, I have 23 new picture book files.  (Even though I did use my two days off.)  Hooray! 

I can't wait to see what happens in March when I get to take stories these further.  Is there anyone out there that has done this before that has any insight?  Is it easy to keep the momentum?  Or do people fall off the wagon?  Do the rough drafts that seemed like good ideas in Feb, still seem good in March and after?  It will be very interesting.  No matter what happens, I am really glad that I did this!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 22 - Good News Always Helps!

So much to do before I leave again this Friday for Lisa Wheeler's Picture Book Boot Camp.  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed that I only have two days this week with the kids at school - then I got today's mail.  A wonderful contract arrived from Children's Better Health Institiute.  Almost two years ago they wanted to buy my poem "Pinata" and now it will appear in their May/June issue of Humpty Dumpty magazine.  Can't wait to see the illustration.  Hooray!  That really gave me a boost with my writing for today.  Less than a week left.  I just can't believe that. 

Keep writing fellow marathoners - we're almost there!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 21 - Back on track...

So the weekend show choir trip was great... action packed every minute of the day and into the wee hours of the morning.  On Saturday I don't hink we got to bed until 3:00 in trhe morning.  All of the kids - and adults - are still exhausted.  So glad that I saved up my "off days" because I did need to use them on Friday and Saturday.  There was just no time to write but I did get a idea for a new angle on a story I've been working on.  Love when those triggers happen at unexpected times. 

One of the many wonderful side effects of doing the marathon is that I really feel terrible for taking any time off at all - it feels so disappointing.  (And we're allowed two days off this month.)  But this is great because, let's face it, life gets busy and sometimes we can't fit it in.  But now it will be harder to just say "Oh well, didn't have time today."  Just can't do that anymore.

So back to my daily writing.  And this is in spite of the fact that my kiddos are off three days this week.  Here we go.... 
And thank you so much to everyone who has sent me wonderful messages of encouragement.  I appreciate it more than you can imagine. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 17 - It's back!

So glad that I felt like my muse was working with me again today.  I needed it.  Got several new ideas and a manuscript written out for one.  Bringing the others with me this weekend on the high school trip.  No blogging for a few days but promise myself to keep writing.  If things get too crazy - then these will be my two off days for the marathon.  But hopefully I won't have to use them.  Happy writing everyone!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 16 - Marathon Mojo

Don't they say that the last few miles of a marathon are the hardest?  I think I'm there.   The last few days have been a little rough.  Fortunately we are expecting nearly 60 degree weather tomorrow - following our record breaking snow storm.  Maybe that will give me the much needed boost to get back in the groove.  I'm still writing and am actually ahead of schedule with number of new manuscripts written.  Just need that oomph back.

I'll be out of town this weekend to chaperone a high school show choir competition so I won't be blogging Fri & Sat, but will still try to write during any down time.  Then next weekend off to Lisa Wheeler's Picture Book Boot Camp.  Maybe that's a little bit of the problem - knowing that I'll be out of town a few weekends in a row.  Causing me to be a little distracted with what needs to be done at home.

I was invited to join another critique group this past week and I'm so excited about it.  The focus of the group... you guessed it, picture book revision.  Perfect timing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Days 14 & 15 - Plugging Away...

So things were a little too busy yesterday to get the blogging in but I did make sure that I got the writing done.  We had some Valentine's Day family laser tag to play which took the place of blogging.  So fun.   And today has been one of those days - fortunately not over yet - but I woke up with a new direction for an idea that I've been mulling over for years.  At least got a skeleton rough draft down before I forgot it.

The marathon has had so many benefits that I hadn't even thought about before taking this on.  So glad that I'm doing it.  It's definitely a great investment.  Anyone that I've talked to that told me they thought it would be too much or they just couldn't commit to it - I have been encouraging them to give it a chance - even if it's just for a week.  Give it a try and see what happens. 

The only thing that is getting a little old for me is this daily blogging - not very exciting things to report - but it's helping to keep me on track.  Ready for day 16.  I'm going to try some really different story ideas in the next week.  Some a little out of my comfort zone, so we'll see how far I can push myself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 13 - Two for One

So yesterday was a really good writing day.  Came up with two new stories instead of one.  Love when that happens.  But sadly, I don't think I can count it for today...I'd be missing the whole point.  Sooo...
just finished some submissions, have some revisions to do and will get something new written for day 14.  Half way now!  Maybe it will be a Valentine's Day inspired story....nah, probably not.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 12 - Revision withdrawal...

Day 12's manuscript just morphed into something completely unexpected.  But I think I like it. 

I've realized that one of the many perks of participating in the marathon, is that I am having revision withdrawal.  Never thought I would miss revising...but I really do.  So not only am I making the time to write my new idea each day, but I'm still squeezing in time to revise other manuscripts.  Almost halfway through.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 11 - All out of new ideas? I don't think so...

Brought one of my new manuscripts to critique group today - something very different for me - and they liked it!  Ahhh...  Always a great way to start the day.  This got me on a tangent for revisions then.  So when I got back home I revised a different story for quite awhile.  Feeling pretty good, I asked my husband "Do you think revising a story that I started just before the marathon would count for today?" 

His response....
"Yeah.  You've been working really hard.  It's okay if you're all out of new ideas.  I wouldn't worry about it." 

Hmmm.... took me all of two seconds to jump up and run to the other room to get cracking.  Just what I needed to hear and he knew it.  Day 11 - done.  And it was a NEW idea thank you very much. 

Day 10 - Marathon

Day 10 seems like a milestone, I guess because I've hit "double digits".  But I have to confess, I'm feeling a little ADD.  I usually work on a manuscript, or a few, until I feel really good about them.  This is such a hard feeling to get used to - working on a new one each day.  I have several now that I really like and can't wait to be able to work on them more.  I guess I need to teach myself to let go a little bit and enjoy this new process.  I'll try.  So yesterday's manuscript was really fun.  Off to critique group this morning and then back home to write number 11! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Day 9 - Marathon

Well, this day was bound to come sooner or later.  Had a sick kiddo home yesterday, but still came up with a new idea.  I thought it seemed pretty clever and unique.  Yay!  But when I sat down last night to work it out, ughhh....  It's a real stinker of a draft.  Maybe I was just tired and it might look better today or next week. 

Did get a lot of other writing things done.  Revisions to a few other stories that I'm super excited about, and... a great e-mail from a fabulous editor. 

Bring on day 10.  I'm feeling energized today.  Come on fellow marathoners - let's do this!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 8 - Marathon

Just finished my PB for today and I am so excited about the concept.  Did some research too and now I can't wait to get back to it.  If February is the month of the PB Marathon, then March will definitely be the month of revisions.  The grand finale for me is Lisa Wheeler's Picture Book Boot Camp later this month.  Three days to be inspired by a master storyteller on perfecting the craft of writing picture books ~ following a month of producing ideas and rough drafts. What perfect timing! 

This is the beautiful logo created for the marathon by Nathan Hale.  More info at

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 7 - Week One is Done!

I can't believe that the first week is already over.  Three more weeks to go!  Today I spent a lot of time at the library and on revisions & research for another story.  I did still manage to get a rough draft written for a new idea tonight.  I really like the idea, but the first draft has a long way to go.  At least I got it down on paper.  Day 7 - check!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Days 5 & 6 Marathon

Today I'm a little sleep deprived but the fuzziness must be working for me. I started writing about one idea and ended up with three new ones that I really like.  I love the concept behind one of them and am very happy with the rough first draft.  I'm thinking that tomorrow's a library day for revisions and a new draft for day 7.  The PB Marathon team sent out the first survey/tally sheet for number of manuscripts produced.  Although I'm a little nervous about not being able to keep up, I'm happy that so far I'm 6 for 6. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 4 - Marathon

Everyone got back to school, but after two days of all of us being home, there was so much to catch up on today.  This could have been one of those days where it was easy to justify not writing.  But thanks to the PBM I was not going to let that happen.  New story, down on paper, and I actually really like it.  Even if it is super rough.  Day four - check.  I'm definitely ready for bed now.  I'm also really glad to be participating in this month-long event.  It's so easy for writers to put off writing when the rest of your life gets too busy - for a day, or week, or month.  This challenge proves to me that no matter how crazy your day is, you can always make time to write.  And will feel better for doing it.  Sweet dreams. 

Day 3 - Picture Book Marathon

Even though the kids were home for their second snow day, I still managed to get a new story down.  Very rough draft but I'm really excited about this idea.  Everyone goes back to school today.  Let's hear it for the next new story and lots of revisions.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 2 and it's a snow day...

Despite the fact that day 2 turned out to be the biggest snow storm the chicago area has seen in forever - AND school was cancelled - I am very proud that I still got a new manuscript down on paper.  Hooray!
We received a call this afternoon that tomorrow will be a "snow day" too.  But that shouldn't be a problem.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Picture Book Marathon begins!

Well day 1 of the Picture Book marathon is finally here, and I have spent the entire day on writing.  I was so excited that I woke up at 5:00 am - yes, I did get out of bed.  An hour or so later my teenage daughter walked by me and mumbled "You're crazy."  Maybe I am.  I worked on two new stories today.  One was an old idea from my files and one was more recent.  I have to admit to being an "over thinker" today.  I'll try harder tomorrow to just run with it.   

Jean & Lora left this on the PBM blog today, "Remember, it's not about perfection.  The point of the marathon is to run fast enough and far enough that your inner critic will be left gasping for air many miles behind you!"  See ya inner critic.  Don't think you'll be joining me tomorrow.  I'm ready for my chocolate now. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview with Jay Asher!

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why (Razorbill/Penguin, Fall 2007).  If you haven't read this book yet, you should definitely check it out.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a suspenseful, thought-provoking novel that tackles the tough subject of teen suicide and the idea that you never really know what’s going on in anyone’s life but your own. In this book, a teenager decides to take her own life. Instead of leaving a suicide note, she records thirteen stories about thirteen people who pushed her toward that decision. She then mails the tapes to the first person on her list, and the story unfolds. Thirteen Reasons Why has won numerous awards and was on The New York Times Best Seller list for 65 weeks!

Jay, thank you so much for this interview. Many of your fans have shared that after reading your book, they thought a lot more about always treating people with respect because you never know what others are dealing with. I love the quote from one of your fans that said your book made her want to be “wonderful to everyone.”

When you set out to write this story, did you plan to have such a strong message from the start? Or did the story line come first?

The story came first, and if a decision ever had to be made regarding story versus message, story always won out. The entire time I was writing this book, I had the fear that if the message ever dominated, a good chunk of readers would close the book because it would sound too preachy. People don't read novels to be preached at, they want to be told an entertaining story. I was also afraid the story would become too sad for anyone to want to finish, so I focused heavily on creating suspense. Story and suspense, that's what I focused on. Because of the premise of my book, I knew the message would be fairly obvious, so my job was simply to keep the readers flipping those pages faster and faster.

Did you ever imagine that your book would be embraced the way that it has? What were your hopes for this book, and have your expectations been met?

I thought the book would sell fairly well if teens were made aware it, because I thought it would be something they'd go and tell their friends about. But there's always the fear that bookstores and libraries, for whatever reason, won't stock your book and teens won't even know it's out there. Thankfully, we always had such amazing support from booksellers and librarians. But no, I never imagined it would take off the way it has. I thought it could be an underground word-of mouth hit, but I never imagined it would get onto the NY Times list for even one week (it stayed on for 65). I never imagined that counselors and psychiatrists would use the book in their professions, or that teens would claim it saved their lives. Because of all of that, this book went way beyond anything I could've expected.

How do you stay so in tune with what teens are going through – especially teen girls? Any research techniques that helped you with that?

Basically, I have the philosophy that adults and teens aren't very different at all. Adults have learned more ways to handle situations, but our initial gut reactions are extremely similar. The same thing goes for males and females. Society gives us different roles for how to act in situations, but I think our emotions are fairly similar. So I never said "If I were still a teen..." or "If I were female...", but instead "If I were in this person's shoes today..."

You invested 12 years of writing and submitting your work before this first book was sold – with a few close calls in between. When you finally received “the call” from your agent offering representation, and then “the call” about the book being sold, what was that like? What did you do first?

I'd had three previous agents over those twelve years, so getting the call that my agent wanted to represent me wasn't as "big moment" as the call from my first agent, but that's because I knew that having an agent doesn't necessarily mean I was going to sell anything. The fact that it was Laura Rennert made me feel like I'd stepped into the big leagues, though. I mean, she represents Ellen Hopkins! My phone was turned off when she called to say a publisher was interested, and that actually added an interesting twist because when I finally turned on my phone, my agent had then left two messages. Soon after her first message, she called back to say another publisher was interested. Two publishers? Awesome! After work that day, I took my wife to the same spot where we got married to let her know that I sold my first book, and we both streamed joyous tears for a very long time.

You’ve mentioned that the manuscript was rejected at several houses prior to being sold; did you ever worry that it wouldn’t sell? How long did it take to find the right house?

After twelve years, I was numb to rejections. Whenever another house rejected me, my feeling was, "Of course they did." Oddly enough, earlier that year, I told my wife that if this book didn't sell, I was going to stop writing. Twelve years was my limit. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't reach my limit at eleven years! We ended up having three publishers bidding on my book, so I spoke with all three editors on the phone (not at the same time), and that's what made me know that Razorbill was the perfect house for Thirteen Reasons Why. And I was right!

At one time you wanted to be a screenwriter, how do you think your book would translate into a movie?

Whenever I write, I think in cinematic terms. I picture each scene as if it's playing on a movie screen, visualizing what it looks like when the scene begins and ends, and what details the camera focuses on. A couple of the first big reviews I got even used the word "cinematic", which made me smile. I think it would translate very well to the screen as long as they get the tone right.

In your lifetime, what would you like to accomplish with your writing? What would you personally define “success” as a writer?

I've always wanted write a book that a lot of people really enjoy, and this book accomplished that. But to know that I've written something that personally touched and inspired so many people, that's the kind of success I never expected. And I feel comfortable saying that it's the very best kind.

Jay, thank you so much for your time and for your fabulous novel. Congratulations on all of your success so far - and big congrats to you and your wife on the arrival of your beautiful son this past month. You will make a wonderful father. I wish you all the best!

You can visit Jay at
Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville is featuring Thirteen Reasons Why this March in their “Not for Kids Only” Book Group. You won’t want to miss it!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  This has been a wonderful winter break so far - full of family, friends, fun, relaxing and...time for both reading and writing.  One book that I thought would last me the whole break - but I finished much too quickly - is the YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  If you have not read this yet, you don't want to miss it.  Jay does a fantastic job.   It's suspensful and has a clever premise.  This book gives new perspective to how your comments and actions can affect someone else's life.  I didn't want it to end.  I wish everyone the best in 2011!