Saturday, January 26, 2008

When the writer's away the cats will...uh

So, it's been reading time more than writing time for me lately. We're at the point in the CYBILS competition where those of us who are judging are reading, reading, reading. We're staying up late reading, getting up early reading, reading in the pharmacy line, during comercial breaks of American Idol, and even at extra long stoplights during rush hour. We have a deadline to meet, afterall. And one can hardly "judge" a book without having first spent quality time falling in and walking through it's pages. So, I've been reading some really great books! Check out my blog post from 1/1/08 to see the list of 10 CYBILS fantasy finalists. Then run out and get one or two of them so that you can be one of the first to read them as well!

Meanwhile, as the reading has increased, I have been learning first hand that judging for a literary contest can take a huge chunk out of one's personal writing time. This type of reading is not wasted time, of course -- judging is an honor, and the reading a great joy.

Still, it has caused me to change my writing rythm for several weeks, and I'm learning a lot about juggling; meeting writing and reading deadlines simultaneously.

So, with hot chocolate in one hand, and a CYBILS book beside me on the table, I'm dividing my time between writing a decreased 2000 words/week on my current YA novel (during CYBILS season,) and reading, reading, reading, reading... except, of course, when I'm at my time consuming day job...

And all of this time crunching makes me contemplate one question. Does reading books for a writing competition improve a writer's own writing?

My answer? Of course it does, silly. These finalists wouldn't be where they are today if they hadn't mastered grammar, characterization and plot. So, join me. Let's read some great fantasy and let these writers' techniques sink into our "craft" toolboxes, making our own stories better.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Cybils Panelist Shares Her Journey

So, how are the CYBILS award books chosen? Stacy DeKeyser, one of the initial panelists on this year's "YA novel" Cybils panel shares her experience on her blog post from January 8th, "Diary of a Cybils Committee Member." Check it out.

And for more news on the CYBILS, peruse the CYBILS blog at

The initial panelists (who selected the final books in each category and sent them to the judges) are now free to share their thoughts and views on the nominated books. But I and the other judges are still sworn to secrecy as we read and debate. (Nope! Put away that verita serum. You won't get a WORD out of ME!)

The winners in each Category will be announced on the Cybils web-site in Mid February. And immediately thereafter the "Fantasy Category" winners will be celebrated, drooled over, dissected, critiqued, picked apart (in loving writerly fashion so we can learn from the techniques used by their writers), and generally discussed from all angles here on writermorphosis. Reading great books is like taking a course in great writing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The CYBILS Shortlists are here!

Yes, the waiting is over. The Cybils shortlists are up! The qualifying books for Fantasy, Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, and Middle Grade (MG) Fiction have already been listed on the Cybils site. And the other categories will be up there shortly. Check out http://dadtalk.typepad.%20com/cybils/ for the lists of finalists.

IN THE CATEGORY OF FANTASY (which I'll be judging this year), THE FINALISTS ARE:

(drum roll please....)

YA Section
* Book of a Thousand Days (by Shannon Hale)
* Incarceron (by Catherine Fisher)
* Northlander - Tales of the Borderlands (by Meg Burden)
* Repossessed (by A. M. Jenkins)
* Skin Hunger (by Kathleen Duey)
Elementary/MG Section
* The Chaos King (by Laura Ruby)
* Into the Wild (by Sarah Beth Durst)
* The Land of the Silver Apples (by Nancy Farmer)
* Skulduggery Pleasant (by Derek Landy)
* The True Meaning of Smekday (by Adam Rex)

I look forward to reading each of your books (which the panelists are swooning over,) and I'll be blogging about them here as the judges select the winning YA and Elem/MG fantasy books for 2007! Having made it to the shortlist is a huge feather in your fedora! Take yourself out to dinner and live it up! You are one of the celebrated writers of 2007!

And to the rest of you out there in blogland -- please join me in a cup of fair-trade hot chocolate, put your feet up, snuggle down in your softest jammies and lose yourself in one of the 10 books listed above. The count-down to the 2007 Cybils' has begun!
On a side-note that is completely unrelated to the fantasy shortlist for which I'll be judging,
I'd like to send out a celebratory writermorphosis "toast" to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Kimberly is a fellow SCBWI writer whose book "Leap of Faith" has made the Middle Grade Fiction Cybils "finalist list" this year. I met Kimberly at the SCBWI Carolina's conference two years ago and found her presentations on fiction writing very helpful. So congrats, Kimberly -- my opinion won't help you at all in the judging arena, as I'm on the fantasy panel not the MG panel :) -- but Congratulations on being named a Cybils finalist this year! I lift my cup of hot chocolate in your honor.