Friday, January 25, 2013

Retreating to Write: A list of 2013 opportunities!

First of all, I am always so impressed by the writers from around the world who read this blog every week. So thank you to the children's/YA writers from the U.S, France, Germany, Belarus, Russia, China, Sweden, Ukraine, and Canada who stopped by this week.  I'm so glad to see you. Welcome!  Bienvenue! Добро пожаловать!Välkommen! 欢迎!Herzlich Willkommen! Bienvenidos! Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Ok, today we are taking another week in our short break from author interviews on craft, to look at ways to make your writing career "happen" and "succeed" in 2013 and 2014. In addition to learning the craft of writing, we've all also got to set goals, learn about the publishing industry, learn about marketing and networking, and most importantly find (aka make) time to do the hard work of writing or illustrating.

Today we're talking about finding Time:

Did you know that you can turn your next 1-4 week period of vacation-time into a miraculous time of actually finishing your novel or non-fiction book?

Writer's Retreat centers can be found all over the world. They are places where serious authors can retreat away from the day job, the telephone, the neighbors, even the kids briefly (though we love them)! They are places where you commune with other authors, and your computer, and silence, and you have all day to write. The even more fabulous news is that many of them are available to writers through grants, residencies, and applications based on writing merit that make an author's stay at the writer's retreat almost free.

Below are some of the many Writer's Retreat centers out there that you may want to consider!

But if you're looking for something shorter or even cheaper, here's a truly brilliant article by author Kathryn Haueisen Cashen:called Create Your Own Mini Writing Retreat that I definitely recommend reading!

After that, here are a few additional Writing Retreat options:

The Mesa Refuge in California

The Mesa Refuge is a writers' retreat located in Point Reyes Station, CA. It is one of the few retreats in the United States that supports people writing about nature, economics and social equity. Since 1998, we have granted residencies to over 500 writers.

The Mesa Refuge will be offering eight residency sessions in 2013 and accepting up to 24 residents through our traditional application process. We are offering four two-week sessions in the spring beginning March 29, 2013 and running through May 13, 2013 and four two-week sessions in the fall between September 20, 2013 and November 1, 2013.  The application deadline date for Spring Sessions is June 3, 2013. Your completed application must be received on or before the appropriate deadline.  See the website for  the application and rules.

Wildacres Retreat is a conference center in North Carolina.
It's situated on 1,600 acres atop Pompey's Knob, a mountain near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.

The Artists Residency program each year provides 25 one-week residencies available from May through October. Sessions begin each Monday afternoon and conclude after breakfast on Sunday. The program allows individuals the solitude and inspiration needed to begin or continue work on a project in their particular field.

Residents may eat in the dining room, which allows for interaction between the resident, other guests, and the staff, or residents may prepare their own meals in the cabin. There is no charge to the participants. This week is a working retreat, and we ask that no spouses, family or pets accompany the visiting resident.

The Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony in Massachusetts
This is a non-profit organization for educational purposes, has been established to honor Norman Mailer’s work and lifelong interest in and commitment to writers and writing programs. The Mailer house in Provincetown serves as the Center's and Colony’s headquarters for students, fellows, writers and scholars from all over the world.
The Center and the Colony offers Fellowships for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers during the second half of 2013. During a Fellowship month, the mentoring faculty will be headed by three highly regarded writers.

Not from the U.S?  No worries! There are writing retreat opportunities near you too! Search online, in your neighborhood, and in your part of the world for a writer's retreat or quiet writing space near you. :)  Happy Writing!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Children's Writer's Calendar: Contest Opportunities

So, we've used tips from last weeks talented author interviewees to set our personal writing and publishing goals for 2013. We now know what we want to accomplish in the next 12-24 months, things like: `finish my current book, submit it to agents and editors, start a specific new project, and/or branch into a new genre or area of publishing...

For each of us the goals are different. But perhaps our writer's calendar for 2013 is still not complete!

Perhaps it's time to add a few more opportunities to our writer's calendar.  Contest wins look great on query letters. They get your published or unpublished book publicity.  Some contests -- like the Amazon Breakthough Novel Award Contest, below -- can even get your book published. Consider these 2013 contests as you're making your writer's calendar for 2013!


1.) The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest!  Entries to this one are due this week!  The breakthrough novel award is an opportunity to win a publishing contract with Amazon Publishing. 

Now in its sixth year, this international contest promises to be the best yet. One Grand Prize winner will receive a publishing contract with an advance of $50,000, and four First Prize winners will each receive a publishing contract with an advance of $15,000. 

In 2013 they've expanded the categories to include five popular genres: General Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror and Young Adult Fiction. They're accepting entries from various countries For complete eligibility details, view the link above. ENTRIES ARE DUE THIS WEEK by January 27, 2013 at 11:59:59 p.m! If you miss this year's contest, put it on your 2014 calendar.

Deadline: July 31, 2013.  This contest is through Chanticlir Book Reviews and Media -- it's not a publisher, but rather a company that reports they help with "getting books discovered in this era of unbounded media."  Chanticlir has monthly contests in various genres, but the YA contest -- one for already published books and one for not-yet published books -- 
According to the contest info for non-published books: All First Place Winners in each category will win a Chanticleer Manuscript Overview Package (valued at $325.00).  For Published books: All first place winners will be automatically entered into the CBR Grand Prize Writing Competition for CBR’s Best Books of 2013.  All 1st Place winners will receive promotion and publicity. All first place winners will be automatically entered into the CBR Grand Prize Writing Competition for CBR’s Best Books of 2013. 
Leapfrog is a small publisher.  The contest is for Adult Fiction and Children's Fiction (middle grade and YA only*). Any novella- or novel-length work of fiction, including short-story collections, not previously published** is eligible. The minimum length is 22,000*** words; there is no maximum length.
All unpublished stories submitted in short-story collections will automatically be considered for publication in Crossborder. This may be a wonderful opportunity for many authors.  It is hightly recommended by writermorphosis that you read all the rules on all contests before you submit to them.

*Be aware that some contests charge a fee for entry. Others don't. Make sure any fee is worth the prize before you enter contests that aren't free. :) Contests are wonderful opportunities for many authors.  It is highly recommended by Writermorphosis that you read all the rules on all contests before you submit to them, to make sure they are right for you!

Happy writing, revising and submitting!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

SETTING ANNUAL WRITING GOALS for 2013: Three Well-Published Authors share their techniques

Here are some tips about how to set comprehensive "Annual Writing Goals" for 2013.  These come from 3 multi-published children's authors who are each known for publishing book after book, year after year, and for continuing to move forward in very successful, full-time writing careers.  For those of us who want to have serious writing careers of our own, we can pull ideas from these three as we finish setting our personal writing goals for 2013 and beyond. So... drumroll please... here are some strategies from folks who know how to make writing careers work:

Kathleen Reilly:  Kate is a full-time author who writes nonfiction children's books, ghost-written books for famous people, articles for multiple national magazines for kids and adults, and she is now also moving into hilarious middle grade and adult fiction novels.  She's known for writing awesome books at the speed of light, and if I do say so, two of her great non-fiction books Planet Earth and The Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide For Kids are some of the best non-fiction books written in the past few years for creative elementary and middle-schoolers who like fun science experiments, craft projects, learning about the world, and more.  Kate's career is on a roll.  So, share with us Kate! Will you tell us your secrets for January that keep your career rolling along so fabulously?

Absolutely! I ADORE setting goals. Not just in January, either. I consider goals as a living entity – constantly in need of attention and tweaking and feeding and watering. Once I set goals, I hover around them, keeping an eye on their progress and seeing what I need to do to help them blossom and grow.
That said, there’s something special about January goals. The turning of a new calendar page that says, “Last year is history! 2013’s a clean slate! You can do anything you want this year!” So I’ll make a Word file that’s called 2013 Goals and that’s the file I fuss with all year. At the top of the page, I’ll think hard about what *very specific* goals I want to see happen. Do I want to write a new book? I’ll write down specifically what idea I have. Do I want to get more ghost clients? I’ll specify how many I want. Do I want to break into new magazine markets? I’ll write down which markets (or how many new markets I want).
Then, the next section of my Word document is called “Make it Happen.” Here, I list each specific goal I’ve made above and write down exactly what steps are needed. So, for my ghost clients goal, I’d put action items like which people I’ll contact to propose a ghosting relationship, or jot down a good place to start researching new clients, or maybe list the title of a book about the industry I should read. Then I make sure that throughout the year I'm going back to look at that "goals" document frequently  to make sure I'm on track to meet those goals and to update it.

For those who don't know Kate, she makes very comprehensive goals and zips right through to the finish line with them every year! :) Thanks Kate!

Our next fabulous author is Alan Gratz.  He's written stories set in Japan, fantasy-land, Brooklyn, Tennessee, outer-space, and Warsaw Poland.  His most recent book -- Prisoner B-3087, based on a true story about a heroic 10 year old boy trying to survive a concentration camp during WWII, will be released by Scholastic in March 2013. It has already been hailed by Kirkus Reviews as "A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe." Alan is the author of 7 middle grade and young adult novels, with more on the way. He also keeps busy marketing his books via school visits, teaching at writing conferences, and he will be faculty at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop again this year.  Tell us, Alan, how do you personally set annual writing goals to keep your career moving forward each year?

Every December/January I sit down and look at my writing schedule for the coming year, figuring out when I'll be working on previous obligations, and when I'll have time to work on new projects. This month, for example, I'm waiting on an edit letter on a book I sold recently, so I have time to get a start on a new project. I break the year down by month, and put in when I think I'll get notes back from editors, and when my deadlines are, and what my major travel obligations will be. The empty months (those few that remain) are when I slot in the new stuff. Things happen so far out in publishing that you can't sit on your hands waiting for someone else to get back to you. In fact, this year, I went ahead and took a tentative look at 2014's schedule as well! That one is even more open to revision than 2013's schedule, of course, but I like having things in the queue for those times when I have time to play.

Wow - planning all the way out to 2014.  That's a really good idea. That's a good example that shows how writing for a career is a not a "just fly by the seat of your pants and hope you sell some books and that it all works out" endeavor. Planning is key.

Here's another great "planning" author, Stephanie Greene. Stephanie's written more than 20 books for children, and three new titles in her Princess Posey early chapter book series will be published in 2013, along with her 4th Sophie Hartley middle grade novel, Sophie Hartley and the Facts of Life, in the fall.  Stephanie's long and successful career hasn't slowed a bit during all the recent changes in the publishing world.  

Stephanie's New Years Strategy: 

I start every New Year with a new book. If I'm working on something that's going well, I'll still take part of every day to begin a new manuscript. If I'm at the stage on an existing manuscript where I'm re-writing and honing every little word without moving the plot forward, I put that manuscript to the side and start something new. I don't let books drag on and on. The way I set my deadline is that I look at the year beyond the new year (in this case, 2014) and tell myself that if I want to have a new book come out that year, I have to write it now and quickly. Winter months are good ones in which to write. I tend to set April 1st for completion of the first draft. That gives me roughly a month to revise before I send it to my agent. Assuming an editor accepts it, I then have until late fall to get it into good enough shape that it can be published the following fall. It doesn't always happen the way I want, but I stick to that schedule. There's no other way to meet it but to write every day, moving the book along, until I have a draft. 

THANKS Stephanie, Alan, and Kate! You guys are great!

Now the rest of us can follow your tips and examples as we make sure that we too are moving forward with clear goals and plans for 2013 and 2014.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Interview: SCBWI President Stephen Mooser: The Future of Children's Publishing

Today, to ring in our first Author Interview of 2013, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Stephen Mooser, President of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. He's the author of 60+ children's books. Welcome Stephen! Thanks for coming to talk with us today about the future of publishing, e-publishing, and how we can be a part of the wave! Let's jump right in!

Stephen, many children's and YA writers are concerned as we watch bookstores closing in our towns and digital publishing becoming more and more popular.  Yet I have heard you speak of this new era as just another opportunity, another change in a long line of changes you've seen over the years during your life as an author and President of SCBWI.  Will you share with us your thoughts on this new world of publishing, and why you have hope as we enter 2013?

"Certainly! There is no doubt that in the last few years the children’s book business has been shaken by the rise of digital publishing. You would have thought the industry might have seen this coming after witnessing the upending of the music business, but most publishers, I think, never thought books would be impacted so quickly. Now they are scrambling to adjust, some starting e book lines, others laying off staff, a few others jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon by starting what I believe are dubious divisions not that much different from a vanity press.

What does this all portend for the children’s book author and illustrator? I believe it offers a lot of new opportunities and possibilities. No one is quite sure where this is all going, but one thing is clear, we are in on the ground floor. That’s a fortunate position because those already familiar with the creation of children’s books are far ahead of anyone coming in with nothing but digital knowledge. Like anything in this world, what counts is having something unique that people—adults and kids—will want to read, and pay for."

Stephen, you have your finger on the pulse of the children's/YA publishing industry. Can you give us any examples of what you think have been some of the more interesting digital publishing experiments or advances in the children's market this past year?

Yes. While we're speaking of digital expertise, there are now literally thousands of apps, some of them free, some of them for sale, that can make your book or website interactive and fun to visit. So you don’t have to be a techno-whiz—and for those parts of your ebook or website you can’t do yourself, find a 12 year old to help.

Do you own the rights to your out of print books? If so be aware it takes very little time and money to scan in the text and make them available as ebook or print on demand titles. You might not sell very many, but it will be more than you are selling now, which is most likely close to zero. And, if you want to put some time and effort into promotion you might actually find an audience.

If any of your titles have a hook or an angle—touch on a childhood problem, cover the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, or lend themselves to a game then you’ve got a marketing angle by using the internet and social media you can probably reach a lot of potential readers.

I’ve published more than 60 books over the last 35 years. Most of them are now out of print, but I plan to have them scanned and made available on my website as well as online booksellers such as Amazon, Create Space and Barnes and Noble.

Those are great suggestions, Stephen! Not only do you give us hope that the digital era will not spell the death of authors and stories, but I hear that in addition to the plans to scan and e-sell your out-of-print books you have already jumped into this new era with both feet, introducing a fun interactive website as a way to connect with your readers.  Can you tell us about that, and about how we can go check it out ourselves?

My latest book, Class Clown Academy, failed to find a traditional publisher. As a former Class Clown I had a great time writing it, thought it was worthy of a wider audience, and, most important, it was a concept that lent itself to an interactive website. So over the last three years the Academy has been under construction and is ready to open.

You can visit it at (for now it won’t open on an Ipad) but will on any other device or computer.

It is a virtual school with a Theater. There you can see a short film made by my son-in-law. The film is called Farts and You and won’t win an Academy Award but will win laughs. There's a cafeteria where you can have a food fight, a music room where you can record a song made by playing whoopee cushions, a library with books on jokes, and much more including a link to purchase my ebook, and a student store where you can buy everything from Class Clown Academy t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers (MY CHILD WAS GOOFBALL OF THE MONTH AT CLASS CLOWN ACADEMY)  and even a free Diploma Mill where you can make up your own PhD degree in Practical Jokes or make up an All-American Award for your skills on the baseball diamond with the CCA team, The Fightin’ Spitwads.

I would not have gone to the time and expense to do this with any of my other books because they just didn’t have enough going to keep a child interested.

Two caveats:
      (One) Just putting up a book on Amazon(there are 30 million books there) or building a website (millions of those too) is not enough. You have to be able to drive people to that book or site. If you can’t do that you won’t succeed. 

 (Two) you have to have something that people want 
to visit or read.

Hee hee hee, ah, well, hee hee hee, ahahaha, ehem, so cool! I love the class clown academy website, Stephen, especially the music room with it's coughing Beethoven statue, sqeeky bench, and all the playable instruments, not to mention the "octofly" I managed to create in the science lab - before I got electrocuted that is! The rubber chicken was great too! And I didn't even have time to watch the movie yet! Plus I love the way you sneekily and brilliantly stuck your e-book for purchase right there on the front row in the "school store" with a nice joke-filled teaser.  Brilliant! I'll be referring all the 8 year old boys I know straight over there because kids will love it!  Thanks for setting us all such a great example of how to bring our books and stories in the digital age!

Here's one final question. As an author, and as the Co-president of SCBWI, what encouragement, tips, or suggestions would you give to published and pre-published children's authors as we set our writing and publishing goals and hope to work toward achieving them in 2013?
The digital world is no different that the print world. Competition is intense. Come up with something that no one has ever seen before, something that makes people go WOW! What a great concept, incredible character, terrific idea---or all three if you can. Do that and you will be a success. It’s not easy to do, but it is what it takes and, as I said we are in on the ground floor. You already are ahead of 99% of the people who think they have some great idea but have no idea what to do next—not to mention no talent—Your competition is that the last one percent is smart, talented and creative and those are the ones you’ve got to top.

Do it and you will succeed—I can just about guarantee it.

Thank you, Stephen - perfectly said!  Onward and upward -- It's 2013!