Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Here's the deal with plotting a book series - there's a TON of it.

1. I have to plot out the overall arc of the series. That is, what big 'ol story will my main character go through over six or seven books?

2. I have to plot the first book, which has many suspense elements and is thus, to use a technical term - "plotty".

3. For the series proposal I have to give synopses of at least two more books, possibly more. So, even though I don't have to plot them out completely, I need a strong idea of their plots.

S'all making me plotz.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Book Series

One spot to make real money in kids books is in book series. You've probably heard of the Goosebumps books, although you probably haven't read them. These days big sales come from Young Adult series focused on upper crust girls and their sex lives -- series like The A-List and Gossip Girl. Also big - vampires and werewolves with a twist in books like Twilight, and faeries in books by Holly Black. Chapter book series kick ass too - the Katie Kazoo series has nearly 5 million books in print.

I'd like write something good, don't get me wrong. But I'd also like to make money writing.

So I'm thinking about a book series. I think I have a kick ass idea (not to be shared on the interent, thanks anyway!) and am forging ahead.

The other good thing about books series? You don't have to write the whole first book to get it bought - just a fabulous proposal and the first three chapter. I'm gonna churn that out in a couple of months, if my insane schedule permits. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Kaena Point

Have I mentioned lately that my home state of Hawaii is beautiful? On my last trip there I went to a beach I've never visited before - Kaena Point, at the far Western tip of Oahu.

Makaha used to be the last beach park to hang out at that end of the island. But they've added a lifeguard stand, parking lot, and bathrooms to the crystal clear waters and white, sinking sand at Kaena. A soft wind blew as white clouds scudded by, and the turquoise water deepened to purple where the reef began.

On a Saturday afternoon in July Mom and I were two out of maybe ten people there. Ssh! Don't tell. Just visit and keep the sacred beauty of it as pristine as you can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Found a great quote on writing from George Orwell. The last couple of sentences strike me as, well, amazing.

All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.

One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

SCBWI Conference Mania

So I just spent four days at the big ol' Los Angeles conference for the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Four fat days of lectures, workshops, parties, networking, lunching, schmoozing, clapping, laughing, fighting off drowsiness, excitement, nervousness, and hard work. On the fourth night I went out for pie with my best friend and was totally hyper. I giggled and made faces and in general just acted very silly. After all the focus demanded by the conference, I guess I let my inner doof loose.

Highlights for me included:

The Keynote by Walter Dean Meyers, in which he talked about how it's a passion for detail that lead him to become a writer. He really made me think about why I write and what makes writing good versus bad. And he's right - finding the RIGHT details to include about your character and what she's doing and how she does it - that's key.

Emma Dryden's passionate Keynote about the adventure of writing.

Agents Kate Schafer and Tracey Adams talking about their different styles of agenting. Later I attended Kate's "Advice from an Agent" workshop and was blown away when she mentioned an obscure book as one of her favorites - Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. "Any John Marsden fans out there?" she asked. "Yes!" I said, though I don't think she heard me.

These are fabulous teen novels about a group of young people in Australia who go camping without their parents. While they are off in the bush, the rest of their country gets taken over by a foreign power, and they must first struggle to survive before they begin an underground resistance movement.

I loved this series so much that I pitched it to a producer I was working with at the time. She loved them too and went into a bidding war with another producer for the TV rights. Alas, she lost. But I immediately loved Kate for loving that book. Amazing - the power of a great novel.

Tamora Pierce, who wrote some of my favorite fantasy novels, talked about all the many sources she uses for inspiration. Her quote from another writer: "The immature artist imitates. The mature artist steals."

And my favorite - the Writing the Series Workshop with Bonnie Bader and Judy Goldschmidt from Grosset and Dunlap and Price Sterns Sloan. This was two mornings spent learning how to put together a proposal for a book series. After the first day we had homework, and I worked late into Sunday night, determined to make my proposal kick ass. I figured that it ain't often you get to pitch directly to an editor and get feedback. So what the hell. In the second session, as it came near my turn to read my series concept, I could feel my heart start to beat very loudly and very fast. I'd written it in the voice of the protagonist. Would that work? I thought it was pretty damn good. Was I wrong?

Turns out, I was right. Bonnie and Judy said that my proposal was a good example for the others to follow. They liked it! They really did! I just need to really hone the voice. I was shaking by the time I was done. I couldn't really hold my pen to take notes on what they said, so thank goodness most of what they said was positive. After they moved on to other people, I finally calmed down. Whew! So now here I go - I'm gonna rewrite this proposal, come up with three slick, fabulous chapters to submit, and go from there. Very exciting.

I also really enjoyed the Golden Kite Awards luncheon, which included a singing contest and great speeches from Sarah Pennypacker, Larry Day, Walter Dean Meyers again, and Tony Abbott. I'm forgetting someone else very cool, but they all rocked, and our table bonded over the shared fear of singing, and over the ridiculous and fabulous singers from other tables.

Overall grade for the conference: A.

But I'm exhausted and exhilarated. You've got to work, baby, work! And even in college I didn't sit listening to speakers for eight hours at a stretch. Work is less intense, and my job is pretty damned demanding.

I'll be there next year. Wish I could afford the upcoming NYC conference!