Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A generous author

Authors rarely seem FRANK in their advice to other writers -- maybe because those who are sometimes lose their mystique. Trollop, for example, admitted in his autobiography that he had trained himself to write one of his pages every 15 minutes (he did all his writing before he left for his job at the Post Office!) and critics have looked down on him ever since -- for that and other admissions. So maybe it makes sense that most authors talk a lot more about inspiration and characters just appearing etc.

Nevertheless I love to read writers' autobiographies, for many reasons: the differences between their lives and their books,  the experiences they've had, the descriptions of their writing processes. But I don't expect to get advice I can use or even, really, believe what most say about writing.....so Diana Wynne Jones's Reflections -- not an autobiography, but a collection of essays and talks and interviews -- was a real treat.

What she said about writing felt true -- and she was so generous with her advice, said lots that really helped! Some but not nearly all:

She thinks about her books for a long time before she writes them, but doesn't plan them out. Usually when she begins she knows only the beginning, the end, and something in the middle -- until she can see this scene in vivid detail, she doesn't start writing. Part of the fun of writing is learning how the characters got from the beginning to the middle.

She knows ALL her characters -- even the minor ones -- really well before she starts. She says that if you do, you'll rarely get stuck: when you need a character to be somewhere doing something you will remember that someone else, say, owns a grocery store and...You don't tell the reader NEARLY everything you know -- she, for example, knows exactly what all her characters look like, but rarely describes them: if you know, she says, their looks will come through to the reader.

She writes her first drafts in what she describes as a "white heat" -- just pours them out. Then in the second draft she gets very analytical and critical.

This was especially helpful to me -- I often get bogged down in being critical, and it really hampers the flow of ideas. The more the two processes can be separated, the better.

She advises  modeling villians on people we know; there is no need to worry that they will recognize themselves, she says, because few people think of themselves as bad...unfortunately I was unable to do this -- none of the people I wanted to use were quite right for the things they had to do -- but it's a good idea.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

book party! you're invited!

So, the Ling and Ting Share a Birthday comes out in September! That is next month!

Usually, by now I am knee deep in booklaunch plans with a date already set. This time, if you haven't noticed, I've been hemming and hawing.

That's because with the move, I'm in a new area. I don't know that many people in the area and I don't think that many people know me. I honestly don't know if people will come to a book party. And it's no fun to plan a party that people don't show up to.

But I am proud of the new Ling and Ting book--it's already received two starred reviews!--and I love the characters of Ling and Ting. As you know, I'm already hard at work on the third book and my dream is to make Ling and Ting into a real bonafide series. I think it's a book worth celebrating.

So I'm going to give the book party a shot! Please come! Ling and Ting would love to share their birthday with you!

Come with a friend in a MATCHING OUTFIT... 
and get a special-limited-amount-which-will-be-very-limited-since-I'm-unsure-how-many-people-will-come-so-best-come-early-it's-only-while-they-last-handmade prize!! (I won't exactly say what they are but some new edition Pocket Pacys might be interested in traveling...)

Saturday, September 14th
 5-6 pm
White Square Books 
86 Cottage Street
Easthampton, MA 01027

 Cake, balloons and other goodies! What are they? You'll have to come and see...but I promise they'll be good! They were last time, weren't they?

 Please sign up for a free ticket HERE if you can make it, but you are WELCOME to come last minute! (The tickets are just so the store has a rough idea of how many people are coming). Invite your friends, spread the word! The more the merrier!

 Not local? Do you want your book autographed plus some free, exclusive goodies? Pre-order from White Square Books and they will get signed and sent to you right after the party. Keep your eyes open here or my facebook page for online launch fun!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

studio update and event on Sunday!

So, I am still setting up the studio. I admit I have pretty high standards for it, which is why it is taking so long. One of the things I want to do is have the stairway wall going up to it set up like a gallery, a la salon style like this:
found on Pinterest

This is actually rather difficult to achieve. You need two people and neither can be afraid of heights. Lucky for me, the Sasquatch is not afraid of heights. He just doesn't like them. He doesn't like them a lot. But he does like me! So, we have been hanging frames:

 of some of my favorite moments:

the menu of  the Newbery Honor celebration luncheon

my seat reservation card at the Geisel Award ceremony
as well as my proudest:
my one and only math award, given to me in 5th grade!

We are almost done:

But there's still more to go...and that's just the wall of the staircase! I still have the whole studio to address!

IN the meantime....

This Sunday is White Square Books (in Easthampton, MA) is having a Starry River of the Sky book club meeting and I'm going!   With the move and Rain Dragon, I haven't done too many public appearances this summer and I looking forward to meeting new (and familiar) readers!

White Square - Fine Books & Art
86 Cottage Street Easthampton, MA 01027
Sunday, August 18, 2013 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM (I will arrive at 3pm)
Moon cakes and green tea will be served!

The event is FREE, but the store does ask that you register and have read the book. Send an e-mail to whitesquarebooks@gmail.com or call the store at 413-203-1717.

I hope to see you!!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Next Big Thing Global Blog Tour: Now I'm it!


1. What is the working title of your next book(s)?

I am currently revising a draft of my first chapter book, tentatively titled The House on Oak Street. This title will change, it's more of a place holder right now until the right title sparks.

2. Where did the book idea come from for the book?

I've always loved animal stories and stories about friendship; this book is both. Once the characters formed in my head, the story sort of flowed out of their relationships with each other as I wrote about them. I am not usually the writer that says "the story wrote itself!" (I can't imagine that happening *and* my work being any good) but this might have been similar in that the ideas came when I needed them.

3. What genre does your book fall into? 

It is a young chapter book.

4. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Five friends live in an apartment building together teach eachother about friendship.

5. Who is publishing your book?

Alfred A. Knopf Books

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Before I conceived of the idea for the book, I wrote one of the chapters as a picture book, maybe 3 or 4 years ago. When I came back to it in 2011, shortly after my daughter was born, I realized it was part of a larger story, and began writing other chapters around it. In total that first draft took about a year to complete, but I was also part-time at home with my daughter.

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

I would love if it were compared to The Wind in the Willows or Winnie-the-Pooh, thought it is a very different book from both. Still, I took inspiration from the cozy worlds of both books, and the way the characters learn deeper truths about themselves through everyday events.

8. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?  

It is going to be heavily illustrated, with illustrations on nearly every page, and a lot of fun for young readers! It will be in bookstores spring of 2015.

Now I tag Meghan!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

a working studio

Even though the studio is not completely set up (note the empty book tower in the back), work cannot wait for my perfectionist aspirations. Work has begun on the third Ling and Ting book (right now titled "Twice as Silly!") and, just like when I was working on the last book, my "assistant" is ever devoted:

her rabbit might make a cameo in the book

But I'm excited! I think it's going to be a fun follow up to Ling and Ting Share a Birthday (which comes out in September!!).

Friday, August 02, 2013

"I'm trying to think of the less obvious ones" (an eleven year old's recommendations)


One of the things that has been discouraging me lately about writing is that so many children on this island who USED TO read are now obsessed with computer games -- especially Mine Craft. "Obsessed" is their word -- they play it (though over the summer holidays many parents have banned screen time either completely or from 9 to 5) and talk about it with each other when they can't play it.

So I was more interested even than I would normally have been to meet a visiting eleven year old girl who passed on watching a movie with all the other kids so she could finish a book. Later I asked about her favorites, saying I was without ANYTHING good....and we liked so many of the same books that I have high hopes of her list.

It contains no classics, not because she hasn't read them (she has!), but because she assumed I had, too.

"I'm trying to think of the less obvious ones," she said when she paused.

Books we had both read and loved include Howl's Moving Castle, Five Children and It, Matilda, The Hobbit, A Little Princess (which she liked better than The Secret Garden), the Little House books (though she had been unable to get any 'after the fourth one' -- I think she gets most of her books from the library), all the Mary Poppins books (though she hadn't been able to get the 4th), The Little Book Room by Eleanor Farjeon...

She had never heard of Harriet the Spy or Saffy's Angel and the others in that series or Homecoming. Here is her list -- I've already purchased several of them on Kindle (going to a bookstore means spending one night on the mainland if I leave here Monday morning, two nights if I leave any other day; getting physical books online waiting at least 5 days) and one as a used book. So yes, of necessity I have become a screen reader. I'm even thinking of buying a Kindle, since people say it's easier on your eyes than an ipad.

Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crosby Holland (Viking times)

The Flask by Teresa Sweet


The Silver Curlew (retelling of the Cinderella story with illustrations by Ernest Shepherd -- paid £14 for this -- in an "acceptable" condition, copies in good condition cost up to £125!) by Eleanor Farjeon

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

Firespell "really really good, about a girl who's turned into a puppet" Hmmm....I did not mention Pinncohio and did buy it

Sky Hawk

The Silver Bead

Wolf Brother (I really like the Kindle cover...)

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

This long list reminds me of what our (BRGs' -- not the editorial we!) Alissa said once:
"I think sometimes editors forget how many books little girls who love to read do read."

Over a visit of only a few days Elizabeth finished at least 3 books.

Now that is also encouraging.