Saturday, July 30, 2011

Writing contest entries

I mentioned in a previous post a few days ago that SCBWI/ awarded me a WIP grant. I consider it a sort of contest because besides the application, I submitted a sample of my writing plus a synopsis and a brief summary of how I intended to use the grant. I followed their guidelines to a “T.”  I also mentioned in a long-ago post that being a winner in a national writing contest is what gave me the confidence to leap into the world of writing. Which brings me to the topic of writing contests.

How many how you entered lately? Jan Fields, Institute of Children’s Literature web editor, has an excellent post on the ICL blog about this topic. Besides following the contest guidelines, she offers “Ten Tips for Contest Entries,” which is a must read if you’ve ever considered taking the plunge and entering one. Here’s a couple of contests you might consider: Pockets Annual Fiction Contest. Entries for this contest must be postmarked no later than August 15, 2011. Highlights 2012 Fiction Contest. Have fun. Let me know the outcome. ENTER!

Assisi, Italy
"I like the idea that magic can be hidden under the surface of everyday life." -- Trina Schart Hyman

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Remember typewriters?

How many of you remember those Selectric typewriters of yesteryear? No cut and paste back then. Here's a nostalgic piece about the Selectrics. Visit the blog posted by Nicholas Jackson, associate editor at The Atlantic. His article, “IBM Reinvented the Typewriter With the Selectric 50 Years Ago,” is filled with historical details about how this typewriter came to be. I guess they're part of history now.   

Miniature toy model (not a Selectric) 

Here’s another interesting post, “First Page Tips from the Pros,” by Becca Puglisi posted on The Bookshelf Muse blog. She offers writing tips on this topic, which she picked up at the Florida SCBWI summer conference. Essential reading for any writer.

“Seasonal queries to a magazine should be submitted at least six months ahead of schedule to allow for editorial lead time.” – Writing tip from Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Picture Book Problems

Have you been getting rejections on those picture book manuscripts you’ve been sending out? Most of us, at one time or another, have had that happen. Maybe the tips in Jan Fields’ blog will help. She addresses this topic on her post, “Patching Picture Book Problems” on the Institute of Children’s Literature blog. Check it out. I found it helpful. 

A sad day indeed. I was at a Borders Bookstore this afternoon. Since the bookstore is closing, the place was packed with bargain hunters looking for the big discounts being offered.  As recently as two weeks ago, I browsed through the Borders in my area. I had coffee in their coffee shop while I read a magazine. I will miss those visits. There’s something soothing about being surrounded by hundreds of books and smelling the aroma of coffee being brewed a few feet away. I wish Borders weren’t closing, but sadly, that is the reality of today. I did buy a book on writing titled, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. I’ll let you know what those strategies are when I read the book.

Rio Grande Valley

“Never say you don’t have enough time to write. You make time for the things you care about; if you care about writing, you will make time.” – Writing Tip from Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SCBWI/Amazon 2011 Runner Up

Great news! The annual SCBWI 2011 Work-In-Progress Grant winners were announced yesterday. And …. I was a runner-up in the Multicultural Category!!! Not only that, but one of my fellow writers, a member of our local Southwest Texas SCBWI chapter, Shannon Morgan, was also a runner-up in the General Category. Is that too cool or what? Yea Texas!

Last March, I submitted an application to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators along with a synopsis and a writing sample (2500 words) of my work in progress, my YA novel, Dulce’s Quest for the Crown. The grant that I won can be used for research, travel, conferences, writing workshops – anything related to the writing process to help finish the work in progress. 
I want to thank SCBWI and Amazon for this wonderful gift. It shall be used wisely. I congratulate all the other winners, runners up, and those who received letters of merit. I am honored to have been included with such talented writers.

"What I do with my books is to create windows to my world that all may peer into. I share the images, the feelings and thoughts, and I hope, the delight." -- Walter Dean Myers

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pitching Your Book

When an agent or editor asks you what your story is about, do you automatically come up with a genius pitch? Will your pitch grab the agent's attention right away? Or do you fumble your words and that person makes a quick getaway before you actually get to the gist of your story? I know. I know, it's easier said than done. It’s hard to summarize your entire story into a few words. But maybe this post, “One Simple Way to Sharpen Your Pitch,” written by Zachary Petit on The Writer’s Digest blog will help. It’s never too late to start practicing that pitch for when you’re at a conference and come face to face with editors and agents.

Chautauqua, New York
 Be sure to visit this Publishers Weekly link for a sneak preview of the Fall 2011 Children’s Books.

"When pitching a cross-genre work to an agent or editor, increase your chances of success by aligning it with the one genre that's at the heart of your story--or the audience most interested in it." -- Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Roadblocks. We all have them. Whether it’s an illness, family trips, friends that need us, etc., life happens. And so there goes our well-planned schedule for writing. I had to be away from my writing for several days because of a trip. A necessary one. So there went the momentum that I had at the time. It’s really hard to get that back when you return. But because life happens, we have to learn to live with it and make the necessary adjustments. Best advice I have: just stick with it and don’t give up. Follow through. Persistence will pay off. You’ll get that momentum back … until next time.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting post,7 Things I'veLearned So Far,” by author Amanda Flower, posted on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents’ Blog.

"When submitting a query or manuscript, skip the fancy fonts, graphics, and colored paper. No need to send gifts or pictures either. A clean, clear, typewritten manuscript speaks for itself." -- Writer's Writing Tip from Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Friday, July 8, 2011


According to Wikipedia, narrative plot is: “a literary term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence. One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect.”

In D*I*Y Planner, Chris Brogan posted this on plotting: “When writing a story, you have an obligation to fulfill: your main character(s) must experience the events you lay before them, and they must react to the conflicts those events provide. Further, the state in which your focal characters find themselves must be either improving or degrading, as a means of moving the story forward towards a conclusion. Without that, the reader is merely being dragged along a flat line towards an ending that they can see a mile away.”

Pottery in the Rio Grande Valley

Sounds like a mouthful, right? But without a plot, you don’t have a story. A post by Zachary Petit on the Writer’s Digest blog very simply lists eight points on how to plot a bestseller. If you’re struggling with plot, visit both blogs mentioned here and see if that helps. If not, you might consider a book that I’ve used: Blockbuster Plots, Pure & Simple, by Martha Alderson, M.A. 

Does your story contain character conflict, change, and growth? If you are just relating a series of events that involve one or more characters, your story is likely underdeveloped.” – Writing Tip from Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Let the writer decide!

Once when I presented a few chapters of my latest manuscript to an editor at a conference, she suggested changing it from third person to first person. "More immediacy," she said. I tried it and it seemed to work better for me. But then so did third person. How does a writer decide? And just what does first person versus third person really mean?

The following definitions of first and third person and the advantages and disadvantages of both are posted by author Vickie Britton on the website

She writes: “First person makes the narrator close up and personal. The reader can identify with the character and experience their deepest, innermost thoughts and feelings. While third person and omniscient points of view distance the reader, first person allows the reader to enter the world of the narrator, privy to his personal thoughts and feelings.”

Read more on this blog to find out the advantages and disadvantages of writing in either one.

Author Nathan Bransford also addresses this issue on his post First Person vs. Third Person. 
Visit both blogs and then you decide. Have a great Fourth of July!