A New Book, a New Pen, and Weathering the Storms of Rejection

Signature on New Publishing CotnractLast week I signed the contract for my second children’s book with Ancient Faith Publishing. I bought a fountain pen to mark the occasion.

When I signed my first contract 3.5 years ago, they warned me that the next slot in the production cycle was a few years away. I had an inkling of how slow publishing could be. I started my writing career working with textbook publishers. I saw first hand how many people and how many hours go into each book. In the end, it took 2.5 years for that contract to become Goodnight Jesus.

Writing can be an intense business. Even big-name authors still get rejections.


 

You have to hold onto the successes like a buoy when your inbox is nothing but a lightning storm of rejection. I got a rejection the very day I signed this new contract. Zap.

Eventually, contracts become books, and you have a solid reminder of the victory. But two and a half years is a long time to hold onto the excitement of a signature.

A pen is a physical reminder. A small joy that I can use every day to remind me that one day I’ll get to sign a book with that pen.

Here’s to all the pens to come.

Publishing Agreement

Solar Eclipse 2017 Part 2: See The Eclipse

 

SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017: PART2 - SEE THE SOLAR ECLIPSE

The 2017 Solar Eclipse is fast approaching on August 21st!

In the first post of the series, I covered resources for learning about solar eclipses. There are book and video resources as well.

Today’s post will cover the ins and outs of viewing this eclipse. We’ll also take a small detour through eye anatomy and sunlight experiments along the way.

Next time I’ll share some hands on activities to try.

 

WHERE TO SEE THE ECLIPSE

The 2017 full eclipse will be viewable in the Continental US. As I explained in the last post, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moved between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks out the light from the sun so it casts a shadow on the Earth. Since the moon is moving, the shadow moves, too.

Map of the solar Eclipse path
Map of the Solar Eclipse Path

That means that people all across the country will have a chance at seeing a full eclipse. 

Being the science geek that I am, my family is making the trek to Carbondale, IL – the official location that NASA is using to study the eclipse.

It’s also only 3 hours from my home in central Illinois. When you live in the cornbelt it’s not often that things are conveniently located to you.

Path of the full eclipse not coming to your town? No problem. Most of the continental US will be able to see a partial eclipse. Check out this interactive map to see what the eclipse will look like in your hometown.

Partial eclipse
Partial Eclipse

If you are traveling to see the Eclipse make sure to check availability of lodgings in advance. Many prime locations are booked up solid. I had to call 5 campgrounds to find a campsite. And I was calling last January. Even I didn’t know people were that passionate about eclipses.

DON’T BE THE TOY SOLDIER!

If you’re going to watch the eclipse, make sure you do it safely. Looking directly at the sun is a bad idea. Here’s why:

Remember that scene in Toy Story where the little boy next door uses a magnifying lens to focus the sun’s light and melt a toy soldier? I’m not sure about the melting point of toy soldiers but you can use a magnifying glass to start a fire:

Starting a fire with a magnifying glass.

It works because the lens changes the path of the sunlight. All the light then comes together at a single point which makes things super bright and super hot. Put something flammable right at that point and it will catch fire. Like this:

Lens bends light

Now let’s take a peek at a normal human eye and see what we find:

Yep. Your eye has a lens in it. Just like the lens in a magnifying glass, it changes the path of light so that it focuses on a single point. If your lens doesn’t focus the light just right, you’ll need even more lenses (glasses or contacts) to help with focus.

But the human eye is not really designed for the super brightness of direct sunlight. So let’s look at what happens when you look directly at the sun:

Eye da

OUCH. No, your eye won’t actually catch fire but you can cause permanent blindness.

Be safe. Do not be the toy soldier.

BE SAFE

So hopefully I have convinced you not to look directly at the solar eclipse. Luckily, there’s a simple solutions.

Regular sunglasses won’t do. You’ll need eclipse glasses like these to protect you. Luckily they’re fairly cheap and easy to get. Get a pair for the whole family!

All the eclipse viewing wonder without the ouch.

 

Next time I’ll post about other fun activities you can do for the eclipse.

 

Solar Eclipse 2017 Part 1: Learn About Solar Eclipses

If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming solar eclipse. Which I like to call eclipsapocalypse. (If you do live under a rock, I don’t judge.)

I’ve gathered together some resources so the children (and inner children) in your life can have enjoy the eclipsapocalyse in style. In this first post, we’ll look at resources for learning about solar eclipses. Scroll down for videos and book recommendations.

Later posts will cover viewing the eclipse and hands-on eclipse activities.

LEARN ABOUT SOLAR ECLIPSES

Solar Eclipse diagram

A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the Sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow on the Earth. If you’re standing on the part of the Earth where the shadow falls, you’ll see the moon move in front of the Sun and block out the light.

It’s a big deal because full solar eclipses are rare. It’s been nearly a 100 years in In a full eclipse the moon lines up exactly with the sun to completely cover it. Around the area of the full eclipse there’s a much bigger area that will see a partial eclipse. The sun and moon don’t line up exactly, but part of the sun’s light will still be blocked.

Partial eclipse
Partial Eclipse

BOOKS:

You knew there would be books, right?

Eclipses

Eclipses: The Night Sky and other Amazing Sights in Space by Nick Hunter

This book all about eclipses is perfect for younger children.

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing

Looking Up! The Science of Stargazing by Joe Rao and Mark Borgions

This fun book has a short chapter on eclipses. Perfect for newer readers or as a read aloud to a younger child.

Space Encyclopedia

Space Encyclopedia: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond by David A. Aguilar 

My favorite space encyclopedia has sections on eclipses, too.

 

VIDEOS:

This NASA video explains how it works and what it will look like. (Appropriate for young kids to the young at heart.):

If you want to dive deeper into the science of eclipses, this video from Crash Course is great (Appropriate for Adolescents+ (or really nerdy little kids)):

 

Tune in next time to learn how you can see the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

 

 

 

I’m now on Goodreads

Lookit! I’ve got a Goodreads Author page now.

Goodreads Author Badge

I’ve actually been on Goodreads for awhile. I use it to track the hundreds of books a year that I read. I also use it to keep track of the books I read with my kids. (Not that I don’t love Thomas the train but only a parent’s love would compel me to read every title in our library. Repeatedly.)

But now I’m also a Goodreads author. That means if you want to checkout what others are saying about my book, you can click over to my Goodreads Author profile and see.

 

An Open Apology Letter to My Blog

Dear Blog,

I’m sorry we haven’t written recently. What with actual writing and all, I just haven’t had time to blog regularly. I hope you understand.

Don’t be alarmed but you should know that I’m seeing another website. I’ve volunteered to help the good people at KidlitNation get their website off the ground. It’s been a big job and I’m sorry I haven’t had as much time to spend with you. I promise I haven’t forgotten you Blog and it’s for a good cause. Things should settle down soon and I’ll be back around more regularly.

Sincerely,

Your Blogger

Best Books for Writers

I’ve been working hard on improving my writing lately. And my first stop when I want to learn about anything is usually a book. Today I gathered up my favorite writing craft books from all the various nooks and crannies and I’m going to share them with you.

 

Books for Fiction Writers:

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron – Half of my writers group has been raving about this book since they saw the author at a conference last year. I’m just now getting around to reading it but…. wow. This is a great guide to writing fiction for any genre and any age range. Bonus: my writerly friends assure me that it’s quite understandable even if you’re not a brain nerd like me.

 

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read this late last year and I could feel myself leveling up as I read it. This book covers the basics of writing for kids, so it’s a great pick for a newer writer. But I think it really shines for people who are less knew but still have a lot of room for growth. (Which is all of us, right?) The tools and methods she discusses for revision have become staples of my process. Seriously, this is the best.

 

Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grades Readers by Mary Kole – I found this book after reading many of the helpful articles on her webpage. It covers writing middle grade and young adult books. If you don’t know what that means or what the difference is, this is a great place to start.

 

 

Books for Nonfiction Writers:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in about it’s billionth revision and jillionth reprinting. This book is geared towards writing for adults, but the advice is just as relevant if you’re writing to kids. At the end of the day, good writing is good writing and this will help you get there.

 

Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt.

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story. Like On Writing Well, it’s geared for those writing for adults, but the techniques still apply when writing for younger audiences.

 

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. This book is everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.

 

The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is a bit misleading. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I for one like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a really helpful book and would be fine for someone just starting out with writing proposals.

 

Books for authors ready to submit:

Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market or, if you’re writing for adults: Writers Market

 

The Book – If you write for children, you should be a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). One membership perk is this free book. It’s available on the website as a PDF or you can pay for a print version. Your first year of membership they’ll send you the print version for free.

The 5(+1) Stages of Critique Grief for Writers

I’ve just come back from an Illinois SCBWI Spring conference. The whole conference was themed around writing pitches. I got to sit down at a table with other writers and an agent while they gave me feedback on my work. Not only that, I got back an agent critique that was full of hard truths. Getting professional feedback on your work is both vitally important and…. well…. terrifying.

Which has me reflecting on the nature of the critique beast. Getting feedback on your work is a lot like the 5 stages of grief. (BUG IN A VACUUM by Melanie Watt does a wonderful job of illustrating this process.)

5 STAGES OF CRITIQUE GRIEF FOR WRITERS

  1. DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
  2. ANGER: “How dare you! What do you know anyway?”
  3. BARGAINING: “But I can leave in just this one part, right?”
  4. DEPRESSION: “I’ll never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
  5. ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”

For writers I would add one more step to the process:

6. EXCITEMENT: “Wow, this is so much better!”

This is what people mean when they say you need to have “tough skin” in this business. We pour our hearts and souls into our writing then serve it up on a platter for others to tear apart. It’s hard. Just remember that your work will be better when you accept help.

Some people get to the depression stage and just give up.  Finding flaws in your writing is not a terminal diagnosis. One-dimensional characters can be rewritten. Plot holes can be bridged. Stilted dialogue can be changed.

The only thing that’s terminal, is giving up. If you keep going and get to the other end of this process, your work will be much stronger.

This process works better the more times you do it. Every time you throw yourself into this process, you get a little better. So not only is your first manuscript stronger at the end, your tenth manuscript will start out stronger because of what you learned in the previous nine manuscripts. And by the time you get it to the end of the process, it will be a masterpiece that you couldn’t have dreamt of back there at manuscript number one.

If your thinking that subjecting yourself to this emotional turmoil more than once sounds like a writerly version of hell, let me tell you a little secret:

When you’ve been at it awhile, this process changes a bit.

5 STAGES OF CRITIQUE GRIEF FOR THE EXPERIENCED WRITER

  1. DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
  2. ANGER: “How dare you criticize my work! What do you know anyway!”
  3. BARGAINING: “Well, what if I just keep this one part? This character is ok, right?”
  4. DEPRESSION: “I will never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
  5. ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”
  6. EXCITEMENT: “Hey, this is going to be so much better. Yay!”

With time and experience, you learn to skip right over all the angst and get to the productive end of the cycle.

Ok, this is a simplification. Of course seasoned professional writers can get emotional when they’re getting feedback. They’re people, not robots, after all. But with experience these emotions aren’t so raw. And they can move to the good stuff at the end more quickly. After all, they’ve been to the other side and seen the fruits of this process.

So, take a breath. Thank the person for their time. Then go have some chocolate. In a day or a week or a month when the sting is a little less, you can sort out what’s valuable and use it to improve your work. The important part is to keep going so you can get to the shiny new manuscript at the end of the tunnel.

After this conference, I have a lot of feedback to sort through but I’m looking forward to the manuscripts that will come out of the other side.

But first, chocolate.

FREE GIVEAWAY! Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack

Free Book Giveaway: Alexandra the GreatDeb Aronson is my critique partner and all around great person. She’s also has a fabulous new book Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack. This book for ages 9-13 tells the story of Rachel Alexandra’s, the filly that beat the boys and broke records while running her way into our hearts.

I’ve been so excited to share this with you. It’s a great book. Plus horse racing is part of my heritage. I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky home of the Kentucky Derby – the biggest horse race of the year.

The Derby is a big deal there. Horses are everywhere – from statues to subdivision names. It’s such a big deal, that local schools close on the Friday before. And once a year, they hold a month long party all in preparation for 3 minutes of colts racing.

Once in a great while, a filly comes along that can keep up with the colts. Rachel Alexandra didn’t just keep up, she left them in her dust.

So I was very excited to get a sneak peek at the manuscript a few months back. I read it in one sitting! This book tells Rachel’s story – from her troubled birth to her triumphant wins. By the end you’ll be rooting for Rachel just like I was.

And now is your chance to get it for free.

I’m happy to be giving away one copy of Alexandra the Great: The Story of the Record-Breaking Filly who Ruled the Racetrack.

FINEPRINT: The giveaway will be open until April 12th at 8pm Central Time. To enter you must leave a comment on this post and use the rafflecopter widget below. The winner will be chosen at random and notified. If the winner cannot be reached within a week, a new winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

4 Pinterest Boards for Writers

4 Pinterest Boards for WritersI use several tools for storing useful tidbit. Evernote is hands down my favorite for book research. But Pinterest is my favorite for storing other things. Pinterest is especially great for sharing those collections with others. When Goodnight Jesus was published, I made a Pinterest board of useful tidbits for my readers.

Today, I’m sharing some resources for my fellow writers. These are the 4 Pinterest boards I use to store my writerly resources.

 

Writing

Getting words on paper (or screen) is fundamental to writing. Nothing else can happen without that. This Pinterest board is full of the stuff you need to get those words out: writing craft articles, motivating quotes, and funny memes.

 

Writing Tools

Having the right tools can make all the different. This board features articles on my favorite tools for writing.

 

Revising and Editing

If writing is fundamental to being a writer, but revising is fundamental to creating something others want to read. Or that publishers want to publish. This Pinterest board is full of resources to help you perfect your prose.

 

Blogging, Branding, and Social Media

Writers are expected to do a lot more than just write and edit these days. Most of us have to spend some time thinking about how we will market our work. That includes spreading the word through blogs, social media, and branding.

 

4 Pinterest Boards for Writers