Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Just got an email from Joanne Taylor. Her boss is still on the fence about my picture book, but they'll be meeting on Aug. 12 to talk about acquisitions. Joanne says, "I'm  doing my best. I promise!" When an editor goes to bat for you or your manuscript, that's half the battle!
Still keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Another Kittridge Writer's Retreat has been scheduled for Green Gulch Farm in Marin County just North of San Francisco for Sept. 17 - 19. It's coming at a good time—two weeks before the Cixi manuscript is due—so, I'll need all the uninterrupted work time I can get to finish writing and polishing the first draft to submit to Goosebottom Books by Oct. 1. 

I love this retreat! It's in the lush, beautiful surroundings of Green Gulch farm where we get three great vegetarian meals served to us, all the coffee and tea we can handle to propel us through a flurry of creativity, cozy accommodations, and the company of other writers with whom we can share our work, publishing successes and woes. 

My sister has also signed up for the retreat, and my friend and fellow writer and co-member of the Ukiah Writers' Salon, Gretchen Maurer, will also be attending. Gretchen is also working on a book for  The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames. Her project is on Bloody Mary, Mary I of England, so it will be fun and inspiring to be able to discuss and dissect our manuscripts in a supportive and relaxing setting.

Anyone interested in signing up for this retreat, can contact Margaret Speaker Yuan at books4women@yahoo.com. There are only slots for 15 writers, so sign up quickly. It's a retreat you won't forget! However, it's only open to SCBWI members. For more information about joining SCBWI, go to the Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


No word from Tricycle Press yet. It's been a month since the manuscript went to acquisitions, and three weeks since I sent the editor an email inquiring about the status of the manuscript. In publishing, there's a fine line between follow-up and stalking. So for now, I'll be busy working on my other projects, and let this sleeping dog lie.

No News is still Good News.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Here are some Query letters Do's and Don'ts from Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency:
  • Research agents
  • Send query ONLY to agents who represent what you write
  • DO NOT query on a book that's not complete
  • DO NOT write every agent you are querying in the TO line
  • DO NOT say that your kids/grandkids/parent/neighbor love your book
  • DON'T say which agents/editors have turned you down and quote their rejections. Even if they are glowing, they're still rejections.
Query Letter Formula:
    1st paragraph—Some agents want you to jump right into the synopsis of your story. Jill prefers to know why you are querying her upfront, so include short, precise and true reasons why you are querying her. This is where researching agents come in.
    2nd (and possibly 3rd) paragraph—write 2 - 10 sentence synopsis of your story. Agents want to know:
  • Title of your manuscript
  • Is it a picture book, middle grade, chapter book, young adult?
  • Genre: fantasy, contemporary, romance, historical 
  • Age of your main character
  • What is your protagonist's problem
  • If important, the setting
    Paragraph about you:
  • Mention any previously published work, include name of publisher and year of publication. Don't mention self-pubished books unless you have sold 10,000 copies or more.
  • Well-known and respected magazines like Highlights or Cricket mags. count. Little known e-zines don't make much difference
  • Mention legitimate awards and honors
  • If you have an MFA, mention it.
  • Include any expertise that relate to your book ie. if you're writing a book on Greece and you're an anthropologist who's worked in Greece etc.
  • Any membership info. such as SCBWI.
    Final paragraph—Keep it simple: "Thank you for your time and consideration."

Martha Alderson's Definition of Plot:
    Plot is a series of scenes deliberately arranged by cause and effect to create Dramatic Action. These scenes are filled with conflict that furthers the Character Emotional Development toward transformation. When the dramatic actions changes the character at depth over time, the story means something or becomes Thematically Significant.

Some important terms:
  • Protagonist—defined by who is changed by the dramatic action
  • Antagonist—Anyone or anything impeding the protagonist reaching his/her goal
  • Goal—something tangible, concrete, measurable
  • Climax—protagonist can do whatever he/she wasn't able to do before. It's the part where the protagonist finally triumphs over the antagonist
The middle, where writers often gets bogged down, is the territory of the antagonist. It's where the protagonist is stopped from reaching his/her goal. This is where you challenge your character and show who your character really is.

Flaws, hates, and fears are good plot builders. If your story drags, put your character in a situation where he is confronted by his flaws, hates and fears.

I have Martha's DVD, Blockbuster Plots, and find it extremely helpful in breaking down the plotting process. She also explains the different plot points in a clear, visual manner using Gennifer Choldenko's middle grade, Al Capone Does my Shirts, as an example.



On July 16, I headed to my alma mater, Dominican University, for the SCBWI Summer Conference. Despite some new buildings and physical reorganization, much of the campus remained the same, and it was wonderful to take a walk through memory lane on Dominican's bucolic grounds. I could only attend one day of this three day conference and retreat, but it was great to re-c0nnect with writing friends, Eve Aldridge, Andrea McAfee, Pat Khan, Louise Hendrikson, and others.

The two speakers, agent Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency and Martha Alderson, author of Blockbuster Plots, were informative and enlightening. Jill spoke on the do's and don'ts of queries and synopses and the power of Voice. Martha presented her famous breakdown of effective plotting.

Lunch in Calaruega Dining Hall also brought back memories of my college days. I wish I had both the time and the money to have stayed the whole weekend, but my girls had a horse show presentation on July 17 that I didn't want to miss. 

At the end of the day, I received my manuscript critique from Jill Corcoran. On the whole, it was very positive and encouraging. She thought the manuscript sample I submitted was beautifully written, but slow from pages 3 - 10 and suggested I re-work the pacing. She was interested enough in the story that she asked to see the full manuscript when it was done, and gave me her business card. Being the slow writer that I am, I'm really going to have to work hard on establishing a routine of writing a certain amount of pages or words a day to complete the manuscript, even as I'm focusing on my biography of Cixi, the last Empress of China, for Goosebottom books. That manuscript is due on October 1!