Writing quote

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

Monday, September 27, 2010


Publisher & author, Shirin Yim Bridges
I hung out at the Goosebottom Books booth at the Sonoma Book Fair this weekend. It was sweltering hot. Thank God, we had a nice booth location in the shade—right next to Barefoot Books. Naturally, I had to get my kids a book...or two...and spent way too much money on books...again! 

Our booth did attract quite a few passersbys. Albert Nguyen (the illustrator) did a "Draw me a Princess" activity which, naturally, was quite popular with the little girls. My friend and fellow "goose", Gretchen, and I were assigned the task of roaming the book fair and handing out postcards to girls and their parents inviting them to have a "princess" drawn. Interestingly, the activity also attracted a group of tween boys who hovered around until the last of the girls left, then asked Albert to draw them a few "boy" pictures—Spiderman, Ninja Mutant Turtles, to name a few.

Super postcard hander-outer geese,
Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer

Illustrator Albert Nguyen drawing a princess
for an attentive "fan"

Towards the end of the day, the rest of the Dastardly Dame ladies (the authors of Goosebottom Books' next series The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames) showed up, and we trooped off to Cabianca, an Italian restaurant in a picturesque Victorian in downtown Santa Rosa, for a fine Italian meal.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Aah...Green Gulch retreat! I love, no, LOVE this SCBWI writing retreat! It's in this fabulous zen setting—peaceful, quiet, you can hear birds singing in the trees and inhale the wonderful scent of Eucalyptus. I get a lot of writing done here. Over the years, I've written a 10 min. play (which was produced in Ukiah and Los Angeles), worked  on my Young Adult novel (still in progress), and revised two picture books, including Goldy Luck and the Three Chans (soon to be published by Tricycle Press/Random House). 

This time, I'm working on Cixi, the Dragon Empress (the last empress of China) for Goosebottom Books. It's a non-fiction biography for their The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames series. I've completed the research, and now it's time to pull all the facts together, and write it in such a way that's not a dry, chronology of information—that's the real challenge. I've spent all day writing though, and have made some headway, although it's fairly slow at this point. I think I'll write it chronologically, then figure out how to embellish the interesting details later.

My sister, Shirin Yim Bridges, publisher of Goosebottom Books and my friend, Gretchen Maurer, are also at the retreat. It is inspirational to be all working on the same thing at the same time (books for the Dastardly Dames series). We conducted our own mini-critique group to review each other's work and provide guidance/support. Another big plus at the retreat this time around? Internet access!! When you're writing non-fiction, it makes it so much easier to have that if you need to look up something on the web.

At home, I'm trying to snatch bits and pieces of writing time between running kids to school, fixing lunches, and soccer games, so it's nice to have a chunk of uninterrupted time. Plus, no cooking and cleaning (all vegetarian meals are provided for)—you an't beat that!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, I crossed that bridge, and got to the other side. And I survived my first contract negotiation! I did get a higher advance—not as much as I had asked for, but a higher one at any rate; I got to keep some of my subsidiary rights; didn't get royalties on cover price, but two out of three ain't bad! The question for me was: how much back and forth does one do in a contract negotiation? Do you just accept the counter? Or try to negotiate more? I decided that for my first time in this realm, once was good enough, and successfully navigating the negotiations and getting some of what I asked for is a coup d'etat in itself. There's so much else to look forward to—finding the illustrator, final revisions of the manuscript, marketing and publicity (not my forte, but it means the book's out!). So, onwards and forwards!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Okay, I'm going it alone. I sent a query to Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and received no response which means she's either really busy or not interested in representing me. So, after going through agent Kristin Nelson's very informative "Agenting 101" blogs—a must-read for all writers negotiating their own contracts—I've submitted my counter to the publishing terms Joanne Taylor offered me. I've always believed in the motto, "If you don't ask, you don't get"—well, not always. There was a time in my very shy high school years, when I didn't ask for anything—and got left behind in the dust. Let's just say, if you weren't born into the world a really assertive person, becoming a really assertive person is no easy task! It's doable though. I've learned to be a much more assertive person, especially when it comes to marketing my own books and writing—but that's a whole other blog.

Anyway, back to negotiating contracts. It's like standing on the edge of a very steep cliff, and you have to cross the swaying, rickety wooden suspension bridge to get to the other side. Why? That's not important. You could be chased by a tribe of cannibals, searching for hidden treasure, running from your ex-husband, whatever. You just have to get to the other side. Stepping on that rickety wooden bridge is terrifying. Are those wooden planks going to hold? Will you fall through and plunge headlong into the abyss? But if you don't at least make an attempt, you won't get anywhere. 

If you've never negotiated a publishing contract before, how much can/should you ask for? What's reasonable? There's a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. One can get you what you want, the other might lose you the contract altogether. There's no simple answer. A lot depends on the relationship you have with your editor, your publishing history (obviously writers with many books under their belts have more clout), and your own personal style.

I can tell you what I did though. I asked for a higher advance, to keep some of the subsidiary rights, and whether I can get royalties based on cover price rather than net price. Stay tuned to find out how that went!