Books, librarians, authors... oh my!

The eyes of children’s literature are all starting to focus on Seattle. The American Library Association meets here for their annual mid-winter conference. But the main, big thing will be the announcement of THE Newbery and Caldecott on Monday morning.

 I’m going on both Saturday and Sunday to the convention floor, which is packed with publishers, librarians, other authors and books… heaven!

 And even better is that SCBWI is sponsoring a booth at ALA for the first time. The booth is for local SCBWI authors to showcase their books. Only a few authors can participate given the limited hours and limited booth space. But I’m one of ‘em! I’ll be there from 1:00 to 3:00 on Sunday.

 According to our amazing SCBWI co-regional advisers Sara Easterly and Joli Stekly who were major movers in getting SCBWI’s buy-in and in designing the booth, SCBWI is thinking of sponsoring a booth at future ALA meetings. So keep your eyes open for the two big annual ALA conferences. If they’re near you, get a bid in early through your local SCBWI.


School Visits ahead

Happy New Year!
My goals include developing a dynamite school presentation and learning to love doing school visits. Repeat after me. “I love an auditorium full of wriggling kids. I love an auditorium full of wriggling kids. I love an auditorium full of wriggling kids…”
Now, I need to figure out what to do. I’m observing other local authors at their school visits to get ideas. Derek Munson, author of Enemy Pie, has been nice enough to let me sit in on some of his presentations. He does 40-plus school visits a year. 
He offers a nice selection of programs including three smaller workshops and a larger “meet the author” show. I like his mix and match approach. And I suspect that schools do, too.
And his presentations are great-- packed with visuals and examples and fun ways to get at things. For example, with older kids he uses a simplified approach to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment to help them figure out what their imaginary story character is like. He has younger kids make a wonderfully horrid pie for an “Enemy Pie” packed with rubber worms, plastic eyeballs, dirt... all topped with shaving cream. Of course, the students adore coming up with the yucky things they want to add and, after years of doing this presentation, he seems to have just about anything they can name in a big treasure chest he brings along. And he’s always thinking of more. He’s developing life-size cardboard characters as part of another writing workshop. He was excited because he’d spotted a huge balloon and realized he could add it to the workshop and gradually blow it up bigger and bigger and bigger to illustrate building story tension. 
Now that’s the kind of presentations I’d like to give.
Check him out at Look under workshops to see the kind of programs he offers.

Poetry Friday -- From Robert Frost to Writers

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost
from New Hampshire


I’ve heard this poem interpreted as an elegy to homelessness, surrender to the universe’s benign indifference, and so on. But it has always spoken to me about the writer’s emotional life—or at least our emotional life at certain times.


What poem speaks to you the most about writing?

How to get rid of a 1,000 postcards

I’m sitting here looking at my postcard for Holbrook: A Lizard’s Tale. My new middle-grade novel. My wonderful designer was Sara Easterly of Sara Easterly & Friends. We printed out a 1,000 cards. The cost? About $500. So it’s not cheap, especially the designer part, but it looks way cooler than anything I could do. (I'll upload an image of it as soon as I can figure out how.)

You can, also, do your own card pretty simply at places like Modern Postcard.

I had a couple advantages in doing a postcard—my publisher is willing to pay for part of the cost. (Something always worth asking about. Even if your publisher won’t spring for much, a lot of them will give a few hundred dollars for a postcard.) And I’m a teacher with the Institute of Children’s Literature. That gives me a built-in group to send them to since it’s appropriate to let my students know about my new book.

I also have a big family and they’ve agreed with only a little arm-twisting and groveling to send out five to ten (maybe more, do I hear 20?) postcards to friends, etc. with a small note like: thought you’d be interested in my sister’s new book.

And over the years I’ve developed a list of fellow writers, librarians, bookstore owners, distant relatives, hairdressers, dentists, teachers—just about anyone I’ve come in contact with enough to perhaps remotely remember me--who will also get my card.

Finally I’ll have them as handouts for signings and school visits and to place discretely in random public places, as if destiny placed it there. Perhaps with a note like—buy this book and all your dreams will come true. Something subtle like that.

Hi, I'm Susan, the third wordygirl, or maybe really the fourth, I'm not sure.

I cannot tell you how long it took me to post this. (Well, okay, I will. It took me 3 hours and 10 minutes to NOT be able to post this. Then another 1 hour and 55 minutes to fix things, with a couple of hours of befuddled thinking time in between. The 16th of December has become the 17th during this last effort. If I hit the button and it’s still wrong, those numbers will go up.) I don’t own a cell phone or an electric can opener, I have an idiot-template website so hideously out of date that it's three books behind, and I once shorted out my answering machine just by touching it because I apparently have an excess of static electricity.

My full writing name, which has too many letters for the Live Journal form, is Susan Heyboer O’Keefe. I’ve published about 19 titles, from picture books, mostly in verse, to midgrade and YA novels. My latest novel is DEATH BY EGGPLANT, a midgrade comedy from Roaring Brook, and my next picture book, due out any nanosecond, is HUNGRY MONSTER ABC from Little Brown, a follow-up to the best-selling ONE HUNGRY MONSTER, both illustrated by the hugely talented Lynn Munsinger.

Excuse the caps. I’m not yelling at anyone—even I know not to do that—I just don’t know how to italicize yet.

One last comment, which I’ll put here, is my reaction to Bonny’s suggestion about marketing: Don’t feel shy or awkward. Just do it and keep thinking—it’s not about me, it’s about the book. I have often used that trick, but usually for wakes and funerals. It works.
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Hi from Bonny

I’m a writer of picture books and middle grade novels. I’ve had eight books published over about ten years and several more are on the way. My latest is Holbrook: A Lizard’s Tale, a middle grade novel from Clarion.

These days my head is into promoting and marketing. It’s not exactly where I want to be, but after years of a denial and a few gentle blows to the head—three books going out of print this year--three good and worthy books--my 12-step confession is that I’ve finally accepted that marketing your book after it comes out is as necessary as writing it.

I bring it up mostly because WordyGirls will probably be a hodge-podge of ideas and approaches and varying obsessions—from inspiration to marketing how-tos to tales from the life of the writer--as the four of us try out our wings and voices.

So here’s my bit about marketing.

Hate it? Dread it? Don’t wanna do it? I didn’t, either. In part, because it sucks up time I’d rather spend elsewhere. But also, in part because it feels as if it’s about “you.” That little old you you’ve been so busy hiding behind words. I mean we’re writers for a reason! (Oh, to be one of those wonderful extroverts of the writing world—Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket comes to mind.)

Anyway, here’s one way I got over the dreads: It’s not about me. It’s about this creature—the book. It might rise up through the ocean of other books out there (some 5,000 new kids books a year, I believe), but figure the odds. So take your new book. Admire the cover. Leaf through the pages. Read a few passages, laugh at your own jokes (well, I do anyway) … then promise your book that you’ll give it the best chance you possibly can.