Merry and Happy

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

I'll be back in 2014!

Autumn in Photos

I'm not sure how I missed this post. It's almost NOT autumn. The snow and temperatures outside tell the story of darker days, early sunsets (when we see the sun) suggesting winter is upon us...but before I leave my second favorite season, I want to look back, hang onto those memories, and carry a few of them with me as we take the plunge.

Enjoyed (more) apple picking at a farm. 
Hello, you fine beast. (I missed my chicken until I stepped in the wrong spot.)

Highlight of the October, meeting Maggie Stiefvater and hearing ALL of the things about
The Dream Thieves. 



For the mountain view. 

Not ready to say goodbye, not even to the frigid water. 

The shadows are getting shorter. 

Hanging on to tropical flavors. Kinda. But this is pretty good too. 


Pitch Wars #PimpMyBio

This autumn has been chock full of contests, but never have I experienced such excited fervor and cut-throat competition as in Pitch Wars, I guess the name does say it all. If you're wondering what it's all about, check out Brenda Drake's blog (a great resource for writers, by the way.)

In a nutshell, experienced authors, editors, etc. volunteer (or are they specially chosen like in the Goblet of fire? I actually don't know) to mentor one champion writer and their "Pitch," that being the query for their middle grade, young adult, or new adult query and the first five pages. Ultimately the mentor and mentee work together in preparation for the big push—pitching agents. Hilarity, hijinks, and hard work ensues. Sometimes it involves snowballs and others, very sharp teeth. 

In the spirit of good fun, and if any mentors are curious about just what they're getting into when they select a a mentee and their work, a blog hop was created hashtagged (yes I just used that as a verb, I'm not sure that's acceptable) on twitter as #PimpMyBio...Also, there's my more formal bio above. Here are a few things about me.

1. I believe in a sense of humor, not taking oneself too seriously, (except when it comes to burning the midnight oil and working hard on an MS) and laughing. Alot. 

2. I've cast the net wide along my writing path, starting with young adult, dabbling  in middle grade, and taking a chance on new adult. I've enjoyed each and every category (and subsequent genre within.) For the purposes of this contest, I've submitted a young adult contemporary fantasy. Yeah, I didn't know what that meant either, until recently. In layman's terms, a book targeted at teens and on up (because let's be honest, I'm well beyond my teens and read young adult literature. My nonagenarian grandfather would tell me I'm a young person, but yanno.) Also, the contemporary portion indicates it's set in modern times, but the fantasy piece suggests there's magic at work. (Mentors, please ignore my generous use of parenthesis and explanation, of course you know what it all means.)

3. I don't eat sugar, or gluten, or meat. What I said in number one, I know. The sugar and gluten is for health reasons, believe me I'd love to dig right into the seven kinds of pie described in A GIRL CALLED DEATH (What? Pie in a book with death in the title?!) Alas, it's better for me to manage my health than indulge, however this month I will be posting sugar & gluten free holiday treats that I've concocted...And yes, they're palatable. I've had sugar-eaters and gluten lovers alike test them out. But I have been known to devour "virtual chocolate" when sent during times of duress by a twitter friend. I drink/eat a lot of green (smoothies.)

4. I love to surf. My heart belongs to the ocean (and my family of course!) But it is one of the biggest joys in my life and super fun (possibly counteracts the restrictions I've experienced in my diet. Scratch that, I just love to do it.)

5.  Cats AND dogs. I don't go one way or the other. *Shrugs.* I just love 'em all. Big animal person here. I'm also fond of owls, cows, chickens, elephants, whales, wolves, polar bears, penguins, turkeys, etc. I was the kid who wanted to save ALL the critters. Still am. 

There you have it. A few fun tidbits about me. Thanks for reading and my fingers are crossed for a mentor of my own...but that's making it hard to type, So...


And Some Thanks are in Order...

This is me writing an acknowledgements page for the hundreds of thousands of words I've logged in the form of stories, articles, blog posts, and thoughtful little ideas jotted down on scraps of paper for all the worlds I've yet to create.

For the past few years I've been lucky enough to have family and friends who support my writing endeavors. They routinely ask me, "So how'd it go today?" Or forget all together because some days it doesn't go so well, and it's better left alone. To these special people, I am so thankful for the flickers, bursts, and long stretches of time to actually write, to explore my heart's desire, to design worlds, erect three dimensional characters out of paper and words against the bright background of my computer screen. I appreciate the enthusiastic offers too read the rough copies of my manuscripts and welcome their honest feedback.

In doing this thing called writing fiction, in middle grade, young adult, and even adult/NA, I've connected with other writers, readers, and supporters of the craft who inspire me, push me to be a better writer and storyteller, to link another word and another, even when I don't readily know what they'll be, I trust that they'll come. On blogs, Twitter, in contests, and forums you've all taught me so much about technique, grammar, and the art of story crafting, but mostly about myself.

This Thanksgiving there are handfuls —mountains,  heaps, and piles—of things I am grateful for and ones I get to wrap my arms around, but here, in this space, I am simply thankful for the connections the words make with the people I know and see everyday to the ones who're real living beings behind a thumbnail photo or avatar. To everyone who's helped shape my writing journey, I offer thanks.

Women, Food, and God

Some thoughts to share...

Tremendous wisdom. This is for all of us.
 Geneen's website. 


The mustache craze that I simply do not understand aside (kids and mugs and well, ALL of the things with mustaches,) I'm an especially big fan of the imperial style. It says so much without uttering a word. (I recently used this for a particularly dastardly character in my recent MG) and the handle bar is a fave (my husband had one for a long time. When it became a fad he grew the red beard, which I almost like more, but I digress.)

Anyway, I'm not sure what kind of moustache/mustache I would grow if I could (although when I don't use excessive amounts of sunblock I get an unfortunate spot of melasma above my upper lip which even my children have commented looks like a mustache, so in the summer, I'm like the bearded mustached lady. I think I would like to grow a moustache, I prefer that UK spelling, yet, I digress again.

What I really want to discuss is the the Movember movement to raise awareness for men's health (I've spent SO much time focusing on women's health, I thought I'd give the fellas their due.) The idea is raising awareness,  funds, and proving outreach for testicular and prostate cancer and mental health. Getting involved ranges from participating in charity events—like the mustache dache, raising money, awareness, joining a team on campus or in the workplace, even Tom's shoes and loads of other brands are involved.

The values are solid and everyone is included because like with any health challenges the lives of loved ones are always impacted. We ladies are called Mo Sistas and there are loads of ways we can be involved and support our guys.

How do you Mo, let me know. Please leave a comment & tweet about it #movemeber. 

A No is a Delay, Not a Denial

Is this tacky? Or is it therapy? I'm going with the latter. If you've been in the query game for any amount of time you've received emails stating things like this:

"After careful consideration I am sorry to say I do not think I am the right agent for your work."

"I’m sorry for the impersonal nature of this letter; please know we read each query we receive.
Unfortunately, we don’t feel we are the right agency for your project. We wish you all the best of luck in finding a home for your work."

"Unfortunately, your project is not right for us at this time."

"While your project isn't right for my list at this time, I appreciate the chance to consider it and wish you the best in finding the right agency home."

"I’m afraid I’m not the right agent for it.  The concept just didn’t grab me, and you deserve an enthusiastic agent who can champion your work."

It's all very polite and honest. I don't begrudge the agents AT ALL. They are doing their job. What I want to address is how this feels. (and then I'll get on with picking myself, dusting off, and honing that MS. But first...) Cue sound effects. 


I've been on the receiving end of hundreds (truly) of emails just like these over the years. I've also been lucky enough to receive some kind feedback, partial requests, and fulls. It is a glorious feeling that makes me all heady and forget which end is up. I do ALL the cliche things. But then when there's a no or many no's. It stings. Just a little. Sometimes a lot. 

Here is what I do to mend a broken heart and soothe a bruised ego when the rejections trickle (or pour) in: 

Regroup. It is a good idea to a great idea to do something that isn't writing, tweeting, checking email, etc. Pursue another  hobby for a few hours, meet a friend, do something (legal) to take your mind off things—sleep is always a winner. A good distraction gives me a bit of distance from how I felt in that moment (of crushing rejection) and provides renewed perspective. 

Step away. Sometimes the best thing to do is take regrouping a step further and actually step away from the project, queries, etc. for a time. A day, week, month. Ditto renewed perspective from above and also time. It's a miracle worker.  

Answer. Why do I want to write tell stories? What is my driving motivation? What is my intention with this endeavor? Write it down. This has helped me get back on track and reminds me why I do what I do day after day. 

Edit. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. You've read your ms. going on a dozen times. You printed it out, read it aloud, gone at it with the red pen...but there may still be errors, holes, parts that need professional TLC. Hire editing services, but do your due diligence and be sure they're reputable. 

Enter contest(s). This is a great way to not only to potentially win a request, partial, or query, but a decent way to receive critiques and connect with writers and folks in the biz. 

Be active. Pick your social media poisonous time suck, tool and get your presence on there. If you don't have a fave already find one that feels intuitive, accessible, and allows you to connect with kind and supportive peeps or tweeps. Yeah, I just wrote that. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, etc. 

Find support. Find support, give it, receive it with other like-minded writers, the kind who offer the proverbial chocolate and a hug when necessary as well as cheer-lead you through all the ups and downs. Do the same. Also keep in mind that although it may seem there are few available opportunities for publication, there's actually an abundance. And an open mentality will bring them to you. And to me. Ya?

Explore. So say I've had my heart set on a big publishing deal with one of the big six, my name on billboards, a VIP spot at ComiCON, and my name in the NYT. Okay, actually I have never aspired to any of those things. I mean it would be cool, but really my goal is to connect my story-telling to readers, role model what it is to be disciplined in pursuing your dream for my children, and therefore provide for them (food and all that.) So however that spells itself out, cool. I'm happy to sit at my lappy with my slippers on and write my heart out. Whatever you've been hoping for, if it isn't quite happening explore alternatives from small presses to self publishing. There are options folks. 

Patience. My husband has pointed out that when I want something done or to happen, I want it like right now. By product of generation-instant-gratification? I actually have no idea what generation I hail from, but I am sometimes accused of not having the most patience. This process—seeking representation for going on ten books, an EPIC lesson in patience, which I hear is way important when you're actually in the race, traditional publication is like a marathon, pace yourself, when you see the finish line it may just be a dehydration induced mirage. But keep at it, fingers to the keyboard. 

Find. A critique partner or better yet a group of them is often crucial, it is the lucky few who write something that's nearly perfection on the first pass. CP's can provide feedback, ideas for adding polish, shine, and of course a well of emotional support. Be as selective as you would in finding any kind of life (experience ) partner. Crit-Love-Connections can be made via contests (similar writing style genre or you are just stoked to read what they have written and hope they feel the same) or find them from blogs, social media, and the innumerable writing resources available...see this post. 

Shelve. Is that a word? Suddenly it doesn't look like a word. There are times when we just need to leave an ms or query alone for a month. Then reopen it. Likely we'll find things to tighten and polish after we've forgotten about it. The best litmus for this is when you finally do reread it, if you love the characters, story line, and world even more than you did before, you know it  is something to stand by.

And then. Keep at it. Keep writing.

One of the best things I read recently: 

"So, I'm going to keep the faith, and even if I don't get another agent with this MS or even the next. I write because I love it. I will keep writing because I love it. 

I will not reject myself too. That's just lame. And stupid." Thank you Erica Chapman

You are relevant. So is your voice and the story you have to tell. I also sometimes tell myself a "no" is merely a delay. Not a denial.

(self pep talk over.)

Happy Birthday

.. me. I'll be celebrating all month. 

Cover Reveal: Brenda Corey-Dunne's Dependent

 I'm delighted to share with you the newly minted cover for Brenda Corey-Dunne's adult novel, Dependent. Drum roll and trumpets please...


About Dependent

When 45-year-old Ellen Michaels loses her husband to a tragic military accident, she is left in a world of gray. For 25 years her life has been dictated by the ubiquitous They—the military establishment that has included her like chattel with John’s worldly goods—his Dependents, Furniture, and Effects. They—who have stolen her hopes, her dreams and her innocence, and now in mere months will take away the roof over her head. Ellen is left with nothing to hold on to but memories and guilt and an awful secret that has held her in its grip since she was 19. John’s untimely death takes away her anchor, and now, without the military, there is no one to tell her where to go, what to do— no one to dictate who she is. Dependent deals with issues ever-present in today’s service families—early marriage, frequent long absences, the culture of rank, and posttraumatic stress, as well as harassment and abuse of power by higher-ranking officials. It presents a raw and realistic view of life for the lives of the invisible support behind the uniform.
Release date (estimated) July 29, 2014.

About the Author

Brenda Corey Dunne grew up in rural New Brunswick, Canada. She originally trained as a physiotherapist and worked several years as a Physiotherapy Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force before meeting the love of her life and taking her release.

She completed her first full length manuscript in 2008 as a bucket-list item and since then she has self-published a work of YA historical fiction (TREASURE IN THE FLAME), and has several other manuscripts in various stages of completion. DEPENDENT, an adult contemporary fiction, will be published by Jolly Fish Press in summer 2014. Brenda is represented by Jennifer Mishler and Frances Black of Literary Counsel.

When not working as a physioherapist or writing, Brenda can be found juggling taxi-mom duties, working in the garden or strolling through the horse paddock with a coffee in hand. She currently resides on a small hobby farm in Eastern Ontario (Canada) with her husband and their three children, two horses, a dog, a cat, several chickens and the occasional sheep.

Connect with Brenda on: 

Pre-order on Amazon

Twitter @overdunne 

Follow on Facebook

Thanks Brenda for sharing the cover with us today!


Tuesday's Post Tomorrow

Copyright Deirdre Riordan Hall 2013

I've gotten myself into a good blogging rhythm with writing related posts on Tuesdays and general, life related posts on Thursday. However, this week I'll be posting my write-type post tomorrow because I have the pleasure to be revealing the cover art for Brenda Corey-Dunne's new novel Dependent. Check in tomorrow if you're a fan of adult contemporary fiction.

I'm aiming to do one cover reveal, book birthday/release, blog tour stop per month. So, if you have one coming down the line, primarily in NA/YA/MG fiction, please let me know. If we're a good match, I'd be happy to help amplify your work. 

My Top Five Green Swaps

Whether you call it green or frugal, I don't care, but here are five ways I swap out conventional-disposable for reusable so that I can help save the earth and some scratch. And if you don't do these simple things, shame on you. There so obvs. Like duh 'n stuff.

Bottles. Since I’m the annoying, difficult, you don’t want to wait on me "special diet" customer I often make up my drinks at home (smoothie, tea, etc.) which easily precludes me to using a reusable mug or my favorite, a washed jar that once held almond butter or whatevs. (If it had salsa in it or another pungent food item, wash it well!)  If you’ve got extra jingle in your pockets mason jars are what the cool kids use, or so I hear.
Ditto for water. Cue reusable water bottle. I had a lovely bottle like this one, (I know, I know, I was making fun of the cool kids and I lugged that thing around. I'm such a contradiction.) Anyway, it broke and did indeed smash on the mudroom tile despite the rubber reinforcement. Sob. Now I simply use an old milk jug.

Shopping bags. I forget mine in the car. A lot. So if anyone knows of a way to make sure you remember to bring them in, please do tell me. Besides, yanno, remembering. I wash mine from time to time because boy, do they get grubby. I'm actually turning into a bag kinda person. I have bags for every occasion. Even bags that were super strong, but advertised something that I had no desire to promote (Think "Dave's all-purpose shingle caulking now in bulk size - okay, I made that one up, but it did say something like that...) Before I covered it in fabric and made it look cute.

Pads. No, not for writing. Lady pads for lady parts. For this article. I have a lot to say about the subject and used to blog about it frequently. 

Meat. Have ya heard about the "Meatless Monday Movement?" Yes? Hooray! No? My bestie hopped on the vegetarian gravy train and has shares her thoughts here. By going meatless one day a week, we reduce our carbon footprint, save lives, and potentially improve our own physical health. Bravo, I say when it includes eating delicious meals...Blogs, recipes, and cookbooks abound, or simply go to your favorite restaurant and see what they have that's veg on the menu. Also, check out the Meatless Monday website, they answer all your questions (see the drop down titled "overview.") 

Cloth. Yes, paper napkins and paper towels do decompose. And yes, you can by paper products made from recycled fibers, but the spinning blue planet we live on does take a hit during the production and shipping process. I opted to take out the lovely linens we received for a wedding gift, saved aside for special occasions and make every day a special occasion. We're so fancy using our cloth napkins, but not really because they're faded and kinda gungy now. Though, my trash can stays a bit less full and my kids don't mind folding the square bits of cloth. If you want to go all out you can add TP to this list, but I won't hold it against you if you don't. Well, just because. But it might be interesting to see just how such an experiment might go.

And that is my PSA for today. Please add any easy peasy green swaps you have tried. Cheers!

Three Writing Gems

Taking a page from Natalie Goldberg, (and her sage writing wisdom, Writing Down the Bones among them) I have loads of spiral notebooks, filled with story ideas, starts, notes, outlines, character names, quotes, and doodles. It took me years to feel comfortable translating my thoughts, in the form of narrative, poems, snatches of dialog, never mind an entire story, from brain to computer keys. I was more of a smooth ball-tip pen and lined paper kind of gal. There, you know my secrets. I still am and in those notebooks my orignal ideas go. Now, my fingers can't keep up, so my trusty lappy sees the evolution of my writing.

This past weekend I created a semblance of order, noting some gems among the gritty rough of first thoughts, spirals of ideas, and stream-of-consciousness notes from these notebooks. I also found some valuable reminders. Thanks ladies.

This poetic description of the lyrical alchemy of translating an idea into words into a cogent piece of literature, or at least a really convincing story, speaks directly to the complexity of the entire writing process from seed to bloom. (Dang, that was a long sentence.)

...And you're well one your way to attaining the ten-thousand-hours Malicolm Gladwell argues in Outliers it takes to master something, or at least become incredibly proficient.

In other words, don't be a phony. Instead, write with authenticity, heart, and relatability. (Not sure that's a word, but just go with it.)

I'm taking these reminders with me as I write, revise, and polish—and keep it old school with my spiral noties. Wish me luck. 


Autumn Comfort

The crisp air, the dry leaves crackling underfoot, the smell of wood smoke and tilled earth—one last time before the frost, these speak of autumn. But it also means the air is getting chilly and my tropical, green, chilled smoothies just don't do it for me.

Last year I started experimenting with warming up the (almond-coconut) milk I put in my smoothies, then whizzing it in the blender. This year, I'm going all in with dumping the green or orange slurry right into a saucepan and warming it up. This is what I call a warmie...and I like it thick, almost like pudding.

Into my smoothie I add (in inexact amounts depending what I have on hand or need to use up) goes:

Chia seeds
Flax seeds
Unsweetened coconut-almond milk
(Sometimes) Unsweetened Soy Yogurt (Does anyone know if unsweetened coconut yogurt exists? *Desperate*)
(Sometimes) Almond butter or other nuts
Fruit du jour: apples, pear, pumpkin (though I suppose this is veggie...) 

A few dashes (okay, alot) of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice. 

Blitz it in the blender, then pour into a saucepan and warm through. Then, I put it in my giant mug and indulge in the creamy flavors of autumn. Warms my belly and my hands ;) And a favorite book is the perfect companion. See my Goodreads sidebar to find out what's on my shelf. Happy Halloween!


Show and Tell

Everything I know about showing and not telling I learned from author, artist, and race-car driver, Maggie Stiefvater. (That's right, THE Jane-of-all-trades.) Incidentally, I also had the pleasure of attending a live event to promote her recent release, Dream Thieves. She was engaging, funny, and as great a story teller in person as she is on the page. Okay, that's not entirely true, I didn't learn EVERYTHING from  her, but a lot. (And she is AWESOME—she's got that vibe down in spades.) There were a few other instructors, articles, and people along the way, but with Maggie's work I keenly became aware of how a writer allows a reader to experience the action and scenes of a story.

To date, the instruction, "Show don't tell" has been the devil my most difficult writing challenge. I've repeatedly received the critiques:

 SHOW DON'T TELL (in caps because I saw it so frequently it was like being shouted at)
 Describe this...
 I want to see/feel/smell/taste what you mean!
xx Ad nauseum xx

So I delved deep into the search on Google. What does this vague directive mean? Do I care? (Asks the nonconformist/rebel in me.) What does showing not telling look like/feel like/smell like/taste like? Why can't I wrap my head around it? Should I forget about writing? Am I failure? Down the rabbit hole I went.

However, as I started saying above, I got my newly released copy of Dream Thieves and with the study of show don't tell in the forefront of my mind, I started, to, get, it. Understanding slowly unfolded in a turn of phrase here, a sentence there, and it turned into a paragraph until I was smacking my lips and eating it up. Maggie deliciously strings words together like glistening beads of honey (that I can taste, feel, can you hear honey?) and it just clicked (finally!) I'm by no means a show don't tell expert, but the concept finally crystalized.

If  you wandered here hoping for some examples of what this show-don't-tell hullabaloo means- you're in luck. Although there are countless blogs and writing websites out there with far better examples, I'll toss a few of my revised sentences from my work in progress.

Tell: My father didn’t appreciate the household makeover. 

Show: He sent me a photo of the apartment in Brooklyn restored to its drab state. I expected a copy of the credit card statement highlighted in red pen, but maybe it didn't come in the mail yet.


Tell: I'm still wet from my shower. 

Show: My wet hair slaps my back and wraps around my neck as I look down the adjacent hallway. 


Show: He freezes.

Tell: He moves robotically into the hall as if he’s afraid Cooper will disapprove of our alliance, but clearly more fearful of me.

Oh, and here's a good article about the subject from She Writes in case you want to read further sans my tangents. Another couple sound bites on the topic include:

Imagine writing from first person, (if not already doing so.) How does the character see the world? What sensory experience is that person having?

Actions speak louder than words. (Uh huh. Right-o!)

"Dramatize, do not simply state." (Not sure where that quote came from, but it's a keeper.) 

The thing I've found about SDT is it's a concept that you get from practice, from study, and less from simple rules like where commas go or writing in the passive vs. active voice. Either that or I'm just thick.

In general, always SHOW, describe, and give the passage life. However, there are times when a bit of telling is okay too, it can move things along so long as it's done in the same voice as the rest of the piece. You can hate me for saying that. But it's true. Telling can also work as a place holder while you're in drafting mode. You can go back later and create a fuller scene if you can't type fast enough to get your thoughts down. If it doesn't work or your CP tells you to show, show, show, you can always go back and tinker. The point is, don't sweat it too bad. I got my knickers in a knot obsessing over it. Then I just saw, smelled, tasted showing in action and it came together. (I think. Heh heh.) It's a work in progress, really. The more I practice they better I will become, but I've made peace with Show Don't Tell and no longer feel like punching something when I hear those three words.

Any sage SDT nuggets? Please share!

Salty Inspiration

 Chin up buttercup, my mantra when I'm feeling that low uncertainty that I'm failing, flailing, when there aren't replies to queries—either way, when I find myself questioning what I'm striving for in writing, what's the point? I lift my chin to the sun and seek reminders, support, and beg to answer, why do I write.

To share. 
To inspire. 
To role model women following their creative pursuits. 
Express my passion. 
To lose myself in a world that doesn't share the same rules as the real world. 
To connect. 
To see and experience beyond my boundaries. 
To bring light and love to the world. 
To learn. 
To grow.
For fun. 
To spread happiness.
For hope. 

And while I may not be published. I may not be read widely except a few special people who've volunteered to read my manuscripts. I may not be compensated financially for my efforts.
But in many ways I am fulfilling my own reasons for writing. And that's something. That's reason enough.

Easkey says, "Surfing teaches us to fall." And the thrill of it gets me back up and out on the water. If I translate that to writing, as long as I've sat my seat in my chair, fingers to keyboard, and have written and revised each and every time I've fallen, or at least more days in the week than not, then I am doing it.
I am a writer.
And I am living my passion.

Cheerleaders for Writers aka Resources

I'm so tired of the word "resources" (mental thesaurus please come up with another term. (Tumbleweed and crickets.) So for the lack of a better term, that is essentially what this list is—resources for writers to connect with each other, agents/editors and of course more deeply with their work. I suppose I could call them online writers clubs or something more clever and creative (but some are for readers too. So...Resources it is. Grumble. Words. Grumble.) 

On the sites listed below you'll find writing resources (bang-thud. that word again), posts about craft, marketing, editing, etc. contests, critiques, agent and publisher information, interviews, reviews, cover reveals and book releases, support, and more.

Long ago in a galaxy far away I had NO IDEA what it took for a book to go from the seed of a story to the printed page. When the credits roll in movies you see hundreds of names (even if they're really teeny-tiny) listed, but when it comes to books, there are loads of people involved who often go unnamed. There are those that help during the research phase, supportive family and friends, beta readers, critique partners, old-man (woman?) time, meaningful people who help us cultivate patience and fortitude. Then there are the hard workers in the "industry," the agents, assistants, editors, the people who operate the machines to print books and drive them to book stores for goodness sakes! There's the mail delivery person and the book store employees and owners who bring those crisp pages to us...Have I made my point? And the community of writers and readers who support us online from answering stumpers like, what's the diff between who and whom, to picking us up when we don't think we can go on with translating our thoughts to words. Suffice it to say, Virginia Wolff, Tolkien, not even JK Rowling in the early days, had access to so much support. Writers don't need to, shouldn't, and when it comes down to it, can't go it alone.

Real writers and authors run and contribute to these sites and blogs. I find this makes the information more accessible and in the seams with us creative, writerly types who aspire toward print—so in some ways more authentic. If you don't have a virtual cheerleader (or several) get connected, there's something for everyone.

All the Write Notes - 15 Writers who love music and books. Interviews, Ten Questions, Playlists, Giveaways and Guest Posts. And more, of course. 

Brenda Drake - Writer, blogger, book reviewer, and giveawayer...Oh and she heads up the writing contest Pitchwars/Pitchamadness which matches writers with mentors and then they pitch. Sometimes baseballs, snowballs, or really great manuscripts. 

Critiki Lounge - "A scorpion bowl full of feedback." Visit the lounge, submit your pitch on the designated day and get some great critiques. 

Critique Circle - A members group for sharing your work, editing, and of course giving great feedback. 

Cupid's Literary Connection - An undercover cupid makes writer-agent love connections. Contests and success stories. 

Janice Hardy - Writer and blogger who will show, not tell, you how to strengthen your writing.

KidLit - Agent Mary Kole's blog helping aspiring authors with writing, revising, and publishing. 

KidLit Frenzy - Super sweet review site encompassing children's picture books to young adult.  

Kidliterati - Contests, giveaways, writing tips and support, interviews with real child readers (!) and more. 

Literary Rambles - Writer and agent interviews, giveaways, and a tome's worth of agent information (very accurate, up to date, and comprehensive.)

Literary Rejections - Another point of reference for agent info in the US and beyond, along with a boat load of support for those of us who've received, (mumble, mumble, mumble) rejections. 

Manuscript Critique Services accessible, experienced, trustworthy

MG Ninja - Middle Grade Ninja provides a great resource for information and interviews with agents, and writers, and editors, as well as reviews. 

Michelle (4 laughs.) - I just think of her as Michelle, a doll, a wonderful writer and blogger who provides agent interviews, contests, and has a great twitter presence. 

Middle Grade Minded Writers on an adventure exploring the world of middle grade with stories, tips, and encouragement.  

Miss Snark's First Victim - The anonymous Authoress hosts monthly (and then some!) writing contests with reputable agents, feedback from seasoned writers, and a wee bit of chocolate lovin' sass. She tells it likes it is, but sweetly. 

Mother.Write.Repeat - Uber promoter for both the writer and agent. She reviews, interviews, and shares some of her more personal thoughts, but all in a smart and accessible way. 

NA Alley - Everything you want to know about New Adult including books, writers, content, contests and writer's support. 

Operation Awesome - A community of writers sharing their thoughts, trials, and triumphs in the writing world. Oh and a monthly mystery agent contest. 

Project Mayhem - The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers includes an awesome community of middle grade writers who offer writing tips, reviews, support, helpful links, and a burst of humor. 

The Girl with the Green Pen - College age writer who loves writing, reading, and writing and reading queries. She will critique your work as well as provide other writing related services. Also, she's pretty awesome and talented. 

Writer's in the Storm - Writers sharing their thoughts and experiences on writing. And agenting. And publishing. And marketing. Super smahhhht and informative articles. Really. 

YA Highway - A collective of published writers who provide info on publishing, writing, author interviews, and more.  

YA Misfits - Similar to above, but they're misfits. 

YA Sisterhood - Home of several tournaments, reviews, writers support and more. 

YA Stands - Writing community complete with beta reader volunteers!

Yatopia - Teen Lit Heaven. 'Nuff said. 

What did I miss? I know I missed TONS. Please comment below with any sites or blogs for me to add. I will eventually compile these on their own page for quick reference. 


DIY Chalkboard Door

"We're bored," the littles whined. 

"Not so fast, you two, I have just the thing--- a new door!"

The smiles were wiped away faster than if they had a door slammed shut in their faces. 

"No, trust me. You'll love it."

And so it began. 

In the throes of a summer heat wave I conceived a brilliant idea- paint over one of the doors that had been "decorated" when the littles were actually little with chalkboard paint. If nothing else, it would provide a surface for a glow-in-the-dark make-you-own chalk kit we received several years before. Huzzah!

How to Make your own Chalkboard Door

Remove door from hinges and then take off the hardware. I found just loosening the hinges gave me enough wiggle room to get the paint in there. 

Block it up on horses. Prime. Wait. Paint. Wait. Paint again. Wait. Yep, the chalkboard paint I got had a three day cure time. Then I flipped the whole thing over and did the other side. Needless to say, the not-so-little littles whined some more. But we found a few or three or ten things to do in the meantime. We're good like that.

Then I refit the hardware. And hung it back up. 

Last step, we prepped the now chalk-board painted door with a layer of white chalk, wiped it off, and then gave it a quick wash.  

It looked a bit more white grey, than black grey, but that has more to do with me not getting a fresh, non-chalky rag to get it sufficiently clean. 

Voila...a great surface to doodle on, play tic-tac-toe, do some quick math figuring when explaining an example from summer math workbooks, or reminding myself where the laundry room is...oh and to do said laundry. 

Any fun projects on the docket? Do share!

Writing Contests- Trick? Or Treat?

This autumn there are several writing contests on the horizon. I've participated in loads over the years and overall have had a positive experience and recommend writers participate if (a) they have the interest/the manuscript is ready and (b) have thick skin and a discerning mind.

I say have interest because for some, putting their work out there is akin to getting egged. There's a level of investment and participation that doesn't appeal and that's okay. If this is you, dear reader, and you haven't already done so, investigate this only insofar as how contests in some ways mimic writing for a real live audience (fans and critics) who will pick apart every single paragraph, word choice, and the plot itself. (And either toilet paper your house or give out the king size candy bars.) If you're anything like me, you'll read contest entries and be amazed at how many outstanding stories there are out there and temporarily feel a low similar to eating all my Halloween candy at once. The other part of a is obvious. If your material is not ready, do NOT enter. I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion. Have I mentioned I'm not patient?

As for b, buckle up. When queries, loglines, the first 250, etc are available for public critique (not just via an agent or mentor) most of the time respondents (anyone from "anonymous" to Jane Doe to Aunt Millie) are kind. Awesome. Validating. Hugs and kisses galore (except on Aunt Millie's left side, that mole makes me think she is bonafide witch.) I'm thankful not to have run across any jerks. BUT sometimes the critiquers have no idea what the heck they're talking about.

For whatever reason (I can think of a few- he, he) they'll make comments like,

"Where  is this happening." 
Uh...It says it in the first sentence. 

"How old is the MC. 
Uh. Did you read the second paragraph?"

"I really don't see where this is going." 
Uh. You've only read the first 250 words, but it does say they MC's vacation was canceled. So...

Maybe those were dumb examples. But, you get the idea. Thoughtless? Harsh? Unreasonable? Whatever the case, there is a careful balance between brushing this all off and also taking a closer look at the submitted materials. If readers don't get it on the first go- it may just be due to their lack of experience critiquing, being in a hurry, or carelessness. Don't scrap the project. It could be a case of writing farsightedness. BUT it is also an opportunity to take another look and ask ourselves if there is any more work to be done on our MS. Just sayin'. Contests that involved rounds of peer editing/comments/feedback prior to the pitches falling into the hands of agents are great for this purpose. It allows us to really focus on the all important first impression. See below for logline peer critique. Some blogs also host query crits that aren't contests, just forums for feedback.

Contests can be full of treats—offers for partials, fulls, opps to meet critique partners, a chance to shine or sharpen...But then can also be a time for tricks—lousy respondents, the realization that the work just isn't ready, or writer's low ("Woe! Why doesn't anyone get it?! I'm a failure as a writer and will never put finger to keyboard again.") Like entering a haunted house, proceed with caution, but when you make it to the other side, jump with joy!

Here are three upcoming (and awesome) contests this autumn that are worth checking out. I'm not etching it in blood, but I think these will be my last round of contests for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I'm ready to get off the roller coaster—the ups and downs of participation, at least for a while—and focus on the proverbial craft. But until then check out these amazing opportunities to get your writing out there and also a big, chocolatey, sweet thank you to the hosts for the tremendous amount of work they do behind the scenes!

Halloween YA Pitch Party hosted by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Literary Agency. She wants to see steamy and sizzling YA romance in her inbox. Find out more on her blog (which also has some great query tips btw.)

Nightmare on Query Street - hosted my Michelle, SC, and Mike. This happens on Oct. 19. Be prepared! And maybe a little afraid ;)

Trick-or-Treat with agents - hosted by Kimberly Chase and Brenda Drake - check out her shiny new website! Get your bowl of candy entries ready for Oct. 22. it's going to be a howlin' good time. 

Baker's Dozen Auction: EPIC contest in November. Involving these agents. Stay tuned for details. But hone those loglines NOW

And if that weren't enough, there's another Pitch Wars in our future. Load the marshmallow guns. This going to be complete with mentors AND agents.

If there are any more coming up, please add them in the comments below. And forgive my silly analogies.
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