Friday, December 30, 2011

To ROW or not to ROW (80)

I'm trying something new this year.

I'm writing competitively in the company of supportive friends.


"Um, Heather," you might say, "that doesn't sound different from your normal bag of tricks. It sounds like the Tour de Writing."

"Well, the Tour happens only in the summer. This competitive writing project happens all year long." I would reply.

"It also sounds a bit like NaNo." (that's you again. See how I nail your voice? :))

"Well, NaNo is only during November, and some people take issue with the extreme word count goals. During this challenge, you get to set your own goals!"

"So, you're writing with supportive people, like in The Practice Room?"

"Yes, with supportive people, writers who check in with you, and cheer you on. And it goes on all year like TPR. But not in a chat room. Through blog comments, and twitter. I even signed up to be a sponsor, so one of my jobs will be to cheer you on, if you decide to sign up. As always, though, TPR will be a great tool to help me reach my writing goals, and I hope other ROWers stop by to utilize the support there as well!"

Okay, this is starting to sound like a 6th grade skit for Social Studies class. :)

But, I am joining a new supportive writing group, called A Round Of Words in 80 Days. Or, ROW 80.

I popped over by mistake, the first time, thinking that the blog was about a writer who also rows. You know, oars, coxswain, the whole nine yards. It wasn't. :) What a happy accident!

It's a blog about writers setting goals, and trying to hit those goals in 80 days, four separate times a year. Writers check in a couple of times each week, and form a community around reaching their goals. It's a superb idea, and I'm excited to be a part of it.

All you do is check out the sign up post, and sign up on the link list, and go from there.

This next round starts on Monday, January 2nd. Perfect if you are resolutioning, perfect if you aren't.

I love supportive writing, don't you??

Come join me, and let me know that you are, in my comments, so I know who's up for the challenge. I'll be following #ROW80 in the twitter feeds as well.

I hope your holidays are going well. Did you get any good gifts? Are you raving the New Year in? Will you join me in a round of ROW 80??

If I can hit my goal while writing like this:
Then you can too!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eating My Words

I love the sparkles of the holiday season--lights are all aglow at our house. Cowgirl, my daughter, especially threw a lot of gusto into decking the halls. Or at least into decking the Christmas tree. 

Which was why she found it so disturbing that tree ornaments started appearing randomly around the house. 

Pip and Jelly, our hooligan kittens, were treating the tree as their very own toy hanger. 

I reassured my daughter. I said, "It's okay. If we move the ornaments up high, the kittens won't be able to reach them, and everything will be safe."

Per usual, I had to eat my words. 

Doesn't she look smug?

I'm hoping to eat other, more yummy things as well this holiday season. I'm especially thinking about cheesecake. Although if eating words would make me more productive with writing, I'd be up for that as well. 

Thanks to all who made last week's Friday Feature fun. Happy holidays to all, I hope you like my gift to you, images of a cat in a tree. :) 

Not inspired yet? Okay. Just for you, I'll throw in an extra cat, and a falling star:

Menaces, my kittens.

I wish you peace during this holiday season! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Daniel McInerny's Kingdom of Patria

Welcome to today's Friday Feature interview. Today I am pleased to introduce Daniel McInerny. Daniel not only self-published his book, but he also launched a kingdom! 

The Kingdom of Patria went live on November first, and Daniel is here today to tell us about all the ins and outs of launching an amazing website and book. 

Go ahead, and click over to Patria, we'll wait! 

Now, sit back, enjoy the interview, and make sure to pose a question in the comment section--Daniel will be by later to answer any commoner's questions about his kingdom!

Welcome, Daniel. I first saw your enticing website when I clicked over from a tweet. And I have to say, I think it is excellent. Definitely draws in readers of all ages.

The keystone of your kingdom is the first book of the “Patria” series of humorous middle grade adventures, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. Tell us about it.

My pleasure!

When Oliver Stoop, age 11, moves with his family to a remote piece of land in northern Indiana, he soon discovers that someone is already living there—an entire kingdom of someones, in fact. These are the good citizens of Patria, a secret land founded by refugees from the Trojan War who sailed across the Atlantic in a reconfigured Trojan Horse—3,000 years ago!

For Oliver, Patria is a land of wonders—and for the first time in his life, friendship. There's young Prince Farnsworth Vesuvius, inventor of the Magna-Pneumatic Whizzing Biscuit Blaster, and his formidable sister, Princess Rose, whose inedible, stone-hard biscuits provide the blaster's ammunition. But there's also the rest of the eccentric and lovable Patrian Royal Family, the boy warriors in the Potawatomi Indian Camp, not to mention the Viking kids from the Geat Village, newcomers to the area who only arrived 1,000 years ago.

Yet when the noble Knights of the Blue Sock threaten to drive off the Stoops by force of arms, Oliver has to decide where his loyalties lie, and whether he has the courage to undertake the quest that is both Patria's, and his family's, last, best hope of peace.

I am loving all of the fantastic middle grade elements there! Very funny! Tell us about the journey of writing this book series. What inspired you to write this story?

Some years ago, when my two daughters (now teenagers) were small, I was reading Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, where Tolkien is quoted as saying something to the effect that, in imagining a new world, it was important for him (the professional linguist) to start with a name.

So, for example, he began with the strange name “hobbit,” and extrapolated an entire mythological universe from there. That very night, in telling a bedtime story to my girls, I copied Tolkien, inventing the name “Twillies” for a microscopic guild of fairies who minister to their princess in various ways, by helping disentangle her hair, keeping soap bubbles out of her eyes, etc. In continuing to tell “Twillies” stories I elaborated upon the world that eventually became the Kingdom of Patria.

At that beginning, in these family bedtime stories, Patria was a magical world, deeply indebted (I believe the more usual word is “stolen”) from the imaginations of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. But as I began to think about how to approach a written version of my Patria stories, I found myself increasingly disinterested in writing about a magical world. 

I suppose I was afraid of writing clichés. But I also became very much attracted to the idea of a fantastic world that, given a rather wacky take on history, is very much part of our world. That idea is at the very heart of what Patria is today. Nonetheless, it took me a long time to bring this new world of Patria into focus. Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits was begun in earnest about 2 and ½ years ago, and completed in the summer of 2011.

Twillies, by the way, being magical creatures, were left on the cutting room floor (as it were) in the re-imagining of Patria. But my daughters still miss them intensely. Perhaps there will be an occasion to work them into the series later on, to introduce the magical element. But at present I’m very happy exploring Patria as a tiny kingdom hidden in the midst of contemporary northern Indiana.

I find it immensely interesting that the very inspiration to the whole idea was cut in the final rendering. That speaks to me about getting to the crux of what works within our fiction. I love that you were able to do so! By the way, why northern Indiana?

I’m a native of South Bend.

Any other inspirations for the series besides Tolkien and Lewis?

I am a great fan of the comic stories of P.G. Wodehouse. In praising Wodehouse’s tales of feckless bachelors and wise butlers, Evelyn Waugh spoke of Wodehouse as creating a “fairy tale” world. It occurred to me that it would be fun to turn Waugh’s comment on its head and set out to create a fairy tale world that aspired to be as comical as the books of Wodehouse. 

My Patria stories are first and foremost meant to be laugh-out-load funny. Their plots revolve around adventure and mystery, but the tone is always light and fluffy. Their humor owes a lot to Wodehouse, but also to that of Roald Dahl as well as J.K. Rowling in the more whimsical portions of the Harry Potter books. One of my reviewers on Amazon compared Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits to the film version of Ian Fleming’s children’s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I like that comparison. Rob Reiner’s film, The Princess Bride, from a script by William Goldman, also masterfully hits the tone I am striving for.

Daniel, why did you choose to write a middle grade series?

I love writing middle grade fiction because it’s addressed to kids ready for a more nuanced narrative and emotional palette, but who haven’t yet been inveigled out of their natural sense of innocent enchantment about the world. That sense of enchantment includes a robust spirit of adventure and mystery, as well as a love of comedy. All of those ingredients make middle grade the perfect mix for me.

Great, Daniel. Let's get into the publishing side of things. How did you come to the decision to self-publish these books?

Like many self-pubbers, I had been knocking on the literary doors of New York for years and had grown tired with the effort. I don’t deny that my work was not always up to the mark. But now I believe I have come to a point where I have material of substantial entertainment value to offer an audience, and that I don’t need anyone else’s permission to issue the invitation. 

I am not against traditional publishing per se. But it’s a lottery with very long odds, one that tended to make me, at any rate, very passive in regard to my work. I have found the self-publishing route—the pro-activity it demands, the audience it makes immediately possible, even the financial possibilities—to be exhilarating.

The new modes of distribution provided by Amazon and others, of course, have made self-publishing a very attractive option for writers. It’s an exciting new world in the publishing business and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I find it thrilling that writers have so many options today! Your company is called “Trojan Tub” Entertainment. Where does the name come from?

As I said, present-day Patrians are descended from Trojans who escaped from the burning city of Troy in a reconfigured Trojan Horse. With the legs cut off and sliced down the middle, the Horse made for a fantastic hull. This is the Trojan Tub, and a replica of it in the library of Patria Castle plays an important part in the climactic action of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits.

This is me, by the way, having a little fun with the Roman poet, Virgil. Just as in his Aeneid Virgil depicts Rome being founded by refugees from Troy, so too with the Kingdom of Patria. My Patrian Trojan ancestors were hoping to follow Aeneas, but they got a little off course and soon found themselves in the middle of the Atlantic on their way to the New World. Good thing they packed extra sandwiches!

How much prep did you give the book before putting it out there? Do you have a team of critters? Editors? How much did you do on your own?

I spent eighteen years in academia before starting Trojan Tub (I hold a PhD in philosophy). In those years I published a good deal of scholarly work and gained invaluable experience as an editor. So largely I edit my own work, though my wife is a tenacious and very helpful copyeditor, and more importantly, as I call her, my “Concept Girl.”

When it came to the final edits of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits, the best thing I did was to record it as an unabridged audiobook (available at for the absurdly low price of $4.99). Since high school my writing teachers had urged me to read my writing out loud. But did I ever listen? 

Well, in recording the audiobook I was obviously forced to read the entire manuscript out loud, and it was a revelation. Not only in terms of small-change copyedits, but also in terms of the rhythm of the sentences and diction. I would even say my sense of my own characters was vastly improved when I had to assign them their own characteristic voices. So my advice to all those editing their own books: read them out loud.

How did you connect with your illustrator? I am particularly drawn to those illustrations, by the way. They really bring the Kingdom of Patria to life!

Ted Schluenderfritz is immensely talented, and I am very proud to have him as a colleague in this project. I first encountered his work through a brilliantly funny illustration he did of G.K. Chesterton dressed in the costume of Mr. Incredible from the Pixar film, The Incredibles. “This man is a genius,” I said to myself upon seeing this illustration, and a visit to his website confirmed the hunch. 

Ted’s style is perfect for my Patria stories—it has just the right combination of whimsicality, broad comedy, and light satire. One of the joys of working on this project has been the back-and-forth with Ted on the details of illustrations. 

And not only is his character illustration fantastic. But he really brought Patria to life, even for me, with the illustration that serves as the central image on the homepage of the Kingdom of Patria website, an illustration which can be viewed without obstruction in the “Explore Patria” section of the site. Ted also did a marvelous map of Patria that kids can download from the “Explore Patria” section as a .pdf.

Very cool! The website itself is very professional. Did you build it yourself, or outsource the web design?

From the beginning I knew I wanted a website associated with my books, and as I was forming Trojan Tub early in the summer I became aware of J.K. Rowling’s efforts with her (yet-to-be-released) Pottermore website. That kind of interactive website, where fans of Patria could come and immerse themselves in that world, was very attractive to me. So with the Kingdom of Patria I’m trying to provide a Pottermore-like experience, with free content (both text and audio), clubs to join, character blogs—just without the billion-dollar, pop-culture icon platform underneath me!

My web design company, Snap Design, located in Bellevile, Ontario, has played a huge role in making this happen. I encountered their work via a website they designed for another self-published author whose illustrator and I belong to the same LinkedIn group. In talking with my wife about how much I admired this author’s site, my wife urged me to contact the web designer, and by that afternoon I was enjoying a wonderful conversation with Dan Ireland, the major technical force behind the site.

The entire team at Snap has been very creative and fun to work with, and their marketing wisdom has also been invaluable. I would recommend them to any author looking to expand his or her marketing efforts.

I think we all would love to spearhead something in the vein of Pottermore! How exciting that these avenues are available to us. What type of marketing has yielded the best results for getting the word out about your kingdom?

For marketing I use the Kingdom of Patria website, of course, but also my Twitter account (@kingdomofpatria), my Facebook page, and my email account. I also have a blog, High Concepts, devoted to the arts, entertainment and culture, on which I sometimes talk about Trojan Tub. I’ve also just started using some print advertising.

But the point of all these instruments, as I learned from John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 3 Months, is not simply to fire at will with “Please Buy My Book!” missives (though I’m certainly not above them), but to form friendships with people who will have a natural connection to my writing.

That takes more time and effort, but the reward is greater. Not only does one make a new friend, but one finds really dedicated readers. Just yesterday on Facebook I received a message from someone who told me that he went out and bought an e-reader just so that he could read Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. And he loved it, and can’t wait for the next book in the series. That’s a customer, to be sure. But it’s also a potential friend, and it’s important for me never to lose sight of that second fact.

I love that facebook story, Daniel! Do you have self-publishing mentors that have given you good advice about how to go about doing this? If so, who would you recommend to others going this route?

John Locke’s book, which I just mentioned, was pivotal for me this past summer when I was preparing to launch Trojan Tub. I would also single out David Gaughran’s blog, Let’s Get Digital, which is one of the best blogs out there on the self-publishing world and one I read regularly. Dave’s book, also called Let’s Get Digital, is extremely helpful for self-pubbers just getting started. The folks at Kindle Book Review have been especially generous in reviewing Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits (three reviewers so far have agreed to do so).

Overall, I am deeply impressed by the sense of community and collegiality in the self-publishing world. Heather, your blog is certainly a great example of this!

Thanks, Daniel! So, tell us, what does success look like to you? Do you have a target number of sales? Or is success the positive feedback from readers? Or are you focusing on getting the next books out there, and sharing the books with the widest audience? Or all of the above?

My goal with Trojan Tub and all my writing is clear: I aim to establish a full-time, family-sustaining career as a writer of fiction. It is deeply satisfying to have even one reader respond enthusiastically to my work. But my aim is to be a professional author, and for me that means generating sufficient sales so that I can support my family entirely by writing.

What a great goal. What has been your highest high, and lowest low, during your writing journey toward that goal?

In 2003 the very first screenplay I ever wrote, entitled I Am Not Prince Hamlet, was taken on by a reputable L.A. agency and shopped around to some very big production companies in Hollywood. I thought that was the beginning of my professional screenwriting career. Alas, although the script received some admiring comments, there were no buyers, and my follow-up script unfortunately didn’t excite the agent. All that amounted to a pretty low moment. But I continue to write screenplays.

One of the highest highs in my writing career occurred very recently, on November 1, 2011, when the Kingdom of Patria site launched and Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits went on sale. That was a very exciting day.

For sure! I love those early brushes with success--I think they keep us aiming high. So, what’s next for you?

Right now I’m finishing up work on the second book in the Patria series, Stoop of Mastodon Meadow, which picks up on Oliver’s adventures a couple of months after the events of Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. It’s a school story (Mastodon Meadow is the boys’ school in Patria), complete with a mystery involving an underground student newspaper and a wily capybara.

As soon as that is done, I will be putting the finishing touches on a comic novel for grown-ups, which I have been calling Donnie Pilgrim: High Concept. It uses the time-honored plot device of a philosopher who stumbles into Hollywood and unwittingly becomes the hottest screenwriter in town. I hope to have that available at Amazon and other outlets in January or February, 2012.

Ooh, the capybara is my favorite rodent of unusual size! And, just because I’m curious, dogs, or cats?

Kids, actually. The house-training period is longer, but if you stick with them, they tend to make better conversationalists.

Awesome! Daniel, thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to talk with us! I really appreciate it. Everyone, please make sure to give Daniel some thoughtful questions in the comments! What would you like to know about the Kingdom of Patria, the books, and their creation? And, make sure to check out his website on your way out, if you haven't already! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Happy Birthday, Superman!
My middle son, code name Superman, is obsessed with the arcade game, 'the CLAW'. He talks about not being able to resist playing if there are coins jingling in his pocket, even though he says he knows, with his head, that it is a scam. He says he just can't stop his heart from wanting to play.
Today is his eighth birthday, so we got him a table top version of the CLAW, equipped with fake coins and all. I'm hoping that he'll get all the joy and none of the heartache from the home version. Not to say this version is easy. But it is doable. And free.
Writing is my claw game. I work so hard at it, and rarely come up with that gem. That phrase, or idea which I know is gold.
Or, in this case, the tootsie roll. :)

I have been mining my mind the last couple of days, and came up with some great gems which will enhance my current work in progress. I haven't been actually writing, since I've also been dealing with a migraine. 

I was picking up Superman's cake, when I started to feel the brain confusion. Which meant that I had a very short amount of time to get home before I couldn't see enough to drive. Then things start going numb, and the headache and nausea set in.

Right now, I feel like my brain is missing some key elements. But I feel so much better, and I know this will pass. Of all the things that people suffer with, the things that people don't feel whole from within a few days, I feel lucky.

And, I'm surrounded my children who take care of me, a husband who comes home and takes care of our kids (and our kids' friends too) and me, and who cooks and cleans, and keeps things running when I can't.

Tomorrow I'll feel whole.

And, then, I'll start to work the CLAW again.

How about you? Do you have any weakness for a carnival game which you know stack the odds against you? Does your heart rule your head? How is your writing life going? Has your claw plucked out any gems recently? And--do you have any magic wands for migraines?

And please be sure to stop by on Friday, for a special holiday edition of my Friday Feature interviews, where we talk with the vibrant writer, Daniel McInerny, about his charming Middle Grade books about the Kingdom of Patria.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Meeting, Forgotten Images

I am gearing up to see some wonderful New England writers on Tuesday night. I am so lucky to live in an area where getting together with other writers is a possibility. I'm so bad at posting proof of these events.

Kris, Kip, Ansha, Me, Alicia, and Lynda 
I know that sometimes people question the necessariness (totally NOT a word), of contact with other writers. I mean, writing is a solitary profession, between you and your keyboard, right?

Well, I for one, would not survive in a writing vacuum. I'm a social being. I live for the conferences, the in-person-meetings, and if I couldn't do those things, then I would live for The Practice Room, the gchats, and the google+ video rounds. There are so many ways to get the support and feedback online--I can't imagine how solitary this profession was when people were clicking away on typewriters. 

I'm gearing up for tomorrow night's New England get together. If you are in New England, and are involved in the kidlit (or writing community) in some fashion (librarian, writer, illustrator, agent, editor, etc.) please come on over. 

It's at Aprile's in North Chelmsford. Start time is 7pm, but come when you can! It's informal, and the set up is very fluid, as far as walking and talking. Some people come hungry for dinner, some come for dessert, everyone comes for the conversation. 

Check out Kris' blog post about it, and I'll see you there.

As far as checking in about this week's writing, hmmm.

I'm in an organizing mood. Which probably means some more revision, with a bit of new words. I'm making progress, and still loving this novel, which is all good. :) 

How are you doing this week? Are you able to get together with other writers?

How does your progress look? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Anita Miller and Her 99 Cent E-books

December brings with it so many things. An end to a month long marathon of writing for many, a festival of lights, and a jolly old man dressed in red delivering presents. A sense of wonder and magic. Snuggled securely between Thanksgiving and New Years, December is a celebration. A celebration of the people in our lives who are doing great things.

In this vein, I bring to you a Friday Feature with Anita. I feel honored to count Anita a friend. I have always found her blog posts succinct, thoughtful, and interesting. I love her point of view. So it was no surprise to me that I would love her books.

Anita Laydon Miller is the author of two $.99 ebooks for kids ages 8-12, EARTHLING HERO and A SCARY GOOD BOOK. Anita is also the book columnist for the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE and is working on her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction.

Anita, welcome back! Bring us up to speed on what has happened to you since we last checked in, in March, 2010. Has it really been that long?

Egads! What hasn’t happened?! I found an agent, started an MFA, dropped an agent, independently epublished two books, and survived dengue fever. It’s been awesome.

A whirlwind, for sure! Everything sounds awesome except for the bout with the fever. Although I'm sure that is fodder for some book down the road. Tell me about the epubbing. How’s that been?

I think what most people want to know is have I sold any books. Well, my CEO (Husband) and I have done a horrible job of keeping track of sales. We’ve got four mouths to feed and gardens to take care of, and hairs to shave, buuut, I will say I’ve sold at least several hundred books. I sell books every day…though in October there were some Saturdays in which I didn’t sell any. Weird.

The short answer is that epubbing has been a blast. I’m selling books to people I don’t know. And while I haven’t gotten a ton of reviews, the ones I have gotten are pretty darn good. And I don’t think I’ve had any relatives post reviews. I’m going old-school that way.

Also, my ebooks are for kids ages 8-12, middle grade. Everybody keeps saying that’s the toughest emarket right now. I hope to kick some serious butt this Christmas and prove “everybody” wrong.

Anita, I think it is so awesome that you are finding success selling ebooks to the Middle Grade crowd. What are your books about?

First, let me say the books are $.99 each. They’re worth more, but it’s not about the money for me. Frankly, I grew up without a lot of cash and was very happy. And my family’s comfortable now, so I’m even happier. I’m not trying to pay the mortgage with my ebooks. Of course, I’d love to sell millions…who wouldn’t?…so maybe I should get back to the question.

EARTHLING HERO is a sci fi. A boy, Mikey, wakes up in the middle of the night and a kid’s standing next to his bed. The kid looks exactly like Mikey. Turns out it’s his alien clone, and together (with the help of the clone’s sister), they’ve got to save the world. There’s a lot of adventure in the book…Mikey and his clone break into NORAD, fight Chinese assassins and search for an evil alien’s lair in the Garden of the Gods. Cool stuff.

A SCARY GOOD BOOK is a mystery. A girl, Hannah, finds secret messages in library books--words underlined by someone who needs her help. This is the kind of book I loved as a girl. It’s got mystery, creepiness, and a touch of romance. And lots of plot layers.

Anita--I know you always have something amazing in the works. What are you working on right now?

I just finished the first draft of a YA. It's difficult for me to to talk about, because a high school friend of mine just killed himself, and suicide is a big theme in the YA.

Last year, 867 people committed suicide in my home state of Colorado. I knew this was an issue and I wanted to write a powerful book about it...a powerful book that would not OVERpower.

So I have this teenage girl, Olivia, who moves to Colorado from Buffalo with her mom. They move into a home that belonged to Olivia's grandfather, who recently died. The home is on a large piece of land with a cliff at the back. People from all over the region have, over time, come to commit suicide at the cliff. Olivia's grandfather saved hundreds of people who came to the cliff to die. He leaves Olivia five stories about specific jumpers and asks her in a letter to take over his job of saving people.

The girl wakes up her first morning after reading the letter and sees a boy at the cliff. She thinks he's a jumper and she runs outside to try to stop him. Only he isn't jumping, he's just visiting the spot where his brother jumped the year before. Olivia and the boy, Noah, fall for each other.

So, the book is about all sorts of things...suicide, yes, but also love and forgiveness and hope. I balance the serious themes with what I'm hoping is genuine humor. I absolutely love this book. It means a lot to me.

That sounds equally intense and wonderful, Anita. I can’t wait to read it. Any last words?

Just that this is an awesome time to be a writer. There are so many options, so many opportunities. I say, let’s embrace them all, see what good words we can throw out to readers. Let’s do this, people!

Let’s do this is right! Thanks Anita, for the fab interview. And I’m sure that everyone has burning questions for Anita about her books and how she epubbed them. Feel free to give Anita support in the comment section, or ask her a questions. She’ll stop by and give us her insight.

Want to give Anita other kinds of love?
Here’s the link love:
Anita’s Blog
Her Middle Grade Blog
Anita’s Website
Buy Page for Anita’s 99 Cent Books

Oh, and after you ask Anita a question in the comments, and check out her books and blogs, make sure to stop by Lynn’s blog to help Anita come up with a new character name!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Polarity of Writing, And A Clip From Psych

Yesterday, I felt compelled to write. 

What a wonderful feeling. I must confess, it didn't start out that way. I always feel like my manuscript and I are magnets of the same polarity. Repelling one another. Which is why I need to set aside time in which I must write--while in the company of other writers.

Writing with others keeps me accountable to the goals I pledge to myself.

So, yesterday, I made myself go to the library, made myself open the computer, made myself look at my manuscript.

And when my writing time was up, I wanted to keep going, and going, and going.

It's been a very long time since I've had this happen. Too long.

Now, it might seem weird that my general feeling about writing is repulsion. Since I spend most of my time thinking about my novel, planning it, knowing it, wanting to write. But the actual act of sitting down and doing so repels me on some level. Even though I write every day (or nearly every day).

I don't know if it is about confidence, or fear of failure, or self-fulfilling prophecy, or the next big psych term.

And maybe that is why the show Psych works out so well--Shawn is a crazy character who could never push himself into the confines of being a traditional detective. Even though he feels compelled to solve crime. Instead, he pretends to be psychic. So he can be silly and witty and fun. (I'm breaking out into "I Feel Pretty" lyrics in my head.) He works with his compulsion, not against it. He works in a way which suits his personality. He solves crime, not in spite of himself. Because of himself.

Okay, my favorite nickname for Gus, Control-Alt-Delete, didn't make it into the clip. :)

We need to write because of who we are, not in spite of it.

Not to say I don't need to push myself. But I don't need to push myself to be something which I am not.

So, I find out what works for me--what makes me sit down and open up the document. Because once that document is open, it compels me to do something with it. Whether write or revise. Once I'm in, I'm in. Yesterday I was compelled to stay in. If I could have written all day, I would have. And it would have been good. Good writing. Stuff with pitch and power and pizzazz.

I don't think it makes me less of a writer that I am compelled and repelled by writing all at the same time. I think that is why writing is so difficult. And I imagine every form of art and expression brings with it some ambivalence. Some push and pull. And when we are strong enough to wade through the repulsion, we create something worthwhile.

Writing is risky.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Do you react similarly to writing? Or to creating? Do you struggle with the push and pull? What tricks do you use to help you write?

Maybe next time I open my manuscript, I'll pretend I'm psychic. That I know what my characters will do and go through. Oh, wait. That is something which I already pretend. :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Meeting: Super Powers

So, I gave a birthday shout-out for my daughter, but didn't yet for my hubby. His birthday recently passed, and I have to mention it on this thanks-giving week.

One thing you must know about my husband--he's an amazing gift giver. He gave me a gift this fall to meet Erica Orloff, a writer whom I consider to be a mentor, at an amazing conference:

This picture is of me, Joe Williams, and the amazing Erica Orloff, at the James River Writers conference. It was one of the most valuable experiences in my writing career. Truly priceless.

He's that good.

You see, gift giving is his super power. My super power? This game. Yup. Totally useless super power.

I gave him what he asked for on his birthday. Because gift giving is not my super power.

This week, he gave me a dress from the show Project Runway. This dress. (It's the simply delicious cream dress, in case a different one pops up when you click over.) It wasn't my birthday (in fact, it was right after his), and there wasn't any rhyme or reason to give me a gift. Other than he had been waiting for the dress to be stocked so he could buy it for me. And that he loves giving people gifts. And that it's his super power.

What an awesome super power--to bring joy to people. He uses it quite well.

So, on this week of giving thanks, I will thank him for all the wonderful gifts he brings me--the experiences, the special things, his support for my writing, and the gift of him in my life.

Happy birthday, babe. And THANKS.


Do you have a super power? Is it useful? Do you use your super power for good or evil? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Version of Save The Cat, In Which I Actually Save A Cat

A few weeks ago, I came home from my kids' swim team practice to the sound of a kitten crying. My kitten, OF COURSE. Somewhere in the neighborhood. It was dark. It was 10pm at night. The kitten's cries sounded scared and pitiful. I grabbed a flashlight, and hunted down my petrified kitty. She was two doors down, and two stories up. Crying in a tree.

I spent two hours--until midnight--trying to coax her down. Flashing my flashlight down the trunk of the tree, bringing out food, calling to her. She just couldn't figure it out. She cried to me, and walked down each branch, parallel to the ground. My heart sank. I waited for my neighbors to call the police on the hooligan waving the flashlight in the grove of trees behind their house. It became clear to me that short of climbing the tree, that kitten was not coming down. I reassured myself that cats are nocturnal creatures, and that she would be fine during the long night in the tree. Maybe she would come down to eat the food.

Her cries followed me home, and into bed. I couldn't sleep.

And, in the morning, she was still crying. Up in the tree. I won't lie. The term "dumb kitten" definitely escaped my lips. I was tired, and worried, and wondering. How long can a cat survive in a tree? I had never heard of one falling out out of a tree.

My neighbors were divided into the camps of call-the-fire-department, and she'll-come-down-on-her-own. I was of the idea that since I have small children, I might need the aid of the fire department in the future, and didn't relish pissing them off due to a dumb kitten. In fact, they had already come to my aid once. But that is another story, for another post. :)

And, anyway, I had a plan.

I attached a stick to a long rope, and asked my husband to throw it over the branch, much to the concern of the very nice Irish woman who came running out of her house to find out what we were doing to her trees. I was amazed that she hadn't seen me out there the night before, or so early that morning. Once she saw our beautiful, sad kitten, she became our biggest fan.

My husband successfully looped the rope over the branch, and I attached our cat carrier bag to the rope, with the top open. I threw some cat food in there for good measure. Hubby pulled the carrier up to the cat, and like magic, the cat stepped right in. We lowered it to the ground, and I grabbed the kitten out. Finally safe, back on the ground.

The writing lesson for this? Well, you might be stuck right now. Stuck on a scene, stuck in the middle, stuck because you've been writing fast and furious and climbing those branches through NaNo. Wondering whether to call the fire department, or just to wait it out. And my advice to you is that you already know the solution. Your subconscious is working it out. It might not be conventional. But go ahead and think about what tools you have at your disposal, and build that cat elevator for your novel. Save the dumb cat. :)

For your viewing pleasure, here are some pictures: (keep in mind that I was emotionally involved with saving the kitten, and the pictures I snapped off are pretty awful. :))

See her eyes up there? They haunted me all night long.

Pitifully, trying to walk along the branches to safety.

Amazingly, she climbed right into her cat carrier.

Jelly's personal elevator. :)
Safe (relatively speaking), in Superman's arms.
So, how do you save the cat?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Meeting: Getting Into the Groove

After an action packed weekend, I am more than ready to get back into writing. I'm meeting with writers at our library each day for a few hours. We have a sunny room, and lots of outlets nearby for our laptops. I am way behind any NaNo goal, but right on target for where I want to be with my drafting/revisions. I'm turning my face towards the sun this morning for a quick run, and then I'll be writing.

How about you? Let me know what your goals are this week. Let's keep each other accountable!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy 6th, Cowgirl

I can't believe that Cowgirl is six years old--and already giving out horseback riding lessons!

I hope all your midweek writing plans are going well. I'm getting into a good morning writing rhythm, and the fact that the internet access is unpredictable at the library is actually helping my wordcount.

Are you keeping to your goals? Would you like lessons from Cowgirl? And, yes. Cowgirl and her doll (which she named after herself) are dressed identically. :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Meeting: Thunder Snow and Other Lessons

Last week, I learned that Thunder Snow is not something to be scoffed at. Or maybe my scoffing was the issue. It made Thunder Snow want to prove to me that it was a force to be reckoned with. Knocked out our power for two days and nights. Which probably wouldn't have been a big deal, if we hadn't had 20 degree nights. Oh, and if it hadn't been right before Halloween.

Life lesson: Never mock mother nature.

Zoom in on me making this costume by candlelight:

Which my son loved. And wore for the exact time it took to snap this picture. Then he stripped it off, and went trick or treating in street clothes. Sigh.

Life lesson: Never try to constrict a boy's nature in a box. Even if the boy insists.

Fast forward to my daughter walking, no, running, to school. Debris from thunder snow litters the sidewalk. Daughter trips, flies forward, and lands on her face. Does not use hands to break her fall. Loses (literally) her tooth. I spend the next 48 hours looking for tooth, and watching for concussion.

Life lesson: Magic makes everything better.

All this gave me perspective this week. When I try to control things is when I get into trouble, in my real life, and in my writing. When I leave myself open to what my subconscious has already worked out about a particular scene in a book, or when I leave myself open to the unexpected turns and twists of life, I am better equipped to handle where writing and life is going.

This week, I am hoping for a less action-packed week, and more action-packed writing.

How are you? Do you have writing goals? What are they? Do you have wordcount goals this week? Lay them on me!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Have You Met Kyla?

In case you guys missed the launch of my new (whenever I feel like it) Friday blog feature, inspired by How I Met Your Mother, here's another one. The idea is that I introduce you to someone awesome, someone who just might be fun to get to know!

So, Haaave you met Kyla?
Okay, she is larger than this in real life. If I had my act together today, I would have actually asked for a picture instead of stealing one off her blog. :)

Kyla is a wonderfully warm, generous writer who pens funny vignettes of her life over at her Growing Muses blog. She also writes for the World Moms Blog.

She is jumping right into uncharted territories this November by doing Tara Lazar's fabulous PiBoIdMo, so if you do click over to say hi at Growing Muses, make sure to cheer her on! She has volumes of energy for writing and friends, and I am lucky enough to benefit from that energy both online and in real life.

She has been a major force of inspiration for me in the past few weeks, at her blog, over coffee, and over the lane lines at the pool. (A friend who encourages healthy writing, and healthy exercising? That is a truly valuable friend!)

I am so lucky to have her in my life, and I encourage you to bring her into your life as well, by creating that all-important blogging connection.

And, since we're doing introductions, why don't you tell us all what you are up to on your blog, and link to it in the comments. That way, I can make sure not to miss any awesome reads this Friday!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Shake My Fists At The Tech Gods, Once Again

So, when you try to comment on this post, you will discover the dreaded pop-up window.

Now, I have heard several bloggers discuss how this is not the best way to allow comments, simply because it takes more time for people to comment. I loved it when my comments were embedded below the post.

Okay, this is a much more fun type of pop-up. Although I can't hear this song without thinking, that's not really ironic. I still like it though. I wonder what that says about me. :)

And, I want to make it easy, peasey for y'all (okay, I am so NOT from the south, but that puts me in mind of a delicious southern drawl, which makes me feel warm and cozy and like I can pretend that I am not on the verge of another disastrously cold NE winter) to comment. Above all else.

The problem with the embedded comments? In the last month, I have heard from two VIP in my virtual life, who went to extraordinary measures to let me know that for some reason, they are no longer permitted to comment on my blog.

I checked my settings. Everyone is permitted to comment, even anonymous users. I don't even have comment verification on the site. There is no reason why people shouldn't be able to comment.


Although in this case, I think it might be the Google Gods giving me grief.

So, I hope you survive the pop-ups for a while. Let's see if everyone can comment.

I'm so bummed out that people couldn't join in the conversation here.

Has anyone else had this problem? How frustrating! For those of you who are more tech savvy than me (really not difficult) please enlighten me if I can fix this issue permanently, and revert back to my embedded comments. Pretty please! (I'm looking in your direction, Tom!)

Can't comment on this blog post? That's ironic. E-mail me at hegkelly at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Forced Un-plug

Just a quick note to say that I am very happy to have power back at our house. It was not (much) fun to have a forced unplug this weekend!

Now that I'm back, here are some truly fun items:

Today, you can find me in The Practice Room, where there is an open chat room with hosts from 9am-3pm est. No one needs write unassisted. :) Whether you are NaNo-ing or otherwise!

I will be unplugging over there to get some writing done today, I hope you will too!

Also, I must wish a Happy Book Birthday to Anna, and her MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE. See, here are pictures of me reading the ARC over the summer!

The first one (aka, the GINORMOUS picture) is in front of my town's library. The second one is in front of the Narragansett library.

If you want to win a copy of Anna's book, today you can play a twitter game-- what has been your most unfairy tale moment? Answer that, with hashtag #myveryunfairytalelife, and you might win!

I hope you all are warm, safe, and plugged in Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friday Feature Celebration: Sarah Dooley's BODY OF WATER is Released!

I won't lie. I am a big fangirl of Sarah Dooley's. It tickles me pink that sometimes she chats in The Practice Room. She is funny, she writes rock solid books, and she works with autistic kids. However, she keeps rejecting my suggestions that she move up to the Boston area so we can hang out. :) If I had my druthers, I'd start a writing commune.

And, her new book, BODY OF WATER came out yesterday.

In the event that you want to love/investigate/check out/stalk Sarah, here are her clicks:

twitter: @swdooley
blog: Dooley Noted
goodreads: BODY OF WATER
goodreads: LIVIE OWEN LIVED HERE (Sarah's last book)

My Friday Feature interview with Sarah.

And, if you are lucky enough to be in Huntington, WV tomorrow, you can even SEE Sarah. If you do, please give her a hug from me. :)

I'll leave you with the BODY OF WATER BLURB:

Twelve-year-old Ember’s trailer home has been burned in a fire set most likely by her best friend, a boy whose father believes Ember’s family are witches. Yes, Ember’s mom reads Tarot cards as a business. Ember’s friend set the fire to warn the family before his dad did something worse to them. The friend never intended to do so much damage.

Now the family is homeless, and living in a campground. They have no money. Ember’s beloved dog is missing. School is going to start, and Ember and her sister have no clean clothes, no notebooks. The only place Ember feels at peace is floating in the middle of the lake at the campground. She has to make a fresh start. Can she?

I can't wait to read it!

Who wants to live in a writer's commune with me? Would it sweeten the pot if I got Sarah on board? :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Meeting, Toying with the Big Bad Cat

Hello all! I'm actually posting my Monday Meeting on Monday! Woo-hoo!

I am toying with the idea of NaNo--although I am halfway through a novel, so I would tailor it to my needs.

I was thinking, over the weekend, how trying to write a novel in a month (doing NaNo) can feel a lot like playing cat and mouse, or in this case, cat and chipmunk:

First off, it's always prudent to have a super hero on your side. (In case you can't see it, that little brown guy at the foot of the superhero, is the chipmunk. You in this scenario.)

It always helps to get cozy with NaNo--check out the site, make friends. Maybe even give it a kiss.

Play hard to get. Let NaNo know that 1,667 words a day is child's play. 

Fake it 'till you make it. Arch your back. Pretend your word count is huge and strong. Make sure to show NaNo that even though you might be falling behind in wordcount, that your manuscript SEEMS bigger than it is. Be confident. 

Scare it away. If this little chipmunk can scare away our big bad kitten, Jelly, then you can certainly best NaNo. Who's with me? 

Let me know your goals for this week, whether related to NaNo, or not. 

And if you are doing NaNo, make sure to leave your NaNo handle in the comment section so I can find you there! Having friends to chart progress against makes it much more fun!! 

Mine: HeatherLane 

*Is anyone else distracted by that tennis ball in the pictures? Who was playing with that ball? Did the cat have it in her mouth? What is going to happen to the ball in the next frame? Is it the smoking gun?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Have you met Misty?

So, today I am leading off (mid-day I might add) with a new spontaneous blog series (aren't those the best anyway?), which combines my love for the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, actor Neil Patrick Harris, and connecting with fabulous writers in the blogosphere.

So, we had a stirring discussion yesterday, here, there and everywhere, about what path writers are considering in order to get published. Many weighed in.

At some point, I came across Misty Provencher, who decided to take her book out of the path to publication.

But she isn't shelving it, and she isn't self-publishing it. Click over and see exactly what she is doing with it.

Her story resonated with me--we all get emotionally drained from this process. Let's circle the wagons, and help support one of our own.

Go meet Misty. Read her chapters. Read her blog. Follow her on twitter. (@mistyprovencher)

And, let's do a meet 'n greet here in the comments. Say hi, leave a link to your blog, your twitter handle, and say something Neil Patrick Harris-ish. :)

Happy weekend, everyone! I promise I'll get more Friday interviews up shortly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Choice In Publishing

Or, The Circus Comes To Town

I'm sure this isn't the first, or the last, blog post to equate the current climate in publishing to a three ring circus.

Into which ring will you throw your hat? Today seven bloggers discuss their decisions, on their blogs, and on twitter, #MyChoiceInPublishing. Follow along, or better yet, join in and discuss! (Links to other bloggers at end of post.)

Center ring? Traditional publishing. The big six, and their imprints.

When I first got involved with the on-line writing world, it was in order to research agents so that I could pursue publication with the big six.

Right now, I am not just researching agents, with hopes that an agent will procure a solid deal for me with a publishing house. I am researching publishers as well. Because some publishers have changed the language in their deals to reflect their concern with how easy it is for writers to e-publish. Language in contracts has become more controlling and restrictive.

See this blog post by Anne R. Allen and follow through the links if you want to read about one author's cautionary tale. If you aren't following Anne's blog, you should. It's incredibly interesting and informative! Remember, not all big publishers are giving out raw deals, but I believe that hiring a lawyer to protect ourselves from bad contracts IS A MUST in this climate.

Further evidence of this need is featured on Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog. Like this post about deal breakers. Or this post about surviving the transition. It's not light reading, but necessary food for thought.

Do I hope that I will have a kick butt agent, who will stand one handed on an elephant's back to get me a kick butt deal with a publisher? For sure. Am I hiring a kick butt lawyer to advise me on the finer print of the details of the balancing act in the center ring? Absolutely.

Now, tear your eyes away from the chaos in the center ring.

Side Ring Number One: Small Presses.

Small presses can be a great way to go. You may have an agent, but lots of small presses allow for unagented submissions. Small presses might be able to give your book more care and marketing.

However, I go forward in this ring with caution as well. Let's talk about the elephant in the room:

I have received emails from friends who have been published (or dropped right before their book was to be published) by small presses, and who had a very rough go of it. These writers could not go public with the issues they faced with small presses, because they didn't want to sabotage their career. Which is smart. This isn't limited to small presses--writers largely don't talk publicly about things that go wrong with interactions with big publishers either. Which again, is smart. But makes it tough for the rest of us to choose wisely.

I find that it is harder to find good information on small presses. Going to forums, and looking at threads where people post anonymously about their experiences is a good start.

I am researching small presses as best I can, and plan to have a lawyer (!!) go over any contracts.

Side Ring Number Two: Indie, or Self E-Pubbing.

To hear Joe Konrath talk about it, traditional publishing is in dire straitsHere's a link to a convincing conversation Joe has about e-pubbing. And, I think it is evident that the publishing world is in transition. Some small presses have gone under, and big publishers are changing how they do business. Do we really know where the balls are going to fall if the juggler stops frantically juggling? No.

I think it is a great idea to think of e-pubbing as a viable option. The author retains all control, and all profits. That being said, I think having a great team help with editing, cover art and marketing is always a plus. I would consider, quite strongly, having an agent assist me in e-pubbing. However, I don't think I would use an agent as an e-publisher.

I think we should also be thinking further than e-pubbing, however, and into the multimedia realm. E-books give us amazing versatility, especially since a lot of us are publishing for kids and young adults.

E-publishing is a fantastic avenue in and of itself, but it is also a great companion publishing technique. Agents at talked about the benefit to publishing a companion e-book to a traditionally published book, both coming out at the same time.

So, the long and the short of it is that I am planning on trying to throw my hat into every ring. I don't want my career to suffer because I'm walking the tightrope without a net. My security will be in knowing that I have many avenues of revenue for my career. Like in this post.

Oh, and I'm hoping to have an agent as a ring master, and a lawyer lion tamer to help protect my interests.

Please check out the other bloggers sharing their point of view on their #MyChoiceInPublishing:

So, what ring (s) are you choosing? Does this conversation stress you out? Are you actively thinking about more than one type of publishing?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Circus

So, I haven't been blogging for a long stretch. I don't really know what to say.

There has been amazing and terrible all in the last two weeks.

We had a death in the family, which, evidently, is still too raw to talk about.

And, I met the amazing Erica, and all her wonderful friends at a conference in Richmond. Which evidently, is too awesome to put into words.

I came home in time to take my kids to the circus. Which is just about right. :)

My life is a happy-sad, amazing, wonderfully chaotic circus.

And, you know, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Raise My Fist at The Tech Gods

My Adventures Into Disappearing Text, and Social Media Faux Pas

Cowgirl and I feel the same way when it comes to making social blunders.
Okay, I'm not tech savvy. Some of my ignorance is my own fault--I have the dreaded never-read-the-manual-itis. Yup, I'll buy a phone, or a laptop, turn it on, and just start using it. Same with the blog. And facebook and twitter and... you get the point.

We'll say that I'm a hands-on learner. :)

As you can imagine, sometimes mishaps happen. So, my friend Jon and I decided that we would dedicate some blog time toward figuring out the ins and outs of social media and the technology behind it.

We need to figure out what we need to know to make social media work for us. And how to prevent the crashes and blunders and whatnots from happening.

For instance:

A few days ago, I wanted to figure out the goodreads thing. Simply because I wanted to review a great book. A clear way to support a writer is by giving them an honest rating on sites like amazon, smashwords, and goodreads. I want to do more of this.

So. I signed up. In the process, goodreads asked me something. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I interpreted it (yup, red flag) as "do you want to see what you friends are reading and rating?". I clicked the 'sure thing' box. Unfortunately, my answer prompted goodreads to send an email to everybody in my address book asking if they wanted to be my "friend" on goodreads.

CTRL-Z, damn it. (Wouldn't that be great if it worked outside of the word document?)

I raise my fist at the tech gods.

Serious faux pas.

I don't know how you feel about those emails, but I was embarrassed, even more so since I hadn't intended to do it. By the way, it ranks number three on this list of the 'don'ts' in social networking etiquette.

Worse: the only way to fix it was to apologize, you know, by sending another email to everyone in my address book. Which felt like another invasion. So I just let it go. And hoped that people understood: I'm a tech moron, who can't follow simple directions. :)

What social media faux pas have you blundered through recently? What do you think about the "friend me" feature on these sites? What's your number one social networking etiquette rule? And--do you let a friend know when they are committing a faux pas?

Oh, and feel free to ask me out on goodreads. I'd love to be your friend. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Meeting: Bury Me in Saturn

Sometimes the best ideas are happy accidents.

Superman and Cowgirl waiting for their first day of school.

Superman, in all his thoughtfulness, interpreted the lyrics of one of the stanzas of this song, as "bury me in Saturn". When someone corrected him, he considered it a moment, and then replied that he still thought that the words were "bury me in Saturn." In his non-confrontational way, he asserted that his lyrics were better. And I agree.

And, I don't really want my kids understanding the words of that song. It's beautiful--I get why they want to sing it. But seriously.

Afterwards, I spent at least half an hour dreaming about what 'bury me in Saturn' could mean.

Those four words could spark a novel. :)


I'm saddling up for another week devoted to writing, and trying to get as much writing as I can get done, between the hours of 9 and 2. My kids have a couple of days off at the end of the week, so I'm trying to focus now. Behind the scenes (of this blog), I have gotten a great deal of revision done on the first half of my WIP, and am interested in writing forward, while continuing to revise as I go. I don't have any word count goals, but I might just challenge some of you to a 1k1hr twitter word off this week. Anyone up for it?

I know a huge bunch of you are gearing up for NaNo. How is the prep going? I'm not sure I'm in the best place to participate, but can't wait for the surge of energy. Love it when everyone is writing fast and furiously!

And, I have been doing a lot of research about the volatile publishing environment right now, and considering all options for the future of my career. How about you? Are you thinking about agents and traditional publishing, or e-books and author control?

What are your goals this week? Are you prepping for NaNo?
And, what would it look like to be buried in Saturn?  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Meeting: Anna's Awesome Interview Answers and WINNER

Thanks to everyone who played my crazy book giveaway!

I can't wait to give away (at the end of this post) a copy of Anna's book, MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE. In the meantime, here is Anna, with answers to my questions:

Q1: Before the book's cover art was completed, what did Anna think the girl was doing on it? Hint: The frog was not on top of the girl's head.

When I first saw the cover for My Very UnFairy Tale Life, I thought it was definitely on the right track, but I couldn't figure out what the girl was looking at. I knew she was supposed to be rolling her eyes, but the more I looked at it, the more confused I got. Was she having a seizure? Was she wondering how to pronounce my last name? After some brainstorming, I came up with the idea of putting a frog on her head, and I was thrilled when my publisher went with it. After all, a girl with a frog on her head is much more interesting than a girl without a frog on her head.

Q2: Anna has a room dedicated to a specific movie series in her house. What is it?

Okay fine, I'm a Star Wars geek. The sun room in our house has slowly become the Star Wars room. 

It started with this Lego Star Destroyer. My husband and I gave that to each other as a wedding present, and it's been the crowning jewel of our house ever since. We also have a Star Wars pop-up book, a Polish movie poster for The Empire Strikes Back, and, of course, a Star Wars throw pillow. (To be fair, the last two were gifts. Once people know you like something, they help feed your obsession.)

I love that obsession! 

Q3. Anna’s main character, Jenny, travels to a world where the inhabitants are missing one key feature. What do you think that key feature is?

I was just surprised as Jenny was when I realized the characters she was helping didn't have mouths. As I was writing the story, I wasn't thinking of it as a serious project that I wanted to have published one day. It was just the funny little story that I came back to when I needed a break from other things. I loved playing with the wacky ideas that came into my head, and one of those ideas, apparently, was mouthless creatures.

Q4. A conversation with Anna’s sister-in-law inspired a part of the book. It has to do with losing a part of the body and hot liquid. Guess what those elements are.

Before I even started writing the book, I had a conversation with my sister-in-law that I knew I had to use in a writing project one day. She and I were talking about my theory that tea is the cure for everything. Soon we were coming up with odd things that tea might not be able to fix. Finally she asked me; "What if my head fell off? Would you still tell me to drink tea?" To which I answered: "Yup. I'd just tell you to pour it down your neckhole." 

Okay, that's pretty gruesome. :) In a funny kind of way!

Q5. In the style of Clue, fill in the blanks. Jenny fights ______ (who), in the ____(location), with a _____ (object).

Jenny fights a crazy clown sorcerer in the kingdom of Speak, with a pink mini-golf ball.

I love Anna's answers! I think they really highlight some of the creative elements in this adventurous book. 

You know what I also loved? All of your answers. Some of them had me down right laughing.

If you want to hear more about Anna's journey with this book, please click over to this interview at Adventures in Children's Publishing. 

For all of you who live in the North East, and want to come support Anna and her book, here are her in real life book tour dates:

November 6 – Book launch party at the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline, Mass. 5pm
November 19 – Book signing/event at the Ames Free Library in Easton, Mass.
Let me know if you need a ride--we can carpool!

And, now, for the winner: 


The winner is.....


Anna thought her use of onion rings was superbly funny!

Congrats all! We'll do another fun giveaway sometime soon!


Now tell me, how is your writing life on this fantastic Monday?