Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One at a Time...

Once a year, usually in September, I clean my kitchen cabinets. It's a job I hate. I have to sort through boxes of food and throw anything stale out (recycling the boxes), go through dishes (how many water bottles do we need???) and decide what appliances/gadgets to get rid of (veg-ini anyone?). Then I have to clean the cabinets on the inside and clean/polish the outside. It's time consuming. No one notices unless I don't do it. And no one else will do it for me. (Well, I could pay someone I guess, but would they do it the way I like it?)


To do it all at once is overwhelming. Too many cabinets, drawers, and time. But it has to be done (with 3 boys in the house, it gets to be a mess).

So, I set a goal of one cabinet a day. If I miss a day because of other obligations, then two the next (even if it's the two smallest, it's still two). Eventually, it gets done and I am relieved for another year (until someone spills something and doesn't clean it up).

It's the same with this old manuscript I'm trying to revise from adult paranormal to new adult. It's a mess (I didn't think so, but several years of dust collected on top of it while hidden in the closet). I need to get rid of clutter, throw out anything that's bad, and reorganize what I keep. Like the cabinets, the manuscript must be organized and workable.


But I so don't want to do this, it's overwhelming (and I'm sure anyone who knows me knows I HATE multiple revisions). This manuscript is 385 pages. To do it all at once, I think I'd rather clean the cabinets. But like the cabinets, if I do one, two chapters a day, it will get done. With no deadline, there's no panic. Plenty of time. Maybe too much time because I don't feel any pressure. Some people, like me, work better under pressure so I'll impose one on myself. I want to be done with cleaning the kitchen by the time school starts in September. I want to be done with this revision by November so I can work on my NaNoWriMo project. In between I have scheduled book events, blogs to write, bell practice/performances, holidays, family obligations, and who knows what else will come up.

Here's my attack plan:

1- Inventory. (What do I have in the cabinets, what's in the story outline?)
2- Check what's no good. (Is that box of crackers stale? Is that plot thread working?)
3- Empty the trash. (Yep, box of crackers and can of nuts have to go. And that character is dead to me.)
4- Rearrange what's left. (All crackers on one shelf, straighten out plot hole left by dead & gone character.)
5- Restock. (Buy new crackers that everyone will eat, add details to smooth out plot changes.)
6- Polish. (Coat of wax on wooden cabinets, read through for any grammar, spelling, or other mistakes.)
7- Start the next project. (Cleaning out closets, working on NaNo project.)

Now I have to clean two cabinets and revise two chapters since I spent yesterday reading, thinking about what to write for this post, and doing physical therapy for my knee (nothing serious). No excuses, just gotta do it.

Keep cleaning- cabinets, manuscripts, whatever...


Char



Monday, August 14, 2017

Cha-cha-changes!



A new blog! (for me). I'm joining the ranks of peeps at Smack dab in the middle blog! I'll be joining Holly Schindler, Jane Kelley, Deborah Lytton, Ann Haywood Leal, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Lizzie K. Foley, Sheila O'Connor, Claudia Mills, Irene Latham, Platte F. Clark, Jody Feldman, Sarah Dooley, and Dia Calhoun. I am in such esteemed company- they have written numerous wonderful and award winning middle grade books. These are some pretty big footsteps to follow, but I'm game!

I'll be posting on the 29th of the month. There are monthly themes this bevy of middle grade authors write about, but they'll be expanding to reviews, interviews with teachers and librarians and guest posts. And, if we have a good idea outside the box, you'll see that. I've already planned out my first post, and you can be sure I'll mention it here. I'm still keeping this blog (unless I have a bestseller that sells millions and I can hire a personal assistant to do it for me).

Also changing- my new website is coming! I've been working on it, with lots of help from the Authors Guild. You'll be able to go charlottebennardo.com and see it soon. I'll be doing a giveaway, so stay tuned! I hope you'll stop by when it's up and running, and leave a comment. Until it's completed, I'll still be here, with all the pages and my posts.

Until then, I'm kind of setting up new events (check the "What's Up?" page) and working on public relations while I try to iron out the final kinks in the website and the migraine-inducing process of getting Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans and Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons onto Smashwords. (It is my premonition that a computer-tech glitch will give me an aneurysm.) It's hard getting rivals (CreateSpace/Amazon vs. Smashwords to cooperate. Man, it's one of the things I hate about Indie publishing.)

While our country and the world is in chaos, I wish you a few moments of peace. I hope this helps:






Keep hopeful and compassionate,

Char



Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Random Tips About Querying Agents...

Re: mg fantasy query for Agent X


Yep, I'm still slogging along with the agent search. That's normal; very few people accept/get accepted by the first agent who responds. Being that this is my second time around, here are five random tips I've learned about querying agents:

1.  Make sure the agent handles what you write. Okay, they like and want middle grade sci fi, which you have at least one complete manuscript. But suppose you have an idea for a young adult historical fiction that you're really excited about- only the agent you're looking at or who responded doesn't do historical fiction? I foresee three choices: one, you forget about it because their guidelines specifically listed no historical fiction. Two, you write it and self publish. (I don't think this goes over very well with agents...). And third, you work on it and when you feel the time is write, break up with your agent and shop it around (but check with agent to make sure they haven't changed their minds. Or, they might not represent it, but will let someone in their agency handle it.). It's your call.

2. Read. Their. Submission. Guidelines. This seems like a no-brainer, but even wise authors make the mistake of 'skimming over' the guidelines. I've automatically assumed every agent wants a short bio, short synop, and the first 10 pages of the manuscript within the email, no attachments, and use the word 'query' in the subject line. Almost all the time, those are the basics. Recently though, I had one agent who asked for first 50 pages. Another wanted to know what was the last book I read, and what author influenced me the most, etc. Gotta read it ALL. Every time.

3. Even if agents say they always respond to every query, don't hold your breath (or become like Harry Potter in front of the Mirror of Erised, waiting...waiting...). Sometimes things happen and the agent can't keep that promise. You shouldn't put your life and writing on hold for someone who may never know you're at home, waiting in your prom dress, for a date that will never knock on the door. Keep sending queries out. Most won't acknowledge unless interested, only a few will send an automatic "we got the query" with the footnote not to bug them with follow-ups, and a very rare few send a personal email- eventually. Keep submitting to other agents. Life is short.

4. Make sure your short bio and concise synopsis are current. I recently sent out a query package only to realize the bio didn't have my latest book. (I'm still finding variations on my computer, social media and other websites that list my old agent.) Check. It. First. Before you attach/copy. If you can, have someone who knows you well read it. Also, make sure the manuscript sample is the correct number of pages; don't try to be sneaky and add more. The excuse 'you have to see how this chapter/situation/conflict ends' won't work. Sending more than they initially requested shows that you can't/won't take direction. And, I think it's more of a cliff hanger if you suddenly end on something like, "As the door creaked, she turned around and saw-" Saw what??? Your sample should be interesting enough to catch their attention. If not, revisions or submitting to another agent are called for.

5. Don't ask a friend who has an agent to 'recommend' you to theirs. Everyone who doesn't have a famous relative or their own fame has to go through this process. You have to do the work of querying. The information helps establish communication and interest. Your friend's agent may not be right for you, even if the agent repped 50 Shades and everyone wants to sign with them. Read agent and agency bios and/or meet them at a conference. Most of the time, there are no shortcuts in querying. So come join the rest of us and we'll slog through this together. First person to get an amazing agent buys the drinks.

Till then, keep querying.

Char

Monday, July 31, 2017

This Is Dedicated To The One I....



...Love, am related to, working with, want to remember, am obligated to, have to name because the family will harass me if I don't, want to impress, want to embarrass, etc.

You get the idea; people dedicate their books to others for a variety of reasons. I've dedicated my books to my family (because my husband and kids had to live with me and eat lots of leftovers, and my mother had to listen to me whine about no love for Jack), to former teachers (you can blame them I went into writing because of their encouragement), my former co-author and agent (keeping good working relationships is important!), and finally, ME.

Yep, I dedicated Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, to me. I wrote this series over 10 years ago and through the agonizing process of submitting to editors and agents, doing numerous revisions, and worrying about it dying a lonely, unloved death, I Indie published. Rough road, not recommended for all, but it was something I felt I had to do. So kudos to me. Here it is:

To: Me. I've dedicated books to family and friends, even animals. I've worked so hard to make this dream-this series-a reality. So here's to me!

For the final book, Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons, I just had to dedicate it to my illustrator, Cathy Thole-Daniels. Here's the full dedication:

To: Cathy Daniels. Her illustrations showed Jack's spunk, Collin's compassion, and the features of each animal that made them a character that won't be forgotten. She never complained when I made changes, although there weren't many to make because she understood immediately what I wanted. Many people have remarked on the beautiful covers, which attracted them to buy the book. So a gigantic thank you for giving my project of love your best work. If Jack ever pops up again, he knows he's in good paws.

It's not easy trying to decide to whom you will dedicate your book. Name one cousin, another will get mad. Leave out a critique group member, and they may leave the group. Mention both editors but not a publicist or agent, and it's awkward. (I think my next dedication will be the agent who signs me and the editor who buys the book. Is that enticing anyone....?)

Here are some others borrowed from the BookBub website (here):

"This book's dedicated to everyone you hate. Sorry. Life's like that sometimes." (Ruins, by Dan
Wells)

"For my father, who is not evil. Well, maybe a little bit." (City of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare)

"This is not for you." (House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski)

This is my favorite- I wish I'd thought of it because it applies to my family (from heavy.com, The 30 Funniest Book Dedications):

"To those who inspired it and will not read it." (They don't cite the author, but I will be happy to put it in when I find out who this genius is...)

And finally, same site, but no author attribution: "Dedicated to everyone who wonders if I am writing about them. I am."

(There were some really funny ones, but the language...)

So when dreaming up your own dedication, whether you need it right now or are only planning ahead for when that time comes, just think: you can write what you want- and the publisher and copyeditor may not be able to edit it! Be creative, but remember that once it's in print...it's forever.

Char




Monday, July 24, 2017

5...4...3...2...1...!

I'm giving away 5 copies of Evolution Revolution: Book 3, Simple Lessons starting today! The books are in stock, so I'm ready to give some away!



Here's a little teaser:

Evolution Revolution, Book 3:
Simple Lessons
By Charlotte Bennardo
Chapter 1
Over The Hill
Jack the squirrel looked at the picture his human friend, Collin, held up. Rolling anything round he understood. He used rolling to move the nuts closer to his tree and rocks to stop construction machine wheels. Wagons he understood. Collin built one for him.
But Collin wasn’t showing him anything new. Jack hopped closer to Collin, his tail flicking expectantly, his black eyes wide with curiosity.
“I don’t understand what he’s trying to show me,” said Jack.
Rat wiggled his few whiskers. “Too bad we don’t have Bird.”
“Rat,” said Jack, “Bird can only repeat human words she knows. She can’t ask Collin why.”
“Not yet,” said Rat, going over to a small table with a soft cloth in a heap, perfect for a sleep. “Wake me when you learn whatever Collin teaches you.” He closed his eyes.
“No sleeping, Rat! Now that you’re here, you’re going to learn too, so I don’t have to be the only one teaching the others.”
Rat grumbled and mumbled a bit, but moved closer.
“Jack,” said Collin, bringing the squirrel’s attention back to the picture. Collin propped the picture against the wall and dragged a long shallow plastic box closer.
Jack stepped over, sniffing it. Dirt. Then he looked back at Collin, waiting.
Collin leaned over the box. Using his hands, he scooped some dirt onto the table. Slowly a pile rose. Collin smoothed it into a hill, then patted it firmly down, like beaver did with mud on his dam.
Jack looked at him.
“Inclined plane,” said Collin.
Jack looked at the hill.
“Inclined plane,” repeated Collin.
Jack blinked. And stood there.
Collin pulled out a new wagon, exactly like one that Jack stole.
Is this Rat’s wagon?  
Making a little finger man, Collin pulled the wagon up the hill with a string harness.
Up, thought Jack. I know what up is. I want to learn something new.
Getting bored, Jack checked his fur for fluffiness. And bugs.
Collin put the wagon back at the bottom of the hill and held up the harness for Jack. Jack leapt over to the wagon and stepped into the harness. Collin put a chunk of banana, covered in creamy nut mud, at the end of the table.
No nut chunks? chattered Jack, disappointed. Collin always used nut mud with chunks. He refused to eat.  
Collin held it out to Jack.
Jack ignored him.
Looking at the banana, Collin smiled. “Sorry, Jack, no more chunky peanut butter left. It’s this or nothing.”
Jack heard the soft tone in Collin’s voice, but he was still annoyed. It was his favorite treat. But not today. No nuts!
“Are you going to eat that tasty bit, or can I have it?” asked Rat, hungrily eyeing the banana.
Jack twittered. Better something than nothing. “I’ll share,” he offered grudgingly. Dragging the wagon, Jack went around the hill toward the snack. When he came to a stick lying in his way, he stepped over. Jack stopped when the wagon refused to roll forward, and looked back. He waited for Collin to move the stick.
“Easy, Jack,” said Collin as he picked up both Jack and wagon, and set them on the base of the hill he made over the other end of the stick. “Up, Jack, up,” said Collin, giving the wagon a gentle push. Understanding the up motion of Collin’s hand, Jack pulled- and he and the wagon went over the hill, over the stick. Jack turned around, forgetting the banana. The wagon went over the hill which was over the stick...

Find out how Jack's story started with Evolution Revolution: Book 1, Simple Machinescontinues with Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans, and winds up (for now...) with Simple Lessons.


Please leave a review or mark it as To Read on Goodreads, maybe share the love by reading it with a kid, recommend it to someone. Jack wants to meet more good people! 
Now it's back to  writing, revising, and querying. Poolside. But it won't all be chill; I have words to chop, characters to pester, and agents to email. 
As Jack would say, it's back to whuck! 
Char



Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Here!

The final book in my Evolution Revolution series, Simple Lessons, is out! (ebook available on the 20th).


It's been a long journey (actually, a little less than a year, but it feels like sooooo long). Thanks to everyone for sharing this adventure. Sometimes it's brought me such joy, sometimes I wanted to cry. This was truly a project of passion.

Jack's adventures won't end (I don't know what that squirrel is up to at this moment, but I'm sure he'll stop by to tell me a story which I'll share with you-). While he's learned a lot: science, machines, and STEAM principles, like me, there's still so much more to be learned.

Thanks to all the people who've been with me for the journey- my illustrator, Cathy Daniels, my publicist Rebecca Grose of SoCal PR, my family, and my friends who've kept up with Jack and shown him book love. Thanks to those who've given me blurbs- author Darlene Beck-Jacobson and educator/consultant Elena Migliaccio. To those who reviewed Jack: Michael Gettel-Gilmartin from Project Mayhem, Feathered Quill blog, Critical Blast, Log Cabin Library, YA Central, Semicolon Blog, The Entertainment Report, and the numerous radio shows like WOCA Ocala Live!, WEOL in Ohio, Haystack Broadcasting Cover to Cover in Oregon, and Culture News Radio in NYC. Indie books must fight harder for recognition and I can't thank these people and organizations enough.

It's my hope that these books will get they attention as a professional product they deserve. So please, help a girl-and a squirrel out- leave a review, mark it as 'to read' and pass the word. And encourage the squirrels, and animals, in your yard, to trust you.

Char

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Book Festival Perfected

There are tons of book festivals. For a number of reasons, some just don't work . My experience at the perfect book festival was attending the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival. 

The event took place on June 17th, at the Talbot County Free Library in Easton, Maryland, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This is what they did right:

1.  Authors were nicely spaced in a large room. One 6' table for 2 authors. Since authors didn't have to handle the sales, only displays and swag were on the table, freeing up room to actually sign books. Author readings were held in an adjacent room, doors closed, so the noise level was always low.

2. Since the library handled sales, it left authors free to engage attendees. When authors ate lunch or used the restrooms, they didn't have to worry about losing a sale or asking someone to tell people they'd be back in a few minutes.

3. The library bought 10 copies of recent books outright. (For me it was books 1 and 2 in the Evolution Series). That is a guaranteed sale. Any books that weren't sold were donated to area schools or clubs. Authors were allowed to bring additional copies and the library handled the sales for them too. After the event, authors invoiced the library organizers for the surplus books sold. And they paid promptly! No waiting months! 

4.  When an author applied to be included, the library responded in a timely manner so the author knew if they were accepted and could make other plans if not. A number of festivals don't bother- not even with a follow up from the author with a simple request to let them know.

5.  Plenty of volunteers brought water, asked if authors needed anything, etc. And then they shopped!

6. Enough parking for all! This is a problem at many events, but the library staff had it all figured out.

7.  A relatively new festival ( second or third year?), but there was almost a steady flow of shoppers because the library, staff, and others promoted the event through schools, communities, etc. A lot of people came from outlying towns- and told me they wait all year for it. That's effective PR.

8.  They welcomed Indie authors. A lot of festivals are a bit snobbish about having Indie/hybrid authors. We need love too! (Why not read the book before you say no? There are many successful Indie authors, so traditional publishers aren't always right about what makes a good book.)

9.  They lined up corporate sponsors which defrayed the cost of the festival, allowing the library to buy books, advertise, and give a book coupon to many kids. Plus, there was an author dinner the preceding night free for authors and 1 guest.

10. The staff, volunteers, and attendees were gracious, helpful, and excited to have us there. I wanted to hug them all.

Thanks to Tim Young, co-organizer, who invited me. I hope to go back every year! Enjoy some pics of my Kidlit Authors Club colleagues- (next time I have to remember to do a selfie!)

Tara! And of course, Norman!

Mt tablemate, Laurie, with Grace Hopper and Ada Byron Lovelace!

"Bee-utiful" Alison and our newest Kidlit member, Robin Newman.

Colleen Kosinski, looking as fresh as a sunflower!

That hand would be me... with Book 2 of Jack's story.

Char


Monday, June 26, 2017

All's Well That Ends Well...

Here it is!



The final (actual) book in the Evolution Revolution series: Book 3, Simple Lessons.

It's been a whitewater rafting type of ride. So many ups- from working with a wonderful illustrator to seeing how beautiful all 3 books came out, to the downs- having to go it alone for books 2 & 3, and not being welcomed by bookstores, libraries, festivals, etc. because this series is Indie published. (Why not look at it and judge for yourself rather than dismiss it out-of-hand?) I'm both sad and glad to see the series completed.

I have one more secret about the book to reveal, but all in good time. (It should be available for ordering by the end of this week.)

Now I plan to concentrate on revising several manuscripts whose time I think has come. I'm still agent querying. My NaNoWriMo project needs to get a finished outline. I'm working on getting school visits for Jack and his story. In between, I have house projects to do and I want to spend time in my pool/yard.

If you could, post a review, give a little love, and to entice you, here's an inside pic of Jack showing off his newly learned science principles...


Don't you wonder what this squirrel is up to that he has to fight off a human?

See ya around-

Char


Monday, June 19, 2017

No Such Thing as Vacation....

When you're a writer, 'vacation' doesn't mean the same thing to us as it does to everyone else. Kind of like when someone suggests a 'vacation' at a house instead of a hotel- you have to do laundry, cooking, dishes, straightening up, and at some rentals, bring your own sheets, towels and blankets. Besides having to make beds, you have to pack all the stuff for them. You call that a vacation??

Same thing with writing. Although the kids are out of school, for me it just means that I don't have to run the youngster around to fencing, SAT tutoring, school activities, etc. But this is what I will be doing on my 'vacation:'

1. Revising a number of novels because I still love them and hope a new agent/editor will too.

2. Continue the agent search/query.

3.  Outline new novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I still haven't suffered enough doing it four times already.

4. Redesigning a new website. I hate tech work, so this is probably a two year project. Unless someone feels sorry for me and offers to help (not that my boys would....).

5. Work on my marketing. I need more attention for my middle grade series, Evolution Revolution. There very little love out there for Indies (even if well written and illustrated).

Yep, this is what I have to look forward to...
All those tasks are in addition to non-writing projects:

1. Finish painting and maintenance of church parsonage for new pastor to move in.

2.  Paint the pool bar (been a few years, looking dingy).

3.  Scrape and paint the concrete area where the pool filter is (got too burned out when I had to do the rest of the deck, but this spot sticks out and this bothers me. A lot.).

4.  Paint ceiling and walls in my bedroom (water leak).

5.  Continue the de-clutter. Slowly. Inch by inch. Step by step....

How I dream of this....
So, I don't even want to hear the word vacation- until September when everyone's at work and school and the house is quiet... I may actually get a day of quiet to just write for pleasure.

What's on your to do list for 'vacation?'

Char

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Story DOES Matter!

At the NJ SCBWI annual conference last weekend, I took a workshop titled, "Writing Marginalized Voices in Children's Books," which was presented by Andrea Loney and Emma Otheguy. It's one thing to believe in writing diverse characters- and another in getting it right.

Recently, a publishing professional told me that if I wasn't the same ethnicity as my characters, "That's a problem," and getting my work published would be very difficult, if not impossible. If I were to follow that dictate, then all I could write are stories with characters that are German and Swedish- and I would then be accused of only writing from the white perspective. It's a Catch 22 with no win for me. I might as well just give up writing because that's NOT what I want: a strictly 'white only' point of view. (To read that post, scroll down).

I shared a dinner table with Emma, who is of Cuban descent, and I met Andrea, a woman of color, at the workshop. They discussed how unrepresented these voices, stories, and people are. And besides being underrepresented, sometimes they are represented incorrectly. There are books out there rife with stereotypes which need to be discarded. Also, she and Emma talked about how polarizing books and writing around ethnicity can be.

Andrea gave us opportunities to talk about these things. I mentioned that in my middle grade book series, Evolution Revolution (Simple Machines, Simple Plans, Simple Lessons), the main characters are animals, and the main secondary character is a boy of color. When I showed the cover of the book, which features Jack the squirrel, to white children, they bought the book. When I showed children of color the picture of the boy who looked like them, they bought the book but white children mostly didn't. Same book, different responses. It's such a conundrum to me on how to present the book. I don't want to use two different approaches to discuss/sell my book depending on the ethnicity of the audience. It's an animal book, a science book, an adventure book. (There are other humans characters of other ethnicities and genders). Should I just give in and make all my characters white like me, even if it doesn't fit the story? (The character is also physically challenged and is homeschooled.)

Andrea's response was for us to write the story. BUT- make sure to do the research. Is my character accurately representing this ethnicity without stereotype? If I feel confident it is technically correct, a 'sensitivity reader' - person of color who can point out any stereotypical flaws in dialogue, appearance, customs, etc. that I may not realize I've employed, will help further ensure that I am presenting a marginalized voice/character will all fairness.

This is what writers across the spectrum need to hear, understand, and embrace. We all hate the stereotypes that we're faced with (I get really tired of 'dumb blonde' jokes, Nazi references, misogynistic remarks). I'm sure that's only an inkling of what marginalized people face.

But I took away that the story matters. I can write marginalized voices and characters, and so can you. If we write precisely, no one should question that even though we don't have the credentials of being born a specific ethnicity, we can still write that story. The only way to bring marginalized voices and people to wide acceptance is to keep writing that story the way it should be written.

I've gotten much more from this workshop from both Andrea and Emma, who related her experiences of her Cuban heritage and the journey of writing her book than I can do justice in this short post. Check out Andrea's picture book, Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! and her other books here. For Emma's book, Marti's Song for Freedom, debuting Spring 2017, check here to pre-order or check for launch date.

Char


Monday, June 5, 2017

Love Lift Us Up...

I'm not going to get mushy on you, talking about love thy neighbor (though we need it), or love yourself (have you, lately?).

I'm sharing my 'love' of the children's book writing community. I'm an author, so I try to support writers- published and waiting to be. But today, I want to focus on the other half- the illustrators.

You all know I LOVE my illustrator, Cathy Daniels.


You've seen the Evolution Revolution series covers (I hope)- book 1, Simple Machines, book 2, Simple Plans,  and book 3, Simple Lessons. Here's a sneak peek at an interior illustration for Simple Lessons:


The picture tells a piece of the story (but read the whole book to see the other great pictures and get the whole story). Many people have been attracted to the book (kids and adults) because of the illustrations. When they're done this well, you know the illustrator put the best effort (and then some) into their work. If you're going Indie, don't be cheap and have your child scribble something. Hire a professional artist. You get what you pay for, and if your book is that important, doesn't it deserve wonderful illustrations? Check out Cathy's other works here.

My next gush is Mike Ciccotello. He's sort of newcomer to the New Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I 'discovered' him last year, walking through the juried art show at our annual conference. This was his piece:


When I told him how much it 'spoke' to me, he gave me the print! It hangs in my office so I can always remember the joy and spark of imagination of being a child. This year, Mike won the People's Choice Award! Here's the pic:


And it's sitting in my office! I'm having huge fangirl moments here! After his family, I think I'm his biggest groupie! So I have the Mike wall. Check out Mike's work here. (I think he should make his own coffee cups- these are fab, but make sure to stroll around his site and see all his work.) And notice that he'd make a good book illustrator too....

But there is so much love to go around. My friend, Colleen Rowan Kosinski, gave me her signed print! Check it out:


 Notice the character in the background to the left... Her picture book, Lila's Sunflowers, debuted a few months ago, and is a wonderful story about- well, I won't ruin the surprise. It's touching and moving (tissue alert for sentimental slobs like me.) Check out her book and her work here.  More books are forthcoming, so I don't have to tell you what a talented illustrator she is.

There are soooo many wonderful artists at the conference, and I wish I could showcase them all. My friend, Kathy Temean, is working on displaying as many of the artwork as she can, so check out her blog over the next week or so and see the other outstanding, incredible, I'm-so-damn-jealous-of-their-talent artists. Visit their websites/blogs, praise them for their work. Spread the love. In a frightening world, art soothes the soul, calms the nerves, and lightens the heart.

Now I'm going to doodle some stick figures....

Char

Monday, May 29, 2017

Doing it Legal, Doing it Right...

First of all, a thoughtful Memorial Day to all as we take time out to remember, honor, and miss those who gave all or some of their lives for our liberties and country.


My dad and two uncles served respectively in the Navy and the Army.  I salute them and all the members of the Armed Forces, past and present. May God Bless America.

On a different note...

Lookee!


Registration of Copyrights for Evolution Revolution: Book 1, Simple Machines, and Evolution Revolution: Book 2, Simple Plans! Book 3, Simple Lessons, coming soon!

Be safe, be grateful, be compassionate, be diligent....

Char

Monday, May 22, 2017

Blurb, Blurb, Blurb...

Congratulations! Someone asked you to write a blurb for their novel.

After reading the book, it doesn't feel like an honor anymore, it feels like a trap.

Because you don't like the book.

You don't want to insult the author/friend with an honest "I didn't like it" tag, nor do you want to lie "I loved it!"

Sticky situation, yes, but it doesn't have to be, you're getting yourself worked up for nothing. You don't have to say you loved it, or even liked it. You are not required to mention the love triangle would bore your 90-year-old Puritan grandmother, or the over-description slowed the pace so much a snail was Indy 500 worthy in comparison. Nowhere are there rules for writing blurbs- except one: it has to come from the heart. Seems like a conundrum?



Consider this: "Fashion, witty prose, intrigue, and action- Blonde OPS has it all!" Author/publisher/ friend Shannon Delany wrote this blurb. Does it tell you if she absolutely adored it? No. Couldn't put it down? Nope. Had to create a fan club or she'd die? No way. What Delany does is tell you what the novel has: fashion, witty prose, intrigue, and action (all true). Those key words alone should help the reader decide if they want to read it. Using my own books as illustration (lest there be any misunderstanding about how wonderful everyone else's book is), here is the review for Sirenz Back in Fashion from Booklist: "The experiences of this sartorial odd couple are funny and entertaining... Bennardo and Zaman are bringing the gods into the twenty-first century." What a great review, right?


Well, kind of. Booklist was middle of the road; it liked some aspects, didn't like others. Those ellipses means there are other words in between the quotes. When using a not-starred review, authors, publishers, agents, and publicists put a positive spin on it by kind of hopping over the not-so-nice parts.

That's how you have to think- compartmentalize. List what you liked about the story; it could be that it's sci fi, that it has a dragon, that there is a tender romance. A few choice words are all that is needed. If I was asked to blurb Game of Thrones, which after three years I still haven't finished the first book because it's so dense, here's what I would say: "Rich and vivid description, deadly royal intrigue, and a diverse cast of villainy, Game of Thrones will keep you wondering who's next to die..." All that is true. And really, I constantly wondered who was the next corpse. Nowhere do I say I love it, or that you should spend your money on the books. Readers have to decide that for themselves. Perusing a few pages will tell them if it's something they would like.

So don't fret if someone asks you to do a blurb. You won't commit a mortal sin by helping an author out with a few words, even if you don't like the story. Blurbs are important because it may draw a potential reader in when they glance at the back cover. With so many books out there, decisions have to be made where to spend limited money. Books without a blurb may leave the impression that they aren't 'good' because no one will endorse them. Celebrities and well-known authors have no trouble getting blurbs. For a mid-list or debut author without connections, it's a struggle. I have seven books (soon eight) with my name on them and getting blurbs from the writing community is a nightmare (and I don't know any celebs) because they are afraid to commit.

Blurbs are an important starting point to book success. If you can help bring a reader to a book, it's the author's job to keep them in. Please say yes and gift the author with a few well-chosen words.

Char


Monday, May 8, 2017

Toughen Up, Cupcake!

Being an author is not for the weak, easily offended, or aggressive person. One critique can send you home in a fit of anger--or tears.



And then there are the agent and editor rejections. Nothing will prepare you for this, it's worse than being last one standing on the gym field and the two teams fighting over who has to choose you.

As I go through the latest rounds of submitting queries, hoping to hear, and reading the 'no's', it's time to bite my tongue (oh, sometimes it's so hard...).I thought I'd share a few of those memorable rejections so you know that you're not the only one who scratches your head at a response and thinks, what the hell?

The "Worst Rejection EVER":

On a scrap of paper (it was 2 inches wide. This cheap publishing house got 5 rejection slips on one sheet of standard paper), it read that not only did they not like the submission, but to "never submit anything to us again." Wow. That editor was definitely not a people person. But, they needn't worry; any editor who could send such a nasty rejection is not someone my Sirenz co-author and I would want to work with anyway.

The "Funny in an ironic way" rejection:

We submitted queries for Sirenz to many editors and agents. I ran into one such editor at Book Expo America, and said hello. She expressed interest in Sirenz. It was hard to keep a straight face when I told her she'd had it for two years- and that my co-author and I were at BEA to do a signing for it.

Runner up: a letter of rejection by another editor over two years later. Guess he was cleaning out his in-box and we were on the bottom.

Most rejections are form letters which is fine-as long as it isn't years later. Really, if an agent/editor was queried over six months ago, and I've followed up to ask if they were still interested and they didn't respond, I've written them off- and sent out queries to others.

The "Are you kidding me?" response:

You have to wonder about people in any business who take the time to write and send an insulting letter. A well known editor from a top publishing house wrote that besides not liking my story, she didn't like my writing. She wasted time better spent going through the slush pile looking for a possible bestseller just to write me a nasty letter. Based on that, I know I would not have liked working with her, so it was a win both ways. I still run into her at conferences. I'm cordial, but would never send anything to her again.

Believe it or not, it's nice to receive a personally written rejection. It's rare and special because not only does it mean the person queried took the time to read my manuscript, but to respond with thoughtful insight. Some offered general advice (join the SCBWI) and some suggestions pertinent to improving my story. To me, even though they are not accepting my manuscript, they are encouraging me. For the rare few who take the time to offer advice or suggestions, I thank you.

Most however, don't respond unless they're interested. To keep yourself from hanging around, waiting, waiting, waiting as precious time slips away (you should be working on something anyway), send out more queries. Gone are the days of 'exclusive submission.' Agents and editors can't expect a submitting author to wait for a single response-when it may never come. I can't count how many submissions never got a response. Asking me to send one query out at a time is unrealistic, and, I think, selfish.

The "Oh, that hurts"  rejection:

You get a rejection, and from the response you know they didn't read the query/excerpt/manuscript because they mention things that either don't appear in your story, or it's all wrong. Possibly a simple mix-up, but disheartening because the impression you made was so blah they mixed you up with others in the pile.

It's time to put these rejections in the recycle pile. While it was sometimes funny, it was bittersweet to look through them and wonder if I'd be farther down the road in my publishing dreams. I'm a different writer than I was back then, even a few months ago, when this new search began. And that's the nature of being an author. You take the rejections and suggestions, learn from them and move on.

Char


Monday, April 24, 2017

1, 2, Book 3! Debut!

Here it is - the final cover in my Evolution Revolution series, Book 3, Simple Lessons!



While this is the last book in the series, there's nothing from keeping Jack my genius squirrel from coming back for a visit - maybe for a short story, maybe for one more book, maybe for another series. Stories never really do end, do they?

Cathy Thole-Daniels, the illustrator, exceeded all my expectations. She listened to my suggestions, explained why she chose certain images, textures, and scenes. We didn't have any difficulties working together. I stood back and let her take charge; she's the artistic talent right? I only got involved when Cathy asked my opinion or I felt a change was needed. (They were always small ones.)  I've said before that people have been drawn to the books because of the covers and the illustrations. I can't wait to see what the interior illustrations for Simple Lessons will look like!

While yesterday was World Book Day, celebrate during the week- buy a book from an Indie or less-well known author. We need the book love!

And stay tuned for a sneak peek at an interior illustration!

Char

Monday, April 17, 2017

Who Doesn't Love A Book Festival?

Like many authors, I attend book festivals. I like meeting and talking to people about books, being an author, giving writing tips--and selling my books.

Some book festivals are wonderfully organized, I return year after year, even if I don't sell a lot of books (you never know when you're going to make that one connection that changes everything).

Some are so awful, I don't return. I hear authors complaining about certain aspects of the festivals, so here's small punchlist of things to consider if you're planning a book festival- whether you're a librarian or a bookstore owner, it's going to be huge, or just a few authors. The list isn't all-inclusive as there are many aspects, but it's some of the things I notice most when fellow authors talk about the merits of one festival over another. Not in order of significance they are:

1. Let the authors know well ahead of time if there will be beverages/snacks/food available. If you aren't supplying them, fine, but we need to know so we can plan. It's impossible to do an event that is several hours long and go without food or water. When we travel for several hours, fresh food doesn't always hold up, so be humane let us know if there are shops or delis nearby.

2. With events in libraries and bookstores, sometimes you don't want us to eat at our tables. While this is understandable, we need somewhere to eat. A small room with table, chairs, and waste baskets is all we need.

3.  We all want to make the event successful, and that means getting the word out. Social media is the quickest, least expensive method. We have fans, but more importantly, you have ties to the community that are more lucrative. You can reach out to schools, PTOs, library patrons, bookclubs, and others in a larger area, especially if you are a county library or a city event. If you can publicize, and more than just a notice on your event calendar, please do so. We promise to blurb, tweet, post, and announce the event numerous times.

4. If you have someone in-house who designs event or specialty logos, share those logos with us. We love to showcase libraries or bookstores or whomever is planning the event. It brings you good PR, increases awareness of your organization or business, and maybe increases traffic for you. Plus, on our posts, it looks very professional that the event has its own logo. It means people are invested in promoting the event, they are in earnest.

5.  When authors apply to attend the event, please respond with a yes, you're accepted, or no, we've reached capacity. It's rude not to respond, and by letting us know-in a timely fashion- we can either fill our calendar with another event, or we can prepare properly for yours. We may need to create presentations, make travel arrangements, and order books. With email, there is no reason, even if a large amount of authors apply, for you not to respond (mass email is better than nothing). By not responding, you get a not-so-good reputation...

6. Make sure you have the space! The worst event I attended had authors in between book stacks at a library, and mixed YA and MG in the picture book section. There was almost no traffic-for the entire event. That's a set up for failure.

7. Another problem- putting too many authors at one table. Ideally, 3 feet of space, or, 2 authors to a 6' table, is perfect. Any smaller, and there isn't enough room for each display books, promo materials, sign, and sit. Card tables are a nightmare....

8.  Don't wait until January to plan a March event. Start a year in advance, even if you don't have a firm date. If you've never organized an event, you don't realize all the work that goes into planning. By starting early, you give yourself time to a) pick a good date, b) pick a rain date if applicablen c) get the space reserved if needed, d) start building a list of authors you'd like to contact, e) decide on a budget (do you have to pay for the space? will you offer food/drink to authors? etc.), f) work up a logo or promotional materials and have a PR plan (where will you advertise, getting info to authors for them to publicize, asking friends and colleagues to share, etc.), g) work out a schedule (will there be author panels and/or presentations? Will you have a well-known featured author?), h) recruit volunteers; one person can't do it all, i) make sure there is adequate parking for both authors and attendees. Just one snag and you'll be glad you left extra time to work it out.

9.  Talk to organizers of successful events, like YA Fest, BooksNJ, etc. (Google for a list of other events). Some planners may be too busy to respond, so my advice is to target librarians and smaller event organizers.

10. If you're going to charge the authors a fee to attend and sell their books, tell us up front. Your initial email should include this information, or if we're 'required' to join your organization to appear. Most authors will pass up an event if there is a charge unless it's a proven money maker. We have travel expenses and then to pay for the event is generally not cost effective. It's not fair, or ethical, to spring a fee on us at the last minute; and don't be surprised if authors do back out suddenly, leaving you with fewer appearing.

11. Don't forget to collect author bios, headshots, and book covers, plus book information. Do that at least several months in advance (we will update if a new book debuts). This is good info for your PR, especially if an author has a bestseller, won an award, or has a local/interesting connection.

12. We must know if a bookstore will be handling book ordering and sales, or if we are managing our own. Some authors won't do hand sales; you need to know this, and we need to know if we have to order books and pack them. Also, if a bookstore is handling the sales, we need a contact number in case we want to check that our books are in stock. Nothing angers an author more than going to an event and the bookstore didn't have the courtesy to tell them they couldn't/didn't get the book. So we traveled, and sat there, for hours, with no books to sell. And yes, this happens more than infrequently. Additionally, what are the terms; will the bookstore only order a maximum of X books, unless we buy back the unsold ones? Will they offer us a discount on buybacks since they won't have restocking /shipping fees? What about Indie authors: bookstores generally won't handle their books, so are they free to sell while traditionally pubbed have to take whatever terms the bookstore dictates? Can we opt out of bookstore sales if we think the terms are unreasonable?

13. Talk to Authors. We make the rounds of many events and know which ones are well organized. Maybe we can offer some suggestions, or give you the contact info of someone who might be able to help. You could do a quick email survey asking what they'd like to see, what they don't. While you can't please everyone, our input will give you a clearer idea of some of the issues that need to be addressed when planning these events.

14. If authors are making presentations, what about our tables, loaded with books and our things? Will someone watch them (people have 'thought' the books, left unattended, were 'free.' See the problem?) If a volunteer can't be spared, we may need to pack up our things, leaving a sign that we'll return after our presentation/panel. This is a huge hassle. Sometimes, our fellow authors can cover our tables, but if several of us are on the same panel, the tables are left unattended.

The best book festival I ever attended was PAYA (PA loves YA). And it was organized/run by a high school girl. It had a good number of authors, food, space- and one year, even with a hurricane on its way- the place was packed and I've never sold as many books at one time. She went off to college, and sadly, no one stepped into her place. I miss that festival!

So it can be done. These are only a few of the many things you'll need to consider, but if you're serious about starting a festival, or trying to improve one (very few are greatly successful the first year, so hang in there), you can do it.

We authors are cheering you on!


(This was at PAYA, one of the most successful, and best run book festivals.)

Char

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

You Are What You Write, Aren't You?

I'm trying to be thoughtful and careful with this post. I know some people are going to read it the wrong way, and be offended, but I'm opening this subject up for discussion, because it needs to be heard.

I recently had a publishing professional look at my middle grade manuscript. It's historical fiction, set in 1939-41 Berlin, at the zoo. The main character, Tomas Durr, is a young German boy, fourteen years old. The premise is based on actual events; with the backing of Hermann Goring (second-in-command to Hitler, creator of the Gestapo, and Nazi party leader), the director of the Berlin Zoo, Lutz Heck, and his brother, Heinz Heck, director of the Munich Zoo, embarked on a program to 'resurrect' (by faulty eugenics), extinct animals. Tomas and his family are fictional, but the Heck brothers and Goring, are of course real. Through the novel, Tomas discovers that animals are 'discarded' if they aren't perfect, paralleling the genocide of the Jews. The horrors of war-forcing children to join the Jugend (Nazi Youth) at ten years old, turning in family and/or friends for suspected treason, the increasingly desperate conditions, etc. are other situations that arise. This is not a Holocaust novel; the disappearance of the Jews is mentioned, not delved into. I've researched for historical accuracy to make the character of Tomas Durr acceptable.

Upon sitting for my critique, I was asked, "Are you German or Jewish?"

?

"If you aren't, that's problematic." It is because, in the movement to increase diversity, it seems that some in  the publishing world only consider authors whose ethnicity (or psychology or economics or experience, etc.) matches that of their characters to write the story.

I'm German (and Swedish), but if I wasn't, am I 'unqualified' to write a story which was my 'creation?' Will I have to give up my storylines to others because they 'match' the character and I don't?

I understand the need for diversity and the need for marginalized voices to be heard. But, if no one from that background writes the story or it is the brainchild of someone who is different from the character, should we kill the story? Take the story away from them?

Following this logic, I can only write female, German/Swedish/Christian/middle class stories set in Long Island, Connecticut, or New Jersey. No male point of view. No outer space. No science, crime, foreign shores, or even one of a set of twins story- because that doesn't match me. There goes my middle grade animal adventure story series, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines/Simple Plans/ Simple Lessons- because I'm not a squirrel. I don't live in the woods. I don't know what it's like to fight off a fox, an owl, or construction machines. What about Blonde OPS? I'm not a hacker. but should I have learned to be, rather than research about it so my voice is 'authentic' enough? Where does one draw the line; at picture books? Unless it's scholarly, biographies might be suspect, and we can go on from there.

Won't this narrow our perspective, further dividing us? Can you imagine if Kathryn Stockett's  The Help was submitted under these guidelines? A white woman writing about the lives of black women. What about Shakespeare? No Romeo and Juliet, because he can't speak for women. Scratch Uncle Tom's Cabin because Harriet Beecher Stowe was not a Southern plantation overseer, nor an enslaved black man. Rudyard Kipling could not have written Kim, a story about young Indian boy- because Kipling was educated, white, upper class English. Think of all the stories that would be swept away if everyone adhered by this rule.

I support diversity and the promotion of marginalized voices, but instead of dismissing those authors who are vastly different from their characters and losing a vital story, if the voice is authentic, I think it should be heard. If I was writing about the Holocaust, I should use due diligence gathering my facts, and have someone who knows about the Holocaust read it for authenticity. During my elementary and middle school years, I lived in Bay Shore, Long Island. I had two best friends; Damari Colon, who was Puerto Rican, and Vicky Johnson, who was black. The schools and neighborhoods were culturally diverse. Does this give me any qualifications to include characters of different ethnicities, religions, economics, etc. in my stories? And if I don't include diverse characters because some would argue I'm not 'qualified,' then my writing becomes exactly like me- and I become guilty of writing with a narrow world view, which then becomes fodder for others to accuse me, rightly so, but from I situation I am forced into, of writing only from a caucasian point of view. How can both sides be accommodated?

What's the solution?

Char


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There's Always Room For Improvement...

I'm pressed for time this week, so I'm going to admit my 5 biggest flaws; my writing flaws that is.

1.  I hate to revise. I don't mind once, maybe three times, but I hate doing it over and over and over. That's the business though; revise until you, the agent, or the editor are satisfied.

2.  Once I've worked on a novel for about a year, I'm done. I want to move onto something else. Of course I polish and revise and rework, but sometimes I take little breaks in between to work on a new shiny. I'm not one of those people who re-read a certain book every year.

3.  It bothers me when I'm told to cut some aspect of my work-by editor, agent, critique group, etc. that I absolutely love. I rave, rant, clean the house like a crazy person, and procrastinate. Then, I calm down and make the changes. Mostly. Some, I just can't bring myself to do.

4.  I keep writing down new ideas, even though I have so many projects in various states of progress. I have files full of ideas. I want to write them all, but unless I could just write them and let someone else edit them, they won't get written...

5.  If I could, I would just write and sign books at events. I hate doing the PR footwork. A personal assistant would be a dream come true. Would also keep my office clean.

I'm sure I have other faults, but I'm pressed for time. And I don't want to admit to anything else.

Now I have to go back to finishing those hated edits.


Char



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

On My "To Do" List

I like lists. They help me feel organized and almost like I have control of my day and life. (Ha.) Here is today's list of Thing To Do (which may run for well over a month before I get them done):



1. Write this blog post (guess I can cross it off my list as soon as I post).

2. Upload 15 pages of manuscript for critique at NJ SCBWI annual conference.

3. Pack up books and supplies for the Pennsylvania State Local Authors book festival (at Hershey, PA. Details on my 'What's Up?' page).

4. Pack up books and supplies for the Barnes and Noble Educator's event at Marlton. (yep, details on my events page).

5. Follow up with agents who requested a partial or full manuscript. Keep fingers crossed.

6. Draft presentation for NJ SCBWI conference (cyber security and hacking).

7.  Drop off NJ SCBWI paperwork on Critique Day in Princeton to our Reg. Adv, Cathy.

8. Get in a swim.

9. Start revisions on MG ms requested by another agent.

10. Continue work on YA thriller.

I've already gone through emails (I have to monitor 3 accounts- family, my old yahoo one, and my author one on gmail), Facebook and Twitter updates, and checked in with my publicist. And, I fed the cats. Twice.

The writer's life- it's not all glorious writing.

I'll let you know how much I got done by next week...

Char


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Reviews Are...Not In

Reviews are important to an author, don't let anybody say they're not. They do help spread the word about a book. That doesn't mean only good reviews and tons of them are worthwhile. Here are 5 reasons why/how reviews are important:


  1. Reviews in Goodreads, Amazon, and similar venues spread the word among readers, which are generally the lifeblood of author sales. 
  2. Those reviews posted in Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, School Library Journal, and similar publications are a way for a novel to get noticed by industry professionals: agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers, etc.
  3. A review can be used on an author's blog, website, press release, even at the bottom of their email as a quick shout out to grab attention.
  4. When applying to book festivals, library or store events, a quick review blurb, like "loved the whimsy!" by PW helps the organizer to decide whom to select and to publicize the event to draw in crowds.
  5. When an author is a guest speaker, a glowing review from a well respected source, like PW or School Library Journal is used in the introduction: "PW called this novel a taut, well-paced thriller." This helps excite the audience to listen more closely than if the speaker said the author writes mysteries.
So if you can write a review, help an author out. Here are 5 tips to writing a review:

  1. It doesn't have to be long. A few well thought out sentences are easier and more valuable than paragraphs.
  2. Be precise; if you didn't like it, say why: "I thought the plot dragged" or "I don't like love triangles." This specificity will help others decide whether the book is for them and shows that you actually read the book.
  3. Try to be balanced. It's okay if you didn't like the book, not every book will appeal to every writer, but say one nice thing so it doesn't look like all you want to do is a hatchet job. That might lead to suspicion that you're a fan of another author and are willing to diss any other book hoping to help your friend. It can be as simple as, "But I did like the descriptions of the setting; I felt like I was in that town" or "I loved the cover."
  4. Even if it's months or years after the release, books are being evaluated by new readers and sometimes publishers will re-release the book with a new cover or added material. Plus, reviews are cumulative proof that the book merits attention.
  5. Post your review where an author can see them. We need to know what's out there. While no author should respond to a bad review, if we see someone didn't like it because there are no dragons in the story, we have the opportunity, when someone mentions it (and someone will) that the story is set in 1920s Chicago, and there aren't supposed to be dragons. (Yes, sometimes people post reviews which don't make any sense, and therefore, we know they haven't read the book or are just being negative.) Likewise, if it's a positive review, we can use it in our PR material and we can link to your blog or website (thereby sending more readers your way). 
My final message: if you are a blogger, reviewer, published author, librarian, teacher, or someone in a position to do a review, please do it. It's hard enough writing the story, then trying to find someone to review it. 

And yes, I would like someone to review book 2 in my series, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans. You can leave a comment or email me, and I'll get back to you. And thank you for taking the time! 

 

Char

Monday, March 13, 2017

Everything About Writing I Learned From...

Life.



Here are my 5 Rules about writing as taught to me by Life.

1. It's a job. Treat it with the respect, dedication, and seriousness that you would an outside-the-home job. That means putting in the hours, acting professionally in correspondence, and being mindful of who is out there reading, listening, watching...

2. There will be some people who will try to discourage, disparage, disagree, disapprove, disavow, disconcert, discredit, discriminate, disgrace, dishonor, disgust, disillusion, dislike, dismiss, disown, displace, disrupt, disrespect, disregard, dispute, distance, distort, distract, distress, distrust, and disturb you. Don't let them. Let them discover, discuss, and distinguish you. Your attitude should be pro YOU, but never at the expense of others, even if they are wrong.

3.  School never ends. Just because you got that B.A. or M.F.A. doesn't mean you're done. Did you know everything before moving out on your own? Getting married? Having a baby? Life changes and you've got to learn new things all the time. So too, with writing: latest trends, what editors are looking for, which agent would be the best fit, what to chop and revise, which POV works. etc. are things that you have to stay on top of.

4.  Copying isn't flattering-or legal. Don't try to be someone/something you're not. I love Sherrilyn Kenyon's, or Anne Rice's books, but copying them means denying my muse. Plus, it might invite a Cease and Desist Order. You want to leave your mark on the literary world-not hide in the shadow (however great) of others.

5.  You won't always win. Books get rejected or fail to sell, agents and editors cut you loose, reviewers tear you down. It's akin to getting sick, or fired, or breaking up. Bad things will happen, but life, and writing, go on. Keep going, don't quit.

Char