Sunday, December 28, 2008

Totally Wild

Crikey! The animals of Australia are totally wild. While there, we visited the Australia Zoo (home of the Crocodile Hunter) and a wildlife preserve. It amazed me how unique Australia's animals really are.

I mean, where else in the world do you have to worry about dingos stealing your steak off the barbie (American translation: BBQ)?

Luke was obsessed with feeding the kangaroos.

We saw the emu. Kind of looked like a peacock.

The cute little penguins. (I love penguins!)

I learned other things too. Like if you see a crocodile and it's chasing you, run in a straight line, 'cause they're actually quite slow on land.

Oh, and if you hit a koala, make sure you check to see if it's still alive. If it is, head on down to the nearest wildlife rescue center.

And, if you walk out your front door to find a giant snake hanging out there, don't panic. Just stroll on out the back door instead. After all, that's why you have more than one door- right?

When the animal experts were explaining all this to us at the various shows and talks, I wasn't so sure I could use this information since I live in an apartment in high rise city (Seoul). But then again, you never know...

Here's a wombat we petted.

Yep. There's no question about it. Australia is really a totally wild world.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Journaling- Capturing Senses

I'm back from the Land Down Under! It was a 10 hour flight but our two boys took it all in stride, happily playing with Leapsters, writing and drawing in their journals (What can I say? They have a mother whose obsessed with writing), watching unlimited movies (Heaven), and eating lollipops (for the takeoff and landing).

For an early Christmas gift, my hubby bought me a cute journal (He read my blog. Bonus point!). I did my regular reflections and memories from each day of course, but this time I decided to go a step further.

You see, when I was writing my book set in France, I kept trying to pull back my memories of my trip there. What smells did I sense? Sounds? Fortunately I fast drafted that book just after the trip so everything was fresh and alive in my mind.

But what if I wanted to write another story in that same setting, say five years from now? (Confession: I have one in mind). Would I be able to pull that journal out and remember those senses? Maybe.

So for this trip, I had another section in my journal divided by each sense: smells, sights, touches, and sounds (note: this category had two parts, one for noise and another for language with words like g’day, mate and cheeky). Anytime one of those senses was triggered, I jotted it down. And every time I went to a new place- like the zoo, beach or pool- I made a mental note to identify those scents.

By the end of the trip, I was pleased with my results of my journal. And I hope, whenever I write my story set in Australia, I’ll have a plethora of sensory details to enrich my story.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Writer’s Rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas

In just a few hours we’re heading to the Gold Coast, Australia for Christmas where it’s nice and hot. But before I do, I wanted to leave you with my Writer’s Rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true muse gave to me
Twelve story ideas
Eleven blogging posts
Ten blissfull sleeps
Nine sharpened pencils
Eight book reviews
Seven cups of coffee
Six revisions
Five trips to the bookstore
Four quiet hours
Three autograph parties
Two book deals
And a fabulous agent

Happy Holidays and a Christmas full of blessings!

Twilight Comes to Korea!

Twilight is here! I begged my hubby to take me and so it was a proclaimed date night. We scootered down to Sinchon (it’s a district near our apartment) all bundled up.

A large crowd had gathered outside the Mega Box Theater. Though there were no screaming fans, there was an energy that permeated the place. It was contagious!

Once inside, we bought our tickets, picking center seats from the computer screen. Then we headed to the concession stand. Our choices included the usual: popcorn, squid, or corn dogs. Though tempted by the honey roasted squid, I chose popcorn. Butter flavor.

The movie was great- even with Korean subtitles. I thought Kristen Stewart as Bella did a fabulous job and was mostly satisfied with Robert Pattinson as Edward. The makeup was a bit overdone and I thought the Cullens as a whole could have been flashier as that’s how I pictured them in the book. But the scenery and views added to the mood and I liked the hints at the future books. Sequel! And the audience loved it too (At least that’s what I assumed the reason for the screaming and sighs).

Walking out, we spotted some of our students. They were squealing and jumping around over the movie. I was half tempted to run over and squeal with them, but restrained myself much to the of my husband’s relief.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why Live Overseas?

A couple of you have asked what brought my family and me to Korea. So here's the short of it. About 9 years ago my husband and I were bored. We weren't ready to settle down to the same job for the next twenty years, buy a house, and pop out five kids. (Don't worry, that's coming soon!- well, maybe not the 5 kids part)

A friend of ours encouraged us to check out teaching overseas and since we were both teachers, it was the perfect fit. After going to a job fair at ISS, we landed our first overseas post in Bogor, Indonesia. Wow. Was that an eye opener.

We had a view of a dormant volcano from our upstairs window.

Borobordur- a step pyramid temple. When we went it, was practically empty.
The hiking through the mountain villages was as if we had stepped back in time one hundred years ago. One time we were walking through rice patties during an earth quake. That was interesting.
One of my favorite past times was shopping. (Of course!) I bought my first strands of pearls on a beach on Gilli Trawangan (a remote island between Komodo Island and Bali).
Indonesia. Wild, full of adventure and never a dull moment. In fact, I never really knew what each day would bring when Iwalked out my door. And the mangos..
... sigh.

But after two years there, we were ready for another adventure. Back to the job fair we went where we were offered numerous posts, but in the end, we chose Korea.
The plan was to stay in Korea for 2-3 years and then jet off to somewhere else. But it's been 7 years, 2 cats and 2 kids later and we're still here. The school we're at is amazing (Seoul Foreign School) and the opportunities and friends we've made are true treasures.

Living overseas sparked my interest in writing again. Between traveling and meeting the most interesting people, I've found new things to write about from my adventures. Next time, I'll post some pictures of Korea.

So, here I am. Korea. Sandwiched between China and Japan, it's an incredible country with a rich history and culture all its own. It's a great place to hang out. And believe me, definitely not boring.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Slush Pile

The slush pile. It's talked about and you may have read about it. Editors rather burn it, writers fear it. So I thought it would be fun to show some pictures of slush piles from different publishing houses.

Chronicle Books- note: each bin is known to hold up to 100 picture book manuscripts. (My middle grade novel is in there somewhere. Can you find it?)

Tor Books

Akashic Books

From Absolute Writers

An Annual Manuscript Bonfire? Click here.

This one took up a whole intern's cubicle

Monday, December 8, 2008

An Author's Christmas List

Do you have an author friend? Or perhaps you are an author and need to give your family a Christmas list.

If so, here are some ideas to take along with you as you head out to the stores this holiday season:

1. Books!

2. Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market

3. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books

4. Coffee (for those late nights and early mornings)

5. Chocolate (for inspiration of course)

  1. 6. Cute pencils and pens

7. Unusual journals

8. Sketch books (for brainstorming and character sketches)

9. Subscriptions to writing magazines like Children's Writer, Children's Book Insider, Writer's Digest

10. Cash for writing conferences and classes

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Show and Snow!

Yep that's right. We had a flurry of fresh morning snow. From our window that looks down into the city (we live on a mountain side), it was breathtaking.

And even better, it was Caleb's big Christmas show at church. They preformed the County Fair Christmas Spelling Bee. So cute!

So with the show and the snow, it was a festive day to say the least.

Decorating for Christmas

I love Christmas!
Our house is all decked out after hitting the local market for white lights and a tree skirt. We even picked up a dozen red roses from the flower market for 4,000 won. (That's less than $4.00- don't get jealous).
Our cat, Misty, is very excited too. (She loves climbing trees.)

So I've got Yankee candle Cranberry Candy Cane scent burning and Christmas music playing. I'm ready for the holidays!

Oh... forgot. Must go shopping.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What do you feed an author?

Spaghetti? Chicken? Pizza? Bee-bim bop?
Not too long ago, my family and I were totally thrilled to have picture book writer Sandra Horn over for dinner. After all, she was flying all the way from England to Korea.

I’d like to say she came all that way to visit little old me, but she didn’t. My school joined up with a number of other international schools to pay for Sandra’s flight, accommodations, as well as speaking arrangements so she could chat about books. (My personal favorite topic.)

So of course, when I heard Sandra was coming, I invited her over for dinner.
But that leads me to the terrible, stomach growling question. What was I going to feed Sandra and her husband? After all, what do you feed a picture book writer?

I considered the formal chinaware. But that’s not really my style. My kids suggested mac and cheese (the cheesiest kind). Hmm... sounded a little too informal.

In the end, I went for my signature recipes: balsamic grilled chicken, creamy veggie pasta, salad, and herb bread. Italian night in Korea!

The dinner all ended up fabulously as we invited some friends over and made a little party of it. And guess what we talked about? Books of course! Heaven.

So if you came to visit me here in Korea and I had to cook a dinner for you, what would you want on the dinner menu?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Author2Author is having a giveaway!

It's offically December so we can safely say the holidays are in full swing. Start celebrating by heading over to Author2Author's blog where they are giving away fabulous books each day.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

SCBWI Pictures

My family at Santa Monica Pier
Paint the Town Red was the dress up theme

Lexi, Cindy and Me!

What a crowd!

Legend Arthur Levine

SCBWI LA- Jay Asher

Jay Asher- No Bookmarks Allowed, How to inject suspense into any novel
· You must make a page turner, don’t let your reader put your book down!
· He read to us the best suspense book: The Monster at the End of this Book (Hilarious!)
· Key to doing this:
1. Fill the book with Anticipation
2. Drop clues
3. Chase your character up a tree, throw rocks at them (problems) and help them find a way down
4. Chase your reader into the story
5. Don’t make it a 2 dimensional story, be a roller coaster

He tossed a ball around but then stopped and promised to throw that ball at them soon- that is anticipation

Brainstorming Anticipation:
· What does your MC want?
· List obstacles which might pop up because of that
· Can those obstacles be foreshadowed with an earlier storyline
· Like if there is a flat tire, foreshadow this
· Have three storylines like A B A C B C. The first A is when you begin storyline A’s problem but then you bring in Storyline B’s problem in before you resolve storyline A.

Then I had to go see Steven Malk for my manuscript consultation. But am looking for someone from the conference with the rest of the notes.

Check out his blog!

SCBWI LA- Rachel Cohn- Embracing Your Inner Teen

Rachel Cohn- Embracing Your Inner Teen
· Create an authentic voice
· She writes for teens
· A trust between teens and author- don’t break that trust
· Remember yourself as you were as a teen- called this your inner teen
· She brought out some props that she would put in her writing room to remind herself of when she was a teen
· Teens are obsessive with random things
· When she writes, she asks core questions such as who are the people in her story and what is their purpose. Then she asks it through her teen self
· Difference between what we know now and as a teen- remember that
· Are you writing what you want to remember are what you should remember?
· Respect your readers, don’t proselytize or immortalize
· Love your characters, but don’t smother them
· Everything in a teen’s life is epic, important, ever single moment is vital
· Remorseless contraction
· Think back on yourself
· Listening to music helps her find her teen self
· For teens, immediate gratification takes too long
· Think about how an adult would act and then do the exact opposite
· Provide a character that any kid could insert themselves into

SCBWI- Mark McVeigh: Synopsis

Mark McVeigh: Synopsis
LOVED this editor from Aladdin (S&S). He was real and just fabulous.
There are different types of synopsis:
1. Summary of the novel
Must include-
Who: name of MC and secondary character
What: conflict that drives the book
Why: Reason for the conflict
Where: Setting
Time: Time period
2. Query. He spent the most time on this.
· Answer fits into 100 words or less
· Give the editor names of other books or movies similar to your book as a tool to sell the book to the marketing division at the publisher. Don’t use Harry Potter or Twilight!
· Hit as many things about the character which is the most important
· Setting is also important
· Remember 80% commercial and 20% literary
· Kill all adverbs
· Write simple declarative sentences
· Write to the point
· Keep it impersonal
· Start to finish- tell the ending
· Be accurate
3. Brief statement (used at a cocktail party or random chance at meeting an editor or agent)
· 10 seconds or less- people will only listen for this lond
· Must have who- 1 or 2 people in your story
· 1 to 2 sentences
· Know your market, go to bookstores big chains and little stores, read NY times bestseller list
· Be professional! Editors like to know they are working with a professional

SCBWI LA- Bruce Coville

Okay, so the summer is long past but I've taken notes that I'd love to share with other writers. And what a conference! Not only were there so many talented editors and agents there, but I got to meet other incredible writers.

My manuscript critique with Steven Malk was more than I could have asked for. I was lucky to be his last appointment and he took some time to chat with me about writing. Yeah, I left on cloud nine with heaps of writing treasures.

So here is a collection of my amazing experiences at SBWCI LA. (Remember, these are my random notes.) Enjoy!

Bruce Coville-
Bruce was an amazing speaker and had so much to say. Very inspirational. I took frantic notes.
· Writing is asking others to look at me.
· Should I be a writer? Example: If you are having a bad day and get in a fight with your spouse and you think, ‘Can I use this?’ Then you are a writer.
· Disqualified if you want to get rich.
· Reach children’s hearts!
· Why are you here? Do you fully understand what you are doing?

Children are in a state of crisis (three stages):
1. 1800’s and earlier- the child is an economic contributor to the family. They have a role and feel a part of the world in this way.
2. After World War II- the child is an object of love
3. Today- the child is a consumer. Only takes, not gives, denied real work because they are ‘loved’

Kids need heroes! Because that’s how they create themselves.

Bruce’s 7 Deadly Sins for a writer:
1. Dullness- Your work should spark and sparkle
2. Repetition- Don’t repeat yourself and do what’s been done by others. Be a trend setter!
3. Sloth- Not working to your best.
4. Inattention- Not thinking it through, no characters are moving in isolation, all implications on characters actions
5. Perfectionism- This is the enemy of achievement
6. Clumsiness- lack of craft, Master you tolls, sentences can get away from you like misplaced modifiers
7. Cliché- Do it the hard way, don’t make it easy on yourself

A great book is only like itself. Exceed expectations that the editor or reader is expecting. Give them more.

Bruce’s 7 Heavenly Virtues:
1. Passion- if you don’t have it, the manuscript is dead
2. Sensuousness- must be immediate, loving the descriptions of the world, check your sensory words used (smell, taste, touch, see) so that the reader is brought into the story. Make the scene come alive!
3. Wisdom- Transmit our own life experiences into the life of the child.
4. Guile- Magicians trick- want to draw in and bamboozle them, deceit is good
5. Humor- has an aspect of the sacred about it, it refreshes and energizes, be more of ourselves and the kids will see that
6. Courage- kids need demonstration of courage. They are so protected.
7. Joy- Amusement is to children as rain to flowers. Everyday joys, Find joy in the process, being free as you write

· Humor, courage and joy are the essences to the writer
· Every moment in a writer’s life there comes a point where there is a cliff- JUMP!
· Dreams that are not followed are the tragedies of life.
· Take on your memories- Divide a sheet of paper into 6 parts- one for each grade. Write down all your memories from each grade. Most likely the bad memories will stand out the strongest because we as humans want to avoid the bad and learn from it so it won’t happen again. Use THIS!
· Laughter is the first comprehensible sound
· We are the storytellers, the dream makers

I'm Blogging!

It's time for me to join the blogging community. With the encouragement and nudge of my writing friends, I'm taking a step and I'm finding it incredibly addictive!

Winds of Winter

It's cold outside! I'm not a lover of the cold but there is something totally refreshing about it. Maybe it's the way the wind comes and takes my breath away or perhaps it's just the excuse to drink a cup of chocolate or mocha.
Regardless, it's time to get out the Christmas decorations and start brightening up my house to dispel the gloom of winter.

Favorite things about winter:
Twinkling lights
Starbuck's Christmas coffee
Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong
Falling snow
Freshly baked cookies
Cute hats
Snuggly blankets
Movie nights with my boys
Cuddles with hubby
A good book