06 Nov

What am I waiting for? (11/06)

Half a year since I last posted about this, I’m still waiting for more things than I’m working on. Including:

My first glimpse of the art for The Day-Glo Brothers.

News from editors about several manuscripts:

  • My biographies of James (picture book) and Smith (middle grade), which are both with the same editor. This editor gets them, I think, but there’s a big difference between “gets” and “buys.”
  • My middle grade novel, Arbor.
  • My proposal and sample chapters for Pasta.
  • My picture book/graphic novel series P.O.

Copies of the books nominated for the Nonfiction Picture Book category of the Cybils.

The next big industry/literary event I plan to attend: the Texas Library Association annual conference in San Antonio in April.

Next summer, when — a year before The Day-Glo Brothers‘ publication date — I’ll get cracking on a full-fledged web site, curriculum guides, and whatnot.

03 Nov

What am I working on? (11/06)

It’s been a long time since I’ve offered this summary, so thanks to Tim for suggesting I get back to it. Here goes:

I’m doing very, very preliminary research for J.R., the next picture book biography I hope to write. “Preliminary” as in slowly reading a big ol’ academic history of the period in which he lived, a book with only a handful of mentions of J.R. himself. Once I’ve absorbed all that, I plan to move on to J.R.’s autobiography — but boy, is it hard keeping myself from jumping right to it.

I’ve revised S.V.T. and resubmitted it to my agent, but I’m still thinking of tweaks, so I’ll be storing those up over the weekend and passing those along.

My role in getting the Cybils off the ground — while extremely limited compared to the effort that others have been putting into it — has squeezed out the rest of my writing work and much of my blogging. But I think it’s for a good cause — I recently saw a writer/illustrator make what I call the “nonfiction face” when the conversation turned to books about real, true-life stuff. In shedding light on the best nonfiction picture books (among other types) out there, perhaps the Cybils can reduce the occurrence of nonfiction face:

30 Oct

This counts as writing, right?

I didn’t make it downtown for the Texas Book Festival this weekend — my boys didn’t want to go, and me insisting “You will go appreciate books amid a massive crowd” didn’t seem like the best way to foster their love of reading. So, I missed Kathy Duval, Nicholas Lehman, Larry L. King, and other authors I would have liked to have seen, met, and/or mingled among.

But worry not — I’ve still managed to do my share of socializing. My wife and I were the last folks to arrive at a Writers League of Texas reception Saturday evening, but we still got there in time to catch up with Annette Simon, Varian Johnson, and Julie Lake, as well as with Gene Brenek and Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, with whom we formed a fivesome for dinner.

On my way home from work a couple of days before, I stopped by the Borders where a passel (or perhaps a posse, or a possel) of visiting children’s authors were making their last appearance in a statewide tour. Before the presentation, I had a chance to visit with Janee Trasler (whose delightful Ghost Eats It All is 2-year-old F’s current favorite) and meet Shirley Duke (whose No Bows is going to the next lucky little girl of my acquaintance to have a birthday) and Anastasia Suen.

Anastasia and I are both serving on the nominations committee for the nonfiction picture book category in the Cybils. Organizing things for that committee (and for the judging committee) has taken up a lot of my time lately, but the upside is that I’m going to be reading a lot of great nonfiction over the next couple of months as we narrow the nominees down to five.

Somewhere in there, I expect to do some writing as well. Maybe right now…

21 Oct

Reading? Writing? Who needs ’em?

Aside from not getting much reading or any writing done, yesterday was terrific.

First, my editor paid me a great big compliment as we resolved a micro-issue related to the publication date of The Day-Glo Brothers. By the way, we should be about a year away from having advance copies.

Then I heard from my agent that my Pasta proposal — two chapters and descriptions of additional subjects ripe for coverage in the subsequent chapters — is ready to send off to the (very patient) editor who expressed an interest back in January. Plus, I got some encouraging and constructive feedback on SVT that — along with what I got from Don and Julie last weekend — I’ll put to use when I start revising next week.

And then there was the party, a Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith-hosted affair in honor of the guests in town for today’s SCBWI conference. If I drop any more names, I’ll be spending the entire morning adding links to their sites and blogs. But regardless of who was there, I was impressed yet again by the warmth and congeniality and fun (and noise) generated by a house full of people who love children’s literature.

I learned of new contracts, new books, and a nearly completed trilogy. I got to pass along a message from an out-of-town author to the visiting editor, and I took a message from the visiting writing coach to pass along to an out-of-town blogger. There was enthusiastic talk of the Cybils (and not just by me), nervous talk of the next day’s presentations, and grin-and-bear-it talk of ongoing revisions. And lots of curiosity about how The Day-Glo Brothers is coming along.

Best of all, I found in a couple of New Yorkers an appreciative audience for the title of the country song I’m writing. But since it was too loud to sing in there, I’ll share the chorus (the only part of the song that actually exists so far) with you. Feel free to imagine my wife rolling her eyes as I sing:

I’ll ask you one more time
And I swear, it’s not a joke
Tell me honestly
Do these tears make my heart look broke?

19 Oct

From Cybils to sikyifriykyiwas

The children’s book awards now have a name and a web site: the Cybils. Now, head on over and get to nominatin’. And if you want to be considered for a non-fiction picture book committee — either to narrow down the nominations, or to select the winner — let me know right here in the comments.


I enjoyed a flashback to my youth yesterday through a couple of bedtime chapters of Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing, which I hadn’t read in 25 years. (I read sequel Superfudge aloud to my own fourth-grade class, so school visits should be a cinch for me.) But as much as I enjoyed it, 7-year-old S enjoyed it more, devouring the whole thing and getting all excited when I told him there were other Fudge books. I’m so glad I thought to bring home Tales while S, like Peter Hatcher, still has a 2 1/2-year-old brother.


I got some useful and encouraging feedback on my new manuscript, SVT, from my critique group on Saturday. I’ve got another set of eyes looking at it, and then I’ll figure out my next move, but I’m still very much in love with it.


SVT must have met my need to get silly and make stuff up, because I’ve now been drawn far deeper into JR, the topic I’d been considering for my next picture book biography. Before I really started reading up on the subject, I’d thought it was something I might want to write about, eventually; now, I feel like it’s something I have to write about, now.


Finally, if you’ve always wondered what a sikyifriykyiwa sounds like, wonder no more. Yesterday, I learned of Wesleyan University’s Virtual Instrument Museum, which is packed with sample sounds and videos of chordophones, aerophones, membranophones, and idiophones. “Idiophones?” Who knew?

17 Oct

A Message for Bloggers: The First Annual Children’s Book Awards, Blog Edition

This month we’ve seen a spate of book awards, some of which have left us wondering: Couldn’t we, the intelligent, savvy members of the kidlitosphere do better? Or, at least, differently?

So, we’re inaugurating our own book awards, honoring books published in English for children in 2006. Anne Boles Levy, of Book Buds, will launch a site this week and administer the awards process. To read all about the new Children’s Book Awards, head on over to Big A little a. To suggest a name for the Book Awards, leave a comment with Anne at Book Buds.

You’ve reached the administrating blog for the Non-Fiction Picture Book category. Do you run a blog about children’s books, are you a children’s book author who blogs, or do you run a general book blog? Then volunteer to serve on the book nominating committee or on the judging committee. Here are the duties of each committee:

Nominating: Nominating committees of five members will narrow the recommendations (open to everyone with web access) down to a shortlist of five books per category. A list of all recommendations will be received by the nominating committee on November 21, 2006. The shortlists will be announced January 1, 2007.

Judging: Judging committees of five members, different from those serving on the nominating committees, will decide which title per category will win the Children’s Book Award, Blog edition. The winners will be announced January 15, 2007. To serve on this committee, keep in mind you will have to read five books during a very busy time of the year.

When leaving your comment, please choose a second-choice category just in case we have too many volunteers for the Non-Fiction Picture Book category.