The Ears Have It

I scratched my cornea. Not on purpose. I was chasing a chicken (all my best stories start that way…) and as I lurched at Queen Eleanor under the forsythia bush, a branch insinuated itself into my right eye. It was more like a ‘stab’ than an insinuation, but you get the idea.

One trip to the ER (antibiotic, white-knuckle debris extraction, percocet, home) later I was in bed, unable to do any of the things I like to do when I’m laid up, namely read, crit, write, (read) watch movies. NOTHING OCULAR was on the menu.

Which is why I turned to my sometime-forgotten friends, my ears.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon
Audiobooks are at least 50% only as good as the narrator – and these narrators are amazing. And the story -it’s a love story and those who know me know that THAT is not my thing. It’s also hopeful, funny, awkward and sweet – all things that are not my things. But D&R are definitely my thing. I love listening to them fall in love.

(PUB)LISHING CRAWL
Thank the good gods that Kelly and JJ are back from their hiatus with full episodes of their podcast on all things writerly. Listening to them is like sitting next to publishing people at the bar and eavesdropping on their conversation because you’re stuck with your day-job work friends, who are doing shots of limoncello and crying about not hooking up with Ross from accounting. What I’m saying is, it’s a balm for the writing soul and absolutely a must listen.

WRITER WRITER PANTS ON FIRE
I started listening to WWPOF while reading Mindy McGinnis’ awesome book, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES. The handling of gender norms in that book is so intriguing, I wanted to know more about Mindy. There’s a lot to know. She’s a prolific writer, blogger and podcaster and has tons of resources on he website including book reviews and interviews with published authors – which are amazing because they really try to reveal something new about the publishing process. Every Monday morning I listen as Mindy asks unexpected questions and gets unusual answers from established and debut authors. Definitely add Writer Writer to your playlist.

And so, puffed up eyeball or no, I *worked* today. I soaked my brain in words and craft and ate lots of Utz potato chips. Which is probably due to the percocet.

What are your best kept audio secrets?

NJSCBWI Conference Or…

…a drink at 11:30AM is fine if you are learning!

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pool hall girls

This past weekend I put my job and family life in a box, shoved it under the bed and went all the way to beautiful downtown New Brunswick to get my author game ON.

Maybe (like when Jenny and Lynda Gene and I tried to play pool in the 15 minutes between sessions and did so, badly) it wasn’t always pretty. But it was enlightening. Invigorating. Inspirational and damn. good. fun.

This is why writing conferences are so important. You can nerd out to your heart’s content about the things that usually bore your friends and family. Your conference family UNDERSTANDS that you want to talk about how hard it is to write that perfect query letter. Or how you are having legit heart palpitations because you’re about to do your first ever agent pitch. Or how it’s okay to have your mouth full of dessert at dinner because the agent sitting next to you does too. It feels awesome to ‘come home.’

Among an embarrassment of wonderful workshops, here are my favorites:

Let’s Talk Marketing with Doreen McGettigan
Doreen unleashed a metric ton of amazing information on us. My hand could not write fast enough to keep up with her – no fault of hers, there was just a lot to take in! I need a marketing plan for my book. I need to learn what goes into that marketing plan! Doreen had the answers and even better, questions that I need to ask myself about what I want and what I can do. It was an amazing start to the conference and got Jenny and I revved up! Check out Doreen’s site here.

Writing Marginalized Voices in Children’s Books w/ Emma Otheguy & Andrea Loney
Okay, first of all, look at this amazing:

bunnybear-cover-768x512main_martis_song_for_freedom_cover

Andrea Loney’s lovely BUNNYBEAR about a bear that is very different… and very sweet. Emma Otheguy’s MARTÍ’S SONG FOR FREEDOM is BILINGUAL which I love! It’s also wonderful. Both these books have gone on youngest’s bookshelf.

It was a joy hearing Andrea and Emma talk about marginalized voices and how writing books for  all kinds of children (and bears and bunnies too) gives those children a mirror to see themselves reflected in the world. It tells our kids, you have a place. Your stories are important.

It was a no judgement zone and an important discussion about how to write marginalized characters (representation) and how not to (appropriation) and lots of other good stuff in between. I heart these ladies. Find Andrea here and Emma here.

Developing a Gay or Questioning Character in Middle-Grade Fiction with
Mary E. Cronin
This was my favorite workshop. Mary Cronin has such a generous way of ‘teaching’ that it feels less like knowledge transfer and more like talking to a *really* smart person over cups of tea and pound cake.* I’ve been aware for a while (and have worked to be inclusive in my own work) of LGBTQ characters in YA, but there’s less representation in Middle Grade. I suspect that comes from a misunderstanding of what sexual identity means and when it develops (spoiler alert, doesn’t equate having sex) or a general ignorance on the part of readers. I’ve had the experience of hearing that my daughter’s friend’s mom didn’t allow her to read Raina Telgemeier’s DRAMA because there was a gay character in it and that ‘wasn’t appropriate for her age.’ Can you imagine being 11 and being told, implicitly or not, that your feelings are not appropriate? I am not on board with that. NOPE.

Mary had so many wonderful ideas on how, where and what kinds of experiences would make wonderful parts of a character’s discovery of self – and make a great story. Got me excited to try writing an MG! You can find Mary here.

Of course my brain is bursting with ideas from this conference. I’m practically drooling words over here. That’s the good work that going to a good conference does. So where are YOU going this summer?

*or gin and cheese straws. I’m up for either.