Picture Book Workshop June 4th

May 21, 2011

I am frequently asked about or pitched children’s picture books and young readers. They have some very specific challenges in the marketplace and one day soon I’ll address it in a post. Part of my standard advice is to seek out the closest regional chapter for the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attend meetings and get involved. You’ll learn so much about what you need to know to succeed in this special genre.

The Southern Nevada chapter is hosting a workshop on June 4th (10 AM to 3 PM at Nevada Day School). Author/illustrator Jim Averbeck will help writers and artists better understand the marriage between words and illustrations. More info at SCBWI website.

Indie Excellence Awards for Stephens Press Books

May 16, 2011

Great news this morning! Three of our books placed in the National Indie Excellence Awards — Higher Than Eagles by Maralys Wills and The Home for the Friendless by Betty Auchard are Finalists in the Memoir category, while Friendless received a second award in the Interior Design category. And Dancing in My Nightgown, also by Betty Auchard, WON the Indie Excellence Award for Non-Fiction Audio. What’s extra-wow is that Betty, herself, is the narrator. Local production house Dog & Pony Studios were producers. So proud of everyone involved. Here’s book designer Sue Campbell’s report.

April Presents Adventures in Reading

March 30, 2010

Reading Las Vegas to offer few frills but many thrills


Author Carolyn Schneider will be sharing memories of her Uncle Bing on April 28th.


 The month of April will make you laugh all the way to the library, if Reading Las Vegas: A Sure Bet organizers get their way.

The ninth annual adult reading incentive program will include authors known to spin a phrase while tickling the funny bone, program co-chairwoman Leah Ciminelli said.

The monthlong program also will include writing workshops, a murder mystery event and a book festival. Absent from this year’s festivities will be prizes, giveaways and the popular Reading Las Vegas tote bag due to budget cuts within the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.

Jennifer Schember, adult services coordinator, said this year’s theme, For the Love of Reading, emphasizes getting back to the basics of reading, without the frills of prizes and other incentives.

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This time next year: Steinbeck Country

September 29, 2009

cwclogoOur book designer, Sue Campbell, and yours truly have both been invited to be on faculty for the bi-annual East of Eden Writers Conference for 2010. Held in Steinbeck Country of Salinas, California, this is one of the premier conferences in the country, attracts hundreds of writers and a really top-notch faculty. The conference is sponsored by the South Bay chapter of the 100-year-old California Writers Club.  So honored!!

As attendees of my workshops and programs know, I heartily endorse writers conferences as one of the best ways for authors to learn the ropes about the publishing biz, meet fellow writers, learn tons about the craft of writing, and make important connections. How often do you get the chance to sit next to a literary agent at lunch? Conferences are held all over the world (I’m still waiting for an faculty invite to a conference in say, New Zealand or Iceland) and www.shawguides.com is a great resource for checking them out. Closer to home, the Las Vegas Writers Conference is held every April, and features a fine line-up of presenters.

The Perfect Cover

September 7, 2009
This was not the final cover design. Why?

This was not the final cover design. Why?

Authors usually face the design of their book cover or jacket design with some trepidation. They know how critically important the cover will be to the book’s success, especially in retail environments. As publishers, we take many factors into consideration in designing covers. The design needs to communicate the content and help the buyer identify books in which they’d be interested. We listen, too, to the author’s suggestions. We consider the marketplace, what competing titles look like, color trends, typography, and much more. Research tells us that IF a customer picks up a book, they’ll spend 8 seconds looking at the front cover, and if their interest continues, they’ll flip it over and spend 15 seconds reviewing the back cover. Book designer Sue Campbell recently posted an article on the design of a new Stephens Press title, A NEW DAY by Dora Barilla. Sue outlines the design process and the covers that were developed at Sue Campbell Graphic Design.

Living (and Loving) Las Vegas

July 22, 2009

Tony Curtis and Norm Clarke chat before going on stage. Photo by Megan Edwards.

Tony Curtis and Norm Clarke chat before going on stage. Photo by Megan Edwards.

Megan Edwards of Living Las Vegas has written an awesome report on the Tony & Norm show last Sunday. If you’ve not visited Living Las Vegas, now is the time. A bevy of some really fine local writers offer up frequent stories on all sorts of topics of interest to locals. One of my favorites sites and highly recommended.

Smashing into June

June 1, 2009

mix-djune1The first of every month comes a fun little ritual — I pick a new calendar desktop image for my computer. Smashing Magazine has a brilliant win-win for everyone concept: A) Offer up and coming designers, photographers, and illustrators a chance to show off their talents, B) Offer beautiful (and free) calendar desktop wallpapers to computer users, and C) Advertise their online magazine all month long on who-know-how-many thousands of computer monitors around the world. What’s not to like. I’m a two-monitor user (I use two monitors side by side to extend my working space) and I love having a calendar for the month always at the ready. Go to Smashing Calendars and select your fave (there are 70 this month to chose from, in a wide variety of colors and styles). Right click on the image, select “set as desktop wallpaper” and that’s it. Smashing Magazine is a fantastic repository of tutorials, news, and resources for graphic designers and creative types. Enjoy!

The Big Oops!

April 23, 2009

oh-no1 “Oh, no!” You know that sick feeling you get in the pit of your gut when the realization hits. You’ve just clicked “send” and you notice a glaring error. There’s no “unsend” button. No do-over. Jiminy Cricket, what to do?

This just happened to an author and myself — and it was me to blame. We’d extracted some text from her book for some magazine articles and the headline of one article says “Perfect” when it should read “Perfection”. Cripes! Should we correct and resend, thus calling attention to our goof? Or let it go, bringing up the correction during the editing/revising process?

I’ve opted for the latter in this instance.

But it begs the question, what should an author do if they notice an error after they’ve sent in a submission? My advice:

1. If the work is a submission for consideration, and the error is relatively minor, note it and let it go. Publishers and editors know that manuscripts and article copy aren’t perfect upon arrival and the errant word or punctuation goof won’t faze us, so long as the entire file isn’t rife with sloppy errors. If, on the other hand, the error is major and impacts meaning, such as a title that reads wrong because of a missing word, you’d better swallow your pride and resend with a brief note of explanation.

2. If the work is already in editing , ask your editor if they’d like to be informed as you spot a correction, or would they prefer you wait and provide them all at the same time. Some authors have driven us nuts, calling and emailing every time they notice a colon should be a semi-colon. We don’t want correx (insider shorthand) as onesie-twosies! All at once, please.

3. For a book in layout , finding a misspelling or a word here or there that needs fixing should be noted and held for proofing stage. But if the needed correx affects several lines or a whole paragraph, speak up right away. A revision like that could shift lines from one page to the next, causing a layout headache and a testy book designer.

4. If the work has reached proofreading , authors better sit up and pay attention. This is the LAST CHANCE to make sure the work is as perfect as possible. Yes, your editor will be proofing as well, and often a number of others at the publishers. The more eyes, the better, but in the end, the author should care the most and work the hardest to insure an error-free book.

You know what the baby bibs say: Stuff Happens . Take it in stride and make sure it gets fixed at the right stage of the process.

Foreword Book of the Year Finalists!

March 11, 2009

finalist-copyCongratulations and good wishes to Geoff Schumacher, Lewis Kimberly and Jorge Betancourt Polanco — their books have been named FINALISTS in the Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year awards. The competition was established to bring increased attention to librarians and booksellers of the literary and graphic achievements of independent publishers and their authors. ForeWord is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses.

Geoff is the author of Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue while Lewis the author and Jorge the illustrator of Granny McFanny. Granny recently received two silver medals from the Mom’s Choice awards, one for humor and another for illustration.

The prestigious Foreword awards process brings readers, librarians, and booksellers together to select their top categories as well as choose the winning titles. Their decisions are based on editorial excellence, professional production, originality of the narrative, author credentials relative to the book, and the value the book adds to its genre.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners, as well as Editor’s Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Javits Center in New York City on May 29. The winners of the two Editor’s Choice Prizes will be awarded $1,500 each.

Keeping our fingers crossed!

Meet the Author: Betty Auchard

March 3, 2009

By Guest Blogger/Interviewer Sue Campbell

bettya1Today I’m interviewing author Betty Auchard. Betty’s first book, Dancing in My Nightgown, the Rhythms of Widowhood is her memoir of losing her husband of 49 years, getting through the grief, and learning to live again—in a whole new way. Far from being a morose downer, Betty’s stories are touching, inspiring, upbeat, and even funny. Betty had a lot to learn having married at 19, and never having lived as a single person before. Betty’s quirky, loving, and funny personality makes her one of my favorite authors to know and to work with. In this interview she shares her thoughts on the writing process:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing. Did you always have a secret desire to be an author?

My secret desires were to be invisible, to fly, and to play the piano. My unconcealed desires were to be a movie star and an artist. I became an artist, so I still have time to become a movie star. But all my life I loved writing letters and telling true stories because I saw, and still do see stories in everything. And I’ve always jotted things down that I didn’t want to forgetsort of like a grocery list for my life.

Becoming a widow at 68 when I had never been single before meant I had more to write about than ever. I wrote about everything that was happening to me because life felt like the twilight zone. It was unreal. I had no way of knowing then that writing was my tool dancing_150for healing.

Grief recovery was the hardest work I’d ever done in my life and grievers must be allowed to babble about the same old things over and over. It’s the only way we can accept that our loss is real. Writing was like talking to paper. If I felt good I wrote about it. If I felt bad I wrote about it. One day I saw that Postum (Denny’s favorite beverage) was on sale and I almost put a jar in my cart. I was so blindsided by that unconscious act that I had to abandon my grocery cart and run outside to cry. Naturally, I wrote about it. I knew that someday I would look back on my experiences and realize how far I had come.

Writing was more important to me than eating. Naturally I lost weight, but gradually, I regained consciousness and the act of writing took on a life of its own. I became aware that my journaling on junk was starting to use a lot more paper and my writings were becoming pretty good stories that I liked a lot. One thing led to another and I started taking writing classes. This all happened over about six months. By six months I was in love with telling about life from my point of view which sometimes made me cry, but it felt good; like vomiting from my eyes. Sometimes my quirky point of view made me laugh at myself. As hard as I tried not to come off as a widow I always revealed that I was one. It made me feel vulnerable. I may as well have worn a talking T shirt that shouted, “This Lady Lives Alone.” But, to be honest, I liked my stories so much that I practically forced strangers to read them. I knew then that Betty, the Writing Beast had been born.

2. Tell us about your writing habits. When you write do you need music? Or quiet? Is there a special place, time or ritual you use to get in the groove? And has this changed over time? For example from the time you wrote the first draft of the first book until now as you work on the second?

Eleven years ago when I wrote all day long in my nightgown, I didn’t know how to use the computer so I did a lot of writing in bed where the light from the window was perfect. If not there, then I wrote in my lounge chair where the good lamp was located. I wrote on a lined tablet on a clipboard, and used only a fine tip Pilot Precise pen. My thoughts landed on paper as easily as I talk.

Once I learned how to use the computer I relocated upstairs to what used to be my art studio and is now my computer room. I first TELL myself the story out loud a few times and then I start typing without stopping, typos and all. It’s still a lot like free writing but it’s on the screen and I feel as though I’m still talking.  I write best in the mornings when my brain is awake and lively. But I still write at night or any old time I’m in the mood or when I know I won’t be interrupted.  Sometimes that’s into the morning hours. I let other things go unattended, which is slothful but true.

My best writing time was two months ago when I treated myself to a hotel room. I checked into a Holiday Inn Express, 25 miles away so I wouldn’t be tempted to dash home for any reason. I told my children not to call or e-mail unless it was really important and a request for a recipe was not important. It was wonderful. I stayed one week, went home for one week, and returned for one more week. I ate sparingly and used the small fridge and microwave in my room for simple food.  I managed to get ahead on my second manuscript. The cost? About $2,000, but I told myself that I deserved it.

When I think a story is finished, it’s imperative that I read it aloud. Only then do I hear what is clunky or awkward. The sound of the words and the cadence of a sentence are critical. A radio is distracting and never on when I write, which means that it is never on. I watch TV only when I eat something or to watch Dexter or The United States of Tara. The truth is that I sit way too long at my computer because I’m in love with it. And where the day goes I’ll never know. Time just races by when I’m in the writing zone.

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