Tuesday Tips

Have you been tweeting?

I’m not a big tweeter, although there have been lots of interesting Twitter feeds of late.

I’m not getting political although if you’re a friend of mine, you know where I stand.

The point I want to make about Twitter is that we can use it and learn from it and maybe even influence people for the greater good.

That’s what we want to do with our writing, isn’t it?

Of course we want to sell books that people will read and maybe make the mortgage payment now and again.

But like teaching, no one goes into writing books thinking about the millions they’re going to make. It’s about how we know the difference books made in our lives when we were growing up.

Books are a sanctuary of the best kind. They are a friend when we are alone. They can be visited again and again like a wonderful old grandmother who makes the very best apple pie.

140 characters isn’t a lot, but you can still influence the world with it.

Tweet wisely, people. The world is watching.


You can follow us @Tuesdaywriters6

Interview with Laurie Forest, Author of The Black Witch!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut Author, Laurie Forest, whose novel, The Black Witch, is scheduled to come out June of 2017 from HarlequinTEEN

JR: Hi, Laurie and thanks for joining us today.

LF: *tries to contain first interview excitement* Why, thank you. So nice to join you.

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Black Witch and the impetus behind writing it?


LF: I shall give you my freshly-minted cover copy!

A Great Winged One will soon arise and cast his fearsome shadow upon the land. And just as Night slays Day, and Day slays Night, so also shall another Black Witch rise to meet him, her powers vast beyond imagining.

So foretells the greatest prophecy of the Gardnerian mages. Carnissa Gardner, the last prophesied Black Witch, drove back the enemy forces and saved her people during the Realm War. Now a new evil is on the horizon, and her granddaughter, Elloren, is believed to be Carnissa’s heir—but while she is the absolute image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above nearly all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren is eager to join her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University and finally embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the University, which admits all manner of races—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of her people—is an even more treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

Prejudice in its various forms was very much in the news when I started this story. At the same time, my pre-teens started handing me YA Fantasy (a genre I had never read before) – and I absolutely LOVED it (and started devouring all the YA books). The news stories, combined with all these incredible books lit a spark for a story in me and I spent the next year writing the first two books of The Black Witch Chronicles (and some of the notes that are being used for the e-book novellas).


JR: I read on your site, www.laurieannforest.com that you live in the backwoods of Vermont with a wood stove. It sounds incredible. And right away I’m figuring that setting helped play a nice role in a book titled The Black Witch?

LF: Trees figure heavily in The Black Witch Chronicles (and moody forests) – it is a book about Dryads, after all.

Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? (How long it took, how you got your agent, publisher etc)

Oh boy, it was a long journey. About nine years ago I wrote the first two books of The Black Witch Chronicles in a feverish rush of inspiration. That led to a local writers’ group. That led to my first agent. Then lots of rejections. Then my current agent, Carrie Hannigan, and lots of rewrites. Then a rewrite with a major publishing company who ultimately passed. Lots of rejections. THEN a call, early last year from my agent, to ask if I could rewrite the whole thing and resubmit (I had about one month to do this). And this time – picked up by Harlequin TEEN!!! (and I never want to be anywhere else since Lauren Smulski is the best editor in the history of the universe – and everyone at Harlequin TEEN is beyond wonderful). And, of course, there were a few more rewrites J

JR: What’s your writing process like?

LF: LOTS of it. I write every morning, part of Saturday and most of Sunday. I write REALLY rough versions that I then let my critique groups take hatchets to and revise, revise, revise. And then my Harlequin TEEN editor, Lauren Smulski, takes another hatchet to it (and she’s always right, I’m finding). My current goal is to do 35 pages in one day (like badass Sarah J. Maas who is my YA fantasy author idol!) – right now I’m more like 1-6, lol. The story direction comes to me at odd times – listening to angsty music in the car, listening to angsty music at the gym, walking around aimlessly, upon awakening in the early morning, walking around the dark, moody forest…

JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

LF: I cannot do this. It is a godlike trifecta – Robin Hobb (ROYAL ASSASSIN), Tamora Pierce (WILD MAGIC), Patrick Rothfuss (THE NAME OF THE WIND)

JR: What’s your favorite movie?

LF: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (all of them – but especially the first one when we meet Aragorn who I have a mad crush on).

( Preaching to the choir, here)

JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

LF: I’m a Godzilla fanatic.

(Also preaching to the choir!)

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

LF: I’ve had to do a bit – especially when I found out how woefully ignorant I was about horse travel and horses in general, lol (had to redraw a few maps for distance). Got help from a champion Morgan Horse breeder here in Vermont (who was very gracious when she stopped laughing at my blatant misuse of horses). Luckily, fantasy allows some great leeway.

JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

LF: Oh my goodness, am I.  First off, for years I’ve been part of my SCBWI Burlington, VT (soon to be international/virtual) YA fantasy critique group (we share a chapter a week and critique – they are invaluable! Shout out to favorite authors & incredible editors Cam Sate and Kimberly Hunt!). I’ve got a more local Montpelier, VT critique group with two amazing authors (once a month) and various other readers/authors I meet with and get feedback from.  And then there’s the Burlington Writers’ Workshop groups I try to pop in on.

when an editor becomes an author


JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

LF: Write. And read. As much as possible. Join a writing group (more than one if you can). And network – it’s fun!


JR: What are you working on next?

LF: I’m working on the second e-book novella for The Black Witch Chronicles – about a side character in The Black Witch named Sage Gaffney (we meet her very early on in The Black Witch). It’s a dark story, but I’m having fun working out Sage’s unique type of Light Magery.


JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media? 

LF: Enter my realm at…












JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, but just so you know, before you answer, rumor has it, that Faran stages baby-fighting rings in his basement.


LF: Faran, hands down. Forever and always Faran.


JR: Sighing. I guess nobody cares about baby-fighting any longer. Anyway, thanks again to Laurie Forest, and best of luck with The Black Witch!

How Not to Feel Like a Slug

Ever notice that life is better when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do—as in, when you’re doing what you know is good for you?

I recently spent Christmas with my family in Illinois. I do this every year—fly home, spend five days eating every cookie in sight (and there are a lot of them), and refusing to make contact with any kind of responsibility whatsoever. It’s great! Awesome! The best time ever! But even when it starts to feel not so great—when I’m laying on the couch feeling like a slug—I still don’t want it to end. Only I know it has to, and it needs to end, because I’m actually starting to not like myself.

This is me after a vacation.

Coming back from a vacation and shouldering responsibility once again is the pits, but here’s what I’ve learned. The longer I delay (“I’ll just do one more day of eating junk and not writing and sitting around on the couch watching Netflix”), the worse I feel. Maybe as humans we’re hard-wired to want to feel useful. If so, that’s a good thing.

This is me after doing what I’m supposed to be doing. 

For Christmas, I asked for (and received) a portable elliptical machine so I could exercise more easily (i.e., so I could exercise while watching Netflix). And even though it took me a few days of dreading it to get started, I did start. And you know what? I feel pretty good. That’s not to say I look forward to working out—I don’t—but working out in front of the TV has its benefits and the fact that I no longer feel like a bloated tic ready to pop is definitely a plus.

I also started writing again—not that I’d ever really stopped—I just took a week’s vacation. But during that week I felt this nagging uneasiness that I couldn’t shake, no matter how many times I told myself that my book would get written in good time. Well, you know what? It’ll get written as long as I keep working on it. And that means getting up to do the work and planting my butt at my computer (when I’d rather be exercising while watching Netflix), and pushing through writer’s block and pushing through doubt and pushing through fear and pushing and pushing…

Until finally, some day, the book will be finished. And it will have gotten finished because I did what I was supposed to do, even when doing what I know is good for me is the last thing I want.

You may think I don’t know what I’m talking about, that all of my talk is just wishful thinking. But I do know what I’m talking about because I’ve succeeded once (see picture above) and I know I can do it again. The trick is…

Well, I think by now you’ve figured that out.

What We Like Most About Writing

Writing is hard, at least if you want to do it well, so why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we spend years pursuing a craft when we don’t even know if we’ll ever get published? Today the Tuesdays share what they like most about writing, but we’d love to hear your thoughts as well. For all you writers out there, what do you like most about writing?

Jonathan: It’s difficult for me to limit this to just one thing I like most about writing. Truth is, the answer might change from day to day. But, for the current moment, I think the thing I like most is the immersion. It’s a solitary endeavor and when I write, I lose myself in the world of my characters. Outside worries don’t matter. For that brief time, I don’t even think about them. I am in my story and it’s always been therapeutic.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: It’s hard to quantify what I like most about writing, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be the satisfaction of writing something that you know sings. Writing something beautiful, for me, means chipping away at a block of stone until I find the story underneath, and when my chisel falls just right, it’s almost like I’ve created something magical. Bonus if someone reads it and feels the same way.

Faran Fagen

Faran: It’s hard to pick just one thing, but it would have to be when my writing affects, or hits home, with someone else. Either emotionally or helps them through a tough time. I’ve written many newspaper articles that have lead to emails thanking me for the story. Probably the most memorable was an article about premature babies in the NICU and their fight for survival. One of these inspiring stories was noticed by an organization called Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies, and they wrote me a very nice email. I’ll never forget how good that made me feel—that my writing made such a difference. I hope when my first novel is published, it can inspire strong feelings too.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I’ve always had a creative outlet.

All of us at the Tuesdays are driven to create, even when we’re not writing. Cathy, for example, created this beautiful watercolor quilt.

In second grade I learned how to sew using a treadle sewing machine. I was always searching for things I could make. There was one holiday season where I sold enough earrings at craft shows to buy a new kitchen stove. Then my friend Ted Leahey told me he was going to teach me how to make a quilt in a day. It was fun, and I quilted for many years. I still love crafting and sewing, but it wasn’t enough. Now I find that writing fills that creative need for me. Maybe one day, I’ll sell enough books to buy a new kitchen!

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: The thing I love most about writing is hearing from my readers and meeting them. Books were (and still are) so important to me growing up that it really touches me when I hear from someone who has read one of my books. Especially when they feel the book has helped them or when they’ve had an emotional response to the characters and the story. I’ve heard other authors bristle when readers come to some conclusion about one of their characters that wasn’t originally intended. For me, I’m just thrilled when my characters are real enough to someone else to have a reaction to them. That’s just me.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The thing I like most about writing is the challenge of expressing thoughts and feelings in an entertaining format for others to enjoy. I need to frequently remind myself of that as I wade through the practical day-to-day matters of plot, structure etc. Reading a great book always brings back the love.


Wrap it Up

Tuesday’s group meeting started with a surprise for me!


Thanks everyone! We celebrated my honorable mention in the SCBWI Rising Kite Contest for my YA novel – Altered Ego! They’ve been with me from the beginning on that novel, so it was great to share it with them.

Here is the real wrap-up though. I have had a major realization about all of my novels and their main characters.

If you’ve done any fiction writing at all, you might have figured out that each of your main characters is really you in disguise.

I’ve had this problem in all of my novels; the main character isn’t nearly as exciting as the supporting ones.

Then it hit me. I see myself as ordinary. I’m not fishing. My self esteem is quite high. I think well of myself most of the time. I just needed to stop seeing my characters as “the girl next door” type.

So I rewrote the beginning of my circus story, and I rewrote the beginning of Altered Ego.

When I removed myself from the main character a little bit, I was able to bring real voice to the character.

Maybe it’s like when people want to write about something that actually happened, they don’t want to shift around the details in order to stay true to the story, but they really need to for the sake of good story telling.

I read the new beginning of the circus story in group and………score! I finally hit on a character and voice that can sustain the story. Now I just have to rewrite in that voice for another 150 or so pages. Back to work!

What’s your latest aha moment?

What Do You Take Out of Critique?

Hello Tuesdays!

Once again, we get each other twice in one week! How lucky are we? We need to celebrate! And by celebrate, I mean we should talk about writing tips! In case you didn’t realize it, every Tuesday writing tips are talked about on this site and later on we follow it up by providing live tweets from our critique group, starting at 3:30. Come join in the discussion by following along under the tag #TheTuesdays. I expect to see each and every one of you engaging in the conversation!

Anyway, back to the tips for today. Only want to discuss a couple of things today. They’re things I’ve mentioned before, but still came up recently with someone, so I thought I’d share.

As I wrote last week, I went to a writing conference last weekend. There were so many wonderful speakers, each offering up fantastic pieces of advice. In general, I find that the conferences are a hotbed of creativity for me. I’m sure for most writers overall, but for me, I’m always coming up with new things there. This past conference, I thought of so many story ideas, I found myself constantly jotting them down. Which means . . . ALWAYS carry a notebook or something to write in. It could be story ideas or it could be a way to fix or improve your current story, it doesn’t matter. Be prepared! You might think that if it’s a really cool story idea, you’ll remember it, but that isn’t always the case. I have had it happen, where I thought of something and didn’t write it down, and then completely forgot it later.

This time, I wrote everything down, and hopefully, you’ll be reading them all someday!

The next tip is one that I’ve mentioned many times on this site, but it came up again recently. It’s going to seem contradictory, but hear me out.


DO be willing to take in critique.

DON’T make it the end all-be all of your writing.

What I mean by this is pretty simple. I’ve been in this critique group for many years and have also been a part of a few others as well. Over that time, I’ve seen things that each of them have in common. We have had members who are interested in what others point out and we have also had members who have had a rough time taking critique. Not all by any means. But, there were many, who either didn’t like what you had to say and dismissed it, or some who were extremely hurt by what you had to say and never came back. Nothing was ever said to intentionally hurt someone, but having a thin skin in a creative field is difficult. It’s art and art is subjective. What doesn’t work for some, might be loved by another.

I’m of the mind, that if something stinks, say it. I don’t want to be under false assumptions that something is good and keep plodding along on the same lousy path. One of the very first critiques I got in a SCBWI conference was from someone, who is now a friend, telling me how bad the chapter was. I was a newbie then, but it allowed me to see that they were right and realize how much work needed to be done. When that same person saw my work years later, they told me how good it was. The only way to get better is to have things pointed out to you about what you need to work on.

And that means, you MUST have a thick skin. You can’t take critique to heart. I think with very few exceptions, your critique partners aren’t trying to tear you down. They’re actually trying to help. So, by you dismissing what they have to say, is doing yourself a disservice. That’s what I mean by at least listening to the advice being offered. Someone might pick up something that you haven’t.

Now, I know I’ve said this before too, but it came up again with someone I know and we discussed it. Do NOT go off and take every single piece of critique as the gospel. You must listen to it, but at the end of the day, you know your story better than anyone. Take the critique, think it over and sit on it a little. After that, then you decide whether or not to make the changes. I do this every week after The Tuesdays meet. Decide what works and what doesn’t in the context of the story. If you start making every changes that’s given, your story will become almost unrecognizable to how you originally intended it to be.

I’m curious to hear how all of you process critique. Let me know!

And remember, 3:30 for Live Tweets from the group!

Interview with Candace Ganger, Debut Author of The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow 2017 Debut Author, Candace Ganger, whose debut, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, is scheduled to come out July 25, 2017 from Griffin Teen.

JR: Hi, Candace and thanks for joining us today.

CG: Thank you so much for having me!

JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash and the impetus behind writing it?

CG: Sure! Birdie & Bash (for brevity’s sake) is the story of two teens who fall in love, not knowing of each other’s connection to a horrific tragedy—until it’s too late. While the surface thread is of Birdie & Bash’s “will they/won’t they” relationship, the central background story that ties them together is loosely based on a tragedy that struck my family in the late 70’s. It’s an event that changed my family’s history; haunting all involved to this day. Writing Birdie & Bash’s stories the way I did, felt the only way I could take control of the facts and re-write history.

JR: I’m very sorry to hear that. Hopefully, the writing helped do some mental healing.


JR: I read on your site, www.candaceganger.com that you run a site, Hello Giggles, with Zooey Deschanel. How’d that come about?

CG: Actually, I don’t run the site (I wish!). I’m a contributing writer. Getting my foot in the door was quite the lengthy process. I think I pitched in spring 2014, was rejected a couple times until one idea stuck. My first piece was up November 2014, and I didn’t become a regular, paid contributor until February 2015! It’s been a long journey as I’ve pitched all stories that have run, meaning, to stay relevant, I’ve hustled on HG for a solid 2 years.


JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? (How long it took, how you got your agent, publisher etc)

CG: Oh, boy! This is a notoriously long, excruciating tale. In brief, I got my first agent in 2009 with something I’ve shelved, my 2nd agent in 2015 (she sold B&B) and I was left to agent #3 when #2 went back to her editorial roots. Finally, in June, I signed with #4 with a dark humor memoir about mental illness that’s currently out on sub. Throughout all of this and even years before, I’ve ghostwritten for authors and companies. With B&B, I was on sub for about 8 months (I think) with interest from an editor when I got my offer from my fabulous Griffin Teen editor, Vicki. To sum it up, TONS of rejections and lots of crying in the bathtub! But in the end, here I am, still writing. There’s no other way to get published other than to keep going.

JR: I find the shower is probably the best place to cry . . . not that I’d know.


JR: What’s your writing process like?

CG: I have OCD so my routines and schedules are super important. I have two blocks of time I sit and write during the school year (when kids are in school/when youngest naps) so it takes a lot of time management and dedication to push through writing blocks or the “I don’t feel like it” thoughts.. I don’t have any weird things I have to have but always start by going through all my social media sites three times. Then, I pull open my document and write as much as I can before I check three more times. This cycle repeats until I’ve gotten in my required 1,000 words (at minimum) and any articles or miscellaneous writing I need to get done. Ironically, “wasting” time helps me stay productive. I also have a to-do list at al times so checking things off, however, small, makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something (even when I haven’t)!


JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

CG: There are so many! My absolute favs include Jodi Picoult, Gayle Foreman, Jandy Nelson and the like. I’m currently reading several books—Furthermore and Tales of the Peculiar, just finished And I Darken and often read my 9-year-old’s middle grade books. Keeps my brain busy (just how I like it).


JR: What’s your favorite movie?

CG: Everything Judd Apatow and/or things with humor you shouldn’t use in front of children.


JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

CG: For years, I was a singer/songwriter and played guitar at my hometown’s coffee shop! I can still do the splits! I was once a telemarketer! I’ve eaten 3 doughnuts today! (I have so many secrets, I could go on all day!)

** (Not actually Candace) **


JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

CG: YES! Too much! I actually get overloaded and draw a blank as to what to include exactly. Like for B&B, I researched so much about the Collision Theory, I should be an actual physicist now or at the very least, I could own a skating rink. Neither of those seem connected but they SO are!

** (Also not actually Candace) **


JR:Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

CG: I’m not in a critique group (outside of having trusted readers when I need new eyes or advice). That’s mostly due to living in an extremely small town where few know I write at all!

** (Candace’s actual readers) **


JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

CG: The best, most useful piece of advice is to persevere. Rejections will always happen and they will always hurt.  Anyone can quit. The trick is to push past your discomfort, fears, and disappointments and keep going. There is legitimately no other way.


JR:What are you working on next?

CG: In the time since finishing Birdie & Bash, I also wrote the previously mentioned dark humor memoir about mental health, an MG fantasy about a poisonous cherry tree, a YA thriller about a strange widow and her daughter, and a YA contemporary about a girl who writes wishes on balloons and sends them into the sky after losing her military father. I’ve also started a second book to Birdie & Bash, though who knows if it will ever see the bookshelves. I like to keep the fires burning as I get bored easily! I’m never lacking for ideas so it’s really just about picking one and seeing it through (which sometimes takes another person to say FINISH THIS ONE!).


JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media? 

CG: Thank you again for having me! Readers can always reach out to me via email – candaceganger@yahoo.com, Twitter @candylandgang, or check my website for the latest updates candaceganger.com.


JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays, but before you answer, I do want to let you know that Faran likes to steal candy from babies and laughs about it.

CG: Faran! 

JR: Really? Still? Sigh . . . okay, whatever. Not even going to bother with it today. Anyway, thanks again for joining us and good luck with  The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash!

Have I got a book for you!

Or three if you prefer!

Confession: even though I’ve been a media specialist, I suck at returning books. It’s not that I want to keep them, it’s just that sometimes (okay, all the time) the due date passes. So I started downloading audio books from the public library. SCORE! They disappear from your device after the due date!www.tuesdaywriters.com

You can use the OverDrive app to connect to your local library. Broward County Library has a fantastic collection of audio books.

So these are some of the gems I’ve listened to in the past two months.

Ramie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo. It’s the story of three girls who all have their reasons for wanting to competewww.tuesdaywriters.com in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. One of the striking aspects of this story is how each character is distinct in this third person historical fiction story. Raymie is convinced that winning the contest will get her picture in the paper which will make her father see it, and come home after running away with a dental hygienist. DiCamillo captures the essence of what it means to be a child trying to figure out what is going on with the adults in their lives.




Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Ghost is the self-proclaimed nickname of the main character because he thinks he is just that fast. Not that he practices or anything. He doesn’t need to. One day after school Ghost comes across a track team practice. He sees this one kid who Ghost can tell thinks he’s all that and Ghost knows he can beat him. So Ghost goes onto the track and stands there ready to race. www.tuesdaywriters.comThe coach tries to get rid of Ghost, but he won’t budge. Coach lets him race just to get rid of him. Of course, Ghost wins. That’s what he wanted, so he leaves, but now the coach wants him on the team. Ghost isn’t too concerned. He knows his mother would never let him join the team, so he agrees to let Coach meet his mom.  Mom says yes as long as Ghost doesn’t get into trouble at school and does his homework. Uh oh.



99 days by Katie Cotugno

Molly Barlow returns home for the 99 days between high school graduation and college. You know how parents can be so embarrassing when you’re in high school? Well Molly’s mother, best-selling author, gets out of her writing slump by penning a best selling story and then tells People Magazine that it’s based on her daughter’s love life…the time Molly was temporarily broken up with her boyfriend and slept with her ex-boyfriend’s brother. Everything in Molly’s life falls apart, and she goes away to boarding school but has no where to go until college starts. One of the things I liked about this story was the way Cotugno didn’t have to tell us every detail of those 99 days, and it worked!www.tuesdaywriters.com



What book have you read or listened to recently? Post in the comments below!


Best Advice From a Writer’s Conference

Writing is a solitary profession, and that’s one of the reasons why the Tuesdays appreciate writer’s conferences. That, and we get a lot of great advice. For all you writers out there, what’s the best advice you ever received from a writer’s conference?

Jonathan: I’ve received so many pieces of advice during the many years I’ve been to conferences that it’s difficult to decide what was the best. Also, it’s not easy to remember who said what. Still, one thing that has stuck with me was something Sid Fleischman said, and I’m paraphrasing here, but he said that if there’s a hole in your story, the best thing to do is to acknowledge it. Let the reader know you’re aware of it too. The example he used, and I had to look it up to get it correct, was, in his own words:

In McBroom’s Zoo I wanted to use the Hidebehind, a fabled frontier creature. No one knows what the Hidebehind looks like because every time you look, the animal hides behind you. I saw the hole at once. All McBroom needed to do was to hold up a mirror and he’d see the Hidebehind’s mug. I plugged the hole by pointing to it. Works like magic. “I even tried walking around with a hand mirror.” McBroom declares. “But the Hidebehind was too eternal clever for tricks like that.” 

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: For me it’s hard to isolate one piece of writerly advice that I’ve received over the years at writing conferences and workshops. Mostly it’s the coming together of like minds who are dedicated to the same purpose: to create art. It’s an overwhelming ideal and a very lonely pursuit filled with moments of intense doubt and fear. Getting over the bumps in the road requires friendships that outlast the pressures of this industry. Conferences that lift writers together, lift me especially, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to feel this wave of moving forward with people I have grown very fond of.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The best advice I ever received at a writers conference was from Jonathan Maberry and Lorin Oberweger at last year’s SCBWI conference in Florida. They were talking about how your main character has to drive his or her own storyline. Your protagonist shouldn’t be dragged through the story because of outside forces. They should be making decisions throughout that drive the story forward.

Faran Fagen

Faran: “Don’t write about characters. Become your character and write your story.” —Donna Gephart, award-winning writer and longtime SCBWI member

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I once took a class at Sleuthfest from Alison McMahan called Practicing your Pitch. She explained that an agent wants to see if you have a story they can sell and if you can sell yourself. Allison was very good at having everyone condense their novels into a catchy tagline, a powerful elevator pitch or logline and an effective synopsis.  She had a very simple formula for logline: nouns +verbs + irony = logline.  Great teachers have the ability to reduce the complex to the simple. Sleuthfest 2017 is February 23-26 in Boca Raton, Florida.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Linda Sue Park did the middle-grade workshop last June at the Orlando SCBWI conference. She spoke about the concept of widows and orphans. As a way to tighten your writing, you should look for those lines where only one or two words are on the next line. Work on that paragraph and look for unnecessary words so each of your paragraphs has full lines. I’ve found it a very interesting way to edit. Thanks SCBWI!

My Conference Wrap-Up

Hello Tuesdays!

Once again, you get a double dose of me this week! Oh, how I envy you!

Well, it’s time for Wrap-it-up Wednesday.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you. All along, I had been planning on doing a conference wrap-up this week and then I saw that Faran did something similar on Tuesday! While not exactly the same, since he did tips that he picked up, it was still too close for my liking. I mean, seriously . . . do you believe this guy? I have the urge to write him a strongly-worded email, but I don’t want to let my temper out like that.

Well, too bad, Faran, because I’m going to do it anyway!

Anyway, back to the conference. As I wrote before the weekend, I’ve been to many over the years and in each and every one, I’ve had a great time. Well, most of them anyway. But still, it’s always nice seeing other people in the writing community. Over the years, you become friends and support and commiserate with each other. This year was no exception, and it was great to getting reacquainted with so many. Some of them I only get to see twice a year, but it always feels as though no time passes. There is no forced conversation, it’s always so easy and free-flowing and genuine comfort, that we might as well all be huddled around a campfire and singing Kumbaya together.


As for the conference itself, it was fantastic, and I’m not just saying that because of my hope of being invited to speak at one in the future. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is just how great the conference was! So many wonderful speakers and advice given. We started off with Jane Yolen, who was very funny and gave wonderful advice. I have admired her since reading, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and she certainly didn’t disappoint here. It’s good to get advice from successful authors, since they’ve already been through the trenches and know what it takes to make it. What’s fascinating to me is, from what I heard, they’re still going through it. Even at their level, there are still rejections and near-misses. I figure that if someone like that can still face rejection at times, then I’d better continue to put in the work, because you can’t take anything for granted.

Mark Teague was next and he was engaging when he spoke. I’ve long admired his art.  And right after was  the editors’ panel, which this year featured, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Allison Moore and Kelsey Murphy. It’s always fascinating to hear what they have to say, since it gives you insight into what’s going on in the industry.

(Note: Not the actual Editors’ Panel)


The first books panel is always nice to see, because it shows validation for all of the hard work an author puts in. And it’s even better when friends of yours are on the panel. Our own Stacie Ramey, a new books panelist last year, introduced the debuts this year and we got to see Jill MacKenzie and Laura Boldin-Fournier talk about their experiences to reach this level. I know Jill for years and it was great to see her finally break through.

Florida’s own Rob Sanders was given the Crystal Kite award, for his picture book, Outer Space Bedtime Race and Gennifer Choldenko gave an entertaining presentation. Added bonus, when I got her to sign my AL Capone books, she was as nice in person as she seemed to be when presenting.

The agents’ panel came next and that’s a fantastic way for people to get to hear what agents are looking for. It’s one thing to read about it, but so much better to hear someone say what they’re passionate about. This year, they seemed to think the hot trend would be bunnies. (See what I did there? Wow, am I disgusting!) Anyway, the panel this year featured Sarah Davies, Ginger Clark and Lorin Oberweger.

The highlight came when another Florida SCBWI member, Donna Gephart, gave the keynote. The reason why this was so good is you get to see a success story from where you go. You see people you know succeed to that level and it should give everyone hope that there’s a chance for them. Donna was fantastic, funny and talked about all of her experiences. And not only that, but she’s also really nice in person!

Sunday was the time for workshops and I took classes with Sarah Davies and Lorin Oberweger. Both of them made classes so much fun and as I said before the weekend, no matter what stage you’re at, there’s ALWAYS something to learn.

If you didn’t make it out this time, definitely try and make it to the June conference in Orlando! And if you were there, what was your favorite part? Well, other than seeing me, that is.