Interviewed by Cynthea Liu

Cynthia Liu interviewed me for her site Writing for Children and Teens. This site is chock full of information, interviews, tips, and quips from Cynthea's sidekick, Snoop. Click here to read the interview.

Book Roast--It's What's for Supper

Chris Eldin and friends are serving up books and more on their new blog Book Roast. Posts will include short book excerpts, silly questions, and stuff you can win! Check it out!

I Ran into an Old Friend

I knew I recognized that voice. I was throwing darts in this restaurant when I heard him, and I looked around. Gosh . . . was that . . .

I looked at him openly, but he didn't seem to know me. I swore it was him. I thought about doing the usual procedure in this case--yelling out his name and watching to see if he responded. Or I could just pretend I didn't see him.

Instead, I walked by his table and said, "Excuse me, are you T?"

T looked up, curious. "Yes"

"It's me, Danette!"

A smile and affection washed over his face. I slid into his booth and caught up with him and his dinner companion, his boy who is now a man.

T is doing something new with his photography. As I listened to him, I got caught up in his enthusiasm. When someone is passionate about something, they exude excitement and it's contagious. It's inspiring to listen to another artist talk about their work, what they're trying to do, and how it's going. I love that type of conversation.

Then my Reuben got served and it was time for me to go. But it was wonderful running into an old friend and remembering the work we used to produce together, and even better, sharing the new work we're both doing now.

Friday the 13th

It's Friday the 13th! (Cue ominous music.) Have you had any bad luck today?

Tidbits from the Newspaper

The local paper's editors are so smart. Look at these nuggets:

Don't exercise too much too soon.
Don't worry. I am already fulfilling this advice.

Dine out for Father's Day.
HA! Like you had to tell me.

A few other bits I found interesting:

Though the high today will be 90, it will feel like 97. This perceived difference is called the heat index; it's the Floridian equivalent of what you up north call the wind chill factor. The Almanac tells me that today, the sun will damage my skin after I am outside for ten minutes. I will combat this effect with my number 50 SPF.

Someone's selling a size ten wedding gown. It's beautiful, she says, and never worn.

I see ads like that all the time--huge diamond rings going for a fraction of their value, "divorce" garage sales, infant car seats for sale. These items represent huge events or the passage of time in the lives of people I don't know. I linger on these ads, wondering about the stories behind them. It's weird being privy to what you think might have happened, yet quite intriguing.

Hmm. Time to get the notebook out.

Happy Birthday, Stephen Parrish

Happy birthday, Stephen!

Surprise, surprise! A little birdie came and whispered in my ear. Stephen is one of my blogging buddies and if you've never checked out his blog, do visit. Don't be fooled by those tear-jerking Hallmark commercials Stephen posts--he also tears into politics and other controversial subjects and he does not back away from being specific! You might be uncomfortable; you might disagree; but you will definitely be made to think!

Plus, he plays with Barbies!

Notes from the SCBWI Florida Mid-Year Workshop

Me: I'm a little nervous about the workshop. I want to talk with other writers, but I don't know them and I don't know what to say.

Him: Here's how I do it--if I see a kid outside on a Ripstik, I say, "Can you do tricks on that?" and then I say, "Can I have a turn?" Then we start talking about Ripstiks and stuff and then we're friends. You should just ask people what book they're writing now. That's what you should do.

Me: You are a very smart boy.

* * *
First off, thank you and congrats to Linda Bernfeld and a host of others who pulled off another fantastic workshop in O-town. Linda called me last week and asked me if I wouldn't mind picking up an editor from the airport and driving her to the hotel. Ha! An hour alone with an editor. Yes, Linda, yes, I would be more than happy to help, mwahahaha.

So that's how I got to meet Nancy Siscoe, Associate Publishing Director and Executive Editor for Knopf & Crown Books for Young Readers. You will be proud to know that I did not ply Nancy with possible stories, not even once! But I did play an endless loop of my middle-grade ideas, recorded on CD at a pitch so high, only the subconscious could hear it. Nancy should be writing out that six-figure contract even as we speak.

People I met (as in, I actually spoke with):

Michael Stearns, Firebrand Literary--Michael sported the best accessory in the house--a cast. I was so happy to meet him, I forgot to ask him what happened to his foot. I shook Michael's hand, so now if he goes back to New York and shakes my agent's hand, well, you know, six degrees of separation and all that. In any case, Michael was witty and informative and very approachable.

Andrea Tompa, Associate Editor, Candlewick Press--Andrea was cool and funny, and I caught her as we were all packing up. More on what Andrea likes later.

Lots of other writers. I asked them what books they were writing and now we are friends.

What Happened in the Middle-Grade Track:

Bruce Hale, author of the popular Chet Gecko series, Michael Stearns, and Andrea Tompa sat at the head table for the Middle-Grade Track. One thing that always surprises me at conferences is how well the speakers work together and how they play off each other.

For me, the first page critiques provided an excellent education. Humorous pieces elicited the best comments from the judges. (At this point, I was thinking of them as Paula, Randy, and another Randy (two Randys because no one was snarky enough to be Simon).) They advised us to avoid frontloading--making an info dump in the beginning so your reader has the whole thing right away. Instead, feed in the necessary information through dialogue and other bits and pieces.

Bruce told us to let the manuscript cool off between revisions, a month if you can do it. I must say my cooling off periods have been much shorter, but I like the idea of leaving the manuscript long enough to stop editing it in my sleep.

Michael showed us how to pace a novel by outlining a YA chicklit novel in which a guy named Bruce was the loser in a romantic triangle.

Andrea reminded us to make sure to bring into play things you introduce. Everything should serve a purpose. Although Candlewick is a closed house, she reads manuscripts from conference attendees for a specified period of time. If you know me from somewhere, like this conference, she said, open [your query] with that. Andrea likes literary science fiction and stories that feature an outdoor challenge.

The mood at the workshop was one of camaraderie and excitement. Writers were buying books and signing books and everyone looked happy. Even the lunch was good. What can I say? I had a great time. Now I'm looking forward to Miami!