We interrupt this writing day to announce…

2005 Award Winners in Childrens & YA Lit

Caldecott Winners
Chris Raschka won the 2005 Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Hello, Goodbye Window, written by Norton Juster (Hyperion/di Capua). Raschka had previously won a Caldecott Honor, for his picture book Yo? Yes!

Caldecott Honor Books were named: Rosa, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Nikki Giovanni (Holt); Zen Shorts, written and illustrated by Jon J Muth (Scholastic Press); Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride, written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Atheneum/Schwartz); and Song of the Water Boatmen & Other Pond Poems, illustrated by Beckie Prange, written by Joyce Sidman (Houghton).

Newbery Winners
Lynne Rae Perkins has won the 2005 John Newbery Medal for her novel Criss Cross (Greenwillow),
Newbery Honor Books: Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Scholastic); Whittington by Alan Armstrong, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Random/Lamb); Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury); and Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott (Putnam).

Michael L. Printz Award
Looking for Alaska, a first novel by John Green (Dutton), won the for excellence in literature for young adults. Four Printz Honors were given: Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (HarperCollins/Eos); I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (Knopf); John Lennon: All I Want Is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking); and A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy (Houghton).

Coretta Scott King Awards
Julius Lester won the Author award for Day of Tears (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun), and Bryan Collier won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Rosa (Holt). The John Steptoe Award for New Talent went to Jamie Adoff for Jimi & Me (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun)

The first annual Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for beginning reader books went to Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Suçie Stevenson (Simon & Schuster).

An Innocent Soldier by Josef Holub, translated by Michael Hofmann (Scholastic/Levine), won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best work of translation.

The Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book was won by Secrets of a Civil War Submarine by Sally M. Walker (Carolrhoda).

The Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contribution in writing for young adults was given to Jacqueline Woodson, and Kevin Henkes was chosen to deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture.

Of all of the books awarded, I’ve read only one! I have a lot of catching up to do! These are authors to watch… and I will, at some point. In the meantime, the only author nearby is me. Back to the keyboard.

FURTHER Procrastination

You know, I was going to shoot an email today to Secret Agent Man, and tell him that I just can’t, can’t, simply can’t, no way, fugheddabouddit, or whatever his Bronx ears need to hear that conveys to him that no, No, NO, I can’t possibly ‘edit’ an entire story by taking out a major plot element, that I’m dying, that I’ve worried my husband by sobbing in the bathroom at five thirty on a SUNDAY morning, that it’s ruining my health, my writing career, my alleged sanity, my life, blah, blah, blah, blah (or, yadda, yadda, which is apparently more acceptable on the East Coast)…

And then I checked my email, and got my monthly eZine from SmartWriter.com and read the most beautifully and unbearably optimistic editorial by editorial director Roxyanne Young. There’s a lot more to it than this, you should go to the website and check it out, but here’s a quote:

“We have a motto here at SmartWriters: Dream it. Do it. Write it now.

I have another writer friend who quotes Rita Mae Brown at the bottom of her email signature: “Don’t hope more than you’re willing to work.” Candie’s first novel is coming out in June. She calls herself at 25-year overnight success. She took a long, round-about trip to publication writing everything from résumés to business profiles to articles about construction for a Tennessee magazine, but she made it.

Believe in yourself. Don’t give up. You can do this, and we’re here to help. Set some realistic and achievable goals for yourself. Set up milestones to measure your progress.

Here’s my new favorite quote:

“Imagination is stronger than knowledge. Myth is more potent than history. Dreams are more powerful than fact. Hope always triumphs over experience. Love is stronger than death. It’s been said that each of us can influence up to 250 people in our lifetimes. How will you be influential? Be bold, and mighty unseen forces will come to your aid.” – Robert Fulgham

Be bold.”

In further news, Roxyanne has already started stumping for the next SmartWriter’s W.I.N. contest:

“Are you ready to W.I.N.? The 2006 Write It Now! Competition is open for entries!

Discover how to increase your confidence and sense of accomplishment as a writer in the prestigious Write It Now! Competition. In just two years, over 40 of our W.I.N.NING writers and illustrators have had their work published or put under contract and this year you could be one of them. There’s $1,495.80 in cash and prizes up for grabs, two new categories and 5 special bonuses just for entering now, including access to great educational teleseminars. Because each entry is given careful consideration by two first round judges I’m limiting the number of entries I’ll accept, so don’t hesitate. Go to
W.I.N. at SmartWriters Pro right now and reserve your spot.”

Well, that’s it for now. Nailing my bold butt to a chair, and getting on with it.

Is it Friday yet?

The more I read Non Sequitur, the more I just love it. It may be too small for you to read, but the signs say Meet the Author vs. Meet An Actor Who Plays A Minor Role In The Film Adaptation Of The Book.

You can see who has the longer line.
Ah, the glamour of writing. Sigh.

A discussion on one of SCBWI‘s boards recently dealt with how much, if anything, children’s lit/YA writers should charge for doing presentations for schools and other venues, and it was almost embarrassing how little we as a group respected ourselves. Overall, people seemed to feel that the more books they had published, the more of a right they had to not only charge, but to speak. Judging from some of the people I’ve met at Conferences and just the fact of human nature that some people really like to claim expert status when they know nothing, maybe that’s a good rule of thumb for some people to sort of wait awhile before they start talking about their craft. On the other hand, there were a bunch of people who had been writing for years, had had a few poems or articles published, had taken myriad writing classes and still felt unworthy.

Creative work is so hard to quantify, and it’s so difficult to find self respect and motivation in it that any time someone offers to take us seriously, perhaps we should make it more of a business arrangement. Should we give something for nothing until we “pay our dues?” Who makes the rules in this kind of thing?

Today I got an email from Secret Agent Man, who casually suggested I remove an entire element from my novel. It was like, “Oh, and I thought you might actually consider killing off one of the major characters.” It wasn’t exactly that, but it was close.

Why does today feel so much like Monday?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Yet another pseudo-celeb is on my $@#% list — but in a funnier way than usual. My girls at Mean & Catty are reporting that everyone and his dog is publishing children’s books. Seriously. I’d laugh, but then I’d have to laugh at everyone else crowding the field. I mean, it wasn’t just Tookie, people. John GOTTI tried. Geez. Some of it is really worthwhile writing. But a lot of it…

As Jane Yolen was quoted as saying, “Celebrity children’s books eat up all the available oxygen.” I’m going to add to that, and say that oxygen deprivation usually leads to brain damage. The idea of the money that could be made is obviously blowing many editor’s minds.

Lies, Liars and Literature

I think it’s time to revisit the meaning of the word ‘fiction.’ Seriously.

Is it just me, or does anyone else just completely not care about the lying literary person of JT Leroy?? Every time something like this comes up it just cements for me the reasons I only write YA fiction. Because truly? I just don’t really get so-called adults.

Literature is about becoming someone else, albeit briefly, to tell a story, and since we all know that stories are not always factual, and that this Leroy person has been deliberately murky on his/her story from the first, it’s obviously a publicity stunt/spin, and the “mystery” doesn’t merit as much ink as it has been given. All writers are liars, and all of us constantly don myriad personas to see how they fit. Of course, most of us don’t try taking our personas outside to party with them, (Maybe that’s an adult lit. thing. I’ve managed to get over the fact that I’m not sixteen.) but… either way, it just seems like a great, big, DUH that Leroy doesn’t and never did exist. And the question du jour is: SO!?

Meanwhile literary lying continues. The Smoking Gun is allegedly outing another writer on the details of his last book. James Frey’s, “A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club pick, has been disputed by several sources. I guess could appear to be a lot more serious, since the novel was written and marketed as a memoir, which is supposed to be completely autobiographical. If I were his editor and found that his story had conflicting police reports, I’d kick myself in the butt for not checking before it was printed and the movie rights were optioned. As for whether Frey is yet another liar? — his novel is a story about himself based on his memories of a time (and during that time Frey was allegedly a drug addict. Hello?). Talk to any family members about a past memory and you’ll find that no one agrees on what happened exactly, because everyone’s point of view differs. Frey’s reflecting on his life events rather than actually getting them down factually certainly blurs the genre lines, but does anyone believe that everything that Dave Eggers or David Sedaris write in their witty little memoirs actually happened that exactly as they say? Maybe that’s what all of this is about: drama, because if one person’s word is questioned, then it calls into question the work of the ‘literary giants’ among us. And how high does our reach extend if we’re all brought down to the same size? Hm.

Monday Resolutions

Okay, for most people, vacation ended long ago, but I’ve been in a weird state of mind that has mostly prevented too much work going on. A phone call with Agent Action, though, has kicked me in the bum, and I’m… here. Upright. Staring at the screen.

One thing that gives me a little boost is occasionally reading the Washington Post Style Invitational archives. I can’t waste the time reading them daily or I’d never get anything done, but when I get stuck on a chapter, I’m always a bit amused to go back and read the twists of the minds of thinkers who play with words. I also appreciate reading The Word Detective and dreaming of the day when I become that linguistically adept. And then, I get up for one last cup of tea, sit down, and really get back to business. Seriously. Which I am going to begin… now.

Momus – he's the man. Or something.

A little while before the holidays, I was watching some television special about Mardi Gras, and heard that there was a Greek god of writers. I looked it up on handy Wikipedia, and found, to my amusement, that Greek deity is called Momus, and he was kicked out of the Greek version of heaven on Mt. Olympus — for being a pain in the butt.

“Momus was the god of mockery, writers, poets, a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. Hesiod said that Momus was a son of Night (Nyx), in Theogony, 214. He mocked Hephaestus, Lucian of Samosata recalled (in the extended dialogue Hermotimus, 20), for having made mankind without doors in their breast, through which their thoughts could be seen. He even mocked Aphrodite, though all he could find was that she was talkative and had creaky sandals (Philostratus, Epistles).”

Heh. The god of writers is a pain in the butt who hangs out at Mardi Gras and drinks. Coincidence?

Momus – he’s the man. Or something.

A little while before the holidays, I was watching some television special about Mardi Gras, and heard that there was a Greek god of writers. I looked it up on handy Wikipedia, and found, to my amusement, that Greek deity is called Momus, and he was kicked out of the Greek version of heaven on Mt. Olympus — for being a pain in the butt.

“Momus was the god of mockery, writers, poets, a spirit of evil-spirited blame and unfair criticism. Hesiod said that Momus was a son of Night (Nyx), in Theogony, 214. He mocked Hephaestus, Lucian of Samosata recalled (in the extended dialogue Hermotimus, 20), for having made mankind without doors in their breast, through which their thoughts could be seen. He even mocked Aphrodite, though all he could find was that she was talkative and had creaky sandals (Philostratus, Epistles).”

Heh. The god of writers is a pain in the butt who hangs out at Mardi Gras and drinks. Coincidence?

Twenty-Ought-Six Rolls On

A few bits of news from the writing front — an SCBWI board has a new note from a Blooming Tree editor in search of middle grade stories:

I am now an assistant editor with Blooming Tree Press http://www.bloomingtreepress.com, and I am looking for manuscripts which meet the following criteria:

Contemporary middle grade fiction under 30,000 words with a male main character.
Humor or adventure stories especially wanted.
No grossness.
No historical fiction.

Please send e-mail queries to [email protected]
Include the first chapter in the body of the email (no attached files please).
Please pay attention to the above criteria. I am not interested in girl stories or historical fiction at this time. It is fine if girls are characters in the story, but the MAIN character(s) should be boys. We are trying to round out our list.
If you have other types of manuscripts you are interested in submitting to Blooming Tree Press, please follow the directions under Submissions on our web page. At this time I am ONLY interested in the above.

Kay Pluta, Assistant Editor
Blooming Tree Press

Meanwhile, 2006 looks to be the year of Making Better Writers — or else. According to the latest Poets & Writers

Disappointed with the quality of entries for its First Fiction Award, Winnow Press decided to return the entry fees, postage, and manuscripts to all the writers who entered the contest. (From News & Trends, a feature of Poets & Writers Magazine.)

I imagine the contest participants are bitterly disappointed — and somewhat humiliated as well! To ‘winnow,’ however, means to sort the bad from the good, by shaking and wind. If anyone ever does get published by Winnow Press (and will anyone else enter a contest of theirs ever again?) they should be quite, quite honored.

Yes, indeed. Happy New Year.

Year End Etc., Etc.

Once again an agent is seeking to cultivate YA writers for her list. Dana West is a junior agent at the Writer’s House San Diego office, and will be attending the North Central California Region Spring Spirit II Conference in March. The conference features a lot of interesting editors and illustrators, and might be worthwhile if you’re in the area. Something to look forward to in 2006!


Every year one should refresh oneself on the basics of writing. Harold Underdown of The Purple Crayon fame is a nice man who published a guide on how to get out of the slush pile, the ubiquitous place where all unsolicited manuscripts first land. Writers would do themselves a favor to read it at least yearly, so as to avoid the mistakes we’re all apt to make when we get too lazy/sloppy/comfortable with this writing life. Since he has written a fabulous Q&A book about children’s publishing, you can mine the site for answers, and ask him something specific if you can’t already find the answer there.


The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, which houses a huge collection of children’s works for study and research, is announcing a Spring event with illustrator Steven Kellog. Now, I know we’re writers, but it’s good to Know Your Illustrators, especially when writing for children. Check it out.


The beginning of the year is very slow sometimes for writers – publishing houses are just getting back online from their two week (plus!) vacations, and it may seem like nothing is going on. Never fear, something IS going on! Only it’s going on with YOU, hopefully. Right now is when it’s a time to get to work! The Writer Magazine has some little workouts for learning how to pace, and a last minute (VERY last minute!) contest from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference Writing Contest. Too late for the contest this year, unless you’ve just got a children’s novel handy, (deadline is the 31st!), but there’s always next year, and the Conference in February. Meanwhile, work on that pacing!

Auld Lang Syne and all of that.