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.

And now a report from the Publisher's Marketing Assoc.

POSTAL RATES TO INCREASE JANUARY 8

The United States Postal Service Board of Governors has approved the Postal Rate Commission’s recommended 5.4 percent increase for most postal rates, effective Jan. 8, 2006.

The Periodicals rate is among those that will increase, but the 5 percent Classroom publication discount will remain in place. That means that the Classroom Periodicals Rate will increase by roughly 5.4 percent. Media and Library rates will increase by an average of 12.7 percent, though Library Mail rates, as required by law, will be set at 5 percent below corresponding Media Mail rates.

As required by law, the Media Mail rate increase is expected to cover Postal Service costs. However, it could have a significant affect on companies that use that subclass to ship a significant percentage of their products. Several groups protested to the USPS Board of Governors with respect to the Postal Rate Commission’s Media Mail decision.

What this means for writers, aside from having steeper price increases while sending things to potential publishers or agents, is higher cost of mailing books and those kind of Weekly Reader periodicals to schools that help to sell your books in the classroom. This is also going to impact the publishing agencies, and may trickle down into slightly increased book prices and/or less money being spent by marketing departments on sending out your books. Yes, happy New Year! Feel the love, writers! Y

Current Rates Listed First, Then New:
First-Class Letter (1 oz.) 37¢ 39¢
First-Class Letter (2 oz.) 60¢ 63¢
Postcard 23¢ 24¢
Priority Mail (1 lb.) $3.85 $4.05
Express Mail (1/2 lb) $13.65 $14.40
Express Mail (2 lb) $17.85 $18.80
Fee and Service Changes
Certified Mail $2.30 $2.40
Delivery Confirmation (Priority) 45¢ 50¢
Delivery Confirmation (First Class Parcels) 55¢ 60¢
Return Receipt (Original Signature) $1.75 $1.85
Return Receipt (Electronic) $1.30 $1.35

FYI, guys.

And now a report from the Publisher’s Marketing Assoc.

POSTAL RATES TO INCREASE JANUARY 8

The United States Postal Service Board of Governors has approved the Postal Rate Commission’s recommended 5.4 percent increase for most postal rates, effective Jan. 8, 2006.

The Periodicals rate is among those that will increase, but the 5 percent Classroom publication discount will remain in place. That means that the Classroom Periodicals Rate will increase by roughly 5.4 percent. Media and Library rates will increase by an average of 12.7 percent, though Library Mail rates, as required by law, will be set at 5 percent below corresponding Media Mail rates.

As required by law, the Media Mail rate increase is expected to cover Postal Service costs. However, it could have a significant affect on companies that use that subclass to ship a significant percentage of their products. Several groups protested to the USPS Board of Governors with respect to the Postal Rate Commission’s Media Mail decision.

What this means for writers, aside from having steeper price increases while sending things to potential publishers or agents, is higher cost of mailing books and those kind of Weekly Reader periodicals to schools that help to sell your books in the classroom. This is also going to impact the publishing agencies, and may trickle down into slightly increased book prices and/or less money being spent by marketing departments on sending out your books. Yes, happy New Year! Feel the love, writers! Y

Current Rates Listed First, Then New:
First-Class Letter (1 oz.) 37¢ 39¢
First-Class Letter (2 oz.) 60¢ 63¢
Postcard 23¢ 24¢
Priority Mail (1 lb.) $3.85 $4.05
Express Mail (1/2 lb) $13.65 $14.40
Express Mail (2 lb) $17.85 $18.80
Fee and Service Changes
Certified Mail $2.30 $2.40
Delivery Confirmation (Priority) 45¢ 50¢
Delivery Confirmation (First Class Parcels) 55¢ 60¢
Return Receipt (Original Signature) $1.75 $1.85
Return Receipt (Electronic) $1.30 $1.35

FYI, guys.

Holiday Hustling

Whoo hoo! I think I have some time to read — during this wee sanctioned mini-vacay (if my agent can take one, so can I) I have loaded up at the library and who cares if I still have shopping and baking and wrapping to do before the onslaught of family frivolity? I am working on finding my true inner nerd-dom, skillfully multitasking in the face of futility… and I am reading in line. Okay, if I’m driving I try and cut down then. But I do read at a.] the Post Office, which, in my lovely town, is on Valium even on a normal day, b.] waiting in line at Raley’s behind the woman with the sixteen cases of beer (what IS Chriskwanzukkah like at her house!?) c.) waiting for my granola parfait at my fave cafe (and being asked questions by the wait staff that I don’t hear — they’ve taken to writing notes.).

I would love this time of year a lot more if we all took, say, just a week before Christmas and said, “Okay: stores closed. Expectations: none. Let’s all just read.”
National Book Week! That’s what it should REALLY be!

Best holiday gift I’m giving this year? Books on tape to the Littles. My tiny beef with many school systems is that they don’t spend enough time on history. (WARNING: former teacher rant upcoming.) Even I find out stuff I never learned in school — like the fact that the U.S. held Alaskans in interment camps during WWII — and I think, Man, most kids are clueless even about history that’s being made NOW! I got the great little book Baseball Saved Us, which was about a Japanese American boy who learned to love baseball in the middle of a desert. Good stuff.

Well, there’s another line calling my name.
Happy Winter, however you’re celebrating it.

Because NPR rocks, as always

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis

A great bunch of writers sat around the other day to talk about kids, fairy tales, and the place for children’s fantasy fiction in the modern world. Guests included Neil Gaiman, with whose works I’m not yet familiar; Tamora Pierce, whose books were once singularly spectacular because they gave female characters a strong place in the action; and Christopher Paolini, the homeschooled wunderkind who, at fifteen published the first of his two award-winning dragon novels. If you missed it, take a listen to
an intriguing conversation on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

Okay. I’m avoiding reading movie reviews of the Narnia film, but if you’re not, NPR also did a quick review on last week’s Morning Edition and there’s some good, I understand. Hmph. I won’t be convinced that easily.

Off to read the books!

The Great Chronicles Book Club


The first time I encountered the Chronicles of Narnia, I was in the third grade, and our teacher, Mrs. Wallace, read a scant half hour of it to us, every day. The English-isms and the tricky storyline were slightly daunting when heard aloud, the magical surrealism a little scary, and a daily half-hour simply wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to sit down and read it for myself. Maybe if I read it, I could get what all the fuss was about. (Fuss= some indignant parents against children hearing dark fairytales at our small private Christian school. You can assume they’d never read it, but maybe heard there were fauns. How I wish people would read first, object later, but… well, maybe I should stop with wishing “people would READ,” but good luck with that…)

Narnia, that grand old city, is finding new life on film this season. WritingYA will be going where only a few in recent years have gone before — back to the books! We’re reading the Narnia series, and we want you to read too. Some of us will want to read them in the order they were written, others in the order of the story. I’m going to begin with The Magician’s Nephew, and read chronologically, since that is the way the series was first introduced to me. As we read through the series, I challenge any of you who’ve seen the movie to tell me if the book is faithful. Does it fulfill the prerequisites of a ‘classic’ to you? What makes a classic?

Until I’ve re-read the novels (and probably not even after that), I’m not going to see the movie. I’m getting a little sick of children’s movies that come from books which children hardly know exist – and then the storyline gets changed for maximum special effects, or chopped into mince, a la Potter… But that’s perhaps a rant for another day.

When did you first encounter Lewis, the mysterious Wardrobe and the world beyond? Read with us! Post your book review, remembrances and errata on our sister site, and tell us what you think.