Buried in the Slush Pile

Thoughts on children’s books, editing,
publishing and more.
Parenting Is Overrated

Parenting Is Overrated

Thoughts on parenting, special needs
parenting and more.

Latest Books

Stepmothers & the Big Bad Wolf
Summer Shorts
Writing Sprints

I Love Bookstores.

Right now, I’m at RWA completely out of my element. I don’t know the books everyone talks about. I don’t know the authors. I’m even unfamiliar with some of the conventions used in crafting their work. And yet, I’m still somehow very much at home. I am surrounded by people who love books. They may love books that are different from the ones I love (not very many people here are familiar with Diana Wynne Jones), but they love books. And that’s all that matters. That got me thinking about those places where we get books. As you get reminded at a conference like this, the publishing industry and the way books go to market has changed a lot in recent years. It’s even changed since I started blogging way back when on my little blogger account. Nowadays, you can buy books online from huge sites, from niche sites, or even “rent” them from private online libraries. You can walk into a big box store and find discounted best sellers or visit a traditional brick and mortar bookstore. And let’s not forget used books. It’s now easier than ever to find that out of print book from childhood that used to live only in our memories. And we could sit here and debate what model is best for authors or publishers or the industry as a whole, but I would argue that all of them in all of their incarnations are good for one person. Me. The Reader. And that makes me love all bookstores in all of their forms. I love the depth of online stores and their... read more

Currently, Lately, and Going Forward

My friend Carla wrote a lovely post today inspired by this post. In these posts both women muse a little bit about the current state of their lives. I’ve decided to enter into the conversation by posting my own thoughts about the State of Madeline. Lately: I had big plans at the beginning of the year. I was going to post regularly, get my newsletter finally going, finish my Story Slices book, redesign the Writing Sprints book, get back to freelancing, get CBAY a new distributor, and generally be a publishing bad-ass. Oh, and get the kid in Kindergarten. And then I started getting sick again. Worse than anything I had in the past. It was like a thyroid issue, but it wasn’t my thyroid (according to the bloodwork). My moods were up and down; my weight bounced around by 15 pounds; somedays I was lucky if I had enough energy to get out of bed. Writing was out. Reading was out. There were times that watching TV was just too hard. The first things to go were the blog posts and the newsletters. Both books got put on hold. I didn’t even attempt to freelance, and I put off finding a distributor. We did get child in Kindergarten, but he needed more support than the school could provide. I ended up going to Kindergarten almost every day too. This would have been more disruptive to my life if I didn’t have the energy to do much more than sit and mediate my kid’s play all day. The doctor’s were mystified. The anti-depressant didn’t really help. I didn’t respond... read more

When You Publish for the First Time…

Hi! My name is Susan Bianculli, and this is my first time writing for someone else’s blog. That sounds like the beginning of a first date, doesn’t it? But it’s true; I am a first timer in so many things. I can also say that it’s my first time getting published – my first book is just releasing (and maybe have it even go into print if it does well!) I have so many emotions about it. One is excitement – my story is going out to the public! Another is fear – my story is going out to the public! Another is being proud – my story is going out to the public! That one fact gives me so many mixed emotions that you could ask me that question several times a day and maybe get a different answer each time depending on my mood at the moment. Writing is a long road. I started on my story when my son was in Kindergarten, and revised it relentlessly. It wasn’t until he was in 3rd grade that, after submitting my manuscript to the contest Madeline had, made my story see the light of day. Now my son is halfway through 4th grade, and after much heavy editing, Prisoners of the Keep (The Mist Gate Crossings), my Young Adult action adventure fantasy novel, is going live. Writing is also a harder road than you might think. Your mileage may vary, but it takes a lot of time (no, really, a LOT of time), inspiration, and energy to write. For me to make my writings coherent I need all three... read more

Debuts I Have Known

This week is a very exciting week over at CBAY Books. Tomorrow we launch a brand new series, The Mist Gate Crossings. This is our first YA ebook original, and we have all sorts of exciting things planned for this series — not the least is a 99 cents debut price for the next month. But all of this planning and plotting for Mist Gate has gotten me nostalgic for other debut books I’ve worked on in the past. And since I’ve only worked at small presses, that has actually been a large proportion of my work. So, today, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorites from the past: (And just to be clear, for these purposes I’m defining debut as someone’s first book. For example, I’m very partial to David Michael Slater’s Sacred Books, but since he had already published picture books, I don’t consider him a debut author/book.) Picture Books: Little Bunny Kung Fu This was the very first picture book I ever worked on. I still have the stuffed rabbit that goes with the book. Patrick the Somnambulist I’ll admit that I did very little with this project other than sort of oversee the timelines. This is back from when I was Children’s Editorial Director back at Blooming Tree Press. But I have always thought this book was adorable with wonderful illustrations. Easy Reader: There’s a Yak in My Bed Easy reader’s are probably really hard to write. I wouldn’t actually know because I have never really tried to write one. They are a bear to edit though. I’m quite proud of the wonderful job... read more

Where the Money Goes

There’s this odd misconception out in the world that publishers and authors are rich. We both have money to burn and can afford huge outlandish parties to celebrate our books.

I wish.

Here’s a breakdown of where money goes at a small press.

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Just Submit Already

Today I did that scary thing all authors have to do at some point if they ever plan to publish their work (regardless of whether they go the traditional or indie publishing route). I opened myself up to rejection. In my specific example, I submitted to an agent. Now, submitting to a single agent is not exactly a huge feat. But she is just the first of I suspect many, and with each submission the chance for rejection exists. (The chance for acceptance also exists. We must stay positive.) So why did I take so long to submit? Well partly, because last year I had to conserve my energy. Working on others people work with CBAY was more important to me than getting my own work out. Now that I feel better I can prioritize both CBAY and my own stuff. So what was the pep talk I gave myself as I sent my things into the wide world? The worst that can happen is that they might say no. True, this is the very definition of rejection, but to paraphrase one of my brilliant writer friends who just signed with an agent: I’m no worse off than before I queried. They can’t say yes if I don’t ask. Let’s face it. The agents are not going to coming looking for me or you. We have to let them know we have something to offer. They are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. They have to know we exist. This is not a personal rejection. This isn’t a statement on me as an author or even on my writing. It’s a... read more

How to Have Your Own Low-Key Retreat

I have just gotten back from a writing retreat. This was a very informal thing where a large group of writing-oriented friends rent a house in the middle of nowhere. We take turns making meals and we spend hours, hours just working in silence. It’s great. It’s one of the things I look forward to every six months. And I get so much done. This kind of “get away from it all” is really key for everyone, especially creative types. So, here are the tips I’ve accumulated over the years from watching our retreat’s organizers: Find someplace without internet We use a house in the middle of nowhere about 1 hour outside of Austin. Although the place has TVs with DVD players, they are strictly forbidden. There’s only about 3 of us who get cell service, so internet is out for most folks. (I’m one of the lucky ones, so I act as switchboard for calls, thus no one begrudges me my email time.) If you just want to have a writing weekend with a close friend, you could always get one room and not ever use the hotel wifi. Use a Google Doc Spreadsheet to Decide Food and Cleaning Duties in Advance We take turns preparing the meals and then someone else cleans up. This way we know in advance who needs to bring what food, and there are no fights over clean-up. Also, everyone knows when she’s doing stuff, and this helps budget writing time. Have Plans for the Evening We try to do something inspirational every night. We also set one night aside to read from... read more

Unlooked for Compliment

The other day I got something that a parent of a kid like mine – a kid with a lot of negative labels – doesn’t get all that often. A complete and total stranger told me I have a “good kid.” Let’s set the scene. I got a new phone that did not activate. I did everything you’re supposed to do, but my cell service stubbornly stuck with the old phone. So, with my husband out of town, I dragged my kid up to the cell phone store. On a Saturday. The little storefront was packed. The guy at the door pointed us to a table, and we sat down. Without a fuss (and to my surprise), child handed over my old phone so the guy could look at it. While the guy helped me call the number that would switch my service, my kid played on the iPad. When there was a lull, he leaned over and whispered in that very loud stage whisper only little kids do, “What his name?” “His name is Bob,” I said, reading the guy’s name tag. “I can talk Bob?” he whispered. “Sure, you can talk to Bob if you want,” I said. He turned and in a huge exaggerated voice (as if Bob hadn’t just heard the entire exchange) said, “Hi, Bob.” “Hi,” said Bob, with a smirk, clearly trying to suppress a grin. For the rest of our time there, Castle would occasionally share his iPad with Bob. At the end as we left, Bob smiled and said, “You have a good kid there.” I know, Bob. I know. It’s... read more

12 Months of Writing

My first goal of the year is to write more. This particular goal doesn’t really need a detailed plan or timeline. I can say it all in one sentence: I’m going to write for at least one hour everyday. Although initially this goal is about little more than putting words on a page, eventually I want those words to add up to well-crafted work. So, as a corollary to this goal, I’m going to focus on my craft this year as well. My Twelve Months of Writing: Character Plot Theme Dialog Setting/World Building Show vs. Tell Motivation Types of Fiction Genre Fiction Revision Novels Nonfiction If you want to join me on my journey through craft, sign up for my newsletter. Every month I will be sending our a special “Art & Craft” edition of Madeline’s Mutterings. To join my newsletter, click here. And if there’s anything special, craft-wise, that you’d like to discuss, let me know in the comments... read more