Have a kid who’d like to meet some Zombies in person? Meet the Bogeyman and his band of spookies at Barnes & Noble in Metairie, La., Sat., Oct. 1 from 1-3pm.
Real or in costume? You decide.
Look who got book contract number two.
Yup, that’s me using my daughter’s never-used, $10, fancy Disney World pen – $10, really? – on “Book Signing Day.” My daughter’s dragon logo-ish backdrop is as symbolic as her fuzzy pen. Because the story I’m signing the contract for in the picture is for kids, middle graders ages 8 to 12.
So why did I nearly pass out? Let’s go back to the beginning, well, 2009 at least. That’s when a fishing story that had been rolling around in my head for years came to fruition. In 2009, an advertising agency colleague had won an online writing contest where one had to submit a minimum of 10,000 words to participate.
Ta-dah, an idea was born!
The rebel in me decided I’d write a 10,000 word life-changing essay – and not one word longer – about a kid’s fishing trip with grampa loosely titled, “The Greatest Fishing Story Ever Told.” HINT: you can find the initial idea somewhere on this blog.
Then, my daughter was born a month later : )))
Fast forward three years later, that’s 2012, and lots of dad-daughter duties, I realized I had only written four chapters and about 1,000 words.
Inspired by my three-year-old’s curiosity of me “writing letters” on my computer for work, I quickly jumped back in the waters (pun intended) and finished my 10,000 word essay – only 600 words over, too.
Then, I quickly joined a regular writer’s group (SCBWI/Louisiana/Mississippi), attended SCBWI Conferences, submitted it to publishers and was even brave enough to contact #kidlit agents. Smallies and some biggies.
Two weeks after sending the first 10 pages to a notable publisher in NY, and the editor said “This is funny, entertaining and could sell. Please send me the rest.”
I quickly came down with a case of D.O.G. (a.k.a., delusions of grandeur).
Meanwhile, those agents were kind enough to give me some real and solid advice, feedback and words of encouragement, “This is great. But it’s not for me – keep at it.” The best part though was that most agent advice came within one week of them receiving submissions. Here’s a plug all at once, “Thank you, agents. Most of you know who you are.” Holiday cards never hurt either.
I was floating more than a mile high. THEN IT HAPPENED. I received feedback that I guess every writer dreads: the one that makes you question why you ever started writing the story in the first place.
The note read: “This is juvenile! This concept has been done plenty of times – and MUCH BETTER!! Throw away your first 2 chapters and start from there!!! But your voice is worth 5 stars.” Ironically enough, I had only submitted 2 chapters, too.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
That the agent (who shall not be named) penned “your voice is worth 5 stars” – that was enough inspiration for me to do just as he/she suggested.
In 2013, I finished a whole new draft with a whole new concept and whole new title (to be released at a later date). The editor liked the new angle and liked that her publisher wouldn’t have an issue with the short 10,000 word count (most Middle Grade stories are 20,000 and more). Check out Jennifer Laughran’s blog on childrens’ book word counts, Wordcount Dracula if you’re interested in writing for kids yourself.
Tick tock. Tick tock. 2014.
Another regional publisher requested the book and responded within a month of receiving the whole manuscript: “This rings true to fishing life in Louisiana. Here are some suggested revisions if you’d like to make them and resubmit. Thank you.”
Tick tock. Tick tock. 2015.
Same regional publisher again requested some more revisions.
Tick tock. Tick tock. 2016.
Same regional publisher again requested even more, tiny detailed revisions.
And today, July 15, 2016, I’m very, super excited, stoked beyond words in the english language to say that I’ve signed on for my second book (FIRST BOOK under my own name) with Pelican Publishing Company.
But feel free to check out “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents: Hoodoo and Voodoo” with two shorties penned by me about spooky life in Louisiana – “The Doll in the Wall” and “Déjà’s View: a Zombie Tale.” Be warned: you may need to sleep with one eye open.
What about NY? Well, the editor finally passed earlier this year, apologizing that it took her so long to get back with me – in a two-page handwritten letter with lots of words of encouragement and thinking that it had been picked up elsewhere anyway : )
So back to the question: why did I nearly pass out? Last week, I was sort of down on writing, my career and general writer thoughts so I went out for a run at night in the cooler 90°, and yes, also 100% humidity. Three miles later and I had to sit down – which gets us back on point – because I nearly passed out.
Sweating profusely, my cell phone practically dead, I noticed my email notifications were over 100. That alone could make someone pass out.
But my personal email is usually at 0, and oddly it had 1, so I guess I had missed it.
The subject line read: Contract for the Craziest Fishing Tale on Bayou Vivré
And that’s how I landed this book contract number two (pun intended, yet again) with Pelican Publishing. A crazy, Louisiana fishing tall-tale with a publisher named pelican, I guess some things are so meant to be.
So what did I learn in all of this?
In the words of a super sweet agent I met at one of those SCBWI Conferences:
“Be patient. Be patient. Then be even more patient.”
And that means you can get a fabulously spooky signature/autograph from me (and possibly 8 other Bayou Bogeyman storytellers). Believe me, having 9 creative minds together in one room is spooky enough.
So come one, come all, y’all – Saturday, April 16 from 11:30am-12:45pm at Octavia Books.
OH, and click here to LIKE us on Facebook for future signings and spooky appearances come October: I Triple-Werehamster Dare You!
Well, technically I didn’t write the whole book. But I did pen two short stories in the newly released “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo” – published by Pelican Publishing Company.
For Middle Graders ages 8-12, the Bayou Bogeyman includes 13 spooky stories told from a different author, and each short story is part of one larger tale where the kid who tells the worst story might just get eaten – C O O L ! ! !
So how’d this all happen?
Well, while attending a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) monthly meeting in New Orleans, and reading a few pages of a funny story I was working on, Laura Roach Dragon (a.k.a., the Dragon Lady) asked if I could write “CREEPY.”
I was a reluctant, practically non-existent reader as a kid (except for forced school work assignments and comics like Garfield, Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes), and I figured I’d try my hand at writing something that I would have liked to read back then.
Four months after that ask – and TA-DAH! – I had penned two spooky tales. One was about a zombie tween who must survive middle school but keep in mind, don’t eat your friends (Deja’s View: A Zombie Tale). The second story took a little longer about a girl who needs to save her little brother from a doll living in their wall. So I let (The Doll in the Wall) breathe for a month or two while editing here, adding new stuff there – and totally starting the ending of the story over and over and over.
But me being published didn’t happen overnight – unlike those lucky millionaire lottery winners after buying only ONE ticket.
Truth is, I had been writing stories since I was that non-existent kid reader – mostly awful stories that were only good for shooting trashcan baskets. A few comics about a Super Egg Hero, a few recurring tales about Ghastly Ghosts living in the suburbs, and a series of disturbing, yet funny, poems and real stories from Edgar Fruggenburger. Like I said, mostly trash fodder.
In my mid-twenties, I took writing serious – bought some How To Write Children’s Books for Dummies and even took a number of online writing, screenwriting and Institute of Children’s Literature classes. I even sharpened my craft as an ad agency writer for 19 years.
Like most writers, I began writing about life experiences – because all the books say “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.”
I wrote about life on the bayou, life about a bat in my yard, life about how I passed sixth grade without ever cracking open a book (fictional, of course). I submitted story after story after story – surprisingly many stories were requested by seasoned editors at recognizable publishing house.
Then came the rejections. Not quite right for us. Not ideal for our list. I didn’t connect enough with the hero to read on. One agent (who someday I will kneel before and thank with a drink of choice) said in harsh, bold words, “Throw away your entire first chapter and start there.”
That’s when it hit me, why would anyone want to read about ME.
I paused. I reflected. I wanted to take this serious. So I joined SCBWI. I attended monthly meetings. I went to writer conferences and workshops. I read author blogs. I joined conversations on twitter #kidlitchat. I shared my tales and ideas with critique groups (one where I was the only unpublished author too – talk about intimidating).
Then, I sat back and breathed!
After trying, and trying, and trying, I stopped trying to write to get published. And I started writing what I would want to read when I was a kid.
Fast forward hundreds of stories or idea starters later, and the first story ever published in print by author (that sounds so cool) Gary Alipio is about that Zombie Tween surviving middle school without eating her friends.
SO … by all means, definitely feel free not to “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.”
Back to the release of “The Bayou Bogeyman Presents Hoodoo and Voodoo” by Pelican Publishing Company (nice plug, right)? It’s now online, and if it’s not in a bookstore near you, please ask them to stock it – or we’ll put some gris-gris on them.
Then, pick up a copy or two or even three. Snap a selfie of you with your Bayou Bogeyman book and Tweet or Instagram it with #BayouBogeyman, and every now and then I’ll reach out to send someone a signed (by a number of Bayou Bogeyman authors) copy.
BE WARNED: You may need to sleep with one eye open.
It’s never too early to start thinking about stocking stuffers either.
Yep, #PiBoIdMo is upon us.
What is #PiBoIdMo? It’s a picture book idea self-challenge to come up with one picture idea a day for the whole month of November – courtesy author Tara Lazar. Learn more about the fabulously zany, and most of the time brilliant, Tara Lazar and her blog “Writing for Kids (while raising them)” at the following.
Your idea doesn’t have to be well thought out, brilliant or even make much sense. But the idea behind Tara’s challenge it to get the ideas out of your head and onto the page. Each day there is a guest blogger made up of several children’s book’s authors and agents from around the country.
This year’s agents are:
Oh, and the ideas are as an infamous James Bond girl would say, “For Your Eyes Only.” No sharing of ideas required. You’re on your honor system.
AND you can win some fabulous prizes, and maybe even a comment or two from an agent : ) (we can all dream, right?) Here’s who’s blogging:
So what do you have to lose? Get the scratch paper out, open up that laptop or pull out those unused stickee notes. And let the ideation begin.
YAY! Yes, I just got a contract for a book. A real book by a real publisher with real legal jargon of about 8 pages in length. And for legal purposes, I can’t say who the publisher is, nor can I say much about the book either.
Well, I can tell you that it is a creepy anthology penned by several other SCBWI LA authors. What’s SCBWI? The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And if you’re interested in penning or doodling for any kind of kids book, I highly suggest you join us – I wouldn’t be writing this blog post without them. They also named me the PR Coordinator, so you’d be doing me a favor by leaving a comment below for details.
I joined the national SCBWI group just after the turn of the millennium when I was just toying with the notion about writing for kids. But come to think of it, I’ve been writing and telling stories pretty much since I was in the 5th grade. I remember writing a comic series I doodled in science, social studies and english notebooks – 3 subjects I despised back then – and shared with friends and classmates for a few good laughs. Needless to say, I got quite a bit of detentions that year along with visits to the principals office regularly. The comic: “The Misadventures of Super Egg.” The premise: it was about an egg that had rather unusual super-strong egg powers (he could fly) and of course, he fought for justice, equality and peace in the school cafeteria. His arch-enemies: a two-faced sugary treat named Trick or Treat, and an obsessive compulsive and very shiny egg beater named Dr. EggB.
Years later, I moved on to draft my first screenplay when I was only twelve years old. Finishing anything in the 80s during my addiction with this thing called Music Television (MTV) could very well be considered just short of a miracle. I got the idea after returning home from viewing a Godzilla movie (Godzilla vs. Megalon), and I thought, “Wow, I can do that. And so much better!” So I did. I spent about a week arranging scenes, dialogue and laughs on the backside of used office memos (thanks, dad) in what took a little more than a week. Fast forward twenty years later while cleaning out a closet and I realized, “This is awful, what was I thinking?” So I destroyed it on sight – tossed in the trash (sorry, pre recycling movements). The plot: a high school outcast stumbles across a time machine that transported riders sideways in the space time continuum to a bizarre parallel universe (Inner-Earth) where zombie-eating monsters ate the hero’s jerk friends. Gross. Boring. Been there. Read that (or seen it on TV a thousand times courtesy Ed Wood).
Any who? We can talk more on how I got started writing for kids some other time. I guess the point of this post is: don’t ever stop writing or drawing or doing anything that you love. Something may never come of it. But one day, you might be cleaning out your closet and stumble upon an idea that could rattle around in your brain for decades – and get you published. How so? Well, one of the stories I crafted in the anthology is about a certain type of blank-eating monster that gets her revenge on a real jerk friend. Coincidence? I hadn’t thought about the two until now.
So get back to writing, drawing and making art. Because the only difference between me being published and you not is that I never quit.
What makes a great kids character name? Silly, sarcasm, punny, the foreshadowing of what’s to come: these are all likely formulas used in creating unforgettable names. But while the names are memorable, it’s the movie character themselves that jump off the screen and create their legacy.
NOTE: I’m only talking about KID CHARACTER NAMES; not adult, toy or animal names used in kid movies. So no Cruella De Vil, Simba, Beetlejuice or Buzz Lightyear, etc. – sorry. And I’m also excluding any Harry Potters, Star Wars and Superhero Movie kid names – they deserve their own list.
Here’s my top 9. Who are your favs?
9 Darla (Finding Nemo). I think everyone knows a naughty, freckle-face, braces wearing kid out there. You haunt me, Darla. And I pray that I never cross paths with you at my dentist’s office. Pet store, either. (via rebloggy.com)
8 Coraline (ditto, Coraline). A flip on Caroline, and yet, Tim Burton and author Neil Gaiman paint a lovely backdrop for an endearing story about a girl and her other parents. Thank you, guys. I can’t look at a button today without blinking. (via coralinegifs.tumblr.com)
7 Junior (Problem Child). Yes, I can name several. But when I hear “Junior,” I only see a redheaded Problem Child tossing birthday gifts into the pool and rounding the bases with bat in hand. John Ritter was the only father who could tame this monster. (via gifsoup.com)
6 Scotty Smalls (The Sandlot). “You’re killing me, Smalls.” Really, you never heard someone use it? Early 90s, and so worth an hour and a half of your life. Wendy Peffercorn, you can save me any day. (via rebloggy.com)
5 Hiccup (How to Train Your Dragon). First thought: what a dumb name? After following his journey: brilliant. A boy and his pet dragon. What kid hadn’t dreamed? I only have Hiccup in mid list because it’s so young of a movie. (via gifsoup.com)
4 Not G-rated but teen’ish names. Ferris, Duckie, Long Duk Dong, McLovin, McFly and Stifler. You can’t speak these out loud without recalling a moment when you almost peed in your pants – at least I can’t. (Google’em)
3 Scut Farkus (A Christmas Story). Whose little red light doesn’t go off and also want to tear into this holiday bully like our beloved Ralphie does? (via gifsoup.com)
2 Veruca Salt (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). Classic, rub salt into the wounds of daddy. She even has an alternative band named after her. Plus, she makes her way into my vernacular often. Example at work, “I met the deadline, so why you goin’ all Veruca on me?” (via crushable.com)
1 Drum roll, please … CHUNK (The Goonies). Once upon a time, there was an adventurous, plump kid with a rousing obsession for … FOOD. Ice cream, whipped cream, potato chips, pizza, Baby Ruth, and who can forget the most famous of all, the truffle shuffle. Yes, Mouth, Sloth and Data are just as delicious. (via wifflegif.com)