Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Are you a dog lover? Okay, I know some people are “cat people” and some are “dog people.” And, of course, there are “horse people.” And I once met a self-proclaimed “llama person,” but I digress. Here’s my point: No matter what kind of animal person or even non-committed animal person you may be, it seems to me that it’s hard not to appreciate the traits of most pooches. The devotion, the unconditional love, the soulful eyes and overall cute factor, just to name a few attributes. And yes, I’ll admit that I am biased. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of animals and consider myself primarily a “cat, horse, dog person.” Anyway, if you love dogs, check out this lovely article in Publisher’s Weekly:

I hope you enjoy the article, the summer, and some wonderful reading time!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

Looks like it’s time for some blogging fun, kids! I’ve been tagged by Sarah. Thanks, Sarah! This is fun. Here we go!

Sinful Nature

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Pride -- What is your biggest contribution to the world?

I discovered the Internet. Yes, that’s right. I found it out in the wilderness. It was under a really big rock.

Envy -- What do your coworkers have that you wish was yours?

Required attendance in long meetings where nothing gets accomplished, stale coffee made in mass quantities, overloaded inboxes that periodically require a backhoe, long nights after even longer days strapped to a desk in an office. Ahh, yes, good times.

Gluttony -- What did you eat last night?

A side of beef that I ordered over the Internet (that I invented).

Lust -- What really lights your fire?

A grossly overweight slob, especially if his pants are drooping or half-way down his immense caboose. And if he’s really obnoxious and rude to me, it’s a score in overtime.

Anger -- What is the last thing that really pissed you off?

My husband was both kind and considerate at the same time! I couldn’t believe it. We didn’t speak for days after that little incident.

Greed -- Name something you hoard and keep from others.

Bottled water. Hey, if the stream behind our house is good enough for the deer to drink, it should be fine for everyone else, too.

Sloth -- What’s the laziest thing you ever did?

Besides spending a month stretched out on the sofa, watching soap operas and surfing the Internet (that I invented)?

And now I am tagging these seven: Jeannine, Susan, Judy, Tara, Wiley. . .

Liar, liar. . .

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Best Friends

It goes without saying that when an author reads a nice review of her book, she’s usually giddy, happy, and thrilled for days. Perhaps weeks, maybe even months. But when the review comes from a very, very special organization, one that the author holds close to her heart, the experience is beyond wonderful. Especially when the review is a surprise.

Picks for Young
By Sally Rosenthal
Dog Gone by Cynthia Chapman Willis. Feiwel and Friends, 2008
Taken on appearance alone, books, like most things in life,
can be deceiving. Such is the case with
Dog Gone by first-time novelist
Cynthia Chapman Willis. When
I picked this young adult novel
from a stack of possible review
candidates, I expected to while
away a few hours reading a tale
of canine loss, but discovered
a rich, complex story of grief
and ultimate renewal.
The book opens with pre-
teen Dill, frozen with sadness
over the recent death of her mother, struggling to cope
with housekeeping demands,an ailing grandfather and a
distant father who is equally drawn inward and mourning.
As if that were not enough, there is mounting concern in
her rural Virginia community that a pack of dogs has been
killing local farmers’ livestock and that Dill’s beloved rescued husky
mix, who is prone to roaming, might be involved.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that Dog
Gone is one of the best animal-themed young adult novels I have
come across in years. With believable, finely drawn characters, local
color and a story deftly balancing empathy and tension, this first
novel reads like the work of a well-established author. Exploring
the often-harsh reality of what can occur when canine pack instinct
meets economic reality, Dog Gone also celebrates the devotion
between people and dogs and the myriad ways that devotion can
lead to healing.

This lovely review appeared in the May/June issue of Best Friends magazine, the publication of the Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the day when there will be “No More Homeless Pets.” Best Friends is one of my favorite (if not my favorite) animal help organizations. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered this DOG GONE review. I just kept muttering Wow! and How cool is this? And then I’d blink, shake my head, and try to refocus to be sure I really was reading a review of my book.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge mush when it comes to animals. Love them. All of them. Some more than others, of course, but never mind that. The point is, Best Friends touches my heart. It’s hard not to visit their website or read their wonderful magazine without melting, putting my hands to my chest, and wanting to adopt just about ever critter that needs a home. You’ll probably understand if you check out this organization at If you don’t know of Best Friends, let me introduce you. I think you’ll be glad that I did.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Angel, A Devil, and Another Day At My Favorite Bookstore

It’s a fun morning because I’m shopping for a good book. A really yummy book, even though I’ve put myself on a book buying diet. Because otherwise, I’ll gorge. And this is never pretty.

So, I’m standing in the children’s book department (where else?), drooling. One book today, I keep reminding myself. And I do, indeed, have one book in my grasp. A book that I must have. But then, in a moment of weakness, I reach for another.

“No, no,” a sweet-voiced angel on my right shoulder whispers in my ear as my fingers brush the binding. “Only one book. Remember?”

I pull my hand back.

“One? No way,” a little devil by my left ear screams. “Look at all those delicious titles,” he points out. “Ahhh, all those beautiful covers.”

True, I concede as I reach for the second book again.

“You can only read one at a time,” the angel reminds me.

The devil spits. “That’s crap. You can read multiple books. Be greedy. Indulge. Go for it. Take a few days off from writing and just read. Mmmmm.”

The angel shudders at this idea. I gasp. Days off from writing? Whoa.

“You know you want more books,” the devil prods.

I take one more. Just to look at it.

“That’s why God made libraries,” the angel counters.

Libraries. Yes, a good point, I decide as I return the third book to the shelf.

“But you can’t underline or write notes in library books,” says the devil. “You can’t keep them.”

I’m mulling this over when he adds, in a taunting tone: “You want people to buy DOG GONE, don’t you? BUCK FEVER, too? Eh? Return the favor. It’s only money.”

Well, um, sure, of course I want people to buy my books. But— Wow, now I’m feeling really uncomfortable. I lift another book. It trembles. Yet I love the feel of it in my hands. The clean, crisp pages. Yes, I feel better. I pick up another. Just one more.
The angel sighs. The devil snickers. I reach for my credit card. And so it goes. Another day at my favorite bookstore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Outline or Not to Outline?

I’ve started writing a new story. This is always so exhilarating that working on the newbie is just about all that I want to do. But being in this place also reminds me of the question that often inspires debate: To outline or not to outline? When I first started writing DOG GONE, I dove right in, outline-less. To this day, the mere memory of this painful experience makes me cringe and reach for the aspirins. But at least I learned one valuable lesson--I am an outliner.

Writing BUCK FEVER, then, reminded me of building a house. The basic story idea of a boy coming to terms with who and what he is (or is not) became the foundation. Outlining the story was much like putting up the scaffolding or frame of the house. Once the foundation was set, I picked out what I suspected to be the right materials to build the skeleton--materials from the frenzy of exciting thoughts and ideas banging against each other inside my head. I organized and sorted them, placed them and connected them. I figured out layers and subplots to attach to these ideas and set them in the story foundation. All of this made the actual writing of BUCK FEVER much, much easier.

Now I’m following this outline model for the new story. I have my foundation. Once I hammer the ideas into a frame, I will step back and look it over. If the shape of it or the structure itself is not what I want, if it doesn’t feel sturdy, I can remove or adjust or replace any or all of the scaffolding. If necessary, I can rework the form of my building. No biggie. Heck, I can even re-lay the foundation. But if I’d already nailed in the walls, slapped on a roof and put up the siding? Ugh. Reworking that house would be a daunting task. A demolition crew would probably be required.

Now excuse me while I strap on my tool belt and go back to my outline. Let me know if I can lend you a hammer.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Folks on my fave message board hit on a topic that seems blog-worthy to me: Where to find the time to devote to all the assorted online and real life elements of being a writer. There is, of course, the ever so important writing itself. And the reading that is the backbone of the writing. But let’s not forget the school visits and presentations, the answering of emails, the Facebooking, blogging, and tweeting. The responding to message boards and list servs. All fun and rewarding in many ways, but yes, time consuming. I’d love to know where I could pick up an extra day or even a few hours here or there. Anywhere.

So, as I write my presentation and organize my DOG GONE materials for the NJ SCBWI conference, touch base with Twitter, log into Facebook, answer emails, check in with the message boards and list servs, and work on the book trailer for BUCK FEVER, all while fidgeting and twitching with a new story idea that is insisting that it be typed up on the computer, I’m wondering when I’m going to get back to that amazing book that I’ve been reading.

Anyway, if you happen to find a hunk of extra of time lying around, could you send it my way? Unless of course, you could use it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is It Done Yet?

In some ways writing a story is similar to cooking. Mix the right ingredients in the correct amounts to get the flavor and texture you’re looking for, test it, add a bit more of this or a pinch of that until the desired consistency, smell, and taste measure up to expectations. Sometimes, as with any concoction, the whole thing ends up in the nearest garbage can, but that’s a blog for another day.

In this entry, I’m focusing on when a project is done. Tricky question, right? It is for me. Sure, I know when to write “The End.” But unlike when I put together my favorite recipes, I don’t always have a clear sense of when to stop seasoning, stirring, tasting and revising. In fact, as a general rule, if I didn’t have a deadline or another story idea nagging at me, I’d probably keep working on a novel. Maybe forever. I’d probably still be revising that story I wrote in second grade. An inspired piece titled The Sloppy Man. Yes, it’s hard for me to leave my writing alone. This is one reason why an agent is good for me. Once I hand the story over to him, I can’t touch it. He knows me. He won’t let me near it. And I’m grateful for that.

So, when is a story done? When is it time to stop fussing with it? I read an interview a while back in which a writer was asked how he knows when one of his novels is finished. He replied that, for him, the project is complete when he can’t stand looking at it anymore. Okay, this I get. This is the nugget of wisdom that energizes me to hit send or to fire up ye ol’ printer and then slide my manuscript into an envelope.

Now, excuse me while I sprint out to our mailbox. I need to snatch my manuscript out of the hands of our mailman. I just thought of something else that I MUST change in my latest novel.