A SWEET Giveaway

There are a few awesome things on my desk right now.
1)   My Edit Letter! I think this makes it official. Well, MORE official. It also makes my head spin in the very best of ways.
2)   A bag of Revision Skittles  – No, I’m not sharing. I NEED these.
3)   This fabulous Revision Skittle boombox
      And this could be yours. Well, not this one, it’s mine.  But there’s another one downstairs still in its box that could have your name on it.
Music plays a large part in Send Me A Sign, and Revision Skittles played a large part in my writing of it – it seems only fitting that I should pair the two and give one of these away.
The boombox is made by Terracycle  – and this is their description:
“Groove greener with this portable boombox made with up to 80% recycled materials. With its 3.5mm universal plug for you can play music from your iPod, iPhone, MP3 player, laptop, or computer. Batteries not required.”
To enter – leave a comment below where you list YOUR favorite candy.
I leave tomorrow at early o’clock for the Goldblatt Agency retreat – aka Camp Barry – and let’s just say that I’m having some major separation-from-Schmidtlet anxiety. Cheer me up by entering.
I’ll leave the contest open until I get back and will draw a winner on Monday.
Good luck and stay sweet!

Author Interview — Victoria Schwab

Yup, those are bags of books.

Today I’m so excited to share my interview with Victoria Schwab. Not only is V a talented writer, I’m also lucky enough to call her my friend. *cues the chorus of “awwwww”*

Her book, THE NEAR WITCH, will finally be in bookstores in 10 short days. Read her answers below, and then go pre-order a copy for yourself — better yet, just camp out at a bookstore. I’m sure they won’t mind if you arrive now and don’t leave until August 2nd…

1) You just spent a few months abroad, how did a change in scenery and routine affect your writing habits?

–It changed everything! I have always been an evening writer, haunting coffee shops, and suddenly I found myself in the suburbs of Liverpool, where the last café closed at 6pm, and the buses stopped running into the city center. I had to stay at home, and home was a house with eight other people! I had to become a morning writer, an afternoon writing, an anytime-I-can-focus writer.

2) I love the character names in NEAR WITCH. How did you come up with Wren, Cole and Lexi and the others?

–Names are, for me, foundational. I can’t start seriously writing until I know a character’s name, and once they have a name, I hate having to change it. Some names just kind of…come with the character, but others take days, weeks, to get right. Lexi came that way, as did Wren, I simply heard them having a conversation, and knew what they would call each other. But Cole was trickier. His a plot-based name, as people will see when reading. In fact, it’s not even his real name.

3) If the local sub/hoagie/whatever-they-call-them in Nashville shop were to create a Nearwich what would be on it?

–Hahahahahah. Best question ever. A Nearwich would be made with a dense, hearty bread, the kind Lexi’s mother makes, chicken, some moor berry jam, garnished with greens from Wren’s little garden by the house. It might be held together by a single crow feather instead of a pick, and each sandwich would come, happy-meal-style, with a token from Magda and Dreska, a little pouch of herbs or a sticks-and-stone bird.

4) What has been the most fulfilling part of your author journey?

–The best part has been when someone reads, and not only enjoys the book (that’s always heart-warming), but GETS it, gets exactly what I’m doing, connects with characters and reads the style for what it is. The setting is a player, the secondaries are sketched out, the feel is fairy tale vague, and it’s all intentional. So when someone reads and GETS that, and loves it, it makes every other harder part of this journey worth it.

5) The scariest?

–Scary and thrilling go hand in hand some times, like when I learn someone has gotten the ARC, or that they’re reading (especially when it’s a friend or another author). And scary and stressful go hand in hand, like when I get a bad review, and am temporarily convinced that everyone will read it and think “Thank god I didn’t pick that one up” (which they can’t yet, because it’s not out, but they can pull it from their to-read list). But I try to remember that reviews, the good and bad, are all part of the game I want to play. You can’t be a published author without being published, and available, and when you put work out there, you’re putting it out there to be enjoyed, and judged.

6) What are you going to do on release day? (I hope this answer involves lots of cupcakes and confetti.)

–Oh man, I honestly have NO idea. Probably pack! The Asheville to Nashville Tour starts the day after release, and I leave for NC at 8AM on the 3rd, so the 2nd will be equal parts FLAIL, SQUEEE, CUPCAKE, and DO I HAVE EVERYTHING?

7) What is your good luck charm?

–My good luck charm is actually a locket given to me by friend and fabulous author Leah Clifford (A TOUCH MORTAL). I flew up to visit her in Ohio last fall, and she was wearing this necklace, the locket of which was gorgeous, and looked like something straight out of a fairy tale. It had a tree, and a crow, and a small gem. And I told her it was lovely, and so “Near.” She looked down at it and then back at me, and said, “You’re right,” and took it off and gave it to me. It turned out she’d ordered a different necklace, and been sent that one by mistake, and she’d been wearing it for awhile, waiting for the right person to give it to.

Have you pre-ordered yet? Or packed your bag for that bookstore camp-out?  WHAT are you waiting for?!

10 Minutes, 8 Tips — Advice for Writers

Today I had the opportunity to participate in the Panel of Possibility for my local group of National Writing Project fellows.
It was only three years ago that I was sitting in their seats, squirming in the overly air-conditioned room. And squirming because I always squirm when I have to sit still for too long.
They’ve spent six weeks together, writing, laughing, getting scolded for whispering and passing notes (or was that just me?) and learning how to be better writing instructors for their students.
“Live like a writer” was something that we bandied about when I was a member of the Writer’s Institute, but what does that even mean? Being open to inspiration? Taking time to write each day? Being willing to forgo sleep, laundry, bathing to get the words on the page just-right?
My job today was to talk about my path to publication and the opportunities that are available to them post-Institute.
In. Ten. Minutes.
Clearly this wasn’t going to be comprehensive. Or even more than puddle-deep coverage. And I had some extra incentives to keep it concise: I brought the twins with me and knew at any moment they could morph from adorable angels to adorable imps.  
Even in a snack-sized serving, I wanted to make sure my talk was helpful.  So I brought a handout. I love a good handout, don’t you?  I love a bad handout, too, because then if the speaker is boring, he or she has provided me with the prefect space for doodling or writing notes—which will hopefully keep me from getting scolded for whispering.
In ten minutes – or 8 steps, here are my suggestions for pushing your writing further:
1)    Write. Make it a habit. Do it daily. Don’t make excuses or allowances for anything that comes between you and putting words on the page. If you’re not doing this, the rest doesn’t matter.
2)    Critique Groups  – Writing isn’t finished when you type the end.  Give yourself a pat on the back, take a break, bathe, then revise. When you’ve finished revising, revise again. Repeat. When the idea of reading your own words one more time makes you want to vomit, it’s time to borrow someone else’s eyes and judgment. Joining a critique group or finding a critique partner is invaluable. Take your time to find the right fit – not everyone’s opinion, writing or critiquing style will be a match for your own.
3)    SCBWI – (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) consider joining a professional organization. They do a great job of hosting local and national conferences. Their newsletters and website are full of great information.
4)    Conferences – SCBWI mentioned above, but there are many others. Look around online to find one that meets your needs.
5)    Online support – A virtual cheering squad, a place to find answers, and to learn from others’ journeys. A few to get you started: Verla Kay Blue Boards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, Query Tracker
6)    Educate yourself – if you decide to take the next step and pursue publication, take the time to do your research. Nothing burns bridges with potential agents or editors faster than committing a faux pas that could’ve been prevented with a quick google. I recommend following a variety of industry blogs.
7)    Get involved with the literary community – go to author signings and book events. Reach book festivals in the closest towns and cities. Get on the local school’s visiting author committee and look for other ways to bring authors into your classroom or community (check out: http://www.katemessner.com/authors-who-skype-with-classes-book-clubs-for-free/ )
8)    Read. Often. Widely. Prolifically. “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” – Stephen King. 
Which step resonates the most with you? What other advice would you give writers who are considering commencing a path to publication?

Thanks For The Memories

Once upon a time I opened a book and read the words Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much and fell in love.
Maybe not with the opening line, and certainly not with those wretched Dursleys, but it was still the moment that marked one of my great book romances. I, like so many, many other readers, fell head over heels, why-can’t-this-be-real, I-want-a-wand, where-is-my-acceptance-letter-to-Hogwarts in love with the world that J.K. Rowling created on her pages.
It’s a world that’s far too big to be contained between those book covers – and as the curtain opens on the last of the movies, I find myself (like so many other Potterphiles) reminiscing about what the books have meant to me.
* After years of bedtime stories and me passing books down to him, these were the first books my baby brother shared up with me. He passed away five years ago and a few of my copies are even more beloved because they were his first.
* These were the first books I shared with St. Matt – truthfully, I demanded he read the first one. He required no coercion for the rest of the series. They were also the first books that I made him take away and hide after Just one more chapter, A few more pages, and I’m going to set a timer and I’ll stop reading when it goes off all failed to get me out of the book and onto my homework.
* When the first movie came out during my sophomore year in college I sweet-talked the local grocery store into giving us their Harry Potter / Coke display. The thing was amazing: the windows in Hogwarts lit up, Hedwig’s wings flapped. It was also massive – at least five feet tall and four feet across. Despite living in a shoebox of a dorm room, I kept it all year.
* The photo above is from the party I had before the first movie – I forced a group of friends — half who hadn’t read the book– to play Harry Potter Clue and trivia. I awarded prizes. We had cake — which was supposed to have a Hogwarts decal, but ended up reading “Happy Birthday, Harry Potter” instead. It was still delicious.


* Senior year in college St. Matt, my best friend, and I absconded to London for a long weekend around Halloween. St.Matt was thrilled by the James Bond display at Harrods. J-bean loved the theater. The highlight of the trip for me was standing in Leicester Square in the freezing cold for hours watching the actors arrive for the world premiere of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.
* On one of the boys’ first nights home, as we rocked and read them picture books, St. Matt looked over Baby B’s head and asked, “So, how much older do they have to be before we can read then Harry Potter?”
I’m already ticklish with anticipation of exploring these stories all over again – getting to see them as new through their eyes.
What are some of YOUR Harry Potter memories?

Someone Please Hide My Ove-Glove

 I must not make muffins. I must not make muffins. NO MUFFINS, TIFFANY.
I’m meeting my stroller posse in about an hour for our 8:30 stroll, and I really, really, really want to mix up a batch of muffins. Maybe chocolate chip. Or apple cinnamon. Or, I know, blueberry using berries from the bushes in our backyard. They’d be delicious.
But I won’t.
Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a stress-baker. * Give me some anxiety and I will feed you food made from sugar, love and angst. But mostly sugar.
In the past month, while waiting to announce, waiting on CP notes on my WIP, and now waiting on my edit letter I have made: 3 coffee cakes, 1 peanut butter pie, 1 angel food cake, 2 batches of cinnamon buns, and 2 types of cookies. ** Then I force fed everyone around me.***
Thank goodness for baby food. Steaming, pureeing, and packing up pint-sized portions of fruits and veggies is almost as good as mixing up a batch of snickerdoodles.  I spend so much time cutting and peeling and planning baby meals that I should probably add it as a hobby on Facebook. And, I’m not going to lie, I get an absurd amount of satisfaction out of opening up my fridge and freezer and admiring all the neat rows of colorful glass containers. If the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow, the boys will still have an ample supply of organic peaches, carrots, zucchini, acorn squash, sweet potato, avocado, pears, apples, banana, spinach, beans and peas.****

Mmmmm, stress tastes like spinach. It’s delicious!
Which will come in handy when I begin revisions and naptime becomes Sacred Writing Time instead of What Shall We Cook Today? Time.
Until then I will (try to) resist the urge to make play with sugar and butter. I will hang up my apron, stopper my vanilla and have St. Matt hide my cookie sheets.
What do YOU do when you’re waiting? No, seriously, leave me a comment and tell you what you do – I could use some alternatives since we’ve run out of freezer space for baby food.
*St. Matt suggests I amend this to impatient-baker, but I say NO. Impatient-baker doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly so well. Some people were just not designed to wait. If God decided to include a half-dose of patience when he created me, who am I to question that?

**And for some unknown reason, my baby weight hasn’t just melted right off

***I haven’t heard any complaints.

**** Please note that in my version of the apocalypse, we still have electricity. Also note that I am not asking for the apocalypse, I’d prefer that waits until AFTER I get to see SEND ME A SIGN in bookstores.