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Ending one, Starting another: Top 10 (er, 12) of 2010

I'm speaking of both years and books. I am trying to finish my guinea pig novel, and have about 3 ideas for new books - one chapter book, 2 picture books that I'm dying to start. As far as years go, 2010 was a tough one in the children's book department. Lots of close calls, but in the end, no sales. But here's to hoping 2011 is ready to buy!

As this year ends, I'm reflecting on the highs and lows. There were a bunch of lows (not always directly affecting me), but to list them would be depressing. So, I'll just list my highs from 2010:

1. Sold an article about Rejection to Writer's Digest Magazine (to appear in the Feb. 2011 issue)
2. Saw sketches for my next 2 picture books: A Dress for Me! and Tons of Trucks!
3. Received an early copy of my first finished picture book, Shoes for Me! and I am so thrilled with the finished product. It's a real book now. Can't believe it.
4. My younger son learned how to ride a 2-wheeler and pump himself on the swing. Parents can relate to this major victory.
5. My 7 year old is coasting through school and is reading everything in sight. His teacher is amazing.
6. Made some great new friends this year that I know we'll be friends with for the long haul.
7. Landed a sweet part-time writing/marketing (work-from-home) gig with a start-up run by two great women ( and have been having lots of fun and success with that.
8. Did some freelance writing and pr work for two small companies, so I felt like I was adding income to the family, even in a small way.
9. Read a ton of wonderful books - hooray!
10. Wrote 5 (I think) new picture books this year, and a first draft of a chapter book (the one I'm trying to finish).
11. Hubby started at a new company that is going to go gangbusters.
12. Spent valuable time on both the East and West coasts with family and friends and hope to do more of that in 2011!

Other than that, I'm looking forward to celebrating the launch of my first-ever picture book, Shoes for Me! this March.

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parking lot confessional story prompt

Well, I may not have written 500 words, but it's a start...(see

Morgan never liked the color red. How could she when red was the color her mother was buried in? Red dress, red lipstick, red earth in piles waiting to be shoveled over her no-longer beating heart.

“What’s the matter?” asked Grant, taking a break from painting the red outline of flames on the hood of his new, previously-owned, ’57 Mustang.

“I just hate red is all,” said Morgan. “Here,” she said, tossing him a towel to wipe the sweat from his forehead, “you’re sweating all over your work.”

“Well,” he said, wiping his face and throwing the towel back her way. “I like red. It’s powerful and takes no crap from anyone.”

Morgan swallowed hard. Mom never took crap from anyone either. Maybe that’s why red was her favorite color. But for now, red was the equivalent of morbid. A constant reminder that she survived and her mother didn’t.

“Can you at least throw in some yellow for me?” she asked.

Grant cocked his head to the side and said, “Anything, for you sunshine.” He pulled her to him and kissed her neck. She could smell his perspiration, his want, but thought better of giving in.

“We’re just friends, remember?” she said, playfully pushing him away.

“Right,” he said, deflated. But as soon as he turned around, she regretted her harsh tone. After all, Grant was the one who saved her from falling into an abyss of grief over her Mom. Some of those feelings must have been real, right?
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need to post

I'm so tired that even my sleep needs more sleep. See? I'm not even making sense.

But I decided, in this state of barely-standing, that I needed to write something here. Even if just for the mere fact that I can say I wrote ABOUT children's writing today, because I certainly haven't been doing any of the actual writing of late. I've been job searching. Having some success, I might add, but nonetheless, it does break my heart that at the end of the day, I've just been too exhausted to move, let alone try to work on a new idea. Wait, what's that? Oh, have not had any of those recently either. The only idea I had today was that I had better get coffee at 3 p.m. if I was going to go back to my house and survive until the kids go to bed.

I'm still - at least in my mind - plugging away on my MG novel, but of course, not as much as I would like. I've rewritten the first 15 pages, which is good, because they don't stink anymore. I can actually bear to read them with no cringing involved.

I did send a new manuscript off to my agent for feedback, and we have been waiting patiently for a response to revisions I made per an editor's suggestion/request. At least I've been too busy to notice whether it's been 4 weeks or 5 since agent sent over the revisions. Either way, I'm going to channel the editor now....okay, done channeling. I'll let you know if that worked.

My kids started 2nd and kinder this year and they are loving it. So at least that is going well. Hubby rarely travels, but of course has had 3 trips in the last 2 weeks, and throw in an entire boys weekend on top of it.

Okay, well now I'm rambling. I'm really looking forward to my friend's wine party this weekend. It's at a park within stumbling distance to my house, so I think I may have a glass or 3.

At least everything that's going on to make me so tired is all good. I will hopefully find the job I want to take and have a routine that doesn't consist of scrambling for childcare and take-out.

Will post another update when I've had more sleep. Promise.
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My Bullying Story- in support of Young Adult Authors Against Bullying

In support of the Young Adult Authors Against Bullying group formed by Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall, I'm sharing two stories from my youth when I felt bullied.

I can remember two distinct times when I was bullied. Of course, back when I was young, they didn’t call it bullying. I don’t know how they classified it, if at all. But by today’s definitions, it would have been bullying, or at the very least, a teacher would have stepped in and stopped it.

When I was in first grade, I was the new kid. I’d moved from California to New Jersey. Talk about a culture change. It’s hard being the new kid and trying to make friends, so it was a good thing I was a good artist. The other kids took to me right away for my ability to draw and within about a month I was feeling like I fit in and was well-liked. Except there was one boy who sat next to me who couldn’t stand me. I didn’t know why. I just knew that when I’d sit down, he’d sneer at me. He would call me names including Susie Bruisie, which, of course, hurt my feelings. When he would tease me, I just wanted to crawl into a ball and roll home. But the name-calling was only the tip of the iceberg. He started drawing what I called ‘hate pictures’ of me. He drew a giant robot-type monster and a tiny little girl. He labeled the monster a “Susie Smasher” and would show the monster smashing me to pieces. That’s pretty serious for a seven-year old. There were a whole series of these robot-monster hate pictures that I watched him draw and endured receiving. I finally told my Mom and begged her to let me stay home from school. Of course, my Mom told me I had to be a brave and that I should talk to my teacher. A teacher whom I did not think understood me. So I went to school and told my teacher. I vaguely remember getting a very lame apology from the boy. One of those, ‘Say you’re sorry’ forced apologies. His desk was moved to the other side of the classroom. But what I remember most was how horrible he made me feel. Looking back, his pictures, as hurtful as they were, were pretty well-drawn. Perhaps he was just jealous?

Another time when I was bullied was during middle school. I was, you could say, a bit of a nerd. Short, permed hair. Braces. Pimples. A nose that had reached its maximum growth long before the rest of my face caught up to it. Taller than all the boys. No boobs yet to speak of. And the icing on the cake? I was super smart. We’re talking straight A’s. A gangly, awkward twelve year old who was good at school. Oh, and I was also a jock. Which, in 7th grade (in my era) didn’t make you cool, but was a lethal combination sending you on the fast track to geekdom. Awesome.

Every time I got on the bus in the afternoon, on days my schoolmates and I had received our grades on a test or quiz, or God forbid, our report cards went home, I was teased relentlessly. A group of ‘mean girls’ chanted “Dexter, dexter, dexter!” and tried to take my papers. When they were successful, they waved them around as I tried to grab them back. One of these girls also hated me for making the basketball team - she did not make the cut. So, regularly upon getting off the bus, she’d push me or pull my hair or bonk me on the head with her notebook. Once she yanked my hair so hard she pulled out a clump of my hair. I was terrified of her. My stomach would go into knots when the bus got to her stop.

Fortunately, it was hard for me NOT to do well in school, so I didn’t let my grades suffer just because I was being teased for my aptitude. I guess I would have been more hurt if I’d been teased about my physical appearance, but it still hurt tremendously. Finally, when we got our end-of-year report cards and I was being called Dexter, I said, “You’re all just mad because you’re not as smart as me.” I remember saying it through sobs, but I said it. Then it was summer. And by the time school rolled around the next fall, it was all long forgotten. At least for them. Thinking back, what I should have said was, “That’s okay. You’ll all be working for me one day.”

A side note: About five years ago, I ran into this girl who used to yank my hair. At a highway rest stop of all places. We exchanged pleasantries as mature adults. But before we left, I said to her, "You always had it out for me. I never knew why."She nodded in agreement. "I was jealous. And stupid." We went our separate ways and haven't connected again. Not even on facebook.
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Finally, I am blogging about my whirlwind weekend in NY/NJ on April 9-11! I flew out for my sister’s 40th birthday, but, as is my style, I jammed in as much as humanly possible in 24 hours…

I still have little guys at home, so during these trips, I try to minimize time away (that hubby will have to do all the shuttling and caring for the kids) and maximize my time wherever I'm going. This means I take the red-eye from SFO to NY. Usually I take it to Newark and then have my sister pick me up. Then I sleep for 2 hours and start my day. But this time, I took the flight straight to JFK. I had a big morning planned: Coffee with my new (to me) agent, followed by lunch with my new (to me) editor.

I managed to pack light so I only had a carry-on, and felt like I was totally put together. I wore the outfit I was going to wear in the city the next morning. I got to the airport early, but noticed as I was walking to my gate that something weird was going on with my boot. I thought, "I stepped in gum." But it was worse. I was stepping on a big chunk of rubber - that was hanging off the heel of my *expensive* Fluevog boot! Ugh! I managed to shove it back onto the pin-type thingies and said a prayer it would hold until I got to NY, where maybe, miraculously, sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. I'd find a conveniently located shoe repair shop to fix it for me.

Got to my seat, popped my sleep aid pill, plugged up my ears, put my eye-shield on, snuggled in my blankets (I know I looked homeless, but that's how I roll on the red-eye), and willed sleep to come upon me. After all, I had only 5 hours to get as much sleep as possible. After about an hour I fell asleep, only to wake after another hour with two blocks of ice for feet. I must have had the draftiest seat on the plane (Delta, row 28, seat F). Freezing cold air was blowing on my legs when I woke up. Everyone around me was sound asleep. Were no one else's teeth chattering? I pulled my feet up under my blanket and managed another hour of sleep, but that was it.

In my groggy state, I made it off the plane and saw the signs for COFFEE. I needed coffee. So, I make my way past the double glass security doors or, as I now fondly call it: THE POINT OF NO RETURN. As soon as my foot went from carpet to tile, I realized it. The heel of my boot was gone. Not flapping, like before, but clear off. I run back to the glass doors and explain to the security woman what happened. She listened so sympathetically how my boot piece was a mere 50 feet away at 'that gate right there', then she said, Sorry, can't help you. Can't let you go back. What? My gate is right there…I can see it! So, I had to find a Delta agent to help me. Would you believe I found a woman who was willing to go back to my plane not once, but twice (!) – the first time she didn't go back far enough to my row -- and came back out with my heel? I know! There ARE good people in this world, I say.

So, not taking any chances, I put the heel in my purse and hobbled my way to Starbucks for a giant coffee. I will add that the whole not sleeping thing at the very least, kept my hair looking great.

So, I got my coffee, found my shuttle to midtown and plunked myself on the bus.

When I arrived at Port Authority, I quickly made my way to the Westin just up the street. By the time I got to the city, finding a cobbler was out. As luck would have it, I passed a Duane Reed and bought some Krazy Glue. Then I entered the Westin, acted like I was checking in and went to the bathroom, where I proceeded to pull Charlize Theron in Monster, as I got ready - brushed teeth, fixed hair, put on makeup - in the hotel bathroom (shhh). I went into the handicapped stall, krazy-glued the heel of my boot and said another prayer it would last the day - or at least until I got to my sister's in NJ later. I then sauntered downstairs and told the bellman I had just checked out and would he kindly check my bags here for the afternoon?

I was off to Columbus Circle to meet my wonderful agent, Jennifer Unter. Photo of her would normally be inserted here, but of course I forgot to take a photo with her. Grrr.

I had coffee with her and her sweet son Simon, who warmed up to me shortly after I gave him a stuffed animal. It was nice to finally meet Jen in person, after many long distance phone calls. She’s super cute and much more petite than I had pictured, so naturally, I felt like a giant at 5’9”. I told her what I was working on and we just talked about life in general. A great way to start my morning.

After we went our separate ways, I decided I would walk for awhile before I had to catch a cab to the Harcourt Offices. (brave, I know, being that my boot could fall apart at any minute). I walked and walked, breathing in the smells of NY and taking in the sights. It was a slightly overcast day, but I was so excited to meet my editor, (Sam McFerrin) that it could have been pouring rain and I wouldn’t have noticed.

I headed towards Park Avenue and hailed a cab. Then I gave him the wrong address – well, I didn’t think I did, but I did. I thought there was just Park Avenue, and there was a north and south. Wrong. I had him up near 52nd street and we needed to be down around 18th. Oops. Good thing I had left plenty of time for mistakes! I finally arrived at the Harcourt building and was actually 5 minutes early. I chatted with the security desk and then I was up….to the 11th floor. Someone let me in and showed me to Sam’s office. Two minutes later she walked in and right away we hit it off. She showed me two of the novelty books she has worked on, that we’re going to model Trucks after, and then kindly offered me some books for my boys. I gave her a stuffed monkey for her son.

We set out to lunch at Pippa’s restaurant and both had a Cobb salad and a drink. She of course, had water. I had a glass of cabernet... (Note to self: big glass of wine does not mix well with 2 hours of sleep)...and I proceeded to talk her ear off. Or so I think. Either way, it was a lovely lunch and we had a good laugh about our relatives and how they invented their own vernacular that sometimes rears its ugly head in our own conversations. I think we talked/lunched for 2 hours. Finally we got the waiter’s attention and Sam graciously picked up the check. We said our goodbyes, but this time, remembered to snap a photo! Here we are in front of Pippa’s.

She’s adorable, right?

I thanked her, then hailed a cab to the Westin, Times Square, where I was able to collect my bag. Headed to Port Authority, got my bus ticket (I know, I should stop pampering myself), and took the hour long bus ride to my sister’s house in NJ.


By the time I got to my sister’s house it was nearly 4 p.m. We picked up my adorable nephew and niece (both of whom raced into my arms, “Auntie Sue!!!!”) and drove home, to be met by my wonderful Aunt Barbara, who just celebrated her 71st birthday. We hung out and chatted for a long time and played with the kids. We ordered take-out for dinner and celebrated Barbara’s birthday, which was April 6.

Saturday morning my best friend Kerry drove down from New York with her 2 year old to see us and we visited for a few hours and lunched together. It was great to see Kerry and her daughter Carlie is so sweet.

After lunch it was off to the races for Christine’s 40th Birthday party at their favorite local Italian restaurant. The party was a huge success and my photo book that I made for her was a big hit. The food was so good (and I ate too much), and the prosecco and wine were flowing. It was a late night, with 5 of us closing down the restaurant.

Spent the next morning with my sister’s family, got to the airport, only to discover at check-in that my flight was delayed. Fortunately I had access to the Delta Sky Lounge and spent the time writing, drinking beer and watching Tiger try to scrub his name clean at the Masters, before my flight home. All told, I left 3 hours late and got home at midnight PST, so 3 a.m. EST.

But all the sleep deprivation was worth it! I had a fantastic time...
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SCBWI Asilomar Conference report

I had a great time at the always-wonderful SCBWI Asilomar children's writers and illustrators conference this weekend. I met amazing writers, editors, agents, bought a book, brainstormed my new middle grade novel with my crit buddies, got little sleep, ran 3 miles along the Pacific coast, and in general, left inspired and ready to write, and hopefully write well.

Highlights according to me:

Hanging on every word that floated from Gary Schmidt's mouth at the evening keynote. The story of the whale rescue off the San Francisco coast. The story of the Auschwitz survivor playing Corelli's Duet, weeping. The story of how his visit with adolescents in a minimum security prison changed his life (and theirs). One could have heard a pin drop in the room.

Hearing Ellen Klages speak about Green Glass Sea, which I bought and had her sign - dedicating to me, of course. She was hilarious. Found out she used to do stand-up comedy, which was not at all surprising.

Yuyi Morales's talk on not being afraid - everything we need to create magic on the page, we already have.

Liza Ketchum's lively discussion on finding your character's voice channeled my Long Island cousin's voice onto the page in a fun exercise. (Kerry, what were you doing in there?)

Meeting Cynthia J. Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets, which I can't wait to read.

Seeing the Erin Dealey rap - live.

Committing to two writing goals for 2010. I think I can...

I was bummed to miss Deborah Underwood's picture book writing session, but can tell you I'll be first in line to buy Isabel's Balloon when it comes out.

I have to say that it was fun to be able to stand up during the 'good news' portion of the beginning of the conference and share my book sale news from 2009. This is such a supportive and wonderful group of people!

Oh, and the chocolate-covered strawberries.

The awesome conference this past weekend had the panel of speakers recommending several titles as good reads. Here they are:

1. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2. Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex

3. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

4. Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

5. Red Sings from the Tree Tops by Joyce Sidman

6. All the World by Liz Garten Scanlon

7. Lips Touch by Lani Taylor

8. How to Say Good-bye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

9. Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman

10. Ages and Angels by Adam Gopnik

11. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

12. The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker

13. Diego, Bigger Than Life by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

14. Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty

15. Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

16. Marcello in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Hoping to make it back down next February!
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It's been a great two weeks

In the last two weeks I have signed two book contracts, found out that one of my editors is showing 3 other manuscripts of mine to her publisher (hopefully soon), my other editor really likes (with an exclamation point) the manuscript I just sent and I think my agent likes me.

Yesterday I got to see/meet/stalk/take photo with the brilliant Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead, thanks to my good friend whose daughter goes to the middle school at which Rebecca spoke. I was a guest of a 6th grader. I tried to blend. And, of course, Miss Stead was witty, engaging, smartly dressed and okay with me being a fellow children's author/bit of a lunatic fan. i.e. I was the only one who brought a camera and made another mom take a photo of us on my iphone and my digital camera. Doesn't get cornier than that. I bought her first book, First Light and of course, When You Reach Me. Here's one of the photos. If I look tan, it's because I was flushed like a dorky school girl brushing up against the school heartthrob.

Anyway, I went home and revised my YA for an hour, hoping some of Rebecca's genius rubbed off on me. I'll take a microbe of it, please.
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i'm allowed to post

because I did in fact tackle some of the novel this evening. I am 1/5 of the way through. Taking out that one kind of big character and deciding to have my main character NOT have a job is really making this a jigsaw puzzle. I hope it can all fit together again at the end. If not, at least it's cold and I am low on kindling. ha.
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avoiding the revision like the plague

I have done just about everything imaginable to avoid continuing with my novel revision. I even organized the linen closet and medicine cabinet. Cleaned the guinea pig's cage - even clipped his claws (and discovered he has a big callous - yuck! - which I read online can also be 'snipped' with clippers - double yuck!). I'm about to do my sock drawer. Pathetic, I know.

My desk is completely organized, thanks to the 6 family members (2 of them under 3 yrs old) who will alight upon my house in 2 weeks for 12 days, and would probably prefer not to sleep under manuscripts, papers, kids' craft projects and the like.

Okay, I'm logging out of livejournal and will not post again until I've at least revised 5 more pages. ciao!
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It's been a supercalifragilistic autumn!

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I'm at the point that it will all be old news unless I post this stuff now - not to mention, I'm bursting at the seams!

Let's start on the agent front. I queried a few agents this summer and by September/October 2 out of 3 were interested. Then in the midst of the interest, I had another agent interested out of the blue. Well it was this agent and one from the summer that ended up giving me offers of representation. 2 offers - 1 good problem to have. I made my decision and now I am officially represented. Squee!!!

But before I landed my agent, I got an editor nibble from Harcourt in September on my Trucks book. In October the nibble turned into a "we'd like to aquire it" email, then a phone call, then a written offer that came in November just as my agent and I signed on.

And in between the nibble and the agent offer, my current editor told me she was bringing my Dress book to aquisitions in November. And it went through and I just got the offer on that book as well!

So, to summarize:

Tons of Trucks! will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in spring 2012 as a novelty book.
A Dress for Me will be published by Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, likely in spring 2012, but yet to be confirmed.

This is part of the lovely note from the editor at Harcourt to my agent (don't mind if I frame this one):

"As you and Sue know, we’d like to publish this text as a novelty book in line with Tails by Matthew Van Fleet. Such books are quite tricky and expensive to make and need to have a low retail price, so deciding to make one takes some very careful consideration. But all of us here think that Sue’s truly adorable and beautifully written truck manuscript will make a perfect novelty book, working well with flaps and pull tabs and other clever interactive bits. There are so many possibilities for Sue and I to consider—I can’t wait to see how it will shape up."

And just to give some perspective to this process: I sent this manuscript to Harcourt in May 2008, to an editor I knew. Shortly after I sent it, that editor moved houses. I had no idea what was to come of my submission and had a 'note to self' to follow up. Well, I found out that before the editor left, she passed my manuscript along and it must have finally reached the top of this editor's 'pile'. I thought it was dead in the water there....just goes to show that you should never give up hope (and also that the industry is a slow one, to be sure!).

Back in early January, I thought, 'the economy is in the tank. I will probably not sell anything this year.' Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd sell my first book, let alone 3 and land an agent!

I'm so thrilled and feeling blessed and lucky and satisfied and all those crazy emotions that come with hard work paying off.

How can I ever keep this up???? No pressure! It's a good thing the pub dates are staggered - so no one will know if I don't sell anything next year! ha ha.

Thanks to my author friends,
SCBWI ,my invaluable critique group, my new agent for believing in me and having a plan for my other work, and for my loving and supportive family.

I truly have so much to be thankful for this season and all year long. WOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for letting me share!