Kristine Asselin: Stretch Your Writing Muscles

IMG_8233-2-2 (1)“What do you write?”

It’s often the first question people ask when you meet them at a writer’s conference. I find that most people can boil their answer down into one or two categories.

I always struggle to keep my answer concise, because I write in more than one category. YA, MG, Nonfiction, and the occasional picture book. Being flexible in my writing style has been a key reason for some of the success I’ve had.

One piece of advice I always give new writers is to try to write in more than one category. Stretching yourself and having flexibility is often the difference between being a writer and being a published author.

When I started writing seriously about ten years ago, I was all about picture books. My daughter was small and it seemed manageable. Write a novel? No flipping way could I ever do THAT. Are you kidding?

But then I wrote a short story loosely based on my own experience as a teen. I had a longer story that demanded to be told. Hazzah! It was like a bright light suddenly illuminated my writing!

I became a YA writer.

Selling my YA novel turned into marathon. I never gave up on it, but in between querying and revising and writing a new novel, I submitted a writing sample to an educational publisher and got my first work-for-hire contract for a nonfiction book.

That first contract gave me my first experience working with an editor and meeting writing deadlines. Having those first few books under my belt made me more marketable to my agent.

Writing and researching nonfiction topics under a tight deadline gave me a different skill set. It made me work faster. It made me stress less about each and every word choice.

I hear a lot of people throw around this cliché piece of writing advice: Write what you know.

Final CoverBut I think you need to have a broader scope—IF you want to have a long career in writing. Trends come and go. You need to be open to writing what you don’t know. I didn’t know much about women in World War One, but I just finished a 15K nonfiction book for grades 6-8 about that topic. If I’d stayed true to “write what you know,” I would have been too nervous to take the project.

I didn’t know much about hockey. But my debut novel centers on a girl who plays hockey on a boys’ hockey team to the chagrin of her parents, who’d rather her focus on the family restaurant. Finding a friend to help with hockey knowledge, and doing a lot of research helped me make the voice authentic.

Here are a couple of writing exercises:

  1. Try writing a scene in a different genre—if you write contemporary, try writing something historical.
  2. Try writing something for a different age group—if you write YA, try writing a picture book.
  3. Try writing in a genre you’ve never tried.
  4. Try rewriting a scene in your current MS from different POV.

Trying even one of these writing exercises will make you a stronger writer, and who knows, you might find out that you’re really good at something you’ve never considered.

I’ve been doing a workout DVD lately, and the instructor likes to say, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get better.”

Challenging yourself to write in different categories and genres will make you better.

About Kristine

Kristine Carlson Asselin lives in Massachusetts and writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. Her debut YA novel ANY WAY YOU SLICE IT (Bloomsbury Spark) came out in April 2015. She is also the author of fifteen children’s books for the elementary school library market. Kris volunteers with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and loves Harry Potter, Doctor Who, classic rock from the 70’s and 80’s, and anything with a time travel theme.

She is a proud member of SCBWI-New England, a contributor to the Sporty Girl Books blog, and a host for the weekly twitter chat #MGLitChat. Kris does query package critiques under the alter-ego @QueryGodMother and loves doing school visits for kids all over New England. Follow Kristine on twitter @KristineAsselin and learn more at http://www.kristineasselin.com.

Buy Any Way You Slice It here:

Kindle

Nook

Kobo

Sad but True Ode to William Carlos Williams

Hello Nerdy Chicks! It has been a while since I posted … and I will eventually post about the past few months… because I’m sure many of you have been there and can relate. But for now, I hope you’ll enjoy this photo post. A poem I left for my husband. And yes, I know I’d be better off eating plums, but this is the honest truth. Because it isn’t a happy moment around here when someone consumes the last diet coke. (True confession: My husband didn’t get it… never studied William Carlos Williams! Do you?) Hope the rest of your weekend is great!

20150708_173153To read William Carlos Williams’ infinitely better original poem, click HERE.  Whatever you went to the icebox for today, I hope it was there waiting for you!

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Pssst. Registration is still going on for Kidlit Summer School. And we just released the new banner check it out by clicking HERE.

SCBWI Springmingle 2015: Top Five Reasons You Should Go to Conferences

The Nerdy Chicks are members of The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and one of the benefits of being in this organization is getting to attend great conferences on craft. Last weekend I attended Springmingle, a conference hosted by the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. It is the first time I’ve been to this particular event, and it was fabulous! I think conferences are an important aspect in the life of any professional. Why? Here are my top five reasons you should consider going to conferences, whatever your profession:

20150314_2152391. Rejuvenation.  Getting away from your obligations at home and finding time to focus on your career brings new energy to your work! I left this conference with tons of ideas I never would have come up with had I spent the weekend alone in my office. Here I am with my pal Robyn Hood Black.

2015-03-15 21.33.402. Expert Advice. A great conference has great speakers and this one had a wonderful panel of experts. Tips from these fabulous faculty members follow.

20150314_0908543. Inspiration. Having people who excel in their careers share their stories is inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more inspirational speaker than author Meg Medina, pictured left, whose marketing talk has me rethinking my forward path.

2015-03-17 08.36.314. Connections. Making new friends among your colleagues is a consistent conference perk. Sometimes you make a connection with an industry professional that leads to a career advancement, but this should not be your sole purpose in attending an event. Usually the benefit of going to conferences is going to have a less direct impact, but a positive one nonetheless! I was thrilled to meet my Facebook freind Jen Swanson, pictured with me here, in person.

CAGfwexWgAARWAF5. FUN! Nothing is more energizing than having a chance to hang out with your tribe. These people choose to do what you do. They love what you love. In my case, this means they spend their days with words, books, and the creative spirit. And hey, when you get a bunch of creative spirits together, you’re bound to have a blast. We had fun Saturday night with a literary trivia game hosted by The Middle Grade Mafia. Members Kim Zachman and Lela Bridgers are pictured here with agent Karen Grencik. 

Some bits of conference wisdom:

Thank you Southern Breeze for including me in your tribe, and helping me celebrate the launch of The Boy Problem!

Thank you Southern Breeze for including me in your tribe, and helping me celebrate the launch of The Boy Problem!

Author Meg Medina reminded us not to edit ourselves too early, to focus on craft before marketing, and that the “most touching place you can travel is inside of you.”

Editor Neal Porter says he asks “WHERE’S THE STORY?” of all PB manuscripts.

Art Director Giuseppe Castellano said that illustrators should keep sending post cards featuring their art, but not to expect a response because he gets so many. Still, he never knows when one will really move him. He was, by the way, the most gregarious industry professional I’ve ever seen at a conference.

Agent Karen Grencik advised everyone to, “Practice your skill and get your work out there.”

Editor Elise Howard highlighted the differences between big publishing houses and small ones. She said she’d love to find a funny novel to fall in love with.

Art director Giuseppe Castellano, pictured here with poet Robyn Hood Black, hung out with attendees, answering questions and chatting well after the scheduled events ended!

Art director Giuseppe Castellano, pictured here with poet Robyn Hood Black, hung out with attendees, answering questions and chatting well after the scheduled events ended!

I always think it is valuable to know what these professionals do NOT want to see as well. So don’t send…

Karen Grencik a mass email query.

Giuseppe Castellano an email with a claim such as, “Your search for the perfect illustrator is over!”

Elise Howard a note telling her what moral or lesson your story holds. Also, spell her name right.

Neal Porter an email addressed to Mrs. Neal Porter! The panel agreed that incorrect spellings of names like these reveals that you don’t pay attention to detail, and are therefore not someone they would want to work with.

Springmingle was a great event with a fabulous faculty and put together by a host of talented volunteers from the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI. Another perk of the conference was that it was held in the Decatur Library and their wonderful staff could not have been more helpful and professional. If any of you are considering going to conferences, I advise you to take the plunge!

Curriculum Guide Celebration Giveaway!

20150213_154554I’m excited to announce that free downloadable curriculum guides are now available for  THE BOY PROJECT  (Scholastic 2012) and THE BOY PROBLEM (Scholastic 2014)! Both books have themes that tie in with today’s middle school curriculum and both are common core aligned. The guides are full of fantastic reading, math, and science activities that can be used alone or separately. I feel like I can brag about I didn’t create them myself. 🙂 The talented Marcie Colleen created the guide for THE BOY PROJECT (click HERE to view) and the great teachers at EDUCATORS R&R created the guide for THE BOY PROBLEM (Click HERE to view). These guides are also available at all times on my website http://www.kamikinard.com. 20150213_154943To celebrate the completion of these guides I am giving away five classroom reading packs that go along with the themes from THE BOY PROBLEM.  These can be used for reading circles, book clubs, or any of readers who enjoy these books!  Each kit includes a heart-shaped box and seven:

  • cupcake containers with a dove chocolate heart
  • cupcake tattoos
  • signed bookmarks
  • cupcake erasers (scroll down to see a cute video featuring these)
  • hairy mustaches
  • fortune telling fish
  • and one top to create your own shoe box lid predictor as seen on page 185
  • Winners will also receive a free 20 minute Skype visit for your class or for a small group.

(Pssst: If you win and need more than seven of the items above let me know and I’ll see what I can do!)

To enter just enter the short form below. Contest ends on midnight EST on February 28. 

This giveaway is over! Congratulations to the winners:

Kim, Janet, Suzy, Karen, and Debbie. An email has been sent to each of you. Leave a comment here if you do not receive it. Thank you to all who entered! Winners were selected using the Random Number Generator at Random.org. 

3 easy ways to double your entries, tweet about this giveaway and tag me @kamikinard, give it a shout out on Facebook and tag my author page, or leave a comment! 

Whether or not you enter the giveaway, you can still get a free Skype visit from myself or Sudipta for World Read Aloud Day. Click HERE for details.

Good Luck Everyone! And if you want a closer look at the erasers that come with the prize pack, check out what Mr. Etkin’s class did with them last year. Bet you didn’t know erasers could dance!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Harper Lee

Harper LeeHarper Lee, born 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama, has been on the mind of the literary world ever since it was announced this week that her second novel will be published over fifty years after her first. Lee penned the iconic Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. It is hard to get her off of my mind these days. Her interesting life included editing her college’s humor magazine, a stint in law school, and being close friends with Truman Capote, who she helped with his research for In Cold Blood. She dedicated many years of her life to honing her craft before publishing To Kill a Mockingbird.  Find a more complete biography HERE. It was hard to find quotes from Harper Lee that did not come from her famous novel. And eventually I gave up trying because the quotes from Mockingbird are so good. Reading them reminds me of why her novel has touched so many, and why the world hopes to see a second novel from her. 

Harper Lee Quotes from To Kill a Mockingbird:

  • I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. 
  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. 
  • I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
  • People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.
  • The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

And here is one about writing!

  • Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent. 

Get Ready for World Read Aloud Day!

World Read Aloud Day 2015

World Read Aloud Day 2015

Wednesday March 4 is World Read Aloud Day! If you haven’t heard about it before, it is a global program designed to get children reading. Many authors help celebrate World Read Aloud Day by volunteering to Skype, and read, with children across the country. Last year the Nerdy Chicks had virtual visits with over fifty schools. In honor of World Read Aloud Day this year we will be available on March 4, 5, and 6 for virtual classroom visits. To find out more about World Read Aloud Day, visit the LitWorld website by clicking HERE.

New this year we have forms to make signing up to have us visit your class easy! If you’re interested in having one or both of us read for your school, just scroll down to find forms for both of us that you can fill out right here on the blog. OR just click on the shareable links above each form. Clicking on our photos just below will lead you to our websites so you can find out more about us and the books we  write. And please share the link to this post with educators you know!

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 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Sudipta or click on this LINK.  Scroll down to schedule a visit with Kami.

 Fill out this form to schedule a visit with Kami or click on this LINK.

The Sun Sets on 2014 and Rises on 2015!Happy New Year!

2014-12-07 20.36.072014 was an eventful year of blogging for the Nerdy Chicks! Perhaps the most notable blogging event for us was the addition of our sister blog nerdychickswrite.com where we kicked off the first ever Kidlit Summer School. Many of you joined us for those great craft based posts on writing, most by fabulous guest bloggers. Yet over here at Nerdy Chicks Rule, our most popular posts were about family. Sudipta’s post about her tween daughters, Twelve Things to Tell Your Tween Tonight, and my post about my son turning eighteen, Eight Things to Teach by Eighteen that They Can’t Learn from Google, were the two that most people visited.

20141030_180705Thank you all for joining us online! We are looking forward to another great year. In thinking of wrapping up the year, I’ve been collecting pictures of sunsets. I walk my dog almost every day on a trail that crosses the marsh. Each time our walk coincides with a sunset, I have to take a picture. I am always amazed by the extreme beauty of each sunset. I love the way the sky caps off a day with grandeur, while somehow offering a promise of beauty for the following day. Each gorgeous sunset is unique in its own way. In this way, sunsets are like years. Every passing year is 20141021_185732different from the last and each one has its moments of beauty.

20141204_173438As you think about the promise that 2015 brings, we Nerdy Chicks hope you are able to reflect on those sunsets of 2014 finding beauty in the year behind you, while looking forward to the promise of what lies ahead.

Happy New Year!