#NJSCBWI15: A Conference in Pictures

This past weekend, the Nerdy Chicks met up in Princeton, NJ for the 2015 New Jersey SCBWI Conference, and it was wonderful from start to finish. Here are some of the moments we captured:

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Kicking off with lunch in Princeton with Tara Lazar, Kelly Calabrese, Marcie Colleen, and Tammi Sauer.

This was not at the conference itself, but we did stop traffic to take a photo of this mailbox.

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The conference itself was too much fun to do much more than live in the moment. But here are some more memories:

Kami and Sudipta

Kami and Sudipta

Sudipta, Marcie, and Kelly

Sudipta, Marcie, and Kelly

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Tammi Sauer’s fab workshop

Kami, Marie, and NJ RA Leeza

Kami, Marie, and NJ RA Leeza

Marcie and Sudipta's workshop

Marcie and Sudipta’s workshop

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sudipta marcie blake photo

John Cusick's Keynote

John Cusick’s Keynote

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Tara Lazar doing…we don’t know what

Post-conference tapas

Post-conference tapas

If you want to learn how to write children’s literature and hang out with some truly wonderful people, we can’t recommend this conference enough. Hope to see you next year!

 

 

 

Marcie Colleen: How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

image (3)Today, we are happy to be hosting Marcie Colleen on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Author and Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen, is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council.  Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn about a great new online picture book class from Marcie and Sudipta!

How Rejection Leads to Stellar Revision

Rejection is inevitable.

Writers face rejection.  Often.

Sure we can try to avoid rejection.  Maybe slavishly follow trends. Maybe self-publish. Maybe give up.

After all, rejection hurts.  It stings.  We should try to avoid it at all costs, right?

Wrong.

In fact, we should welcome rejection. Allow rejection to become part of our journey.  Why?

There is value in rejection. Rejection can make us better writers.

Here are three ways rejection can lead to stellar—publishable—revisions.

Shine a light.

Ever receive a rejection and think “well, they clearly didn’t ‘get it’”? It happens. After all, writing (and reading) is subjective. But what happens if you receive rejection after rejection from editors or agents who didn’t seem to “get it”? If you are seeing a pattern, it’s time to revise. In fact, the unwritten rule is if two to three people give you the same feedback, definitely revise.

This happened to me while first subbing The Adventure of the Penguinaut. Several rejections referred to the manuscript as a “flightless bird who wants to fly” story.  Problem was, I never wanted to write a story about a penguin who wants to fly. As those rejections so clearly stated, this concept has been done. . .a lot.

So, what was the issue? Did all of those editors just not understand my story? Or was there something flawed in my plot that led them to believe my theme was different than intended?

Upon closer examination, I realized that I had mentioned flying five times within The Adventure of the Penguinaut. No wonder they all thought flying was important to my protagonist.  I then tightened, stream-lined, and focused my story more on Orville’s need for independence.  And the next time we went out on sub with The Adventure of the Penguinaut not one editor misunderstood it and it triumphantly sold to Scholastic.

“The drawer” is good.

Rejection is upsetting. If you are like me, a rejection can send you under the covers with chocolate, wine, and a box of tissues.

Rejection leaves me not wanting to look at the manuscript for some time. With a sick feeling in my stomach, I cram it into the proverbial drawer and tearfully wonder how long I will toil on this one silly story.

image (2)It took me over two years to write The Adventure of the Penguinaut and, during that period, I think it spent more time in the drawer than on my desktop. What a long and tedious process!

But, with each critique and each rejection, I needed time away. And even though I thought I was taking a break from the story, what I was really doing was allowing my brain, my heart, my inner muse to subconsciously think through the issues so that when I took the manuscript out of the drawer again, I knew what needed to be done. Sometimes it is less about finding your story than it is to let your story come to you.

Rejection slows down the process, for sure. But when I read my original draft of Penguinaut, horribly titled The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky, I am thankful for those two years of development.  No way was my first draft ready for publication. Thank you to all of the gatekeepers who slowed me down and saved me the embarrassment of anyone reading The Glimmering Iceberg in the Sky.

Eye of the tiger.

Lastly, rejection grows us as writers. As novelist James Michener said, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”

Writers learn so much from rejection—about ourselves, our work, the market, the business. Rejection forces honest assessment. It makes us shine sunlight on our shortcomings so that we can address them. It forces us to read our words the way others see them, not in the perfect form that we as authors imagine them to be. Even authors who choose to self-publish should, from time to time, submit themselves to rejection. Writers who have never experienced rejection are no different than children who get awards for everything they do and are never told “no.”

Rejection pushes. Rejection sharpens. Rejection gives writers something to prove.

It’s time to learn to cherish rejection. It pains at first. It’s ok to grab the chocolate ice cream and a spoon and hide under the covers for a day or two.  But then comes the realization: this story just isn’t up to snuff. That is a powerful and freeing moment—freeing because, making a story better is entirely within our power. We can’t change publishing, but we can change the quality of our work.

Oh, and chocolate is absolutely still appropriate (check out “The Sweet Taste of Rejection”—a past post on this very idea http://writeroutine.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-sweet-taste-of-rejection.html )

(Also, for more advice in this vein, check out this post from Kami: How No Helps You Grow)

revision chickStarting on April 13, 2015, Marcie is going to be teaching a new online course in Picture Book Revision at Kidlit Writing School. This course will be co-taught by Sudipta and by Agent Susan Hawk of the Bent Agency as well.

Successful picture book authors know that the real writing starts after the first draft is written. This course will teach you the fundamentals of revising your manuscripts starting with Action, Beginning, and Character– and then, as with other courses in the A to Z series, literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at writing (or RE-writing) a picture book the same way again!

For more information and to register for this awesome course, please visit the registration page. If you sign up by March 27, you will get a FREE 20-minute manuscript review with either Marcie or Sudipta!

 

Happy World Read Aloud Day (Week)!

World Read Aloud Day this year was on March 4, 2015, but like many authors, the Nerdy Chicks have been celebrating by connecting with classrooms all week long. We read to kids in Ohio, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Texas, California, and many, many more! Here are some of the photos from our #WRAD15 celebrations!

skype on computerWRAD15 7 Kami SkypeWRAD15 6 skype3 WRAD15 5WRAD15 4 WRAD15 3 WRAD 15 2 WRAD15 1Skype with KKinard

Ten Things I Wish I’d Learned Ten Years Ago

It’s been a rough start to 2015 for me – too much awfulness to share here. Through it all, though, life goes on, and that has meant that I’ve had to find ways to move forward. Easier said than done.

Probably because I’m having such a stormy time, I’ve been very introspective of late, and I have realized that, despite the turbulence, I’m better suited to deal with it now than I had been in the past. That’s because with age comes wisdom, and I am wiser today than I was a decade ago. Here are ten things that I know now that I wish I’d known ten years ago:

1. Forgiving is easy. It’s forgetting that is hard. You always hear people talking about things they can never forgive – how silly is that. It is very hard, when faced with someone truly remorseful, to withhold forgiveness. The problem is that you can accept someone else’s sincere remorse – and still feel hurt. And until you can forget the thing you’ve already forgiven, it’s impossible to move on. Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to do – but, at least, now, I know what needs to be done.

image2. Strong and stubborn are not the same thing. Most of us are raised to believe that consistency is a sign of strength – that when you make a decision, you should stick to it. This is especially true if you’re a parent – you’re told that once you say something to your kids, you can never back down. But refusing to back down regardless of the circumstances is just pigheadedness, not strength. In fact, it often takes a lot more strength to reverse yourself and admit that a different path of action is the wiser thing to do.

3. It doesn’t matter what they say – pay attention to what they do. I blame this inclination of putting more stock in words than actions on being a woman. I have a tendency to talk everything to death, on the assumption that a verbal contract is binding under the law. But people can be careless with their words, and often the words that are treated as the most binding are the ones that were said in the heat of the moment and probably shouldn’t be honored (see 2 above). For me, I’ve learned that I often don’t give people enough credit for the good things they do if they say a single hurtful thing to me – something that I work every day to change in myself.

4. Distance – more than time – heals all wounds. In the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go.” Remember that things don’t need to be talked to death, and sometimes walking away does more good than the most honest, open, unrestrained conversation. You know how you shouldn’t sweat the small things? Given enough distance, everything is small. (I may be paraphrasing FROZEN again there….) One more thing: for time to heal wounds, the clock has to start – and that can’t happen until you stop talking it to death. That’s why distance is so much more important. No matter how loud you’re shouting, it’s impossible to be heard 10 miles away.

5. There is a big difference between need and want. A need is something that you physically cannot live without. Oxygen. Water. Food. Bon Jovi. A want, on the other hand, is something that you like to whine that you need but you really do not. You don’t need your kids to be nice to each other – you just want it. You don’t need your coworkers to respect you – you just want it. And in most cases where you’re having a rough time, learning to label the things you want properly as wants and not as needs reduces the amount of stress that not having them will cause. (It seems a lot of the wisdom I’ve gained has to do with words and talking…hmmm…)

6. If you’re going around in circles, it is your own responsibility to get off that ride. No matter how many times you punch 2 + 3 into your calculator, the answer is going to be 5. If you want a different output, you need to change the inputs. When your life is a hamster wheel of the same disasters, get off the darn wheel. You cannot wait for another person, a particular set of circumstances, or a force of nature to push you off the wheel – you have to make that choice yourself. Again, this isn’t easy – humans are creatures of habit, if nothing else, and we like our hamster wheels. But, sometimes, you have to make yourself break out of your comfort zone and change the inputs.

7. If you have to put yourself first, you’ve made the wrong choices. So often people talk about how others in their lives aren’t making them happy, how they need to put themselves first. Well, first, putting yourself first isn’t a need, it’s a want (see 5). Second, the truly happy people I know are the ones who do for the people they love and trust that those loved ones will do for them. Now, listen – happy doesn’t mean without complaints. It’s still annoying when your husband doesn’t take your dreams seriously, or your kids expect a chauffeur who will do his duty in silence, or your mother complains about your housekeeping skills instead of praising your career. But when you are generous with yourself – and you’ve been generous to the right people – the math works out in the end and your bucket should be full.

8. Trust, but verify. Trust is one of those funny things – it’s too valuable a thing to be careless with, and yet if you can’t freely give it, your relationships won’t work. This goes for your friends, your partner, your children – you cannot live in a place of suspicion where every motive is constantly questioned (if you did, you’d end up with no friends, no partner, and children who avoid you). And yet, with age, you learn that blind trust is meaningless and anyone who demands blind trust…well, he is probably deceiving you. So here’s the one subset of “putting yourself first” that is ok – never be ashamed to verify facts that are important to you. And never let someone else make you feel guilty because your “mistrust” uncovered his deception – it isn’t mistrustful to verify. It’s just smart.

9. Very little in life will actually kill you. Talk about perspective. You hear the phrase “it’s killing me” tossed around constantly. Really? It’s killing you that your daughter talks back? When’s the funeral? It’s killing you that your boss eats all the blueberry muffins in the break room? Should I start on your obituary? These things aren’t killing you. They’re annoying you. Just like it is important to know the difference between need and want, you need to acknowledge the meaning of the words kill, slaughter, and dead. And then you need to understand that the old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” pretty much means that almost everything in your life has the power to make you stronger (because almost nothing will actually kill you!). Keep the correct outlook on life and watch your stress level plummet. Or even get slaughtered.

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10. The sun truly will come out tomorrow. This goes along with 9 – very little will leave you dead, and no matter what, tomorrow is a new day. As dark as it gets, the sun always rises. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know these sayings are trite and clichéd, but they’re also true. It’s important to remind ourselves that, no matter what, there is always tomorrow, and that that is a gift.

I know I said ten things, but here’s one more that is so meaningful to me that I had it tattooed on my body (and, no, I won’t tell you where):

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BONUS: Love heals all. The worst times in my life happened when I forgot this very simple truth. That’s why I got the tattoo – I never want to forget again that no matter how much pain there is, love will heal it all.

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. 

Cool New Year, Cool (Downright Cold) New Experiences

If you’re like me, sometime around the end of December, every year, you start thinking about all the things you are going to do in the next year that you never got around to before. I always swear to myself that I will fill the new year with completely new experiences. It was in that spirit (and possibly in a moment of insanity) that I booked a room for me and my family at the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City. The Hotel IMG_0081de Glace is the only hotel in North America to be constructed entirely of ice and snow. (Which totally makes sense as who would pay a hotel to make them sleep in ice and snow? You know, except me.) The beds, luckily, have wooden bases and mattresses made of mattresses, but they are all enclosed in an ice frame and are also inside, well, a room made of snow and ice. But don’t worry! They give you a Mount Everest-style sleeping bag that looks like a mummy’s sarcophagus to sleep in. And, yes, the entire hotel is cold (it’s basically an igloo). But don’t worry! The inside stays a pretty constant temperature of about 23 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit. Do you know what that is in Celsius? Negative 5. I hope you can imagine the panic I found myself in when all these facts sunk in. It was with great trepidation that I packed my parka and my expedition weight base layer and my snow pants and my gloves to head to the Hotel de Glace. But to my surprise, when I arrived, the place was truly….magical. IMG_0085IMG_0061 The artistry of the decorated rooms was…breathtaking. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC wpid-20150116_195640.jpg wpid-20150116_195946.jpgSAMSUNG CSC Sipping a drink out of a glass made of ice was….incredible. SAMSUNG CSC wpid-20150116_230124.jpg Taking a turn on the Grand Slide made of ice that adorns the entry hall was…awesome. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one that I am glad I made myself (and my family) do. And now, I feel empowered to fill 2015 with even more cool new experiences! In the end, there is one word that I would use to describe the Hotel de Glace. Is it magical? Breathtaking? Incredible? No. The one word that best sums it up…

COLD.

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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!