Only writers know how many hours we spend on our kiesters doing that thing we love/hate/have to do: WRITE. The manuscript won't get done unless we sit down and write it. Turns out, sitting is bad for us. In addition to weight gain, sciatica, and tennis elbow, now we need to be concerned about cancer. According to THE WEEK magazine (Nov. 25, 2011, pg. 25), "Sitting still for long stretches of time--at work, in the car, or at home--increases your cancer risk, even if you exercise regularly, WebMD.com reports." "...Research supports a previous 14 year study that found that six hours of sitting a day increased a woman's odds of dying in that period by 37 percent, and a man's by 18 percent, compared with people who sat for half that time." "...The American Institute of Cancer Research now says it's crucial that you get up and move at least once an hour."
So, do what I do. Set an alarm to ring every hour. Get up and move about. Just don't walk to the fridge...
Since we are staring the end of 2011 right in the face, it's time to think about new year's resolutions. How about this one? "I resolve to get a professional critique on my fantasy novel." Look no further than P.J. Hoover, a mentor from the great state of Texas. Check her out at http://www.pjhoover.com.
1. Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is also a member of THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek. Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea.
2. Why did you decide to become a mentor?
I noticed once my MG trilogy was published, I started getting more and more requests for not only critiques but for advice about the publishing world in general. Part of this was from conference attendance, but also, I made myself known online through my blog and other social marketing media. I’d learned a bunch not only about the pros and cons of publishing with a small press but about networking and marketing, and I was happy to share whatever advice I could. So there was no official starting point, but it was more something I eased myself into.
How many writers have you officially mentored?
Because of the casual nature of so many of the exchanges with other writers I’ve had, there is no official number. I’m happy to answer any email that comes my way if I think in some way my advice will help.
What strengths do you bring as a mentor?
My strengths include publishing with a small press, independently publishing through an agency, and marketing. I love looking at query letters and helping rewrite these into something that will catch an agent’s eye. I’m happy to share what has worked for me in marketing. And, since I enjoy public speaking, I love speaking at conferences and workshops about any of my experiences and skills.
Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?
So many writers have been generous with their knowledge. From writers I’ve met at conferences and workshops, to my editor for my MG series, to my agent and agency, to local Austin authors, I’ve been fortunate in having a wealth of knowledge offered to me that I can then share with others.
If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Truly, no one comes to mind. I admire so many writers!
If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
I’m going to pick Tolkien. It would have been awesome to be mentored by him back when he was alive and working on the Lord of The Rings and the whole world of Middle Earth. That would have been priceless.
This Monday, we take a peek at the other side of the mentor partnership with Jessica Lee Anderson. She's an accomplished author who is part of the Avante-Garde Mentoring Program (http://austinavantmentors.com/) organized by SCBWI-TX, Austin. This program connects talented mentors with aspiring children's book writers. Anyone would be lucky to work with Jessica Lee Anderson. Check her out at: http://www.jessicaleeanderson.com/index.php.
1. Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Trudy (winner of the 2005 Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature), Border Crossing (Quick Picks Nomination), as well as Calli (2011, YALSA's Readers' Choice Booklist Nomination). She’s published two nonfiction readers, as well as fiction and nonfiction for a variety of magazines including Highlights for Children. Jessica graduated from Hollins University with a Master of Arts in Children's Literature, and instructed at the Institute of Children's Literature for five years. She is a member of The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels and hopes to be more sweetheart than scoundrel. She lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and two crazy dogs.
2. Why did you decide to become a mentor?
This has been a natural transition as my background is in education and I’ve always been passionate about helping people. There are few things quite as exciting and energizing as watching your student or mentee succeed!
3. How many writers have you officially mentored?
I don’t have an official count, but as a former ICL instructor and an active SCBWI member, I’ve mentored a good number of writers. In addition, I’ve also helped writers by offering critiques and providing guidance as a member of The Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels.
4. What strengths do you bring as a mentor?
I like to think of myself as a patient person and also very positive. This year, I celebrated 10 years in the writing industry, so I hope to have some helpful experience to share as well.
5. Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?
I consider myself to be lucky to have had such amazing mentors throughout my writing journey! My mentors have all been models in patience and encouragement—they’ve really set a great example that I hope I can exemplify.
6. If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Hmm…there are so many writers I’d love to connect with in any sort of capacity! Harper Lee ranks right up there for me, especially as there are some projects she set aside indefinitely.
7. If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
I think Shakespeare would have such amazing insights to offer. I admit I could use plenty of poetic guidance!
Kristen Remenar, children's librarian, national speaker and SCBWI-MI colleague shared information about www.readerkidz.com, a new review site hosted by people deep in the field of children's literature:
"Our mission is to provide teachers, librarians, and parents with the resources and inspiration to foster a love of reading in kids, K-5. . If you need help finding just the right book for elementary kids, or if you're writing for that age group and want to see what educators like, go to readerkidz.com."
Kris is a contributor to the site and each of her reviews made me want to stop what I was doing and read that book!
I'm revising my middle grade historical fiction manuscript, CHASING HOME, and am at the point of fussing over word choice. This is a perfect time to enlist the support of the word frequency and phrase frequency checker (http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp) at the website www.writewords.com. It's so easy to use. Paste in a document or parts of a document, click "Submit," and almost instantly it counts how many times words are used. All my pet words and phrases, weak verbs, and the dreaded "the" pop up and stand at attention like obedient soldiers. Little do they know most of them are getting the ax.
Another great use for this checker is to see how often characters' names appear. If the main character's name appears less than the villian, something ain't right.
The first Mentor Monday interview is with Michigan's own Melissa Shanker, winner of the 2011 SCBWI-MI Mentorship Award. Melissa is mentored by the accomplished author, Kristen Wolden Nitz, who can be found at http://www.kwnitz.com/. The interview follows:
Please provide a brief description of your mentor and your winning manuscript.
I am fortunate to have Kristen Wolden Nitz as my mentor. She’s the author of SUSPECT, a young adult mystery that made the ALA’s list for best YA fiction, as well as two imaginative MG books and several sports themed non-fiction books – so obviously her experience crosses many genres.
The manuscript that won the award was my YA novel, A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF AN ORDINARY GIRL. It’s a story about an under-the-radar teenage girl who discovers the ugly truth about the boy she loves and then risks everything to save the girl she hates. Over the course of one week, I do some horrible things to my poor protagonist, including making her an accomplice to murder. She emerges from the rubble a little beat up, but a lot wiser about love, friendship, and the power of truth.
Why did you decide to apply for the SCBWI-MI Mentorship Competition?
I’m at a point in my writing where I think my work is coming closer to the level of the authors I admire. A consistent and experienced writing presence in my life, like Kristen, will be just the motivation I need to make my writing worthy of submission and hopefully acceptance by an agent or editor. In other words, I need a taskmaster to kick my butt, and Kristen is up for the job.
Did you find the application difficult? If so/not, why?
I don’t think there is a writer in the world that enjoys writing a one-page synopsis. So yes, I found it difficult, but also helpful. Whenever you’re asked to summarize it forces you to step back and take a look at your novel as a whole. Sometimes that bird’s eye view can have the reverse effect – the tiny hiccups you noticed close up, look like big black holes from far away.
Why do you believe your manuscript was chosen?
Oh, didn’t they tell you? I was the only one that entered the contest.
Kidding. No, I was told that the voice of my protagonist, Addie, is smart, self-aware and funny without being self-pitying. While the plot does share some common coming-of-age teen elements, the judges thought my writing was confident and compelling.
What do you hope to accomplish during the course of the mentorship (improve craft, revise this manuscript, develop new project/s, etc.)?
My mentor and I are working on a brand new novel that I am immensely excited about. It’s a middle grade novel, part mystery/part humorous contemporary fiction. Kristen is a whiz at pacing mysteries, and she’s completely organized and meticulous – two areas my family will tell you I fall woefully short. I’m confident she will be a huge help.
How will you know if the mentorship was a success for you?
I already know that it’s a success.
If you could choose any mentor in the course of history, who would it be and why?
Wow. That’s a toughie. My favorite contemporary writers are Sara Zarr, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gary Schmidt – and Lauren Myracle is a machine…but I think I’d have to pick John Green because he’s so darn cute, and if I were his mentee he might let me join the Nerdfighters. Side note: Can you say “mentee” without feeling like a completely pretentious idiot? I cannot.
Would you consider mentoring another? If so, what could you offer? (FYI, it is my belief that everyone has something to offer even if he/she is just beginning in the writing world…)
Yes, of course, if anyone would have me!
"We can help a person to be himself by our own willingness to steep ourselves temporarily in his world, in his private feelings and experiences. By our affirmation of the person as he is, we give him support and strength to take the next step in his own growth."
-- Clark Moustakas
Four years ago this fall, I won the SCBWI-MI Picture Book Mentorship Award judged by Newbery Award winner, Lynne Rae Perkins. This was a turning point in my career as a writer and author. The nod from Ms. Perkins validated that I had a story worth telling and that she, a gifted author who won the highest honor in the industry, enjoyed reading it. She helped me recognize the value of my words on paper. Could there be a better gift?
My new weekly blog series will spotlight the importance of mentorship in our field and how the act of helping one helps us all. I'll interview people who have been menteed as well as mentors.
I believe everyone, even those new to the field, has something to offer. Mentoring, whether formal, like the annual SCBWI- Michigan Mentorship Award, or informal, such as offering to give thoughts on a new chapter, is all worthwhile. Who knows what next step you might help someone take?
Watch for my first interview with Melissa Shanker, winner of the 2012 SCBWI-MI Mentorship Award on Monday, November 7th.
Any folklore folks out there? Check out this hot from the presses info:
Sylvan Dell Publishing (www.sylvandellpublishing.com) is expanding into Social Studies (cultures, geography, history) concepts through folklore. Our current focus is/has been fun-to-read (fictional) picture books with non-fiction science and math concepts woven through the story. The back of each of our books has a section called "For Creative Minds" that goes deeper into explaining the science or math facts behind the story. We see folklore , fables, and myths as a good way to bridge the gap between science and social studies. Traditionally folklore was used to explain why things happened (why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, explain constellations, volcanoes, or animal adaptations, etc.).
What we are looking for:
· Adaptations or retellings of culturally-specific fables, folklore, or myths that explain a scientific concept. Please include links or bibliography to original sources if applicable (to ensure there are no copyright issues).
· Culture must be identified and specific (Cherokee, Navajo, Tlingit, Greek, Roman, Incan, Mayan, etc.)
· If the Native American culture exists today, links to or contact information for their arts council or similar organization would be helpful.
· Please ensure that your adaptation/retelling has a targeted reading level (2nd or 3rd grade is good, no higher than 5th grade).
· Ideally, we would love for the author and/or the illustrator to be of the represented culture (assuming the culture still exists). As noted in our submission guidelines, authors should not submit art unless they are both an author and a professional illustrator. Illustrators submitting samples should follow normal submission guidelines but should also indicate if they are affiliated with a Native American culture for possible matching.
· The For Creative Minds section would include: scientific explanation of concept, information about the specific culture, a map showing historic/current area of culture, etc.
Carrie Pearson is a children's book author and creator-cheerleader.