Happy Book Birthday to GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN by my friend Tammi Sauer and Lynn Munsinger! Looks like so much fun!
We had our awesome, amazing, SCBWI Oklahoma spring conference this weekend. I had an amazing time. Great speakers, fun with friends, and lots more made for an unforgettable time. I’m still daydreaming about all the many amazing moments throughout my day. I might do a recap, but I might not, since I know Valerie Lawson will do better than I could over at her blog.
Something really good did happen at the conference…like unbelievably good, and it’s done a lot for my overall mood and confidence, yay.
I also came back even more excited for my next novel. I haven’t quite gotten it condensed down to a quick pitch, but I have the title over on my Current Works page, so that means it’s gonna happen for realsies. I also made a new board on my Pinterest for it, so I can start collecting things that make me think of this manuscript and characters. This one might take a little more research than before, but I’m excited about it. I can say this – it’s about identical twins.
Also, my niece is coming this week to spend two months with us. She’s six! There’ll be FOUR kids hanging at my house needing schooling and to be fed and stuff. I’m still feeling good about it! This is going to be a pretty thrilling spring, I think.
So…yeah. Currently feeling cautiously optimistic, plus stoked about getting back to creating a new first draft.
Let’s do this.
Our Okahoma SCBWI spring conference is next month!! This year’s theme is “Ignite the Spark,” and it’s going to be incredible. There’s a great lineup of publishing professionals on the roster, and I can NOT wait.
And check out this awesome poster for the event, designed by our regional illustrator coordinator, Jerry Bennett!
It’s funny that it’s only been two years since I attended my first spring conference. That one was in Tulsa, too (we alternate between Tulsa and Oklahoma City) and I was really nervous about it. I had only joined SCBWI a few months before, but I made a point of attending the Critique-a-thon in January and both OKC Schmoozes before the conference, in February and March, so I had at least made a few friends. I asked if anyone wanted to rideshare (partially to ensure I’d have someone to hang with) and got three lovely ladies who agreed to ride up with me. We left early in the morning and came back late that night, and it was hands-down the best day I’d had with SCBWI, up to that point.
Anyway, I still remember how scared I was about it. Having others around me who knew what was going on helped. I was worried about 1) driving to TULSA (the horrors); 2) finding the hotel; 3) knowing where to park; 4) knowing where to go when I actually got inside the hotel…
And this was all before I even made it to the conference room!
But luckily, I had friends, I had a new dress and new shoes and a manicure and a pair of spanx and I was ready to wow everyone with my shiny new novel.
And also scared.
And if you’ve never gone to an Oklahoma SCBWI conference, maybe you feel like I did. Or maybe you’re super confident in all situations and awesome, in which case, woohoo for you! Maybe we can hang when I have to go in a new situation next time.
In the meantime, I’m gonna post a few thoughts about what you can expect at an Oklahoma SCBWI conference. Your experience may vary, but I think some things are universal.
1. People are gonna be really, really nice and welcoming.
As soon as you see our crowd at the registration table, you’ll be greeted by sincerely friendly people. We’ll be happy to see you! We want you to succeed in your publishing dreams, and we can all make that happen together!
2. The speakers are excellent – informative and highly motivational.
Also, are speakers are actively looking for new talent. Even if they’re not living in a van down by the river. (But if they are, then even more reason for them to want your fabulous book, right?)
3. Our speakers are also wildly entertaining. Always.
At least, that’s been my experience. I’ve only been to four Oklahoma SCBWI conferences now, two spring and two fall, but I’ve never been bored.
4. You’re going to learn a TON.
The speakers WILL be incredible. Bring a notebook or laptop because your brain won’t even be able to take it all in at once. Your mind will be blown.
5. The speakers will be accessible.
I mean, you don’t want to smother them, but they will be hanging out at certain times, and you’ll be able to visit with them. For reals.
6. You’ll get to pick up some new reading material.
Both traditionally and independently published Oklahoma authors and illustrators will have books there to purchase. You can even get them signed and take a big pile home with you!
6. You’ll meet a whole lot of people who get it.
People who love books. Who love creating books. You know…people like you.
8. You’re going to get really, really excited about writing and illustrating for children.
There’s an amazing energy in the air at SCBWI conferences, and it’s contagious. Before it’s over, you will be super ready to do fantastic things.
9. And you’ll believe in yourself!
Shake off all the doubt because you CAN do this! You WILL do this! And it’s gonna be GREAT!
10. And finally…the FUN!
It might seem scary before you go (or maybe not) but trust me, it will be fun. It’ll be really fun. Yes. Seriously. As much fun as Rapunzel is having. Maybe funner. You won’t regret it.
So…will you come? Please? PLEASE?
Our Oklahoma SCBWI spring conference is drawing near. Manuscripts for critique are due in less than two weeks. We’re really gearing up with publicity efforts. And I am turning a seriously critical eye to my first ten pages. I’m reading others’ work too, and critiquing, even though I’m not sure I’m super-fabulous at it. I’m trying.
So. I wrote that first paragraph, and I wanted to find an animated gif to go with it, and I’m not finding anything I wanted. So I went through all my gifs that have usless names like tumblr_n8wwtwooV11tuo5ngo2_250 and rewrote them with better names, like hans anna love. You know. Important stuff. And none of them were what I wanted.
And I was going to write about how I’ve been critiquing for people, and I’ve asked some people to critique my new 10 pages, and how I have critique group tonight, and now, two hours later, I’ve kind of lost steam.
So here’s one of the gifs I forgot I had. This is how I’m rolling today.
I met Jay Asher on Saturday.
So we had our Oklahoma City SCBWI January critique-a-thon that morning, at a member’s beautiful, perfect house (thank you, Christy)! And afterward, some of us hurried to the bookstore – less than a mile away! How destined was that?
So we got there early and got numbers for the signing. I got #4. Sweet.
Then Jay came in. I retreated to a corner, so I could stare at his writersly perfection without being too scary. Some of our SCBWI Oklahoma members were together, talking like normal people and being cool. I relocated to their midst and pretended like my palms weren’t sweaty.
Jill, our assistant regional advisor, went and introduced herself to Jay because she’s awesome like that. Then she brought him over to meet us.
I remember very little of the words that led us up to this point. I do remember Jay saying that we should stand under the regional sign (because SCBWI is broken into regions). I also remember him commenting on my t-shirt, which has the Ghostbusters car following Inky and Blinky from Pac-Man on it. This was an actual thing that happened.
Ahem. So, then he spoke to us about the stories behind his novels, and his road to publication, and that was really interesting. Gave me a lot of good ideas about writing, and about patience (of which I have very little, it seems.) Afterward, we got in line, and I had him sign my copies of 13 Reasons Why and The Future of Us, plus my nephew’s copy of 13 Reasons Why. I had to buy new stuff for myself because I only had it on kindle. Stupid, stupid me.
While he signed my multitude of books, I blathered about my own writing, my blog, my twitter, and probably a bunch of other things. I thought I was playing it cool…but probably not. He was so nice though.
And then my wonderful friend Catren offered to take a picture of us.
Jay posted about his trip to Oklahoma on his blog! It includes a link to video of his appearance on News 9, his thoughts on the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, and pictures from his visit to Santa Fe High School.
Today I have the pleasure of featuring a different type of book on my blog!
SCBWI Oklahoma member Amy Dee Stephens writes fiction, but is also the author of two books on the Oklahoma City Zoo. I got a chance to look at her book recently, and it’s a must-see for anyone who has interest in animals, Oklahoma history, or a first-class zoo’s transformation through the years.
From the book’s description: What started as a small menagerie in 1902 officially became Oklahoma City Zoo in 1903. Journey through the second half century of its illustrious history in Oklahoma City Zoo: 1960–2013. Meet the staff and animals and explore the exhibits that propelled it from a third-class animal facility to one of the best zoos in the United States. In the 1960s, its animal population exploded as knowledge of animal care improved. The zoo soon assembled the largest-known collection of hoofed animals. Later, a rare mountain gorilla named M’Kubwa stole newspaper headlines, a third leopard escaped, and the zoo met its first cheetah babies. The opening of Aquaticus in the 1980s “brought the ocean to the prairie” in the form of a dolphin and sea lion show. Elephants, however, remain the queen attraction at the Oklahoma City Zoo. In 2011, the birth of the zoo’s first baby elephant baby, Malee, was a crowning achievement in its 110-year history.
Personally, I remember a lot of the changes that took place at the zoo, like when they built the Great EscApe when I was a kid, and the transformation of the big cat areas and new habitat for the elephants. It’s pretty dang great. If you’re in the area, you owe it to yourself to check out our zoo – and maybe pick up a copy of Amy’s books while you’re at it!
Amy was nice enough to share a press release with me about her newest book, including an informative Q&A that I enjoyed reading. Hope you do too!
Amy Dee Stephens announces the release of her second zoo history book,Oklahoma City Zoo: 1960-2013. Journey through the second half-century of the zoo’s history and explore the staff, animals, and exhibits that propelled it from a third-class animal facility to tone of the best zoos in the United States. Stephens, is the education supervisor and historian for the zoo. Her previous book,Oklahoma City Zoo: 1902-1959, covers the zoo’s first half century.
My NaNoWriMo project is going well. I’m glad I decided to drag a novel into it again this year. I absolutely loathe NaNo, and how it makes me feel anxious and desperate to finish on time. On the other hand, I know perfectly well that I do perform well under deadlines, and NaNo’s a great way for me to get my rear in gear and just finish already. So. I’m a few thousand over where I absolutely have to be at present, yay.
Of course, November isn’t just the month to bully yourself into finishing a novel. It’s also time to think of Christmas, ha ha! (See what a great segue that was? Srsly.)
Some of my very favorite Oklahoma SCBWI members have books that are Christmas themed. If you’re looking to get in the holiday mood, it might do you well to check these out!
I’m gonna start with Tammi Sauer’s adorable holiday book The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oklahoma, with illustrations by Victoria Hutto. Tammi’s book takes readers on a trip all around the Sooner State, spotlighting some of the things that makes Oklahoma such an amazing place! From the description on Amazon: Are you ready for rodeos, road trips down Route 66, and more? That’s Christmas, Oklahoma-style, with magical crystal bridges, a cowboy (and girl) museum, reconstructed Native American dwellings, outlaw hideouts, and cool dune buggy rides. And don’t forget the mistletoe–Oklahoma’s floral emblem. What a happy way to spend a holiday!
And there’s several other Christmas books from Okie authors that you might enjoy.
Una Belle Townsend’s Racecar Driver’s Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Rick Anderson, is part of Pelican’s Night Before Christmas series, which brings new adventures of Santa Claus to eager readers each year. From Amazon’s description: After organizing a special Christmas Eve race in Daytona, drivers Junior and Michael are in for a holiday treat when a strange car pulls up on the track. It’s covered in blinking lights and tinsel and smells of green pine, and the driver is Santy Claus, who is ready to race. Racecar Driver’s Night Before Christmas is a holiday story unlike any other as Santy Claus competes for the gold in the Jingle Bell Jammer, outracing the best and leaving presents of pistons and brakes behind for the racecar drivers who have been good all year.
Carolyn Macy has two books she’s written and illustrated for the holidays. The first, Hawaiian Night Before Christmas, is also part of the Pelican line. From Amazon: It is Christmas Eve on the tropical isle of Hawaii, a holiday the locals refer to as Kalikimaka. As all of the little keiki (children) drift off to sleep, Santa surfs to the island on his outrigger canoe led by his majestic sea turtles. As he arrives at their homes, or hale, he listens as the holiday ornaments magically come to life. The decorations bob and dance all around, whispering to Santa what gifts he should leave for the children. When Santa begins to leave, mama and papa give him a lei and bid him farewell as he rides the waves out of sight.
Carolyn’s other holiday book is Oklahoma Night Before Christmas. From Amazon: Very seldom does Santa ever find snow covering the land in Oklahoma. This sometimes gives him problems getting all his presents to the sleeping children. In this version of the popular tale, Santa brings his gifts on a four-wheeling ATV as blasts of freezing cold sweep into the state, and even his cozy Santa suit can’t keep him warm. When radar signals pick up his flying machine, the airport controllers become concerned about the unidentified object in the sky. And then there’s that pesky raccoon that digs into Santa’s bag. Is Santa ever going to be able to complete this Christmas ride? Find out in Oklahoma Night Before Christmas.
Una Belle and Carolyn will be signing their books on Thursday, November 20 (2014) at Spanish Cove Retirement Village in Yukon, and at Full Circle Books, 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City, on Saturday, November 22. Una Belle will also be signing at Best of Books in Edmond on December 9!
Want some Christmas books by Oklahoma authors? Here’s links to order on Amazon:
I had the pleasure of reading another great book by an Oklahoma author recently. Barbara Lowell’s nonfiction picture book, George Ferris, What a Wheel!, tells the story of a man who made an “impossible” dream come true.
From the book’s description on Amazon: Have you ever ridden a Ferris wheel? You go up, up, up and can see for miles! But when the inventor of the Ferris wheel, George Ferris, first pitched the idea, everyone thought he was crazy. A 250-foot bicycle wheel that goes around and around and carries people in train cars? Can’t be done, they said. But George proved them wrong. Read about how George’s hard work, courage, and imagination created one of the most famous fair rides today.
I went into this book knowing nothing about George Ferris. I didn’t even know the Ferris wheel was named for anyone! I did know, however, that I love Ferris wheels – even though I’ve never ridden in one with train sized cars, made to hold more than two thousand people!
George Ferris, What a Wheel! includes actual pictures of the construction and operational wheel, along with art by Jerry Hoare that makes you feel like you’re almost in the story.
It’s published by Grosset & Dunlap as part of their Penguin Core Concepts line, and covers the concepts Imagination and Problem Solving.
I’m always fascinated at nonfiction picture books – the way the authors cover the true stories completely, while still keeping things relevant and fresh for kids – really impresses me. George Ferris, What a Wheel! is no exception.
Author Barbara Lowell lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband Jim and their fabulous collie, Phil. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a runner-up for SCBWI’s Barbara Karlin Grant and a winner of the Katharine Patterson Prize at Hunger Mountain in the picture book category.
Valerie Lawson did a great interview with Barbara when the book came out this summer, but I asked a few questions too!
Whoa! This awesome article by Amy Dee Stephens made the cover story in the November 2014 issue of Outlook Magazine! Amy wrote about Jerry Bennett, our Oklahoma SBCWI illustrator coordinator, and the great strides he’s making in the comic industry!
Check out the article on Amy’s blog: Jerry Bennett, Comic Book Artist
Congratulations Amy and Jerry!