Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Trivia Answers

It seems I managed to stump everyone with number 4... and reader Sarah is the only one who correctly answered 1! I thought that one was a gimme. Here are the answers:

1. "Love and other indoor sports" STARRING SALLY J FREEDMAN AS HERSELF

2. Sir Puss FIFTEEN

3. The Bobwhites TRIXIE BELDEN

4. "...knowing there will be a hickey there tomorrow to remember him by..." THIS PLACE HAS NO ATMOSPHERE

5. astral projection STRANGER WITH MY FACE

Number 4 is a Paula Danziger book that I was in looooove with when I was about 10 or 11. It's good. Read it.

Thanks for playing!!!

*caroline hickey

Kidlit Trivia!

Just for fun because it's Thanksgiving week, can any of our readers identify which popular children's books the following quotes/characters/themes come from? (Hint: These are books from our generation!)

1. "Love and other indoor sports"

2. Sir Puss

3. The Bobwhites

4. "...knowing there will be a hickey there tomorrow to remember him by..."

5. astral projection

No Googling! You have to recognize these by sight. Post your answers in the comments, and if you have some trivia questions of your own, please feel free to include them!

*caroline hickey

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let's Hear from the Readers

Very often the popularity and sales of a children's book is determined by adults -- librarians, reviewers, marketing teams, salespeople, etc. So I really love reading reviews of kids' books that are actually written by kids. There are a few sites that I check out regularly for kids' book reviews, such as Kidsreads.com, Teenreads.com, and Spaghetti Book Club, and I just found this new one from National Geographic Kids.

Reading these reviews remind me of the mindset of my audience, and that very often adult reviewers are just trying to sound important. Here's a line from this new site about a pretty fabulous book called Shug by our own Jenny Han:
The author described things very well so I could see how everything looked.

Sounds trivial, but I remember feeling exactly the same way when I was 10 or 11. I didn't want to have to guess how characters and places and whatnot looked, I wanted to be told!

So the next time you read an adult review that talks about pacing, or secondary characters or this or that, think about what your intended readers think of the book. Because that's what matters.

*caroline hickey

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Secret Reads

There's a great post over on Shannon Hale's blog comparing fine works of literature with mass market paperbacks. Can one call the former "good books," and the latter "bad books"? Do both have a place on our night stand? Is reading meant to be for enlightenment only, or for pleasure as well? And if so, why are we occasionally embarrassed to be seen reading some of our favorite things?

I confess that I love People magazine. And Us Weekly. I don't subscribe, or buy them regularly, but if I'm laying on the beach or getting a pedicure or just need a break from life, I buy a copy and spend a delightful half hour reading drivel. Occasionally someone will see me with a copy and ask why I don't read more highbrow mags, since I'm a writer and all that. Like I should only read The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly.

I think it's a big wide world and there's room for all kinds of writing, all kinds of books, and all kinds of magazines. Shannon's post reminds me a lot of that interview on WBUR that Siobhan posted where the interviewer attacks Gossip Girls having never read it or bothering to think that while it may not be Newbery or Printz material, it sells hundreds of thousands of copies, which means it has hundreds of thousands of readers.

Read what you want, I say. Potato, Pa-tah-toe.

*caroline hickey

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hello, I'm Debbie Downer

There's a great quote by Katharine Hepburn that really sums up how I'm feeling about my writing right now:

I think most of the people involved in any art always secretly wonder whether they are really there because they're good or there because they're lucky.

I've been doing a decent job of finding an hour each day to work on my manuscript. The problem is, I just can't settle on the right direction to take it. I've been brainstorming ideas, doing little experimental outlines, and typing notes to remind my fingers how to work. But nothing interesting is coming out. I don't know if the problem is that I'm just too tired at the moment to be creative, or if the manuscript is so flawed I need to put it away for awhile, or if I'm psyching myself out because I'm not ready to start writing again.

If you've read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, you'll know what I mean when I say the radio station KFKD is playing in my head.

(See? I'm a real Debbie Downer today. Maybe it's the weather. Or that I've been up since 5:30am. In any case, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to throw a tomato at me.)

*caroline hickey

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm officially off maternity leave this week and working again.

I wish I could say I spent the last 12 or 13 weeks since I finished a draft of my WIP coming up with terrific ideas on how to fix it, but I didn't. I read it, and thought about it some, but it was so easy to let my writing brain rest while I concentrated on Baby Management 101 that I really didn't push myself.

Now I feel ready to write again. I've been putting Bridget through some intensive nap training, and I think I can manage to work on the book for an hour a day. It's not a lot, but if I'm focused, I can make it work. What I need to do first is come up with my ATTACK PLAN on how to fix the ms. An outline and detailed bullet points of what needs to change to make this book work, so that when I sit down each day for my brief free hour, I don't need to flounder around wondering what to do.

Do any of you plan revisions this way? Does it work? I normally work all day, every day, until a revision is done, preferring to immerse myself for a short, painful period of time, rather than drag out a revision forever working bit by bit, but that isn't an option now.

Tips, please!

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Just saw this in Publishers Lunch:
UK Children's
Becca Ajoy Fitzpatrick's YA novel HUSH, HUSH, a darkly romantic story of dangerous love between a teenage girl and a fallen angel, plus a sequel, to Venetia Gosling at Simon & Schuster UK, for publication in January 2010, by Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan Agency, on behalf of Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management.

When Harry Potter came out, everyone began writing about witches and wizards. Then fairy books (spelled faery) burst onto the scene. Then several years of nothing but teen vampires. Every single book was about teenage vampires. I've been wondering for awhile what the next big fantasy category would be -- could this be it? Angels?

Let me know if you've spotted anything else. (Personally, I like gnomes. And trolls.)

*caroline hickey

Thursday, October 16, 2008


You may have heard a lot of buzz about a book called Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott that just came out in September. It's the story of a 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped by a pedophile when she was 10, and has been trapped with him ever since. Only he's tired of her (he killed his last girl when she turned 15) and wants her to help him find a new little girl to replace her. She knows he will kill her when she finds the new girl.

Does anyone find this shocking? I did when I heard about it. Could such a book really be intended for teen readers? I checked out my local Barnes and Noble and my favorite indie and neither of them were carrying it. The salesperson at the indie said she'd read the reviews (all of which say it's an amazing and powerful book, which it is) and decided not to stock it.

I finally ordered it on Amazon (extremely high sales ranking) and read it today. Yes, I read the entire book today, even while taking care of my 11-week-old. The book is mesmerizing. Beautifully written. A horrific story that makes me never want to open my front door and go outside again. There are too many sickos out there. And it terrifies me even more now that I have my own daughter.

If I, a grown woman, feel this way about the book, how would a teen reader, one the same age as the protagonist, feel? That's what I've been wondering all day. The book says it's for "16 and up" but it's generating so much buzz it will finds its way into the hands of younger teens. And it's not that the book is graphic -- it manages to have violent sexual scenes without being hideously detailed -- but it's disturbing. I can't stop thinking about it. What must it have been like to be the author who worked on this book for months and possibly years? Such an evil to write about every day. I would think it would have been miserable for her.

I'm against book censorship in all forms. But I do think some books are too frightening for kids to read. And I simply couldn't recommend this to a teenage girl.

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How To Revise in One Hour a Week (??)

There's an assumption that writing and publishing get easier as you go. I know I used to think so. Or at least I hoped so.

Right before I had Bridget, I sent off my new WIP to my agent. I'd been working on it for about 8 months, had gotten good critique and positive feedback from my writing group, and even though I knew it needed some work, I thought it might be ready to send out soon.

*Sigh*. No such luck. I must have been all pregnant/hormonal/crazy to even think it was close to ready because my agent sent me back a very long, and, sadly, very correct letter with more than a few substantive changes to be made.

So it's back to the revising board for me. My plan is to start with a few weeks of just rereading the ms and thinking through its problems (that's about all I can manage with a newborn to take care of anyway), and then when I've really figured out a good plan for the revision, to get started on it and take my time.

Revision is my favorite part of writing, and I normally enjoy the beginning of a rewrite. This one will be hugely different though, because I won't be able to work with the same intensity that I normally do. I'll have to grab an hour here and there when I can, which is difficult for me because then I have to put myself back into the story every time and I lose my flow.

Any new mothers/full-time day jobbers out there have advice for making the most of short bursts of time?

*caroline hickey

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Have you ever stolen someone else's guy??

Will 15-year old Taryn succeed in stealing a guy from Isabelle, the most popular girl in school? Will her dog stop getting her in trouble? Will her best friend ever speak to her again?

You can finally find out! ISABELLE'S BOYFRIEND is now in stores and available online!

I'd like to say I have big plans to celebrate today's launch of my second book, but so far the celebration has only included a 5:30am wake up call, being pooped on (2x), peed on (1x) and a bowl of frosted mini wheats. Still, I'm really excited because I LOVE this book and I can't wait for people to read it.

Check it out!

*caroline hickey

Sunday, August 31, 2008

From Our Emailbox

As graduates of a full-time, on-site MFA programme, I was wondering if you have any opinions about low-residency MFA programmes, or if you know anyone who has tried one?

Also, if you had already published a couple of books, would you have found an MFA programme useful, or would you have skipped it, or simply pursued some other educational option?

I have a few friends who have done low-residency MFA programs, mostly through Vermont College, and they have all said wonderful things about it. To my knowledge, none of them were published beforehand, and they have all been published since (not that I'm using that as a measure of success, it's just a piece of info). I liked the on-site program at New School, mainly because I met so many great writers who are now my friends. I also liked all of the events that New School hosted, as it gave me an opportunity to meet authors, editors and agents. Low-res programs do offer these things during their two-week residencies, but it's not the same as two full semesters each year.

As for your second question, it's tricky to answer without knowing why exactly you're considering an MFA. If you've already published several books, then you obviously know a few things about the business and write well enough to publish. However, the MFA may still be useful to you, as it helps you improve your writing by way of real, substantive critique, it gives you deadlines, and you'll have a graduate degree (which you might want if you plan to teach). But it is time consuming and costly. Only you can decide if it's worth it for you.

I was an inexperienced writer and a newbie to children's publishing when I began my MFA, so for me it was a journey worth taking!

*caroline hickey