Monday, April 20, 2015


Krista Van Dolzer's debut novel (from Penguin Young Readers), THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, releases on May 5th! I love, love, LOVE this one, and I have a signed ARC that I'm giving away to one lucky winner.

Rose Wong's cover art reflects the diverse story within. The jacket copy reads: Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Ella Mae's voice grabbed me from the first sentence. The family dynamics (especially interactions with her parents and between her mom and her aunt) rang true. This book made me laugh aloud in many places, but it also made me go find a box of tissues.

Krista and I have been reading each other's manuscripts for about five years, and I've read this story more times than any other manuscript I've critiqued. For anyone. It has changed dramatically from draft to draft, but the scene with Takuma and Ella Mae that makes me cry has been there since my first read. And it makes me cry (tears leaking down my face) every. single. time.

If you have a U. S. mailing address and would like to be entered in the drawing, please comment below before Thursday, April 23, at 10:00 pm PDT. I'll give an extra entry to anyone who shares an interesting historical fact or even their favorite time and place in history. :o)

If you need a less biased review, here's one by Publisher's Weekly.

And if you're interested in reading more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, Shannon Messenger has the links on her blog.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Resources for Picture Book Writers

I'm just popping in to share some picture book resources that I've found helpful. Most of them are things I've discovered recently, and most of them are free.

The biggest thing I'm doing this year actually did cost money. It's Julie Hedlund's 12x12. You commit to writing 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. She has three levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I signed up for Silver because it means I can watch the monthly webinars (mini-classes by other writers, Jane Yolen for example) for free. Many of the other 12x12 members have already sold picture books, and they're willing to answer questions and advice. I'm only a month in, and I already know I'll be doing this again next year. It's less expensive than taking an online class or going to a conference, and it gives me access to mini-classes and manuscript feedback all year. Registration is open until the end of this month. If you don't want to invest the time or money this year, you can still subscribe to her website for free. That's how I started last year.

But I have two brand new picture book manuscripts already, and the 12x12 material Julie sends to my inbox is fabulous. This video that I watched today made me realize how I need to revise my current query, and Julie gave us permission to share it. It's the first in a three-part series that you can watch for free. I think the videos are only available for 10 days, so if you're interested, don't put off watching it.

I've been subscribing to for a couple of years. Everything that she does is free, and she has a lot of great resources for picture book writers. One of my favorite things is this post on picture book layout. I've come up with some of my best picture book ideas by participating in her PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) the last two Novembers.

KidLit411 is an AMAZING resource that I just discovered last month. They interview writers and illustrators every week, but the best thing they do is round up links to other relevant information and opportunities. Totally free.

And something new I'm going to try next month is Carrie Charley Brown's Reading for Research Month (also free).

Let me know if you end up checking any of these out. :o) Also, if you think I'm missing out on something, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Second Draft of MG Finished!

I saw a tweet from Shannon Hale not that long ago that compared writing a first draft to shoveling sand in a sandbox so that she could build a castle with it later.

For me, writing a first draft is more like sketching a picture I'm going to paint with a pencil. That first sketch is limited, and I put in things that I know will have to change, even before I start layering paint. The eraser is my friend.

The last couple of first drafts I've written have been in notebooks. I haven't transferred Nightingale from the notebook to the computer yet, but tonight I finished my second draft of the MG space opera I wrote in the fall. At 20,998 words, it's slight, but it's longer than the 75 written pages it started out as.

It may double in size.

Some people write a lot of words in the beginning, cutting them later. I spend the first draft finding my characters and plot. Then I add layers. Either way, a lot of words get deleted or painted over.

This draft was my first experience with Scrivener, and I'm going to keep the story there for one more draft. Then I'll switch over to Word. I'll blog more about learning how to use Scrivener later. But at this point, I'm sold; I'll be typing Nightingale into Scrivener later this year.

What have you been up to this month?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Picture Book Idea Month

Picture book writer Tara Lazar runs Picture Book Idea Month every November. This year, I've read fantastic posts from picture book writers, illustrators, and agents. Reading through the posts is like taking a free class. I'd recommend it for anyone interested in writing picture books. 

Last year, I came up with twice the required 30 picture book ideas. I was SO excited to write some of those ideas during 2014, but then I put the notebook in a safe place and forgot about it. Four to six months later, I went looking for my idea notebook, but I still haven't found it. I remember some of the ideas, though, and have worked on a few of them.

PiBoIdMo is kitten approved!

This year I've approached it differently. Instead of using one of my many ordinary notebooks, I decorated a spiral bound book of notecards. I like writing poems on notecards, and I wanted the notebook to be something small and easy to recognize. Instead of trying to amass as many ideas as possible, I'm trying to visualize and flesh out some (not all) of the ideas as they come. I've even written a few manuscripts.

Parakeets prefer picture books!

I sent the best one off for critique today. :o)

Hope your week is filled with friends, family, favorite foods, and all the right words!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Treats from a Tree

So, I have a poem in the November issue of Highlights High Five, and they actually pronounced my name correctly on the audio version. :o) I'd say this never happens, but hey, it just did.

If you'd like to hear it, you can click through to the Highlights website. My poem is Treats from a Tree, page 16. Or you can check out Alex Paterson's delightful illustrations (including the one with my poem) on his website.

Once again, I'm thrilled to see the finished product. If you're interested in writing for children's magazines, I can't over recommend submitting to Highlights. They offer the best pay, and they will make you look great. But by far, the best part is working with fantastic editors.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Winners and Another Happy Thing

First, I love that everyone who entered told me how they found my blog. Thank you!

Second, while everyone entered the drawing for ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, Krista Van Dolzer was the only person who wanted the magazine, and Mariah Ellis was the one one interested in a critique. So they automatically won those giveaways.

Determining the third winner took a bit more work on my part, but we have one.

Katherine wins the book (and buttons)!

Thanks so much to everyone for the happy wishes and entries! Mariah and Katherine, please email me at myrnabobfoster at yahoo dot com. Krista, I'll be over your way next week for a high school soccer game. Hopefully, we can swap illustrated brain children then. :o) If not, I'll mail it to you.

Third, on a completely unrelated note, I finished my first draft of the first book in a middle grade space opera series. I wrote this draft in the notebook underneath the chest in the picture. There's nothing quite like finishing a first draft. It still needs lots of work, but I totally love it (which means I'd probably better work on a different project before I revise it).

Happy Wednesday! Mwah! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Five Year Anniversary of Night Writer

I wrote my first blog post on October 10, 2009. That little post had two commenters: Stephanie Perkins and the mysterious Q. I thought it was fun that some of our avatar photos in the comments are actually the ones we used back then.

Steph was one of the reasons I started blogging. I interacted with Steph through her blog for quite while before started my own. I still love Steph and her writing, so I'm giving away a signed copy of her latest novel, ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, (and the three buttons in the pic) as part of my anniversary celebration. Steph's lyrical writing, the intense longing, awkward situations, hard decisions, and authentic voices make for an amazing read. Plan on not being able to put it down once you start.

Isla was so easy for me to relate to. I read blogs for a long time before starting my own because, as Isla states, "social networking has always felt like a popularity contest to me. A public record of my own inadequacies."

But after I jumped into it, I made the most amazing friends. All of my regular critique partners are people I encountered through blogging. I've met up with Krista, Jackee, and Q, but Amy and Adam live farther away. Adam lives much, MUCH farther away (Thailand). If the only benefit I ever received from blogging was the influence these five people have had on my life and writing, it would be worth it.

I could tell great stories about any of my CPs, but I'm going to single out Q for a moment because, like Steph, she commented on that first blog post. This time of year, last year, we (along with another friend) were engaged in a writing challenge where we reported to each other on a daily basis. It was awesome. We both finished first drafts. In March, we attended a writing workshop that Mette Ivie Harrison hosted at Sundance as part of Writing for Charity. The workshop included a critique and private conversation with Joe Monti, Executive Editor of Saga Press. That was kind of incredible. Joe Monti's questions and comments were intelligent and insightful, and I believe that anyone would be fortunate to have him for an editor. However, the best part of the experience was hanging out with Q, talking about writing and books all day. Discussing ideas in person is a completely different experience than a novel critique.

Although I often critique writing for others, I don't usually give away critiques on the blog. In fact, it's probably been three or four years since the last time. But if you've written something (poetry, PB, MG, or YA) for children or teens that you'd like me to critique, put a brief description in the comments. I'll pick the description that most appeals to me. I've written everything listed in parenthesis. I've sold several poems to Highlights High Five and lots of newspaper articles (mostly on assignment).

In fact, I have a poem coming out their November issue. If you'd like a copy (it's a preschool magazine), put that in your comment.

I'll choose winners of the Highlights High Five magazine and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER randomly. You may enter all three giveaways if you'd like. Because of the nature of this post, I'll give a bonus entry to anyone who comments about how they found my blog. Comments must be posted before midnight (PDT) on October 20th. Also, I'm sorry, but this one isn't open internationally.

Thanks for reading!