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!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Starting a New Project

We took the kiddos to see "Guardians of the Galaxy" last night, and all of us loved it (though, that beginning was just rude). Quill reminded me of one of my favorite nephews, a nephew who was in trouble* with his parents a lot when he was growing up.

And today, the main character for the MG space opera that I outlined last spring started talking. Probably not a coincidence.

I outlined the first two books in the series last spring. I've just been waiting for the character's personality to show up. So, I'm going to see where this takes me. I've never written a middle grade novel before.

I'm excited about this project, though.

*I just realized that most (but not all) of the nieces and nephews who voluntarily hang out with me have had interesting stretches with their parents. I'm not going to analyze that one. 

Monday, June 23, 2014


Mary, you've won a pre-order for A. L. Sonnichsen's RED BUTTERFLY! Congratulations! Please contact me with mailing information.

The book's release date is February 3, 2015.

Happy Monday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour

Krista Van Dolzer tagged me last week in her post, so I'm going to answer some questions about my writing process.

What am I working on?

I'm splitting a YA fantasy in two and adding two more POV characters. There are three main characters, and I think that giving each of them a voice will eliminate inconsistencies.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I haven't read any other ghost stories with sea serpents. Have you?

Why do I write what I do?

I write different things for different reasons. I'm still revising THE BINDER'S WEB because I want to understand the characters and find out what happens. Basically, I'm in love with the world and the characters. If I could visit, I totally would. But I'd want to schedule that visit before or after the events I'm writing about take place.

How does your writing process work?

I have to have a character and an idea before I start, and I always think I know how it will end. Ha! The story always comes out differently than I think it will. Characters come and go, and everybody evolves as I revise. In other words, my first draft is an unsightly thing that bears little resemblance to the finished product. I don't usually let anyone see my work until the third draft.

And maybe I shouldn't admit this in public, but I use gimmicks to get through tough drafts. The first draft of a novel I ever finished, I put up a post-it note every 1,000 words to show how far I'd gone. I wish I'd taken a picture those post-its when I finished. For the draft I'm working on right now, I used Excel to print out a bunch of plain (painfully boring) calendars. For every hour I spend working on TBW*, I get to put a Sandra Boynton sticker on my calendar*. I love Sandra Boynton.

This tour has been going around for long enough that a lot of people have already been there, done that. If you haven't been tagged, and would like to participate, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

* Just writing doesn't count because I write nonfiction almost every day for work.
**Laini Taylor has a sticker calendar. Only, if I remember right, she has to write 1,000 words to get a sticker. Anyway, I found the idea on her blog.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway!

I'm excited to share a critique partner's middle-grade debut with you today. RED BUTTERFLY releases next February. Yay! :o)

So, here's Amy's official bio:

A.L. Sonnichsen grew up in Hong Kong and then spent eight years in China as adult. She now lives on the dry side of Washington State with her dashingly handsome sidekick, five talented children, and a luxury cat. Red Butterfly is her first novel. Learn more at

And this her debut:

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an elderly American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has … but what if Kara secretly wants more? 

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Kara’s story is one of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights. 

Isn't that a beautiful cover? Laurent Linn designed it, and Amy June Bates illustrated it, as well as the inside of the book. I can't wait to see the rest of it.

I also can't wait to see what's become of the early draft I read that already had tremendous potential. It's had quite the journey. If you want to add the book on Goodreads, you can find it here. Krista Van Dolzer interviewed Laurent Linn about the love and detail that went into it here (Great interview!), and she's also giving away an ARC.

I'm giving away a pre-order. If you'd like to be entered, just let me know in the comments. The contest is also open to my international readers (as long as Book Depository delivers to your address) and will end on Friday, June 20, at 11:59 p.m. PDT.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Plot Twist

A couple of weeks, the owner of a local newspaper offered me a writing job, and I took it (assignments, and deadlines, and paychecks, oh my!). I started work last week, and so far, it's going well.

I should still have time to write fiction and poetry, especially during the summer months. Journalism is a different type of writing in that it allows little time for agonizing over word choices. I think it'll be good for me.

I still plan to teach preschool during the school year. It's only two days a week, and I love it. Teaching builds me up emotionally and mentally. I don't have time to second guess my decisions, so it's pretty much the opposite of writing novels. If I find that my new job conflicts with teaching, I'll make a decision then. But I'll definitely be teaching this fall.

Are you trying anything new this summer?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Year of the Wooden Horse*

With roses that dwarf my fruit trees
in a spring that would tear open summer,
I outline stories for a wooden horse.

He gallops,
heedless of my mistakes--
of my need to perfect

Little green apples swell,
but the horse will not touch them.
Not yet.

*It's National Poetry Month. :o)

I've been outlining a lot for a pantser (no, Autocorrect, I am not a panther) lately. I've outlined and written synopses for two books in a MG space opera series, and I've been outlining some pretty major changes to TBW.

I've also been researching Constantinople and trying to perfect a couple of picture books.

In the world outside my head, I've been gardening, mothering, volunteering at the local fair, and teaching little kiddos to read. I love it when they put things together near the end of the year and get excited about reading.

What have you been up to this month? 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Goldi Rocks Release Giveaway!

Putnam released GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS earlier this month, though I was lucky enough to score a galley in December. Written in limericks, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton, it tells the story of the Three Bear Band's search for a soprano. I especially enjoyed the nod toward tryouts for shows like American Idol. It's a fun read.

Goldi Rocks & the Three Bears

Corey Rosen Schwartz's THE THREE NINJA PIGS (also written in limericks) ties with Mo Willems's GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE DINOSAURS for my favorite picture book retelling. It's hilarious.

The Three Ninja Pigs

I'm excited to read the sequel that's due to release in July, NINJA RED RIDING HOOD.

Ninja Red Riding Hood

So, to celebrate the release of GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, I'm giving one of the above away. The winner may choose which picture book they'd like, but remember that NINJA RED RIDING HOOD won't ship until July. To enter, tell me which fairy tale character* intrigues you most. I'll throw in a bonus entry if you tell me why. You have until noon on March 15th (the Ides of March) to enter.

*I'm not going to be strict about this. If you want to use Mr. Darcy as your fairy tale character, that's fine by me. ;o)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Backup Plans

Earlier today I finished my twelfth draft (103,718 words) of TBW.

And I would just like to remind you to make sure you have some kind of plan in place to retrieve backup files on your computer. The Mac I'm working from is less than a year old, and I didn't realize that I needed to activate Time Machine if I wanted to be able to access older files. Lesson learned. But I lost my eleventh draft.

There are worse horror stories out there. I still had the tenth draft to work from, and my youngest arranged her Totoro figurines on my desk to cheer me up.

But make sure you have a safety net in place. If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to hear what you use.