Monday, October 28, 2013

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Submit?

I'm *this* close to beginning the book submission process. There, I said it out loud. Maybe that will finally convince me to spring into action. I've been thinking today about the question, "how do you know when you're ready to submit?" For writers, this could apply to a number of different things, such as:
  • applying for a copywriting gig
  • submitting a national magazine query
  • finishing a novel
  • starting a blog
  • taking a writing class
  • entering a writing competition
Over the years, I've prepared myself for various income streams. In order to gain more experience as a journalist, I've worked as a stringer for a metro newspaper and began writing parenting articles for regional parenting magazines and websites. I've held editing positions with regional magazines to learn more about how the magazine publishing industry works. I've conducted countless interviews in order to hone my interviewing skills and learn how to tell a better story. When I decided I wanted to take a stab at writing fiction, I wrote and revised and revised. And revised some more. I practiced writing in different lengths and genres, in different POVs and sharpened my voice. I entered writing contests. I wrote book reviews for my blog for extra practice. I shared my work with others and attended conferences. I had my worked critiqued. I picked up books on craft and researched agents through blogs and marketplace listings. 

None of this happened overnight. And rarely does success come easily for any writer. When I first started out, I expected to snap my fingers and make it all happen instantly. Of course, it didn't. And I'd be lying if I said I'm not afraid of the inevitable rejection notes, of hearing that "your project just isn't what I'm looking for." But I know it's all part of the process, and I'm ready for whatever comes my way.

In what ways have you prepared yourself for submission?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: Paris Pan Takes the Dare

Because I'm writing more children's fiction these days, I've been studying books geared toward middle-grade and young adult readers. I was fortunate enough to hear Cynthea Liu give an inspiring keynote speech at the recent SCBWI Carolinas Conference, and after she shared her experience in writing and publishing Paris Pan Takes the Dare, of course I wanted to check it out for myself!

For starters, I LOVE the opening of this book. It's a great example of a voice that just pulls you right in:

Where should I start? The first time I felt my life hanging in the balance? Or the moment I believed the deceased had a way of talking to me? Or maybe I ought to begin with the second I walked into that school.
Looking back, I should have been suspicious from day one, but now I know that when you want something badly enough, you'll do anything to get it.
You'll lie to your friends. 
Steal from your family.
Eat a whole box of orange Creamsicles.
You might even go as far as taking the Dare. 

The dead talking to the main character? Lying, stealing, being the new girl in school? The 12-year-old in me was hooked from the first page. I could relate to the main character, Paris, whose Asian-American family made it a business of flipping houses and uprooting their three children at least once a year, as I had a similar experience in being the "new kid" throughout most of my childhood. Young readers will empathize with Paris, who makes friends with the wrong kind of girls in an attempt to fit in. There's the hint of a middle-school romance with a boy who has trouble speaking without getting tongue-tied, and there's a murder mystery involving a young girl who died on the Pan family property years before. The book is paced well, and I think Liu does a great job with character development. She weaves suspense in with humor and an interesting family dynamic, all while teaching a moral lesson that doesn't come across as too preachy.

I recommend Paris Pan Takes the Dare for any girls reading at the middle-grade level who are looking for a light thriller/mystery.

Twelve-year-old Paris Pan's life is a mess. She's just moved to a tiny town in Nowheresville, Oklahoma; her family life is a comical disaster; her new friends are more like frenemies; and the boy she has a crush on is a dork. Things couldn't possibly get worse, until she discovers that a girl died mysteriously years ago while taking the seventh-grade rite of passage--the Dare--right near Paris's new house. So when Paris starts hearing strange noises coming from the creepy run-down shed in her backyard, she thinks they could be a message from the ghost of the girl. But while she has no plans to make contact with the great beyond, her two new friends have other thoughts. Everyone who's anyone takes the Dare, and now it's Paris's turn.