Brief post today--just directing your attention to a great contest opportunity.

YAtopia and Entranced Publishing are teaming up for a pitch contest, with a chance at a slot in an online editing workshop and possible e-publication on the line.

On September 7th (UPDATE: they've moved it up to September 1!), you'll need to have the following ready for their pitch contest post:

- Name
- Email
- Title
- Age-range & Genre
- Word-count
- Hook (100 words or fewer)

So head on over and check out the details!

Get away from everything except writing, of course! Most writers dream of getting out of their rut. Somewhere they can be free from the demands of their own household, leaving them open to inspiration in new places.

I came across a couple of residency programs lately that let you do just that:

The Jentel Artist Residency Program is open to four visual artists (this includes you, illustrators!) and two writers for each residency period (four months, in either winter/spring or summer/fall). Selected participants are awarded spacious accommodations on a Wyoming ranch, plus a stipend to cover expenses while there. Opportunities for quiet reflection in nature, or community interaction (both with the other residents and the wider community), abound.

And in an interesting twist, this program is NOT open to students. Quite a few residencies and grants are geared to students, so it's refreshing to find one where you're not competing for academic credit. You will, however, need to be living in the U.S. and be over 25. There is a $20 application fee, plus a requirement for submission of samples.

If you're not able to manage four months away from family and home, the Martha's Vineyard Writers Residency offers periods ranging from two to six weeks. The participants are responsible for more of the financial aspects of their stay ($200.00/WEEK, not including meals, plus a $10 application fee) but there aren't many other circumstances where a writer can stay in an historic inn on Martha's Vineyard for that price. Let alone, have other artists and writers join into a community of peers.

And I've mentioned it before, but the American Antiquarian Society offers a stipend to cover housing and other expenses while you make use of their extensive resources for your historical work. The focus is pre-twentieth century American history, and there is a wide range of works that qualify (plays, costume design, illustrations, documentary films, etc). There is no application fee, and the monthlong residency can be taken any time in 2013. But you must apply by October 5.

So if this is something you'd be interested in, get those application packets going!

Write On, Dude, Write On

Write On Con, an online kidlit writer's conference, started today! Well, the forum got a head start, but the advice posts and live events are now going full swing! Here's what the organizers advertised, and boy does it live up to it:

"Attendees don’t need to take time off work, travel, or spend a truckload of money. They can enjoy the conference from the convenience of their own homes, for free—and the schedule is designed around working hours. (Transcripts are also available of the entire conference, should anyone have to miss part of it.) And everything for the conference takes place within this website, which means everyone with basic Internet access will be able to participate in all aspects of the conference—no additional software or technology required.

During the conference, keynote addresses, agent panels, and lectures are presented as blogs, vlogs, moderated chats, webinars, podcasts, and livestreaming. There is also a critique forum, where participants can post query letters and writing samples to receive helpful feedback and comments from their peers and industry professionals. And, as if that weren’t exciting enough, there are also daily contests, giving random winners everything from books to personalized critiques from agents."

See you around the forum and comments!

UPDATE: My query for Crow's Rest has so far not gotten any Agent Ninja love in the forums, but it did get a partial request from agent Peter Knapp in his MG/YA Pitch live critique!

LA '12 SCBWI Roundup

After the SCBWI International Conference, I was planning on doing a two-part post with highlights from all the workshops I attended, but I've grown up to be a truly horrible note-taker. In fact, my notes from all the keynote speeches consist of doodles: rabbits, horses, dogs, and even a stray unicorn. Plus one of Arthur A. Levine at the podium.

You'll note that I said "doodle" above, and not "frameable work of art." And let this doodle also serve as exhibit A for why I don't often draw people.

By the fact that I didn't take notes, you might think I didn't get anything out of the keynotes, but you'd be wrong. All the speakers were funny, insightful, and inspirational. And Ruta Sepetys was devastatingly honest. Above all, what came through was their unique voices, and how that unique outlook brought them both roadblocks and successes.

And there were so many good workshops that it was difficult to choose which ones to attend. Nancy Ashcraft Herman, Laurie Dennison, and I took a divide-and-conquer approach, and each went to different workshops, comparing notes later. Except for Jay Asher's "No Bookmarks Allowed: How to Inject Suspense into Your Novel" because all three of us wanted to go to that one! And we left with some great tips on building and maintaining tension.

Some of those tips are going to require more thought on how to subtly incorporate them, but he mentioned that chapter titles are an easy way to foreshadow or plant a red herring. Alternatively, pacing can be manipulated by using dialogue or shorter sentences and paragraphs.  Both of these techniques speed things up for the reader. And watch out for suspense killers like forced motivation!

The other workshop that really stood out for me was Sara Wilson Etienne's "Book Trailers: Storyboards, Scripts, Lookbooks, and Everything that Puts the Tease in Teaser". The room it was held in was a little difficult to find and I'm sure that had to do with the small audience. In fact, the group was so small that I wasn't able to yawn as stealthily as I like. If you read this, Sara, I was the one you caught yawning a few times--but it was no reflection on your talk! My medication just makes me sleepy in the afternoon.

But the small audience meant that we were treated to an intimate look into the creation of the fantastic trailer for her book, Harbinger:

Since I'm a photographer (and painted and sketched before I even picked up a still or video camera), I often visualize scenes of my story as if it was a film playing, as I'm drafting the book. So seeing parts of Harbinger come to life really got me excited about this other way to impact readers.

I was so inspired by her simple breakdown of what makes a memorable book trailer that I wrote the entire script for my own future book trailer. My WIP, Crow's Rest, is set in real-life Preston Castle, so I already have a wealth of photographs (and even some video) at my disposal for my trailer. And I have a song picked out, but will need to get permission from the songwriter to use it.

In some ways, it felt like getting way ahead of myself, considering the book isn't even finished. But it also helped cement all the parts of my story that make it unique and worth pursuing. I came away even more determined to finish this book within the next few months, so I can reward myself by getting to play with my book trailer!

If you'd like to see some of Sara's tips on making your own trailer, the good news is that her tips and links will soon be included in the SCBWI Publication Guide, so watch for it!

SCBWI LA Recovery Post

Hopefully by the time this post goes up, I will be back home (I say hopefully because flight delays are being announced as I type) from the SCBWI LA conference. I will do a more in-depth post for next Monday, but for now some pictures of me and writer friends:

First is me and blogger-friend Laurie Dennison from Florida:

This was Laurie's first big conference too, and we reached out to each other in the weeks leading up to it, sharing the things we were nervous about and the things we were excited about. She stayed for the intensive, so hopefully she got some great work done today!

And next up is my critique partner Nancy Ashcraft Herman and our picture with Jay Asher:

and last but not least is a crappy video of the excellent flashmob:

I can say it's crappy because I filmed and edited this version! And Laurie and I also had a picture of us taken in our Hippie Hop getups, but it will have to wait until I get a copy from her phone.
Update: yay, here it is! I painted my arms and everything. Thanks, Laurie, for sharing the photo!

So check back over the next few Mondays and I'll have some serious (well, as serious as it's possible for me to get) takes on the workshops and speakers. Yay, I don't have to think up blog posts for a while!

RTW: Best Book(s) of July 2012

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors and followers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: What was the best book you read in July?

I don't even fight the singular "book" any longer! I'm just going to post however many I want, since I don't do actual reviews and these posts serve as a way to rec (and find) new reads. Writing was a little lighter this month as I surged through my WIP. I've already mentioned one book, Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, and that would otherwise top the list. So here are my other picks:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.
Did anyone else pick up a bunch of those $2.99 ebooks that Harper put on sale? I got about four, and this was one that sounded interesting but wasn't really on my radar. But I loved the worldbuilding, the theme of a girl finding her strengths, and the characters.

The next on is Hourglass by Myra McEntire

This one I knew about because the cover is so gorgeous, so I finally got around to reading it. Some sizzling romance, damaged characters, strange goings-on--what's not to love?

Feel free to put a link to your post in the comments if you played along with Road Trip Wednesday. Don't forget to go to the YA Highway post and read all the answers!