This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Thankful...

I'm thankful...
- for my two kids who seem to get taller and wiser every day
- for my husband who has kept me laughing for 19 years (even if those two kids claim he's not funny)
- for my family who always give me love and support
- for my friends for the same reason
- for the teachers I work with who keep me sane, even when life gets insane
- for my students who teach me as much as I teach them
- for my writing community for our shared love of kidlit
- for my critique partners for letting me know when I've gotten it, and when I haven't
- for SCBWI for connecting me with an amazing community of writers, authors, agents, and editors
- for my agent, who lets me send her my work in progress and promises to get back to me after the holidays with a couple of thoughts, then sends me a page of notes two hours later
- for that same agent and her amazing boss for believing in my work
- for power, for shelter, for health, and for water because the past month has shown that these things shouldn't be taken for granted
- for freedom, for safety, and for so many more things that are too numerous to list.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview with Middle Grade Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of middle-grade novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), winner of The Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children’s Literature. She is also a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. Lynda has been Director of the SCBWI-NE Whispering Pines Retreat for six years. She lives with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle and beagle-loathing cat. Lynda’s next MG novel, ALPHABET SOUP, will be released in spring, 2014.

When did you realize getting published was really going to happen?

Honestly? When I actually got “the call.” I’d always believed but I didn’t really know. I realize this makes no sense! Let’s just say that “the call” was the definition of surreal. Most of the time, an author hears that the book has been passed on to other editors for a “read.”  Then news may come of an acquisitions meeting. Authors spend days or weeks or even months nail-biting their way through the publication ladder process. However, in my case it was acquired by Nancy Paulsen and, since it’s her imprint, there were no meetings. So, I went from having no idea to “we have an offer!”

Was there ever a point when you thought about giving up?

Yes! Writing is hard and I think when something is that hard, people will usually have periods when they consider throwing in the towel. Mine came as I walked out of a Dunkin Donuts. At the time, the book was entitled CLIP. (I had not yet reached the phrase in the book where I discovered the title!) I walked outside, looked up at the sky and mumbled, “What are you doing? This is never going to work. You’re fooling yourself.”

I walked around my van to put some stuff in the back. As I closed the hatch, I glanced at the car next to me and the license plate read, “CLIP.”  Stunned, I figured it was sign that I should finish. So, I did.

One for the Murphys, was a powerful read from beginning to end. How has the book changed from the time you first wrote it? Why?

Oh boy.

The very first draft (written about a thousand years ago) was longer and Rainer and Mandy had much bigger parts. Before querying agents, I cut them considerably and expanded upon the Murphys family story line—that’s where the heart of Carley was. It was a gamble ina  way, as it made the story “quieter”, having removed much of the peer aspect. However, I would find later, that Toni would grow—considerably.

First, my agent helped me clear up the time lines. After I signed with Nancy, she had me cut about 80 pages. Yikes!  Then she asked me to deepen the characters of Mr. Murphy and Toni. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making her a Yankees fan and bringing her into the home to rattle Mr. Murphy, the die hard Sox fan. Those were fun scenes to write! Although, as a Sox fan, some of it was painful. But, Sox fans are used to “painful”—unfortunately.

Do you feel being a finalist in the Tassy Awards helped to move your book towards publication?

Absolutely! The Tassy Award is a CT award but a respected one for sure. It was absolutely a wonderful item for a cover letter. The submission process mirrors submission to publishers and the judges are agents and editors. I recommend that all pre-published CT children’s writers enter—what have you got to lose? It’s a wonderful contest! There are several winners/finalists that have gone on to publication. I have also met the most amazing people through Shoreline Arts!

Does anything surprise you about being a published author?

Well it surprises me that I’m a published author. Weird right? At first, when I’d remember (such as just waking up in the morning) it was a happy surprise over and over.  
At this point, what surprises me? Well, as a reader, I understand that a book can really speak to the soul. Change you. But it wasn’t until I received letters/e-mails from people affected by Carley and her story that I understood that with even more depth. I guess because there is so much about Carley that I understand and when people who write about their connections—well, I just “get it.” Personally, I have never come across a character like Carley (not to say she doesn’t exist). I’ve heard that people write the book they want to read. Perhaps that‘s what I was doing. But, I am shocked and humbled every day that I have written a story that seems to move people.

What advice would you give someone trying to get published?

Although our work is so, so personal to us, try to separate yourself from it. I understand the quandary—believe me! You tap into your depths to get it “on the page.” But you must also remember that this is a business. You must be able to step out of the soul of the work to look objectively at it.

Consider feedback honestly—give it some time, solitude, and space to decide if critiques are on target. Develop a thick skin and focus on moving forward and up! You’ll need this in all steps of the process from first draft to subsequent drafts to querying to submissions to revisions to contract to revisions again to reviews. It doesn’t get easier—but the rewards? Man, the rewards are awesome! Hearing from a reader that is touched by the book never gets diluted. It’s worth this long and crazy journey—so keep at it! And believe

Thanks so much, Stacy! I’ve enjoyed doing this interview!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Best Side of Human Nature

As I lay in bed yesterday recovering from a terrible chest infection caused by my week without power, I received a phone call from a writer from Florida whom I met at a conference years ago. "I remembered you lived in Stamford," she said, "And I was just calling to make sure you were okay and to see if I could help. Can I send you some blankets?" I thanked her for her concern and explained that I have been lucky. While we did lose power and my backyard looks like this:

And now like this:

We are the fortunate ones. Our home was undamaged and we all stayed safe. Unlike the many others of people who have lost, in some cases, everything. At one of our worst moments this weekend, when we had completely ran out of water and it had started getting cold, a neighbor knocked on our door holding a power cord. "Here, borrow this line," he said. "We have what we need." That one cord of power, used to turn on a light and a small heater, meant so much it's hard to find the words. Especially since we hadn't even asked.

Since last week images of disaster have filled my television set, my facebook page, my inbox, and my backyard. But hidden among those horrific images has been something else. The faces of strangers and friends compelled to help.

Just like the writer from Florida who took the time to pick up the phone and contact me, and the neighbor who brought over a power line, and the many messages from friends I received offering a place to charge up, take a shower, or stay for the night, I have seen people everywhere doing what they can. Whether it is setting up donation areas and traveling to affected areas with supplies, or offering neighbors food or shelter, or singing on television asking for donations to the cause, people are taking the time to help others. Another friend of mine who was fortunate to keep power remarked on Sunday as she visited as many donation centers as she could reach, that she "just had to do something. Even though it still doesn't feel like enough."

This caring side, this better side of human nature is not something we hear about enough but in times of crisis, I feel so fortunate to know that it is within us.

Feel the need to help? There are so many ways you can.
KidLit Cares: Thank you SO much! Plus an update on what’s next…
Author Kate Messner has organized Kidlit Cares, a place writers and teachers can bid for great items and help those affected by the storm.

The American Red Cross has a donation site. You can also find places to give blood and volunteer on their site.

Do you know other places to donate? Have you experienced an act of kindness that you'd like to share? Please comment below.