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).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's All About the Journey: From Writer to Author

They say that you should always try to take one thing away from any conference you attend. What I took home from NESCBWI 2015 was a decision.

For over a year I've debated the idea of self-publishing my middle grade novel, The Sweet Spot. I starting slow, telling myself I was only making copies of the book for myself and for my kids to read before they got too old. I looked into options for turning my manuscript into a book, and after exploring on demand bookstore printing presses and other self-publishing sites, I settled on Amazon's CreateSpace. Without opening the publishing channels, I learned how to use their template to format my manuscript and played around with five different book covers until I finally hired the art teacher at my elementary school to help make one I was happy to display. I printed copies for my kids' school, my classroom, a few family members, and my school library (my first sale!). And that was it. And I was content - ish.

But then this crazy thing happened. Kids started reading my book. Not just my own children or my class, but other kids who found it in the school library. I'd walk in and they would say, "Mrs. Mozer, I checked your book out. And I'm reading it. And I really, really love it!" All of a sudden I stopped feeling like a writer. I felt like an author! It was great. I wanted more of that feeling, but I still hesitated. Pushing the self-publish button felt like a decision that once made, could never be taken back. Or at least that's what I had heard, again and again. That unless a self-published book sold and sold well, the writer was doomed to self-publish forever.

That's where I was, with my finger hanging above the self-publish button, afraid to push down, when I went to NESCBWI 2015. For the first time (at least that I noticed) the term "hybrid author" was discussed as a valid concept. Stephen Mooser was even one of these hybrid authors, having decided after years of being traditionally published to self-publish his latest novel. Panelists and workshop leaders talked about making the best publishing decision for each book instead of everything an author writes. Suddenly the button stopped looking so big and scary. Pushing it didn't mean that from now on every book I wrote would have to be self-published. I could make the decision for just this one.

The Sweet Spot will release from Amazon on June 11, 2015. I'm very excited to be getting this book out into the world and I know it was the right decision for this book.

What I will do with my next one, well that will be another journey. In the meantime, I am enjoying the ride.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

NESCBWI 2015: A Summary in Photos

NESCBWI is always my favorite conference of the year, and this year's conference didn't disappoint. The keynotes and panels were inspiring, the workshops were helpful, the people were friendly, 
and the food was great. 

There I am (the one with the mic) welcoming new conference attendees with our incredible conference co-chairs,
Natasha Sass and Heather Kelly, and our volunteer coordinator Hayley Barrette.
Me and my roommate, the talented YA author and We Need Diverse Books panelist Cindy Rodriguez
Friday night ended with Pitchapalooza. Advice from the panel, "Start your pitch with the inciting incident."

On Saturday, Dan Santat started the day off right with a thoughtful keynote about finding your voice by discovering your taste. "Don't ever sensor yourself. Don't ever be biased."
Jen Malone made workshop attendees laugh with her workshop on the tween voice, including YouTube footage of tweens. Finding tween YouTube channels is a great way to spy on tweens without being creepy.
Mike Jung treated workshop attendees to a song on his ukulele before talking about writing fantasy novels in a realistic, contemporary setting. "Start at the structural level - the infrastructure of your world."
Kwame Alexander reminded us all to, "Just say yes!"
The Outside the Box Publishing panel opened our eyes to the current state of the market when it comes to traditional vs self-publishing and the growth of the hybrid author (an author who does both). Chris Cheng said, "When it comes to everything, what you need is a really good story."
Jo Knowles danced into our hearts with her amazing and inspiring keynote. She says, "Be patient. Work hard. Dig deeper."
The We Need Diverse Books group had a wonderful panel on diversity that made us all think. It's not enough for us just to be writing diverse books, we have to buy them and encourage children to read them.
62 people met late at night in the ballroom to critique each other's work. It was really wonderful getting to witness writers helping other writers - and staying until 11pm to do it!
After peer critiques many conference members hung out in the bar. Here I am with my New England girls, Sera Rivers and Loretta Jo Kapinos.
On Sunday we laughed out loud with Marvin Terban, who can make anything funny. He says, "Humor in the classroom is better for kids than broccoli in the cafeteria."
It was an honor to stand the other members of the regional team as the crowd thanked us for all we do during the year with a standing ovation. I am so lucky to be apart of this amazing organization. I don't know what I would do without it.

SCBWI NY 2015 Highlights - Day 2

Day 2 started with a standing ovation for the amazing SCBWI office staff. 

Awards were given out for artists and young people.

Jane Yolan awarded the Mid-List Writer award to a woman from Connecticut who I was fortunate to get to know on the train on the way home.

Then we wished Jane Yolan a happy birthday, one of my favorite parts of our yearly get together.

Next we met Laura Vaccaro Seeger, whose amazing process in creating her picture books made me wish I was an author/illustrator. I took lots of pictures of her writer's notebook pages to show my class that this is how "real" authors think about their work too.

James Dashner reminded us that he was once, "one of us," however briefly.

Next up was an interesting agent panel where we learned that not all agents agree on everything.

And finally, Kwame Alexander, Newberry Winner and motivational speaker, reminded us not to take no for an answer as we get out there and share our work.

Then it was off to the book signing to help The Fonz with his signing and to get to meet some of these amazing authors.

The weekend flew by so fast. I am glad I have NESCBWI to look forward to in April. Hope to see you there!