Monday, October 26, 2009

Following Up On "The Katy Challenge"

Remember how I said I wanted to use this upcoming series of Katy school visits to embrace public speaking? Yeah well, remind me you need to be careful what you wish for. :-) My first presentation right out of the box was speaking to a group of 300 school kids—one of my biggest crowds ever.

But here’s the thing: It was a piece of cake! Much to my surprise, I was totally and completely comfortable. I looked everyone in the eye and didn’t need to use my notes once. I was also able to crack jokes and add spontaneous bits.

This was especially good news since the weekend before I felt like I kind of stumbled at an adult event. I was only speaking in front of a group of about 40 adults, and for only two minutes, but when I got up there I found I was hyperventilating and ended up cutting my talk short (no mean feat when it was only two minutes to start with!) So apparently the take away lesson here is that I am fine in front of a group of 300 kids, but forty adults can be problematic. Not ALL adult groups though, because I was able to speak comfortably in front of the crowd at the Dallas art museum.

I think part of it has to do with why I’m there; I do better with a firm sense of purpose. I need a focus. But I also think it gets back to the fact that we all have comfort zones. For me, those are speaking in front of kids or teaching something. I’m also pretty comfortable on panels, and have been right from the start.

That doesn’t mean I am giving up on improving my adult game. I think a big piece of that depends on the nature of the gig. It will also be helped by expanding what my concept of “entertain” means. No, I’m not hilarious, or not intentionally so anyway. But from speaking to so many kids I’m also learning there are other ways to entertain: I can inspire, validate, inform, share secrets. It’s about using my strongest skill set first—writing a compelling speech—then finding a way to get comfortable delivering it verbally.

Practice is key. Not just knowing the material inside and out, but practicing pauses and questions, inflections and gestures, even practicing the spontaneous bits, just to see how to break into and out of them.

So Operation Public Speaking Jedi Master is almost accomplished. I’m going to use what I’ve learned from this week’s success as a launching board for conquering the next set of public speaking goals.

It’s kind of funny. The other day someone was saying how they were so fascinated by how I could write the intrepid, adventurous Theo AND the timid, cautious Nathaniel Fludd. The truth of the matter is, I am both of those people. At heart, I am a most decided weenie. Even so, when responsibility calls and I do finally step up to the plate, I enjoy the adventure and challenge of it all. There are simply too many great things out there that I would miss out on if I didn’t push myself. So instead of holing up at home for the rest of my life, I have to look for ways to embrace my inner Theo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Introvert Goes to the Kidlitosphere Conference

by Jennifer R. Hubbard

I was privileged to attend the Third Annual Kidlitosphere Conference in Washington, DC, on October 17, coordinated by Pam Coughlan (MotherReader).

I arrived the day before, to take advantage of the Library of Congress tours (both the regular tour and the Children’s Literature Center, as well as a sneak peek at some rare books). Our group of book-lovers was so reverent, so interested in the architectural symbolism, so fascinated by the grandeur of the main reading room, that the tour guide wanted to adopt us. Yes, we were the people that ask how you get a reading card not out of idle curiosity, but because we think we might actually apply for one. We were the group that pored over rare copies of Aesop’s fables to compare the illustrations and printing styles, the group that asked whether that rare copy of The Wizard of Oz originally came with a dust jacket. A good time was had by all.

Oh, yes, and there was a conference too.

If you want a Tweet-by-Tweet account, Gregory K. Pincus posted a transcript of the October 17 tweets from the conference. Several of us also wrote blog posts A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy, Galleysmith, Dog-eared and Well-read, Charlotte's Library, Writer Jenn on the much-awaited FTC session, so I won’t repeat that here. As MotherReader said, the rest of the conference moved thematically from the “inner blogger” to the blogging community to the reading community at large. The sessions focused on questions bloggers should ask themselves (such as, What is my blogging mission?); ethical questions (FTC aside, what should I disclose about the sources of my review copies, and other connections I may have with writers?); authors’ and publishers’ approaches to blogging (What do we have to say and how can we best say it? How do we wear all these different hats?); social networking (How can my blog become part of larger conversations? What do I bring to the table?); and literacy (What can we, as writers and readers, contribute to the cause of literacy?).

On that last topic of literacy, Ernestine Benedict of RIF gave this staggering statistic: Twenty-nine million children still don’t have access to books outside of school. But Laurel Snyder jumped right in with a brainstorming idea about trying to hold mass read-ins, and the enthusiasm in the room was delightful to behold.

It was a full and absorbing day, and this introvert was flagging a bit by the cocktail hour. However, at dinner, the conversation revolved around books, the easiest subject in the world to engage a writer--even an introverted one.

* * * * *

Jennifer R. Hubbard's first novel, The Secret Year will be published by Viking in January 2010. (You betcha we'll be launching her here!) She also writes short fiction for literary magazines, is an avid walker/ hiker, and is deeply committed to the study and practice of chocolate. Jennifer is also a card-carrying introvert and can be found incognito on the streets of Philadelphia.

* * * * *

**News** from Robin on Day One in Katy Texas, where she is starting her two week long school visit tour. Her message? "T o o t i r e d t o t e x t." Oh, dear! I believe the poor thing's first session today was 340 students, followed by an equally ginormous amount this afternoon. I'll keep you posted on how she's doing--

We have a raffle winner for author Laurie Helgoe's Introvert Power-- congrats to S A Putnam! If you'll email me here, I will get that signed and sent off to you.

Lastly, if you have a new book coming out this year and you'd like it considered for a Shrinking Violet Launch, don't forget to let us know. We'd love to shine our "softlight" on you! Promise it's painless. Please send me all your books specs, your official launch date, a brief bio, photo, and what you plan on doing to celebrate your launch day.

Jennifer, thank you so much for this excellent write-up of the Kidlitosphere Conference. Hope you are having a terrific recharge session back at home.

Have a seriously swell week, friends!

Mary Hershey

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meditations from the Mosh Pit: An Interview with Laurie Helgoe, PhD.

Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

by Laurie Helgoe, PhD.

Sourcebooks Inc. 2008

“’Most Americans, whether introverted or extraverted, have learned to look like extraverts,’ writes psychologist (and introvert) Laurie Helgoe in this well-written and well-reasoned analysis that challenges the perception of introverts as a silent, problematic majority. The author reveals that 57% of the U.S. population identify as introverts and are so commonly misunderstood because many of them have become adept at mimicking extraversion (becoming a ‘Socially Accessible Introvert’) to get by…. Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Here’s a well kept secret: Introversion is not defined by lack. Introversion, when embraced, is a wellspring of riches. It took me years to acknowledge this simple reality, to claim my home and value all it offers.” (excerpt from Introvert Power)

LAURIE HELGOE is an author, psychologist, and serves as an assistant clinical professor at the West Virginia School of Medicine, Charleston, supervising and lecturing psychiatric residents. She has specialized in personality development and what she calls the psychology of desire. She is the ninth of ten “mostly LOUD” children and the daughter of a Lutheran minister, a brilliant and bombastic eccentric who installed wall-sized speakers in the living room that blasted classical music. As a child, Laurie shared a bunk bed in the hallway of her family home with her little sister (insert sound of collective wince from every SVP reader).

Like so many of us, at first glance, nothing about Laurie’s professional or personal resume would lead you to believe she might be an introvert, with the exception of her writing career. In addition to her years as a therapist, and her work teaching, training, and lecturing, she has worked as a commercial actress and model. Laurie has appeared on a number of television and radio shows and is frequently profiled and quoted. In short, she is living the life that some of us are struggling with, or struggling to imagine living in the future.

It’s been a rich week for me having had the opportunity to conduct a live phone interview with Laurie and to have sat for hours spellbound and occasionally tearful reading this powerful work.


Mary: What was it like being an introvert in a family of ten children? And, are any of your siblings introverts?

Laurie: Fortunately, there was a 22-year span between all of us kids, so we weren’t all home at the same. But as a result of growing up in the midst of such a large family, as a child, I developed a real love for boxes, purses and secret places. The culture of my home was very extroverted, but I think our I/E ratio is about half and half. My oldest brother is an author as well.

Mary: As a child, did you know or understand that you were an introvert?

Laurie: As a pastor’s kid, I had to learn to smile and be pleasant while the church people fawned over all of us. I fell into self-denial and tried to be a good extrovert. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s when I was going through analysis that I reconnected with the person I was. It was such a freeing time for me.

Mary: How have you managed being to survive and stay balanced being “on stage” both literally and figuratively?

Laurie: I love immersing myself in a different role. Besides commercial modeling and acting, I’ve also been active in speech, and theater. I enjoy the structure, and having a script. Also, I relish having the stage and knowing no one will interrupt me! I know that I will have time to express myself. I love that! One of the leftovers from my childhood was the habit of speaking in only half sentences. One of my friends pointed that out to me. I was so used to being cut off, that I’d just put half a thought out there. I’ve had to work on that as an adult.

Mary: Do you have any suggestions for us about educating our families/partners/friends about our style?

Laurie: I think the biggest step is getting grounded in other assumptions. Namely, that being an introvert is healthy. As an example, one extroverted assumption is that going out after work is fun. A new assumption is that many of us need time alone after work. We need to unhook ourselves from old messages. An assumption that I’ve challenged with my husband is that we all need to eat together and converse each evening. I’m suggesting that we can do that some nights, and on other nights, the kids just eat when they’re hungry. It is very empowering for us to challenge the old assumptions about the way things should be.

Here are some other messages and assumptions that that stand to be challenged:

· Parties are fun.

· Being popular is important

· It’s “who you know”

·Networking is essential to success

· It’s not good to be alone

· It’s important to be a team player

· Most people are extroverts

· The more the merrier

Mary: We spend a lot of time here at SVP helping one another learn about introverts. Is there anything you can help us understand about extroverts?

Laurie: Like introverts, extroverts are subject to stereotypes, such as “Extroverts are shallow.” What's important to understand about them is that they need social interaction to fill themselves-- to recharge, in the same way we need solitude.

I have a tendency to occasionally just disappear in my home, which is hard for my husband, who is an extrovert. I’ve learned that if I do that, he may feel abandoned, worried or confused. Learning to cue your extroverts a little better can be extremely helpful. Let them know that you are going to withdraw for a while. This also protects your space, so they don’t come looking for you.

Mary: Your website domain is Waking Desire. What can you tell me about that?

Laurie: Desire is a big theme in my life. I have found that desire is a trustworthy guide. I want to help people reconnect with those wishes and passions that they have suppressed. I’ve devoted my psychology practice to “rehabilitating desire”: helping clients revive desires that have been assaulted by external demands, and restoring their trust in their own desire-based motivations.

Mary: What are your thoughts about the internet and social media for authors?

Laurie: The internet is a wonderful tool for us! As I said in the book, in cyber-space the rules of engagement favor introverts. I enjoy blogging and commenting on blogs, especially when it is idea-oriented vs. just plain social. And I do like Twitter. I like putting out my thoughts in concise bits. But, I don’t follow others-- I think I am following one person! I personally don’t like Facebook. I find it over stimulating. But I know many introverts do enjoy it.

Mary: What has been the hardest part of marketing and promoting your work?

Laurie: Short radio interviews are the worst. I have to really stay on my toes with prepared talking points. I will often schedule pre-interviews with the host so we can flesh out our interview. I don’t like “tennis ball” media events where the conversation is short and fast. Since introverts need to think before we talk, the uncensored “off the cuff” stuff is hard. We can sound flustered and dim. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to take every interview offered. I stopped doing TV interviews where they take unscreened calls.

Mary: If you could have dinner with any introvert, living or historic, who would you select?

Laurie: Probably someone nameless—such as the people behind cameras who shoot film. I’ve been mesmerized by the Planet Earth series and the lives of those who live in solitude while filming. I’d also love to have dinner with Vincent Van Gogh, who was such a tortured introvert. Oh! And Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, and Henry David Thoreau.

Mary: Tell me about the consulting you do with writers that I saw on your website called Book It! Consulting.

Laurie: I believe that everyone has figured out something that the world needs. I want to help writers draw that out, with the intention of getting it published (not self-published). What is the thing that the writer needs to tell? I hear a lot of authors say that publishing is “anti-climactic.” That’s not been my experience at all. I love all the surprises that come with it.

Mary: Do you work with writers of both fiction and non-fiction?

Laurie: I’ve worked primarily with non-fiction writers, but would be very open to working with fiction writers. I’m good at dialogue and character driven work.

I’m also doing a seminar in Columbus on November 6th and 7th and would love to have any of you join me. You can read more about it by by clicking here.

What I love about leading the seminars is summed up in that moment when a participant's book comes to life in the minds of everyone in the room. And the moment consistently happens to every participant. I believe that we each carry a book (or many books) inside us. We just need to figure out what it is and get it out!

What I am most proud of about the seminars, is that, after the seminar, the participants write. And submit. And begin the writing life. After my first seminar, the participants kept it going by starting a writers' group -- and they're still meeting!

Mary: I’d like to close with one of my favorite passages from your book, if I may, and ask that you consider coming back with us again this year. Reading Introvert Power (which I bought on my own) has been a bit like discovering the Dead Sea scrolls. I’ve indulged myself to capacity, and I want to savor all that I’ve experienced and read. But we’d love you to come back and share with us about designing a room of your own, taking a retreat, the movie rx, and the art of changing your mind. We’ve miles to go!

Laurie: I'd love to come back!

“Introverts are energized and excited by ideas. Simply talking about people, what they do and who they know is noise for the introvert. He’ll be looking between the lines for some meaning, and this can be hard work. Before long, he’ll be looking for a way out of the conversation. But when an introvert is hanging out with a friend, sharing ideas, he is in his element. The conversation is ‘mind to mind, rather than ‘mouth to mouth’."


If you'd like to read more about Laurie, here is a link to an interview she did with Psychology Today magazine last month. And you can also follower her on Twitter!

One of our SVP followers this week will be the lucky winner of an autographed copy of Introvert Power, which appears to be flying off the shelves! If you haven't signed on yet as a SVP follower, we hope you will! We don't want you to miss out on any of our raffles.

Lastly, congratulations to A. L. Davroe, winner of PJ Hoover's new novel, The Navel of the World, launched on Monday. A.L., if you contact me off line, I'll get that right to you.

I hope you'll join me in thanking Laurie for her generous interview! Hope you all have a truly divine week.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Launch Day to PJ Hoover!


by PJ Hoover

Forgotten World Series, Book 2

Publisher: CBAY Books

Launch date: October 12, 2009

At the end of summer school, Benjamin was given one task—find his missing brothers. Should be easy right? But Benjamin can't locate a trace of them anywhere. Then he finds a mysterious file written in ancient Lemurian with his name on it, which wouldn't be so weird except the file happens to be several thousand years old. Who would have known about Benjamin that long ago? And then Benjamin and his friends begin to wonder, have they been looking not in the wrong place, but in the wrong time?

"The Navel of the World is one of those wonderful times where the sequel of a series is even better than the first. It was funnier, more original and faster paced. This book was just so much fun to read!" Reader Rabbit

"What did I enjoy about this one? I loved the use of mythology. I loved the adventure. I loved the humor. And most of all I loved the time travel." Becky's Book Reviews

"Fast paced action keeps the reader turning the pages...Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will enjoy this fantasy as will Garth Nix fans too! My only question is how long do we have to wait for book three?" YA Books Central

"If you love books like the Percy Jackson series or just enjoy a good time-travel adventure then I heartily recommend this book!" Library Ninja

"The Navel of the World is excellent middle school grade fiction...I highly recommend the Forgotten Worlds trilogy for later elementary and middle school readers." Jen Robinson's Book Page

PJ is a full-time writer who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, two children and critters, none of whom ever cross her since she has a black belt in Kung Fu. She also can solve a Rubik's cube in less than two minutes, which I think is way scarier than the black belt. In a pinch, PJ can dissect frogs and pigs, and led her Varsity Cheerleading squad in high school. She also collects smurfs and antique bricks if any of you are looking for the perfect launch gift for her!

Book 1 in the Forgotten Worlds trilogy, The Emerald Tablet, received the Gold Star Award of Excellence from Teens Read Too and it was also selected for the Tristate Books Of Note list for 2009. Book 3, The Necropolis, will be out in Fall 2010. Will the series fans survive till then?

::::::::::::::::::::: P A R T Y ! ::::::::::::::::::::::::

If you are in the Austin, Texas area, PJ and Jessica Lee Anderson, author of BORDER CROSSING and TRUDY will be having a Joint Release Book Party at the fabulous indie bookstore BookPeople on Sunday, October 18th at 2:00 pm.


PJ will also be a featured author for the Austin SCBWI Conference in January, and on author panels at the Red Dirt Book Festival in November in Shawnee, OK, and the Virginia Festival of the Book in March in Charlottesville, VA.

If you aren't going to be in Austin or Shawnee or Charlottesville, you're in luck! You can also catch PJ at her blog.

You can pick up The Navel of the World here, or you can enter our contest to win a personalized copy for yourself, your favorite fantasy fan, or your local library. All you have to do is be one of our SVP followers and you are automatically entered. Or, you can give leave a whoop and holler to PJ in our comment section, and we'll enter you.

PJ, enjoy your launch day. Thanks for letting us join in the celebration!


We are having a bonus SVP posting this week! Please come on back tomorrow for a interview with Laurie Helgoe, PhD, psychologist, speaker, trainer, and author of the wildly popular book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength. You don't want to miss it--

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Some Thoughts On Marketing--From the Amazing Elizabeth Law of Egmont USA

One of the highlights of this years SCBWI National Conference was having the opportunity to hear Elizabeth Law of Egmont Books talk. (Yes, that's her giving us a glimpse of her glamorous, N.Y. publishing life!) She gave a number of breakout sessions, along with a keynote, and each time we were struck by how knowledgeable and candid she was. A real treat! As Vice President and Publisher of Egmont Books, she was certainly in a position to give us a wealth of information on the industry--which she did. She also said some things that are still reverberating around the blogosphere, which she will recap for us here.

Please join Mary and I in welcoming Elizabeth Law to Shrinking Violets, where she has graciously agreed to answer some questions for us. (My personal favorite? Her answer to the second question!)

SVP: You gave us all a tremendous gift at your workshop—granting us authors permission to contact our editors. It was also a huge call to action for a number of us. Were you surprised at how very many authors had such a hard time with this issue? Could you talk a little bit about this for our blog readers who didn’t get a chance to hear you at the conference?

I was really surprised at how many writers, including well-established authors, said they had trouble picking up the phone to call their editors. Even your question surprises me: “granting us authors permission to contact our editors.” Why do you feel you need permission? You and your editor both want to make your book a success, and you have every right to have your questions answered. It is much better to ask about what you need to know than to worry at home or to ask questions of people who won’t know the answer, like your well-intended friends. Truthfully, a lot of trouble can come out of people making up stories in their minds when they don’t pick up the phone or send an email. We’d much rather you just ask us. And it’s our job to have a strong working relationship with the writers we publish.

But I do appreciate the respect that your question shows, and that everyone seems to acknowledge that editors are busy. We certainly are, but who isn’t these days? You don’t want to call or email your editor every day, although sometimes, in the middle of a revision, or in the middle of making changes or working on jacket flap or whatever, a lot of small emails in quick succession is appropriate. But if you have questions about your release date, about your jacket flap, about a bookstore appearance, about an idea for the next book, or about a character, for example, you need to ask it! Here’s what I suggest. Call up your editor, or email him or her, and say “I’d love to set up a 15 minute call to go over some things” and then keep a list to go over on your call. Or keep a list of running questions and then send them in one email.

This is not just my opinion. Before Egmont, I worked at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Viking Children’s Books. Communication is always, always a positive.

SVP: Mary and I took great comfort when you said that in spite of all the promotional demands on an author, the writing is still the most important part of the equation. Do you have some words of comfort for any writers out there who are terrified or paralyzed by all these perceived marketing requirements?

Boy oh boy, do I! Just write your heart out. I promise you that’s what matters. I would much, much rather find a great, unusual, distinctive book by a phobic writer covered in oozing sores who lives in a closet than a decent but not amazingly original book by the world’s best promoter. I could sell the former a lot better, too.

We are all in this business because we love good books. And a lot of really good, really unusual books have been successful recently. Have you noticed? Savvy, The Hunger Games, and When You Reach Me all come to mind. And I hope some of Egmont’s books will join that list soon. Books like Candor by Pam Bachorz and the Candle Man books by Glenn Dakin.

Can it help if you are out there, blogging or tweeting or speaking about your book? Yes, it can. But nothing works as well as a good book itself. Because your editor, your publisher, your agent, your friends, gatekeepers, and other people who love good books will fall in love with it and start talking about it even if you don’t.

SVP: Do you feel that the internet and social media should be used in different ways for different kid lit genres? Is there a different promotional strategy for YA versus MG versus picture books?

Everything about online promotion is pretty unproven right now. Publishers and authors are trying all sorts of things and seeing what works. One thing that does seem to be working is free content, such as making a chapter or two of your book available online, or making a full download available of your book for one day. For the book Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Harper made the audio book available for free on their website, but only in streaming format. That is, you have to play the audio book from the site. You can’t download it to your iPod. I think that’s a neat promotional idea.

I don’t know yet what is working best for picture books, but I’d love to find out. YA may be the easiest to promote online, since teen readers read blogs, are on social-networking sites, and there are no restrictions about capturing their information, as there is with children under 13 years of age.

With middle-grade titles it’s a bit harder, so far, to go to the reader directly. We have been targeting parent-friendly sites to get to the gatekeepers. We have a middle-grade novel on our spring list called The Invisible Order: Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley that I am in love with. And it’s always a bit of a challenge, unless one is spending lots and lots of money to position the books in stores and bring an author on tour, to find effective ways to blow the horn for a brand new writer and his book. (Also, he lives in South Africa. So “live” touring would be very expensive!)

SVP: You’ve had an impressive career in publishing—how would you say the promotional demands on authors have changed over the years?

Well, the investment of time an author has to put into promotion is probably about the same, but the ways of doing it have changed. We used to send authors on the road more, and we used to encourage them to go into every bookstore within a few hours’ drive of their house and sign books, do appearances, etc. Now we love it if they have a website, get to know bloggers and librarians online, etc.

I personally think it’s best to be an interesting person and not merely write about your own book all the time. When a Facebook “friend” continually sends me mail or wall posts about his or her book, I’ll admit I turn off pretty quickly. But if someone posts status updates about their children in school or the movies they’ve seen, for example, along with posts about their writing, then I am interested in following them. Authors who give thoughtful recommendations of others’ books, or who comment on writers’ LiveJournal blogs for example, are showing that they are interested in good books as a whole, and not just their own.

SVP: What are some of the most successful things you’ve seen authors do to promote their books?

That’s hard to answer. School visits are still very effective, and if you contact a lot of schools yourself about doing visits and are willing to commit a lot of days to visits it will help your sales. But we are just learning now how to build buzz for a book, how to get people talking about it, through online channels as well as through traditional gatekeepers. And will that buzz translate into sales? To be honest, we don’t know yet. But it sure can’t hurt. I called up Virginia Anagnos, who is Senior Vice President at Goodman Media and one of the most extraordinary children’s book publicists I know, and she said the same thing. We’re all throwing different things at the wall to see what sticks.

SVP: If you weren’t an editor, what would your ideal job be?

My fantasy job would be to perform in the musical review Forbidden Broadway. But I think I would also be a good teacher, as I love to lead groups, I love school, and I come from teachers on both sides of the family.

SVP: Do you consider yourself an introvert?

Are you kidding me? Richard Simmons is shyer than I am! But I know a lot of introverted editors and writers who are very talented and very successful. Being an extrovert is a personality trait, but I don’t consider it a factor that makes someone successful.

I’ll tell you something that I do believe strongly. My father, an economist, was such a gifted speaker that he received invitations to speak all over the world. I think that from years of watching him I took on some of his talent for public speaking. But I have seen time and time again that people who aren’t natural public speakers, or natural self-promoters, can become very good at it. Like anything else, public speaking, and self-promoting, are muscles that you can develop if you’re willing to put in the practice.

SVP: What author, living or dead, would you want to have dinner with and why?

Oh my God! Did you ever read E. L. Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver? In that book, every English teacher who walks through the pearly gates immediately goes up to Shakespeare. And I can see why, there is so much we don’t know and want answered about both him and his writing. But because that’s such an obvious response, I will pick George Bernard Shaw. Here is why. I don’t like fiction for children that lectures at us, and yet I love Shaw’s plays, which are very entertaining but also quite didactic. How does he pull that off? I wonder about that all the time. I also know he would have a ton of great stories.

SVP: Explain why should writers watch Project Runway . . .

Actually, I think editors and illustrators especially should watch Project Runway, but basically everyone I have gotten to watch the show has become hooked on it. Editors can learn a lot from Tim Gunn, the mentor on the show. Tim can go right to the heart of a problem brilliantly, yet he does it with such complete respect for the person he’s critiquing that they accept, and learn from, whatever he has to say. I sit up close when he’s on the screen and soak in every word. And illustrators and designers seem to love watching the challenges on the show—it really gets you to think creatively about things, and that’s always a plus.

You’re going to hate this, but I think a lot of writers could learn from the occasionally painful early rounds of American Idol. That show was the first time I ever saw something on TV that reminded me of my job. Of course, most writers I work with are thoughtful, hardworking, and committed—and they respect that I know something. But I have been argued with, countless times, by writers who say “I know I have this book in me and I know it’s good. And all my friends have told me that, too.” When I first saw American Idol, I saw people who were, at best, ordinary singers who could not hear the feedback they were getting from the judges. They argued instead of listening. And I could relate to that experience. What could writers get out of seeing that? Watch the times when the panel actually gives focused, helpful feedback. See the singers who listen and use it vs. the ones who may be too nervous or too defensive. The ones who can take it in are the best off.

Finally, may I add how great I think your blog is? I’m so glad to have a place to send our writers to learn about self-promotion and to see that they are not alone with their fears and their questions. Thanks for all the good work you put into it, Robin and Mary.

(Wow, thank you Elizabeth! That is exactly what we hoped for this blog, back when we started it!)

Thank you SO MUCH, Elizabeth, for taking the time to talk with us. I know I speak for a lot of writers when I say how much we appreciate your generosity!


And Elizabeth Loupas is our winner from last week's contest! Elizabeth correctly guessed that Zoey and Scout were the names of Nina's cats. Elizabeth, email Mary and she will arrange for your copy of Theodore to be sent!