Friday, April 26, 2013

Some Facebook Hints For Authors

In the past couple of weeks I've been on a steep learning curve regarding my Facebook Author Page. If you're an author, and you're confused about using are not alone.

First let me say that if you are an author, I can recommend that you create an Author Page separate from your personal Facebook account. Here's why: you can only friend 5000 people in your personal account. Yeah, yeah, I know. You don't think you'll ever have 5000 friends. But you really don't want to bore family and friends with writing stuff, and you really don't want to reveal personal stuff to your fans, even if you never reach the 5000 mark. It just makes sense to separate the personal from the professional. Plus, we can always dream.

So step one: create an Author Page. Go to Account Settings (upper right corner, the flywheel) and at the bottom of the page that opens next is a link to "Create Page." That will get you started.

Step two: name your page. I used "AuthorJanetFox." That was good, but I do wish I'd chosen "JanetFoxAuthor." Why? Because usually people don't search for me as "author." And why not just "JanetFox"? Because that's my personal account name. So "JanetFoxAuthor" would be perfect. Wish I'd known!

Step three: you'll need a profile picture (a small avatar, like you have on your personal page). I recently found by accident that using a different profile pic for personal and professional pages allows you to see more easily which page you are working from (more on that in a minute.)

Step four: you'll need a banner or cover photo, just like on your personal page. Now here's where I must acknowledge C.J. Ellisson, a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), who has been extremely giving of her expertise. Among many other hints she pointed out that most people who look at an author page click on the banner and that's it. So your banner should speak to who you are and what you write (duh!!) That's my new banner above. It shows my books, reflects the images on my website, and includes my fox logo. And if you click on it, it now references my website and what I write.

Step five: know how to toggle between your personal profile and your professional page. For the longest time I thought that if I went to the menu at the left of my personal page and selected my author page I was moving into that format. Nope. You have to go to the flywheel at the upper right and select "Use Facebook As" and then your Author page.

This is important because only "pages" can like "pages" so when you like a professional page as your professional page you are keeping business with business.

Are you with me? On the screen shot above you can see that I've selected the flywheel and what drops down allows me to toggle back and forth between my author page and my personal profile. (You'll also see that at one time I created a FORGIVEN page, but I find that I have enough to manage between personal and professional, and that FORGIVEN page lies mostly idle.) You can also maybe make out that my little profile pic is different. Now I know which page I'm working from as I scan Facebook because these pics are different from personal to professional. Believe me, it's not always obvious, which you will see as you play with this.

There are other tips I'm learning I'll leave them for next week.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post by Nancy Bo Flood: HEART in NONFICTION BOOKS

Nancy Bo Flood, a good friend and talented fellow Vermont College of Fine Arts grad, has a new non-fiction picture book out, COWBOY UP! RIDE THE NAVAJO RODEO, with photographs by Jan Sonnenmair. I invited her to come by and talk about non-fiction picture books, because they have become an important part of the young child's reading experience.

Here's Nancy:

Informational picture books for children keep getting better with engaging stories and images.  Regardless of the picture book topic, we see innovative designs, creative presentations, plus captivating images that often mix photographs and historical papers with colorful art.

The most striking new quality of current nonfiction picture books for children is that each book is a story – a story with setting, characters, plot or “through line,” and most important “heart.”  What I mean by heart is that the author’s passion for the subject shines right through the words and captures the heart of the reader.  When children read that last page, they not only know new information, but perhaps even more important, the reader cares.  Wow!  I want to read more.  Where’s another book?

For example, Leda Schubert’s picture book biography of Marcel Marceau won this year’s Orbis Pictus Prize – the best in nonfiction children’s literature.  MONSIEUR MARCEAU: ACTOR WITHOUT WORDS tells a true story with a blazing heart.

Look over the entire list of winning books recognized with the Orbis Pictus prize  this year. The list is found at the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE) site. The entire list is invaluable as a variety of examples of books that tell a story, engage readers, and provide a depth of information.

My own recent nonfiction picture book, COWBOY UP! RIDE THE NAVAJO RODEO, is a nonfiction “hybrid” of poetry, narrative and photographs.  What I worked to create was a book that showed the heart of Navajo rodeo – the determination of the young riders as they try to stay on a bucking sheep , race around barrels on a galloping horse, or ride without saddle on a bucking bronco.  I wanted to show that these wranglers are kids like any kid, they strut the midway, slurp a refreshing shaved ice, fight back tears when they don’t make a winning ride. To show the real heart of this sport, I wanted the reader to experience the riders’ fears, failures and successes, and also the excitement of the crowd, the involvement of every family member from the grandmas and grandpas to the cousins and baby sisters.

In summary, we see that the key qualities of good nonfiction books remain true.  Research is thorough and in-depth, and whenever possible, includes primary sources.  Information presented is accurate, often presenting “both sides” of controversial topics so readers can analyze and make up their own young minds.

But the newest components – story and heart - are now part of a good factual book regardless of the book’s topic. Nonfiction books, including picture books, are written with all the same skill and craft as any book – and with passion, heart and story.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Debut Authors of the Class of 2k13: Liesl Shurtliff and Her Debut RUMP

I'm back from a fantastic trip to Chicago and delighted to be able to feature Liesl Shurtliff on the blog today! Her debut, RUMP, is a take on the Rumplestiltskin tale - which happened to be one of my favorites as a kid. I am *really* looking forward to reading this one. Here's Liesl:

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, RUMP. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks! RUMP is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, but instead of the villain, he’s an unlikely, yet loveable hero. As for the inspiration, I was actually brainstorming another story idea when I imagined a world where names are much more than just a title, but a person’s destiny. Instantly my mind gravitated toward the Rumpelstiltskin tale, for if there was ever a name of great importance in a story, it’s that one. And yet, for the crucial role he and his name play in the story, we know so little of Rumpelstiltskin in the traditional tale. We know nothing of where he comes from, what his name means, how he learned to spin straw into gold, or why on earth he would want someone’s first born child. I wanted to tell a story from his point-of-view, not only so we would understand Rumpelstiltskin, but also love him. Shortening his name to Rump got me on the right track and everything grew from there.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I’ve been writing seriously (with the goal to publish) for nearly ten years now. I wrote a little for newspapers and magazines, which was great experience, and then I turned to novels. I wrote two before I wrote RUMP, and they will both remain shelved for the foreseeable future.

I so agree that newspaper and magazine writing can be invaluable preparation for novel writing. Can you describe your path to the publication of RUMP?
I decided early on that I wanted an agent. It’s not totally necessary; I have friends that get books published with good houses without an agent, but it can certainly speed up the process and a good agent can help in more ways than just selling your work. I researched agents and the querying process while I was working on RUMP. (Querying is a skill in and of itself!) After a month of querying I signed with Michelle Andelman at Regal Literary. We revised together for a month before we went on submission, and then a month after that we had an offer from Katherine Harrison at Knopf. It wasn’t as hellish a process as some stories I’ve heard. Some of that is luck, but some is simply doing your homework, both in your craft and business.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
I would say follow your gut and don’t let anybody push you around too much. One piece of advice might be great for one person but totally wrong for another, so as you’re learning and sifting through all the advice out there, don’t be afraid to toss some of it out the window and figure out what’s right for your situation. There are “rules” in this business, but this is also a business that delights in a rule fantastically broken.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I’m a mother of three young children and it’s both a blessing and a challenge when it comes to writing. I’m extremely invested in both writing for children and the raising of my own, so it can be tricky to balance that. Thankfully I have an amazingly supportive husband and we manage it all pretty well.

One day I would really like to live in Europe, or at least go there! Everyone in my family has traveled there except me! (Talk about the black sheep of the family.)
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
I am currently working on two new projects, one MG and one YA. I’m kind of shy about discussing works-in-progress until I know it’s going to work out. Not everything I write pans out, but I have high hopes for both projects. Fingers crossed as I write and I’ll be sure to shout it off tops at some point, so stay tuned.

Fingers crossed here, too! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about RUMP? has all sorts of fun stuff, including a trailer for RUMP. Go check it out!

I did - and added it above - lovely!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chicago, My Home Town!

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. At the time, Hinsdale was a quiet little place surrounded by corn fields. The street I lived on was paved with bricks, and my first sound memories are of the rumble-rumble-rumble of tires, punctuated by the mournful horns of trains in the night not far away. My dad was the rector of the church next door, Grace Episcopal, and I felt safe, loved, and content.

My elementary school, Oak School, was brand new, and plopped down in the middle of said corn, with only a few ranch houses scattered around. Mrs. Weber, my third grade teacher, may be directly responsible for my writing career, because she sent a poem I wrote into the Hinsdale Doings, and it was published. I can still remember the moment.

The house I grew up in.
I'm going back to Chicago tomorrow, not for the first time, because my stepmom lives there, but for my first real author visit. I'm kind of excited and kind of nervous (as in, "prove yourself, kid"). If you live in Chicago-land, I hope I get a chance to see you at one of these events!

Sunday, April 7 - I'm speaking at my dad's church. This will be a truly humbling moment.

Monday, April 8 - Two presentations at Neuqua Valley High School Gold Campus - 7:45-8:30, and 8:35-9:20.

Wednesday, April 10 - 4PM- 5:30PM Book Signing at The Book Cellar on North Lincoln Ave., with authors T.M. Goeglein, M. Molly Backes, and James Kennedy - and pizza!

also on April 10 - 7PM-9PM Speaking at Cook County SCBWI monthly meeting

Thursday, April 11 - visiting my old elementary school, Oak School! Arriving 8:25AM.