Category Archives: Authors

Tricks and treats for writers

6444ecb8-70e8-4198-91f9-607693c6d40bHere’s a quick round-up as we head into the silly season:

For those of you interested in the quickly changing publishing industry, here’s a great documentary with an international perspective that explores how some bookstores and publishers are changing their approach to the publishing game. (Thank you, Elizabeth Lee, for flagging this for other list-serve members.) If you’d like a personal guide to creating your own publishing strategy, I’m starting a three-week Writing Salon workshop in November, entitled Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

For YA authors, Serendipity Literary Agency are collaborating with Source Books to offer a YA Discovery Contest. Details about the five prizes and Grand Prize are rather vague, but every entry is read by the agency, and the top 20 by some well established editors, and this is the seventh year they’ve been running the contest, and, well, it’s co-sponsored by Source Books, so… Good luck!

While we’re still on MG/YA, I have a class starting in November at the Writing Salon in Berkeley. This is my favorite class to teach, so I hope you’ll consider joining us. If all you want is some MG/YA authors to write with, check out this MeetUp.

For those of you who write general fiction, Serendipity Literary Agency are calling for fiction submissions. So, see? You’re not left out. November is also time to submit to Glimmer Train’s Family Matters contest. And next month is one of only two months when they accept “standard” fiction submissions.

And finally, some congratulations are in order:
To Laurin Mayeno for the launch of her picture book.
To Cathleen Young for landing a six-figure deal on her first MG.
And to Avery Moore for making some promising ripples in Hollywood with his New Adult.

All three are editing clients of mine, so this is dastardly self-promotion. Bwah-ha-ha! And on that Halloween note, if you can tell me what’s in the jars, I’ll send you chocolate.

Trick or treat—and happy writing!

Shirin

P.S. After this was first posted, Cathleen Young very generously sent through this testimonial:

Here’s what I love about working with Shirin Bridges. First of all, she has a wonderful sense of humor. Second, she is an incredibly talented editor. (And writer!) She has an uncanny ability to see exactly where you are in the process of writing a novel—and shaping her comments to keep you progressing. If you’re just starting out, she focuses on what you’re trying to say. As you get further along, she starts honing in on character and structure. And she asks a lot of questions. Of course, they’re not REALLY questions, because she already has the answer. But she knows how to ask questions that penetrate your brain to get results. I will never forget when she said to me, “Can’t Billie LEARN something?” She was referring to my main character and she made me see where I was falling short. I highly recommend Shirin. And get on her schedule ASAP. Don’t be like me and wait until the last minute….because then you have to twiddle your thumbs while you wait for your turn in the queue! She’s that good. 

How does it feel to become a published author?

This month’s guest blog is by Laurin Mayeno, a student and publishing-consultations client of mine. After a long and determined slog, Laurin is launching her first book, One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo (Blood Orange Press), on September 21st. Here are a few of her key learnings:

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I’m a First-Time Children’s Book Author!
By Laurin Mayeno

I never imagined myself as a children’s book author, until it increasingly seemed like something I needed to do. Now, more than five years later, I can hold my book in my hands and am getting ready for a slew of launch events and celebrations.

One of a Kind, Like Me/Único Como Yo is the story of a little boy named Danny (Danielito en español) who wants to be a princess in the school parade. Danny and his mom set off to find the perfect costume. Will they find it in time? I won’t tell you what happens, but I can say that the story is full of love and affirmation.

As fellow writers, here are some things you might be interested in.

My Inspiration
As a child, my son Danny loved purple, pink, dressing up as a princess, unicorns, mermaids, and little ponies. I didn’t know any other children like him and felt very alone. He didn’t realize how different he was until he started getting teased. I didn’t know how to support him, because I knew next-to- nothing about gender diversity in children. I felt alone, and often felt that we were both being judged.

Things might have been easier if we had opened a picture book and seen a child like Danny inside being loved and supported by his family and community.

I also grew up without seeing myself, a mixed-race child, in books. Our parents read to us constantly, but few of the books had children of color and none had mixed-race children. I was an adult when I discovered a book about mixed-race women. The book affirmed my existence and helped me make sense of my experience. Suddenly, I was no longer invisible.

I will never forget how important it was for me to see myself reflected back in a book. This is a gift I want to give to children like Danny and families like mine.

My Hopes
I want to get this book as far and wide as possible into the world, to reach other children like Danny and give them a reason to smile and hold their heads up high. I want to reach as many children and families as possible, and anyone who has ever felt different. My highest hope is that the book will encourage dialogue and understanding so that we can all embrace gender diversity in all the ways it shows up in our children. To help with this, my website outproudfamilies.com will give parents, caregivers, and educators access to many other resources, including a discussion guide, videos, blogs, workshops, and presentations.

Multicultural children’s books are especially important as only 10% of children’s books published each year have main characters of color, and an even smaller proportion are written and illustrated by storytellers from the communities represented. My book helps inch the percentages a little higher and depicts multiple diversities—gender, single-parenthood, culture, race, and language. The book is bilingual, in English and Spanish. The multicultural team that collaborated on the book includes artist Robert Liu-Trujillo, translator Teresa Mlawer, and publisher Janine Macbeth of BloodOrange Press.

My Journey
I set off on my book-writing journey more than five years ago knowing nothing, I mean nothing about writing or publishing a book for children.

Here are some things that helped me along the way.

1. Coaching and Advice
I reached out for coaching and advice from people who know and love children’s book writing and publishing.

Beth Wallace walked me through creating my first manuscript and submitting it to a publisher. Shirin Bridges helped me finalize my second manuscript, including ideas for the title. Later, when I decided to go with an independent publisher, she walked me through what to look for in a publishing contract. Maya Christina Gonzalez gave me critical feedback on my manuscript development and helped me stay true to my voice.

2. Feedback
I got tons of feedback from fellow writers, educators, my son Danny, and friends who were willing to read the manuscript to children. This feedback helped me craft a compelling manuscript that would speak to children. I also got feedback from people who were knowledgeable about the best language to use when talking about gender diversity in both Spanish and English.

3. Classes
Shirin Bridges’ Writing Salon class on creating children’s picture books helped me revamp my first manuscript into something much closer to the final product, and included getting invaluable feedback from fellow writers. Her class on publishing at Stanford Continuing Education helped me grasp the pros and cons of different publishing options.

Maya Christina Gonzalez’ class on children’s book making helped me stay heart-centered in the process and opened up channels of creativity.

4. Translation
I made an initial attempt to translate my own manuscript, with the help of people who are more fluent in Spanish than I am. My publisher wisely sought independent review of the translation. Although the translation was technically accurate, it didn’t have artistry or feel of a children’s story. Janine made the decision to seek the support of Teresa Mlawer who delivered a beautiful retelling of the story in Spanish.

5. Platform Building
I spent more than three years building visibility for myself as a resource for families like mine, and as someone with something to say about the topics addressed in my book. This included speaking at numerous conferences, creating a website with the help of YDay Designs, recording videos about my story as a mom, becoming a blogger on Huffington Post, and establishing Facebook and twitter accounts. There is also a Facebook account for the book and I purchased the domain name oneofakindlikeme.com so that people searching for the book by name will be redirected to the correct page on my Out Proud Families website.

6. Publishing
I submitted the manuscript a few times to a publisher that specializes in multicultural children’s literature. They were supportive of my project, but in the end were not interested. I also explored self-publishing as an option, but decided that the amount of work this would entail was beyond my capacity. I ultimately ended up just where I think I was meant to be, with an independent publisher who is absolutely passionate about multicultural children’s books.

Several people I knew, including Shirin, suggested that I connect with Janine Macbeth, who had just published her first book Oh, Oh, Baby Boy under her own imprint, Blood Orange Press. We connected in 2013 and since then have built a beautiful working relationship.

Janine also knew Robert Liu-Trujillo, the illustrator I was interested in, and didn’t hesitate to sign him on to illustrate my book.

Launching the Book
On September 21st, we will be celebrating the launch of our book with the biggest bang possible (given our limited resources). There are a series of events planned including book readings, celebrations, workshops, and interviews.

Will you help me by spreading the word, buying my book, or coming to a book launch event? I would also welcome any opportunities to speak, do readings, or include this story in books lists, blogs or reviews. Please feel free to email me at laurin@outproudfamilies.com

Thank you for letting me share my experiences. I wish you as much luck with your project as I have had in mine.

Laurin Mayeno

Congratulations, Laurin. And for all children’s writers and illustrators out there, the Asian Festival of Children’s Literature, one of the biggest kid lit events on the planet, has issued a Call for Proposals: “The Call is for writers and illustrators who might want an opportunity to present at the Festival. We will not be able to provide an honorarium, but we will be able to provide a complimentary Full Festival pass (worth S$500), which will give them access to attend the Writers & Illustrators Conference, Cross-Platform Summit, Teachers Congress and Parents Forum. Masterclasses are ticketed separately.” If you’re interested, you’ll find more information here. Good luck! And happy writing,

Shirin

 

A real-life glimpse at the power of conferences

As many of you know, I’m enthusiastic about conferences when I teach, calling them the only publishing short cut there is (if you’re not Hollywood celebrity or British royalty). I’m about to pick up this refrain again in  An Author’s Guide to Publishing at Stanford, and Publishing Bootcamp at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. And I got to thinking, how can I prove what I claim?

I decided to diagram some of the relationships I’ve developed because of retreats and conferences—either by meeting somebody directly at a conference, or because somebody who was met by someone else at a conference was eventually introduced to me.  I think you’ll find it heartening to see how many previously unpublished authors got incorporated into this publishing web, and how many times cash and services changed hands.

Now, bear in mind that this is only a small subset of all the wonderful connections I’ve made through conferences and retreats, both in the U.S. and abroad.  I really do believe that retreats and conferences can enrich and propel your writing career as it has mine.

So saying, check out these upcoming West Coast offerings. But be brisk—some of these registrations are closing soon!

Association of Writers and Writing Programs, March 30-April 2

Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 5-10

Squaw Valley Writers Conference, June 18-25

Napa Valley Writers Conference, July 24-29

Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, August 4-7

Willamette Writers Conference, August 12-14

Write On The Sound, September 30-October 2

Happy writing, retreating, and conferencing!

Shirin

Hatched!

Many months ago, I gave a picture book writing workshop to a small group of beginners. It wasn’t a long course — maybe four weeks. And it was at a community college, which usually draws a less committed student. I enjoyed the class, and then thought no more about it. A year later, I received the letter below:

Hi All,

It’s been exactly one year ago since our class together in the Children’s Book Writing Workshop at SMCCD! I just wanted to connect with you again to share an update.

For the time being, I’ve transitioned out of my career in business consulting and am focusing on growth in writing and illustrating. The workshop and my first manuscript there helped spur me on to go and do something about my love for children’s books. For your instruction and inspiration, Shirin, and also to each of you – Thank you!

I just recently launched my publishing name, Wildberry Ink, creating children’s books that integrate diversity and heart values for meaningful learning. My manuscript evolved and became my first book Commander Charlee: In Search of a Space Crew, written for young readers ages 4-7 years old.

Charlee and her family will move away from their city and home. However, Charlee has other plans and searches for a space crew to move to outer space with her. While she copes the move in her own way, she embraces her community. 

As I had initially shared in class, I imagined and created the book from the wonderful privilege and experience in serving alongside community members the past couple of years in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. It represents what I’ve learned and hope to pass on to others as well. 
Here’s a short video that launched my book. Feel free to share!

Naomi

 

So that’s what I’m doing: freely sharing. Not only Naomi’s achievement but her thrilling self-empowerment. If she can do it, so can you.

Chasing your dream is like jumping off a 6,000-ft cliff. You’ll never feel larger and more alive.

So congratulations to Naomi…and I hope we’ve both got good parachutes!

Happy writing,

Shirin

On Labor Day Weekend: A Labor of Love

I was recently in Mendocino—not recently enough, now I think about it. While there I connected with the coast’s wonderful writing community, including the amazing Katy Pye.

Katy is a tremendously hard-working author and self-publisher, and an active conservationist. Her book Elizabeth’s Landing enwraps us in the story of a young girl finding her own power, and highlights the plight of sea turtles. It won the First Place for Fiction, 2013, in the Writers’ Digest Self-Published E-Book Awards.

To celebrate the Labor Day Weekend, here is my interview with Katy about her labor of love.


One note about my choice of music. Unfortunately, what you mostly hear is “I don’t know you but I want you…” which I’m sure spooked Katy out. But the lyrics that made this the song for Katy (and which were subsequently pulled under in the edit so that we could hear her speak—editing is not yet a strong suit, but watch this space) were:

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ve made it now

Falling slowly sing your melody
I’ll sing along

So that’s why I’m posting about Katy. I’m singing along. I’m all for books that serve a cause—I’ve even set up a new imprint, Gosling Press, which will soon be bringing out books that serve various causes. So yay for causes, and yay for labors of love, and yay for labor in the service of causes!

But I have another reason to be nice to Katy.
She makes the BEST lemon cheesecake EVER!

Shirin Yim Bridges

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What happened to the and in fame and fortune?

This week, I was on the cover of Publishers Weekly. (Their lack of punctuation, not mine.) The whole industry buzzes about the importance of a writer’s platform. Being on the cover of PW should add a big plank to one of those, surely? Book sales should soar. Telephones should ring. Fortune should follow fame. Did it? Well, no.

I’m in the unusual position, being also a publisher, of being able to track my book sales. Most authors go out into the world and line up their store readings, and their school visits, their advertising and promotion (if they’re rich), and their pubic relations and media coverage (if they’re lucky), and have no way of telling what’s making the blindest bit of difference. I, on the other hand, can log into my distributor’s amazing database and see, in real time, how many copies of each title were ordered and shipped, by whom, and exactly when.

So, I’m sorry to have to report that I have found no direct correlation between being on the cover of Publishers Weekly and the following week’s book sales. Similarly no correlation between being on NPR and book sales. Or in the San Francisco Chronicle and book sales. Or being well reviewed and book sales. Or winning awards and book sales.

What I have found, though, is that my brand image has changed. I’ve received an increasing number of invitations to read, and to speak, and to teach. When I take up those invitations, I find that more and more people know of Goosebottom Books, and they have a very gratifying perception of our success. Opportunities that I once had to chase now come my way—being on the cover of PW not least among them. And the phone does ring. Every week more people seek out and are willing to pay for my help as a self-publishing consultant and children’s book editor.

So maybe fortune will follow fame? Maybe it’s just a long and, like the here in “hhhhhere’s Johnny!”?

I like to think of it as skipping a stone across a pond (something I’m horrendous at, by the way). Just because your stone’s not across the pond yet doesn’t mean it isn’t in the middle of a skip that’s necessary to get it there. Just because each plank hasn’t seemed to make much difference doesn’t mean they won’t eventually hammer up into a stage.

And if not—because let’s face it, the reality could be not—if not, then well, better fame and no fortune than no fame and no fortune, right?

Enjoy the writing life. As grandpa said in my book, Ruby’s Wish: enjoy it while you can.

Shirin Yim Bridges

 

 

 

Zen and the Art of Publishing—or, How Authors Should Measure Success.

I get asked all the time how Goosebottom Books is doing, which I hear—rightly or wrongly—as, is it a success? I never know how to answer that question.  In October, we will celebrate our fourth anniversary.  Yet, we are still not in the black. I haven’t made less money since college. (Yes, this is an appeal to you to buy a Goosebottom Book immediately!) On the other hand, we win awards and garner accolades. We have a small but enthusiastic fan base. People love our books. Some people see the books we publish as foot-soldiers in a cause, as an expression of high ideals—as we do. But more than that, selfishly, Goosebottom Books has made me happy. For four years, I’ve gone to bed fulfilled, and I’ve woken up excited. I don’t want to sound like a MasterCard ad, but isn’t that priceless?

Well, before my original-thinking-girl niece rolls her eyes at me for being a hemo—a “hippy emo,” which I believe she coined just for me—I have scientific evidence that it is.

In his TED talk, “Flow, The Secret of Happiness,” psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yes, I copy-and-pasted that) presents evidence that people are happiest when they’re being extremely challenged, and yet feeling extremely skilled. He’s got a neat graph to show what he means. Check it out: ted.com/playlists/what_makes_us_happy.

On the other hand, in the same TED playlist, psychologist Dan Gilbert in “The Surprising Science of Happiness” reveals that we often manufacture happiness by learning to prefer what we have. Maybe I’m just an expert in acceptance or even denial?

Be that as it may, nobody can take four years of happiness away from you. You’ll always have them, snug under your belt. Which brings me to my nugget of wisdom for the day; something I share often with my writing students. Take control of how you define success. If you let our capitalist/consumer society do it for you, it’ll come down to money, and not many authors (or publishers!) make a lot of that. Instead, recognize that you’re being paid in joy: when you open that acceptance letter; when a child wants your autograph; when a school asks you to visit, or a book store asks you to sign. And before you even get to any of that, recognize that you’re being paid in flow, in bliss when you share that telling observation or craft that perfect sentence. And, look forward to the day when you will first set eyes on your advanced reading copy, as Goosebottom author Janie Havemeyer did just recently. I caught it on camera. See that? For both the author and the publisher, that’s success.

Shirin Yim Bridges

 

 

 

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Hello world!

My first blog. I’m a writer and a publisher. I’m alive in 2014. How is this possible?

Well, I kept thinking I was too busy writing and publishing. But now I’ve seen the light. Now I see that this is writing and publishing, too; and that some of the things that I want to share with the world (my primary motivation in publishing) can be even better shared in this format.

For Goosebottom Books’ readers, and their educators and librarians, I’ll be sharing nerdy nuggets that delight me. (Did you know that they’ve found the bones of Richard III under a parking lot? The uncle accused of murdering the Princes in the Tower?) There’ll be interviews with our geese and other children’s and YA authors. If you follow this blog, you’ll also follow my goose tracks across Australia this summer, as I go off on a research trip with fellow kids’ author, Kathryn Otoshi.

For my writing and publishing students, and all the aspiring authors and publishers out there, here’s the chance for a behind-the-scenes peek. You’ll see how frustrating, rich, and rewarding the writing and/or publishing life can be. I’ll also be sharing the articles and opportunities that I used to share with my list-serve. Now I’ll be serving up all that great information right here.

So please follow Goose Tracks, and enjoy!

If you’d like to be informed of new posts in particular categories, just send an email to shirin.bridges@goosebottombooks.com and let me know which categories you’d like to follow. You can also review just those posts in those categories by using our pull-down menu on the left hand side.

Honk! Honk!

Shirin