Sunday, April 29, 2012

April at the Hollywood Schmooze

The Hollywood Schmooze continues to grow! We had a lively Workshop Session in April. 
First: we met new members and shared our writing news.
Next: we discussed some fantastic quotes by Newbery Award winners.
And asked:
What makes the sentences work together and flow?
What gives the paragraph its power?
We agreed:
Emotional connection is key.
Sensory details help us connect.
(I learned about interspersing description with emotional reaction -- sentence by sentence, line by line -- this really moves the story along.)

We agreed to disagree on: which quotes we liked and which we didn't like.
That's why there are so many styles of writing... and so many different kinds of readers.
Our task as writers, we agreed is: To plant seeds, ask compelling questions, and add mystery and suspense.

Paragraphs from our own writing were shared. We read out loud to a quiet room. We received praise and constructive criticism. The writer was meant to listen, but it is difficult not to respond when people are talking directly to you. (A personal suggestion: the group could talk as if the person isn't there there…this may sound weird, but I think it would actually make it easier for the person being critiqued just to sit back and listen.) Nonetheless, the comments were very helpful to all involved. Written comments were also given to the writers who read their work. 

A funny quote from the evening (in response to a question about a character’s hairstyle) -- “If there’s a girl in the book, there’s always a hair thing!”
The writing and comments shared were all outstanding. We are off to a great start this Spring.
See you in May,
Deborah Fletcher Blum

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Westside Illustrators Schmooze with Soooz

Join Us! The Westside Illustrators Schmooze
DATE...April 23 ... 7-9pm

WHERE... 445 15th Street Santa Monica CA 90402
TOPIC... "I Did It MY Way" ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
and 'open mike Q & A' for general info...

Our TOPIC is inspired by our last schmooze when Kat brought in
2 books... the same folk tale, fairy tale or fable ... but illustrated by 2
or more different artists!
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find examples
of this fascinating phenomena... the more the better.
A great way to do this is to find some tales at home and look
for matches at your local library...

'Interpretation' is the name of the game...
There are soooo many ways to skin a poisoned apple!
Mad fun for both writers AND illustrators!

Please "LIKE" the 'Westside Illustrators' on FACEBOOK
and RSVP at the EVENTS page... or email

xoxo Suzy Engelman Block... Coordinator

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Chapter 1 – Schmooze Week

Crap, crap, crap.

That’s the only word I can come up with to describe:

A. What I’ve gotten done on my novel in the last month, even though I totally knew the once-annually novel critique Schmooze was coming up


B. The projected quality level of whatever pages I can slap together to bring to the March Schmooze, AKA Wednesday night, AKA three days from now, AKA – CRAP!

How am I supposed to bring something super-impressive when I’ve only got three days left? I mean, I have a reputation to uphold. I totally wowed my tables at the past two novel-critique Schmoozes. What if this time around, all I can be is (gulp) decent?

Breathe. Now – think: What do I need to do to solve this dilemma?

I know, a list. I’ll make a list of the million-and-two things I need to do to clear my head, my desk, my schedule. Yeah, that’ll help. THEN I can write.

Chapter 2 – Lovin’ these critique schmoozes. Nothin’ to ‘em. Got my HIGH-larious Dalton Trumbo letter (that I read a couple years ago at Lee and Rita’s first critique Schmooze, but who’s gonna remember that?), got my same middle grade novel pages that I’ve brought in the past three years (that I really should be rewriting as there IS in fact an editor interested, but hey, maybe the yakity yak at the table’ll put a fire under my ass) and I got my super cool personality that will ease me through the whole thing without breaking a sweat. Don’t know why Karol was so hyped up on the phone; that chick needs a chill pill. Must be hard to be one of the smart kids; always having something to prove. …yawn. Think I’ll grab another beer and sun myself in the yard. Maybe piss in the bushes behind the garage. Get myself a total tan!

Chapter 3 – Schmooze Morning

CCrrrrrrrraaaaaaaappp! HOW did I let this happen?? No seriously, HOW?

I haven’t done any writing – zip, zilch, zero. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did put in, like, an hour, two days ago. I trimmed a bunch of fat from my scene, wrote out the part I came up with for the very ending and sort of fixed the beginning. There’s just that Gaping Hole between the opening and the end to deal with, and there’s still at least 862 items on my to-do-before-I-can-possibly-even-think-about-maybe-trying-to-write list.

I need to look over my list and prioritize. Maybe there’s some stuff that doesn’t absolutely have to be done pre-writing session. Like, straighten my pajama drawer. Heck, that’s been a mess for two years. It can wait. Play Angry Birds for two hours. Whoops. Forgot to cross that one off. Whew! Nice to see I’ve accomplished something!

Chapter 4 (smacking lips) …hmm. Awesome looking day outside. Ought to swing by Melrose for some Maui Wowie (or Country Chronic if they’re out of Maui again, but really, if they are, I’m gonna start taking my patronage elsewhere), bike up to dirt, maybe head out to the Hub, far from the “federalies” and blow a stick to welcome in spring. …was there something else I had to do today? …whatever.

Chapter 5 – Schmooze Afternoon

One hour to write. Great, just great. What happened to my whole, freakin’ day? Stupid day job! Stupid Facebook! Stupid need to shower!

I shut off the music, the Internet, the cat.

(OK, I don’t “shut off” the cat. I tell him to get off my desk. He ignores me, so I insist he get off my desk. He hisses at me. So I grab the package of kitty treats and lure him off my dang desk.)

Cat on floor, fingers on keyboard…come on, Magic!

I write. For the whole hour, plus a little more. I solve some problems. I have an inspiring idea or two. I enjoy hanging out with my characters. Then I print.

No time to even staple my sets of pages. I fly out the door – you know, not literally or really even physically in terms of speed, but emotionally and spiritually, I fly, baby, I fly.

Chapter 6 Can’t believe the cell worked all the way at the hub. Man, that Karol sounded FREAKED. Really rained on my buzz. Probably a good thing though: I’d’a never made it home in time for the ol’ Schmoozerino tonight. Who knew it was this week? Time, man… know what I mean? Anyway, I gotta admit it’s a little disconcerting that it’s tonight rather than, you know, 7 days from tonight but, hey, … uh… forgot what I was gonna say. No worries though: Got my crap, got my little pages, and I’m ready for the G-L-O-R-Y! Was it Patti Smith of Van Morrison who sang that one?

Chapter 7 – The Drive

Radio blaring, singing at the top of my lungs. That’s how I roll.

I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby. I was bo-rn this way…

Sigh. I just love getting my Gaga on during the drive down to Santa Monica. If ONLY I’d left at 6:10, like I’d planned (see: previous “no-time-to-even-staple” chapter). Then maybe I wouldn’t be so panicked about getting there on time.

Just my luck…the crip space behind the library’s open – SWEET!

I’m here. I made it. It’s Novel Critique Schmooze Night! WAH-HOO!!!

…OMG…what if people aren’t staggeringly impressed with my pages?

Chapter 8 Kinda hard to find a space. Lot of folks tonight. Hmm. Wonder if I should’a looked at those pages… Or at least figured out how much of the Trumbo thing to read. Are two single-spaced pages long? Karol would’a probably read it beforehand and timed herself. Ha! LOOOOOOSER! Ah, I got nothin’ to worry about; I’m one of the co-freaking-coordinators for God sakes. And dig my belly tan.

Chapter 9 – Your Typical Pre-Schmooze Madness

Yeah, so, good crowd on hand, maybe 30 people. I go to grab my midnight snack from the goodies table. Man! There's that brownie pie thing again! Don’t mind if I do!

Well, I’m ready, but Charlie’s still running around like a chicken without its chicken hat. I ready my highly important and detailed list of SCBWI announcements, snap the paper a couple times to see if Mr. Clueless is paying attention.

It takes a few more snaps…and a couple ahems…and then I just glare at him a little…and FINALLY he’s back and we can start.

Chapter 10 …wow, these pages from my ms sure seem bloated. When did that happen? Wonder if there’s time to line out all the boring crap on all the copies while Karol is yammering on about SCBWI stuff—ah man, probably don't have time. No worries: I got Dalton to save my ass. However bad my pages are, they’ll eat that stuff up.

Chapter 11 – S.N.A.R.K.Y. – In That Good Way

Time to revisit the fabulous SNARKY acronym for the suggested critique method that we came up with (and by we I mean me or rather I…except for the K, which was all Charlie because I’d basically forgotten there’s a K in “snarky” – my bad).

Where was I? Oh, yeah, creating a safe, nurturing environment, so Schmoozers don’t go running out of the library in tears, never to write again…blah, blah, blah.

Making art is a tough road, people!

Charlie’s up next with a scathingly funny letter written by Dalton Trumbo to his pal, Ring Lardner, describing for Ring the various soul-crushing ways he’s about to critique Ring’s manuscript.

Hoo-boy! Fun-NEE! The Schmoozers are eating it up!

Hmm…I think he may be losing them… Great, end of the page.

OMG. He’s reading page 2.

Chapter 12 Man… not sure if that took forever or if it just seemed that way when everyone stopped laughing in the middle of paragraph 2. Should’a stopped before 3. And I really don’t know why I went on to 4. Bad enough without Sara’s crack that I terrified everyone. You could tell they all agreed. They love her so much. With her purple hair. And her not-being-old. She’s always had it in for me. I hate her.

Chapter 13 Our First Ever (We Think) Super-Awesome Schmooze Raffle (that I completely screw up)

SO exciting! Everyone’s written their names on slips of paper that will go into a hat, and then our very own celebrity debut author, Sara Wilson Etienne is going to pick out the winner - who gets an autographed copy of Sara's book, Harbinger. I’ve loved this idea ever since I came up with it a couple months ago.

Charlie hits each table, collecting entries. Sara’s in position, ready to to pluck out the winning name. I position my camera and….CRAP! Why isn’t my camera working?? WHY?!

I realize it’s still on video mode from when I recorded an adorable video of my cat not getting off the desk when I asked him to.

I get it back on still mode, but I’m too late.

I miss the moment entirely.

…like I’m back at high school and that really cute boy I’ve been crushing on, who’s so completely out of my league that it’s dumb for me to even be crushing on him at all, asks me for help with his Spanish homework, and I say yes because it means I’ll get to hang out with him for a few hours, even if he’s really only into my weird ability to memorize Spanish vocabulary, and we end up having a really fun time, laughing and looking up dirty phrases in my Spanish dictionary and he mentions that some classic Pedro Almodovar movie's playing at the local art house theater that weekend and we should go, and for a moment, for just one fleeting moment in time, I consider saying, “yeah, sure” all casual, like it's No Big Deal that he basically just ASKED ME OUT, but before I can get the words out of my mouth, his cell chimes with a new text message and then he forgets all about the movie, and I miss the moment entirely.

Damn you stupid, fleeting moments-in-time!

When I eventually snap out of my disappointment, I see that Charlie’s already at his table, and he and the other table leaders are getting started. So I grab a seat at my designated table, bringing my dejection with me.

And as luck would have it – or maybe the Universe plans it this way – I end up sitting with the proud winner of Our First Ever (We Think) Super-Awesome Schmooze Raffle, Penelope, and she graciously poses with her prize.

We launch into Official Critique Mode and – WOW – everybody’s material is so interesting and different and special. Even my last-minute-not-even-stapled pages go over pretty well, and my tablemates have some way-helpful feedback for me. Very cool!

Chapter 14 That wasn’t so bad. They all caught the bloated part, of course. But they caught a lot of other, deeper stuff too that I hadn’t even noticed. And it was stuff that fits in with the stuff that editor said about reworking the book so, that’s good, I guess. Only bad thing was they all seem to think I could make it into something really good which I guess means I’ll have to actually work on the thing. Rats.

The other drag was how good their stuff was. Some was, like, publishing-ready-good. That kinda’ pissed me off, actually. Who brings stuff that good to a critique night? I mean, the idea of a critique night is to bring stuff that needs to be better, right? Not stuff that’s perfect—ahh, screw it. Next year, I’m gonna show ‘em. I’m gonna do some actual polishing before critique night. Heck, maybe I’ll even bring something new! I’ll be as much of a nerd as Karol. Guess it’s like ol’ Billy said: “Writing doth make nerds of us all.”

So off to Swingers, the secret party everyone knows about, where all the cool kids go to eat after the Schmoozes. I was a little worried that they’d shove me to one of the ancillary single-person tables after the whole Trumbo thing, but Karol invited me to sit right by her like it never happened. Sara even talked to me… guess she’s alright. Guess they’re all alright.

For a bunch of word-nerds.

Epilogue: The Drive Home

Speeding down the 10 toward home, my mood is more Bruno Mars than Gaga.

Oh, you know, you know, you know I’d never ask you to change.
If perfect’s what you’re searching for, then just stay then same.

Ah, perfection. Even if my pages aren’t perfect…yet, this year’s Novel Critique Schmooze sure was!

Man, I gotta pee like a race-horse. Soon as I get home, I’m racing behind that garage and: MOON-TAN, DUDE!!!

The End

Well, THAT was fun! Hope to see you all at the next Schmooze - Wednesday, April 18th. Our topic's COMEDY TONIGHT, so come prepared to share a few paragraphs from your favorite funny book, and together, we'll try to figure out how the writer made it so darn funny.

Keep passing the open windows,
Charlie & Karol

Friday, April 6, 2012

10 Hot Tips from SCBWI Los Angeles Writer's Days Faculty!


Books and Beyond:  How To Make a Living (and a Life!) As A Writer

April 21 and 22, 2012

Our faculty are amazing, including award winning, innovative, and prolific authors Terri Farley, Dawne Knobbe, Lee Wardlaw, and Sara Wilson Etienne, literary agent Michael Bourret, Editor Stacey Barney, and expert sessions on contracts (with Bonnie Berry LaMon, Esq.), taxes (with Monica Haven, EA, JD, LLM), and school visits (with Author and school visit expert Alexis O'Neill!)  Each day will be filled with business, craft, inspiration and community!

There's still time to register!  For more information, go here.

Thanks, and hope to see you there,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Immediate Goals and Short Term Strategies

It’s hard to think of yourself as a brand but when you are in publishing or media, it seems that’s what you are – as an individual, you need to create publicity for yourself – and it’s not for egotism, it’s for survival as an artist (or if you want to make any money at all) in this digital age.

So, how do we as Children’s Book Writers market ourselves?
Well, the usual suspects appeared: Facebook, Twitter Etc.
It’s all out there, one just has to figure out how to use it and use it to your advantage.

We learned some interesting details:

1) Famous People, Celebrities etc. who tweet probably are not the ones doing the actual tweeting. They hire publicists who do this for them.

2) Also, numbers matter: how many friends you have on Facebook, how many hits you get on your website this all speaks to whether you can generate traffic or not, whether people are interested in you or what you have to say.

3) A site where teen stories are published was mentioned. And a lively discussion ensued on the need for more online magazines for young people…

4) Questions were raised about time management and the time consuming aspect of social media. Certain time strategies were proposed and shared for dealing with this:

            a) separate the various parts of your life into different email accounts
            b) only open your Facebook page when you have time for it.
            b) Facebook does not have to be a total obsession. It can be used strategically.
            c) make a website that is interactive.

5) We went around the room and stated our short term goals – what we wished to accomplish in the next two or three months.

6) to make some money in the short term, submitting to magazines was suggested.

Additional comments and feedback welcome!