July 30, 2009

Whoo Hoo!!!

I’ve still been researching promotional possibilities for my books and have been trying to develop some online activities for kids. As a result, I have been up to my eyeballs in tech stuff and not writing much. I’ll talk about that some more in a later post when my new website is up and running and I can show you some results.

But right now I’d like to share some good news. Guardian Angel Publishing continues its streak of being my dream publisher and has accepted another picture book of mine. It’s a rhyming picture book titled, Just For Today. It’s about a child dealing with separation anxiety. I don’t have a release date yet, but I will keep you posted when I have more information.

This makes book number seven for me and it feels both great and strange to be saying that. I guess that’s because none of my books have been released yet. I guess it won’t be entirely real for me until my first book, If I Could Be Anything, comes out in the Fall. Meanwhile, does anyone know how to center a flash file in html?

July 16, 2009

Slush Pile Warrior - Michael Sullivan

Welcome to another edition of Slush Pile Warrior. This feature focuses on the trials and tribulations of pursuing publication for both the novice, and experienced writer alike. This month, it is my pleasure to feature the talented, Michael Sullivan.

Please tell us a little about yourself:

I’m the father of two beautiful boys, the husband of an amazingly creative and understanding wife, and someone who has been lucky enough to find love in his work – as a writer and as a pediatric nurse. It’s not every day you find jobs that make use of so many of the seemingly useless things you’ve done in life.
I’ve been writing since elementary school, when an English teacher made the mistake of putting out a stack of writing projects for extra credit. I think I ended up with an A++++++++++++ in her class. I still have those papers. I’m thinking of submitting them for publication under a pseudonym, but I’d be really embarrassed if the third grade me did professionally better than I am doing.

How many submissions do you have out there now?

Not enough.
I had probably 7 or 8 running around, doing their thing, but they’ve slowly been coming home lately. I’m finding more and more responses like “We are no longer accepting submissions, get an agent.” It may be me but I didn’t see this information in any of my research, which leads to your next question…

How do you research where to send your manuscripts?

I use CWIM and Jacket Flap and Writer’s Market. When I remember to I also like to jot down the publishers who’ve taken some of the stories I like to read to my children. If I feel the style or humor match with mine, I’ll do some more research on them. I’ve spent most of my time looking at book publishers, but I’m coming to realize that there’s a lot of things I’d like to write and it’d be good to have a wide and varied collection of clips. My nose gets too high, though, and all of a sudden I get this attitude that nothing but publication of a picture book will do. DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
And there’s the sound of crickets chirping because you don’t know who I am because I haven’t published very much because I’ve closed myself off from those markets because I fear that what I’ve written is really good and it may not get better and shouldn’t it therefore be in book form instead?
So maybe how I really research things is I sit at my desk and IMAGINE what it will be like when my piece is accepted. I research in my mind what it would feel like to sit in the publisher’s office with an illustrator and editor and my agent and masseuse. I research this feeling and take it out into a book signing attended by hundreds of adoring children. I slyly stand in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, just nearby my book, waiting for someone to pick it up. I think up what all these moments would be like, and then place the stamp on the envelope and send it away.
I didn’t say this was a good method.

What was your biggest submission goof? What did you learn from it?

I tend to take on this very meek, “please publish me” persona at times. It’s really quite pitiful to look upon, I imagine. Eyes are probably drooping, shoulders slumped, a manuscript limp and torn in my hands. It makes me try even harder, which then just adds this look of intense anguish to my face. I mostly get this when I’m reaching too far beyond what’s in front of me. A very good friend – also a publisher – told me it’s all about numbers and credits. My biggest goof is forgetting that you have to start somewhere… and that’s not usually at the top!

Why do you want to be a writer?

Ha! Someone asked Stephen King something like this, I think. “Why do you write the kinds of stories you write?” His response was, “You think I have a choice?”
I am a writer would be my first response. Part of the angst of writing is forgetting that being read by others does not mean being a writer. When I’m miserable with my writing it’s usually because I’ve placed that condition on considering myself a writer. I’ll always lose that argument because there will always be rejection slips coming in. I feel like and know I am a writer when I’m sitting or laying down with a notebook in front of me and doodling. Or when I’m driving along and a thought for a story pops in my head. Or just typing away at this cool questionnaire. Words and sentences and the art of finagling them together so that you create “this” feeling, it’s addictive. And there’s just some part of me that can’t put that down, that needs to struggle to say something and say it perfectly.
Bottom line, I love it and always have. It’s who I am, not really what I am.

What is your favorite style of writing? Why?

Forward works well.
Seriously, I think that changes. I like a sense of ridiculousness or just oddness to my stories – like what would a boy do born with a leg on top of his head, for example. I don’t really know, never actually thought about it, but it’s something I’d flop around for awhile, just having fun seeing how he would interact with the world. So fantasy and fiction definitely. I also like things that are a bit scary, or, again, just odd enough that you’re not quite sure how scared to be. Whether this comes out in prose or poetry depends on what I hear. Mostly it’s been prose but occasionally a character let’s me know he thinks verse would sound better.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

Looking at my list of writing things to do, which I’ve posted right beside my computer. That’s one. Probably the worst is writing when there seems to be nothing to write about, when you sit there and start story after story, maybe only a sentence or two, and then move to the next. It’s like no one wants to talk to you anymore, or at least no one interesting.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Huh. I feel connected to the world in a way I don’t normally feel. It’s an incredibly freeing thing. Regardless of what I’m writing I also get this sense, perhaps soon or perhaps long, after I’ve finished that I’m also doing something wonderful for myself. It could be as big as tackling something like, “Why am I here?” When I write and what I say is so alive I’m inside it, then I have part of the answer or maybe all of the answer to that question. Or it could be smaller like, “I wanted to give someone a serious case of the willies with this story and I succeeded.” Feeling like what I wrote accomplished what I wanted it to is very rewarding.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

It’s more than I ever thought it was. It heals on levels beyond what I can understand.
Also, you can’t do it alone. Or, better, that you don’t have to. I’ve learned more about writing through participation in my critique groups than I ever did from reading a book about writing. When you have a group of strong, honest writers working with you it can transform your work into something leagues better than what you imagined.

Have you been published? If so where?

I spent about 5 years as a fulltime reporter and editor in the New York area, working for several newspapers and then for a magazine. While doing this I also freelanced and had a few humor pieces picked up by Bridal Guide Magazine. I converted to the children’s market 5 years ago, while at the same time having a few kids and going to nursing school. I’m extremely happy to say I recently sold several pieces to a spooky anthology due out from Marshall Cavendish in 2010.

How can people find out more about you?

I finally got a website up and running. It’s at http://msullivantales.com/.
Besides the writing, I put some video up there of my wife and I making fools of ourselves at our son’s school. We actually did that professionally for about 10 years. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to sneak in some more gigs.
I also have a blog at http://msullivantales.wordpress.com/. The blog contains the amazing, the wonderful, the mostly pointless fun of THE BLOB CONTEST! Please come check it out.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

This peanut butter cookie is pretty good, but my Wonkavision machine is broken. Sorry.

I would like to share a big thank you to you, Kevin! You’re an amazing, gifted and giving writer. Your dedication to the craft is admirable and I’m glad it’s paying off.

Thanks for stopping by Mike. Great interview, it's always fun to hear your humorous and unique perspective on things. Best of luck to you in your writing career.

July 7, 2009

Some Tech Stuff

One thing I didn’t realize when I set out to be a writer, is how little time I’d have to actually write. After I received my first contract, I began learning about the business end of writing and it was a real eye opener. I needed to spend a lot of time setting up the promotional aspects of my writing career. After all, nobody will be able to buy my books if they don’t know that they’re out there

My first endeavor was creating my website. I needed to get some name recognition and begin building my brand as a writer. I remember tinkering with the settings on my web editing software for what seemed like forever. Finally, I came up with a design I liked that would be fairly easy to maintain and update.

My second project was my blog which I launched last year in anticipation of my book releases. I designed the blog, put all my various links and widgets in it, joined a virtual book tour group, and started promoting. The only problem was that my book releases were taking longer than I thought, so there was nothing to promote. I took a leave of absence from the virtual book tour group and will probably have to do a complete overhaul of my links before I become active again. Also, I’m going need some fresh interview material, book information and some press kits as well. I should have started on some of this stuff already, but I’ve been sidetracked by my latest project…online games.

I decided that I needed to have something for kids besides my books. My website www.kevinmcnamee.com is not very kid friendly. Mostly, it introduces me as an author and has background information geared to adults who would like to find out more about me. Frankly, I know that kids could care less, so I wanted to have a site dedicated to entertaining them and have games, coloring pages, and other activities based on my books. The website is www.kevschildrensbooks.com but don’t bother going there. I haven’t loaded any pages yet. I’ll post an announcement when this website is ready to launch.

I started by teaching myself different computer languages. Building my website gave me a working knowledge of what code is supposed to do, so I took it to the next level. I taught myself Java and wound up developing a decent interactive coloring page. The problem with Java is that there it is an older technology and some people turn it off entirely because of security problems. I asked a few people to test my coloring page on their computers and a few of them couldn’t see my page at all. I decided to scrap Java in favor of Flash technology.

Flash games will run on any flash player. Just about everyone already had one loaded on their computer, plus flash doesn’t have the security problems that Java has, so it seemed like a good choice for game programming.

It was a steep learning curve, but with the help of two “dummies” books and some online tutorials, I was able to come up with a jigsaw puzzle based on the Sister Exchange that didn’t crash and burn every time I tried to run it.

I still need to design a web page for this puzzle. When I’m done I’ll post a link for it, feedback will be appreciated. I’m still trying to put together an online coloring book and a drawing pad for kids. I think I’m OK with the drawing pad although I’d like to add some more bells and whistles to it. The coloring book is giving me some problems but I’m still plugging away at it.

I’ve sort of been out of the loop lately, but I just wanted to let everyone know what I’ve been up to. I figure that as soon as I wrap up this tech stuff, I’ll be able to get back to get back to the business at hand, which if I remember correctly … was writing.