You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.

lottery balls


If you want to get rich, pick another industry. Seriously.


Do not write about your dog, your grandkids, horses, rainbows, puppies, feelings, or fairies. Be careful about wizards too.


Get a [good] agent.


Work with a professional editor.


Work with a professional book designer.


Assume the publisher will assign the illustrator.


Know that it’s a numbers game.


Writing a book is much harder than you think.


There is no such thing as a shortcut that works in children’s publishing.


Get comfortable with rejection.


When you think you’re finished, cut 200 pages.


Understand the difference between guerilla marketing and gorilla marketing. The first is okay; the second is not okay.


Seek to broaden your understanding beyond writer’s societies.


Become a prospective bookseller.


Become a prospective publisher.


Know that the market over-publishes, and only the strong survive the first printing.


Understand the difference between frontlist, backlist, and midlist.


Don’t call yourself a publisher unless you have more than six different books by different authors in print and you own the ISBNs.


Present yourself professionally.


Don’t try to start a viral campaign under an assumed name.


If you self-publish, expect skepticism.


Invest in professional design for your website.


Even award-winning authors have trouble moving books.


Publishers and booksellers talk; your reputation for difficulty will precede you.


Stop reading bestsellers if you want to write.


The way to the universal is through the deeply personal.


None of this $#%@$! matters unless you write a good book.



Savvy by Ingrid Law

Penguin; May 2008; 352 pp; $16.95 HC


Core Audience: Readers 12+ and folks who love predicting award winners

Strengths: Completely original from cover to cover and then some

Twelve-year-old Mibs Beaumont has been counting down the days till her thirteenth birthday—the day her “savvy” will make itself known. Will she be able to create hurricanes like her brother? Or capture wonderful sounds in canning jars like her grandmother? Then Mibs’ father has a terrible accident just before her birthday, and Mibs feels sure that her savvy will be to help her dad. When she stows away on a traveling salesman’s pink bus to try to get to her father’s distant hospital, she finds herself on a madcap odyssey in the heartland of America—one that is as full of unexpected adventure and friendship as Mibs herself. Like some of my other favorite offbeat books of recent years, this story is absolutely original, with detail and a richness in the writing that paves its own way. This novel is also remarkable in the fact that it combines matter-of-fact bible belt imagery and fantastical super-powers in the same story in a way that manages to be neither off-puttingly dogmatic or overly fantastical, but rather sort of dreamy and lyrical. A book as unexpected as its main character and anyone who reads it seems to love it, no matter where they are coming from.

Rating: 9.0

IB logo

Buy this book from your local independent bookstore

Patron Saint

The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

Bloomsbury; April 2008; 304 pp; $16.95 HC


Core Audience: Girls 14+ and adult crossover readers

Strengths: Timely subject, amazingly perceptive writing, and unflinching honesty

If you haven’t yet read this book personally, move it up your pile, because this is one of the best reads I’ve chewed through this year. This book is timely in that it centers on two girls being raised in a fundamentalist religious cult, but this book completely steers clear of sensationalism. It’s told in alternating voices of two childhood friends: one girl who now buys the party line, and the other who chafes under it like a wet wool blanket. It is an amazing piece of writing about finding one’s voice, conformity, the nature of family, identity during adolescence, and it has a satisfying and redemptive ending. There were a couple of harrowing moments in the reading where I was so emotionally invested that I had a hard time remembering that I was not actually in the book. The unflinching honesty probably comes from the fact that the author herself was raised in a cult, and has had many years to come to terms with her family’s experience. (The first draft of the book was a memoir which was deemed too dark for sale.) Because of the topic, many folks may need a handsell on this book, but they will not be disappointed. This is a great one for mother-daughter book clubs, and will offer much fodder for discussion.

BONUS: This book will raise may questions about the nature of fiction and memoir for readers, and Cecilia Galante has put some substantial thought into her website where she thoughtfully answers the questions readers often ask.

Rating: 9.5

INdie Bound

Buy this book form your local independent bookstore

Handmade tag

If my blog had a wash-and-wear tag it would say:

Slight imperfections, bumps, and color variations are characteristics of handcrafted projects, and they enhance the beauty of this garment.

Why do I say this?

I’m just back from an extended Book Expo hiatus, which is a three month marathon for me, during which I literally have time for nothing else, including food and sleep.

It’s nice to be home.

In recent link-backs some of you blogeratti have very tactfully pointed out that although I post infrequently, what I have to say is interesting, or relevant, or at least not-irrelevant. I appreciate your circumspection.

But here’s the thing I have noticed about being a blogger. I’m sure you other bloggers will understand. If I’m not careful, blogging begins to feel an awful lot like work. And, as many of you know, I have plenty of work already.


How many of you saw the 4/6 article in the NYT titled In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop? Actually, that’s probably a stupid question, since we are a pretty self-referential bunch. I’m sure the blogosphere was alight. Anyway, it talks about bloggers dropping dead from overwork. Most of us kid lit bloggers are nowhere near that level of ridiculousness, but I did have to make a decision early on to pace myself.

It’s easy to see how it can get away from you. Starting out, I got a little thrill each time my blog was mentioned by another blog, especially ones with lots of traffic. I obsessed over my metrics. I lost sleep to write. “They like me! I’m included! MUST-WRITE-MORE!”

My initial experience of blogging suddenly felt very much like high school. Who are the taste-makers? Who are people talking about? What do I want to say about what they’re saying? If I wasn’t writing, I felt compelled to read everything, just in case.

After a few weeks I suddenly thought “Wait a minute! I already went through high school. I am SO over it. Duh.” (Sound of forehead being slapped.) I still check out what’s being talked about, but now I appreciate that reading less insures that what I’m writing about is coming from an original and organic place.

Which brings me to my next point. I also recognized very early on that there are two types of blogs. Those that generate original content and those that serve as a clearinghouse by aggregating lots of interesting information from other blogs/cyberspace in one place, often with added commentary. Aggregating content seemed like a great way to generate traffic, but too much of a treadmill. I guarantee that those recently deceased bloggers in the NYT article were spending lots of time on that same treadmill.

So, original content it is. It suits my creative nature anyway.

I’m a marketer by profession. I know the rule that regular posting=more traffic. It’s true, if traffic is all you care about, and you actually have something relevant to say. It’s possible to bootstrap your way to industry fame through this technique.

But here’s what I care about: writing about whatever interests me, whenever it interests me. Writing about it in depth, and being realistic about everything I have to do. In short, going for authenticity and substance over popularity. (Again, like high school.)

So, I am unfurling the banner of the Idiosyncratic Blogger, and making my confession. I am an inconsistent poster. I may go for quite some time without saying a thing, and then I will post in a clump. I occasionally will apologize to you, my readers out of a sense of guilt. I may make excuses. I hereby give myself permission to have a life beyond this desk. I’m going deep, and I’m in it for the long haul. If nothing else, I promise to be authentic, even in my inadequacy.

Want to join the IB club? I’d love company! I give you permission to be imperfect too!

dad in the mirror

I’m about to cross the 100,000 hit mark here at pixie stix.

I don’t know 100,000 people, so I must be doing something right.

During my childhood, my (slightly eccentric) father had a ritual when his long suffering truck would hit a 100,000 mile odometer reading. (Several of his trucks have made this marker 2 or 3 times, as in 300K.) No matter where he was, he would stop the truck, get out, and circle the truck three times. Could be a busy four lane highway, or it could be a dusty back road. Then, without a word, he would keep driving.

I want to take a moment both to thank the many great people who have linked to me in praise of a post, or those that have been clearly passing the word.

If you were here with me, you would see me circling the desk three times.

Now let’s keep going.


At BEA recently, I was facilitating a panel on the Gen-Z reader, (as in Gen x, gen y, gen z), and one of the threads the conversation turned to was whether the publishing industry can use the music industry as an example for the future. In particular whether artists/authors will take control of the medium as they have in music, thereby cutting out the middle man. The panelists were not convinced that the model went that far, given all the complicated things that have to happen to make a book a book. I myself am pretty sure that we will see increasing examples of this, given that consumer control over pretty much everything is the wave of the future. I definitely think that the readers and authors of the future will be much more empowered and DIY about things.

It’s already happening.

I give you Tikatok, an online publishing service for the young authors of the moment. Started by a mom, this is basically a site where, for less than $20, children can self-publish their own paperback or hardcover book. Using “story sparks” or completely from scratch, they do it all using the template based system. They can upload art directly to the site or mail it in. The whole thing is very well designed, clean, and easy to navigate. They even offer packages to schools and libraries for group orders. (This might be a very cool project for a children’s bookstore too!) The site is very family centered, and has an awesome and well-thought-out privacy policy.

And, the above handmade example aside, there are several examples on their site of books with fantastic art and photographic treatments. It’s possible to come up with a very credible product. Especially if you’re a second grader.

Yes, there have been self-publishing projects for kids in the past, but never have they been so kid-centered, user-friendly, or so interactive. Seriously, this is something an elementary kid could do pretty much on their own. Certainly, not every tikatok author will run their own publishing house in the future, but it’s not a far leap from here to web publishing, blogging, and all other manner of communication. I do think the youngsters of today will have a VERY different idea about communication when they hit adulthood.

As a mom, I think this is pretty cool.

What do you think?


Welcome to pixie stix kids pix, the site for reviews and opinions about new and interesting books for children and young adults, by a professional in the children's book industry.

What rates?

When I read books they get rated on a 10 point scale. What I like is subjective, but basically I look for great content, excellent design, and fresh ideas. Generally, only books that receive a 7.0 or higher make it on to the site.

Got a comment or question?

Send it to Kristen

Or come say hi on MySpace

Follow me on Twitter

Browse by category