Pima Writers’ Workshop—May 28-31

The last weekend of May I’ll be speaking at Tucson’s Pima Writers’ Workshop about Finding Your (Sense of) Place As A Writer.

I’ll also talk about emotion, description, and how they’re ultimately the same thing. This is the single realization that most transformed my work and turned me into a professional writer, one that continues to inform my work to this day.

Other conference faculty include Cynthia Bond, Monica Drake, Mike Harvkey, Nicole Walker, agents from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and John Hawkins & Associates, and more.

Download a brochure for a full schedule and faculty list—and to register.

Here’s my schedule for the conference:

  • Thursday, May 28, 7 p.m.: Meet-the-Authors Reception
  • Friday, May 29, 2:15 p.m.: Finding Your (Sense of) Place As A Writer
  • Saturday, May 30, 11:30 a.m.-noon: Reading
  • Saturday, May 30, 2:15 p.m.: Writing Exercise: Creating Emotional Landscapes

Hope to see some of you there!

Exploration

Dear Characters Who Stubbornly Refuse to Become Distinct from One Another,

Each of you has, like, only a couple distinguishing characteristics. You surely know this.

But if we combine you, you’ll have a whole bunch more. Right?

Right?

Hello?

– Me

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Dear All Characters on Deck,

See this nice little quest I have ready for you? Waiting over in the corner there?

You … don’t seem to be in any rush to go on it.

In fact, you see determined to DIY your own quest from the materials at hand instead.

But perhaps I’m misunderstanding. Let’s keep writing, shall we?

– Me

Tucson Festival of Books!

This weekend is the next Tucson Festival of Books! After six years, it’s hard to believe this event hasn’t been part of Tucson forever.

I’ll be there this Sunday, signing with Mostly Books from 12-12:45 p.m. (booth #148), and then moderating Ally Carter and Sarah Mlynowski’s Twitter and Trailers: Using Social Media to Promote Your Book panel from 4:00-5:00 p.m. (Education Bldg., Room 333).

And both Saturday and Sunday I’ll be on the UA Mall of course, enjoying the Festival. Hope to see many of you there!

Millions of Cats, Billions of Cats, More Stars Than in the Entire Milky Way of Cats

When it comes to picture books, not understanding the natural world inevitably leads to tragedy.


Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág

A cautionary tale about the dangers of relocating wildlife.

An old man removes an entire population of cats from their native ecosystem, only to discover he lacks the knowledge and resources to care for them on his own. When the cats grow hungry he offers them each a mouthful of grass, unaware that these obligate carnivores cannot subsist on such a diet. “What are you doing?” the old woman he lives with cries when she sees the cats, aware, as he is not, of how unsuited the creatures are for their new environment. Her fear proves well founded, as in their desperation for meat the poor felines ultimately resort to eating one another.

Only a single small kitten survives, young enough to live on the milk the man and woman are able to provide, but it faces an uncertain future as it grows “nice and plump” and nears adulthood.


Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

The tragic tale of a good-hearted squirrel who lacks the skills to survive in the wild. Unable to tell the difference between a bear, a rabbit, a frog, and an owl, our hero’s lack of discernment proves fatal when he cheerfully accepts an owl’s invitation into her nest for “cookies.” The final details of the squirrel’s inevitable demise are, in a bold yet necessary move, left to the imagination of the reader.

“Uh oh,” indeed.

Now Available! Unicorn Seasons: Four Magical Unicorn Tales

 My ebook collection, Unicorn Seasons, is now available!

From a mythical time before the winds were fixed to the corners of the earth to a present-day forest where unicorns are not—quite—extinct, this ebook exclusive brings together four magical tales about unicorns and the humans who are forever changed by them. Written over the course of two decades, these stories reflect my lifelong fascination with the mythical creatures.

Learn more about the collection and read excerpts here.

Or order your copy now from any of the e-tailers below:

- Kobo (and their many independent bookstore partners)
- Barnes and Noble
- Amazon
- Smashwords
- Apple (to come)

If you know any unicorn-loving readers who might enjoy these stories, please spread the word.

And if you finally meet a unicorn one day, whether in the heat of summer or upon the winter snow … well, I won’t say to run away, not exactly.

But be careful. Be very careful. Mythical creatures are, after all, chancy things.

For all those who never really stopped looking for unicorns

One day back in college, I declared myself through with unicorns. I pulled a childhood’s worth of accumulated unicorn posters off my walls, fully convinced I was finally growing up and moving on.

I was wrong. I never did move on, not really, not for good. I gave up my unicorn posters, but I never stopped telling unicorn stories.

Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that my ebook collection, Unicorn Seasons, goes on sale Monday and is available for pre-orders now.

 A unicorn for every season.

From a mythical time before the winds were fixed to the corners of the earth to a present-day forest where unicorns are not—quite—extinct, this ebook exclusive collection by acclaimed fantasy writer Janni Lee Simner brings together four magical tales about unicorns and the humans who are forever changed by them.

In Lost or Forgotten, a unicorn sacrifices his mortality for the woman he loves, leaving their descendants to mourn the loss. When sisters Sara and Amelia hear the trees calling to them one spring night, they have to decide whether to take on an ancient sorrow—or accept an ancient magic.

In Unicorn Season, Megan’s small-town summer turns more interesting when a local boy offers to help her find unicorns in the nearby mountains. But why is Josh so interested in the elusive creatures? Megan may not know as much about unicorns—or Josh’s motives—as she thinks.

In Tearing Down the Unicorns, Stacey is furious when her older sister tears the unicorn posters from their walls. Then she sees a real unicorn dancing in the autumn night, and she discovers there’s more to the mythical creatures than those rainbow-and-butterfly bedecked pictures show—and more to herself, as well.

In Windwood Rose, Miranda has been haunted all her life by strange music and uneasy dreams. When a unicorn appears in the snow one winter afternoon, it may have the answers she longs for. But will it be willing to give her all that she seeks?

Unicorn Seasons is available most places ebooks are sold. Read excerpts here, or pre-order your copy from any of the e-tailers below:

- Kobo (and their many independent bookstore partners)
- Barnes and Noble
- Amazon
- Smashwords
- Apple (to come)

And of course, if you feel inclined to spread the word, I’d be grateful!

April Henry on Rejection, Dry Spells, and Tenacity (Writing for the Long Haul Series)

New York Times bestselling author April Henry started writing in 1989 and published her first book a decade later. She joins the long haul series today to talk about rejection, career hard patches, and the one thing she believes long-haul writers need more than anything else: the tenacity to never stop writing.


Do you want to be a writer for the long haul? I think the key is tenacity. Tenacity is at least as important as talent.

In 1989, I had a dream: to write a book. I didn’t know a single writer.

Two years later, I had a finished book and a new dream: that it would be published and I could quit my day job. Instead, I got a ton of rejection letters from agents. Was my career over before it had even begun?

I wrote a second book and sent it out to agents. Agent after agent rejected it. Finally, an agent told me the book was one of the best she had ever seen. It was so good, she said, that she was sure I hadn’t shown it to any other agents. I did not tell her that over 50 agents had already rejected it.

A year later, it was clear my second book would never sell, despite complimentary rejection letters from editors. So I wrote a third book. Which got nothing but ho-hum rejections.

I could have given up, but instead I had been keeping busy writing a fourth book. Circles of Confusion sold to the first editor who saw it. The advance was certainly not “quit your job” money. We bought some new furniture.

But at least I was a real writer, right? I thought the hard part was over. I didn’t realize that just because you have been published once, it doesn’t mean you will be published again.

Circles of Confusion got nominated for several awards and got good reviews. I wrote a second in the series and then a third. I was on a publisher-paid tour for the third book when I learned they were dropping me because the sales of my second book hadn’t been double that of my first (an idea they hadn’t shared with me, although I’m not sure what I could have done about it if I had known). Would I ever be published again?

My heroic agent managed to move the series over to a different publisher for less money. I put out two books with them. The new publisher put very little effort into promoting them. One did great. The other not so great. We came to a mutual parting of ways.

Somewhere in here I wrote a few books that didn’t sell. One was on the chick lit side, the other really didn’t fit into a category.

In 2004, not only did I not seem anywhere close to quitting my day job, but my day job was starting to suck. I worried that I would never be published again. But that did not stop me from writing a new book, one with a 16-year-old main character. It was a YA according to my agent. (I had just thought of it as an adult book with a young main character.)

After that first YA, Shock Point, came out, I hit another hard patch. I had written another YA, but the release date kept getting pushed back and my editor had pretty much stopped answering my emails. Not only had my dream of quitting my day job faded, but my job had actually gotten worse. There were frequent “emergency” meetings in which I would realize one or two co-workers were missing. Then the meeting would turn out to be about how they had just been let go. It felt like everything was falling apart. But I didn’t stop writing.

I finished writing a YA book I really liked, about a blind girl who is accidentally kidnapped when someone steals her step-mom’s car—with her in it. My editor didn’t like it, saying that books about kidnapping were overdone.

In late 2007, I got approached about partnering with a TV legal analyst on an adult mystery series. When we made a four-book deal, I knew I would never again have such a biggish chunk of money at one time. So I quit my day job in 2008. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. A few months later, I sold the book about the blind girl—Girl, Stolen—to a new editor, Christy Ottaviano at Henry Holt.

In 2009, that first adult coauthored book, Face of Betrayal, hit the New York Times bestseller list. And I learned that Girl, Stolen would be a lead title for Holt the next year.

Girl, Stolen, which was originally turned down by my first editor, has since been on nine state lists, named a Quick Pick, and is on the recommended curriculum in Ireland.

From 2010 on, I have published two books a year, one adult and one YA. And I’ve managed to continue to make a living as a writer. I think the key has been being tenacious. Even if—and it’s probably when—I hit another dry patch, I will keep writing, keep trying.


April Henry knows how to kill you in a two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. April had one detour on her path to destruction: when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine. By the time she was in her 30s, April had come to terms with her childhood and started writing about hit men, drug dealers, and serial killers. Look for two new books from her in 2015: Lethal Beauty (written with Lis Wiehl) and Blood Will Tell.


Previous Writing for the Long Haul Posts

- Kelly Bennett on Quitting Writing
- Pete Hautman on the book that will save us
- Elena Acoba on touching reader lives
- Steve Miller on building a writing life
- Sharon Lee on remembering we’re not alone
- Betty G. Birney on always challenging ourselves
- Nora Raleigh Baskin on making deals with the writing gods
- Sean Williams on unpredictability and luck
- Deborah J. Ross on writing through crisis
- Sharon Shinn on managing time
- Marge Pellegrino on feeding the restless yearning to write
- Sarah Zettel on embracing ignorance and writing your passions
- Uma Krishnaswami on honoring unreasonable exuberance
- Jennifer J. Stewart on finding community and support
- Sherwood Smith on keeping inspiration alive
- Mette Ivie Harrison on defining success
- Jeffrey J. Mariotte on why we write
- Judith Tarr on reinventing ourselves
- Kathi Appelt on the power of story
- Cynthia Leitich Smith on balancing business and creativity

“And here we are waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye …”

Department of revising my Long Island childhood: ranking all 121 Billy Joel songs. (Via lnhammer.)

“The Falling of the Rain” gets a bad rap (for all that it’s not like anything else of his and very not Long Island), and “Only the Good Die Young” an over-generous one (good-kid me used to hate that song, and adult me still thinks Andrew Marvell did it better hundreds of years earlier), but he’s dead right putting “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” at number one, as well as ranking the post-apocalyptic “Miami 2017″ in the top ten.

Goodnight Moon and the End of All Things

My review of Goodnight Moon, as posted to Goodreads:

A heartbreakingly spare story about the heat death of the universe. One by one the things of the world are bid adieu. Beginning with small losses–clocks, socks, a young mouse who will never reach adulthood, the stakes rise relentlessly until the loss of the atmosphere, stars, and sound itself. In the end the illustrated moon shines on, a reminder of things lost, but the protagonist–and the reader–are left sleeping in the dark.

I’ll confess it took me a few (hundred) readings to fully understand this book, but aren’t the best works of literature like that?

For further commentary on Goodnight Moon, I recommend God-Night Rune, a translation from the original Old English; and Goodnight Room, a look at the inner workings of the Great Green Room.

Onward, into the mist, the future, the new year

Toddler was up before well before dawn this new year’s morning. We encouraged going back to sleep (and succeeded), but if we hadn’t, we realized later, we just might have seen snow falling to the desert floor.

As it was, what we saw was still more than worth getting up a little past dawn for.

[Sun on desert snow]

Any year that begins with desert snow has to be all right. Here’s to a good one for us all.