Categories: Events

A Change of Pace

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: August 31, 2012
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This August was unusual for the Scrivas. Often we queue up, figuring out what month someone or other can have a turn to submit bigger chunks of writing.  This past month, though, no one submitted any manuscripts for critiquing. 

What, nothing to critique??

We decided to meet anyway, with seven of the Scrivas able to attend. So what did we do–besides indulge in scrumptious tortilla soup, yummy mud pie, and a bit of Portland summer savored on Addie’s deck?

Of course, we caught up on each other’s summers and especially travels. Some reported on international trips and how these supported writing projects. Others shared about domestic adventures and writing accomplished despite, or thwarted by such adventures. 

We talked about books, titles rattling off at dizzying speed around the table. Those who had read them reacted. “I loved that!” / “I hated it!” could be heard about the very same title from the so shy and unopinionated (not!) Scrivas. 

We even talked, dear reader, about this blog, and how hard it can be to come up with topics we consider worthy of your attention. Some pitched in with suggestions for blog posts inspired by what we’d talked about that evening. Stay tuned in the months ahead for intriguing topics and treatments!

And we spoke about fall and back-to school rhythms for all of us, not just those who are parents and/or work in education. To a man…er, woman…we all hope and plan to write more and wonderfully. 

It’s happening already. Our critique plates will be full for September. Ruth already handed out a second or so draft of her sequel to Blue Thread. Liz sent out the first third of her just-sold graphic novel (yeay, Liz!) whose characters have become friends through previous drafts. And I got wind that Nicole has one or two picture books, readied for submission in breaks from her novel. 

Yes, the Scrivas are in full swing again. We relish it, too. Still, what a pleasant time it was having a full evening, not just the first bit of a meeting, dedicated to catching up. You may want to try it with your critique group one of these days, too. 

-Sabina I. Rascol

YA Goes to the Oscars

by Michelle McCann
Published on: May 7, 2012
Comments: 2 Comments

While watching the Oscars a few months back, I noticed something strange: a large number of nominations were for movies based on children’s books, particularly young adult novels. I counted and it was a whopping 21 nominations this year: 1 for Tin Tin, 3 for Harry Potter, 6 for War Horse, and 11 for Hugo.

And then there is the staggering success of The Hunger Games movie. Best-ever opening weekend. Already surpassed grosses for all the Twilight movies combined. I went to my very first midnight opening and was amazed to see hundreds of grown people standing in line for 5 hours. For a movie. On a school night!

What is going on? Why are these movies suddenly so popular, with adults as well as kids? I think it is the same reasons YA novels are so popular right now, with adults as well as kids:

Today’s YA novels are incredibly well-written AND incredibly fun to read.

Soon after the Oscars I came across a great piece in the New York Times that eloquently expressed my feelings about why YA is sweeping the nation (and the Oscars). Lev Grossman, book critic for Time Magazine, wrote an op ed that’s title says it all: “Nothing’s Wrong with Strong Plot and Characters.” In the article he admits to being in a YA-only book group (another trend I’m noticing these days) and lays out some ways that today’s YA novels are different from adult literary fiction:

  1. YA novels tend toward strong voices and clear, clean prose. Adult literary fiction, by contrast, can be more focused on style: dense, descriptive prose, full of carefully observed detail, which calls attention to its own genius rather than urging the reader forward.
  2. YA novels focus on storytelling. Much of adult literary fiction, on the other hand, explores ways to break down storytelling, fragment it and make it non-linear. This kind of reading demands a lot of work from the reader.
  3. YA novels are rarely boring. They are written to grab your attention and hold it.

These are the same reasons I believe so many people, young and old, are flocking to see YA movies these days. The stories are great. The characters are great. The themes are meaningful. And they are not boring to watch.

Grossman ends his piece with a sentiment that pretty much sums up why I love reading YA so much (and by extension, going to YA movies as well):

“I’m not as young as I once was. At my age, I don’t have time to be bored.”

And for those of you who, like me, love seeing your favorite YA books up on the big screen, you are in luck. The floodgates are open and just about every YA hit I can think of is “in production.” Here’s a short list of what I found on IMDB:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Sept. 2012 (starring Logan Lerman from Percy Jackson, and Emma Watson from Harry Potter)

Uglies, Nov. 2012

Incarceron, 2013 (starring Taylor Lautner from Twilight)

The Giver, 2013 (starring Jeff Bridges)

Ender’s Game, 2013 (starring Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Abigail Breslin)

Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2013

Maze Runner, 2013

Divergent, 2015

The Fault in Our Stars (TBA)

Scriva Amber to speak at the Write to Publish conference sponsored by Ooligan Press

by Amber Keyser
Published on: March 5, 2012
Categories: Events
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Karen Cushman and To-Do Tips

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: February 28, 2012
Comments: 3 Comments


I’ll start with the backstory: Once upon a time, the folks at Ooligan Press asked me for a list of potential reviewers for Blue Thread. Reaching for the stars, I included Karen Cushman. Much to my amazement, Karen gave Ooligan a blurb, such a great blurb, in fact, that it landed on the front cover of the book. Yes!

Karen Cushman

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I sent Karen an email about Blue Thread and thanked her again. In reply, she wrote, in part: “I wish you great success with the book and all the to-do that comes after.” All the to-do that comes after. Oh, Karen, you are so right!

There’s the celebratory kind of “to-do,” the recent launch of Blue Thread. Exciting and kinda scary. I’m not comfortable being in the spotlight.

Then there’s the so-much-to-do kind of “to-do,” which involves thoughtful, gracious, and time-consuming attention to spreading the word about the new book. Not so exciting. Not so scary. But, in fairness to Blue Thread, necessary and important.

Finally, there’s the big item that’s not on the Blue Thread “to-do” list, and that’s writing the next book.

I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks, since Blue Thread appeared on the scene. Here are my “to-do” tips for you:

  • Give yourself time, permission, and encouragement to enjoy your moment in the spotlight, even if it’s scary. Relax! No one’s going to remember if your hair wilted or there’s a quaver in your voice. They will remember your enthusiasm and your smile.
  • Eat well, exercise, rest.
  • Say “yes” to nearly everything, but remember that it’s OK to say “no,” too.
  • Commit to bringing spirit to your audience, whether there are two hundred people attending or two. Give them what in Hebrew is called ru-ach, a soulful, zesty, uplifting experience. Good for your audience; good for you.
  • Find your balance between doing right by the new book and “doing write” with the book-to-be. You might decide to stop working on your manuscript entirely for a few weeks, or you might decide to write 250 words on your manuscript every day. Your call.
  • Thank people. Thank your critique group, your editor, your publisher, your friends, your family, your audience, your muse.

So, with that it mind, I’ll end this post by saying, “Thank you!”



Book launch for Scriva Ruth’s new YA historical fantasy BLUE THREAD!

by Amber Keyser
Published on: February 13, 2012
Categories: Events
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Blue Thread

Ooligan Press invites you to celebrate
the launch of our newest book, Blue Thread.

Please join us in the Miller Pavilion
at the Oregon Historical Society
for light refreshments and a reading
by Ruth Tenzer Feldman.
Monday, February 27th, 5–7 p.m.
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
by February 21st

At South Coast Writer’s Conference, Scriva Amber covers graphic novels & reading for writers

by Amber Keyser
Published on: February 11, 2012
Categories: Events
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Scriva Amber will be teaching two workshops on Saturday:

Learning to Read for Writers & Illustrators – Amber Keyser

One of the first pieces of advice given to new writers and illustrators is “read what you want to write or draw.” What does that really mean? In this talk, I’ll dissect this cryptic (and overwhelming) suggestion into a series of activities that will help you get a handle on current books in your genre. These activities will help you spot trends, understand what works in children’s literature, and identify publishing houses that might be interested in your work. Plus, you’ll discover some gems for your bookshelf. Click here for a flow chart to guide your research efforts.

Graphic Novels: Get a Grip on a Rising Genre – Amber Keyser

There’s currently a lot of hype about graphic novels for kids. What’s it all about? In this talk, I’ll introduce the genre and discuss the ways in which graphic novels do things differently (and often better) than traditional prose. I’ll share how writing graphic novels has improved and enhanced the way I write my other books. You’ll leave excited about this growing phenomenon in children’s literature.

What I learned about publicity from John Green

by Michelle McCann
Published on: February 7, 2012
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Last Sunday I ungraciously fled our annual Scriva business meeting to join my students at the John and Hank Green “Tour de Nerdfighting” event. If you write children’s books, you are probably already familiar with bestselling YA author John Green (Waiting for Alaska, Will Grayson Will Grayson, The Fault in Our Stars). But unless you are a “geektastic” teen or twenty-something who spends too much time watching YouTube, you may not be familiar with the Nerdfighters phenom.

John and Hank (a musician) are “the Vlogbrothers.” Beginning in 2007, they have hosted a popular YouTube channel together, where they vlog back and forth to each other. Their vlogs sometimes involve the books and music they create, but mostly not. Their vlogs are some of the most popular on YouTube and their million-plus fans/community are known as “Nerdfighters” (check them out at

I went to their sold-out Portland event first and foremost, because I am a John Green fan: I love his books and think he is a unique voice in contemporary YA lit. Second, he is hysterical. Third, I am in awe of his ability to promote himself and his books without seeming to be promoting himself and his books. Even when driving around in this not-so-subtle tour bus!

But the biggest reason I went to see John is that we share one significant character trait: we both suffer from social anxiety. Unfortunately for me, it makes doing book events something I dread for months in advance. Thanks to fellow Scriva Ruth, I have two such events looming in March. I am filled with dread already. Here is what I worry about:

  1. I’m afraid no one will come.
  2. I’m afraid I will be boring.
  3. I’m afraid people WILL come and see how boring I am.

If John Green truly has social anxiety (as he claims), how can he possibly go on tour across the U.S. and “perform” in packed theaters full of strangers every night? Well, here is what I learned:

1. Stage lights help. The Bagdad Theater seats nearly 600 people and was so packed I had to sit in the aisle. But because of the lights John couldn’t see us so he claimed to be less nervous.

2. The audience was filled with his community. True to the Vlogbrothers’ slogan “Raising nerdy to the power of awesome,” the audience was full of… you guessed it, nerds. But not the embarrassed, shrinking-violets, stand-on-the-sidelines nerds of decades gone by. These millennial nerds were loud and proud. They wore their geekiness as a badge of honor. They screamed like it was George Clooney and Brad Pitt on stage. They loudly sang along to Hank’s songs about Harry Potter, physics, and lovelorn anglerfish. They freaked when John read this fan question “What would you do if zombies attacked you right now?” John and Hank have created a strong community, as John called it “a refuge for nerds.”

3. He didn’t try to be cool. John copped to his enormous stage fright right off the bat, causing the audience to root for him all the way through the show. He also stuck to doing things he was comfortable with. He talked about his inspiration for the book, read from it, answered fan questions. All pretty basic author event stuff (albeit the Q&A featured a machine that shocked whichever brother was left holding it when the time ran out, kind of like Hot Potato). Hank was the one who wore the tutu.

4. He brought a friend. It seemed easier to spread the burden of entertainment between two people. They supported each other onstage during their nervous moments, they each attracted their own fanbase to the event, and by alternating their “performances” they kept things moving along.

5. He was nice to everyone. I can’t tell you how many author events I’ve been to where I came away totally disillusioned. It’s surprising how many authors, even children’s book authors, can be rude and downright mean to their fans, not realizing (somehow) the permanent damage they are doing. Not John. Even though they still had to drive to Seattle after the Portland show, and even though John was suffering from pretty severe carpel tunnel syndrome, and even though there were 600+ eager fans waiting to meet him afterwards, John was kind and gracious to every person he met (my students were at the very end of the line and they confirmed it for me). He even looked me in the eye before signing my book. I left the event liking John even more than I had before and went right home and started reading The Fault in Our Stars. Mission accomplished, John.

So even though it is highly unlikely I will ever attract 600 screaming fans to the Bagdad to hear me talk about my books, I can incorporate some of what I learned from John into my own publicity:

* Be myself, don’t pretend to be cool.

* Do events with other authors.

* Invite my community for emotional support.

* Be nice to everyone who comes.

* Perhaps blind myself with some stage lights.

I can do that.

Days after returning home from the tour, Hank vlogged about how difficult it was to be on the road for 3 weeks and asked himself, “Why did we do it?” His answer was this:

“It’s vital to do things that are outside of your comfort zone… whether that’s volunteering in a homeless shelter or just going someplace you wouldn’t normally go, like somewhere where they line dance. Go somewhere where they line dance!”

So, it’s good for me to get outside my comfort zone. Doing promotional events is like eating spinach. Now if I could just work in some line dancing…

If you want an insider look at what a Scriva retreat looks like…

by Amber Keyser
Published on: November 8, 2011
Categories: Events
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… You can check it out here.

We wrote.
We revised.
We laughed.
We ran on the beach.
We drank hot apple pies.
We ate baked oatmeal.
We answered that crazy old phone.
We missed our ScrivaMary.

… Can’t wait until next time!

Report from KidLitCon 2011 – CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY

by Amber Keyser
Published on: September 27, 2011
Categories: Events, Inspiration
Comments: 6 Comments

KidLitCon 2011 was all about CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY.  It was invigorating like this killer mural I passed in Seattle.


Unlike many writers’ conferences, which are tinged with an air of desperation, the path to publication was NOT the focus.  Instead KidLitCon attendees are primarily bloggers focused on connecting authors and their books to readers.  Not as marketers (though some authors assume that every blog is a lightly veiled form of advertisement) but as matchmakers devoted to getting the right book in the right hands.  Need proof?  Take the passionate conversation with Colleen Mondor about how her review of a book she loved could “best serve the book.”  Inspiring!


It was deeply satisfying for me to meet others (in person, since I had connected with many via Twitter) who are committed to the tripartite nature of story-telling.  There must be a story, a teller, and an audience.  CONNECTION—I love it!


Another key take home for me was that these connections had to be AUTHENTIC.  Truth starts with the story.  The panel on diversity (Lee Wind, Sarah Stevenson, Brent Hartinger, Sara Ryan, Justina Chen) reminded us that the heart of the story is inhabited by authentic, non-stereotypical characters whatever their ethnicity and orientation.  Writers (no matter their ethnicity or orientation) must get it right for truth to infuse the story.


Much discussion on authenticity circled around how we review books.  Bloggers make many choices about their own process and the key is transparency.  If you only discuss books you like (book recommendations vs. critical book reviews) then say so on your blog.  If you’re taking on the crucial job of true book reviews, remember that critique is not a litany of failures.


Authenticity was also a theme of Holly and Shiraz Cupala’s presentation on DIY marketing.  They urged authors to focus on giving value to bloggers, potential readers, book store buyers, and librarians.  We shouldn’t be trying to trick people into switching tooth paste brands.  We should be trying to fill a need.  Shiraz shared a quote from Simon Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do.  They buy why you do it.”  Isn’t that another way of saying we all want the heart of the story?


Perhaps the best gift of KidLitCon 2011 was the synergy with Angel Punk.  Devon Lyon, Matthew Wilson, Jake Rossman, and I presented a panel entitled The Future of Transmedia Storytelling: Angel Punk, Pottermore, and Skeleton Creek.  (For those of you who weren’t there, transmedia tells interwoven but non-overlapping story lines through multiple forms of media.  In our case, film, comics, novel, and online.)  Transmedia is about CONNECTION because of fan participation in the story-telling process and because each form of media engages and unites a different set of fans.  It was exciting to see the enthusiasm of other KidLitCon attendees for both our approach to story-telling and the heart of our story itself.  (Thanks, you guys!)


I’m still flying high from KidLitCon 2011.  I left with real, true, new friends—CONNECTION and AUTHENTICITY.

10 Reasons to Write a Book Proposal BEFORE Writing the Book

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2011
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ScrivaLiz will be teaching a seven-week intensive workshop at the Attic Institute in Portland, Oregon, on How to Write a Book Proposal, Thursdays 5-7 pm starting October 6.  To learn more or register, go to

Say you have an idea for a nonfiction book for children or adults. What is one way to greatly decrease your chances at getting it published? Write the book. It sounds counter intuitive, but if you want your nonfiction book published, you should write a book proposal BEFORE writing the book. Here’s why:

10. Your book will likely be better organized. Most proposals include an outline. The exercise of planning what are going to cover and how you are going to organize it will help your manuscript read more smoothly.

9. You can nail the voice. Most proposals include a sample chapter, giving you a chance to find and hone your voice before producing the whole book.

8. Your book will be more different from other books. Most proposals include a competitive analysis, where you identify and describe other books on the same subject matter and point out how your book will be different and better. The exercise will keep you from writing a book that has already been written and will help you make your book stand out from the rest.

7. You will know your audience better. Most proposals include a description of the target audience. The exercise of asking yourself who exactly your book is for and why they would be interested in your book will help keep your writing on target for the audience.

6. Proposals are meant to be discussed and fine-tuned. If you submit a whole manuscript and it’s way off-base in length, tone, or focus, the publisher will likely say no. If the proposal is an interesting idea but is off-base in length, tone, or focus, the editor can talk to you about changes before you have invested in writing the full book.

5. You will be ready to write the book. The proposal is a road map for your writing – a clear, well-thought out road map that you and the editor agree on. This gives you a to-do list that can help you tackle the book step-by-step.

4. You can be paid to write the book. If you sell a book project based on a proposal, you will probably get half of your advance on signing. That is welcome money that can help support you or pay for research as you write.

3. Your editor will ask for fewer revisions. If you and editor agree on a proposal and you write what you said you would write, there should be fewer surprises when you turn in your manuscript and the editor asks for revisions.

2. It is the way the majority of nonfiction books are sold. Many publishers ask for proposals. Giving a publisher what they want shows you are knowledgeable about their business and a real professional.

1. You can get it done! Proposals are generally shorter than book manuscripts. It is something you can do quickly and relatively easily to get your idea out into the market.

ScrivaLiz can help. Join her for a seven-week intensive on how to write a book proposal. Come with an idea. Leave with a draft.

Elizabeth Rusch is the author of five books sold based on proposals. She is currently writing three more book proposals, and plans to write many more. Her workshop starts October 6.

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