First, let me say that this is what my average family gathering looks like around the holidays. The poisonous mushrooms steaming up grandma’s crystal platter. The live goldfish flitting about wide-eyed in their bowl, wondering if they’ll be swallowed whole or if cousin Octavia will get a hold of them first. Cousin Octavia likes to play with her food. Then there’s the questionable Jell-o, the stuffed gecko and Aunt Muriel’s bottle of Chanel No 5. Always handy when the still-beating heart hidden under the floorboards starts to smell.Okay, my real family gatherings aren’t quite so grim, but they would make a good setting for a tummy-turning tale. So what are the secret ingredients to a juicy, brain-curdling yarn? (more…)
Attention teachers, students and book lovers everywhere! I’ve created a new discussion guide for my middle grade novel, SKELETON TREE. If your class or book club does read and discuss SKELETON TREE, I would love to hear from you online! Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook 🙂
Download PDF: Skeleton Tree Discussion Guide
I stumbled across this creepy lady at a garage sale a few years ago. She has yet to haunt my dreams or wink at me provocatively while I’m watching TV, but fingers crossed. At least she’s finally bonding with Hera, aka the Puppy of Unfathomable Evil.
So, you’re an aspiring writer, and you’re considering going to a writing conference. Is it worth it? What should you keep in mind?
1. Do you need to attend conferences to become a professional writer?
No, you don’t. Conferences cost money, and sometimes you just don’t have it. What you do need is grit, a willingness to learn, a broad knowledge of the literature you’re trying to write and an awareness of how the industry works. It also helps to have a supportive group of fellow writers, who share your dreams, will give you constructive feedback on your work and will cry and/or celebrate with you when required. Attending a writing conference or joining a professional group, like SCBWI, can help with many, but not all of those things. If you are looking to learn more about the industry and to join a supportive community of writers, then attending a conference can be a great first step.
2. Will I get an agent or sell a book at a conference?
Maybe, but probably not. You are there to learn and make connections. Be open, ask questions and don’t be afraid to talk to the industry professionals attending the conference. They are regular people just like you. Learn how to give and receive feedback. Many conferences provide an opportunity for attendees to receive manuscript critiques from agents or editors. Don’t stress out. This is a learning opportunity. Make sure to listen and give yourself time to process any critiques before responding or dismissing feedback. Defending your work at first is totally natural, but try not to do it out loud, especially in your one-on-one with an editor or agent 🙂 Be open to making changes. Feedback that sounds wrong at first may end up enhancing your story if applied in the right way. Of course, the opposite remains true as well. Not every piece of advice that you receive from a critique partner or professional will improve your work. By joining a regular critique group, you can learn how to parse out which pieces of feedback to apply and which to ignore.
3. Will it be worth my time and money?
In my experience, yes. I always come away inspired and energized to work. I have made excellent friends through my affiliation with SCBWI, and I can’t imagine going on my writing journey without them. Plus, you will get to meet amazing people like these (goose not included):
To learn more about SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, visit https://www.scbwi.org/ or https://oklahoma.scbwi.org/ for the Oklahoma chapter. You’ll also find information about their upcoming conference 🙂
Ever since I was little, I dreamed of becoming a starving artist, and now I’m finally pursuing that goal!!! 😛 This is my last day working at the Southwest Oklahoma City Library. From here on out, I will be trying my hand at being a full-time author. I don’t have any misconceptions about the future. I know it will be hard, and it may not work out forever, but I’m grateful to have this opportunity. Here are some pictures from my last day:
My debut middle grade novel, SKELETON TREE, came out with Scholastic on September 26th, and I had an amazing fall filled with fun book signings and events. Here are some photo highlights:
My awesome editor, Mallory Kass, recently sent me some advance final copies of Skeleton Tree!!! They are so beautiful! The cover has a unique, pearlescent finish that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The artwork by Lisa Perrin is amazing, especially the skull butterfly on the back. If you take the dust cover off, you’ll find an imprinted butterfly, complete with tiny skulls on a seafoam green background with vibrant pink text.
And there’s a big surprise on the inside as well. Skeleton Tree has a hidden flip book!
I’ve been having fun this summer talking my library co-workers into helping me make some awesome #bookface photos to post on Twitter and Instagram!!! If you haven’t tried it before, beware, capturing the perfect #bookface is fun, but it’s also harder than it looks. Mostly, it’s a process of trial and error. If the face on the cover is really big, the photo model will have to hold it close to their face to get a realistic image. Sometimes, the face is just too big, though, and the image doesn’t work. For small cover images, like body shots, you’ll need a third person to stand between you and the model to hold the book. #bookface photos are serious business 😛
Here are some of my successes. They’re not all perfect, but at least they’re weird:
Young adult author Julie Dill joined me this week in the hot seat to discuss the writing life, poker and her debut young adult novel, BLUFF.
Your new novel BLUFF is about a 17-year-old girl who sneaks out of the house at night to play poker at a casino. Are any parts of your story based on your real life?
I was never in a casino until I was actually old enough, but I did fly to Las Vegas when I turned 21. I had played home poker games with my family with rolls of quarters so I thought I knew enough about the game to join in. Back in the 90’s it was unusual for young women to play so it was a little intimidating, but I did it (and held my own!). Now, I just play recreationally a couple times a year.
How did you get started as a writer?
When my daughters were young I started dabbling with bedtime stories, etc. I became serious when I heard Anna Myers speak at a book festival I attended. She was generous with information about the publishing world, and I was eager to learn. I’ve always been a book lover.
What advice do you have for young people interested in writing?
Read, read, read. I know that sounds cliché, but reading is the number one practice that will strengthen your writing skills. Also, surround yourself with people that will make you better at what you do.
What was the most exciting/surprising part of your publishing journey?
It is really exciting to walk in a bookstore and see your project on a shelf. I love to dig around on the world library catalog to see where Bluff has landed. I was super excited to see it has hit many libraries in Singapore. So cool!
Should readers be looking for a sequel to BLUFF? Or what are you working on now?
Yes, I am working on a sequel. I have a middle grade novel I am revising then my focus will be on the sequel. Writing, for me, just isn’t sitting down to draft. I feel like I’m constantly “writing” throughout my day. I get a lot of my ideas when I run, do laundry, etc. then I carve out time to actually develop those ideas.
About Julie Dill
Julie Dill lives in Oklahoma City where the wind comes sweeping down the plains-literally.
As a young girl she always wanted to be a teacher, so she went on to receive her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and taught ten years in elementary schools. Currently, she serves as an adjunct professor and loves helping students achieve success. One of her greatest professional accomplishments is earning her National Board Certification.
She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Oklahoma City University and continues to work on various writing projects. From hiking in Colorado, to playing poker in Vegas, she’s always up for a new challenge. Julie is a busy mom of two teenage daughters (send backup!), and any extra time that she may carve out is spent reading, writing, and rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Find her on Twitter: @JulieDillOKC