Saturday, June 22, 2013


      I offered a book giveaway contest this past week and have not had a single contestant.  Obviously there's been a failure of communication here, and I will now try to rectify it.
     This contest is a multistep process, as follows:
           Step One: I set it up and announce the rules.
           Step Two: People enter the contest.
           Step Three: I choose a winner and deliver the prize.
     I've performed Step One.  I cannot, however, perform Step Two, because it requires action by persons other than myself.  Nor can I perform Step Three, because there is no way in this world that I can select a winner from among nonexistent contestants.  I've actually given the matter some thought, but - nope. Can't do it.
     So. Whoever you are and wherever you live, please - step up to the plate. Enter the contest! Maybe win a wonderful book!  And if you don't win this time, I have a lot more giveaway contests in the pipeline, but someone has to win this one first!  Don't make me come after you!!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

     The answer: It isn't. The Mad Hatter had no idea what the answer was to his own riddle, and that's because it wasn't a real riddle, the answer to which would have been based on a clever pun; it was just a nonsensical question without an answer, which infuriated the practical-minded Alice.

     On the other hand, there are such things as questions that may sound nonsensical, but that are, in fact, so sensical that even Alice would approve. Here's one: why is the process of performing revisions on a novel like the process of preparing an argument before the state Supreme Court?
     I guess I should explain. I have two jobs: (1) being an appellate lawyer, which consists of writing briefs and orally arguing cases, and (2) writing novels, which consists of writing novels. The first job brings me a paycheck; so far, the second one doesn't.
     For the past week and a half, I've been in the throes of revising my latest novel. In the process, I've come to realize that I managed to create the characters and narrative, and write an entire first draft, all without being aware of some major themes I'm now discovering.  I was trying to understand how this could even be possible, when - eureka! I discovered an analogy to my other job.
     When I prepare an appeal for the lower of the two state appellate courts, I do research; I analyze the issues; I organize my arguments. By the time I've written my brief, no one knows my case the way I do.
     Depending on how the case is decided by that court, it has a small chance of eventually winding up, one way or another, in the higher-level state court, which always entails my not only writing a second, more focused brief, but arguing the case orally as well. In my state, there are seven Justices who hear all the arguments, and each of them can, and often does, interrupt the attorneys at any point during their argument to ask any question he or she chooses to ask at that moment. The attorney must immediately stop what she was saying, perhaps mid-word, and pivot on a dime to answer the question asked, as well as any follow-up question asked by that same Justice, or any of the others. I'm not kidding - that's really how it works, and I live in New Jersey, not Wonderland. In other words: in order to prepare for a state Supreme Court argument, an attorney has to try to anticipate, and be able to answer, just about any rational question about the case that might be thrown her way.
     I've done a lot of those state Supreme Court arguments over the years. Almost without exception, during the period of intense preparation leading up to them, I've experienced a moment in which I suddenly realized for the first time what the case was actually about. I'm always stunned by this. How could I possibly have missed it before? And yet, I did.
     Revision is about taking your novel to a higher level. It's about knowing your characters so well that you could answer any question about them that anyone could throw at you. Revision teaches you that you were only scratching the surface before. All those things you thought you knew? You hardly knew them at all.
     Why is a raven like a writing desk? Beats me. But when is a novel really a novel? When its author  could stand up and defend it before the Supreme Court - and win.


Saturday, June 15, 2013


All righty then. Here I go with the first of my giveaway contest series, and the prize is well worth your contest entry: my own virtually pristine copy (I treat my books well) of this bestselling MG novel, published last year by Knopf.  It's an easy contest for me to begin the series with - easy peasy, as Maddie from CODE NAME VERITY would say - because I've already reviewed the book on this blog.  I should add, though, that as I just learned today, Auggie's facial deformity is due to Treacher-Collins Syndrome, which is a very real condition and which Palacio obviously researched extensively in order to be able to create such a compelling version of it in Auggie.
     So.  Are we ready?  The correct response, as my son and I have learned during our epic crossword-puzzle matches: "I was born ready."  Okay, let's go.  Here's the question:
As a child, what were you told (other than not to stare) about people who were "different" in some way?  Looking back now, what do you think about that advice?

That's it!  This contest will run until next Sunday night at midnight Eastern time, or until however long I choose to extend it beyond then.  The person who submits the answer I like the most will win my copy of the book, regardless of where in the world he or she lives.  LET'S DO THIS THING!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


     I was at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference this past weekend, and it's given me a much-needed jolt of energy.  I got some positive feedback about my book, as did my friends Michele and Julie about theirs, but that wasn't all.  I've been going to this annual conference for years now, but this year, the sense of community really came together for me.  I was able to celebrate with Yvonne Ventresca about her new book contract.  I met Jennifer Hubbard and asked her if I could at some later point interview her for this blog, and she said yes.  I watched Ame Dyckman graciously accept her Crystal Kite Award.  I saw and experienced a lot of people doing some very kind things, expecting nothing in return.  And, sappy as it sounds, I kind of felt like I was home.
     Since I got back on Sunday evening, I've been thinking about the revisions I need to make to IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY?, as brought to my attention by my critiquers, and I've actually gotten a running start on making them.
     And one more thing.  In past years, the chapter has held fundraising raffles at this conference, and I've gotten in the habit of setting aside excellent YA or MG novels after I've read them during the year, in order to donate them.  This year, as it turned out, there was no raffle, and I completely forgot about my bag o' books until I just happened to stumble across it yesterday.  Eureka!  What a perfect find!  I need to get back to blogging, and here's the perfect way to do it.  Here and now, I commit to running a book giveaway contest at least once every two weeks until all those books have been placed in loving homes.  So, please!  Stay tuned to this blog!  I'll try to connect each contest question to a theme running through that book, and the person coming up with the best answer will soon have my gently-used copy of said book winging its way to him/her.
     I'M BACK!!