Gennifer Choldenko at the San Francisco Writers Conference

Al capone does my homework with author pictureOn Saturday, February 14, 2015, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Gennifer Choldenko will speak at the special event that is free and open to the public. The conference is held at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and the event is at 3:00 to 3:45. Seating is limited so reservations are required. The session is geared to students in the 5th to 8th grade, but all of Gennifer’s fans are encouraged to attend. Children must be accompanied by a parent or adult, or one adult may accompany up to 10 children. There will be book-signing and selfies with Gennifer after the session. Kate Farrell, president of Women’s National Book Association, is the Youth Event Coordinator.

Choldenko is the author of the bestselling middle-grade Al Capone trilogy. She will discuss life on The Rock and her books: Al Capone Does My Shirts, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework. She got the idea for the first book in the series, Al Capone Does My Shirts, when she read an article in the newspaper about kids who grew up on Alcatraz. The children were sons and daughters of the guards who worked in the cell house where some of the most notorious criminals were held. She signed up to work as a docent on Alcatraz. She roamed the island imagining how it would feel to grow up there. She interviewed Alcatraz previous residents and researched books before and during the writing of the book.

Al Capone’s first job on Alcatraz was working the mangle in the laundry facility. Choldenko imagined a kid living on Alcatraz telling his friends “Al Capone does my shirts.” When I was tutoring students from Indonesia, we read Choldenko’s first book together and I enjoyed the characters, the humor, and the setting. I’m looking forward to meeting her at the conference and reading her other two books in the series. Al Capone does my shirtsSFWC_Logo_Square_400x400

You can read an interview with Gennifer on her website:

Harper Lee Quotes and New Novel

Harper LeeHarper Lee is an American novelist who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book was published in 1960 and became an immediate bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print by 1999. It deals with the racism she observed as a child in her hometown in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee was born on April 28, 1926 and is 88 years old.She helped her childhood friend, Truman Capote, with his research for the book, In Cold Blood.

Lee’s Go Set a Watchman was completed in the 1950s and will be released on July 14th this year, more than fifty years after her first novel. The story takes place before To Kill a Mockingbird and Lee thought it had not survived. Her friend and lawyer,Tonja Carter discovered it.

Here are some quotes by Harper Lee:

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Are You (s)Mothering Your Characters? A Quick Checklist

This post is longer than what I write, but I thought you would like it as I did.


I just finished a scene for Liberty in my Citizens of Logan Pond trilogy. The scene ended with an emotional moment. I was tired and walked away before I’d completely polished it off, figuring I’d do that this morning. But this morning, I realized what I wanted to do and where I thought it needed  polishing:

I wanted to go in and comfort my main character.

She just lost someone important to her, and she was hurting badly. I wanted to come up with something in that moment to ease her pain. Either a memory. A person. A sudden burst of hope for the future.

In short, I was mothering her. She was hurting. I wanted to swoop in and put a band-aid on it. As soon as I realized what I was about to do, I stopped. And then I realized how often I do this with my characters.

Here’s how it happens for…

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Eudora Welty Quotes

Eudora Welty bio book“Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.”

Eudora Welty about time“Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.”

“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”

“My main disappointment was always that a book had to end. And then what? But I don’t think I was ever disappointed by the books. I must have been what any author would consider an ideal reader. I felt every pain and pleasure suffered or enjoyed by all the characters.”
“One place understood helps us understand all places better”

Eudora Welty about snapshot moment“People are mostly layers of violence and tenderness wrapped like bulbs, and it is difficult to say what makes them onions or hyacinths.”

“I wanted to read immediately. The only fear was that of books coming to an end.”
“My continuing passion is to part a curtain, that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.”
“Art is never the voice of a country, it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction.”

Nominate Your Favorite Bookstore

WNBA small badgeNominate Your Favorite Bookstore for a Pannell Award
Due date Extended to February 14, 2015

Every year two bookstores that excel in connecting children with books are selected by a panel of publishing professionals–one award is given to a general bookstore and one a children’s specialty bookstore. Anyone can nominate a store. Simply email:, with the following information:

1) Name, email address, and phone number of person making the nomination
2) Your connection to the nominated store, e.g. customer, owner, employee, publisher
3) A brief statement outlining the reasons you are nominating that store
4) Contact info for the owner/manager of the nominated store

Each of the two winners will receive a $1,000 check and a framed signed original piece of art by a children’s illustrator during a presentation at the BEA/ABA Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, which draws more than 1,000 attendees.

Click here to download the nomination form.

Along with WNBA, Penguin Young Readers Group co-sponsors the award, which was established in honor of Lucile Micheels Pannell, founding member of one of the WNBA chapters.


Founded in 1917, WNBA is a national organization of women and men who promote the value to the written word by championing the role of women in the book community and by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information about book lovers and professionals.

San Francisco Writers Conference

February 12 – 15, 2015 is the date for the San Francisco Conference at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Here is the link:

I’ve attended for the last 8 years. It’s one of the best writing conferences available.

Top Ten Reasons for Writers to Attend the 2015 San Francisco Writers Conference

      • Launch your writing career–or take it to a more professional level–with direction from bestselling authors and publishing experts.
      • Choose from a schedule of workshops, panels and sessions that fit your specific writing needs and goals.
      • Get your questions answered at the Ask-a-Pro session featuring New York and California editors…included in your registration fee.
      • Go to Speed Dating for Agents – Pitch your book ideas one-on-one in a room full of literary agents ($60 option for registered attendees only)
      • Receive free feedback on your work from freelance book editors.
      • Kick back in Cafe Ferlinghetti with writers from all over the country…and foreign countries, too.
      • Talk with exhibitors and find out what’s new for writers.
      • Browse our onsite bookstore (produced by BookShop West Portal) and you can get the books you purchase autographed by the presenters.
      • Jump into pitch contests, “Open Mic” readings, and socialize at our Gala Welcome party. This is just a sampling of SFWC’s over-the-top networking opportunities during the event.
      • Stay awhile longer with our optional in-depth Pre Conference classes on Thursday, February 12th and Post Conference classes on Monday, February 16th to increase the value of the conference even more.

The MAIN CONFERENCE registration fee includes four days of sessions including Ask-A-Pro & keynotes, two breakfasts/two lunches, a Welcome Gala on Friday evening, Presenter Book Signing event on Saturday, unlimited networking, and more! Speed Dating with Agents is optional ($60). Transportation, accommodations, and incidentals are not included.

Optional Pre & Post Event In-Depth Writing Classes on Thursday, February 12th in the evening and all day Monday, February 16th taught by some of our favorite presenters. Classes will be available soon.



Revision and Subtext in Writing

Story LogicIn my writing class, we have finished studying Wired for Story. We have gone on to Catherine Brady’s Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction. Revision is always a topic in class and as I read Brady’s Chapter 4, p.68, I appreciated her statement:

“Revision is not engine repair; it’s not possible to lift out the carburetor, repair it, and simply return it in order to make the whole engine run properly. A work of fiction functions more like an ecosystem, in which the interaction between living organisms means that the effects of a small specific change might be amplified throughout the whole network.”

She ends that chapter on p. 69 with: “in the kinesthetic play of ordering and reordering events and scenes and sentences, the trick lies in keeping a loose hold on intention while staying alert for any opportunities that arise. By lucky accident and persistence, playfulness can arrive at the right arrangement to make silence speak.”

Brady’s reference to making silence speak is about several points one of which is subtext, a topic I’ve used in my handouts for the class these last couple months. Subtext has been called the underlying story or the untold story or knowledge gaps. A story with subtext has two stories, the literal and the figurative. It’s the figurative story the reader senses from the gaps, the silence. Brady says on p. 23, that “The real story…has never happened on the page, and yet the structure of the story enables the writer to articulate what is never directly stated.”

Brady quotes Hemingway on p. 52: “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction by Catherine Brady has important information for writers on every page, in every sentence. Catherine Brady