Archive for March 2009

Mama at the Movies: Coraline

Coraline’s life is a nightmare.

She’s the new girl in town, an only child living in a creaky, leaky-windowed flat in a remote house at the top of a bare and ugly hill. Her neighbors — except for an annoying, talkative boy named Wybie — are old and eccentric. Her parents write about gardening but can’t be bothered to plant any flowers to beautify their uninviting surroundings, and they are too absorbed in work to pay any attention to their daughter.

Like a certain young Dorothy before her, Coraline, the main character of the gorgeous, scary, definitely-not-for-young-kids new animated film (Henry Selick, 2009) based on Neil Gaiman’s popular young adult novel, feels neglected and bored.

click on over to Literary Mama to read the rest!

And the Winner Is…

Kerri Buckley wins a copy of Christina Katz‘s book, The Writer Mama; congratulations! Kerri wrote:

I’d like to take my eight-week class which has helped many people get published in places such as “Mothering Magazine” and “The Oregonian” and condense it into chapters, just as the class is laid out with inspiring tips and quotes from seasoned journalists and new freelancers throughout the book. It will inform through a fool-proof plan, entertain and inspire through the gold gleaned from interviews, fun and quirky exercises, and a way to organize ideas, diagram an article that makes writing it a piece of cake, and how to incorporate art and creativity into your freelancing career, Interviews from my students and my radio show guests will be the frosting on this cake. Adaptable to any topic or market, this book will lead anyone wanting to write for a living by the hand, step by step, to learn the language of freelancing, organization of articles and research, and use of creative methods that may be unconventional, and how to deal with editors and rejections with a smile and renewed enthusiasm! It will be an “Artist’s Way” meets “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Freelance Writing” meets “He’s Just Not That Into You”.

Thanks to everyone who visited for the blog tour, and good luck to you all with your projects.

The Writer Mama Two-Year Anniversary Blog Tour Giveaway!

Christina Katz, The Writer Mama, is one busy woman. I met her for the first time last month at the AWP conference in Chicago. While some of us were trying to figure out where to eat lunch between panels, she came to say a gracious hello, and then excused herself, I expect to go write a book or coach a student or develop a new publicity plan. She’s got ideas and she wants to share them; she wants mothers who write to get their work published and read by the broadest possible audience. And although I think Elrena and I have done pretty well spreading the word about Mama, PhD (have you watched our trailer? joined our Facebook group? how about bought yourself a t-shirt at our store?) there’s always something more a writer can learn about every step of the process, and I’ve learned from Christina’s work. So I’m happy to help celebrate the two-year anniversary of her book by having Christina Katz guest blog here today.

Post #29: Your Book’s Benefits
The features of your book are nice. You need to know what they are.

But the benefits of your book, not the features, will determine if your book is going to sell.

Your book’s benefits will motivate a potential reader to seek your book out and buy it…or not. For example, here are some of Writer Mama’s benefits described:

As a mom, you want to spend as much time with your children as possible. But you’d also like to make some money doing something you enjoy. How do you get the best of both worlds? Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by experienced freelancer Christina Katz tells you how. You can start a stay-at-home freelance writing career tailored to fit your family and lifestyle.

Writer Mama will answer all your questions about how to get started, in realistic, easy-to-follow steps. While conversational and easy-to-read, this book also does a lot of hard work for you. It gives you practical advice and exercises that help you get started in a matter of weeks.

Writer Mama is a reference book, so notice that most of the benefits described above relate to how informative it is. Since it’ a how-to book, the benefits relate back to how helpful and handy it is. They describe how the book walks the reader through a process step-by-step.

Remember, all you former students out there, the emphasis on forms in my Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff class? Well, when it’s time to describe your book’s benefits your understanding of writing forms will prove helpful once again. Different forms accomplish different things. Fiction takes the reader away and offers entertainment. Memoir typically offers a heartwarming, inspirational or humorous slice of life. But nonfiction books are very practical. Nonfiction forms accomplish their mission by informing the reader through a list of tips, a how-to process, or a cataloging of relevant facts and information, or all of the above.

The promotional material for Writer Mama weaves together features and benefits, since thought and consideration went into both:

You’ll love the short chapters, sidebars, and exercises that let you get the information you need in small doses that fit into your busy schedule. Plus this book was written to grow with you. Once you master the skills of being an article writer, it teaches you how to pitch a nonfiction book idea and explore other areas of writing—advice you won’t find presented like this anywhere else.

So if you want to get started writing for publication, let writer mama Christina Katz help. If she and countless other moms can do it, so can you!

Nonfiction books make the reader’s life easier by gathering and compressing information the reader wants and needs into tight writing. Nonfiction books are typically focused on an outcome and chug toward that outcome purposefully like a train. A nonfiction book written for traditional publication never rambles or loses its way. The sense of purpose is clear from the moment you set your eyes on the book’s cover, as you crack the book open, start scanning the table of contents and reading a chapter or the introduction.

Books have been informing, inspiring and entertaining people for many years, so the fact that your book does one or all of these things is just the beginning of describing the benefits of your book for readers. In order to offer value to your intended reader, your book must make a promise and deliver on that promise.

The promise you made when you pitched your book will be re-summarized once your book is complete as the benefits that will sell, or not sell, your book.

Today’s Book Drawing: To enter to win a signed, numbered copy of Writer Mama, answer the following question in this blog’s comments:
What unique benefits will your book have for your readers? Can you offer any specifics on how your book will inform, entertain or inspire readers?

Thanks for participating! Only US residents, or folks with a US mailing address can participate in the drawing. Please only enter once per day.

Where will the drawing be tomorrow? Visit The Writer Mama to continue reading the rest of the Writer Mama story throughout March 2009!

Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz (Writer’s Digest Books 2007)
Kids change your life, but they don’t necessarily have to end your career. Stay-at-home moms will love this handy guide to rearing a successful writing career while raising their children. The busy mom’s guide to writing life, this book gives stay-at-moms the encouragement and advice they need including everything from getting started and finding ideas to actually finding time to do the work – something not easy to do with the pitter-patter of little feet. With advice on how to network and form a a business, this nurturing guide covers everything a writer mama needs to succeed at her second job. Christina Katz is also the author of the newly released Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform (Writer’s Digest Books 2008).

Feeding Moosie

A new member of the family joined us this Christmas. At the time, we thought he was just a simple stuffed animal, a soft, brown baby moose that accompanied a larger moose my sister’s family gave to Eli. But Moosie, as Eli quickly and logically named him, has taken on a larger role.

click on over to the other blog to read the rest…


As the boys and I were driving home from their swim class today, Tony called me. “You’d better come in through the garage,” he said, “A pigeon laid an egg by the front door.”

The boys, listening over the car’s speaker phone, were rapt as the story unfolded. Tony had been heading out to the grocery store when he noticed a pigeon sitting by the door. Looking closer, he saw a second bird. And a small white egg lay between them.

He went to the store. When he came back, one pigeon was huddled behind the planter:

The second pigeon was gone, but a sad little gesture toward a nest was laid next to the egg:

By dinner time, the pigeon had moved next to — but not yet on — the egg:

The boys want to build a nest, or a bird house. They debated the best possible building materials — wood? straw? fabric? — and location — backyard? the sidewalk tree in front of the house? — even though we said we can’t move the egg or the pigeon will abandon it, and she probably wouldn’t welcome our offerings of nesting materials either. I don’t like pigeons, generally; I have called them rats with wings often enough; but this pigeon, sitting here on our front stoop guarding her mislaid egg, foolish though she may be, has inspired all our sympathies. She’s Mama Bird and we’re all kind of rooting for her and her egg.

This story doesn’t seem to be developing like one of my boys’ favorite picture books, Fly High, Fly Low, in which a pair of San Francisco pigeons nest in a hotel sign’s letter B. When the hotel is torn down, construction workers notice the birds frantically circling the B and deposit the letter, nest and all, at a bakery, where the baby pigeons safely hatch and grow up eating cake crumbs. On the contrary, it looks like we are in for a Life Lesson here. Stay tuned…

When Grownups Play Lego

I have no Lego creativity at all, but this is what happens when my husband plays with the boys.

Tony dreams of making coffee:

And so makes the Lego bean grinder and cappuccino maker:
Cappuccinos made with the Lego machine don’t keep you very wide awake, though.

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

I was delighted today to receive my contributor copy of A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers, in which my essay “The Cookie” has been reprinted. My story is about a particularly trying day of new motherhood and how a little old-fashioned advice and infant Ben’s own ingenuity saved the day.

My Literary Mama colleagues Amy Hudock and Kristina Riggle also have essays in this collection, which is a terrific group of moving, honest, and unsentimental essays about new motherhood. Check it out!

Lucky 7

Ben’s been doing a lot of “greater than/less than” (>/<) exercises in school lately, so in honor of his birthday:
7 kinds of airplanes for which he knows the technical specifications

< 7 hours of labor (it actually felt more like 7 minutes) < 7 nights I have been away from him > 7 kinds of airplanes for which he knows the technical specifications

> 7 plane rides this past year

> 7 times a day he will happily build and rebuild the Lego mail plane I brought him from Chicago

< 7 items on his birthday party menu (he'd like to serve cupcakes, raspberries, kumquats, milk, water and orange juice) > 7 x 7 to the 7th that I love him.

edited to add: I am blogging about birthday cake over at Learning to Eat.