Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetry Friday: Common Cold

At my house, we're ringing out the old year with sniffles and sneezes, hacking coughs and chest-hardened wheezes. I'm in rhyming agreement with dear old Ogden.

I hope you'll stop over at Carol's Corner for more Poetry Friday where folks are ringing in the new year with something other than a tissue.

Common Cold
by Ogden Nash

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I'm not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The F├╝hrer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Poetry Friday: Christmas at Mole End

I hope you are finding time to slow down, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, and delight in this Christmas season.

My crew will be in town in a few days, so this may be my last post of the year. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Here is a wonderful Christmas song from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, sung by "a group of little field-mice" who "stood in a semi-circle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their forepaws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet dancing for warmth. "

Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet--
You by the fire and we in the street--
Bidding you joy in the morning!

For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star had led us on,
Raining bliss and benison--
Bliss tomorrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning!

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow--
Saw the star o'er the stable low;
Mary she might not further go--
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!

And when they heard the angels tell
"Who were the first to cry Nowell?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!"
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!

More Poetry Friday here, at the Poetry Farm.

May joy be yours now and "in the morning."

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Thoughts

Yesterday I sat on my glasses. Really sat on them, unknowing, the entire time I laced my tennis shoes. It certainly makes one see things differently. Not always a bad thing, except when you can't focus.

I never thought I'd grow up to be a traveling salesman. Okay, salesperson. No, saleswoman? Definitely sounds strange. In the last six weeks, I have logged almost 1,500 miles. I love my job. I love being in schools. I love the librarians and reading specialists I meet and get to know. I love the books and knowing what's being published. But that's a lot of miles. I'm tired right now, and so glad for the coming break and time to sort and rethink some scheduling issues. All that traveling leaves little time for writing. I've managed to squeeze some in, but I have some projects before me that are going to require some consistency. New Year's Resolutions are already in progress!

I love hats. I would have been a good hat-wearing lady in the fifties, or the forties.

I lost my gloves last week. Left them at one of my schools, I think. It's too cold to go outside, but if I were going, I'd wear those lost gloves.

Random, yes, I know. But you were forewarned.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Poetry Friday: Brrrr!!!

It's cold here in the deep South. No snow. No ice. Just cold, the kind we don't usually see until late January. It makes me want to wrap up in a blanket in front of a fire with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

Yesterday, I did just that. I've been reading Buffalo Soldiers by Tom Willard. He does a great job of presenting the big picture of life in the Tenth Cavalry, while weaving the story of one black soldier from enlistment to retirement. A good winter read.

It's poetry Friday and I've been absent for a while. Maybe I'll turn over a new leaf, make a new resolution, or just get more organized in the coming new year. We'll see.

Here is a poem I wrote a few years back. The cold reminded me of it.

Still, She Cannot Write the Spring

It was a cold Christmas
That chilled the roots and left no promise
Against the hard consonants of November.
A songless sparrow picks lichen
From trees standing bare in the wind
And listens with her for a touch
Of sunlight, for words to melt the icy ground,
To bear the burden of a crocus
Rising through frozen earth.

Innisfree Poetry Journal, 2006

More Poetry Friday here with Jama.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Georgia, My State -- Native Americans

From State Standards Publishing

Written to meet Georgia Performance Standards for 2nd grade

The set traces the development of the Creek and Cherokee tribes in Georgia.

AR levels 2.7 to 3.2 GRL levels J and K

Library Bound $16.95
Paperback $7.95

Friday, November 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: Madeleine L'Engle

For Poetry Friday, here's a favorite from Madeleine L'Engle. May your words, your works, your life, be a song savoured by many.

Instruments (1)
by Madeleine L'Engle

The sky is strung with glory.
Light threads from star to star
from sun to sun
a living harp.
I rejoice, I sing, I leap upwards to play.
The music is in light.
My fingers pluck the vibrant strings;
the notes pulse, throb, in exultant harmony;
I beat my wings against the strands
that reach across the galaxies
I play


It is not I who play
it is the music
the music plays itself
is played
plays me
small part of an innumerable
I am flung from note to note
impaled on melody
my wings are caught on throbbing filaments of light
the wild cords cut my pinions
my arms are outstretched
are bound by ropes of counterpoint
I am cross-eagled on the singing that is strung
from pulsing star
to flaming sun

I burn in a blaze of song.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rocks and Minerals of Georgia

Books for use with state history and science standards are often hard to find. National publishers tend to focus on topics they can market nationally. State Standards Publishing is working to fill that niche in Georgia.

The newest set in the Georgia, My State series is Rocks and Minerals, written by Samantha Sanford. AR levels are pending, but Lexile levels range from 560-600, so they should come in at solid third grade reading levels.

Books are available in library bound and paperback.

Titles include:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Poetry Friday: Travels

The last few weeks have been full of travels. Some for business. Some for pleasure. Last week I flew to Portland, Oregon for a sweet visit with my daughter. Portland is a colorful city, even when it's gray.

Here's a travel poem to celebrate Poetry Friday. Stop by The Writer's Armchair for more poetry.

Night Journey

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

Theodore Roethke

Friday, October 22, 2010

Poetry Friday

Time for poetry. Here's one I wrote a few years back. It still needs some work, but a poem is never finished, as they say, just abandoned.

Tortoise or Hare

I would be the tortoise

If I could choose.

Tender parts

Carefully guarded

By a hard green shell.

A portable hiding place

For those awkward moments.

No need to run,

Just pull in the appendages

And breathe slowly

Until the danger passes.

But some pernicious muse

Had other plans

And without consulting me,

Took my secrets

And made iambic feet

For a bunch of mad rabbits

That care nothing for poetry.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Conference Overload and Anagram Angst

In the last month, I've been to:

1) the Infantry Conference to learn about TOW, UAVs, and M14s. And for the NIA to give OSM awards,

2) to GACIS in Athens to man the Delaney booth on the display floor for instructional specialists to stop and look at instructional stuff,

3) to the local Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference where I was the registrar -- no time for photos!

4) to GAYC in Duluth, again manning the booth on the vendor floor. This time with Dr. Jean's material.

And oh my goodness -- the things they let those preschoolers play with!!

5) and last weekend to SCBWI in Birmingham where I learned
more about "voice" in the one day intensive than I've ever heard anybody explain. Darcy Pattison took the mysticism out of this topic that is typically described by most editors as "I'll know it when I see it." We worked with the building blocks--sounds, words, sentences, passages. It was the most practical workshop I've been to in a very long time.

After #5 I rode the train from Birmingham to Hattiesburg to be with my younger daughter.

I came home long enough to wash clothes and go to a few appointments. I leave tomorrow morning to visit the other daughter in Oregon.

I'm not feeling very poetic or even creative at the moment, but I did manage to edit over half of my WIP and outline the next two books in the Virginia Geographic Regions series. I will spend the flight time tomorrow proofing the first pass pages from my editor for the explorers book.

Time for dinner with my sweet husband, who just told me that I'm never done. But he was smiling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia

Just out -- a new Georgia book!

There are never enough books on Georgia for second grade teachers who struggle to find information on Georgia regions, Georgia rivers, and Georgia habitats. Susan Rosson Spain and Elizabeth Dulemba have teamed up to write and illustrate The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia.

A trip through Georgia and the Christmas holidays. What more can you ask for? Activities, that's what. Visit Elizabeth's website for activity pages tied to the book.

This is a great resource for meeting those Georgia history standards. And it's a book the kids will love.

I don't know why the print is red, but I can't seem to make it black. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More with Vicky Alvear Shecter

Vicky Alvear Shecter is back with me today. In yesterday's post, Vicky talked about her new nonfiction book, Cleopatra Rules. Today we're switching genres to talk about Vicky's upcoming YA novel, Cleopatra's Moon.

Thanks so much, Vicky, for taking the time to visit.

DoriReads: Your YA fiction book, Cleopatra's Moon, is scheduled for release next year from Scholastic. The subject matter is an easy fit with your other books, but talk about the change from writing nonfiction to fiction. Can you tell us about the narrator? Is it in first person, third? Does your narrator carry that same sassy tone or is there a difference?

Vicky: Good questions! I think people might be surprised just how different my character’s voice is compared to my nonfiction voice. My character is strong but not necessarily sassy. Written it in the first person, my character experiences a lot of loss and pain so, obviously, I needed to be true to those experiences rather than the “fun facts” of history.

The biggest challenge I had in moving from nonfiction to fiction was dealing with a criticism I heard often from my agent and editor: that I was “too enamored” of the history. It took me a while to understand what they meant, which was that sometimes I went off on tangents about a point of history that was not at all related to the arc of the story, the plot, or the character’s growth. I had to be willing to cut those fascinating factoids out. I have what seems like hundreds of pages of scenes related to historical facts that got cut!

DoriReads: Who is your best cheerleader? Who is your best critic?

Vicky: My best cheerleaders are my friends in SCBWI. What a supportive group! In terms of my novel, I am indebted to my writing buds—Elizabeth Dulemba and my writing groups—who encouraged me to keep on writing, no matter what kind of setback I experienced. As for my strongest critic, that’s easy—me!

Cleopatra's Moon will be released in 2011 from Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. I can't wait to read it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview With Vicky Alvear Shecter

I'm delighted to have Vicky Alvear Shecter here today to talk about her new nonfiction book, Cleopatra Rules. Vicky has a knack for giving her readers "history with a twist." Check out her blog when you leave this post. Vicky's conversational style and her irreverent tone has kids asking to read ancient history. That's an accomplishment.

DoriReads: Let's talk about ancient history. Well, maybe not so ancient. Who was Vicky Alvear Shecter before she was a famous children's author?

Vicky: I didn’t know there was another Vicky Alvear Shecter out there who is famous! I’ll have to meet her one day. ;-) As for me, I’ve always been involved with writing one way or another. I wrote for businesses as a hired hack for years.

DoriReads:The tone/voice of your first book, Alexander the Great Who Rocked the World, was distinctly sassy. One reviewer went so far as to label it a "smart-aleck" tone. Another called it "irreverent." Does Cleopatra Rules radiate that same tone?

Vicky: I’m glad you asked about this because I have learned that not everyone is completely comfortable with the tone. The “old guard” especially (Kirkus BCCB, etc.) never fail to make some sort of dig about it—one saying that it sounded like it came straight out of a gossipy blog (which was, of course, the intention!). Thankfully, the research, documentation and vetting process is so thorough, they usually end up praising that instead.

I have found, however, that teachers, librarians and parents often thank me for using a voice that speaks directly to their tweens and teens. I often get comments like, “This is the first history book my kid ever wanted to read.”

DoriReads:Tell us a little about your journey developing that voice. Is it your unique voice or is it a persona narrator you, as an author, created to tell the history of these characters?

Vicky: The development of the voice came from the fact that, when I started researching these characters, I often found myself chuckling at their antics. Really, if you dig far enough, history is hysterical! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who found the funny and absurd so enjoyable. I incorporated the playfulness with which I approach history and the voice just took off from there.

DoriReads: So were you a smart aleck as a teen?

Vicky: Ha, not in the least! I was shy and accommodating (though my parents may have a different view, of course).

DoriReads: Reviewers of Alexander speak highly of your extensive research. I'm sure you've done your work on Cleopatra, as well. How long did it take you to research Cleopatra? On a subject like this, you could probably spend your life researching. How did you limit the research?

Vicky: You’re absolutely right—you could spend your whole life researching these fascinating characters and some academics do! In my case, the boundaries of writing for children is what limited me. After all, I couldn’t go on and on or I would lose my readers. So I stayed focused on the most pertinent facts. But because of the voice, I knew I would have to balance it with research that backed up my assertions.

As a defense mechanism, I find that I don’t continue reading too many books about my subjects after mine come out because I end up driving myself crazy by finding yet another fact or tidbit I could have used. Research never ends but at some point you have enough to back-up/prove your claims and that has to be enough.

My thanks to Vicky for talking with me. And thanks to my readers for stopping in. Come by again tomorrow when Vicky will talk about her upcoming YA novel set in the same time period.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lessons Learned on the Highway

Last week I spent several days in Athens, Ga. The Georgia Conference of Instructional Specialists was there, and I helped man the vendor booth for Delaney. The conference itself was fairly uneventful. I met a few new people, made some contacts, those things all conferences afford.

It was the journey there and back that is worth remembering. There is no easy route from Columbus to Athens. You either travel the legs of a right triangle, north to Atlanta and west to Athens, or you drive along the hypotenuse over two-lane roads through a lot of small towns. The hypotenuse is shorter in distance, but the legs of the right angle are faster.


I knew I would hit Atlanta in traffic, but my GPS said to go that way. Google maps said to go that way. My brother said to go that way. My gut said to go the hypotenuse, but who am I to argue with the experts? I went t
o Atlanta. After about 15 minutes of I-285 bumper to bumper traffic moving at 20 miles an hour, I ditched the highway.

I found an exit that wasn't backed up past the exit ramp and headed into the winding roads of suburbia Atlanta until I found a two-lane road that would take me to Athens. It took a while. I wound around the back side of Stone Mountain on a slightly scary, rock quarry truck kind of road. At one point, I passed a sign that said "Between City Limits."

Do you live in Between? How far is it to Between? It's just Between us.

I made it to Athens in only about half an hour of extra travel time.

On the return trip, I knew I needed to be home before 7:00. I was acting as registrar for the local Chattahoochee Writers Conference that began Friday evening. Despite my gut, which was still saying to go the hypotenuse, I took the legs of the right angle back home. It was only 2:00, and I thought for sure I would miss rush hour traffic. I forgot it was Friday. I didn't even make it to Atlanta before the four-lane highway was again bumper to bumper.

Turn left, head southwest.

I wandered and meandered through who knows where until I finally found the road that formed the hypotenuse. You don't want to know how long it took me to get home. I did make it before the speaker started--barely.

All during this trip, I was wrestling with a decision concerning a contract for a book I've written. It's a small publisher in the UK. The entire process and the contract details have been fairly nontraditional--at least in my experience. Logic says to say no, to go a more traditional route, to find a US publisher and take my chances on a better deal.

That reasoning sounds an awful lot like taking the legs of the right triangle. By the end of the trip, I had come to the conclusion that I would be kicking myself all the way through "Between" if I went that direction.

So, I'm going the back way where there is peace and a lot of joy in the journey.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


A few years back, I struggled getting words on paper. I have kept a journal regularly since I was about eleven, but those were my words for my eyes only. When I thought about writing words for others to read, the words stuck in my throat, the pen wouldn't move across the page, my fingers sat silent on the keyboard.

I vividly remember the day at Chautauqua listening to Patricia Lee Gauch when something in my writer's heart broke open, and words began to flow out. Patti, bless her, took my hand and said, "It's permission."

Consent. Approval. License to act.

These are important attitudes or actions, and lovely when they come from others. But permission to write comes from within.

Most recently I have wrestled with giving myself permission not to write. It's a crazy switch to be sure, but once I got the words turned on, I found myself feeling responsible to keep the flow going.

Several of the wonderful blogs I enjoy reading posted their plans to take a break during the month of August. I should have done the same thing, but I kept thinking I would get to it. You can see that I haven't. And I'm finding that I must give myself permission for that to be okay in this season.

I'm going to need a few more weeks to get through this busy season, but then I'll get back to posting regularly.

Permission. Oh, so important.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Spider Poetry for Friday

This small spider, which you probably can't even see, wove an enormous web in the bush beside my front door and laid her eggs in the white web casing.

And this monster is beneath the eave at the back door.

So for Poetry Friday, here are gossamer words from Walt Whitman. I hope they encourage you to launch for into new ventures.

A Noiseless Patient Spider
by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,
I marked where on a promontory it stood isolated,
Marked how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be formed, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

More Poetry Friday hosted by Laura at Teach Poetry K-12.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Promoting Your Writing By Speaking

I've been trying to find my rhythm, balancing all the the balls in the air, as school and my business commitments kick in. Keeping up my exercise routine is vital in this season of driving and sitting. During my walking time recently, I've listened to a series of teleseminars, called "Promoting Your Writing By Speaking."

Randy Ingermanson hosted the teleseminar interviews with Mary Byers in an informative question and answer format. Mary has been a professional speaker for over twenty years. She is also an author. One of her books resulted from an editor who heard her speak and offered her a contract to write a book on the topic. Mary makes as much in three speaking engagements as she does writing a book. Her perspective on splitting her time between writing and speaking is valuable for writers who spend a lot of time in school visits.

Although Mary is not a children's author and her speaking engagements are not centered around author visits to schools, her advice for building your speaking business is rock solid.

Session one gives information on developing topics and identifying your audience. In session two, Mary talks about setting fees. Session three gives tips on preparing for your speaking engagement. The final session covers ways to grow your speaking business.

All four sessions are available on Randy's Advanced Fiction Writing website.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The First Thing to Go

Summer is practically over, despite the fact that it's still 100 degrees outside, and I am once again struggling to manage a busy schedule in which I wear numerous hats. This was one of those weeks when all the hats collided.
  • School staffs are back in their buildings and I've begun calling on customers. This week I saw two principals, a reading coach, a literacy specialist, a preK director and held an open house for all the teachers at school. It was a difficult week for many. A lot of people needed a listening ear.
  • It's magazine deadline for the Bugler, so I'm making sure all the files are in order, proofed, lay-out instructions provided, etc., so everything can go to the publisher. I have to nudge my boss to nudge the commanding general to please send me his column so I can get it in the magazine. Not that he actually writes it himself, of course, but the nudging is still necessary.
  • Sent a proposal off to a new publisher for a set of books.
  • Met with my fabulous critique group who gave me some much needed direction for reworking my current manuscript.
Managing my schedule is always a challenge. That's probably true for most of us. I find that the first thing to go when schedule demands tighten is my writing time. Over the summer, I enjoyed having multiple hours most days to work on writing projects. Now that "normal work" is intruding again, I'm working hard to keep those writing slots scheduled, unmovable, high on the priority list. This little blog post may be the only "actual" writing I've done all week, but I'm determined that's going to change.

Here, for Poetry Friday, is a thought on time from the Hebrew poet-king, David.

Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.
Psalm 39:4-5

For more Poetry Friday posts, visit Laura over at Author Amok.

Friday, July 30, 2010

This Poetry Friday, I'm wishing you a true sense of the "trailing clouds of glory" and great joy in the remembering.

From William Wordsworth

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

Stanza 5

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature's priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Live. Love. Explore! where my sweet friend, Irene is hosting the day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Voices in a Meadow

It's Poetry Friday. I love searching through my favorite poems for gems to share here. As I browsed through my copy of Richard Wilbur, I came across this poem that captures the two emotional extremes that we can so easily drift toward as writers. I don't know what Wilbur was thinking about as he wrote it, but it struck me today as a perfect picture of the struggle we face learning to keep a balanced perspective of ourselves.

"Two Voices in a Meadow"
by Richard Wilbur

A Milkweed

Anonymous as cherub
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my bust pod.

What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.

A Stone

As casual as cow-dung
Under the crib of God,
I lie where chance would have me,
Up to the ears in sod.
Why should I move? To move
Befits a light desire.
The sill of Heaven would founder,
Did such as I aspire.

Wishing you milkweed dreams and rock solid goals this week.

Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Texas Grands

I'm finally getting around to uploading my photos from our trip to Texas.

I thought I'd share some of my family.

With Pop along the Comal River in New Braunfels.

Splashing at Sea World.

Shouting joyfully!

Dori and baby. Both happy.

Nothing this boy won't try!

My Texas crew. Gotta love them!

Monday, July 12, 2010

How E-books May Change Our Approach to Publishing

I've been following Randy Ingermanson's newsletter for several years. He always has practical insights into writing.

In his most recent newsletter, he makes some predictions about how e-books may effect our approach to writing. I've included the full article here with Randy's permission. It's fairly long, but offers new ways of thinking about the issues facing us as writers. I hope you'll check out Randy's website for more info, too.

The Future of Publishing
by Randy Ingermanson

The world of publishing is currently going through massive turmoil. Some people believe that the rise of e-books is going to be the biggest single change in publishing since Gutenberg's invention of movable type.

I'm not a prophet nor a seer nor clairvoyant. But I do have my eyes open, and in this column, I give you my best predictions for the coming years. They may be right. They may be wrong. Either way, one thing seems certain: Huge changes are coming.

I offer these predictions to suggest ways you might plan for your future. I'm using them to plan for mine.

Prediction #1: E-books Will Surpass P-books Soon

I define a "p-book" to be a book printed on paper. This term includes books created by traditional royalty-paying publishers (usually in large print runs of thousands or tens of thousands). This term also includes print-on-demand ("POD") books.

P-books are very wasteful and inefficient. To create a p-book, you must pay all of the following:

* The person who typesets the edited manuscript
* The person who cuts the trees to make the paper
* The person who turns the trees into paper
* The person who puts ink on the paper
* The person who binds the paper into books
* The person who puts the books in a box
* The person who drives the box to the store
* The person who unpacks the box in the store
* The person who puts the book on a shelf
* The person who rings up the sale at the counter
* The person who puts the unsold copies back in a box
* The person who drives the box back to the publisher
* The person who unpacks and shreds the returns

To create either an e-book or a p-book, you must pay all of the following:

* The person who writes the book
* The person who edits the book
* The person who makes the cover art for the book
* The person who markets the book
* The person who enters the book info into the store computers

E-books require one other player who must be paid once by each reader:

* The person who makes the e-book reader

I've left out a number of minor players in the above cast of characters, but I think these are all the main parts. The marginal cost to create an e-book is lower than the marginal cost to create a p-book. You can automate the sales process for an e-book and deliver it anywhere in the world almost instantly at almost zero cost.

The only obstacle here is the cost of those pesky e-book readers. That cost is dropping rapidly.
Furthermore, many phones and other mobile devices now include e-book reading as a standard feature, and numerous software products allow you to read e-books on your computer.

Apple's new iPad marked a turning point, because Apple promised to pay publishers a hefty 70% of the retail price of each e-book. Shortly after the iPad's announcement, Amazon began changing their payment model to be in line with Apple's. This makes e-books very profitable for publishers -- and potentially for their authors.

I believe that e-books will surpass p-books in market share within five years.

If you want some specific reasons why, I suggest you read the blog of Joe Konrath:

Read a few of Joe's recent blogs and see if you're not astounded at how well e-books can do in the hands of a competent marketer.

Prediction #2: E-books Will Become The "Minor Leagues"

A beginning writer faces a very long learning curve. It typically takes a writer several years to develop the skills and the contacts needed to sell a first novel to a major publisher. It's not uncommon to hear of a writer who took "ten years of hard work to become an overnight success."

During that 3 or 5 or 10 or 20 years when a writer is learning the craft of fiction, she earns nothing (or a pittance if she can find a magazine to buy her short stories). Typically, a writer writes several complete novels before she sells her first to a publisher.

That will change in the coming years. The reason is because we writers are an impatient lot, and we all believe that our work is unalloyed gold and that those philistine agents and publishers just can't recognize genius when it smacks them in the face.

I believed this before I got published. I believe it still about a couple of my manuscripts that crashed and burned before publication. You probably believe it too. In many cases, we're right.

In coming years, writers will simply short-circuit the traditional route by e-publishing their first book. It will probably sell a copy to Mom and to Aunt Mabel and to a few friends.

If the writer gets any encouragement at all from this first attempt, she'll e-publish another, and another, and another. As she improves, her books will sell to a wider and wider audience, eventually going far beyond her circle of family and friends.

When I outline this scenario to my writer friends, they're all horrified at the prospect of a market
"flooded with awful e-books."

My response to that is simple: The market is smart. Readers will ignore the "flood of awful e-books." They'll gobble up the e-books that are good and will recommend them to their friends. Those friends will do likewise. The cream will rise to the top. The dregs will not. It's that simple.

For those who live in terror of the coming "flood of awful e-books," I'll simply point out that the market is already flooded with hundreds of thousands of self-published e-books (and p-books). Did you notice? Were you flooded out of your house? Are you drowning in a sea of awful books?

No, no, and no.

The market chooses the quality books because the market is composed of people who know what they like and who talk about it. Word-of-mouth will sift the quality from the quantity, just as it always has. Only a very few people ever see any given "awful book." Most readers only come across a few "awful books." Lots of people see the really good books. The market efficiently finds

E-books will be the minor leagues of publishing (to use a baseball metaphor). This means that new authors will try out their talents and rise to their own level. Agents and publishers will no longer have to play the role of gatekeepers who try to guess what the market will buy. The market will decide what it wants to buy.

I know there are some authors who think it will be a horrible prostitution of our art that the market should actually get to decide what sells. Tragically, the market has been deciding what sells for hundreds of years. In the future, it will do so better and quicker because the gatekeepers will vanish.

Prediction #3: Beginning Authors Will E-publish First

Beginning writers will e-publish their work long before they p-publish it. They will do so because all the other beginning writers are doing so. Nobody wants to get left behind. Everybody wants to be discovered. Everybody believes they are writing a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Some writers are.

Yes, really. Some writers are exceptionally good. Those writers will get discovered far quicker than they would have in years past. They'll earn money at their writing. They'll blog about their successes, making it clear that their road to success led through e-books.

Many other writers will follow and soon the majority of unpublished writers will be publishing their work first as e-books.

The result of this is that agents and editors will buy fewer and fewer unpublished novelists. Instead, they'll simply watch the e-market to see what sells. Then they'll acquire the p-book rights for those e-books that are proven successful.

This is the smart thing for them to do. Publishers have long joked that "The way to be profitable in this business is to only publish the bestsellers." In the past, nobody had any idea how to predict the bestsellers. In the coming e-future, it will be obvious. Successful e-books will make successful p-books.

I believe publishers will eventually refuse to take chances on any unpublished writers. Those writers will therefore be forced to publish themselves first as e-books, whether they want to or not. This transition will take time, but I expect that within five years, the overwhelming majority of all first novels will be published first as e-books.

Prediction #4: Mid-list Authors May Do Better

Mid-list authors have had a rough go during the last few years. Publishers have been chafed by shrinking profit margins. They've been willing to pay big bucks to the sure-thing bestselling authors. They've been willing to pay peanuts to new novelists in the hope of finding gold and raking in huge bucks. But they've been less willing to keep paying the mid-listers to write
book after book that just earns out its advance (or doesn't quite earn out but does still make a small profit).

In the coming e-future, mid-list authors will try their hand at e-books and discover that their fans love them in e-format just as much as in p-format. Mid-listers will decide that self-publishing an e-book for 70% of the pie is better than working with a traditional publisher for 7% of the pie.

This is rational behavior. Those mid-list authors who can market themselves at least 10% as effectively as their publishers would market them will decide to do so. They'll e-publish their own work and market it themselves, no longer subject to the whims of their publishers.

Some mid-listers will flourish in this e-culture.

They'll connect to their fan base and grow it. And the publishers will notice. The publishers are both smart and rational. They'll see which mid-list novels do best as e-books and will bankroll them as p-books.

Some mid-listers will refuse this route. I believe they'll do less well as time goes on. They'll find
their publishers increasingly fearful of publishing their work and increasingly stingy with advances.

In this world, publishers will finally achieve their goal -- they'll only publish the winners.

This may take longer than five years to sort out, since mid-list authors appear at first glance to have the most to lose. It will take them some time to see that they can do well in an e-future. I believe they'll see it eventually, and the sooner they see it, the better they'll do.

Prediction #5: Bestselling Authors Will Profit Most

Bestselling authors always profit most. The reason is because the market rewards best what it likes best. In the coming e-future, the market will operate more efficiently. That means it'll reward the best performers more quickly and more richly.

It's hard for me to predict how one aspect of this will play out. It may be that traditional publishers will retain their top-performing authors in e-book format. Or it may be that bestselling authors will e-publish on their own first and rake in all the e-profits, and only
then sell the rights to the p-books. Right now, I can't foresee which way it'll go.

I'm confident that p-books will live on and flourish. A strong segment of the market wants p-books. If publishers publish a p-book only after the novel has already proven itself in the e-market, then they'll benefit from better information and will not lose their shirts on wildly expensive gambles. Even if they publish a novel in e-format and p-format simultaneously, they'll benefit from the improved efficiencies in the e-market.

Prediction #6: Publishers Will No Longer Accept Returns

Currently, publishers allow bookstores to return unsold books for full credit. This practice began in the Great Depression, and it's been a curse on the industry ever since. Bookstores can order more copies than they expect to sell, because there's no risk. Anything they don't sell just goes back to the publisher.

What this has meant for the publisher is that returns on a book can kill them. It might make great PR to tell everyone they printed a million, but it's not so pretty if half a million come back as returns.

Returns are wasteful. E-books can't be returned. In the coming e-future, I suspect that publishers will decide that p-books can't be returned either.

This prediction is not a certainty. I don't think it's quite as likely as most of my other predictions here. But it seems rational to end the practice of accepting returns. I suspect that as soon as one of the major publishers makes this move, the others will follow.

Prediction #7: Agents Will Stop Reading Slush

In the old days of publishing, publishers received enormous numbers of manuscripts from hopeful writers. The manuscripts went into a large stack (called the "slush pile") and publishers hired staff to sift through the slush looking for gold.

Few publishers these days will even open a manuscript from a writer they don't know. Instead, they rely on agents to submit manuscripts. Effectively, publishers have off-loaded their slush piles to the agents.

Agents were already overworked, and this has put a massive strain on them. Their real job is to represent their clients. Now they also have to sift through mountains of slush, written by people whom they don't represent and most of whom they will never represent.

In the coming e-future, agents will stop reading the slush pile because they'll have a much more effective method of finding new talent. They'll ask to see sales numbers on e-books by prospective clients. If a writer can't show a good enough track record for sales of e-books, then the agent won't even consider representing the writer.

In effect, the agents will off-load the slush pile to the market. The market won't mind, because the market is extremely efficient. The market will ignore writing it doesn't like and reward writing it does like.

Please note that I didn't say "the market will ignore bad writing and reward good writing." I do believe there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing. The problem is that there isn't any consensus on which is which. I like one kind of writing. My wife likes another. My best friend likes a third.

"Good" and "bad" are multi-dimensional concepts when applied to writing. That makes it very difficult to choose what to publish. It really is true that one man's meat is another man's poison.

However, sales numbers are one-dimensional. There is a world of difference between selling 10 copies and selling 10,000.

The market efficiently translates its likes and dislikes into hard sales numbers. In the future, I
believe that agents (and of course publishers) will do their initial sifting simply by looking at those numbers. Then, from the novels that have a good track record in e-sales, they'll select the ones they like.

If this prediction is correct (and I can't prove that it is, but it seems reasonable), the life of agents
will get a bit easier in the future.

However, I believe that fewer books will be p-published in the future, and that probably means that fewer agents will be needed. So I foresee a winnowing of agents. Those who are currently successful will be more successful or will have to work less hard. Those who are currently marginal may well go out of business.

Prediction #8: Publishers Will Become More Profitable

I believe publishers will be more profitable, but they'll publish fewer titles.

They'll be more profitable because they'll publish only those authors that have a strong track record in the e-market (or an exceptional track record in sales of past p-books). It's got to be more profitable when you only publish the winners. It's got to be more profitable when you have more information about potential sales before you publish a book.

Publishers will publish fewer titles because not all books are winners. Some books just don't do well in the market. In the past, publishers had to guess the winners. In the future, publishers will read the winners off the e-book charts. They'll ignore the losers on those same charts. That has to mean fewer titles.

This does not mean the public will have less choice. The public will have much, much, much more choice in the e-market. It will have less choice in the p-market, but those choices will have higher average quality. That's a net win for the public.

While I think it very likely that publishers will have higher profit margins in the future, it's an open question whether they'll earn more in gross revenues. I make no prediction on that. Naively, it seems that they would gross less. However, they might conceivably gross
more, depending on complex factors that I can't foresee.

Prediction #9: Some Will Do Better; Some Will Do Worse

I believe that talented authors will do somewhat better in the e-future. I believe effective agents will do better and so will most publishers.

I foresee a burgeoning market for freelance editors (who can help writers polish their work before taking it to e-market). Likewise for freelance graphic artists (who can create great covers for e-books).

I foresee a larger, better array of choices for the reading public.

However, not everybody will do better. Some people will do worse. Let's make a list of them. We already discussed these people before, but let's list them here again:

* The person who typesets the edited manuscript
* The person who cuts the trees to make the paper
* The person who turns the trees into paper
* The person who puts ink on the paper
* The person who binds the paper into books
* The person who puts the books in a box
* The person who drives the box to the store
* The person who unpacks the box in the store
* The person who puts the book on a shelf
* The person who rings up the sale at the counter
* The person who puts the unsold copies back in a box
* The person who drives the box back to the publisher
* The person who unpacks and shreds the returns

None of these people contribute actual value to the story. They only contribute value to the medium -- the handling of paper and ink. As the demand for paper and ink shrinks, so will the demand for these folks. That may be cruel and Darwinian, but it seems to me inevitable.

In addition, I also think that brick-and-mortar bookstores will become smaller (as measured in square footage). It's hard to say for sure if they'll also become fewer in number, but it's a good bet that they will. That's been the trend for several years, and I suspect it'll continue. It's possible that they'll become a bit more profitable, since they'll be stocking only p-books that are marketplace winners. But they may face increasing pressure from the online merchants for
p-books, which can stock a much larger choice. I make no prediction on their profitability.

Those are my predictions for the future. I can't prove that any of them will come true. But I'm making my own plans based on this vision.

It's not the gloomy-doomy future that many writers see ahead of us. However, it's a future that will require serious adjustments from just about everybody in the publishing industry.

In five years, we'll know whether I'm right or wrong.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 21,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Poetry Friday: Twelfth Night

About this time a few summers ago, my husband and I were in as small English village called Moreton-on-the-Marsh in the Cotswolds. They had survived a terrible flood a few weeks before. Stores on the main street held water several feet deep. By the time we were there, most places had cleaned out the mess, dumped it in rubbish bins and were making a new start.

One night as we strolled past a large rubbish bin in front of a school, I spotted books. Yes, of course I looked. I couldn't help myself. I did more than look. I didn't crawl in, mind you, but I did explore the rubbish. They were throwing away copies of Shakespeare. Old copies of Shakespeare.

I came home with several souvenirs. My 1895 copy of Twelfth Night has a pencil inscription in the front: Ida Broughton, IV th Form.

Later a friend who spent several years at school in London told me this: In America 100 years is old. In England 100 miles is a long way.

True, of course. Witness my century old copy of Shakespeare. But it's still pretty special to me.

So for Poetry Friday, here are some memorable lines from Twelfth Night.

I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wit.
Twelfth Night, 1. 3

Make me a willow cabin at your gate,
And call upon my soul within the house;
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night;
Halloo your name to the reverberate hills
And make the babbling gossip of the air
Cry out 'Olivia!' O, You should not rest
Between the elements of air and earth,
But you should pity me!
Twelfth Night, 1. 5

You are now sailed into the north of my lady's opinion; where you will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman's beard.
Twelfth Night, 3. 2

If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.
Twelfth Night, 3. 4

More Poetry Friday at Carol's Corner.


You never know when you're going to need a little information.

After a wonderful week with my grandchildren (I'll post pictures next week. The camera went back to Georgia with my husband), I flew to San Diego for a Delaney business conference. I love my book selling job. I've met some wonderful new friends. I get to stay up to date on what's happening in the educational publishing world.

This trip was a tough one. Note to self: build in a day of rest between grandchildren (four energy packed, lively, lovely little Bennetts, two days at Sea World where I got so blistered in the Texas sun I could hardly stand for the grandbabies to sit in my lap!) and business meetings!

So at the end of the second day, I was practically falling asleep on my feet. I went to my room on the seventh floor of the Catamaran hotel tower. I'd been dozing for about 10 minutes when it felt like my grandchildren were standing on opposite corners of the bed pushing with all their might. I came fully awake, sat straight up and asked my roommate, What's happening?


It was a small one, 5.4 on the Richter scale, but the building was definitely rocking. No one around here thought much of it. Everything went on pretty much as normal. But you never know.

So if you're planning on a trip to the West Coast, go out and buy this book!

How to Survive an Earthquake by Heather Montgomery

By the way, Heather e-mailed me to say I did the right thing--just stay in bed!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Feeling Silly

I think it comes with being a grandma, a Dori as my grands would say.

So since I'm feeling silly, here's a poem for Poetry Friday that's in just the right mood.

The True History of the Cat and the Fiddle
(from At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald)

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle!
He played such a merry tune,
That the cow went mad
With the pleasure she had,
And jumped right over the moon.
But then, don't you see?
Before that could be,
The moon had come down and listened.
The little dog hearkened,
So loud that he barkened,
"There's nothing like it, there isn't."

Hey, diddle, diddle!
Went the cat and the fiddle,
Hey diddle, diddle, dee, dee!
The dog laughed at the sport
Till his cough cut him short,
It was hey diddle, diddle, oh me!
And back came the cow
With a merry, merry low,
For she'd humbled the man in the moon.
The dish got excited,
The spoon was delighted,
And the dish waltzed away with the spoon.

But the man in the moon,
Coming back too soon,
From the famous town of Norwich,
Caught up the dish,
Said, "It's just what I wish
To hold my cold plum-porridge!"
Gave the cow a rat-tat,
Flung water on the cat,
And sent him away like a rocket.
Said, "O Moon there you are!"
Got into her car,
And went off with the spoon in his pocket.

Hey ho! diddle, diddle!
The wet cat and wet fiddle,
The made such a caterwauling,
That the cow in a fright
Stood bolt upright
Bellowing now, and bawling;
And the dog on his tail,
Stretched his neck with a wail.
But "Ho! Ho!" said the man in the moon--
"No more in the South
Shall I burn my mouth,
For I've found a dish and a spoon."

More Poetry Friday with Amy at the Poem Farm.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Noise, by Pooh

We're leaving on Sunday to go see the four grandkids in Texas. I'm so excited. Even though this thought from Pooh isn't quite the right season, it is summer already, it captures just the wonderfulness I feel.

Noise, by Pooh

Oh, the butterflies are flying,
Now the winter days are dying,
And the primroses are trying
To be seen.

And he turtle-doves are cooing,
And the woods are up and doing,
For the violets are blue-ing
In the green.

Oh, the honey-bees are gumming
On their little wings, and humming
That the summer, which is coming,
Will be fun.

And the cows are almost cooing,
And the turtle-doves are mooing,
Which is why a Pooh is poohing
In the sun.

For the spring is really springing;
You can see a skylark singing,
And the blue-bells, which are ringing,
Can be heard.

and the cuckoo isn't cooing,
But he cucking and he's ooing,
And a Pooh is simply poohing
Like a bird.

More Poetry Friday here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Daddy

Taught me how to drive on old Ford pick-up truck with three-on-the-column.

Is one of the kindest men I know.

Is as good as his word.

Worked hard and came home smelling like axle grease and sawdust. Those two things still smell good to me today.

Helped me collect newspapers and turn them in for cash to earn enough money to go to the World's Fair in New York.

Stopped in the middle of the freeway in New York City when all the cars but ours turned left.

Loves to laugh.

Never played a practical joke on me, but could pull some stunts on the aunts and uncles.

Can still fold me in his arms and make me feel safe and loved.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Perfect Procrastination

After a morning of errands and exercise, I sat down at my computer for an extended session of writing. It's an ongoing project that I've committed to finish this summer. The research is done, my notebook is organized according to sequence of events. I've written out a rough sketch of the events I'll use. Now it's time to put words on paper in an attempt at a first draft.

Oh, wait, I forgot to send that e-mail to the guy at work. And I promised a copy of a story manuscript to a couple of young readers who agreed to give me some feedback.

And it's Monday. Aren't I supposed to be washing clothes today?

There's the mailman. I could use a breath of fresh air, even if it does feel like I'm breathing in a sauna.

I'm hungry. Right, it's lunchtime. I should eat something.

I really don't like this pen. Where did I put the other one? Nope, don't like this one either. Note to self, buy a big box of those pens I like.

My nose is dripping. Where did I put that box of Kleenex?

Pit stop.

Phone rings and I enjoy a conversation with my daughter. Something in the conversation triggers one of those miraculous brain synapses that takes you somewhere else.

Check the map and see how you get from Denmark to St. Petersburg. (Different book.)

Doorbell rings. Talkative neighbor drops off tomatoes. Now where was that blog I read that recommended calling the most talkative person you can think of as a solution to procrastination? I really can't remember, but yes, it works.

Did I think about supper yet? I hate cooking on writing days. Jump in the car and run to the grocery to grab a rotisserie chicken. Get to the grocery and realize I've forgotten my purse.

Back home. Okay, maybe I'll write for a while and then go back to the grocery.

By the time I get back, there are no more chickens, so I buy scallops instead (they cook fast) and a bag of lettuce.

I give up. Maybe I'll just blog about it. With two pages under my belt, tomorrow will be easier.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Poetry Friday: Deep Sea Diver

Since I turned in my explorers manuscript last week, I've been breathing a deep sigh of relief. There comes an amazing sense of accomplishment, a bit like this poem about a deep sea diver. And by the way, one of my scripts is on Auguste and Jacques Piccard who built the bathyscaph and descended to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot in the Pacific Ocean.

Deep Sea Diver
Robert Francis

Diver go down
Down through the green
Inverted dawn
To the dark unseen
To the never day
The under night
Starless and steep
Deep beneath deep
Diver fall
And falling fight
Your weed-dense way
Until you crawl
Until you touch
Weird water land
And stand.

Diver come up
Up through the green
Into the light
The sun the seen
But in the clutch
Of your dripping hand
Diver bring
Some uncouth thing
That we could swear
And would have sworn
Was never born
Or could ever be
Blaze on our sight
Make us see.

More of Poetry Friday hosted here by Kelly Poldark.