Friday, January 1, 2016

New Vocabulary 2016

Happy 2016!

This is going to be a great year for all of us seeking representation and publication. You're wondering why? Because you and I are going to keep pressing forward, clogging up the inboxes of agents and working on our next great masterpiece! That's our goal this year--to just keep going.

I've got a little mind shift for you, though. I've always disliked the term rejection. To me, it really doesn't encompass what an agent or editor is doing after looking at our work. It's just too strong, even if it is somewhat accurate.

Consider Webster's 1828 English Dictionary definition:

REJEC'TIONnoun [Latin rejectio.] The act of throwing away; the act of casting off or forsaking; refusal to accept or grant.

Now, there might be a few agents who ask for that paper copy of our work, and they do literally throw it away. (Most likely nowadays they recycle it.) And we do feel cast off and forsaken when those form emails hit our inboxes. And it does boil down to their refusal to grant us representation, but that is not the whole truth.

The publishing business is so subjective that I can't spend my time thinking X number of agents have rejected me and my work. Instead, I use the word pass.

P'ASSverb intransitive. To be done.

You can't imagine how many definitions there are for pass! But this one is the simplest. Basically, an agent is done with my work...for the present time. This word instills hope, without the personal dismissal or cold shoulder or kick in the teeth that the word rejection brings to my mind. A pass still leaves the door open with hope that they'll consider another work in the future and they don't hate me.

Yet, I do know there are those who send our true rejection letters, cutting us down until we're ready to trash all our hard work. Those emails deserve to be called rejections, but I choose to delete or stick them in a recycle bin, depending on their mode of communication.

So I just want to encourage you to think in the positive for 2016 and that the writing world's "rejection" letters aren't as bad as they sound. Actually, the ones I've received that haven't been forms, are quite nice. I call those ones passes. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ogres and Turkeys Just in Time for Thanksgiving!

What do ogres and turkeys have in common? In the land of Ogregon, they’re both ginormous next to your smaller-than-usual hero. Milo Speck: Accidental Agent, by Linda Urban, weaves together a unique tale of socks and turkey feathers with a boy who wants to make his father proud.

While I was reading this novel, I was reminded of some of my favorite books and movies when I was younger. So rather than give accolades about the writing or the setting or the characters (all of which are excellent), I want to motivate you to read Milo Speck based on these other works of fiction you might have already enjoyed. 

Linda Urban encourages readers in her endnotes to read some of Dahl’s books and says the BFG inspired her novel. Giants…  ogres…  see the connection?

Another Dahl book I was reminded of was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. If you haven’t read this one, it continues the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only this time they go into space!

Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but Linda Urban uses a very unique mode of transportation to get Milo from the “real” world and into Ogregon. 

HINT: It has to do with laundry.

And where do the turkeys come in? First place you’ll see one is on the back of the book jacket.

But I will tell you there is a scene very reminiscent of this one from The Swiss Family Robinson.

Haven't you always wanted to ride an ostrich? What about a giant turkey who can do the chicken dance?

Before I give anything else away...

And, yes! There are spies with strange technology!

So I hope I have made you curious enough to rush out and buy Milo Speck: Accidental Agent. It's a great read for all ages, and especially fun for reluctant readers. If they resist, just show them the pics on this awesome blog post. :)

To read some other amazing MG book reviews, go to

Friday, October 30, 2015


The last two months being a PitchWars mentee have been amazing! My excellent mentor @CopernicusNerd, aka Tom Torre, was so encouraging. He helped me fine tune my novel and showed me things I never realized about my own writing. Below are the books and movies that he saw within my novel that were inspirational to me and I didn't even know it!

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

This was my favorite book when I was 10. I reread my father’s copy from 1941 so much the binding broke and pages were smudged with butter. (You know, the tea party—bread and butterfly? It made me so hungry!) 

In my novel, a boy finds himself in an off-kilter dream world where people rarely make sense.

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie  

Honestly, I never read the book, but I was very familiar with the Disney movie. One of my childhood cassette tapes (have you ever heard of those?) had the You Can Fly song, which I can still sing to you word for word.

My main character can’t fly, but he does have the ability to catch a lie.

Time Bandits

This is where things get a little strange…

When I was 12, I started having flashbacks of what I thought were old dreams…a boy traveling in a desert with a bunch of little men, God’s face in a closet, a burned lump that made parents disappear. It was rather disturbing until I told a friend. Then she said, “Oh, I’ve seen that movie.”

I soon found out my older sister took me to see it in the theater when I was only 5 years old! It probably doesn’t compare to some of the scary things little kids watch today, but it’s weird to think about the impact it had on me. Some of those memories inspired some of the scenes in my book, and I didn’t even realize it!

The Goonies 

Think back to the days before you had a VCR. No idea what that is? Never mind.

When I was little, I didn’t have a way to re-watch movies in my home, but I did have a tape recorder (an ancient device that would record sound only). So when The Goonies came on TV one night, I recorded the audio. I had a pretty vivid imagination, so every time I listened to it, I could picture everything that was happening.

No wonder a bunch of goofy kids on a ship ended up in my story!


The previous films and books I experienced as a child, but this one came out just a few years ago. I only saw it once, but it left an impression. My book centers around a boy who moves between dreams and reality.

Some people say to write what you know, so in a way, I guess I did!

Friday, September 18, 2015


October 9-10, 2015
Register On- Line:
  OR Download Registration Form: OK 2015 FALL RETREAT

FRIDAY, October 9, 2015
Daytime Program:9:00 AM — 4:00 PM
bulletpurpleIllustrator Track
- Tim Jessell
Full day of technique instruction, hands-on practice, and group critique.
Stacks Image 43
bulletpurplePicture Book Track
- Janee Trasler
Successful picture book writer.
Morning workshop.
bulletpurpleNovel Track
- Anna Myers
- with Pati Hailey  & Ginny Sain

Novel writing/editing workshop including drama techniques for character development.
Afternoon for Picture Book/Novel Tracks
First Pages and Panel Discussion

FRIDAY Evening Program
 6:30 PM — 8:00 PM
bulletpurpleFan  The Spark of Creativity
- Keynote Address

- Linda Urban
Successful author of picture books and novels.
Linda Urban

SATURDAY, October 10, 2015
9:00 AM — 5:00 PM
bulletpurpleEditing Workship – (Part 1)
- Linda Urban
9:00 – 12:00
bulletpurpleLunch Break12:00 – 1:30
bulletpurpleEditing Workship – (Part 2)
- Linda Urban
1:30 – 4:30
bulletpurpleClosing Remarks4:30 – 5:00

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Expand Your Horizons with Twitter Contests

First thing you need to do before you read any more of this post is start a Twitter account. I know, it’s the last thing you want to do. I hated it at first and was so confused and intimidated about tweeting, but if you’re serious about getting your book published, you really should create an online presence. Here’s why:

  • You meet other writers. Just using #amwriting when I tweeted brought me in contact with other writers from around the world and I started to build a following.
  • You gather a growing fan base. The writing community champions fellow writers, so your good news will be retweeted and the more followers you have the more their followers might be seeing the be announcements about your book release (Dream big…you will one day have a book release date!)
  • You learn about contests. There are so many writers online that want to help fellow writers. It’s amazing the free time people put into organizing contests and then reading all the entries. Besides getting amazing feedback, you also get info about your book in front of many more agent eyes than just sending a query through their email.

So now I want to focus on contests. I’ve done a few different kinds and here are my opinions about each. If you have a completed manuscript, query, and synopsis, then you really should be putting it out there in these contests. Yes, there might be a little rejection, but the encouragement far outweighs it. Plus, people are donating their time to share with you about how to improve your book.

This is a semiannual contest that is organized by L.L. Mickinney @ElleOnWords. You didn’t have to have a Twitter account for this one, but it helps to keep up with what’s going on. There are four rounds where you submit your pitch and first 250 words and receive feedback from a team of writers and editors. Then you have a chance to polish your work before the final choices are made about which submissions will be presented to agents. Best thing about this contest is it has guaranteed feedback! Next one is coming up in October. Check the website for exact dates.

This is an annual contest hosted by Amy Trueblood @atrueblood5 and Michelle Hauck @Michelle4Laughs. Usually held in January, the above link is for this past year’s contest, but keep tabs on the site for when the new dates will be posted. It’s similar to #PitchSlam in that you do get feedback before agents see your submission.

Organized by Brenda Drake @brendadrake, this contest includes a full day of tweeting your pitch over and over, getting it on the feed so agents might see it and request more from you. Best thing about it is Twitter won’t let you tweet the exact same thing twice, so I had to think hard about how to write multiple pitches that fit only into 140 characters. I felt like they kept getting better the more I worked on them. Next one is December 4th, so I encourage you to do it!

This was by far the most stressful, but exciting contest I entered, and Brenda Drake is a champion for running it every year. You submit a query letter and the first chapter of your book to five prospective mentors (agented and/or published authors). Then they spend two weeks reading and debating who gets to mentor which manuscripts. Initially, I had three of the five I submitted to request to read more, then it was silent for two whole weeks! That was the stressful part. 

So I was ecstatic when I saw my name on the mentee list! So now I get to spend two months editing my whole manuscript with my mentor Tom Torre @CopernicusNerd before agents take a look at it. This is a huge benefit to any writer, and I’m so grateful for the time and interest these mentors give to all the mentees.

But, even if I didn’t make it, the contest would have been totally worth it. Many of the mentors write back to everyone who submitted to them, giving them a bit of feedback. Also, I learned so much just from people tweeting encouragement to keep writing and giving tidbits of advice. I also have a new bunch of followers and writers I feel confident to call upon when I have questions.

Unfortunately, this contest will not happen until next year, but there are many others coming up if you just keep an eye out on Twitter.

So I hope to see you on Twitter soon! My handle is @Kaup_Novel

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Let Your Characters Choose Your Point of View

So, you’ve got this idea for the next best-seller in children’s books. You take the time to plot out the story line, develop your characters, and do some background research for your setting. Then you sit down and write, but what appears on the page is not what you expect.

This happened to me when writing my most recent novel. I love telling stories from my characters’ point of views, so I had always written in first person. I also enjoy the immediacy of present tense. So all my books up to this point had the main character as the narrator, giving the reader a play-by-play of what was happening.

But there was only one problem with my new novel—my audience would be preteen Americans and my main character is a European boy who struggles with English. See my dilemma? How could I make my intelligent European character appear smart if he had a limited vocabulary? He also has a thick accent, so it would be a challenge to constantly write his mispronunciations. I could’ve changed him into a slick, foreigner with a sharp tongue, but he would no longer be the same character and I didn’t want to lose him. So I flipped into third person past tense for the first time. It was hard at first and my writing was a little clunky, but now the reader can understand why my main character is the way he is.

Then I faced another surprise—a different character demanded more attention. I would’ve been very limited using first person, but now with third, this secondary character gets chapters all to herself and her perspective is the perfect contrast to my main character.

So don’t limit yourself to one point of view until you know your characters. Try writing one chapter multiple times each in a different point of view. I’ve not delved into second person, but there are a number of authors, especially for middle grade, that do this now. Explore your novel through the eyes of your characters and let them have the voice that is perfect for your story.

(And when in doubt, let your excellent critique group give you their opinions!)

Monday, March 23, 2015

There’s still time to join us at the SCBWI-Oklahoma Spring Conference!

Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 

Oklahoma Spring Conference

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crowne Plaza Hotel-Tulsa Southern Hills

Registration Open Until Thursday, March 26

Register at:

SPEAKERS and Topics for the SESSIONS 

Laura Biagi – Jean V. Naggar Literary “The Spark an Agent Brings to the Table”

Julie Bliven – Charlesbridge Publishing “Elements of a Successful Picture Book”

Kristine Brogno – Design Director for Chronicle Books  “Words + Pictures/Pictures + Words: The Difference That Creates That Spark!” 

Alyson Heller – Aladdin Books  “Put a Spark in Your First Pages/Chapters”

Erica Finkel – Abrams Books   “Put a Spark in Your Submission by Knowing the Market”

Rachel Orr – Prospect Agency   “Main Conflict: The Spark That Fires Up a Manuscript” & “A Conversation with an Agent & Author” (with author Jen Latham)