Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Club Extraordinaire!

Tonight I went to a mother-daughter book club to talk about Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire. Is there anything sweeter than moms and daughters sharing books together? I think not. What a wonderful way to foster a love of reading and bond with your daughter!

One mom and daughter baked this cookie cake with all things Jemma.

We had such a rich discussion. The girls and moms had the most interesting questions and comments, but the highlight of the night came for me when two of the girls acted out a scene from the novel. It was a scene I had struggled with getting just right, and seeing them act it out made all my millions of drafts totally worth the effort.
Thanks girls!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Feeling My Age

When I was a teenager, I had such a baby-face that I would never have been able to use a fake i.d., even to get into an R-rated movie. People used to say I'd appreciate looking young someday, and guess what? They were right! I love when people think I'm in my 20s now that I'm happily in my 40s. But just because I look young doesn't mean I feel young. Sometimes it is clear that I am old. Very old. Ancient, if you ask my kids.

Case in point, the B96 Summer Bash concert.

Ludacris, T-Pain, Jason Derulo, B.O.B, New Boys, and others. If you have no idea who I'm talking about, don't feel bad. I wouldn't know either if my daughter didn't take over my car radio every time she rides shotgun. I took my daughter and her friend to this concert on Saturday, and while they loved it, and I loved watching them love it, I was entertained by so many things other than the music.

Perhaps you might someday accompany a teen to a similar concert. If so, do not fear! I have some helpful tips to help you get through the night.

1. Remember to bring your earplugs. While your teens would rather potentially go deaf than die of embarrassment with something as ridiculous as earplugs, you should feel free to protect your ears. After all, you're a parent. Embarrassing your teen is part of the job description.

2. Don't make assumptions. Just because half the audience is dressed like strippers and hookers, it doesn't mean they are. And those guys with their pants so low it's a wonder they're staying up? They aren't necessarily hoodlums. Relax, these are just the fashions.

3. Don't be too relaxed. If your teen daughter goes to the bathroom by herself, she just might be offered drugs. Be thankful you've taught her to say no!

4. Those audience members grinding on each other? Yes, it's okay to be disgusted. It's okay to wonder why these girls seem to have thrown away all the progress of the women's lib movement. Even if your teen pretends to think you are a complete nerd, your opinions actually matter to her, so go ahead and let her know that young women are so much more than objects for guys to rub up against.

5. You know how when you go to a concert and the band actually sings and plays all the instruments? Don't expect that here. This is all about the dj. The artists will be singing/rapping along to their recordings. It's kind of like karaoke. But not. Have faith that your teen will someday see a real concert with real musicians. For now, let her squeal and dance and sing along the way crazed teen fans have been doing for decades. This is not the time to criticize.

6. Don't you squeal, sing, or dance! Please, you're a mom. Have some decency. Oh, and also? Don't drink alcohol. You're a role model, remember? You're the designated driver, too.

7. Last but not least, enjoy yourself. Take pictures of your daughter and her friend. Buy them a hotdog and a pretzel. And hug them at the end of the night, when their ears are ringing and their adrenaline is pumping, and they still remember to say thank you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Out of My Mind

It's easy to think the world understands what you're thinking and experiencing. When I say "Chicago suburbs," I have a clear picture of exactly what that means. And if you live in a Chicago suburb, you do, too. (Though your suburb and mine might be somewhat different.) But if you're writing a book, you have to remember that most people do not live where you do. You have to provide details, even if the setting is something you might take for granted. And more importantly, the details you choose to include must be details your character would notice.

You need to get out of your mind and into your character's. Then, take a look around.

This week, I've been lucky enough to have a house guest who has never been to Chicago or the Chicago suburbs before. So I've been doing all kinds of Chicago things with her, and I've loved noticing the things she notices.

Like that some of our streets are paved like big sidewalks. And that Lake Michigan is way bigger than most lakes. It looks more like an ocean. And that deep dish pizza has the tomato sauce on top of the cheese, not below it. Even revolving doors are new experiences for our guest. If you've never been through a revolving door before, you might not know how fast to move your feet or how hard to push the door. A busy revolving door is almost like jumping in to Double Dutch jump rope!

Here are my kids plus our guest, sitting on the ledge of the Willis Tower (Sears Tower),
103 floors above the city!

And for those of you who know I have a fear of heights (or rather of falling from said heights), here I am, being brave!

And speaking of settings, my kids will all soon be heading to their favorite place on earth... sleepaway camp! If you've got kids heading to camp, check out my guest blog entry over at Sheila Glazov's blog. Sheila is the author of What Color is Your Brain? After looking at her descriptions of brain colors and types, I have hereby determined my brain is a rainbow. What's yours?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

How To Make a Book Trailer

If you have a new book coming out, chances are you've considered making a book trailer to help promote it. Since so many people rely on getting information from the internet, and especially from video, a book trailer seems like a smart thing to add to your arsenal of bookmarks, postcards, booksignings, and other promotional items.

The cool thing is that book trailers are relatively new. You can be as creative as you want. Think outside the box and do exactly what you want to do. There are not many hard and fast rules. That said, I would warn you that there is one rule you should keep in mind: Do No Damage. What that means is your book trailer should not turn people off and cause them to avoid your book at all costs. Of course, you can't please all the people all the time. But you can certainly try your best to not be annoying.

There are many ways to tackle book trailers. My friend Simone Elkeles hired actors and a director to create a full out Hollywood style book trailer for her new book, Rules of Attraction. Check it out:

Pretty snazzy, huh?

Then again, not everyone has the money to spend on this kind of trailer. And truthfully, you don't have to spend any money at all. If you own a computer, you can make a trailer. I created my new trailer for Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire with my MacBook, my Sony camcorder, and a bunch of willing girls who love my book.

Here are the steps I took:

1. Came up with an idea. The idea was actually given to me by a fellow writer. It was, "Why don't you interview girls about their experience reading your book?" I liked that idea because my prior book trailers for this book were made before the book came out, and although they were fun and they captured the tone of the book, they didn't really tell you what the book was about.

2. Found willing participants. I emailed some friends and posted on Facebook letting people know I was looking for 8-12 year-olds who loved Jemma Hartman and who would want to be in a book trailer. I got a terrific response.

3. Scheduled the shoot. I had the kids meet me at a neighborhood park on a Sunday morning. I ended up shooting on consecutive Sundays due to the girls' availability and weather questionability.

4. Had the parents sign releases. I found a generic media release online and tailored it to what I needed it to say. Then I emailed it to all the parents and told them they had to bring it all filled out and signed to the shoot.

5. Shot the footage. I had the girls answer three questions: What is the book about? What was your favorite part? And who should read it? I also supplied snacks and drinks, autographed books, answered questions, and gave the girls cool rubber bracelets as a thank you. I wish I had been more careful about that pesky record/pause button. I lost one girl's entire interview due to this ridiculous mistake. Also, I wish I had shot more footage. If I had interviewed each girl multiple times in multiple locations, I might have come up with even better footage.

6. Edited the footage. I used iMovie, which is incredibly easy. True, I have experience with film and video production, but I swear, even a total rookie can use that software. The important thing I considered was brevity and getting a coherent message across with the right tone. Even though I had told the girls there was no guarantee they would make the cut, I felt strongly compelled to include each girl in the final video. After all, these girls are my fans! I love them!

7. Added music. I wanted my son to compose some original guitar music for the trailer, but he's an 8th grader and currently suffering from 8th Grade-itis, so he's not so interested in this kind of project. Instead, I used music from iLife. This is music that is copyright-free. Very important not to infringe on copyrights!

8. Got feedback. Before showing the trailer to the world, I asked a select group of people to look at it and give me feedback. This was incredibly helpful and led to me making some important changes.

9. Put it on the web. I uploaded it to YouTube and Facebook and told my publisher about it. Because they liked it and I had all the proper releases, Macmillan will put it on their site. Soon it will be on my website and on Amazon and any other place I can think of that features book trailers.

The entire process took less than 12 hours (approximately 2 hours of planning, 2 to shoot, 6 to edit, 2 to upload it everywhere) and cost me next to nothing. And here's the result:

Aren't those girls fantastic? I love them! And I'm sure hoping that the word will get out about Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire.