Category Archives: query

Interview with Helene Boudreau: Author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings

Hi Hélène, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my first ever blog interview. I’d like to start by introducing you to my readers. Hélène Boudreau is the author of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. She writes fiction and non-fiction for kids and lives in landlocked Ontario, Canada but spends summers at her seaside childhood home on the Atlantic Ocean.

Hélène’s book was just launched on December 1st and is now available everywhere books are sold.

Okay Hélène, let the interview begin.

Can you tell us a little about Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings?

Thanks so much for having me! Here’s the description from the back of the book:
First zit. First crush. First…mermaid’s tail?
If Jade hadn’t been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?
Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.
Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?
Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?
This summer is about to get a lot more interesting…

What inspired the idea for the book?

Growing up, my dad used to take us for boat rides from the Atlantic Ocean, through a canal, and into the fresh water lakes of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We had to get through a set of boat locks en route and I often wondered if the purple jellyfish in the ocean knew about the white jellyfish in the lake. It amazed me that two totally different underwater worlds could be separated by just a mile-long canal. That was the inspiration for the mer-world in this book.

The main character, Jade, came from conversations I had with my daughters after reading Mélanie Watt’s picture book ‘Scaredy Squirrel’. The book is about a neurotic squirrel who’s afraid of everything. We were getting a bit silly, talking about birds that were afraid of flying or fish that were afraid of swimming; which led to the idea of an aqua-phobic mer-girl. It just seemed like such a ridiculous idea that I just had to see where it led. Little did I know; it would lead to this book!

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote the story over two National Novel Writing Months (NaNoWriMo) as a matter of fact. The first time (in Nov ’07) I wrote about 30, 000 words. The second time (in Nov ’08) I finished it and began revising. I kept on revising until I signed with my agent in June ’09 and until I signed with my publisher in Oct ’09 and then revised some more until it finally went to press in August ’10. So, in total, I think it was close to a three year process.

I’m always curious about other writer’s journeys to publication. Can you tell us how long you spent querying? Did you receive immediate interest or did it take a while for an agent to request your manuscript?

I began querying agents with this project in March of ’09 but that was after spending a full ten months querying another project with no success. By the time I signed with my agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency in June ’09, I had sent out about 113 queries (you can see my query dissected on the Guide to Literary Agents blog)over a twelve month period. Once Lauren started submitting my book to publishers it was surprisingly quick (to me!); it took only about six weeks until we had an offer from Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky.

I was so used to waiting that it seemed like a blink of an eye!

What genre is your book?

I’d describe it as a light-hearted contemporary fantasy. With a dash of Epsom salt.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The second volume of my chapter book series Red Dune Adventures / Nimbus Publishing will be published in spring/ 2011. It’s called Water Hazard and it’s an eco-adventure mystery for 6-9 year olds. I also have a picture book coming out with Candlewick in 2013 but that’s still in the early stages.

What is your favorite time to write?

I have two little chicklets, 7 and 9 years-old, and you would think my best writing time would be when they’re at school but it’s actually when we’re all at home or at the library together; usually while they’re doing their homework or reading. It’s so nice to work alongside one another, taking breaks to ask questions or to crack jokes. I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from conversations with my girls.

Do you have a favorite writing space?

I work from a laptop in various places around the house. I work on my treadmill desk for part of the day, the kitchen counter for a little while or parked on the couch if I feel like putting my feet up. I like the flexibility of being able to move around.

If you could offer a fellow writer advice what would it be?

Foremost; read, read, read/ write, write, write/ revise, revise, revise.

Then eat chocolate and repeat/ repeat/ repeat.

It’s really a combination of staying on task, working really hard, not being afraid to write junk during your first draft, revising until the cows come home, asking for help when you need it, and believing in yourself.

I have always loved mermaids. I especially loved the movies Splash and Aquamarine. Do you hope to see your book on the big screen?

I think most writers see their characters in their heads and can fully imagine them on the silver screen. That would be a lovely dream come true! Equally thrilling is to get to ‘hear’ your characters, which I have the pleasure of doing since Dreamscape Media has produced the audiobook of Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings. In fact, they’re doing a giveaway of three autographed copies until December 20th if you LIKE their fan page on Facebook. Jen Taylor does an AMAZING job as Jade. See for yourself; you can listen to the first chapter right here!

I love the cover of your book. Were you involved in the selection of the book cover?

Thankfully, no. The fabulously talented design team at Sourcebooks deserves all the credit there. I would have come up with something far dorkier and much less awesome. I love it, too!

I always love to see who authors thank in the acknowledgement section of the book. Is there anyone special that you thanked?

There are so many people who helped me shape this book into its final form so acknowledgements are always so hard for me. It’s impossible to name everyone and I end up having to be vague and utterly uncharming.

I dedicated the book to my agent, though. Because she laughed in all the right places.

Will you be doing any book signings?

Mostly in Canada but I can send signed bookplates to bookstores or book clubs. We have the technology! 

Hélène, thank you so much for stopping by. I’m sure your book will be a huge success. I have already added it to my Christmas wish list. Speaking of wish lists, what books are you looking forward to reading?

Thanks so much for adding Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings to your Christmas list! I’m really looking forward to reading my fellow Sourcebooks author, Kari Townsend’s The Samantha Granger Experiment and my friend Marina Cohen’s Mind Gap, Natalie Hyde’s Saving Armpit and Mahtab Narsimhan’s The Deadly Conch

One more question before you go. I see you are a fellow lover of chocolate. If you can have anything dipped in chocolate what would it be?

Any kind of fruit: strawberries, cherries, pineapple…SO yummy. And it can be any kind of chocolate, too. Toblerone, Cadbury, melted chocolate bunny—I’m not picky.

Okay, I lied, one more. I assume every writer has a favorite word. My favorite word is BELIEVE. What is your favorite word?

Dinglehopper. It can stand in for so many things!

I think my first blog interview was a success. Helene’s answers were AWESOME! Make sure you add her book to your wish list. I can’t wait to read all about Jade. Leave a comment and let me know how you think the interview went.

You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

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Surrounding Yourself With Inspiration

Yesterday I spent time on my back porch looking out at my yard. The sight of my withering Weeping Willow saddened me. Winter is approaching and the green weepy leaves that I love so much are slowly but surely disappearing for the season. As I dwelled on the soon to be bare tree a realization occurred to me. I surround myself with the very things that inspire me to write. I won’t say I did this consciously because I really do not think I did. I have loved trees for as long as I could remember (Weeping Willows are my favorite). I can go on and on about trees and how you will probably find one in each of my stories (even if it is just a small mention) but I will get back to the point I’m trying to make. I believe that most if not all writers surround themselves with inspiration (whether conscious or not). After coming to my realization, I looked around my house (especially my writing room) and found many items that I have placed throughout my home that inspire me. Here is my list.

1. Trees- I know I already mentioned them, but I have to add them to my list.

2. Quotes- I love any type of plaque or picture that have a quote across it. A quote can inspire me in so many ways. It also can give me that push that I need when I’m having an off day. Some of the quotes that surround me are:

*Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail-Ralph Waldo Emerson (Love, Love, Love this quote).

*Home is where your story begins

*The best way to predict the future is to create it

*Even if the voices aren’t real, They have some pretty good ideas (This one makes me smile. I think it’s a great quote for writers).

*Laughter is the music of the heart

*Family, where life begins and love never ends

I stumbled upon the one pictured above(Creativity is a drug I cannot live without by Cecil B. DeMille) today and instantly fell in love with it

3. My writing diplomas. I have two diplomas from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Every time I look at the framed diplomas that hang upon my wall, I am reminded that I have taken steps to better myself and hopefully further my writing career.

4. Photographs: Pictures of family and friends can be very inspiring. If I’m writing a scene that involves friendship, all I have to do is look at a picture of a friend and instantly memories, emotions, and conversations pop up. I especially love the pictures of my father (he passed away two years ago) because I know he was my biggest fan. I can still hear him say “Finish that book Maribeth,” or “Don’t give up honey, you are a good writer.”

5. Books: I was thrilled this year when my husband came home with a beautiful bookshelf. I am inspired for many different reasons by the books that line my shelves. A glance at them can push me to keep writing because I want to see my name on the cover of a book. I also can be inspired by lines in the books that other authors wrote. Most of all they inspire me to keep writing because I know that every one of the authors were once unknown.

I’d love to hear what types of items surround you. Maybe something that inspires you will inspire me as well.

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THE ART OF OBSERVING

Have you ever been in a situation where you catch another person looking you up (or down) from head to toe? Your first thought is probably something like “What is she (or he) looking at?” This is the exact thing a writer must do in order to create characters, develop scenes and incorporate details. Imagine if every book you read had only a plot? What if there was no character description, no setting imagery or no sounds mentioned? I think you would agree that most readers would find the book BORING. It is the incorporation of a writer’s observation that brings a book to life. A dark haired man is bland. A dark haired man with a receding hairline, beer gut and a tattered white t-shirt adorned with sweat soaked arm pits becomes interesting (or disgusting). A scene where a girl sits by herself on a bench in a park isn’t much of anything. Adding detail to the scene gives the reader a visual and helps bring them into the life the writer created. E.g. A teenage girl sits on a spray painted park bench under an oak tree and notices a large groups of kids huddled around the basketball court watching grown men play a game of hoops. The reader can now envision the setting because of the addition of minor details, such as the spray painted bench, the oak tree and the basketball game.
If you are a writer think of yourself as a sponge. Everything around you should be soaked up.
If you want to master the art of observing you must do the following.

*Wherever you are take in the sounds. Practice closing your eyes and assimilate all that is audible. How many sounds throughout the day do you ignore because they have become too common? E.g. Birds chirping, horns beeping, sirens, dogs barking etc.

*Watch the Activity. Try sitting in a highly active place (restaurant, park, casino, sports arena, concert, etc.) and write down what is happening around you. What is the waitress doing? Is there a child sliding down a slide for the first time? Are there groups of people listening to music in the parking lot prior to the concert they are anxiously waiting for?
*Pay attention to emotions. Does the gambler look excited or frustrated? Weddings, funerals and sporting events are great for observing emotions.

*Watch for mannerisms. Mannerisms as I have discussed in previous posts make characters relatable. Does the young waitress have a habit of licking her lips? Does the lead singer jump up and down before the start of a new song? Is the football player known for blessing himself before he leaves the huddle?

*Don’t forget about nature. Nature is free art. Getting in touch with nature may sound corny to some but it is a must for a writer.

*Watch the animals. Don’t ignore the birds that chirp on the telephone wire, dismiss the squirrels that scurry up the tree or fail to pay attention to the neighborhood cat. They all can add to a scene.

*Make note of a person’s sense of style. Do they have a flair that begs to be imitated? Do they appear sloppy looking? Is their pants one size too small or two sizes too big? All of this can be used for character building.

*Check out the atmosphere. Make it a point to scan your surroundings. If you are in a friend’s home look at their décor for inspiration. What unique things do they have that can add depth to a scene. Does your favorite restaurant have booths or tables covered in linen?

Promise yourself that this week you will take time to really observe. Soak in your surroundings. But, remember that too much detail can be overkill and turn a reader off. Find a way to add your observations in a non obvious way.

What observations have I missed that you think are important?
Where do you like to go to observe?

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Why I am Your Dream Client:(Info I can’t include in a query or bio)

A good query will pique an agent’s interest and hopefully prompt them to request more. A bio will give an agent a glimpse of who you are. The social media networks will allow an agent to get an even better grasp on a potential client, (what they look like, what family and friends say about them, what their interests are). Today’s post is meant to be fun yet informative. Currently, I have three partials out there swimming in the sea of possibility. I have decided to list ten reasons why I think I would be a dream client just in case one of those agents decides to check out my blog. What would you tell an agent about yourself if you could?

1. I LOVE constructive criticism. I am completely aware that I will never reach my full potential unless I am willing to listen to what others have to say. I do not view constructive criticism as an attack. If I had nothing more to learn, I would already have many published books under my belt. Note to other writers- Don’t respond immediately to constructive criticism. You are more apt to respond negatively within minutes than you are if you give yourself a few hours, even a few days.

2. I will never attack you via the internet. I won’t promise I will always agree with what you have to say but it is not my style to throw your name out into cyberspace to “get back” at you.

3. I am not trying to be the next J.K. Rowling, I am trying to be me. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love to become as successful as a lot of today’s popular authors, I am saying I won’t try and ride on anyone else’s coattails. I want my work to be my own. I’d rather start a trend than follow one.

4. I am good at public speaking. Of course I get the jitters when standing in front of a group of people but the audience would never know.

5. I can get along with anyone. I think everyone has a story to tell. My motto is – look for the good within every person you meet and you might be surprised how your life changes. If you can’t find any good then you have a muse for evilness.

6. I will always give it one-hundred and ten percent. I want to be great at anything I do, not because I want to be better than anyone else, I just want to be the best of myself.

7. I have a fun sense of humor. Often, I connect with others based on sense of humor. I’d rather laugh at myself than at someone else.

8. I won’t pretend to know your job.

9. I have a trunk full of stories waiting to come to life. I don’t want to be a one trick pony.

10. I am LOYAL. I won’t look for every opportunity to get rid of you. If there was a problem I felt needed to be addressed, I would come to you first.

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CREATING A CHARACTER IS LIKE DRESSING A MANNEQUIN

I enjoyed going shopping with my mother when I was a young girl. I loved it not because she bought me things (although that was an added bonus) but because I loved the mannequins. At eight years old I was creating characters without realizing that was what I was doing. With the help of my imagination the giant faceless dolls became people. I gave them names, faces, personalities, people to see and places to go. The person who dressed the mannequin helped make it easy for me to envision the people I created. We as writers do the same for our readers when we develop the characters that walk the pages of our books.
When developing a new character, think of a nude mannequin waiting to be dressed. The way a person dresses can tell you a lot about their personality. The clothing you pick for your character helps the reader envision what they look like. What colors would your character wear and why? Maybe a loud boisterous character would choose colorful clothing such as a bright orange sweater, a pair of bootleg jeans and a pair of zebra print stilettos. A more demure character might choose to wear a navy blue pea coat with a grey angora cowl neck scarf, a dark grey pencil skirt and black leather knee high boots.
Is your character a teenager, a housewife, an athlete a hipster? Once you answer this question, you will find it easier to pick out their attire. The way you describe their hair will also help bring them to life. Does the girl in the pea coat have blonde silky hair that she secures tightly in a ponytail at the back of her head? Does the lively girl have short brown hair with golden highlights that frame her face? Speaking of faces, what does theirs look like? Have you ever found yourself staring at a mannequin envisioning their features based on the way they are dressed?
Once you know their style, their features usually will present themselves. Are their eyes circular in shape? Can you describe their nose? What about their smile? Is it vibrant and contagious or non-existent?
Anyone who dresses a mannequin has an idea of a person in mind. Their execution of style is what entices the buyer to purchase what they are selling.
Let’s make this a writing exercise. Imagine you have an unclothed mannequin in front of you and it’s your job to add clothing, accessories, hairstyles, facial features and personality to the lifeless figure. You want the potential buyer to be able to clearly envision the character you have created.
******** My character**********
Name –Lydia (Where do you get your names for your characters? Is there meaning behind them?) Something as simple as a name can lure readers in.

Age: 18 (Your main character’s age will generally constitute your target reading age, eg. Young Adult readers would most likely connect with a character that is within the fourteen-to nineteen age range).

Features: (It is important to include features in your descriptions, this allows the reader to feel like they have a good sense of what the character looks like) Dark wavy shoulder length hair, Hershey kiss eyes, a smile that stretches like a rubber band, a star shaped birthmark under her eye and a slender figure with the exception of her rounded derriere.

Quirks if any: ( Quirks are a way to make your character become relatable to the reader) Lydia has a terrible habit of cracking her knuckles.

Voice: (Imagine what your characters voice will sound like. Is it raspy? Is his or her speech fast?) Lydia’s come hither voice makes her a favorite with the opposite sex.

Attire: ( The clothing your character wears can help define what type of person they are) Lydia slipped on her tightly fitted rainbow decorated t-shirt and tucked her stretchy denim pants into her knee length Chuck Taylor sneakers. She liked that her style was unlike anyone else’s and often referred to her sense of flair as “punk rock and roll”. She’d rather set a trend than follow one. Once someone started to imitate her style she would change it. She hated that the girls in school began wearing fingerless elbow high gloves because that meant she could no longer wear her favorite accessory.

Hopefully, I created a character that you can now see. The next time you are shopping, take a moment to look at the mannequins. You might be surprised at how inspiring they can be.
Think of one of your favorite characters, what was something that made them memorable? What steps do you take when creating a character?

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Pass It On: Give a Fellow Author a Shout Out

Today a smile was brought to my face because of a comment from someone I had not met before. Herby, if you are reading my blog consider this a personal shout out and a big “thank you”. Herby stumbled upon my blog and was kind enough to let me know that he liked my material. Herby’s comment not only brought a smile to my face but it got me thinking about something that I have thought about before, but not as in depth as I thought about it today.
If you are a writer then I am almost positive that you have experienced moments of self doubt. Moments where you thought no one was reading what you wrote. Moments when you threw your hands up in the air and said “So be it, I’m writing anyway.” If you write a blog, I’m also pretty sure that you check your traffic on at least a weekly basis. It’s in our nature to be curious to see if whatever it is we have written prompted another to let us know what they thought. If we didn’t hope to connect on some level with others we would have never set up a blog in the first place. (We would just keep our words tucked away in a journal)
I always admire the people’s blogs who get beaucoup comments and wondered if my own would ever receive as many as theirs.
Herby’s comment today made me realize that we all have a way of helping each other become noticed, whether it be by leaving a comment, adding a blog to your blogroll, tweeting on each other’s behalf or simply telling a friend. Someone once told me that 90% of successful advertising comes from word of mouth. I’m not sure if it is quite that much but I am positive that most success stories have something to do with one person telling another then another then another. We as writers have to help each other out and if we happen to stumble upon a blog that catches our attention and then keeps it, it’s the least we can do to let a fellow author know. Why not leave me a comment right now and let me know whose blog you enjoy reading. Together we can increase their traffic.
Today my shout outs go to Elisa over at Where’s My Pencil, she included me as one of her recipients for a Versatile Blogger award (which in return brought traffic to my blog and Herby at Living as Herby for making my day and inspiring this post.

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TEN REASONS I WRITE

1. I truly believe I was born to write. I have done many things in my life and held numerous jobs (I currently love my day job) but through it all writing was always a part of what I did.

2. I love to create stories and then look back and think- Did I write that?

3. I want to see my name on a book cover. I want to see what my first book cover will look like (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to this).

4. I love anything that has to do with words. Words to me are like numbers to a mathematician.

5. It is therapeutic to my soul. When I sit down to write, it’s like taking a mini vacation. Everything and everyone falls to the side. I could find myself on a beach, walking a desert or on the top of a mountain.

6. I’m an observer. Observing without producing is wasteful as far as I’m concerned.

7. I’d like my words to help someone else interpret life in a way they never thought they would.

8. I want my children to be able to have my words to read after I’m taken from their life.

9. It’s exciting. Any emotion I am feeling can be released through writing.

10. If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t be me.

We all have reasons to do what we do. I’m sure many of my reasons are similar to yours but I would still like to hear why you write. Do you have a reason different from the ones I listed?

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