Friday, January 30, 2009

LOW-TECH MARVEL-original poem for Poetry Friday

I do not flash undignified
Blinking for attention
Require fifteen META tags

Prodding your direction.

No need to power-up for me.
I’m cookie, bug and virus-free.
My editor checked snopes for me.
So you can trust me worry-free.

I am your book
Come dive inside.
Release yourself
Let’s take a ride.

© Jill Corcoran 2009

Poetry Roundup is at Adventures in Daily Living.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I often spend hours, days and sometimes months searching for the perfect word.

When you write poetry and picture books, every word counts. And the quest for the perfect word becomes a roller coaster of ups and downs, twists and spills until one word socks you in the stomach, simultaneously exhilarates and scares as you're jerked into the final turn and giddily exit the page . You read and reread, out loud, the sentence, paragraph, page, manuscript until you know in your writer's heart that you can move your reader to feel, see, touch, smell, taste, experience, live and recreate your story in their imagination.

Once you write something down and give it to your reader, the words are no longer yours but a shared experience of your black and white and their color. You can't sit on their shoulder and explain the feelings they're suppose to experience or cue a laugh track, so picking the perfect words, the words that evoke the images you want to create in their minds, is how you make your words feel.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


In yesterday's post, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publicist Jennifer Taber's Marketing and Promotions Advice for Launching Your Next Book, Taber emphasizes the importance of authors and illustrators to not depend on their publisher for all their publicity needs but to get out and market their books themselves. One avenue Taber mentions is school visits. Now we all know authors who make more money in school visits than on their books, but how do they do it? How do they keep those little eyeballs in their audience from glazing over?

I say, play to your strengths. For me, my strength is helping kids tap into their creativity as well as showing them that they have it in them to write better. My school visits are hands-on writing activities and working with kids to show each and every one of them that they are amazing writers. Often, the students surprise not only me by what lays dormant within them, but themselves.

Here are some examples of my favorite programs:

Poetry in the Classroom: Music-Art-Poetry

Poetry in the Classroom: Mask Poems

Poetry in the Classroom: Haiku I & Haiku II

Poetry in the Classroom: Acrostic Poems

Poetry in the Classroom: Father's Day/Mother's Day/etc Poems

I have a lot more that I have not yet blogged so stay tuned:)

How do you conduct school visits?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Poets & Writers Magazine is gifting all of us with an amazingly informative series, AGENTS AND EDITORS: A Q&A WITH... 
These are must reads for anyone in the book biz.


      Julie Barer, Jeff Kleinman, Daniel Lazar and Renee Zuckerbrot



May/June 2008 ...AGENT NAT SOBEL


March/April 2008 ...EDITOR PAT STRACHAN


Thursday, January 8, 2009


I was reading Cynthia Leitich Smith's fabulous interview with Big-Time-Editor-Turned-Agent Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary yesterday. When Leitich asked Davies, "Do you expect your writers to develop a market brand?, Davies' no nonsense "Why would you not?" ignited my marketing soul.

In the interview Davies says, "When an author is starting out, I think it's helpful to aim at a particular area of the market--so if your first novel is a paranormal romance it's a good idea to follow up with something targeting those same readers.

Why would you not? You are trying to establish your name, and your name is your brand. This enables your publisher to position you on their list, and makes it far easier for them to justify the costs of marketing and promotion.

Further down the tracks, when you're more established, I'd certainly be supportive if an author felt a strong pull to write something very different. I represent authors not books, so I'll look after my authors whatever they write (if I think I can sell it)."

If you all were with me back in November you may remember my first branding' post in response to Agent Chip MacGregor's wonderful and necessary advice, Branding for Writers. I wrote: Many writers are multi-talented and can write in a variety of genres. Yet, there is a strong school of thought that advises writers to BRAND themselves, to establish a writing persona. In short, writers provide readers with 'expected' material, and in turn, readers keep coming back for more. Conclusion: Branding leads to loyal readers which leads to stronger sales.

Last summer at the SCBWI Annual Conference held in LA, I was amazed at how many writers resented Agent Michael Bourret advice to write at least three books in one genre with a goal of becoming a brand. In an interview with CWIM Alice Pope, Bourret recapped his thoughts: "The key, I think, is to establish yourself as a writer of something. I think it’s tough to establish a brand when you’re jumping from one category to another or from one genre to another. You want to give readers what they expect while still satisfying your own muse. It’s a balancing act, but being an author and having a career as an author are two different things."

All of this advice is near and dear to my heart. I write both humorous picture books and poetry as well as heart-wrenching YA novels-in-poems. I have spent years on both and one day the light went on for me......I had to choose one path or the other to establish my career. I had to decide what I wanted the brand JILL CORCORAN to elicit in the minds of readers. For now, I have left the sad corners of my soul I frequented to write my YA novel and am concentrating on laughter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Sometimes words are like a warm hug that pick us up, fill our hearts and set us back on a path from which we may be faltering. Yesterday, I received an email from The Highlights Foundation announcing yet another amazing addition to their Chautauqua 25th Anniversary Writing Retreat, Little Brown Senior Editor Alvina Ling. In the generous tradition of Chautauqua, faculty include a writing tip in their announcement email. Alvina Ling, thanks for the hug:)

"Some people have a ton of natural talent, and some not as much. But I honestly believe in the power of hard work and drive. I've certainly read my share of manuscripts that I felt were so far from publishable that I was tempted to tell the writer to give up. But I will never, ever, ever do that, partially because I just don't have the right to do that—this is such a subjective business—and writing that I might think is bad, another editor might really love. But also, I'll never ever tell anyone to give up because I've seen writers improve so dramatically through hard work, research, and honing their craft. We all have to start somewhere. Each thing you write is a stepping stone—a step closer to the finish line.

"As Julie Andrews said, 'Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.' We've all heard the stories before. Dr. Seuss's first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was said to have been rejected by 28 editors before finding a home at Random House. According to Internet sources, anywhere from 'several' to eight or twelve U.K. publishers turned down Harry Potter before Bloomsbury offered a contract. And Kate DiCamillo suffered through 470 rejection letters before Because of Winn-Dixie was published. What if any of these authors had stopped trying? If your goal is to be published, think of everything you do now as a step closer to your goal. If you write one book that doesn't seem to be working, move on to your next book—not every book you write will or should be published. Life is a journey, and so is your path to publication. Enjoy yourself along the way."   .....Alvina Ling

P.S. Alvina's words have been added to KEEP WRITING!

Monday, January 5, 2009


Well it does. For those of us poetically minded, haiku just happens. It happens in the shower. It happens in the car. It happens on the beach. When you think in poems, sometimes the world comes at you in 17-syllable snippets. Especially when you are either teaching haiku or writing a haiku book.

Can you guess what I was doing when these haiku happened?

Bees tethered to a
Coke can strain to break free of
its sweet, sticky spell.
© Jill Corcoran 2009

Willow dances with
the wind in her hair. Autumn
arrives tomorrow.© Jill Corcoran 2009

Spider lost in spinning
snags absentminded cricket.
Crunchy lunch surprise.© Jill Corcoran 2009

Several years ago, my child's third grade class went on a nature walk and learned about native plants. They learned California poppies close at night and open every morning in a blaze of orange bright. They learned the ways of the wild west, of cowboys rubbing California sagebrush on their skin to camouflage the stink of their hard earned sweat. They ate mustard plants and they washed their hands in the foam of California lilacs.

When we came back from that hike, I taught the students how to write haiku. How to recreate their experience with nature in the minds' of their readers. Here are two haikus I wrote and shared with my students:

Rise and shine poppy,
flood this thirsty hillside in
deep waves of orange.© Jill Corcoran 2009

Sagebrush cologne can't
rub off the stench of stampedes,
carousing cowboys.© Jill Corcoran 2009

And just as haiku happens, sometimes, well sometimes it stalls. After I showed J. Patrick Lewis my newest haiku, he sent me what could have been my motto while writing the manuscript:

Writing a haiku
in seventeen syllables
is very diffi-

Does haiku happen to you?


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