Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winners of the Bagful of Giveaways

Dear Readers,

Giveaway day is both happy and sad. I love giving presents and I felt a lot like a jolly old elf when I licked my pencil and sat down to tabulate the comments and wishes. If only I had a magical bag that never ran out of gifts . . . but after seeing all the wonderful responses, I decided on two things. First, I will offer free critiques several times in the coming year, and second, right now until the end of the year, I'm going to offer a 50% discount on a critique for the first 12 pages of a middle grade novel. That means that instead of $3 per page, the fee will $1.50 per page!!!

MORE GOOD NEWS!!!!!  I decided to giveaway two autographed copies of my sister's book, Finding Redemption in Everyday Life, and TWO free picture book critiques. 

**************ANNOUNCING THE WINNERS*************

1. Finding Redemption in Everyday Life by Lela Gillow Buchanan (my Irish twin) 
    The winners are: Becky Povich and Kris (Integrative Thought)

2. King of the Screwups by K.L. Going 
     The winner is: Toby Speed

3. Writing & Selling the YA Novel by K.L.Going
      The winner is: Gayle Krause

4. The picture book critiques were won by:
     Patty Gehlen and Betty Cracken

5. The critique of the middle grade novel (first 10 pages) 
     The winner is: Irishoma 


To claim your prize, please e-mail me (claragillowclark (@) gmail (dot) com) with your name and address no later than one week from today. 

Please drop by to leave a comment and congratulate the winners!!! Remember that I already have a stack of autographed books on my desk to giveaway in 2011 and don't forget to keep an eye out for more FREE critiques! 

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season. See you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear Readers, A Bagful of gifts for YOU!

And what to the wondering eyes should appear, but a bagful of gifts for my wonderful readers--autographed books for writers, books for readers, books for spiritual edification and a couple of free critiques. All you have to do is leave a comment for a chance to win one of these outstanding gifts.
Read on . . .

Please welcome my dear friend  K.L. Going an award-winning YA author (Prinz Honor Award for Fat Kid Rules the World), former assistant to literary agents at Curtis Brown in New York and a former manager of an independent bookstore.She's generously donated two autographed books!
Learn more about Kelly and her books here: 
View her author page here: Amazon's K. L. Going Page

"Going's latest is full of comic moments featuring "Aunt" Pete's glam-rock band buddies and Liam's relentless blunders, as well as his uncommon fashion expertise ("You're like a fashion Einstein," gushes one of Pete's friends). Readers—screwups or not—will empathize as Liam, utterly likable despite his faults, learns to be himself."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Liam is a multifaceted and resilient character who ultimately learns how to be comfortable in his own skin with the help of his new, makeshift family. Going’s knack for defying stereotypes and creating memorable characters will not disappoint fans of Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003) and Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006).--School Library Journal, starred review

Writing and Selling the Young Adult Novel -- This book takes readers through every stage of writing for the YA market. Aspiring writers and established authors hoping to move into this flourishing genre alike will find instruction on writing for this special audience as well as tips on getting published. The book covers everything from plot, setting, characters and dialogue to revision and approaching publishers.

Recommended by SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)


Please give a warm round of applause to my sister and Irish twin, Lela Gillow Buchanan and her debut book, Finding Redemption in Everyday Life. Take a bow, Lela! I have an autographed book waiting here for one of you.
You can purchase a copy of her book directly from her publisher: 
View her amazon author page here: Amazon's Lela Gillow Buchanan Page 
If you'd like a personalized copy for yourself or a gift, please contact her at:


Lela Buchanan has sifted through the mud to uncover a powerful truth. Although life may be rough on us, we do not have to build a wall around our heart. Refreshing and inspiring story gems told with compassion, humor, and wisdom. ---Allison Bottke, Author of Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

Here's what Lela has to say about her book,  Finding Redemption in Everyday Life:

I wanted perfection, I got life . . .
Finding the redeeming moments amidst the struggles of daily, mundane life is a not an impossible quest. Life is hard. It often hurts. Sometimes you have to dig a little to find the buried gems of goodness. The only tools you need are a teachable heart and mind, and a desire to see the fingerprints of God all over ordinary circumstances. It s far too easy to focus on the clutter of responsibilities, distractions and fears of everyday existence, and completely miss the nourishing, redeeming and often humorous moments hiding just beneath the surface.
As you read you will discover the benefits of:
- Holding onto Faith, even if frail and faltering
- Hope, that is resilient, unable to be extinguished whatever the circumstances
- Love, that may be costly, but worth the price
- Perseverance, never, never, never giving up
Finally, there's me--Clara Gillow Clark! As many of you already know, I teach a book writing course and also do freelance critiques. In my bag of goodies is a Free critique of one picture book manuscript up to 1250 words and one Free critique of the first chapter of a middle grade novel up to 8 pages.

It's easy to win. All you have to do is leave a comment listing which gifts you'd like to receive. The winners will be selected by and prizes will be announced on December 15th. HINT: You are welcome to leave more than one comment for a better chance of winning!

Dear Readers, we love comments, so even if you don't choose to enter the drawing, you can still leave a comment to cheer us on! Thank you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The whimsical world of author and poet Toby Speed

Many of you are friends with Toby Speed on FaceBook or maybe you follow her wonderful blog, "The Writer's Armchair" the way I do, but if you don't, you'll want to do that as soon as you've read through her post below. You'll feel right at home over there, because your favorite tea, a nice armchair and lots of good conversation are waiting 

Toby Speed and I have been friends since before her youngest daughter, who is all grown up now, started school. Her three daughters are all wonderful treasures, too. We share a lot of great memories of sitting on the porch of Toby's rented bungalow on summer nights talking about books, writing, and silly things that made us giggle until late in the night with the sounds of frogs and geese, crickets and cicadas in the background at Bunnell's Pond here in PA. Nice memories, Toby! 

A few weeks ago, Toby posted an article on her blog about wrapping up the final scene in her work in progress and saying good-bye to a character who has become like a member of the family. Without further ado, here is what Toby (with Kashi her cat in the photo below) had to say about that moment of separation:

 Goodbye to Emma

After more than a decade of work, I'm writing the last big scene in my novel, Death Over Easy. The last first draft is almost done.

In 1997 I picked out Emma's car, which later changed. Sometime around the turn of the century I came up with a few characters who were in a book club together. I wrote fifty weak pages and dropped the story. Most of the characters didn't survive. The book club didn't even survive. My first first draft was like the Wicked Witch of the West―no substance, only style.

From that mess I rescued Emma, who was called Carly then, and LaRue Fusticola, who was always LaRue. I wrote a few scenes with them and with some new characters who had more personality than the old bunch. Then three pilots, who were Emma's uncles, walked into the dining room, and I took a hiatus from the novel to learn to fly.

Inez, office manager at Able Editing
Somewhere around 2005 or 2006 I tried again, getting farther with this first draft than I had before. It still didn't gel. I had a clear beginning, which I rewrote a gazillion times to make "perfect," and a clear ending, which I thought I'd never reach. And nothing in the middle. But I had Inez Lipschitz and Pete Zahn and Pearl and Egon and Ronk and the Lizard and a whole bunch of others who were wriggling around impatiently, waiting to get on stage.

Still, it took me until this year, 2010, to write it in earnest. I started from the beginning and revised what I had, which was about 50 pages. As I worked my way into the story, I realized that much of it had to be changed, or at least that other scenes had to be introduced within those pages. I wrote them. I started this blog in March and declared to the world that I was writing my novel. It was too late to go back. It was time to push on. I lost some sleep for a couple days, but I started writing, and I felt better.

Little by little I got into the flow, and the scenes went faster and faster. After a month, I found that I was already warmed up when I started the day's work, so I didn't have to stoke the fires and get the steam going and the wheels turning. The train was already chugging along. Another month, and I had to make a running start and leap onto that train. Another month or two, and I was no longer getting off the train at all. I was on it night and day.

I was literally living with Emma and all of them, looking into their refrigerators, their closets, seeing what they kept in the glove compartments of their cars. They talked constantly, nudging me with ideas, trying to upstage one another, intruding on my carefully planned plot path. They all had back stories, some really amazing, and touching, and very real. I worried about them.

I especially worried about Emma as I got toward the end of the last first draft. Life was getting much more dangerous for her. She was taking chances I'd never take in a million years. And I always knew what kind of trouble was around the corner. Sometimes I joked about her to my friends―"Better her than me"―but when it got down to the wire, I was truly anxious. I had to keep telling myself it was fiction. Not only was it fiction, but it was my fiction.

And now I'm on the penultimate scene. The scene just before the wrap-up. I started this scene before I went to Kidlit Con, and then I didn't get back to it. Partly it was because I got sick, and partly because life happened. But a good part of the difficulty of getting back to it is that I know that this is goodbye.

Most of the characters have finished their scenes in the book. They still whisper to me, but they know they can't come back onstage. And when I finish what's left of the story, and I write those words, "The End," the door will close. They will all go away.

Emma will go away.

I'm dreading that goodbye. It's going to be a very sad day."

Thanks, Toby, for sharing the poignancy of saying goodbye to characters we love. Sometimes that happens when we're reading a book, too. There's a sort of ache that begins in the region of the heart and we start to read slower and slower. Oh, we know that we can read the book again, but it's never quite the same as the first time, is it?  We love comments, and we'd love to hear about your reading and writing experiences. For example, when I finished writing Hattie On Her Way and mailed it off to my editor at Candlewick Press, I came home, lay down on the couch and moped. I missed Hattie, the whimsical Horace, Buzzard Rose the cook and Hattie's grandmother.  When I was ten I read the Wind in the Willows and I felt the very same way when I came to the last page and closed the book. I didn't want it to be over, and that's one reason why I'm a writer. I want to live inside the story.  So please share your thoughts with us or just say, "Write on!" 

Learn more about Toby here:

Sadly, Toby's wonderful books are out-of-print, but Toby has a limited number that she's willing to part with and personalize for you as a perfect gift for a favorite child! To purchase your copies, contact her by e-mail to learn about the one-time special offer for this blog post: toby(at)tobyspeed(dot)com  Read about a couple of her books below and go to her web-site to learn about more of her exceptional books:

TWO COOL COWS review from Publishers Weekly: Those wanting to know why the cow jumped over the moon will find some tweakingly twisted answers in this nonsensical story. "Two cool, too cool" cows from the Huckabuck farm are looking for fresh grass, and they jump to the moon to find it. The moon is cool, too-with cows aplenty beating bongo drums and doing the bunny hop. But the two cool cows are wearing new "black button-back boots" belonging to the four Huckabuck kids, who call them home for milking time. The kids are pleased: Kate plays the fiddle, little Doug laughs and Daisy runs off with Spoon. Speed (Hattie Baked a Wedding Cake) gleefully and rhythmically subverts the nursery classic. And Root. . . plays along zestily, coloring the Huckabuck farm with quiet, pastel tints and the moon with rich, jazzy tones-some of which "return" with the cows. A rewarding romp. Ages 4-8.   TWO COOL COWS was an ABA Pick of the List and won an IRA-CBC Children’s Choice Award.

BRAVE POTATOES (From Kirkus Reviews) Speed and Root (Two Cool Cows, 1995) pit a platoon of feisty prize spuds against grimacing chef Hackemup in this gleeful culinary contretemps. Once the sun sets over the county fair's Bud and Bean Arena, the potatoes open their eyes and rumble out to sample the wild carnival ride called The Zip--until Hackemup, chef at the Chowder Lounge, snatches them up, singing delightedly of Idaho and Juliet . . . Romeo and Julienne. . . .Any way you slice it, this tuberous triumph will have readers rolling in the aisles. (Picture book. 7-9) 
BRAVE POTATOES was on The New York Times and Publishers Weekly Children's Bestseller Lists and was named a Blue Ribbon Winner for 2000 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The book was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater.

We'd really love to hear from you! Please take a moment now to leave a comment about Toby's post. I'm off to order her books before it's too late!

As a thank you for being such dear friends throughout the year, I'll be back the end of the month for the Season of Giving with lots of presents as giveaways.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who is the Lucky Winner of MARBURY LENS?

Happy Book Birthday to The Marbury Lens. The book is officially released in bookstores today. Join the celebration here:

Before I announce the Lucky Winner of The Marbury Lens, you'll want to find out a little bit about what's coming. We're going from the realm of scary to the whimsical mind of a friend who will share an inside view of the writer's life and what it's like to complete a novel that's been in the works for years. Her words resonated deeply with me, and I wanted to share them with all of you writers, readers, teachers, librarians, friends. Keep an eye on your blog readers. She'll be here on November 16th.

So how do I pick a winner, exactly? I number all the comments with my own excluded, although I wouldn't mind winning every so often, and go to, punch in the number range and see what number comes up. It takes the pressure off when you really really want everyone to win! The winning number was seven (7)!
That's **KEVIN**   Kevin, please e-mail me: claragillowclark (at) gmail (dot)com with your full name and address. The autographed ARC will be on its way shortly thereafter. As everyone knows, if I don't hear from Kevin within one week, a new winner will be picked. 

Please take a moment to congratulate Andrew Smith and the book birthday of The Marbury Lens! Thank you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Step with me through the Dark Looking Glass. . .

It doesn't have to be Halloween for a good scare. Enter here, if your dare. . .

Purchase here: 

"Andrew Smith's The Marbury Lens will own you, mind, body and soul. You can't put it down, but you'll want to. You'll want to put it down and walk away but that is not happening. The Marbury Lens crawls inside your head and won't leave. Scary, creepy, awful and awesome. What a cool book!"   -- Michael Grant, author of Gone and Hunger for The Marbury Lens

Goodreads description: Sixteen-year-old Jack gets drunk and is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is kidnapped. He escapes, narrowly. The only person he tells is his best friend, Conner. When they arrive in London as planned for summer break, a stranger hands Jack a pair of glasses. Through the lenses, he sees another world called Marbury.
There is war in Marbury. It is a desolate and murderous place where Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. Conner is there, too. But he’s trying to kill them. Meanwhile, Jack is falling in love with an English girl, and afraid he’s losing his mind. Conner tells Jack it’s going to be okay. But it’s not.  Andrew Smith has written his most beautiful and personal novel yet, as he explores the nightmarish outer limits of what trauma can do to our bodies and our minds. The Marbury Lens pub month: November by Feiwell and Friends an imprint of Macmillan. Ages 14 and up. 


What did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up. The problem was, growing up when I did, most families were overly-concerned about having stable futures and working in industries that would always expand – like warfare and stuff. After all, I am a child of the Cold War. So my parents were not very enthusiastic when I revealed my future aspirations to them. In fact, I think I recall them saying something like, “But what do you really want to be?”

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator?
I always liked it when my teachers would give creative assignments that dealt with writing stories or illustrating things. And I actually am a pretty decent artist, although I really wish I could paint better. But becoming a writer probably became a certainty for me when I was in high school.

What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?
When I was in Kindergarten, I sat next to a boy named Chip. Chip had to pee really bad, but he was too afraid to ask the teacher, Mrs. Bailey. So Chip just peed under the table, all over the floor, and, of course, he denied it was his. I was ethically torn by the situation. We were sitting two-to-a-desk, Chip was my friend, and I had an irreconcilably feverish crush on Mrs. Bailey.

As a young person, who did you look up to most?
When I was a kid, I looked up to my brother, Patrick, the most. He was older, and we shared a bedroom (there were four boys in my family) until he enlisted in the Army – when he went off to fight in Vietnam. Patrick drove a 1959 Cadillac – a gift from our aunt – and he used to drive the three of us younger boys around with him and his tough-guy high-school friends on their crazy adventures, and we listened to AM radio stations and daringly used words like “bitchin’” when we talked.

What was your first job?
My first real job – where I actually collected a paycheck – was writing for a local newspaper in Southern California. Beginning reporters are called stringers, and in those days, stringers got paid by the inch of copy we wrote (newspaper columns, typically 2-inches wide, had about 50 words per inch). I often say that getting paid for writing by the inch is very likely the origin of my predilection for big words and long sentences.

How did you celebrate publishing your first book?
It honestly wasn’t much of a celebration for a couple reasons: First, publication takes such an interminably long time. From the time you get an offer to when you actually sign contracts may take several months. Then, when the book is actually in the stores is usually more than a year after that. But the biggest reason for a non-celebration was that I wrote – and continue to write – in secret. Nobody knew what I was up to, so my family and friends really didn’t believe much of anything had actually happened. In fact, I didn’t tell my wife that I had written a book until after I received an offer for representation from my agent. And when I finally told her, she was so relieved because she thought I was having some kind of online affair due to the hours and hours I’d been spending quietly working on my computer. Now, I think my writing is more of a bother to my wife and kids. Maybe they’ll want to celebrate when I decide to quit.

Where do you write your books?
I write my books in my upstairs office at home. It is a perfect writing place. It has a deck and lots of windows looking out at mountains and trees and my horses. When I travel, I carry a laptop with me and I work on my writing by emailing bits and pieces of my work back and forth to myself.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Inspiration is a moving target. If you sit still, you’ll never find it, and you’ll get really old waiting for it to bump into you.

Which of your characters is most like you?
Well, to some extent, all my protagonists are part “me,” but if you had to isolate one individual character, I think there’d be no doubt about it: I am most like Simon Vickers, from In the Path of Falling Objects. He always takes risks without seriously considering the consequences, and I think he has an attitude – maybe due to naivete – that nothing bad will ever happen to him. He likes to push buttons and then acts indignant when the people around him get pissed off. Yeah… that’s me.

When you finish a book, who reads it first?
When I finish a book, I read it first. That’s when I try to read it like I didn’t have anything to do with it’s having been written. I am not a writer who shares what I write with friends and family, though. So, when I finish a book, I usually send it directly to my agent, Laura Rennert, and my editor, Liz Szabla. Then, immediately after that I get sick and start asking, “Why did I send that to them? Why? Why? Why?” And I start calling myself every version of stupid I can think up. Then I get really grumpy until I hear back from them – an interminable and agonizing wait, even if it’s only a few days long.

Which do you like better: cats or dogs?
I am entirely a dog person. Still, we do own four cats who are all very good at keeping down the rodent population around the house and then making little shrines of death on our front walkway.

What do you value most in your friends?
I like my friends for their intelligence and sense of humor. I also truly value the fact that my friends understand that I am a fairly quiet and reserved person who can go for long stretches of time rather quiet and isolated.

Where do you go for peace and quiet?
I live in a very peaceful, quiet location – and I really couldn’t have it any other way. Although there are certain cities that I absolutely love (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, London, to name a few) my ideal getaways usually take me to secluded places that are not very crowded.

What makes you laugh out loud?
I most often find myself laughing out loud at things we say when I’m hanging out with my wife and kids – or when I’m joking around with my very funny friends: John, Casey, Brian, Steve, and Jeremy.

What’s your favorite song?
I wonder how many people can confidently answer that question. My favorite song changes about every other week. But I can offer, as a means of getting around the question, that if there ever were perfect “soundtracks” made for Ghost Medicine and In the Path of Falling Objects, I would like to have the following artists contribute: The Felice Brothers, Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, and Johnny Flynn. Now, if there were a soundtrack made for The Marbury Lens, I would like to hear what Radiohead, The Cure, and maybe a reunited Pink Floyd would come up with for that monster.

Who is your favorite fictional character?
“My” favorite fictional character is, naturally, one of my own – a kid named Stark McClellan. You haven’t met him yet, because he’s in a book I wrote, called Stick, that is not yet published. But the reason that I like him so much is that he has this really dry (but definitely not cynical or sarcastic) sense of humor in the way he looks at things, and he has this remarkable ability, I think, to see a kind of wonder in everything – even if he’s surrounded by cruelty and ugliness. I admire people who are like that.

What time of year do you like best?
I definitely prefer summertime. Still, there is a lot to be said for sitting by a fire while snow falls outside, reading a great book.

What’s your favorite TV show?
I do not watch television at all. I am incapable of sitting still and having information, noise, and visuals pumped into my skull. I know this is a shortcoming on my part, and that I am missing out on something, but I just don’t ever do it. My friends think I’m a snob, but it has nothing to do with my looking down on the medium. They’re all dumb, anyway.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want for company?
A television. Just kidding. There wouldn’t be anywhere to plug it in. This is a trick, right? You left out the phrase “besides your wife,” right? Okay, so if I couldn’t have my wife OR my kids with me, then I’d probably be just fine by myself. I am an incurable loner at heart.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?
I would very much have liked to live in California during the 1880s. I know that’s a random choice, but I’ve always had a fascination for that time period, which is only part of the reason why I set a portion of The Marbury Lens in California during that decade. There were so many interesting political, social, and religious movements in America at that time, and those tremendous transformations in the ways that people looked at themselves and the universe – coupled with the anxious feeling of being right on the razor’s edge of this incredible twentieth-century future – really made for some potentially amazing adventures.

What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
People who make it a practice to give advice about writing tend to give the worst possible advice. Here are my top three pieces of idiotic nonsense people will tell you about writing:

  1. You have to have a thick skin.
  2. “Show” don’t “tell.”
  3. Don’t quit your day job.
Those are all really wrong and meaningless, in my opinion. The only rule in my writer’s code is there are no rules.

What do you want readers to remember about your books?
I want my readers to find some personal connection to what I write. It’s hard for me to say just how much it means to me when I get letters or email from readers telling me how they’ve been impacted by one of my books. That’s the greatest thing in the world, and it seems like every one of those letters always tells me something different about how that connection was made.

What would you do if you ever stopped writing/illustrating?
I would probably be an inconsolable grump, the worst neighborhood grouch in the history of neighborhood grouches. I can’t see myself quitting.

What do you like best about yourself?
I’ll tell you what I like least about myself: I take everything personally. I know that’s a critical weakness for someone who writes professionally, because everyone in the business seems to repeat this you-need-to-have-a-thick-skin mantra (see above), but I can’t help it. I actually lose sleep over the littlest things people say or do.

What is your worst habit?
Evasiveness. When I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll craftily change the subject. My sixteen-year-old son, who is afraid of insects, is far braver than I am when it comes to riding on roller coasters.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Here we go again with the “bests” questions. I think I am a good father. I believe my kids will look back on some of the things we’ve done together as a family as some of the greatest memories in their lives. That said, I am also very proud of all the books I’ve published – as well as those that will be coming out in the future.

Where in the world do you feel most at home?
Oddly enough, I feel most at home at home. I am a bit of a recluse, I suppose, and I greatly prefer the quiet of the countryside (where I live). I have never been able to understand the “dream” of living in a house that sits in a tight row of clone-houses, surrounded by row upon row of other houses, in a neighborhood where you constantly hear the sounds of traffic and sirens.

What do you wish you could do better?
I wish I could speak Italian better. When I was a child, my mother could not speak English, and I spent many years in Italy, so I naturally picked up the language when I was young. Now, it’s difficult for me to quickly form the words I want to say, although I still can understand it very well.

What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
When I was a little kid, my family lived in a very old house that was actually haunted. And to be completely honest, I frequently saw the ghost of a little boy in it, but never told anyone until after we moved away, and then my mother told me that she saw ghosts in it all the time, too.

Meet Author Andrew Smith. 

 Read more about him here:  


 Andrew has generously donated an autographed ARC to one lucky reader who loves a riveting, page turning thriller. Perfect for older teens and adults!  Leave a comment for a chance to win The Marbury Lens. The drawing will take place on November 9th! Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your world with us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who is the Lucky Winner of NIGHTSHADE CITY ???

Thanks everyone who wrote and congratulated Hilary Wagner on her debut novel, NIGHTSHADE CITY. Purchase a copy here:
In a moment, I'll announce the winner, but first a reminder about my  mystery guest, a brilliant writer, who has a Book Birthday just in time for Halloween. It's not a Halloween book, and it's not for little kids. It's a book for older teens and up, the up meaning old like me. I read the first page and I was spellbound. Here's a little tidbit from Part One: The Amethyst Hour to whet your appetite for more. . .  

"I am going to build something big for you. It's like one of those Russian dolls that you open up, and open up again. And each layer becomes something else. On the outside is the universe, painted dark purple; decorated with planets and comets, stars. Then you open it, and you see Earth, and when that comes apart. . ." 

Don't you want to read more? Of course you do. Learn all about the mystery author and the book on October 29th!

One more bit of news: Next week I'll be speaking at Keystone Reading in Hershey, PA. Lindsay Barrett George will be there and the award winning author Suzanne Bloom of a Splendid Friend Indeed. If any of you are going, please stop by one of the signing booths, presentations, or the Author Tea on Tuesday afternoon to say "Hello!"  Thanks.

Hat's off to the LUCKY WINNER of NIGHTSHADE CITY selected by

Take a bow, MALLORY!  Mallory, please e-mail me: claragillowclark(@)gmail(dot)com with your full name and address.If I don't hear from you in one week, the names go back in for a new drawing. If you haven't checked out Hilary's amazing websites, here are the links again: and 

See you next week! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BOOK B'DAY *** Debut Author Hilary Wagner *** NIGHTSHADE CITY

                           ****Please welcome very special guest, debut author, Hilary Wagner!****
Hilary lives in Chicago with her husband Eric, her seven year old Vincent and two year old Nomi. They also have a neurotic Italian Greyhound, Louie, who [Hilary says] is adorable, but very whiny! ;)

I'm sure you've seen her around the social network, and I know that a lot of you have been waiting to get her book, Nightshade City: Purchase now:  You can also leave a comment at the end of the interview for a chance to win an autographed copy generously donated by Hilary! Read on. . .
“Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade City.” ~ Rick Riordan, Author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series


Billycan is the decisive rat scoundrel - fanatical, nasty, ferocious and absolutely disturbing. Was there any particular thing that moved you to write this completely fantastic bad guy/rat?

I've always loved the bad guys! I suppose in some way they hold a place in my heart, because I feel something horrible must have happened to them had to make them so bad. Weird, I know! I married a good guy though, much to my parent's relief! ;)

What do you like most about writing villains?

I enjoy the many layers most villains have. What brought them to their wicked ways? What pinnacle events made them so cruel and nasty? I truly don't know if people (or rats in my case), can be born bad, but I think we all start out with a blank slate. So what did it--horrible parents, parents that spoiled them, no parents at all? Did they witness or were they involved in something terrible? Or did they just always have a mean streak?

Can you name one of your choice villains, and what made you adore them?

I just love the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She is just as cold as they come, literally! She embodied evil, but also had this undeniable coolness about her--someone you love to hate! She stopped Christmas for goodness sake! ;)

What would you say are the vital traits of a villain (or rat, as the case may be)?

Layers, for sure, villains need to have depth. Uniqueness, no one wants to read about the guy with the black hat, cape and mustache, demanding, "You must pay the rent"! History, why are they bad--the fun part about this is a villain's history can be revealed in more than one book!

What, to you, are the most overdone qualities in villains?

Ha! Not to be repetitive, the black hat, cape, and mustache! I like wicked witches, but nowadays I think you really have to have a singular witch. Even if she has a pointed hat and green skin, she darn well better have a good reason why!


Do you think of Billycan as an utterly hopeless bad guy, or are there good qualities in him?

To be revealed in Book II... ;)

Without giving any spoilers, what's your favorite Nightshade scene with Billycan and why?

Oh, gosh, he has an awfully eerie scene with a young rat, wherein he scares the tar out of her--poor girl! For me, it was extremely creepy and even gave me goose bumps as I wrote it. I always try to think how I'd feel if someone did that to me at that age...not good! ;)

Since this is your debut novel, can you share a bit about your writing process and your road to publication?

Hmmm...writing process--I don't do outlines, so I don't have a specific process. I seem to write in a series of scenes, picturing them in my head first and then getting down just right--one scene building on the next. Not too scientific, but it works for me!

Hilary's  road to publication
: Craig Virden (Nancy Gallt's husband and former president of Random House Children's Division) was the agent I'd been pining away for. I knew he was the one I wanted to represent me. We'd exchanged some lovely letters. He'd requested the full and made me laugh--a real charmer! This progression took about 6 months. Finally I got a letter back from him. My heart beat like a rabbit's. It was yet another rejection, mind you, the nicest rejection anyone could ever get, but a rejection all the same. He said due to the current market woes and competition he just couldn't take it on. 
You'd think I'd be crushed, but I wasn't. He offered to read anything else I had "mouldering" in my desk. So, instead of wallowing (which I'd become an expert at), I got to work that day on another MS I'd been wanting to finish. Then, about four weeks later, I got a phone call out of the blue. I didn't recognize the area code, so normally I wouldn't have answered it, but I just had this strange feeling. It was Craig Virden. He said he just couldn't stop thinking about the book and no matter the market, etc, he wanted to take it on if I was still interested...uh...YES! So, long story short, that's how I landed my agent.
Sadly, a month later, Craig passed away. It was a heartbreaking blow to his family and the publishing community at large. He was one of those larger than life men that everyone knew and loved and one and all seemed to have a story about--a truly special person. Marietta Zacker stepped in pronto. She was dear friends with Craig and Nancy and had just started working with them as an agent. Despite her grief, she called me right away and let me know everything was okay and most of all for me not to worry. Shortly thereafter, I had a new agent. Can lightning strike twice? Marietta is kind and funny and pretty much brilliant! She gives me so much insight into the publishing industry and she's as clever as a fox! She is my agent and my friend and I highly recommend her to anyone. She sold Nightshade City in less than two months. 
Do you have any advice for writers? Your favorite book on the writing craft? (Or anything you want to add about the writing life!)

I've never read a book on writing, so I can't offer up any good titles. For me, the key to writing is developing your own sense of style. I think once you do that, you're really onto something--more so than just learning "how" to write. A distinct voice means everything in a successful book. When I think of my favorite books, all of them had a unique feel about them--something unforgettable

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more. Learn more about Hilary Wagner by visiting her blog:  and enter the exciting, subteranrean world of NIGHTSHADE CITY here:

Who will be the lucky winner of a personally autographed copy of  NIGHTSHADE CITY? If you leave a comment, it might be YOU! Simply stop by to CONGRATULATE Hilary or to share the title of your favorite anthropomorphic book from childhood! Mine is The Wind in the Willows!  The drawing will take place on October 21st!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

ANNOUNCING the LUCKY WINNER of Tenth Avenue Cowboys

Before I announce the LUCKY WINNER of the autographed book, I'd like to invite anyone living in the area of Wilkes-Barre, Pa to drop by and meet Linda Oatman High in person along with Lindsay Barrett George, Patricia Thomas, and yours truly--Clara Gillow Clark!  The four of us will be signing books and talking about writing, books, and publishing at the Barnes&Noble Bookstore, Wilkes-Barre Mall on Sunday, October 10, from 2-4 pm. Btw--It's not too early to purchase Christmas gifts!!!

You know that Linda has written and published a lot of picture books, but I know some of you are interested in YA and Poetry as well. Here's a look at a YA book by Linda Oatman High: SISTER SLAM and the Poetic Motormouth Road Trip Review

Told in the jagged rhythms of rap, with unexpected rhymes and frenetic energy, Sister Slam is a soul sister to Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat. Hip but innocent, sharp but sweet, fresh out of high school in Banesville, Pennsylvania, plump Laura Crapper and her skinny friend Twig ("an indie-goth-hippie chick like me") set out in their '69 Firebird for the Sixth Annual Tin Can, New Jersey Poetry Slam: "We'll be driving/ into the so-cool/ School of Real Life./ The College Of Reality!/ The University/ of Gray Road, Blue Sky,/ and Yellow Lines," exults Twig. As a mark of the importance of the occasion Laura chooses a new name "so hot it sizzled/ and blistered your fingers/ like Crisco-fried ham./ My new name was: Sister Slam!" In Tin Can the new poets bomb when the subject of Sister's angry poem turns out to be one of the judges. And like all road trips, this one has its bad moments (their car is totaled by a collision with a Mustang) and its wild surprises (the driver turns out to be a hunky guy named Jake with "avocado-hotto eyes"). A spontaneous performance at a restaurant catapults the two poets into fame on the slam circuit, with success beyond their dreams as they rant onstage in thrift store chic--until real life intervenes. Teen slammers will snap their fingers along with Twig and Sister in this lighthearted and innovative verse novel. (ages 12 to 16) --Patty Campbell  

And NOW, the WINNER of TENTH AVENUE COWBOYS to be personalized by Linda Oatman High,
(generated by is:   SUSAN COUTURE   

                              !!!!!!!!CONGRATULATIONS, SUSAN!!!!!!!

Susan, please e-mail me at claragillowclark (@) gmail (dot) com  with your address within the next seven days. After that time, the names will go back in for a new drawing!

Thank you everyone who stopped by and left a message for Linda! Thanks, Linda for sharing about the writing and inspiration of  TENTH AVENUE COWBOY

Who's up next? I'm very excited to share a debut author with you. If you spend any time on FaceBook or Twitter, then you'll be familiar with the delightful, Hilary Wagner, author of NIGHTSHADE CITY. Yup, Hilary has generously donated a copy of her book, so be sure to stop by to learn about the writing of her book, and to leave a comment for a chance to WIN a copy of Nightshade City!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Historical Fiction with Author Linda Oatman High

I love to read and to write historical fiction, so I was extra pleased that my friend, Linda Oatman High, agreed to be my guest and talk about the writing of her picture book set in New York City in 1910, Tenth Avenue Cowboy. Linda's book Tenth Avenue Cowboy is about a little known part of New York City history in a time when real cowboys rode the streets of Hell's Kitchen, warning children of oncoming trains.

Linda Oatman High is an author of books for children and young adults, as well as a playwright/poet/journalist/songwriter.  She holds an MFA in writing for children from Vermont College, and has been a professional writer for 20 years.  Linda grew up in Lancaster County, Pa., where she dreamed of being a Roller Derby Queen, a rock star, a TV cowgirl, or Nancy Drew.  She ended up being something even better:  a writer!  Linda presents at schools from K-college, and she is available for writing workshops, conference presentations, and school visits.   Linda loves writing about history, but she also loves writing edgy young adult novels, poetry, songs, plays, and middle grade novels.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3—It's 1910, and Ben and his parents have just moved from their ranch in the West to New York City, "where they'd heard the work and the pay were the best." The lonely child, who still dreams of becoming a cowboy, misses his home and feels like an outsider in his crowded Hell's Kitchen neighborhood where the kids bully and tease him. Then he hears about the Tenth Avenue Cowboys, whose job is to gallop their horses alongside train tracks embedded in the cobblestone streets to warn people of an approaching locomotive. Striking up a friendship with these men and their horses, Ben finally begins to feel as though the city is truly his home. The lively narrative and realistic single- and double-page paintings provide a glimpse into life in early-20th-century New York City and highlight an interesting part of its past. This book could be used to expand studies of American history, cowboys, and cross-country migration. Ben's story will also speak to youngsters who have experienced change or felt like outsiders.—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal  You can purchase Linda's book here:
Linda Oatman High shares about the writing of Tenth Avenue Cowboy:

"I was reading a non-fiction book about New York City history when I came across a one-sentence mention of the Tenth Avenue Cowboys.  I was intrigued by the image of cowboys - real cowboys! - riding in the streets of Hell's Kitchen.  Upon researching the subject, I found that many children in Hell's Kitchen idolized the cowboys, looking up to them as heroes.  That was to be my plot thread, and the story turned out to be that of a young boy who moves from the West with his family.  He doesn't like living in the city, and when he connects with a cowboy named Johnny, Ben knows what he wants to be when he grows up.  My own childhood love of horses fueled the story, along with my adult love of old New York City history. 

I think that children today need more role models, and they need to know that they can follow their dreams and make wishes come true.  That is the underlying theme of Tenth Avenue Cowboy."

           ******LINDA OATMAN HIGH******

As an author of everything from picture books to young adult novels, Linda Oatman High visits schools from K-12 throughout the U.S.  Her school visits include a hour-long slide show assembly (may be presented up to 3 times per school day, with remaining time spent on writing workshops.)  Linda is offering a half-price DOWNTURNED ECONOMY SPECIAL for schools that schedule her during the months of October, November, or December.  Linda's usual fee is $1400/day, however during these three months her fee is cut in half to $700.00 plus travel to schools further than 50 miles from Lancaster, Pa.  Linda may be reached at 717-572-7152 or to schedule visits.  Mention the DES offer when scheduling. 

One of Linda's theme workshops is COWBOY WRITING, in which she wears a cowgirl costume and leads the students in cowboy prompts.  When Linda was a kid, she wanted to be a cowgirl.  Isn't it wonderful when real life helps us to make our dreams come true?  Learn more about Linda Oatman High, her school visits, workshops, her books, and much more by visiting her website:

Write a story or a poem of a character in an incongruous place (i.e. a cowboy in Hell's Kitchen!)  Give that story a hero or a role model.  It could be a historical character in a modern setting.  GO!

Linda has generously donated a copy of  Tenth Avenue Cowboys, which she will personalize for one of you lucky readers.  For a chance to win, simply leave a comment. It's okay just to thank  Linda for dropping by, or to make things more interesting share what idea YOU came up with for Linda's fun and challenging writing prompt. The drawing will take place on October ONE!!!