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  • Meet Galen!

    Happy Monday, everyone! Today, you get to meet Galen, Jacki Skole's rescue! Jackie is the author of Dogland: a Journey to the Heart of America's Dog Problem (a must read!)

    "Meet Galen. She’s one quirky canine. Galen doesn’t pee on walks; she prefers to empty her bladder in our backyard. She loves to play fetch, but only with my husband and only with her volley ball-sized purple ball. And she eats all her meals outside, no matter the weather—her choice, not mine. My husband and I adopted Galen when she was eight weeks old. A New Jersey-based rescue pulled her and her six littermates from a North Carolina animal shelter and brought them to the Garden State, knowing the puppies would find homes quickly. They did. Galen is now four, though if you meet her you might think she's closer to fourteen. Her demeanor is strikingly calm, and her gray fur deceives—I’ve heard parents tell their children to look at that “old, gray dog.” Galen is a Labrador retriever/Australian shepherd mix according to both the rescue and a DNA test. But most importantly, Galen is a beloved member of my family, adored (and spoiled) by me, my husband, and her two human sisters."

    You can purchase Dogland: A Journey to the Heart of America's Dog Problem on Amazon, Ashland Creek Press or Barnes and Noble. 

    Learn more about Jacki on her website.

    And all proceeds will go to the extraordinary animal welfare programs profiled in the book.

  • what's in it for you at a writing conference?

    Each time I peruse the latest edition of Poets and Writers Magazine I see the endless amount of writing conferences offered across the globe, which got me thinking, why should writers attend writing conferences?

    I've attended a handful of these conferences, (later this week I'll be at the SCBWI - society of children's book writers and illustrators - annual conference in Los Angeles) and I've compiled a list of benefits these conferences have to offer both seasoned writers as well as those just starting out. 

    What you can gain by attending a writing conference:

    1. Networking: Conferences boast hundreds to thousands of attendees depending on the type. Either way, you meet tons of people. You'll find writers working in a similar genre, in a similar city, or perhaps you'll meet your next writing group member!

    2. Access: Most writing conferences have established speakers that are active members in the publishing world. Writers, agents and publishers are all in attendance. Inevitably, one of the questions that is always asked by someone in the audience is, "can I send you my query?"  And I have to say,  many agents and publishers will give you something specific  to write in the subject line of an email to gain direct access to them so that you can forward them a query letter and they'll connect it to your attendance at a specific conference. 

    3. Exposure: Most conferences have a designated time when writers can sell their work to the other conference attendees. If you're a published writer, this is a great time to practice your sales pitch as well as answer questions about the writing process. And if you're just starting out, you can walk around and speak with scores of other writers and ask them questions about their publishing experience and their books. 

    4. They're valuable: The speakers at conferences have all prepared something very specific to talk to you about ranging from character development, how to land an agent, how excel can be used to track your submissions, to how to book gigs at your local library. There is always more to learn and there are always new ways to reach out to readers. I keep all my notes from these various conferences and reference them often.

    5. They're fun! There's plenty of time to socialize with other writers and lots of conferences will have an evening out where you can leave the notebooks at home and just have a night of fun! 

    So, how do you pick a writing conference that's right for you?

    Check out the back pages of Poet's and Writers Magazine.

    Go to New Pages for a list of upcoming conferences by state. 

  • SCBWI is almost here!!

    I am so excited for the SCBWI conference next weekend here in Los Angeles! SCBWI stands for the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators and their annual conference takes place each year in August. This conference is open to members and non-menbers of this amazing organization. I have been a member of SCBWI since 2009 when I attended my first conference. 

    For those of you attending, I will be selling and signing my latest novel, Strays, at the Friday Night reception until 8:30 p.m. 

    Come stop by and say hi!

  • meet Blue!

    Lael Smith is a writer living in Los Angeles. Meet her dog, Blue:

    My husband and I drove out to the Santa Clarita hills one bright late-May morning eleven years ago when the Jacaranda trees were in a purple riot of bloom (I’d never noticed them before but always think of Blue when they bloom now) to a home where Blue was one puppy in a litter of nine.

    We had fallen for a Rhodesian Ridgeback in our neighborhood and wanted one of our own. We thought them to be the most exotic, beautiful and noble of dogs. We thought one would make a good running partner. We were told they didn’t bark, unless they meant business and they didn’t shed.

    We took Big Boy, as he was then named, home when he was eight weeks old. None of us had any idea what we were getting into but I held the little eleven-pound warm lump that smelled like popcorn the whole way home and promised to care for him and so I have.

    He is sweet and silly and loving and stubborn as a mule. He sheds like crazy and refuses to run unless he feels like it, which is not often as he’d rather smell every square inch of ground, but only barks when someone knocks on the front door (which is handy as we have no doorbell).

    You can feel his African roots — his eyes, nose and immense speed made for the safari. I read recently, in one of Alexandra Fuller’s books about growing up in Africa that of her immense pack of dogs, it was only her Ridgeback who could defend himself against the baboons. And I believe it. I’ve never once seen a hint of ferocity from Blue, quite the opposite — I’ve seen other, smaller dogs, abuse him.

    There was one time when I was pregnant and hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and a mountain lion in a bush growled at me and Blue, obliviously smelling some other dog’s pee down the trail, missed his one opportunity to do what his breed was made for, treeing lions, and I had to run for my life. And another time we were hiking in the mountains, he got heat stroke (it was Memorial Day and only 80 degrees) and my husband and our friend and I had to carry him down the mountain, slung between us on a beach blanket. So, maybe he’s not exactly African safari material...

    Blue used to be possessive of me and quite passive-agressive when his pack left him behind. He ate my wedding shoes before I could wear them again. He ate my wedding earrings (diamond studs). He ate a new pair of lovely designer heels before I could wear them at all when I came home once to dump my things and go back out without spending any time with him. He’s eaten my hats and underwear and plenty of meals meant for me. But he’s mellowed in his maturity. Of course this past Christmas he got ahold of the Gingerbread before I could serve it.

    He was hit once, accidentally, with a Chuckit in the park (by the mayor of Santa Monica, no less) and pushed over by a much smaller bulldog (the fall snapped his young leg in half) and Blue avoids both still, more than ten years later. He understands more English than seems possible. I’m quite sure I’ll see him in the afterlife and he’ll have some things to say to me — mostly about his bland, vet-mandated Low-fat GI diet. He has a great party trick too — he likes to unwrap presents delicately with his teeth and paws. It’s pretty remarkable. He dazzled my husband’s entire town with this trick at my first son’s baptism party there. I have no idea how that trick got started; he must have watched us to it and taught himself?

  • waterproof books are here!

    Guilty as charged: I bathe with a book in hand. And yes, said book always get wet. Dare I say soaked, sometimes.

    My kids had a stack of soak-able plastic books when they were little, so it only makes sense that adults should be afforded the same luxury.

    The people over at Bibliobath are making this dream a reality with their commitment to publishing soak-proof literary classics using synthetic paper made of Polypropylene (think trading cards.)

    To learn more about Bibliobath and visit their kickstarter campaign click here.

  • Los Angeles Teen Public Library Teen Author Reading Series - July 16th

    Save the date! I'll be speaking alongside two fellow young adult writers, B.T. Gottfred and Elissa Sussman,  at the Harbor Gateway Library in Harbor City on July 16th at 2 p.m. This panel is part of the Teen Author Reading Series hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library.