Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site packed with tricks and tips for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting!
Kim Tomsic

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Kill Zone: The Great F-Bomb Debate

The Kill Zone: The Great F-Bomb Debate: " James Scott Bell In John G's Friday post, he gave us clips of his most recent editorial letter. One of the admonition..."

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Book review by the Bookshelf Detective, Kim Tomsic
Five Lollipop Rating

The dramatic tale of high school senior Vera and the confusing mind game following the death of her best friend Charlie. Charlie and Vera’s friendship started at age four. When they were five and ten and twelve, their friendship was about sleepovers, a tree house, and keeping secrets (like the one about Charlie’s missing underwear or the other about Vera’s mom). When Vera and Charlie enter high school, their friendship is tainted by unspoken crushes, lies, betrayal, and addiction. While Vera tries to compartmentalize the dirty secret behind Charlie’s death, she is forced to confront the truth about other relationships in her life. Author A.S. King is a master of voice. She makes the reader easily believe that an eighteen year old girl, a dead boy, and even a pagoda are narrating. Hard issues are dealt with in an authentic and even funny manner, but it’s the hopefulness that keeps the pages swiftly turning.
Genre:  Y.A.  (Knopf books for Young Readers October 12, 2010 ISBN 978-0-375-86586-2 Hardcover $16.99)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oprah's No Phone Zone to NO HOME ZONE

Escalating No Phone Zone Pledge to a No Home Zone Crusade by Kim Tomsic

The influence Oprah harnesses by speaking a few words is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s like watching the wind whip a flock of moths on a new course. People don’t complain about the infectious sway her opinion holds over the majority because Oprah has proven to be a brilliant steward of her powerful gust. Currently, Oprah is using her persuasive energy to encourage people to give up a wide spread addiction: cell phone use while driving. Her campaign is called No Phone Zone.

Forfeiting phone use in the car is a sandy pill to choke down—many of us have become accustomed to the convenience of getting our to-do list done on the road. It’s handy to respond to emails at red lights, search movie listings while waiting for trains to pass, and make quick return calls at toll booths.

Many Internet users are on the No Phone Zone campaign trail; a shocking email blast is currently filling in boxes. It shows graphic images of a decapitated person and what’s left of his mangled car after an accident—one which was allegedly caused by a texting driver. Oprah may be on to something with her No Phone Zone campaign, but I wonder if the crusade should be on a broader spectrum…something on the magnitude of No Home Zone.

No Home Zone

Driving down the road feeling traumatized by the above mentioned email blast, I was on the lookout for dangerous cell phone users. As I arrived at a red light, I took an anxious peek to my right and sure enough, a teen was chatting on her Hubba Bubba pink phone; to my left, there was a business man with a phone, no wait, not a phone but an electric razor clutched in his hand.

I looked in my mirrors for an escape route from these dangerous drivers only to discover the car behind me was powered by a college student. She was brushing her teeth and spiting into an empty water bottle. When the light turned green, the shaver pulled away as he gave his chin a clean mowing.

I continued driving, nervous now of cell phone users and of people seeking to complete their morning hygiene while blazing down the road. Slowing to a safe distance from the shaver, talker, and brusher, I decided to change lanes. I signaled and glanced to my blind spot only to discover a thirty-something man holding a magazine on his steering wheel. Really? Reading while driving! My heart now bumping hard in my chest made me think I’d be guilty of heart attack while driving. I safely made a left turn, but felt overwhelmed with the amount of passing drivers toting Big Gulps and coffee mugs (I’ve heard the dangers of driving with hot coffee is equal to drunk driving).

Oprah’s campaign, No Phone Zone, invites people to “pledge to make [their] car a No Phone Zone.” I urge you to make it a No Home Zone—leave your novel, tooth brush, coffee mug, and coupon clipping at home. Oprah’s commitment states, “Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by pledging the safest driving behavior I can commit to.” For more information, visit http://www.oprah.com/packages/no-phone-zone.html.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Attention Writers: 60 Agents at One Conference!

Writer's Digest Conference

New post for the conference January 20-22, 2012

(YOU MISSED IT   :0(    January 21-23, 2011)


Andrée Abecassis (Ann Elmo Agency, Inc.)

Jason Allen Ashlock (Movable Type Literary Group)

Bernadette Baker-Baughman (Victoria Sanders & Associates)

George Bick (Doug Grad Literary Agency)

Brandi Bowles (Foundry Literary + Media)

Jamie Brenner (Artists and Artisans)

Regina Brooks (Serendipity Literary Agency)

Ann Collette's (Rees Literary Agency)

Marisa Corvisiero, Esq. (L. Perkins Agency)

Jennifer DeChiara (Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency)

April Eberhardt (Kimberley Cameron & Associates)

Diana Fox (Fox Literary Agency)

Diane Freed (FinePrint Literary Management)

Adam Friedstein (Anderson Literary)

Mollie Glick (Foundry Literary + Media)

Doug Grad (Doug Grad Literary Agency)

Katie Grimm (Don Congdon Associates)

Naomi Hackenberg (The Elaine English Literary Agency)

Molly Jaffa (Folio Literary Management)

Meredith Kaffel (Charlotte Sheedy Literary)

Mary Kole (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)

Katie Kotchman (Don Congdon Associates)

Jud Laghi (The Jud Laghi Agency)

Sarah LaPolla (Curtis Brown, Ltd.)

Sandy Lu (L. Perkins Agency)

Donald Maass (Donald Maass Literary Agency)

Alexandra Machinist (Linda Chester Literary Agency)

Victoria Marini (Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents)

Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management)

Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary)

Peter Miller (PMA Literary and Film Management, Inc.)

Robin Mizell (Robin Mizell Ltd.)

Shawna Morey (Folio Literary Management)

Emmanuelle Morgen (Judith Ehrlich Literary Management)

Dana Newman (Dana Newman Literary)

Kathleen Ortiz (Lowenstein Associates)

Lori Perkins (L. Perkins Agency)

Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary Services)

Janet Reid (FinePrint Literary Management)

Chris Richman (Upstart Crow Literary)

Rita Rosenkranz (Rita Rosenkranz Literary)

Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein (McIntosh & Otis)

Katharine Sands (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary)

Katie Shea (Caren Johnson Literary)

Jessica Sinsheimer (Sarah Jane Freymann Literary)

Michael Strong (Regal Literary)

Becca Stumpf (Prospect Agency)

Emily Sylvan Kim (Prospect Agency)

Suzie Townsend (FinePrint Literary Management)

Joanna Volpe (Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation)

Marissa Walsh (FinePrint Literary Management)

Elisabeth Weed (Weed Literary)

Roseanne Wells (Marianne Strong Literary Agency)

Natanya Wheeler (Nancy Yost Literary Agency)

John Willig (Literary Services, Inc.)

Christine Witthohn (Book Cents Literary Agency)

Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary Agency)
Don't let this ship sail without you!! (your choice...fishing boat or cruiseliner :0)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Writing Wars: And then he saw...Blah, Blah, Blah

Writing Wars: And then he saw...Blah, Blah, Blah: "They should make more of these. Brevity is Key Shorter is always better when it comes to writing. Makes things less redundant, faster to ..."

Current Top Sellers on Kindle

This Week's Kindle Bestsellers (updated December 20, 2010 )

The Confession:  A Novel by john Grisham

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

4-Hour-Body:  An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex, and Being Super Human by Timothy Ferriss

Cross Fire by James Patterson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson (Knopf)

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

Room:  A Novel by Emma Donaghue (see review on this blog)

The New York Times

Hell's Corner - David Baldacci (Grand Central)

The Wall Street Journal

Mahjong Solitaire by Mobigloo

Heir by Grace Burrowes

Free Kindle Books

Freedom:  A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) by Jonathan Franzen

The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry

The Perfect Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Thursday, November 11, 2010

J.K. Rowling, Rejection, and Lucky Number Thirteen

J.K. Rowling is known as the billionaire author of the Harry Potter series. But in a less fruitful period of

her life, her agent informed her that she’d never make any money writing for children. 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected by twelve publishers—they said the story wasn’t commercial enough. However, Bloomsbury, the thirteenth publisher that she queried with the story, took a chance and rode the Harry Potter train all the way to Gringotts.

The author of the seven-book phenomenon (or eight if you count the play) is so well known today that "J.K. Rowling" is included in Microsoft’s spellcheck. The writer’s real full name is  Joanne Rowling, no middle initial. The K comes from the name of her favorite grandmother, Kathleen. She chose to go by the penname J.K. because her publisher advised that her boy readers may not want to read a work by a female author. Unprecedented sales prove that nobody is bothered by her gender.

Rowling said she finally knew she was successful when she arrived in America for a book signing tour promoting her second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She rode in a car in downtown New York City and noticed an enormous line trailing down the street and wrapping around the block. She turned to her publisher and said something like, “What’s going on? Is there a big sale?” But the car pulled in front of Barnes & Noble and she realized the line was for her.

The idea to write the Philosopher's Stone (which happened to be the original title of her first book), came to Rowling when she was a broke twenty-five-year old, freshly divorced from a thirteen-month marriage, and the mother of a tiny baby. She was penless (and penniless), riding a train from Manchester to London, and the ideas swirled in her head: I can write about a boy wizard, and this will be how the school will look, and there will be four houses, and these will be the classes he can take.

Rowling wrote her first book by hand in noisy cafes while baby Jessica slept in a carriage by her side. By the time Rowling completed her seventh and final book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), she sat it in the peaceful quiet offered at The Balmoral, a beautiful hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. She says when she completed the seventh book, she was initially elated, but in an interview with Oprah she said, “it was a bereavement.” Harry Potter was her escape and when she was done, she cried in a way that she had only cried one other time in her life—the time when she lost her mother.

She says that if her mother had not died, there would probably not be a Harry Potter. She says her experience with knowing death appears on every other page in what Harry has to deal with. Other life events, such as her experience with clinical depression, have inspired characters such as the Dementors. Although Mrs. Rowling said she could write an eighth, ninth, or tenth Harry Potter book, she probably won’t. She doesn’t commit either way, but she feels number seven was it.

However, there's an update since this blog post was written - 2016 saw the release of  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. According to Toyzk "Although it wasn’t part of the original 7-book series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a widely popular addition to the Harry Potter series. It begins where the Deathly Hallows epilogue left off, with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger-Weasley, and Draco Malfoy sending their children off to the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." 

Ms. Rolwing says she will go on to write other things and she gives herself permission to not feel compelled to replicate the phenomena that occurred with the Harry Potter series. The last words in her seventh Harry Potter book say, “all is well” and it seems for Ms. Rowling, all is well,too.

My two brushes with Harry Potter fame:

1. I had breakfast with Arthur Levine (he was the American publisher of the Harry Potter series when he headed Arthur A. Levine Books). Okay, we were at separate tables, but we were inches apart. I could have reached over and borrowed his salt shaker. ☺ Ms. Rowling says that Arthur Levine is one of her two best friends.

2. At the lake in front of my house in Boulder, Colorado, I bumped into actor Devon Murray, the star who plays Seamus Finnigan. He was carrying a fishing pole as we passed one another on the path. When I saw him, I said hello while my brain tried to catch up. I knew that I knew him…but from where? I thought perhaps he was a waiter at one of the restaurants I frequented. But when we spoke, and I heard his thick accent, the cobwebs cleared from my mind. 

Author Buzz...it has nothing to do with Merlot

This came from an ad in Publisher's Marketplace (today's Publisher's Lunch)
"'Even if a publisher is on board, Authorbuzz.com is a great complement to their efforts. With my novel The Last Ember, Authorbuzz.com was able to use the great early reviews to push my debut thriller out. I was thrilled to wind up on the NYT bestseller list, which then led to extended co-op.' -- Daniel Levin
Reach 3,000 booksellers, 10,000 librarians, over a half million readers. And if it's a bookclub book - 25,000 bookclubs.
Write to them at Authorbuzzco@gmail.com for a menu and ideas. They're booking now for January – May. Including a special holiday month long effort.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nerd, Origin of the Word, And Proof that I am One

I can't help myself...I love knowing interesting facts.  But what if my so-called fun facts are only interesting to me?  Does anyone else smile when they learn things like where the word "nerd" came from, or am I the only wordnerd who cares (well, me and David Cook...remember, he called himself a wordnerd). 
The first documented use of the word Nerd is in 1950 in the Dr. Seuss story, If I Ran the Zoo.  One blogger who goes by the name Bron has used his engineering brain to track the origin of the word "nerd" and he points out its first use was by Dr. Seuss.  "A boy named Gerald McGrew made a large number of delightfully extravagant claims as to what he would do, if he were in charge at the zoo. Among these was that he would bring a creature known as a Nerd from the land of Ka-Troo."  So a nerd (per the illustrator) equaled this grumpy character pictured below (oh the power of illustrators).
After Dr. Seuss, Newsweek used the word in an October 1951 issue to mean a person who is "a drip or a scurve." The St. Joseph, Michigan, Herald-Press used the word again in June 1952, again with a negative connotation.  For deeper study (and argument) into the origin of the word, visit the nerd expert's blog

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's No Place Like Gnome

I went to the mall yesterday and sure as sherbet, they were already piping in the Christmas tunes.  My blood pressure climbed as I worried about what to purchase for my sister and her husband (they've already purchased Segways; if that doesn't say it all, I'll provide a TRANSLATION-they have everything found in a mall including the mall cop's transportation). More worries...what to buy for  Dad...another grilling gift? And what am I going to buy to bring to my crazy white-elephant-party? 
Instead of taking a dose of Caduet, I lowered my blood pressure (and please check with your doctor to determine if this is the proper course for you) by reading a review of Chuck Sambuchino's book How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will).   It was the perfect answer to my gift giving concerns.
Preparation is the key to success.  How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack is the only manual of its kind and your loved ones (especially those who have everything) will appreciate this hilarious book at Christmas (or sooner!). 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How to Find a Literary Agent by Kim Tomsic

Would you like to find that perfect literary agent for your project?  This article is packed with useful advice like please don't use glitter and rainbows to get their attention.

Start your quest for an agent by researching sources like The Guide to Literary Agents (GLA). Your goal is to search the pages and find an agent who is reputable and fits the type of book you are writing (picture book,young adult novel, romance novel, biography, historical fiction, cookbook, etc.). 

In the GLA, you will find a wealth of useful information including: agents name and email address; information about the agency for which they work; the agent's client list; their website/blogsite; if they're a member of various associations (i.e. SCBWI); how the agent prefers to receive submissions (i.e. snail mail or email/ query and first five pages/query only/attachments or no attachments/ etc.) and **vitally important** the type of projects the individual agent prefers (i.e. Middle Grade or YA or Picture Book, etc.) . You can also research agents and their specific taste on their agency website and on #MSWL which stands for Manuscript Wish List.

Once you find the agents who you believe would be a great advocate for your project, you begin by writing that agent a query letter. Remember, it's crucial that your research was precise and you learned about the agent prior to submitting. If your project is a cookbook, you shouldn't send a query letter asking for representation to an agent who is looking for YA dystopian material. If you are pitching a picture book, you shouldn't write to agents who only want to represent memoirs. All your research should be complete prior to writing that query. 

Your query letter is the first impression you'll make, and agents want to deal with smart and informed people. They want to know that you’ve selected them for a specific reason vs. throwing darts. You can be sure that if your query reads like you’ve queried them and every agent on the planet, they won't waste their time with a further look.

Do:  Craft your winning query letter by telling the agent:
1. Why you chose to query them (a simple one-line sentence);
2. The logline, working title, genre, and word count of your manuscript;
3. What your manuscript is about in one interesting paragraph;
4. What's in bookstores now that is similar to your manuscript (so they can decide if it's a money maker) OR what books your book would be shelved next to (and please don’t say it’s the next Harry Potter);
5. If you've been previously published;
6. Your education, affiliations (i.e. SCBWI), or special credentials as it might pertain to this manuscript;
7. A courteous closing and how to contact you.

It's ideal to break your query letter down into three paragraphs: the hook, the book, and the cook.


Here are a few things not to do—no matter how tempted you are—if you want to stay professional:
Don’t tell the agent that your mom, sister, classroom, and priest LOVED your book.
Don’t call your manuscript a fiction novel (that’s like calling it a story story or a book story).
Don’t submit to multiple agents WITHIN the same agency.
Don’t pack an envelope and mail a query to a "green" office IF that agent only accepts email submissions.
Don’t add attachments 
UNLESS the agent says they prefer submissions that way.
Don’t have your email filtered to their trash by adding attachments, submitting to multiple addressees, or by adding special stationary and do-dads to your email…these gadgets often land your masterpiece in a SPAM folder, and the agent never has the opportunity to see your brilliant work.
Don’t address your letter "Dear Agent." Remember, address to their name and spell it correctly. The agent needs to know you’ve selected them.
Don’t add glitter and rainbows to your submission; be professional and let your writing do the talking.

For a peek at  How to Write a Query Letter

For more information on writing query letters, I think 
Nathan Bransford's award winning blog is excellent (by the way, he just left Curtis Brown, so don't query him).

p.s. Make sure you check out 
predators and editors to avoid disreputable agents.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What to Take When You Must Evacuate

Two times in two months, I was almost evacuated from my home due fires that threatened my neighborhood.  On one of the occasions, my family and I were actually hosting another family that had been evacuated; if we had to leave, it would have been round two for them.

As the fire edged closer and we waited for word from the rangers, we watched two CH54 helicopters and another smaller helicopter gather water from the lake across the street.  The two CH54s dipped their huge tube in the lake, sucked up water, and flew off to douse the fire.  It would take eight minutes for them to return.  The smaller helicopter dunked a dangling bucket as it's water gathering method.  

The helicopters were my cue that this was serious business and I needed to kick into gear.  With help from my already-evacuated friends, we made a pile of the important things to take in case we needed to abandon our home. 

Here's our list of things to put into your car if you have been given a warning (and time) that an evacuation is pending.  All the rules change if danger is eminent...if there's a fire in your home, forget all and get the heck out!

Irreplaceable pictures
pets stuff (food, cages, liter boxes, leashes, pet bed, medications)
Financial Paperwork
Insurance Policies
social security cards
birth certificates
Jewelry (especially personal pieces)
a suitcase of clothes

what am I forgetting?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nathan Bransford

Wow! I can't believe he's leaving the industry! Today is Nathan Bransford's last day as a literary agent for Curtis Brown.  He is also the creator of one of THE best blogs regarding the do's and don't's in publishing (i.e. good query advice, etc.) Fortunately, his blog will still be active at http://blog.nathanbransford.com/.  I just hope it's still packed with publishing tidbits and not tech-y stuff.

Today, the blog reads:

Nathan Bransford

San Francisco, CA

United States

Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010, but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Alison Presley.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Personality Test by Kim Tomsic

As the bookshelf detective, I love anything with the title SNOOP.  Dr. Sam Gosling, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has a new book Snoop:  What Your Stuff Says About You.  He says that we express our self (deliberately as well as accidentally) by our things, so what you have in your desk, on your wall, on your counter all speak about your personality.  I wonder what my tin Wrigley's gum container, snow tubing photo, pink retro mouse pad, harmonica, and Vic's espresso frequent punch card (all sitting on my desk)say. Snoop is a fascinating read on its own merits.  I think it could also serve as a great tool for writers who want to develop believable characters.  Whatever your purpose, have fun snooping.

Guide to Literary Agents

Guide to Literary Agents

Guest column by Dan Lazar on writing a great query letter.

Contest! Entry deadline today!

Are you writing a YA Novel?  Here is your chance to enter a free contest and possibly win a critique of your first ten pages. 


Tamar Rydzinski, a literary agent
at the Laura Dail Literary Agency in NYC.
Clients include:  Inara Scott , DelCroix Academy THE CANDIDATES and Jen Calonita SLEEPAWAY GIRLS

THE CONTEST (click this link)
Guide to Literary Agents seventh (and free!) "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest is posted on the GLA blog. This is a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here's the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you're writing a young adult novel, this seventh contest is for you!

E-mail entries to seventhagentcontest@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments.


The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of young adult fiction. You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, I ask that you do one of two things: 1) Mention and link to this contest twice through your social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook; or 2) just mention this contest once and also add Guide to Literary Agents Blog (www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) to your blogroll. Please provide link(s) so the judge and I can verify eligibility. Some previous entrants could not be considered because they skipped this step!


1. This contest will be live for approximately fourteen days—from Oct. 21 through the end of Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010, EST. Winners notified by e-mail within three weeks of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.

2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.

3. This contest is solely for completed book-length works of young adult fiction.

4. You can submit as many times as you wish. You can submit even if you submitted to other contests in the past, but please note that past winners cannot win again.

5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.

6. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as any terms possibly added by me in the "Comments" section of this blog post. (If you have questions or concerns, write me personally at literaryagent@fwmedia.com. The Gmail account above is for submissions, not questions.)


Top 3 winners all get: 1) A critique of the first 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A free one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

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