What to Expect When You’re Expecting… A Book

“Your book is getting published! You must be SO excited!” a friend gushes over lunch.

And I am excited. Really excited. And nervous. And apprehensive. And bored. I remember feeling a lot like this about twenty years ago. Right after I found out that I was pregnant.

"It's REALLY happening!"

“It’s REALLY happening!”

I think this whole book publishing event is a lot like being pregnant. At first, you’re over-the-moon elated, but you can’t tell anyone. What if something happens? What if it’s all a dream?

Then when you finally tell people, there’s a lot of celebrating.
“When is it coming out?”
“I can’t wait to see it!”
And the ones you know who are whispering behind your back: “It’s about time! I thought for a while she… couldn’t…”

"It's FINALLY happening for her!"

“It’s FINALLY happening for her!”

You wonder. What will the cover look like? Will kids like it? I hope the reviewers don’t pan it. Or ignore it. Will they see just how special—how precious— it is? Oh, I hope it’s one of the popular ones.

You plan, knowing you can never plan enough. The publication date seems SO far away! Is it too early to start planning the coming-out party? The checklists are endless, but instead of painting the nursery, finding a crib, and buying tiny socks and onesies, your checklists say:
 Call bookstores
 Order bookmarks
 Write press release
 Design temporary tattoos to give out at launch parties.

And you wait. As I recall, there was an awful lot of waiting when I was pregnant. Waiting to feel that first fluttery kick, waiting until that “baby bump” started showing. Waiting in doctors’ offices, for test results, for The Day to finally arrive. And even when The Day arrives, there is still a lot of waiting to be done. I got The Call a year and a half ago, and I still have a trimest…errr… three months to go before delivery. Of my books, I mean.

Not that there hasn’t been the occasional flurry of activity. Like those bursts of energy in pregnancy, the periods of quiet waiting have been suddenly interrupted by an out-of-the-blue email from my editor. Please fill out this survey. Here are some revision notes for you to go through. We need a high-resolution photo for your flap. These emails, like the occasional baby kick, remind me that things are progressing, even though I can’t see them.

Things are happening behind the scenes!

Things are happening behind the scenes!

Soon, I know, The Day will arrive, and I will cradle… HOLD! I mean hold a brand new book in my arms, knowing that the whole experience has been worth the wondering, the effort, and the wait.

It’s truly a labor of love.



Filed under Advice, Anxiety, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Happiness, Patience, Promotion, Time Management, Uncategorized, waiting, Writing and Life

A Fan Letter to Readers


Dear Readers Everywhere,

I know you probably hear this a lot, but I’m seriously your biggest fan! I’ve wanted to meet you for over a decade, and now that it’s finally happened, I’m totally FREAKING OUT!

You know that one day when you said how much you loved my book? Oh . . . my . . . gosh. My heart was beating a million times a minute. I keep wondering if you’re all secretly related to me, or if maybe my mother has made a hundred or so sock-puppet Goodreads accounts just so she can encourage me to keep writing.

But then you tell me you’re from the Philippines, or Texas, or Canada, or London, or Slovenia, or that gorgeous African island of Mauritius, and I just can’t wrap my head around it! And never in a million years did I think that even one of the 1.2 billion people in India would even know I existed, let alone be excited to read a novel I wrote! Like . . . what?!

You do realize that I grew up in a small town of about 5,000 people, right? That the most outrageous thing I ever dreamed of was going to Hawaii one day? And when that happened at sixteen (my first plane ride), I thought, “Wow. That’s about as good as life can get.”

But then I decided to be a writer. And I hoped people would actually like what I wrote, enough to even pay money for it. But I soon learned that this dream was, as some teenagers today might have told me, totes cray cray.

I had no clue whatsoever how much work would be involved, or how many times I would get my heart broken, or feel like a complete and utter idiot for even thinking I could become a published author.

But you, super-awesome readers, have changed everything. You’ve made me believe that all of the hard work and heartache was not only worth it, but have given me so much HAPPINESS that I’m jumping up and down with jazz hands in the air, wanting to do it all over again!

So sign me up for even more writer’s block, and self-doubt, and pulling my hair out! Go ahead and toss in some of that heartache and rejection! That’s right!

I’m ready.

This time I’m well prepared for the crazy/awful/awesome pathway to publication, because I now know who’s waiting for me at the end of it.



All of my fan-girling love and deepest gratitude,

Amy Finnegan, Published author of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, Bloomsbury 2014 (OMG!!!)

Book for Chris

Just one of many amazing people I signed a book for in the past month! #Star-Lord


Gabrielle from New Hampshire. The first reader I know of to spy it & buy it in the wild!

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Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, Instagram: StrangerThanFictionWriter, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).


Filed under Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, reading, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Updates on our Books!, Writing and Life

So, how’s the book doing?

One of the most common questions a pre-published author gets asked is:

How's the writing going?I’ve never been exactly sure how to answer that, since so much of writing—especially in nonfiction—isn’t actually “writing.” There’s the brainstorming, researching, outlining, and, eventually, the revising. I spend a lot of time in each of those other phases, and the actual writing phase is a small fraction of the overall work. Still, as long as I’m making forward progress on a project, in any phase, I’ll typically answer, “Great! I’ve been doing a lot of ______________ lately.” On the other hand, if life or other things are getting in the way and I’m feeling less than productive, I might say instead, “Not so great lately. I’m hoping to get back on track as soon as ______________.” I think those are satisfactory, honest answers.

Since BE A CHANGEMAKER has come out, though, the question has changed. Now the most common question I get asked is:

How's the book doing?I’m having a much harder time coming up with a satisfactory answer to that one. First of all, what does that even mean: sales figures? reviews? press/publicity? awards? Amazon ranking? speaking gigs? fan mail? There are so many ways to measure a book’s success. Which yardstick should I use to measure how the book is doing?

Second, how’s it doing… as compared to what, exactly? All books have a unique place in the market, and that market is constantly changing. A rather dismal Amazon ranking may be just great for a niche market book, while a rather fantastic one may be disappointing for a well-known author or series. Even within my book’s categories, the other books have obviously been out longer, so those comparisons don’t make much sense to me either. And the way these numbers fluctuate? It’s hard to distill any meaning whatsover.

Third, we authors don’t really know too much about how a book is doing quantitatively. True, Amazon’s Author Central gives us some useful numbers, but it’s not the whole picture, and it’s hard to know just how complete and up-to-date the information is. What’s the reporting delay? Which sales are counted in those numbers and which are not? It’s an indicator, sure, but I’ve yet to figure out just how important an indicator it is for me. The more important metric is whether or not a book is performing as well as the publisher expected it to. But those numbers seem to be impossible for authors to come by (which is probably for the best all around, don’t you think?).

Finally, there’s the issue of timing. Should any of us be worrying about how our book is doing so soon after publication? Yes, we put a lot of time and energy into the pre-launch, launch, and immediately post-launch phase, and we know books aren’t given a very long runway on bookstore shelves these days, but still, doesn’t it typically take quite a while for a book to find its audience? Is how the book is doing a week or a month after its publication date necessarily all the relevant to how it will be doing a year or two from now?

Clearly, I don’t have satisfactory answers to any of these questions, and frankly, I’m not really sure I want to. I just hope no one is offended or thinks I’m dodging the “How’s the book doing?” question when I answer honestly with:

I don't really know. I'm just trying to focus on writing the next one.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this lovely quote from Martha Graham:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

– Martha Graham

Keep on marching.

Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. She also has two upcoming picture books: EMMANUEL’S DREAM, a picture-book biography with Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House (January 2015), and MY DOG IS THE BEST, a fiction picture book with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Anxiety, Sales, Writing and Life

From the Journal of Susan Vaught (Who is Not Afraid of Walruses)

I asked my friend Gisele to interview me for this article, so I could be like my main character, Footer Davis. Gisele rolled her eyes a lot, but in the end, she surrendered. I knew she would.

Why am I interviewing you?
Because interviews are fun. And because my latest book has a lot of interviews in it.

I’m only doing this for brownies. You know that, right?
Yes, I know.

Brownies and cake.
Got it.

What do you do for a living?
By day, I’m a neuropsychologist who works in a haunted monolith I call the Old Asylum. By evening and night and wee hours of the morning, I make up worlds and people and all manner of chaos. I try to paint with words. I live and write in that strange hinterland between psychology and creativity, between seeing patterns and laboring to describe them.

Did being a psychologist help you write your latest book?
Sometimes my two lives intersect, and my stories include characters who have mental health issues. That’s definitely the case in Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, coming in March, 2015 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. Footer’s mom struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and Footer lives with the fear that she’ll wind up battling the same illness. That doesn’t stop her from exploring a big mystery, trying to save some missing kids, and working on her upcoming career as a journalist. She’s decided she can’t be an artist since she can’t draw–not that lack of talent stops her from illustrating her own story, especially when she wants to annoy a stodgy teacher, show somebody what snake guts look like, or explain her walrus phobia. Some things, like mutant alien rock monsters and mysterious sneakers, just work better in pictures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.


I was able to ask Jennifer Black Reinhardt, the book’s illustrator, a few questions, so, bonus!

Me:     What does it feel like to be able to draw something other than a stick figure? Because I’m way envious. Even my stick figures stink.
Jennifer:     I’m not sure if I’ve always loved to draw because I was good at it? Or, if I got good at it because I loved to draw? I think it might be the latter. I can remember being very little and having an idea and being absolutely consumed with hurrying to finish my bath so I could go draw. I would spend hours drawing different noses on a person in profile and was mesmerized by how just that one line could transform a darling little girl into an evil witch. But I did have that love and passion for it at a very early age.
Me:        Envy       

Me:           I panicked when I heard they were getting a real artist to draw Footer’s sketches, because like me, Footer can’t really draw! You did such an awesome job of making wonderful pictures that weren’t perfect–and yet were, in every way. How hard was it to draw like Footer?
Jennifer:     I did have to think about how to do them, but it was really fun! Are you sure Footer can’t draw? Because the fact that she liked to document some rather odd/difficult things with her drawings seemed to indicate to me that she thought she could succeed? I looked through some of my daughter’s old sketchbooks from about that time to get a feel for what Footer might do. I thought Footer would spend some time on them. So, I didn’t want to make them as quick as single line. I kind of wanted Footer to think she did a good job.
Me:         love  

Me:     What are you working on now? Where else will readers be able to see your masterpieces?
Jennifer:     This very moment I’m doing sketches for “Yaks Yak” a word play picture book by Linda Sue Park published by Clarion. And right before that I finished final art for a book by Suzanne Slade, published by Charlesbridge  about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. So I’ve gone from non-fiction inventors, to a possibly crazy Footer Davis, to definitely wacky animals! I love being an illustrator!
Me:     You are awesome. Thank you for bringing Footer’s pictures to life. (And, get this, Gisele, she didn’t even charge me brownies for the interview…)


Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.

Are you afraid of walruses?
No. That’s Footer.

Suuuuure it is.
Really. I’m not afraid of walruses.

I want oatmeal raisin cookies, too.

Have you ever written a middle grade book before?
Footer’s tale is my first published middle grade story, after years of writing for adults and young adults. Writing middle grade fiction is something I’ve always wanted to do . . . well, that and picture books, but the whole picture book thing—yeah. Still working on that (see above re: stick figures). Despite my issues with drawing anything other than ugly blobs, I started this story by sketching a really awful doodlebug, and labeling its parts and looking up its scientific classification. Footer Davis CvrFooter researches doodlebugs as part of a paper where she’s supposed to explore the origins of her town, Bugtussle. Bugtussle got its name from its surplus of doodlebugs, and Footer thinks that’s pretty freaky, but not as freaky as her mom shooting a snake off the pond in their backyard with her dad’s elephant gun. That’s how Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy begins, and it’s how my third grade summer began, too. My mom really did that. I don’t think the elephant gun left any permanent scars on Mom’s shoulder, but it definitely left its mark on the snake. The snake Mom shot was a copperhead, just like the one Footer’s mom removes from the land of the living. The snake ended up on the book’s wonderful cover. I really love the cover, and all the  little bits of Footer’s story tucked into it.

So, how did you get “the call” about this book?
This book sold at auction, so I got several calls from Erin Murphy across the day. When she told me Footer had a home with Sylvie Frank at Simon and Schuster, I was thrilled.

Does your new editor know you’re scared of walruses?
I AM NOT SCARED OF WALRUSES! Besides, Sylvie is completely wonderful and she wouldn’t care.

When you’re not writing or working at the Old Asylum, what do you do with your time?
I spend time with my family, including my adorable new grandson Anthony. I also spend time with my pets–too many dogs, a few cats, some chickens, a peacock, and a parrot.

No walruses, eh? I rest my case. Are the brownies ready yet?
Time to end the interview…



1960970_779491082089470_8858531878415609957_oSusan Vaught is eagerly awaiting the release of her first middle-grade mystery, Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster, 2015). A mysterious fire, two kids missing, a mom who might know more about the disaster than she should–Footer Davis is on the case, even if the answers she’s hunting might cost her everything.

Susan earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt, and she has published 13 novels for young adults. She’s represented by Erin Murphy. You can find Susan online at susanvaught.com , where she offers excerpts from her books, reviews MG and YA fantasy and science fiction, and publishes creepy photos from the Old Asylum.



Filed under Illustrators, Introduction, The Call

Patience: Or How to Wait and Wait and Wait

Daily Devotionals for the Patience-Impaired:

“Patience. n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” Ambrose Bierce.

“Patience is passion tamed.”  Lyman Abbott

“Hope is patience with the lamp lit.”  Tertullian

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”  Saint Augustine.

“Patience is the art of hoping.” Luc de Clapiers

“A watched pot never boils.” My mother-in-law

Whatever! Patience is for sissies! All these lovely words are another way to say, cool your jets, dude! For a debut author awaiting the release of her book, patience is about choosing a softer gag, hiding the wine, and distracting yourself with shiny objects. And maybe some chocolate. But mostly, shiny objects.

My debut, STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY has been delayed. It is now set to release in fall, 2015. I’ll admit to having a tiny little tantrum when I learned I’d have to wait an entire season. Hey, it’s my book party and I can cry if I want to. I tell myself I don’t have time to dwell on it. It is what it is. Delays are pretty typical in the hurry-up-and-wait publishing biz. Especially with picture books. I’ve heard of delays that lasted years, so I can’t complain about a few months. Nurturing this story from seed to book has already been an eight-year process. Along the way, to make myself appear really patient and wise and nonchalant about things I have no control over, I’ve busied myself with those shiny objects called projects. Like most writers, I have terrific peripheral vision and am prone to distraction. I’m apt to race the cat for that laser light on the wall, or assume the point position and yell SQUIRREL when something interesting catches my eye! It’s how most of our new ideas come to us, isn’t it? (humor me here, folks, as I lump you all into my neurosis.) Fortunately, I’ve chased some pretty good distractions over the past few years. But, let’s not stray too far from the subject of patience and time just yet.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.16.29 AM

As a parent, I instinctively measure the passage of time by my children. You know what I mean, right? Someone will mention a past event, and I immediately recall what my kids were involved in at that age: Who their teachers were, which sport and video game they were engrossed in, what funny shenanigans they pulled. This cosmic parental tether binds family memories to time. For writers, those time/memory tethers connect to our book babies, too. For more than a decade, my children have shared their lives and my attention with my writing projects, as if there were invisible paper children at the family table. STEP RIGHT UP will be the first (sort of) book baby to grow up and leave the nest. Like my humanoid kids, I easily recall time in terms of this book’s stages. I would post an image of the editorial timetable thus far, but I fear someone out there would ditch their writing and run to the nearest truck driver school. So, I’ll measure STEP RIGHT UP’s progress like this:

In 2007, when the idea took root, my youngest kiddo was in First Grade. He wore pint-sized tennis shoes with velcro straps and he drove a cute little toy jeep. He liked flag football, piggy-back rides, and Chutes and Ladders.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.38.30 AM

Look at those cute little feet.

In 2011, when the offer and contract arrived for STEP RIGHT UP, Kiddo was deep into baseball and Minecraft and fishing. He had a girl crush. Now, in 2014, a year before publication of his book sibling, Kiddo is a six-foot tall, eighth-grade athlete who wears these!


HInt: One pair shown belongs to me. The other pair is a size 15!

By next fall, when the book releases, he and STEP RIGHT UP will each be a freshmen; one in high school and one on book shelves. Story and boy have grown up together. Maybe I should relate publication time in terms of shoe sizes.

FullSizeRender 2

Kiddo’s growth between book contract in 2011 and Aug. 2014.

I ran into a non-writing friend recently who summed up the publishing process in a more perfect way. So, it’s like planting a fruit tree, she said. You plant the seed and then wait years and years for any fruit. I rushed home and Googled trees because, as I mentioned, I am easily distracted. Sure enough, it can take 5 years for a baby apple tree to produce fruit; up to 6 years for pear trees; up to 7 years for cherry trees. I’m guessing nobody is hovering over those trees with cobbler ingredients in hand. Nope. While those baby trees grow, new trees are being planted to guarantee fruit for the future. Yes, this would have been a tidier way to explain the process, but I’m prone to taking more challenging paths to logic, even in blog posts.


Like everyone else, I’m figuring it all out as I go along. What I have learned is that hovering over the calendar, waiting for a response from an editor, or an impending book release, can be maddening. Forget patience! Just stay busy! As writers, we need to always be nurturing new book babies. They are the equivalent of fruit trees that will guarantee cobbler. No, wait…I mean, a fruitful career.

I cringe at the sort of self-promotion coming, so forgive me. There’s simply no better way to explain my own method of dealing with impatience and it’s my end-all advice to all of you who are on your own journey. Between revisions and editorial notes, I’ve written a bunch of other manuscripts. Some of them will never see the light of day. One of them, EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS, sold and will be released in spring, 2016. Two more manuscripts have caught an editor’s eye and we’re waiting for news. I’ve also written four books on assignment for an education publisher. All this, while my debut picture book has been in process. Technically speaking, STEP RIGHT UP will be my fifth book to be released. But, writing on assignment isn’t quite the same as birthing one’s own book baby. While you have no control over time, follow shiny distractions until you meet your own next book baby. If you assume the point position and yell, SQUIRREL!, you’ll know you’re onto something.

We must use time as a tool, not as a couch”  John F. Kennedy

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”   A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh.


IMG_1627a 5 x 7

Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton) is a covertly impatient author anticipating the fall, 2015 release of STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY (Lee and Low,) and the spring, 2016 release of EN GARDE! THE DUELING WORDS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (Peachtree.) She fills her time with words, chocolate, and a sudden craving for fruit cobbler.


Filed under Uncategorized

Preparing to Leap

small__3965231381I’ve been working on my final edits for Book Scavenger. I began this novel over ten years ago, and I’ve always had the comfort of knowing whatever I put down on paper could be changed. Now I have about two weeks left of revising and fiddling, and then the version I send back to my editor will pretty much be the one that appears in stores. This is exciting and totally terrifying.

It’s terrifying because there’s no turning back now. There are nerves about sharing my writing with a wider audience. I hope people will like my book. I don’t want to disappoint friends and family who have supported me over the years. I want my editor and agent and critique partners to be proud of my book.

It’s exciting because I love my book. Over ten years ago, I set out to write a story I would have loved as a kid. I drew on some of my favorite things from childhood: Goonies; It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; The Westing Game; The Egypt Game; From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It took me drafts and drafts and drafts to get all the pieces of my story to work together in a way that finally represented the characters and world I held in my imagination. It’s not a perfect book–I doubt I will ever write something that I would consider perfect–but I love it nonetheless.

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing what I feel in this moment is similar to something I worry about as a mother: How will the world treat this piece of my heart that I love and have nurtured? Will people buy it, praise it, recommend it? Will they hate it, trash it, make fun of it? Will they ignore it?

The fate of my book will soon be out of my hands and literally in the hands of others. These last moments I have with Book Scavenger are me doing my best to prepare my baby for the big, wide world out there.

It helps that I recently saw the rough sketches for interior illustrations. Not only was this an incredibly happy, surreal moment, but it helped me detach from the book as “mine”. The incredible Sarah Watt‘s rendering of the characters is going to go hand-in-hand with a reader’s consumption of my words. When I think of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I think of Quentin Blake’s illustrations. When I imagine Tara Dairman’s Gladys Gatsby, I picture Kelly Murphy’s drawings. When I picture Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web, I picture Garth Williams illustrations.

So this is all part of my process right now. Final edits, fact-checking, fussing with words, and preparing myself to let go, step back, and let Book Scavenger leap out of the nest.



jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Helpful or Otherwise, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Maria Gianferrari’s Calls …


As I stretch my Emu’s debut fledgling wings, I remember not “the call,” but several calls that kept me fluttering and striving for flight toward my goal of becoming a published author.

Call #1 came on the evening of May 29th, 2008, as I was reading to my then six year old daughter. I quickly checked the caller ID; I didn’t recognize the name, so I let it go to voicemail. After my daughter was tucked in bed, I listened to the message. The caller was Susan Goodman, a nonfiction writer and judge for PEN New England’s Susan Bloom Discovery Award. I knew I hadn’t won the award—the winners had recently been announced—what could it be? Susan told me how much she loved my submission, a nonfiction picture book called Terrific Tongues. She thought its strength was its structure, a form of direct address that had an engaging, kid friendly voice. And then came the surprise: it had been a contender for the award, but the deal breaker was its too technical ending. We then had a conversation about how to make the ending more organic, and a pleasant conversation about writing in general. Though this was technically a rejection call, it gave me hope. Susan had taken the time out of her busy schedule to give me encouragement, and that’s exactly what I needed.



Fast forward nearly one year later: I revised and revised and revised Terrific Tongues, and re-submitted it for the Discovery Award in 2009. Call #2 came on March 23, 2009. This time when I saw “Susan Goodman” on my caller ID, my stomach began flipping and flopping—could it be? As I picked up the phone and said hello, Susan happily told me I was one of four winners (along with the fabulous Anna Staniszewski, another EMLA member!) I couldn’t believe it! I was overjoyed and terrified: I would have to read my manuscript aloud along with the other winners at the awards evening. That evening came late in May, and I was thrilled to be reading it along with the help of my daughter, now 7. Afterwards, I greeted old friends, and met new ones, one in particular who would become most instrumental in my journey toward publication: Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Joan had also been honored with a Susan Bloom Discovery Award, I came to find out. She congratulated me on receiving the award, and asked if I’d ever considered getting an agent. We exchanged information, and met for coffee. At the time, I had only two submission ready manuscripts, both of which were nonfiction picture books. The timing wasn’t quite right for representation, but Joan was kind and thoughtful and hopeful about my work, encouraging me to keep in touch, and re-submit once I had more completed projects. So I wrote and re-wrote; drafted and revised.          LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_Typewriter


Fast forward again: May 2011. I met Joan briefly at the NE-SCBWI conference, as I was waiting for my critique. She said a hearty hello, and invited me to submit my manuscripts. After a trip x-country, the end of the summer arrived, and I submitted multiple manuscripts to Joan. I obsessively checked my email. A couple of months later Joan’s name appeared in my in-box: she was very interested in my writing and asked me to do some revisions. Hooray! We emailed back and forth as I worked on revisions. Call #3 came on precisely August 27th, 2012: Joan wanted to represent me! She was so excited about my work that she sent out some submissions before I had even returned the signed contract! Woo-hoo!


oldphone    Valentine’s day 2013 arrived, and so did the so-called “call.” I had just returned home from picking my daughter up at school, when I heard a voice on the answering machine: Joan’s! I picked it up mid call: she had received an offer on my picture book, then called Penelope, Untalented, from Cynthia Platt at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt! This is what the conversation sounded like on my end:

Me: “Oh my God.”

Daughter: “What, mom? Who is it?”

Me: “Oh, my God!”

Daughter: “What is it?!”

Me: “I can’t believe it! OH MY GOD!”

Daughter: “Mom!”

At some point, Joan asked me if I wanted to sit down, she then told me that we had an offer for a two-book deal debut! The best Valentine’s day present ever! After a thousand thank-yous, and a happy dance with daughter and dog, it was time to make calls of my own, to my husband and mother, and eventually, to my family and friends to thank them for their encouragement, and for believing in me and my work. The years before these calls were long, lonely years of hard work and rejection, but they were also filled with cheering and bolstering my writing friends as they cheered and bolstered me.


Now my dream of being a published author will soon be here! My debut picture book, now titled Penny & Jelly: The School Show, will be released in July 2015, and the second Penny & Jelly adventure will arrive in Spring  2016.             9780544230149_lres

I think it’s fitting that we call ourselves emus—we are flightless birds now ready to take wing. Hope is, after all, the thing with feathers.        flyingbirds



Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. This is what they do when they’re not writing (or snoring).  Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015, with a second Penny & Jelly book to follow in Spring 2016. Maria has both fiction and  nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press,  Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com, or visit Maria at Facebook.

Photos of Maria & Becca by Monogram Arts Photo.           Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset







Filed under The Call

One Glittery Star In A Constellation

meteorIt all felt meteoric. Or stratospheric. Or whatever it is when there is a whoosh of propulsion behind you and you think you are finally on the path to fulfill a great destiny. First, there was the call from the agent. Two months later, there was the call from the editor. Four months later, the manuscript was off to copy edits. My star was rising and it felt all glittery and singular.

And it was.

Sort of.

Except what really happened on September 16, 2014 was my debut novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN took its place among a whole constellation of books. It was not a solo star, glittering in the heavens.star

On that same day, three other authors I knew well had their books published: Laurie Thompson’s Be A Changemaker, P.J. Hoover’s Tut: The Story Of My Immortal Life and Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun. I do not know how many other books were released that day.

My book’s arrival in this twinkly constellation was its destiny but it wasn’t alone in the heavens. Nor was I, as its attendant author, drifting solo like some celestial firefly.

What happened on September 16, 2014 was I became a part of a beautiful Milky Way of story tellers whose books are cradled by our readers late at night, reading page after page, resisting sleep until they can’t anymore. Then they dream and our stories leak into their dreams conjuring who knows what. Whatever it is, it wakes them. They aren’t afraid but they feel different inside. As if their cells had rearranged themselves a bit. They sit and look out the window, through the tree branches at the stars beyond. They wonder about their future, about what’s going to happen, about who they are going to be. There, in the quiet of the deep night, they make a wish.

I made such a wish once upon a time.

When that wish comes true and your book joins the constellation of stars you wished upon, it feels nothing short of miraculous. Meteoric, even.



Filed under Dreams Come True, Writing and Life


The Cover Story

Actually, my cover story is very straight forward. I have a brilliant editor who chose a brilliant illustrator! When Maria Modugno at Random House Children’s Books read my text, she thought Ben Mantle would be the perfect illustrator. I knew from working on revisions with Maria that she “got” my text and knew what was best for the book.

And boy oh boy! Did she know what was best! Ben’s vision is wonderfully perfect and I can’t wait another minute to share it with you.

Well…maybe long enough for a short intro :-)

There once was an author who let out a squeal

when the day came around for her cover reveal.

She loves it! Adores it! And can’t wait for you

to love and adore it and squeal along, too!

Are you eyes open wide?

Are you ready to squeal?

What a wonderful day. . .

. . . the cover reveal!

DRAGON cover

A knight,
a steed,
a squire,
a cook,
a lady,
a castle,
a moat,
plus one very hungry old
dragon add up to an hilarious
and rollicking tale about a
dragon who just can’t keep his
mouth closed . . . at least not
until he eats almost everything
in the Kingdom!
It’s not polite!

Available August 2015!!!



Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, is coming from Random House Children’s Books, August 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @pklostermann and visit her website HERE. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence.


Filed under cover art, Happiness, Picture books

Time to take the next step

Oh, my feathered friends—the time has come for this Emu hatchling to stretch her legs and race off into the sunset. But first, perhaps, there’s time for one last stroll down memory lane?

I joined this blog more than two years ago, within weeks of getting my first book deal. You might say that I was a little overenthusiastic. I will be eternally grateful to founder Jeannie Mobley and the rest of the early Emus for welcoming me so warmly to the mob.

In my first year, I shared what it was like to see kids read (an early, unedited version of) my book for the first time.   I learned the ropes by helping to launch several Emu books. I made plum dumplings in honor of Jeannie’s debut, Katerina’s Wish, and accepted the dare of stuffing my face with chocolate cake while reading Matilda to help launch Jeanne Ryan’s Nerve. 

To this day, I still can’t eat chocolate cake.


There’s nothing quite like seeing the cover for your first book.

2013 arrived, and I tried to write some quasi-helpful writing- and publishing-related posts. I shared my star-chart method of motivation. I obsessed about selling a second book…and then I sold one.  And then, suddenly, All Four Stars had a cover and 2014 was looming and, lo and behold, my debut year had arrived.

In the first week of 2014, I published my most personal post—“A Different Kind of Call,” about my mom’s illness and the joy of being able to share an advance copy of my novel with her. It went a little bit viral, thanks to WordPress picking it up for their Freshly Pressed page. What an unexpected honor, and my first real experience with a large number of strangers connecting with my writing.

And then what happened to the rest of the first half of 2014? I’m really not sure, though I know I tried (and often failed) to remember that there was life outside of my looming book launch.   We launched Adi’s and Joshua’s awesome novels, and then it was my turn. The Emus were their brilliant, creative selves, inventing “Flat Gladys”s and custom recipes and sending Gladys Gatsby out into the world with all of the love and enthusiasm she could ever hope for.

The Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman

*pets the pretty cover for book 2*

So, now I’m a published author. My day-to-day life isn’t too different from how it was before–I still write, and teach, and hustle to get the next book project going. But I do get the occasional awesome e-mail from a fan of All Four Stars, and sometimes I get to go to libraries or schools or bookstores to talk readers and sign books. (Event alert—I’ll be in Larchmont, NY, this Monday evening doing exactly that!) And, of course, I’m gearing up to do this book-launch thing all over again next May, when my second book—The Stars of Summer,  sequel to All Four Stars—is released. (I just revealed the cover over at my own blog, and you can enter to win a signed ARC over there as well if you’re so inclined.)

So the time has come for me to move on and help make room for the next clutch of Emu eggs. I know that they’re going to hatch into incredible authors, and I can’t wait to read each and every one of their books.

Meanwhile, I hope to see you around on the Internet!




*waves her wing*

*gallumps off into the unknown*


Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, was published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.


Filed under Farewell, Thankfulness, Writing and Life