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

Winner: NOT IN THE SCRIPT Giveaway

Not in the Script coverThanks to everyone that celebrated with us last week. The winner of the NOT IN THE SCRIPT Giveaway is

Gabrielle Saunders

Congratulations, Gabrielle. The NOT IN THE SCRIPT swag package is on it’s way to you.

Not in the Script giveaway package

Those of you who would like to pick up your own copies of this fun-filled, romantic book can head over to the following places.

And once you’ve had a chance to read your copy, you can  add it to Goodreads here.


Filed under Book Giveaway, Celebrations

The Delivery System for An Emotional Hit

One of the nice things about a group like the Emus is that while we’re all talking shop here, a fellow Emu may say something that lodges in your brain and helps you think about your own writing. A while ago, Kevan talked about adding dimension to his Monster of the Day series by trying to make sure each monster conveyed some emotion or feeling. (For the whole lovely discussion, click here.)

This started me thinking about how picture books are a delivery system for an emotional hit. I had the opportunity to read Jules Feiffer’s Bark, George to an audience recently and I saw that principle in action. It was a group of preschoolers at a book festival but they had older brothers and sisters and parents in tow. Bark, George delivers a hit of Funny. As I read this book to them, I realized that it was working for all three groups. But they were laughing at different things.


When you read Bark, George to preschoolers, they scream with laughter over the fact that the dog does not bark, he moos (or quacks or oinks or whatever.) I am not two, I do not remember being two, but I promise you, at two, this dog mooing thing is hilarious. Every single time it happens.


The older siblings are laughing too but they’re laughing at the visual gags. They get that it is impossible to pull a full size pig out of a very small puppy. Yet it’s happening. And as the animals get bigger, the joke gets funnier. They are also laughing at the vet. They love the “Ewww” factor when the vet puts on his longest latex glove. That moment leaves them a little helpless with joy.

And, oh, the parents are laughing too. They’re laughing at their kids’ reactions and the sight gags and the vet are amusing them too. But where are they laughing the hardest? At that poor mama dog and her expressions. They get it. They are the mama dog.


I’ve long loved that book but reading it to that audience was like watching it be analyzed in real time—seeing exactly what worked for whom.


One of the joys and challenges of picture books is the dual audience—child and adult. A book can survive if it only appeals to kids but the parents may succumb to the temptation to shove the book under the couch cushion rather than read it one more time. A book can (unfortunately) survive if it only appeals to adults. They own the wallets.

But the best books are the ones where both audiences are absolutely delighted. Then the shared experience of reading the book becomes as important as the book itself. Then a book has a chance to become beloved. And one way of making that happen is to make sure that both audiences are getting a custom-mixed emotional hit.

What are your favorite books that reach both audiences?

mylisa_email_2-2 Mylisa Larsen is the author of Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.) You can visit her online at mylisalarsen.com.


Filed under craft~writing, Picture books

Remembering Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Today we’re offering something special, a moving tribute to author Zilpha Keatley Snyder written by fellow Erin Murphy Literary Agency client Susan Lynn Meyer. Susan is the author of MATTHEW AND TALL RABBIT GO CAMPING, and BLACK RADISHES, which won the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in 2011, and NEW SHOES. Please read on for Susan’s heartfelt guest post…

Susan Lynn Meyer - my author photo

Susan Lynn Meyer

I was very saddened this week to learn of the death of Zilpha Keatley Snyder, best known to the world as the author of The Egypt Game, The Witches of Worm, and The Headless Cupid, all Newbery Honor winners. Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote some of the books most important to me in my childhood. I still own my disintegrating green paperback copy of The Changeling from 1970, a book I deeply loved, its pages now discolored by time, the cover, bearing the price “$.95,” about to fall off if it is read even one more time.

ZKS n14441Zilpha Keatley Snyder is one of the children’s authors whose work I most admire. And, as I came to know, she was also a person of tremendous kindness and generosity. A few years ago, I was trying, rather cluelessly, to find a publisher for my first novel. For reasons too lengthy to go into, it was sitting on the desk of a very well-known editor who had expressed interest in it. Every day I hoped for an email from this editor. But one never came, and after about nine months (yes, I know now that was too long to wait!) I started thinking about sending it elsewhere. I sent it to two other editors—and then it belatedly occurred to me to try submitting to agents.

I had no real idea of how to go about this. I started to investigate agents who had published writers whose work I admired, work that seemed in some respects like mine. I looked online to see who represented Zilpha Keatley Snyder—and it turned out that she and Patricia Reilly Giff, another writer whose work I loved, had the same agent. They were among the most senior and renowned writers on my list. Writing to their agent was obviously an incredibly long shot. But I sent him a letter, as I did to many other agents.

ZKS 1850137_290Rejection letters came back, plenty of them. But then suddenly a lot of things happened at once. The first was a phone call from Rebecca Short (who has just gotten married and is now Rebecca Weston) at Random House, one of the two other editors to whom I had sent my manuscript before I decided to try agents. Rebecca wanted to acquire my manuscript, Black Radishes! I leave you to imagine the utter ecstasy and astonishment I was thrown into by this phone call.

But I also still had submission letters out with literary agents, and I didn’t want just to publish one novel—I wanted a literary career. So I contacted the three agents who hadn’t yet definitively said no. And suddenly all three wanted to represent me. I was astonished that all of this was happening—to me!—but still, choosing between them was surprisingly stressful. One of the agents who was interested was Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s. I phoned the agents and emailed some writers represented by them—and then another amazing thing happened. The phone rang.

Zilpha Keatley SnyderMy husband was making dinner. I was on the exercise bike, working off the stress of sudden, unexpected good fortune and major life decisions. Our daughter was lying on the sofa, reading, as it happens, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Janie’s Private Eyes. My husband answered the phone. “Susan?” he called, sounding confused. “It’s Zilpha. . . Snyder?”

“Let me talk to her! Let me talk to her!” our daughter shouted as I ran to the phone and, sweaty and panting, spoke my first words to a writer whose books had meant the world to me. Zilpha Keatley Snyder didn’t know me at all. I had never met her or even heard her give a reading, as she lived all the way across the country. But when I emailed her to tell her that I had queried her agent because of my admiration for her books and that he had offered me representation and that I was choosing an agent, she didn’t just email back a reply—she telephoned to talk over the decision with me. Many writers of her stature wouldn’t have bothered to reply at all. “You must have written a really good story!” she kept saying to me.

In the end, I chose a different agent, the wonderful Erin Murphy. (I had decided to write to Erin after swooning over her writer Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold.) But as my novel, Black Radishes, was just about to come out in 2010, my editor at Random House asked me if I knew any writers I could ask for blurbs for the novel. I didn’t know many writers yet. Black Radishes, my novel, was inspired by my father’s experiences as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France. Snyder’s Gib Rides Home was inspired by her father’s experiences in a harsh orphanage in Nebraska in the early 1900s. There was, I thought, a connection between the subject matter of the books.

So I very hesitantly emailed Zil again (this is the name she signed her emails with) and asked. I explained that I realized that she didn’t know me or my work at all, and that I completely understood that when she read my book she might not like it and might not want to blurb it, and that if so I would completely understand. But, I asked, could I send her an advance copy of the book?

BLACK RADISHES cover She said yes—and she blurbed my debut novel. I will always treasure the words from her on my book jacket, as I will always treasure the many wonderful books she gave to the world.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote forty-six books over the course of her long and distinguished literary career, books that won many awards and were translated into twelve languages. Her fiction is notable for its emotional depth and complexity, for the respect it accords to the minds of children—to their fantasy lives, their desires and wishes, their pain, their struggles, their courage.

ZKS th_0440400538This emotional depth is evident even in her funniest novel, Black and Blue Magic. This novel is about clumsy Harry Houdini Marco, who lives with his widowed mother in a California boarding house. A strange, funny little man gives Harry a magical ointment that allows him to grow wings secretly at night. Yet, amidst the humor, with deft, light touches, Snyder gives Harry a wistful yearning to live up to the aspirations of his dead father—and though he never fully loses his clumsiness, he comes to feel closer to his father in the novel’s end.

ZKS 220px-TheChangelingSnyder represents children from a wide variety of backgrounds and in complex, sometimes difficult family situations. Robin in The Velvet Room is from a family of homeless migrant workers living in California during the Great Depression. Cat Kinsey, in Cat Running, is from a tense blended family with a weak mother and a severe, uncomprehending father. In The Changeling, perhaps my favorite of Snyder’s novels, Ivy has an alcoholic mother and various members of her family are frequently in trouble with the law. She finds refuge in her friendship with Martha and her belief that she is not really a Carson but a changeling—of supernatural origin and switched at birth with a human child. Martha’s affluent, seemingly perfect family is challenging in its own way: conformist, highly successful, and judgmental. Martha’s friendship with Ivy allows her to grow and develop outside the confines of her family’s narrow ways of thinking.

In Snyder’s fiction, the line between the real and the magical is sometimes ambiguous, and it is this quality that is perhaps most unique and most haunting in her fiction. There are moments when the reader can’t really be sure whether what has happened can be logically explained. Is Jessica’s cat magical in The Witches of Worm, and does he speak to her without words? Is some other poltergeist at work in The Headless Cupid besides angry adolescent Amanda? And has Ivy somehow managed, at the end of The Changeling at once to escape her family and not to grow up?

In The Witches of Worm, Mrs. Fortune, an eerie and fascinating elderly neighbor who loves cats, tells Jessica, “Belief in mysteries—all manner of mysteries—is the only lasting luxury in life” (116). It is this luxury that Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s many great works of fiction give us, as readers—an exploration of the mysterious ways our everyday world comes into contact with the unknown, as well as a profound exploration of the mysteries and depths of the human spirit.

Visit Zilpha’s webpage, here, for more information about her and her books.

And get to know Susan better by visiting her web page, here. Thank you, Susan, for sharing this with us today! 


Filed under Guest Posts

NOT IN THE SCRIPT Goes Behind the Scenes of PARKS AND REC!

Not in the Script coverWe’re ending Amy Finnegan’s Not in the Script launch party week with a bang, folks! Today we’re getting a peek behind the scenes of the hit show Parks and Recreation.

One of the many wonderful things about Amy’s novel is how authentic the TV setting feels, which comes from very specific and well-placed details. In order to make sure these details were as accurate as possible, Amy enlisted the help of her brother, Tyler, who works on the Fox studio lot. He answered countless questions, took Amy on lots of on-set tours, and introduced Amy to a Parks and Recreation crew member, Rachel Parkin. At first, Rachel was brought into the loop to be a second set of fact-checking eyes for the manuscript, but once she read the novel, Rachel and Amy became fast friends.

It’s Rachel’s contribution to her manuscript that Amy credits as being critical for its success, and so we’re thrilled to now introduce you to Rachel Parkin, a set costumer for the hit show Parks and Rec.


Rachel Parkin in the Parks and Recreation Costumes trailer.

Rachel Parkin in the Parks and Recreation Costumes trailer.


JCB: I love Parks and Rec! Could you first explain for us what you do as a set costumer and what a typical day of work at Parks and Rec is like for you?

 RP: Thanks for inviting me to talk a little about my job.  First of all I have to say Kirston Mann, the Costume Designer for Parks and Rec, does an amazing job of putting together the looks you see the characters wear each week on the show.

As a set costumer, my job begins after the clothes have been shopped, chosen, fit, and altered (yes, pretty much everything you see on camera has been altered to fit each actor perfectly, even when it’s purchased at a regular store that the general public shops at).

Set costumers work directly with the actors. We are one of the first crew members to arrive at set early in the morning, and one of the last to leave. All of the costumes worn on film for the day have to be prepped and set in the actor’s trailers.  We provide everything for the actors, from undergarments and socks to jewelry and purses.  TV shows aren’t filmed in order so it’s important to keep things organized and know what an actor wears for what scene.

Besides making sure the actors are wearing the correct costume for each scene, it’s important to make sure the continuity matches while we’re filming.  What I mean by that is: If Ron Swanson has his polo shirt tucked in and sleeves down for a particular scene, I make sure he keeps it that way each time we film that particular script day!


Parks and Recreation Costume Rack


JCB: Where do costume departments get all of the costumes?

RP:  Depending on the needs of the Film or TV project, costumes are purchased, rented, or custom made.  Besides just showing up at the mall and shopping our hearts out, a lot of the clothing stores in Los Angeles offer what’s called “studio service”.  They allow productions to borrow clothing from the stores for a few days in order to do fittings with the actors and get approval from directors and producers.  We’ll then return anything that didn’t make the cut and won’t be used on the show.

There are also huge warehouses full of costumes called costume rental houses.  You can find anything from contemporary clothing to medieval costumes to futuristic attire.  Some rental houses specialize in certain things such as period military uniforms or highly styled runway attire to be used when styling print work for magazines, etc.

There are also some amazingly skilled patternmakers and cutter/fitters that make any costume sketch on paper into a real working garment. Film productions have more time to build entire wardrobes for characters, so most costumes in film are sourced that way. When I worked on the Disney film “Tron Legacy” all of those suits that lit up had to be constructed.  There’s no ‘Light up futuristic costume’ store around to shop at.

On Parks and Rec we only have 5 days to prep for each episode, so it’s a lot of shopping and renting with a seamstress doing alterations.  But sometimes things have to be custom made. In season 6 we did an episode where Leslie Knope had to do a press conference in a lime green suit.  Because it was such a specific gag, the suit had to be made from scratch.


A Hollywood Costume Warehouse


JCB: Do you have a story about the most unusual place you found/acquired a costume?

RP:   I was working on a film with costume designer Christopher Lawrence where an actress had to go through hours of hair and makeup in order to make her look ugly. One of the things she had to do was wear a wig that made it look like her hair was thin and falling out. One of the days we were filming we found out last minute that there wasn’t time for her to go through the entire wigging processes. To solve the problem we needed a hat to cover the fact that she wasn’t wigged. Christopher looked at the hat I was wearing and it was perfect to solve our problem! Talk about giving the coat off your own back!


Racks and racks of every kind of costume.


JCB: Have you worked on other shows, and if so, how do the experiences compare?

RP:  I’ve worked on many different shows.  I categorize them in three different ways: Single Camera Dramas, Single Camera Comedies, and Multi Camera shows.  Despite the term “single camera” there are usually two or three cameras filming at the same time.  Single camera shows are filmed on stage or on location.  Examples of Single Camera shows I’ve worked on would be: “Parks and Rec”, “Heroes”, “Parenthood”, “Switched at Birth”, and “New Girl”.

Multi camera shows are what you think of when someone says the term “Three walled sitcom”.  These are filmed with four cameras at the same time on a set (with three walls) and are filmed like a play, in order, in front of a live studio audience.  Examples of multi camera shows I’ve worked on would be: “Melissa and Joey” and “The Exes”.

All three types of shows have their pros and cons for a set costumer.  Single Camera Drama episodes are generally filmed in 7 days, have longer hours (I averaged 70 hrs a week when I worked on “Heroes”), but a lot of times the shows will have more interesting and involved costumes or stunts that makes it really fun to work on.

Single Camera Comedies are generally filmed in 5 days, have decent hours (decent for the film business that is, I usually average 50 hrs a week on these types of shows), and since it’s a comedy it’s fun to watch the scenes being filmed and laugh.  Honestly, on Parks and Rec we have a great time!

Multi camera shows are fun to work on because of the energy you feed off from the live studio audience. It brings me back to my theatre days!


On the set of Parks and Recreation (Steve Morantz, Emmy-winning sound mixer)


JCB: I would be hard-pressed to do my job as a writer without my computer, books for reference and inspiration, and a notebook to doodle/brainstorm in. I also need patience, courage, and a sense of humor. What might a set costumer’s toolkit consist of?

RP: Number one tool, Organization! When you see the inside of a costume trailer you’ll understand why organization is key. Other tools would include creativity, innovativeness, basic sewing skills, and being able to go with the flow. You’ve probably heard how filming is a lot of “Hurry up and wait” and plans can change quickly, so it’s good to be able to just go with the flow and problem solve. I was on a TV pilot once where the director requested a 1970’s style bathrobe for one of our main characters to wear. No big deal, except he requested it 30min. before we were to shoot that scene!

The costumes trailer follows the production wherever it goes.

The costumes trailer follows the production wherever it goes.


JCB: Are there any items you regularly use that might be unexpected to people unfamiliar with your line of work?

RP: We use A LOT of safety pins (not necessarily for pinning clothes, but for pinning the manila change tags to the outfits to keep everything organized). The other item we use a lot of is Top Stick. To the general public it’s called fashion tape. It’s pretty much just double stick toupee tape.


JCB: As writers, it can be hard to turn off our “writer brain” when we’re reading or hearing stories created by others. Do you have this problem when watching other TV shows or movies? What sorts of things do you notice?

RP: I love seeing the nuances in how a character’s personality comes through their clothes. We learn a lot of information very quickly about a character by what they’re wearing. In contemporary film and TV I love noticing how things are styled in order to accomplish that communication.



JCB: Since Parks and Rec is a comedy, do you have any funny anecdotes about working on the show to share?

RP: Parks and Rec is now in it’s 7th season and most of the cast and crew has been with the show since the beginning. As you can imagine we’ve become a TV family. It’s always fun to laugh and joke together. I don’t want to bore you with all of the fun and pranks that are played, but I’ll just drop one word, Whoopie Cushion.


Comment for a chance to win this super swagalicious giveaway.
Comment on any of the posts this week (Oct. 6-10). 

Not in the Script giveaway package

Of course, you can order hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!


Filed under Uncategorized

NOT IN THE SCRIPT: From Books Into Movies

Not in the Script coverIn honor of the beautiful and talented Amy Finnegan’s debut novel NOT IN THE SCRIPT, a delightful story about a tender teen romance that blossoms on the set of a TV series, we Emus are sharing our feelings on book-to-movie and book-to-TV adaptations. Which adaptations have succeeded? Which have failed? And which ones that haven’t been made yet do we wish we could stream on Netflix? (Aside from NOT IN THE SCRIPT, of course!)

Rebecca VanSlyke
I know that they already made a movie out of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, but I think it could have been SO much better! Although I loved the choice of Anne Hathaway for Ella, they took too many liberties with subplots that weren’t in the book, like Mandy’s boyfriend, Benny (who was turned into a talking book?), the whole character of Char’s cruel Uncle Edgar, and a whole lot of silliness with the battle at the ending. The book was so strong on its own, I thought, that all the additions of the movie just whittled it down to a shadow of what it couTBWBld have been.

Lindsey Lane

Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief was a great book. Full of voice, humor, imagination. And it’s kid-centric. What does Hollywood do? They start with Zeus and Poseidon chatting. Wrong. So wrong. Apollo and all of the Muses should have smote a whole studio for that travesty.

Tara Dairman

A book that needs to be turned into a movie or TV show? Our very own Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25! I mean, it’s got a page-turning plot. It’s got awesome characters, both human and dragon, ready for actors and CGI artists to take them on. And it’s even got its own Ttalker25V-show-within-a-show–Kissing Dragons–built in. I know I’m not the only reader who feels this way. Hollywood, please take note!

Laurie Thompson
Most recently, Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25 struck me as a book that needs to be made into a movie. I think the visuals would be stunning, and it’s a powerful, impactful story. Of course, I might have to close my eyes during a few of the scenes. You know the ones. WOW.

Before that, the book that I closed and immediately gushed, “This HAS to be a movie!” is Jeanne Ryan’s NERVE. Lucky for us, a movie is in the works (there’s some news here). Squee!

Lastly, I would love to see Laini Taylor’s early novels, the Dreamdark series, made into movies. Laini created such a lush, detailed world and filled it with a cast of unique, fascinating characters on an epic quest of good versus evil. BLACKBRINGER and SILKSINGER are still on my favorite-books-of-all-time list. I can never get enough of them!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
I recently finished GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford and I think it would make a wonderful, wonderful movie. The story is very Clue-esque, for any other fans of that movie out there, and revolves around 5 mysterious people showing up at an inn on a snowy winter night and the mysteries that get unraveled from there. I can imagine fabulous potential for the cinematography between the snowy cliffside setting and the mysterious mood of the story.

Christine Hayes

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander would make a fantastic movie series, if someone had the money and the vision to do it right. The books had humor, adventure, tragedy, and romance. I wish the sad Disney version of The Black Cauldron had never happened! Taran’s journey from Assistant Pig-Keeper to (spoiler alert) High King was epic, and his romance with Eilonwy is one of my favorites in all of literature, children’s or otherwise.

Megan Morrison
Two of my favorite book-to-screen ventures are Jane Austen adaptations. I love Emma Thompson’s and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility – a story that may actually shine brighter in their retelling than it does in the book (don’t hurt me, Austen people! I’m one of you). I wish only for one thing: that they’d kept the scene where Willoughby returns and tries to explain his behavior to Elinor. But even without that, this film is a masterpiece. I also have a massive crush on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy amount of respect for the BBC’s 1995 TV miniseries of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s faithful, well acted, and completely worth the 5+ hours it takes to watch. It’s also worth investing in the new blu-ray release, because the costumes and sets are detailed and spectacular, but their beauty can only be fully appreciated in blu-ray. However, near perfect as this miniseries is, I’d still rather read my battered copy of the book.

Penny Parker Klostermann
When I think about a book that should be made into a movie, I would pick a book that has stayed with me in some way. So I would choose Unwind by Neal Shusterman. The reason this book has stayed with me is because the whole idea a being unwound creeps me out. It haunts me. It’s one of those things that you think would never come to be…but what if it did? Shivers! And I love movies that give me the shivers!  I searched the Internet and it seems Unwind will be made into a movie but details are sketchy. When it is a movie…I’ll be there. Creeped out, haunted, and with a major case of the shivers! 

Tamara Ellis Smith
One of my favorite books in the universe is Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.  I think it would make a fantastic and fantastical movie and I think, specifically, Hayao Miyazaki should come out of retirement to make it!  Can’t you just see it? Ranger, Puck, Grandmother Moccasin and Miyazaki together?  The landscape begs for Miyazaki’s magical perspective and the story is just up his alley.  It would be gorgeous and riveting.  C’mon, just one more movie, Miyazaki, please?!

Remember, comment on any post this week to win a fantastic book+swag package put together by Amy Finnegan! 


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Promotion

NOT IN THE SCRIPT and the Great TV Debate

Not in the Script coverAmy Finnegan’s debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, takes readers behind the scenes of the fictional TV series, Coyote Hills.  It got us thinking about the television shows we’ve loved over the years, the ones that kept us coming back week after week. When we asked the EMUs to weigh in with their absolute favorite TV shows of all time, it was all very civilized–no punches were thrown, no cross words exchanged. Although the final picks vary widely across several decades and multiple genres, we hope you’ll agree that our list makes for some dang fine television viewing.

Christine Hayes

I watched a lot of TV in the 80s. I mean, like, a lot. To this day, any time I stumble upon an episode of The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, or The Dukes of Hazzard, I will sit down and watch. I can’t help it. My gleeful nostalgia meter spikes up into the stratosphere. But my very favorite show of all time was Simon and Simon. Two cute brothers, solving crimes, cracking jokes and watching each other’s backs? I was hooked! Ever since, my taste in TV has followed a similar pattern. Case in point: Psych is probably my second very favorite show, because: Humor! Action! Buddies getting into trouble! I could cite many other examples, but since we were supposed to pick just our favorites, I will merely say that I am predictable but consistent.

Lindsey Lane

Favorite TV Show of all time?!? I never missed an episode of Gilligan’s Island when I was a kid. Never. I think I played island castaway for years in my backyard. My best friend and I would switch off being MaryAnne or Ginger. But really, I think we both wanted to be the goofy, goodhearted Gilligan. I don’t think it had any influence on my writing except maybe, well, the show did play around with multiple perspectives.

Gilligans_Island_title_cardTamara Ellis Smith

So my favorite TV show as a twenty-something was, hands-down, ThirtySomething.  I was obsessed.  Maybe because I felt like it was showing me what my own life could be like in ten years.  Maybe because it was showing me what I WANTED my life to be like in ten years.  I loved following the multiple storylines, I loved thinking about what I might do in the characters’ situations, I loved the dialogue. In fact, at the time, I was both writing and acting, and a friend and I used to memorize monologues from the show because we thought they were excellent audition monologues.

Rebecca Van Slyke

From childhood: Anything with a family who had unusual animals, like Gentle Ben, Lassie, Flipper, and Daktari. I used to long for a family who was cool enough to have a pet bear, dolphin or lion. Heck, I’d even settle for a dog who could understand people, like Lassie. Sadly, the Army frowned on having a pet lion living in base housing, or so my father told me.

From high school: Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. These shows could make everyone in the family laugh.

All-time favorite: The Bugs Bunny Show taught me most of what I know about the classics: music, literature, great films, and classic movie stars. It was funny as a child, and got funnier as I grew up and got more of the “adult” humor. As a writer, I aim for this kind of humor–something to make kids laugh, and a little something to make the adults reading to them laugh, too.

MuppetShowJennifer Bertman

Oh man, this is a harder question to answer than I thought it would be. I didn’t realize how many TV shows had been an influential part of my life until I tried to narrow them down to “favorite of all time.” But two are without a doubt at the top: The Muppet Show and Gilmore Girls.

I have so much fond nostalgia for watching The Muppet Show every Sunday night with my parents and older brother. It sparked my lifelong admiration for Jim Henson. The Muppets gave the show the pretense of being for kids, but the humor and celebrity guests spanned all ages, and as a kid I loved that my parents and brother genuinely enjoyed the show as much as I did.

I discovered Gilmore Girls on my honeymoon, oddly enough. I came to the show late–I’d heard people gush over it but never took the time to watch it. But as soon as I caught part of an episode and heard the witty banter, saw the wonderful chemistry between the actors, and realized how smart and full of heart the show was, I was hooked. It’s become my #1 comfort show. Forget chicken soup–if I’m sick or feeling blue, you’ll find me on the couch visiting my old friends Lorelai and Rory.

Donna Janell Bowman (Bratton)

I didn’t think I watched much television until this question came up. I mentioned previously that Bionic Woman was my go-to TV choice as a child. So was Gilligan’s Island. These days I’m a big fan of BBC shows. I adore period dramas like Downtown Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and The Paradise. I suppose it’s not surprising since I love to read and write historical fiction and nonfiction. I love the visual details and historic portrayals. As for laughs, I’m a fan of Big Bang Theory. And, in the reality-show department, I prefer to geek out on ancestry shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots. Once a research junkie, always a research junkie.

Megan Morrison

Man, this is a big question. I really, really like good TV, so I’m just going to go with the first things that come into my head. Childhood – The Price Is Right. I think Bob Barker should probably get retroactively paid for babysitting me for like four summers in a row. First big TV obsession: The X-Files. Mulder and Scully. I was hooked on the unresolved tension between them, and I would go to great lengths to justify any and all plot holes to myself in order to keep on enjoying it. Finally, recently, I’ve loved Arrested Development.  I can’t think of any other show with more jokes per square inch. Amazing writing. Pure concentrated irreverence. I stand in awe.

xfilesLaurie Ann Thompson

My all-time favorite TV show is Firefly, because what could be better than a western… in space? Oh, yeah, Nathan Fillion as a space cowboy. Everything about the show itself was perfect, from the opening theme music to the characters and their relationships to the futuristic interpretations to the moral quandaries. The only disappointment was that it was cancelled way too soon.

Mylisa Larsen

I’ve had a kind of odd relationship with TV since I was born during the period of time where my parents had decided to throw the TV out of the house. My grandmother lived next door and she would sometimes invite my sisters and I over to watch The Lawrence Welk Show with her. I remember sitting there thinking, “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.” But my grandma was so sweet and enthusiastic and my grandpa was so generous with his Brach’s Pick-a-mix during the show that we’d settle right into that big flowered couch between them and happily watch the weirdness.

Some years, my parents would import a television during the Olympics and we would lie on the floor of the family room for two weeks, wide-eyed, watching. I still have a strange, binge-watching relationship with the Olympics.

But if you ask me about my favorite shows, I’d have to admit that they were shows that I didn’t really watch but, rather, listened to. When my kids were young, they would watch cartoons while I was in the next room getting dinner ready. So I’d only hear the voice track. My favorite TV show to “watch” in that way was probably Recess. My kids can still walk by and say something in a Spinelli voice and I’m right back there.

Tara Dairman

My favorite TV show when I was a kid was I Love Lucy. No, I’m not quite old enough to have seen the show when it first aired, but there were marathon showings of it every year, and my parents would tape them (I am old enough to have grown up on VHS). Lucy showcased farce and slapstick comedy at its finest, and I like to think that a little bit of the comic timing rubbed off on me as I became a writer. I still love to write funny scenes that are slightly over the top–though thankfully, Gladys Gatsby’s kitchen disasters have not yet reached the epic level of Lucy’s!

Penny Parker Klostermann

I really like TV and there are so many shows I have followed over the years. But my favorite TV show of all time is one from my childhood, The Carol Burnett Show. Carol Burnett is a genius when it comes to comedy and the entire cast was hilarious. My favorite ever skit was Tim Conway as a new dentist and Harvey Korman as a patient needing a tooth pulled. Tim Conway accidentally sticks himself with the Novocain syringe and it goes downhill from there. One of the things that cracks me up about this skit is that Harvey Korman can’t keep a straight face. You should take a few minutes and enjoy this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSJw96SAeM


So…what’s your favorite TV show of all time? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, plus bonus swag!

You can also order a copy of your very own from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion

NOT IN THE SCRIPT Launch Party and Favorite TV Couples

Not in the Script coverToday is Amy Finnegan’s Book Birthday! Her novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, is now available everywhere! We will be celebrating all week at EMU’s Debuts and we are delighted that you are here celebrating with us :-)

I’ve read Amy’s book and I loved it! One reason I loved it is because I found Emma Taylor and Jake Elliott realistic and appealing as a couple. And isn’t “realistic and appealing” what makes a couple special? Especially a TV couple that we’re going to watch week after week! Isn’t “realistic and appealing” what keeps us watching? What TV couples keep or kept you watching a series? That is the question for the EMUs today. And that is the question for you!

After you read about the couples that keep/kept EMUs watching, we would like for you to join us by voting in a poll. There are way too many “favorite” couples to list so I’m keeping the poll limited to the ones that the EMUs chose. If none of them suit your fancy, mention a couple when you comment. And don’t forget to comment because if you comment on any post this week, you will have a chance to win a copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT along with some awesome swag!

EMUs Favorite TV Couples

Lindsey Lane

booth and bones

I gotta go with Bones & Booth…aka Dr. Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth of BONES. I love the Sherlockian, literal mind of Brennan in contrast to the instinctual and emotional Booth. I love that they are playing against gender and the angsty period of ‘should we be a couple?’ didn’t go on and on. Speaking of Sherlock, I love the new BBC version with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. But that’s not really television, is it?

Megan Morrison

Leslie and benI adore Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation. I love that they really love each other – they’re into each other, they’re geeks together, they laugh at each other’s jokes, and they admire each other.  Each of them has put the other ahead of their own career, too.  But my favorite thing about their relationship is that it’s never cynical. Their love is never threatened by the usual plot twists that threaten TV relationships. Leslie and Ben are just too solid for that kind of drama.

Rebecca VanSlyke

rebecca couples1) Penny and Leonard from “The Big Bang Theory.” A great case for opposites not only attracting but strengthening each other. I like to think that my husband and I do this for each other. Usually. When we’re not baffled by how the other one thinks.
2) Paul and Jaime Buchman from “Mad About You.” I swear NBC owes us some BIG money for bugging our apartment early in our marriage. We had some of the same conversations, disagreements, and situations that they did. They were two very different personalities, but they stuck together because they were, you know, mad about each other.
3) Cliff and Clair Huxtable from “The Cosby Show.” They were hilariously funny, but not at the expense of the other person. They had a great sense of humor, but they always treated each other and their kids with respect.

Tara Dairman

tara couplesFavorite TV couples…oh, this is a tough one. I’m tempted to go with Ross & Rachel from “Friends”–THE couple of my teenage TV-watching years–or Starbuck and Apollo from “Battlestar Galactica,” who had pretty much the best tension (though maybe the least functional relationship!) in all of space and time. But if I just have to choose one, I think I have to pick Cam and Mitchell from “Modern Family.” They provide plenty of hilarity, shrieking, and hysterics…but also know how to pull together when they need to for the good of their family. And for me, comedy + closeness seems like the perfect formula for a great TV couple.

Christine Hayes

chris couples
I loved rooting for Jim and Pam from The Office to get together. They were both just so nice! Pam gained confidence with every season and really figured out who she was and what she wanted out of life. Jim had such a good heart and a wicked sense of humor–he reminded me of my own sweetie in many ways. I felt every twist and turn in their relationship keenly, because they felt like real people to me.

Mylisa Larsen

mylisa couples
My favorite TV couple is actually a movie couple—Carl and Ellie from Pixar’s Up. It’s a great opposites attract kind of romance where the whole is so much greater than either of the parts would have been alone. Plus, I have a deep affection for couples who figure out how to make love work in the long game. The story of that romance only takes up five or ten minutes of that movie but the rest of the movie would be nothing without it.

Laurie Ann Thompson

laurie couples

I was going to go with Castle and Beckett on CASTLE, but I’m sure someone has already beaten me to that punch. I mean, we’re writers. We gotta love CASTLE, right? (No one beat you, Laurie, so you get Castle and Beckett along with Chuck and Sarah!) So, another one of my all-time favorite TV couples has to be Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker on the long-running series CHUCK. I love how fundamentally different they were and how that made them perfect for each other. And, of course, there’s a chance that I may just be partial to geeky yet good-hearted guys. ;)

Donna Bowman Brattan

donna couple

It’s about to be very obvious that I don’t watch much television and I am woefully ill-prepared to conjure pop-culture characters. Maybe because, in my house, the cat and I are the only females. And Mittens limits her screen time to cat videos on YouTube. I do catch Big Bang Theory sometimes and I kinda giggle at the pairing of Sheldon and Amy because they are both socially awkward in hilarious ways. But my first thought about TV couples was a blast to my childhood. I loved watching The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Mostly, they were separate shows, of course, but I remember looking forward to any episodes when they crossed into each other’s television world. Steve What’s-his-name (aka Lee Majors) was a major hunk who could bend cities in half while he eyeballed straight through Mt. Everest. And Jamie What’s-her-name (Lindsey Wagner) was beautiful, strong, sweet, and she could hear a seahorse burp on the moon. Or so it seemed. Imagine the genetic lottery their children would inherit! Oh, oh, what if the children of the bionic couple (let’s pretend their bionicness was genetic) married Sheldon and Amy and had their own TV show. Ha! Now THAT would be a show I’d watch.

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Jenn couples

Three couples immediately come to mind:
1) Luke and Lorelai from “Gilmore Girls.” I mean, he built her an ice skating rink, for Pete’s sake!!
2) Cliff and Claire Huxtable from “The Cosby Show”. The affection they showed each other felt so genuine, and they made each other laugh even when they were exasperated with one another. Maybe especially when they were exasperated with one another.
3) Coach and Tami Taylor from “Friday Night Lights.” The Taylors had such respect for each other, through all their ups and downs. Both were good people, and they worked so well together as a team.
Penny Parker Klostermannchris couples
I know Chris already picked them, but I didn’t know that when I chose them. So, I’m going with Jim and Pam from “The Office”, too. (Chris, we should hang out and watch TV!)  The reason they’re my favorite couple is that it was so sweet that Jim hung in there even though Pam was engaged to another guy And we all knew Jim and Pam belonged together way before they got together. Also, I loved the office-romance aspect and how they handled it. For me, they added a bit of “normal” in the most dysfunctional office EVER! They did it with a sense of humor and, to me, that’s a necessary element for “couple success” on or off the screen.Thanks for hanging around. And just for fun, vote for your favorite couple!

Comment for a chance to win this super swagalicious giveaway.
Comment on any of the posts this week (Oct. 6-10). 

Not in the Script giveaway package

Of course, you can order hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!


Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Launch

It’s the NOT IN THE SCRIPT launch party kickoff and giveaway!

You may think we Emus have been doing an awful lot of partying lately, but we’re not done yet. This coming Tuesday is the official release date of Amy Finnegan’s wonderful debut, NOT IN THE SCRIPT! So, toot your horns and throw that confetti, because we’ve got more celebrating to do, and we hope you’ll join us!

Not in the Script cover

Doesn’t that cover look fun? Check out this description:

The best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

- See more at: http://bloomsbury.com/us/not-in-the-script-9781619633988/#sthash.f08cASwU.dpuf

One of my favorite things about the book is how it immerses you in the lives of the young actors, both on set and off. How was Amy able to bring the entertainment world to life so vividly? She’s heard years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother, plus she’s been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood, so you can be pretty sure the fictional experiences are authentic. Want to know more? You can follow Amy on Twitter: @ajfinnegan, Instagram: StrangerThanFictionWriter, Facebook: Amy Finnegan, Author, or visit her at AmyFinnegan.com.

Check out this awesome book+swag package put together by Amy herself:

Not in the Script giveaway package

For a chance to win this super swagalicious giveaway, just comment on any of the launch party posts today through Friday. We’ve got all kinds of fun things planned to celebrate, so be sure to check in every day this week!

Of course, if you just can’t wait to see if you win (trust me–you don’t want to wait!) or you need more than one (trust me–you’ll want extras to give as gifts!), you can order hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!

Cut! And that’s a wrap. (We’ll pick up again with scene 2 tomorrow!)


Filed under Celebrations, Launch

Books Change The World by Trent Reedy

trent2The EMU’s would like to welcome Trent Reedy, fellow EMLA client, to share some thoughts about how he came to the realization that being a writer and writing books was the best way for him to change the world.

I used to think I could change the world.

In my early twenties, I thought that if I could only get my political party to defeat the opposing side, then everything would be set right. I wasted a lot of time and energy arguing about that stuff. Then I was sent to the war in Afghanistan with my Army National Guard unit and everything changed. With a very real possibility of death lingering over so much of my time there, life was stripped down to only what was truly important. I promised myself that if I made it home, I would dedicate my life to my faith, family, friends, reading, and writing. True to that promise, I no longer get wrapped up in socio-political debates or the current cause du jour. I don’t display argumentative posts on my social media or argue with the posts of others whose viewpoints differ from mine. I no longer believe I can make a change in America or in the world, at least not on the scale or in the manner I once envisioned.

This I believe: The power of a book to improve the life of its reader is beyond measure.

During the most challenging part of my time during the war, my fellow soldiers and I were living in a rented mud-brick Afghan house. The house was built for an Afghan family, and not for nearly fifty soldiers with their vehicles and equipment. Insufficient cold storage meant we were limited to small field rations. The well was shallow and often went dry, so we were allowed three-minute showers once every three days. If the well went dry on a soldier’s shower day, he’d have to wait three days and try again. The heat would flirt with 120 degrees, and was nearly unbearable under our helmets and heavy body armor. The Taliban sent us frequent death threats, and my life was reduced to an endless, colorless drudgery of duty, guns, filth, and fear.

That kind of living ground me down, reducing me to a machine-man who was slowly dying inside. Then one day the mail finally arrived, and with it a copy of Katherine Paterson’s novel Bridge to Terabithia. Some miracle allowed me to find the time to read the whole book that day, and I remember my spirits being lifted up and freed, in a manner similar to the way I felt when I could finally take off my heavy baking hot body armor.bridge

Bridge to Terabithia reminded me that there is still hope, even in the most difficult circumstances. More than that, it was a spark of beauty at a time in my life where beauty seemed so very hard to come by. I needed that spark of hope and wonder. I needed that connection to another person’s personal thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Bridge to Terabithia helped me keep going through those long fearful days. Because of that novel, I will never forget the awesome power of one book to affect its reader. It was that book that gave me hope, not only that I might survive the war and return home, but also that I, too, might one day follow my lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

My goal as a writer isn’t to change the world, but to make a connection with each single reader of each of my books.

trentand girl

During my time in Afghanistan, my fellow soldiers and I encountered a young Afghan girl named Zulaikha who had suffered from birth from cleft lip. An Army doctor had volunteered to conduct her needed corrective surgery, but the Army could not send a helicopter for her. So my fellow soldiers and I pooled our money to pay for civilian transportation to get Zulaikha to her surgery. When she returned to us, she was completely changed. Only a tiny scar hinted that anything had ever been different about her. And although she was very young, and we were probably intimidating strangers from a distant land, she faced the entire situation with a wonderful quiet courage and dignity. For me, she began to symbolize the struggle that all Afghans face in working to build a better country for future generations. The last time I saw Zulaikha, I promised myself I would do dustwhatever I could to tell her story. That’s what led to my first novel Words in the Dust, the story of a young Afghan girl named Zulaikha who dares to dream, who finds the courage to pursue her own best destiny.

I once heard from a young Afghan-American reader who thanked me for writing “a book that shows that not all Afghans are bad.” I worry for this reader, wondering what she must have to deal with in her daily life that makes her feel that such a book is necessary. But I’m honored that she could find some measure of comfort and common ground with Words in the Dust. And I hope that other readers might find an Afghan friend in Zulaikha, a connection to this country that has become such an important part of our own country’s narrative. The Zulaikha I met in Afghanistan didn’t set out to change the world. Instead she inspired me and the soldiers with whom I served. And I hope her namesake character will make a connection with others, one reader at a time.

I recently celebrated the publication of my fourth novel If You’re Reading This. This book, about a ifyourereadingsixteen-year-old young man who begins to receive letters that his soldier father wrote before he was killed in the war in Afghanistan, is my attempt to say goodbye to this long war that has affected millions of American young people. My goal with If You’re Reading This isn’t to convince anyone to support or to protest the war, but to offer the reader a sense of what the mission in Afghanistan has meant to Afghans, to the soldiers who served, and to the families who sacrificed in support of that service. If I can help even one young person who has missed his deployed loved ones, then I’ll have done my job. An entire generation of young people has grown up, enduring the sacrifices in support of our long wars, and I believe they deserve to know why. They deserve to know that they’re not alone and that their sacrifices are valued and appreciated.

I wonder if a great deal of the problems we continue to face in society may be at least partially the result of too many people trying to “change the world,” of too many people stuck in a default mode of thinking in sweeping generalizations, of seeing in each person they encounter, not an individual in all his rich complexities, but rather as a subset of a larger group with all the potentially problematic assumptions that view can bring. My YA trilogy Divided We Fall depicts America’s divdedpolitical divide stretched out to its furthest nightmarish extreme. In my story, this division has resulted from two sides, two clashing socio-political ideologies that are both trying to “change the world” for what each of them believes is the better. Instead of communicating with individuals person to person in order to seek common ground and practical solutions, the people in Divided We Fall flock to those whose thoughts and ideologies mirror their own. Safe in those self-affirming alliances, they set about trying to “change the world” by hurling partisan insults and blanket accusations at their adversaries, until all they’re left with is the divide itself.

Ten years ago, in the violent maw of another divide, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia reminded me of the life saving power of books, of each book’s awesome potential to connect the individual to hope and a better life. I believe that all the wars, weapons, and worries of the world could be overcome if each individual strove to live for the positive and uplifting. Nothing brings an individual to that way of thinking better than the real human connection that is possible through the pages of a book.

trent and katherine


Filed under Guest Posts, Writing and Life