Pajama Party!

It’s relHow To Put Your Parents To Bed Coverease week for Mylisa Larsen’s sweet and hilarious (yes, both!) HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED and we’re starting out with a pajama party! And a contest!! So you have to check out the ending of this post, because you’ll really, really want to participate in the contest.

First, a few of us reading – or not – in pajamas – or not – our favorite books, or hugging our favorite dogs, or our favorite dogs reading their favorite books, or…


Anya Gianferrari, not yet reading…

Carole Gerber

Carole Gerber, reading surprise!

Andrea Wang son + Mochi

Mochi Wang, serving as a bookrest…








Trixie Florence

Trixie Florence, reading about breakfast…



Jason & Brodie

Jason and Brodie, dreaming about reading…








Kevin Fox, putting his gram to bed…

Elly & Lucy Swartz

Elly & Lucy Swartz, reading a favorite.


Mylisa herself, ready to waddle off.





Tyler & Ben Reynolds

Tyler & Ben Reynolds reading their puppy to sleep.














We hope you’ll join us in our party!

Comment on this post, or share on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #PutParents2Bed,  to be entered to win a copy of the book and a gift certificate for pajamas from Lazy One. See the official rules here: The contest will run until April 1.

Find out more about Mylisa and her books here and order your own copy of HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED here.




Filed under Book Launch, Uncategorized

When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

You hear authors say “I’ve been writing all my life” or “I’ve been writing since I was a little kid.” But for many of us I think the moment we actually label ourselves a “writer” can represent a significant step in this journey we’re on. This was true for me. In one of my early journals I wrote the following –

IMG_0152I couldn’t spell (thank the gods for spell check), but I obviously knew I wanted to write. I wrote all through high school, won a statewide poetry award, but then life got in the way. I wasn’t confident that I could make a living writing. I got interested in environmental issues and went a more scientific path. Even so the sneaky writing muse was watching out for me. I didn’t end up in a lab, I became a planner and project manager with significant responsibilities in, you guessed it, technical writing. But the writing I do for work is as far from creative writing as you can get while still using words.

For years I thought I couldn’t write creatively and do the technical work I was making my living at – then after a while (and I mean a decade or two) my thinking shifted. I give huge credit to my parents, they always remembered I was a writer when I forgot, and this helped me admit that since there were always four or five stories gamboling about in my head, I might as well write them down.

For a while it was my little secret. I didn’t tell family or friends. Then over time when people asked “what’s new” I would shyly admit that I was doing some writing on the side. It was well into my second full manuscript, that I realized two fundamental truths. First – if I called myself a writer, not only would others take me more seriously, but I would feel more grounded in the responsibility of putting butt in chair and getting the work done. Second, I’d been hesitant to call myself a writer because I didn’t have an agent and I wasn’t published, but in fact I was a writer. I was putting the words down, reading, honing my craft skills, and becoming active in this amazing world of other writers doing the same thing. So, if you are in that place between “doing some writing” and “being a writer” I urge you to take that leap. Honor your skills and the hard work you’re doing by calling yourself what you are. Print up business cards. Put it on your Face Book page. Then enjoy the journey.

P.S. if you want more in this vein, run don’t walk to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC. Empowering – I promise.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter @Darcey_r


Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life

Life’s Gravy

Somewhere between drafting, revising, submitting and waiting, a book was created. I mean an actual, bound book with a cover and a title. And a name. An author’s name. My name. This is the are-you-kidding-I’m-freaking-out part. After 13 years, many hugs, Twizzlers and talks that included, ‘I believe in you’ and ‘just focus on the process,’ my debut book, FINDING PERFECT, is actually coming into the world. Where it will meet people who don’t eat Thanksgiving at my table and don’t know me.

For so long my focus never moved off the process. And, now, with a box about to be delivered to my door filled with galleys, my focus has moved from the journey to the actual book. And, if I am being spill-the-beans honest, I’m a blend of dreams-come-true excited and just plain old terrified.  This last part was a huge surprise to me.  I knew I’d be dance happy, but stomach-hurt-nervous, where did that come from?  Then I realized these feelings were similar to those I had when I sent my sons off to college. I was happy for them, but as a mom, I knew the days of me knowing everyone and everything in their lives was, well, over. And, once FINDING PERFECT no longer lives only on my computer to be shared solely with my family and friends, the days of me knowing everyone that reads my story will, well, be over, too.

And that is the absolute privilege of writing. That is the dream. And, that is also where my nerves and joy unite.

I have told myself that in those moments that I promise to remember something my mom used to say, “This is the gravy of life.” While she is no longer here with me, I still hear the words in her loving and mom-knows-best voice. And, you know what, she’s right. This IS the gravy of life. This ranks as a sing-in-the-shower, dance-like-crazy moment. So, when my nerves peek through, I’ve decided to turn up the volume of Happy by Pharrell, embrace my happy, and rock out to life’s gravy moments.


IMG_9825  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.


Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life

Bedtime for EMUs

Today’s the day we wrap up the launch of Luke Reynolds’ picture book debut, BEDTIME BLASTOFF! One might even say we are tucking it into bed.


So to tuck in Luke’s launch, fellow EMUs are sharing their favorite bedtime routines.


Sarvinder Naberhaus: My favorite bedtime routine was with my very young son. Every night I picked him up, and we went around the room and said “goodnight” to all the items in the room — goodnight to characters within frames… “Goodnight” to all the things he loved most. Then I said goodnight to him, the one thing I loved most.

Elly Swartz: The bedtime routines when my boys were young were some of my favorites and they varied depending on who tucked them in. If it was Mom, it always included a book. I read to them. They read to me. Or both. Then I sang them a song. No need to dwell on that. Needless to say love can only take a tune so far. When the boys realized what the songs were supposed to sound like, that part of the routine ended. If Dad tucked them in, the routine always included an amazing tale he (or they) created. But, whether it was Mom or Dad, it always ended with a goodnight kiss.

Andrea Wang: When my sons were very small, we always said the familiar, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite,” just before turning out the light. Often, we would substitute another creature for the bedbugs. As they got older, the phrase grew longer. We added “Good night, I love you” in Chinese and English. Then, one of the kids wanted us to add an instruction to “stay away from” whatever thing he found distasteful that day. At one point, he insisted on adding one new horrible item to the list each night (sock lint, skunks, smelly feet, etc.), and we would have to remember them all and recite them back. This took a long time (perhaps his ulterior motive?) and required too many brain cells, so it was quickly shortened to “stay away from ALL stinky things,” which effectively covered all circumstances. I love how the original verse grew and morphed into something wholly unique.

Mylisa Larsen: My children’s favorite bedtime routine was something that was completely counterproductive. My husband would pretend to turn into this bedtime monster and the kids would all run screaming up the stairs while he chased them, growling and pretending to grab at their ankles. This would, it’s true, get them into their rooms but in such a revved up, lets-play-some-more state that we’d spend the next 30 minutes getting people down from light fixtures and trying to keep them from jumping on their beds. Weirdly, none of my children have ever been scared of the monster under the bed or in the closet thing. Apparently, it never occurred to them that such a monster could be anything but fun.

Hayley Barrett: When our kids were little, my husband used to tuck them in and tell them what to dream about. They’d close their eyes and he’d choose a special adventure for each of them, whether it was flying in a rocketship or swimming with dolphins. It helped them happily drift into dreamland.

Janet Fox: When I was little, my mom used to sing to me, while holding me in her lap in the rocking chair. Typical, right? But she didn’t sing the usual kiddie songs. She sang the popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s, popular when she was little. Which meant I heard odd things like “Has Anyone Hear Seen Kelly?” and “She’s Dead In The Coach Ahead.” Now, you’d think my mom was strange, but she was the most middle-of-the-road mother ever. And I still love those songs. They still put me to sleep. Plus – they told stories. Maybe that explains why I love storytelling.

Debbi Michiko Florence: My bedtime routine when I was in elementary school was to arrange my 20+ stuffed animals around me in bed. Each stuffed animal had a name of course, and they “protected me” from whatever scary things lurked in the dark. (Closet door had to be closed!) I had so many stuffed animals that I could hardly move, but it was the only way I could fall asleep. (Secret confession, when my husband is away on business, my dog and two teddy bears sleep with me.)

Katie Slivensky: Here’s my cat’s bedtime routine.

Step 1: Get up from evening nap. Stretch.

Step 2: Find resident human. Stare at her until she notices.

Step 3: Meow at human, who has clearly not realized it is 9:30pm and therefore time for bed.

Step 4: Storm the apartment. Human is being ignorant. Slam cupboard doors. Rip up toilet paper. Jump on laptop.

Step 5: Human is yelling! Perhaps she has realized what time it is, and is expressing shock that she could have missed bed time so severely. Stare hopefully.

Step 6: Fall into despair. Human is never going to bed. Yowl loudly. Scratch at the walls.

Step 7: Give up. Collapse in defeat in hallway. Keep an eye on human.

Step 8: Human is getting up! Human is brushing her teeth! Make sure to lay on her feet and meow every four seconds, so she does not forget about bedtime again.

Step 9: Watch human crawl into bed. Refuse to join her for at least five minutes, or risk looking desperate.

Step 10: Success. Human is now convinced you want nothing to do with her. Jump on her just as she’s drifting off. Settle into position. Use claws liberally. Enjoy sleep until the generous hour of 3 am.


Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Happiness, Launch, Picture books, Promotion, Uncategorized

A Chat with Luke Reynolds, author of Bedtime Blastoff!

I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Luke about his debut picture book – Bedtime Blastoff, life with two young boys, and how being a dad has changed what and how he writes. But first, a bit about Bedtime Blastoff.

For little kids who love construction vehicles, race cars, and fire trucks, this is the perfect bedtime story to get them strapped in and ready to blast off to bedtime!

Author Luke Reynolds captures this bedtime adventure with perfectly simple but poignant text, while debut illustrator and animator Mike Yamada brings it to life with his awesome ability to transform a bed into a rocket, a plane, and even a pirate ship!


Now to my chat.

You have 2 boys, right?

Our oldest, Tyler, is seven and our youngest, Benjamin, is two, and they both love anything that invokes imagination!

Has being a dad changed how and what you write?

Before I became a dad, I thought the literary rainbow’s journey always ended in the genre of adult literary fiction—that was where the great stuff was at! But when we had Tyler, and I began reading thousands and thousands of picture books to him, I remember thinking, Man, these are amazing. The more I researched, I heard these incredible stories about long hours and months and years authors and illustrators put into these books—the love, dedication, and energy that imbued them. And when I watched my first son positively fall in love with the way a page turns, the reader-listener dance that happens with each new sequence, and the caesuras in action and pacing that allow for these beautiful moments of insights and joy, I was fully hooked. At the time, I had also switched from teaching in a high school to a middle school, and so my desire to write for middle-graders and younger kids skyrocketed because that’s what I saw in front of me all day—and that was the audience I wanted to inspire and connect with in everything I tried to write. I also find that I now write—like many parents—in bursts of creative energy either late at night or early in the morning or during a nap time on a weekend or…whenever there is time rather than anything close to resembling discipline! J

What was the inspiration for this book?

My wife, Jennifer, created this game with Tyler when he was little where he’d climb into a laundry basket and she’d zoom him all around the apartment. I loved it, and we would take turns pushing him around so each of us could rest. One night, I was putting Tyler to bed, and he saw the laundry basket in the corner of the room. I swear he got this spark in his eye, grinned, and then raced over to the basket and climbed in. To be honest, I didn’t really want to put him to bed yet, and I was still going on way too much coffee from the day, so I kind of asked him “Bedtime?” to which he jovially sputtered, “Not yet!”

And that night we started pretending the laundry basket was a helicopter, a digger, a race car, a jet—and we both just basically played until we collapsed. Much later that night, during a nighttime writing session, I stopped the novel I was working on because this poem just kept yelling at me that it had to get out. And that was the first draft of Bedtime Blastoff!

On teaching, what do you love most?

I love the way kids have these beautifully open minds. The world is so fresh to them—they see everything as though it has just been uncovered deep down in the dirt, like a treasure. And seeing them look at life that way energizes me. It makes me feel this deep sense of possibility in life, and I don’t want to squander it for myself or for them. Teaching reminds me that everything is worth it—every tiny smile, every little word we write, every glance, every hello, every high-five and every question. Nothing is wasted. Ever. It all matters.

 PB or book your boys love most right now?

One of Tyler’s all-time favorites is The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring and Miriam Latimer, and he and Jen created this amazing real-life rendition of the book:

Recently, though, Tyler is loving every single Magic Tree House book and anything that has the words STAR and WARS anywhere on it. Ben absolutely adores On the Night You Were Born because it’s an audio version of my parents reading it aloud and he is mesmerized. They also both loved Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (which I read to my 7th graders and they also adored).

So garlic bread and cereal – 2 main food groups, what would be your 3rd?

I’d have to go with mangoes, preferable with a large side of garlic bread and cereal for dessert!

Oddest job you’ve ever had?

32-year old morning Paperboy!

 Character in a book you identify most with?

Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov because he struggles with doubt but tries so desperately to hold onto hope and love and has to talk himself through so much fear and into love! Also, I kept seeing myself in Gary D. Schmidt’s character of Doug in Okay for Now. I wept through that whole book. (And when I wasn’t weeping, I was laughing hysterically—incredible reading experience!)

What’s next? Another PB? Any hints you are willing to share?

In July Surviving Middle School comes out—a book close to my heart because it is for my 7th graders and it is what I desperately want them to always remember.


So, that’s a wrap.  Thanks, Luke, for talking with me about being a writer, a teacher and a father!

You can get Luke’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF anywhere books are sold.


Barnes and Noble




IMG_9825    Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out October, 2016 (FSG). It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.





Filed under Uncategorized

Bedtime Blastoff Launch and Giveaway

BB_Jkt_072915It’s the official book birthday of Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF today. It’s a story of trying to get to bed. But, oh, the distractions when your bed can turn into a train, a pirate ship, a firetruck. . .

So we asked the Emu mob what vehicle they would have wanted their bed to turn into back when they were kids. Their answers (as well as some pretty spiffy photos of them as kids) are below.

Elly Swartz


Let Elly drive the bus! Please.

“I would have wanted my bed to magically become a bus. That way I could have filled with it my dog, Missy, my hamster, Cinnamon, and all of my friends to head out on a nighttime adventure. ”

Debbi Michiko Florence


Horse? Elephant? Giant bird? Hmmm.

“When I was little, I loved all animals. (I still do.) I slept with so many stuffed animals that I barely had room to move in my own bed. So, it’s very likely that I would have loved for my bed to turn into an animal – like a horse or elephant or giant bird – that could take me and my many stuffed animals on an adventure! (So not really a vehicle, but transportation none-the-less!)”

Janet Fox


Sailed on a river of crystal light/Into a sea of dew

“My preferred bed:
A boat. I loved the song “Winkin, Blinkin and Nod” – so I wanted to sail off into a sea of blue, rocking on the waves.”

Andrea Wang

Andrea prairie dress

Andrea, channeling her inner prairie girl

“When I was little, I would have loved it if my bed had transformed into a covered wagon, complete with matching horses to pull it. Specifically, the wagon featured on the cover of Little House on the Prairie, with the white canvas bonnet. I eventually cajoled my mom into buying a white canopy for my bed, but she steadfastly refused to get me horses!”

Carole Gerber


Carole and her sister (Carole on the left)

“a single bed! My younger sister and I shared a bedroom and a double bed until I was in 5th grade (and she was in third). We were both thrilled to get our own bedrooms and ordinary single beds when our family moved to a larger home.”

Jason Gallaher

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 4.58.15 PM

Yeah, a dinosaur. Brontosaurus, I think.

“When I was a kid, I wanted my bed to be a dinosaur. I know this isn’t a vehicle per se, but a brontosaurus can get you from Point A to Point B, so I think it counts. I would have a big ol’ nest of blankets on my prehistoric friend’s back, then let her lumbering steps lull me to sleep.”

For a great bedtime read, check out BEDTIME BLASTOFF and see what the imaginative kid and dad in that story come up with.

You can get Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF anywhere books are sold.


Barnes and Noble


Stay tuned all this week for interviews with the author and illustrator and a post that may give you some ideas for your own bedtime routine. And comment on any post this week to be entered to win a signed copy of BEDTIME BLASTOFF.







Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books

Launch Week for Bedtime Blastoff!

Hold on tight, dear EMUs Debuts readers. Luke Reynolds’ adorable new picture book, Bedtime Blastoff! has officially launched! You know what that means, right?


Tuesday through Friday of this week we will celebrate with a specially-themed blog post by members of our own EMUs Debuts mob. You never know what you’ll learn when writers pull back the curtain and throw a launch party.  Slip into your favorite space suit and join us!







Congratulations, Luke!



Filed under Uncategorized

Of Cracked Ribs and Dreams Come True

It was a Saturday in July when I got “the call”.

Actually, missed “the call”.

Actually…*coughs* ignored “the call”.

I was recovering from pneumonia (brought on by severely overworking myself at my day job) and at my biweekly kidlit critique group meeting. One of my crit partners had driven me, because I was in no shape to drive myself. I faded in and oheyarnoldsickut over the three hour meeting, clutching my pirate pillow that I was using to brace my ribs. I’d coughed so hard over the two weeks prior that I’d fractured them. At one point, my phone buzzed and I saw a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I ignored it.

See, I’d been on sub for a while with the manuscript that got me my wonderful agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. She’d mentioned that someone was expressing interest and might take it to an acquisitions meeting that week, but my head was too full of fog to ever think that this could mean I’d get an offer. We’d been close before. We’d been on sub for what felt like forever. I had a new manuscript turned in that we were prepping to take out next, with the unspoken understanding that it meant shelving the old one for the time being. And there was the whole…103 degree fever for a week straight thing. The ol’ synapses were not exactly firing properly.

I fell asleep for a good chunk of my critique group meeting. I was in a haze as I was driven back to my apartment. So when I looked at my email, squashed in the front seat with my pillow wrapped securely around me, at first I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

It was an email from Joan. Asking if I was around to talk. She said she’d tried to get in touch with me, but was overseas and using a number I wouldn’t recognize.

My friend Tara was driving, with my other friend Annie in the backseat. Both published authors themselves, I immediately asked them what they thought of the cryptic message. I don’t think either of them thought it was cryptic–neither would come out and say that it probably meant I had an offer, but the implication was there.

…That’s when it hit me. The reality of what might be happening.

bugsbunnycrazyIt was the oddest sensation. I had zero energy, but I still flooded head to toe with adrenaline. Imagine being buried in sand with a caffeine IV drip buried next to you, pouring into your veins.

I wrote Joan back and told her (probably fairly incoherently, given my mental state) that she could call at anytime. Seriously. Any. Time. However, she’d made it clear in her first email that she was likely going to be busy the rest of the day. I was shaking, and not from a fever anymore.

My friends dropped me off, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I was too sick to go out and distract myself with anything, so I put in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and watched that.

Until my phone rang at 5pm.

I. Had. An. Offer! It was official! Joan (seriously, bless her) called me from Europe to tell me I had a two book offer from HarperCollins Children’s. Erica Sussman wanted to be my editor.

All I could say was, “Ohrdomigosh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh!”–followed by intense periods of ugly coughing/hacking. I wanted to run. Jump. Scream. Dance. But all my body could manage was this odd sort of speed-shuffle around my apartment with my pirate pillow in tow. Both my cats flew around like maniacs, clearly knowing something was up. I called my parents. I cried.

A book deal! My lifelong dream come true, with cracked ribs.

Joan and I got back in touch when she returned to the States that following week, and we formally accepted. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.

I’ve recovered from the pneumonia and the fractures, thankfully.

…Still working on recovering from the shock.


Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut Middle Grade novel (title TBD) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her personal blog, Discoverific.




Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, Thankfulness, The Call, Uncategorized

Going with the Flow

I’m going to steal borrow Hayley’s wonderful idea and start my introduction with an embarrassing confession too. Mine is: I love flowcharts. I love knowing where I am and what I have to do to get to where I want to go. Those little arrows pointing the way to the next step always give me a little thrill. You’re probably wondering, “Control freak much?” To which I reply, “Does it show?”



When I received an email in December 2014 from an editor at Albert Whitman that thanked me for submitting my picture book manuscript, THE NIAN MONSTER, and asked if it was still available, I was stunned. I had submitted to the general address eighteen months prior and assumed that I’d been rejected (in the vein of “no response means it’s a no.”) I didn’t have a diagram for what to do in this situation. What was the next step? I was fairly certain that I should reply, but what should I say, short of begging her to buy my book? In my mind, I had taken the path from “Write a Book” to “Get Professional Critiques” to “Revise Manuscript” (a loop I repeated for a long time), with occasional forays to “Submit to Editors.” At the decision diamond that asked, “Submit to Agents?” I had followed the “No” arrow. At the time, I’d believed that a rejection from an agent was final and I didn’t want to “use up” my chances until I’d also completed my MG novel. Now here I was, agentless and stuck at the rectangle that said, “Get Plucked out of Slush Pile after 18 Months.”


Once I stopped hyperventilating, I sought advice on what my next step should be. I contacted friends, critique partners, my MFA mentors, anyone who had more of a clue than I did. They were evenly divided on whether I should try to sign with an agent or not. An agent wasn’t necessary for a first picture book, several said. Others thought having editor interest was an excellent opportunity to land an agent. I had ended up back at the “Submit to Agents?” decision and both “Yes” and “No” options carried equal weight.

At the same time, I replied to Kristin Zelazko, the editor who had emailed me. “Yes, it’s available,” I wrote. “Thanks for your interest.” I groaned as soon as I hit send. After two days of religiously following the “Should I Check My Email?” flowchart, I wrote a longer, babbling email to Kristin. It was as equally cringe-worthy as the first, terse email. I was clearly out of my depth. Having an agent now felt essential. I followed the “Yes” arrow and sent out queries to half a dozen agents, including Erin Murphy, to whom a dear friend had referred me. In the month that followed, Erin offered me representation and negotiated the offer from Kristin. I was so overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude, and disbelief that I stayed on the “Gesticulate Wildly” step for a long time.


In THE NIAN MONSTER, a clever girl named Xingling tries to outwit the ravenous Nian monster with her culinary savvy. She doesn’t have a flowchart to follow and yet she perseveres. I didn’t follow the traditional path to publication – I got “the call” when I was least expecting it and before I had an agent. And yet, everything worked out, better than I could have hoped. Although I know that this is not the end of my chart – that there is a long arrow winding its way from the “Book Launch!” step all the way back up to “Write a (New) Book” – and I’ll probably still send lots of cringe-worthy emails, next time I’ll put aside the flowcharts more often and just go with the flow.


Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published on December 1, 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. At home, she dragged books, chocolate chips, and the cat into her closet to read. Not much has changed since then, except now she reads and writes sitting in a comfy chair in a sunny room. With a lock on the door. Before becoming a writer, Andrea was an environmental consultant, helping to clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in a wooded suburb of Boston with her very understanding husband, two inspiring sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog.

You can find Andrea online at and on Twitter under @AndreaYWang. What’s the “Y” stand for? Take a guess!



Filed under Anxiety, Dreams Come True, Introduction, Panic, Picture books, Thankfulness, The Call

Covers, Covers, Covers

Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect just got a cover last week (see it here) and that reminded me of how exciting (ok, and nerve wracking) seeing your cover for the first time can be. A lot is riding on that cover design. In spite of the proverb, we all judge a book by its cover.

The perfect cover isn’t only beautiful, it delivers the right book to the right reader. So I thought I’d do a roundup of four books that I’ve had the opportunity to read whose covers do exactly that. The first is Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight with art by Ben Mantle.There Was an Old Dragon cover

From the minute you see that big, old dragon with the dinner napkin around his neck, you know he’s trouble. Funny trouble. And the book delivers that funny again and again both through text and pictures.

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The cover of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger tells you, “Hey, if you like books, if you like mysteries, if you like to solve puzzles, this is your book. Sarah Watt’s did the art and April Ward designed the cover. And when you read the book, it absolutely delivers on the cover’s promise. Books, mystery, puzzles galore.

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Janet Fox’s cover of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, with art by Greg Ruth, is fabulously sinister. You can’t help wanting to go into that lighted door and yet, at the same time, thinking “I am not sure those kids should go in that door. I do not have a good feeling about this.” Janet’s book comes out in March but I’ve already read an ARC and let me tell you, it’s both worth going in the door and sleep-with-the-lights-on scary. It delivers on the promise of the cover.


And finally, there’s the cover of Joshua McCune’s Talker 25. Gorgeous color combinations, all that texture, the stylized nod to dragons and the the tagline below the title. The cover is gritty, tough. You know the book will have a dark side. And that’s exactly what you get when you read it. (Plus the realest dragons I have read in years.)

If you’d like to read more about the thought process behind Talker 25, there’s a great post about how Paul Zakris, art director at Greenwillow, and Sammy Yuen, the artist, worked through that process here.

So here’s to the artists and cover designers who do such a brilliant job telling a reader in one image what’s waiting inside that cover.

Which covers that you’ve seen lately do you think do the job of delivering the right book to the right reader?


Filed under cover art