This Post is Dedicated to…

WARNING: This post is longish. I blame it on other people’s dedications.

Picture it. The bazillionth revision of what will be your debut book has been handed in and approved. Illustrations are complete. Layout is in process. And your editor knocks on your email door again to say she still needs your acknowledgments and dedication. Easy peasy, you think. Until you face a new blank email screen and type the word “acknowledgments,” because that’s sure to be the hardest section to write, right? You get a little misty at the memory of all those glorious people who have lifted you and your work up over the years. In flowery gratitude, you name every person who has Ever seen any version of your book, including that writer who joined your critique group for 7 minutes, five years ago. Your list becomes a novella, so you concoct different criteria to whittle it down. Every name you delete makes you anxious because you worry about hurting feelings. You experience your first panic attack. Then you realize that you forgot to acknowledge your family, your agent, your editor, a research source, your favorite librarian, your illustrator, your publisher, your neighbor, that friend you abandoned during your senior trip, your hair stylist, the office supply guy, your therapist. You develop a nervous twitch as you systematically cut precious people from your acknowledgments. When you’ve finally squeezed your beloveds and beholdens into the teeny tiny space designated by your editor, you pat yourself on the back. The hard part is done, right?

WRONG!

You type the word Dedication. Then the Jaws theme song dun-dun-dun-duns in your mind. How will you word this dedication? The permanence and profundity of these few words hits you. I mean, come on, the dedication is the star of its own page. Like a forever literary tattoo! You begin to question EVERYTHING about your pre-planned dedication. Should it be heartfelt? Should it be funny? Should it be poetic? If you dedicate the book to your spouse, will your kids and parents feel left out? If you dedicate it to your parents, will your spouse and kids feel left out? If you dedicate it to one kid, will the other feel like you’ve chosen a favorite? If you dedicate it to your dog, will you be committed?  If, if, if, if! You think about the theme and tone of your book and the person(s) who inspired the tale until a lightning bolt strikes and you know. You just know. For argument’s sake, let’s say you decide to dedicate your book featuring a horse to your mother because she’s the one who nurtured your love of horses and paid for all those years of horse show entry fees and show sheen. Without her influence, you wouldn’t have been drawn to your book’s subject. Done! But, wait! Should the dedication address your mother’s proper name? You text your eldest son, “hey, do you think Grandma would be okay with me listing her name in the dedication, or should I just say Mom? You know how private she is.” Eldest son doesn’t respond. Your telephone rings. It’s your mother who mentions receiving a confusing text from you. Oops! “And, by the way,” she says, “your book should be dedicated to your husband and kids because they’ve supported you.”  UGH! You decide to never try to surprise someone with a dedication again.

Back to “your” predicament and the many choices ahead.

To Mom?

For Mom?

To Mom, who…….

For Mom because……

You survey your friends with various dedication options. Yes, you’ve become THAT person! Though there is a consensus, you decide your friends are all crazy. You choose a different option and send it to your editor. Then you change your mind and ask your editor to change the dedication three times. Your dedication is profound—flowery, even. But you can’t seem to nail the sentiment. In the eleventh hour, you decide that flowery and complex doesn’t feel right. You send a fourth note to your editor, telling her that you want to make one absolutely final change to a much-simplified dedication. Your editor tells you this is the last change you can make. THANK GOODNESS!

Out of curiosity, you scroll the internet and scour your book shelves to find evidence of other writers who have experienced dedication-neurosis, or brilliance.

Kate DiCamillo. Because of Winn-Dixie

Kate DiCamillo in Because of Winn-Dixie

Danielewski. House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski in House of Leaves

The Little Prince. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince

Riordan-The House of Hades

Rick Riordan in the House of Hades

My Shit Life So Far by Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle in My Shit Life So Far

Steinbeck. East of Eden

John Steinbeck in East of Eden

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale in Austenland

Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia

Katerine Paterson in Bridge to Terabithia

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Kiera Cass in The Selection

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.41.11 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 1.37.46 PM

FullSizeRender

Donna Janell Bowman in Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Taught the World About Kindness

You decide that your next dedication will be “To Everyone!”


IMG_0595Donna Janell Bowman is the author of the upcoming picture book biographies, STEP RIGHT UP! THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY (Lee and Low Books, fall 2016,) EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, 2018) and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: WHEN THE GREAT BLONDIN RULED NIAGARA (Peachtree, 2019,) She lives and writes in Central Texas

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Love Batteries

I think we can all agree that as writers, we stress out a lot. The pressure to find an agent, the pressure to write a stellar manuscript, the pressure to have an editor buy that manuscript then turn it into a book that becomes an instant bestseller can make even the most stable and sane author crack.

giphy

We all come up with our own ways to delay or lessen that writer stress. This past week, I discovered my new go-to stress relief: Love Batteries. What are Love Batteries, you ask? They are those little bursts of good juju you get from doing non-writer things with those you love. And the charge in those little Love Batteries goes from a tiny AAA to a Transformer-sized car battery when you can do those fun non-writer things with other writers who are in the same boat as you and need just as much of a boost.

giphy-1

I discovered this fact firsthand at the annual EMLA retreat. This wasn’t my first go-around at the retreat. The craziness and loveliness and silliness was something I’d experienced last year, but for some reason I didn’t catch onto Love Batteries during that getaway. I think it was because it was my first time among the snuggle bunnies of EMLA, and although everyone I met was ready and willing to give me a hug, I was too nervous as the new guy to realize the recharging benefits of my fellow writers’ love. But not this time. This time around I felt like I was back among family, and from that first moment pulling into the lodge carport with a half-dozen EMLAs waiting to hug and laugh and squeal with me, I felt those batteries recharge. At first I thought part of the week might include me pulling out my WIP, but ultimately I realized that nope, this wasn’t the time for that. That first spark of energy in the carport made me realize my Love Batteries were empty, and trying to write would only drain them further. So I played. I played like I haven’t played in a while. I swam in the ocean every single night, I sang parody songs with my writer pals, I got as close to making my dream of becoming a merman come true by dressing up like a merwhal, and I did it all surrounded by writers I love and who made me feel like I was loved back. I’m sure there were quite a few times when my EMLA sisters and brothers and I looked like this:

giphy-2

And at the end of it all, my Love Batteries were fully charged, and now I’m ready to rock. I’m ready to write stories that make kids laugh, I’m ready to create books that hopefully turn kids into lifelong readers, I’m ready to spread the love. If ever there has been a week when more love is needed in the world, this is it. Remember to recharge your Love Batteries often, learn to recognize the signs when those batteries are being depleted, and above all, have some extra love to spare when you see somebody who needs it.

I’m sending you some right now. Here’s to love.

____________________

IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason loves include mapping how many degrees of separation he has from Anjelica Huston, pondering what Pikachu would look like in real life, and you. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

7 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Happiness, Inspiration, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

Imbalance

File Jun 02, 8 37 28 AM

For anybody who’s working and alive, work-life balance is something that will require some thought. Since we’re mostly writers here, writing is the work I’m imagining on one side of the fulcrum. On the other side, everything else: family, friends, day job (if it’s not writing), exercise and health, tasks and chores, etc. If the balance tips too far one direction, we’re writing, but not living well. Too far the other and we’re not writing. And just when you think you’ve found that perfect balance, circumstances will shift, and you’ll have to adjust again.

I’ve spent the past weeks feeling terribly out of balance, for a host of minor reasons and two major reasons: a serious case of pneumonia, and moving out of the house we’ve lived in for the last ten years. (I always think I remember how emotionally and mentally and physically hard moving is, but I never do.)

I’ve been itching to write, but it hasn’t been happening. And when I don’t itch to write, I feel guilty, or like there’s something wrong. Writers gotta write, right?

Then a few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a post on Writer Unboxed that changed my perspective: Fallow Fields: An Argument for Letting Your Creativity Rest. The premise is that we actually hurt ourselves and our work if we try to harvest from the same field season after season. That periods of not writing are essential to produce our best work, and our best lives.

But not writing can be a scary thing. What happens when we a chunk of life drops on the scale? Have we sent our work flying off, never to return?

seesaw

Of course not. Our lives are the soil from which our work grows, and the more richly we live them, the richer the work will be. Those periods when fields lie fallow are not wasted. While I’ve not been writing, I’ve been listening to audiobooks as I pack (and now unpack) boxes. I’ve been writing a little in my journal. And most importantly, I’ve been truly immersed in the (fairly intense) physical and emotional experiences of this period in my life. All these things will make for better writing when I open up my manuscript next week.

Writers gotta write, friends. Except when they gotta just live. That’s okay too.:)

____________________________________________

profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

6 Comments

Filed under Guilt, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Practical Obsession

I am sure I am not alone when I say I love office supplies. Post-Its, pens, Sharpies, folders — I love them all. But my favorite thing of all are notebooks. I cannot get enough of notebooks. I used to buy them willy-nilly, but after over 15 years of buying/collecting notebooks, I’ve figured out what kind I like best.

FullSizeRender (4)

The bottom row are Studio Oh! notebooks with canvas covers. They lay flat when opened, and are not so small that I can’t scribble freely and not so large that they intimidate with too much open space. They are my notebooks of choice. The two on the top row are different brands, but will be used lovingly as well. The other thing I love about the Studio Oh! notebooks are the endpapers. Check them out:

FullSizeRender (5)

Gorgeous, right? Okay, so yes, pretty things attract my eye. But, what good is an obsession if I can’t use them to fuel my love for writing? Fortunately, I have figured out a system. One notebook per project. Ideas, notes, character names, brainstorming, timelines, everything having to do with that project goes into one notebook.

IMG_1370

I date the notebook and any new entry. It ends up being a journal of the journey of my WIP. Anytime I have a new idea, I start a new notebook. Sometimes I fear I get new ideas just so I can use a new notebook!

FullSizeRender (6)

These are all the notebooks that are currently in use for different projects. There are A LOT! But I never have to dig through a bunch of notebooks, flip through pages of notepads, or shuffle through loose paper or scraps to find notes for a WIP. If I do scribble something pertinent for a WIP on a scrap paper, it gets transcribed into the proper notebook.

Recently, at my local indie bookstore, I discovered these gorgeous notebooks by Bindewerk, a German company.

FullSizeRender (4)

They cost more than I normally spend on notebooks, but I couldn’t resist. I loved the cover art, and the pages are thick and luxurious. I knew I’d save them for something very special. And that something very special happened. The one on the left is for recording all my conversations/communications with my editor. The one on the right is for recording all my conversations with my agent. This way, I have everything in one place should I need to recall when a certain something happened or what was said specifically about a draft, or even more importantly, when I need encouragement and a reminder that my editor and/or agent really do like my work, my writing. It’s easier than having to scroll through a ton of emails. A bonus was getting to use the special bookmarks I bought during my last trip to Paris, for these notebooks.

IMG_1383

Ah, but my bookmark obsession/collection is for another blog post. Happy writing!

——————————

authorDebbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of an early reader chapter book series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/Oct. 2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also onTwitter.


 

22 Comments

Filed under process, Writing and Life

My Empty Literary Nest

IMG_2992It wasn’t long ago that I fledged my one and only beautiful child – off to college – out in the world. I anticipated becoming an empty-nester with trepidation approaching dread, but when it actually happened, I was surprised how much the joy and pride of seeing her flourish helped me get used to the quiet house.

Now, as I get ready to send a book out into the world I’m a little dazed that I’m feeling that same trepidation. It’s not the fear of “will it do well?” and “what are they going to say on Goodreads?” Those are the fears I expected. What is surprising is how it will feel for this manuscript not to be a manuscript. It was over a decade ago that this idea grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Then it was a few chapters, then a rough first draft, then dozens more – a little less rough each one. Characters were added and subtracted, one character I actually had to kill off.

Over all that time it has been My Manuscript. A bulging folder transferred from old computer to new – passed around my critique group and to beta readers – hopefully sent after full requests from editors or agents. Always My Manuscript. But soon, very soon, it will be that no more. It is already more my fabulous editor’s manuscript than mine. Soon it will be an Advanced Reader Copy and then – gulp – a book-that-can-be-bought! It’s strange to admit that there’ll be a hole in my life where that manuscript has been. Yes – there are others coming up behind it, but this was my first to be rejected (many times) and my first sale – in short – my first to fledge out. I’m confident that, like my other empty nest experience, I’ll be proud watching this book fly on its own, but right this minute, indulge me in a moment of sweet nostalgia.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. Her story is historic fiction, telling 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, a cat 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. darcomatic on Instagram and darcey_r on twitter.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Unexpected Moments

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” —The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

As my first book is nearing publication, well, 5 months away, but who’s counting, I think a lot about this quote. I knew when I got my YES, the yippee-woohoo moments would fill my soul and explode with joy at every moment on the path to publication. What I didn’t expect was the moments of sadness that have, at times, crept in. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are not languishing moments, just times of missing. Because in my world, Pooh’s tomorrow is here. My mom died twenty years ago at the age of 55. She was quite simply, my hero. She made me believe I could do anything. She was the one who showed me how to color outside the lines, be brave, have fun, and, maybe most importantly, love unconditionally. So as my dream to become a published author is about to come true, I miss her. It’s simple. I want the people in my life who I love the most to be here when Finding Perfect becomes a real book with a real ISBN and real readers who aren’t related to me. Topping that list is and always has been my family. I am beyond grateful and downright giddy to share this journey with my boys and my husband. Just wish my mom was around to share it with, as well.

So, I hope with all my inner twelve year old enthusiasm that Pooh is right.  That my mom will be with me as I traverse down this wonderful path. That she is somewhere with my father-in-law and my gram, drinking her white wine, smelling the lilacs, and reading my story.

me and mom at camp

***

IMG_9552  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a girl named Molly, friendship, family, 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 next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Step Away from that Keyboard!

I had the pleasure of participating on two panels at this past weekend’s Austin SCBWI conference, where one of the questions posed was about writing advice. Very wise tips were shared: Read a lot, write a lot, find critique partners, attend conferences and workshops, be willing to revise, etc. While the mic slowly passed my way, I flashed back to the past couple of crazy-busy years and how the isolation of work, work, work, and school, school, school has taken its toll. All this sitting! All this staring at a computer! All this time away from life! Of course, it will all feel worth it once books are in my hand and I walk across a certain stage in a matter of months. We’re allowed to feel exhausted sometimes, right? My extended crunch time has been filled with so many wonderful things. But, it occurred to me that, though I have stockpiled project ideas the way people stockpile batteries during wartime, even those ideas could be jeopardized by my hyper-focus.

Our best ideas come to us when we are NOT trying to create something. There’s a reason little gifts of wonder hit us when we’re driving, in the shower, at a yoga class, or miles away from our work space. Creativity comes during down time, which happens to be when our brains stockpile sensory, logical, creative, and social memory. How else could we remember the thrill of our favorite childhood games, or the sound of wind through trees, the smell of rain , the velvety touch of a calf’s muzzle, or the thorny stems of the neighbor’s forbidden rose petals?  What does it feel like to zip-line down, climb up, run away? What are the emotions of seeing Niagara Falls, or riding a roller coaster, or the heartbreak of teen break-ups? And what about the many ways people act and react with each other? The more life we live, the more energized we will be. And, bonus, those experiences will infuse the stories we write.

My inarticulate advice to the 200-plus conference attendees was actually introspective advice to myself, and I’m determined to take heed:

Step away from that computer!

 Experience new things. Allow yourself time to be aimless. Do something silly with your family and friends. Do nothing at all. People-watch. Embrace a new hobby. Get lost!

Cave

Explore. Allow yourself to imagine.

DSC03342

Leap out of joy.

Goose friend

Make new friends

Bird's nest

Be awed by life.

DSC02180

Be still and observe.

whimsy pen

Look for whimsy everywhere!

Give yourself a break, physically, emotionally, and creatively. When you return to the page, you will be more energized and full of the stuff of writing magic.


IMG_1677a 5 x 7

Donna Janell Bowman is the author of the forthcoming picture book biography, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Taught the World About Kindness (Lee and Low Books, October 2016), in addition to En Garde! Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words (Peachtree, 2018), and King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara (Peachtree, 2019). You can learn more about her work at http://www.donnajanellbowman.com.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Purposeful Patience

We each see the world through our own very particular lens and use our inclinations and experiences to help us make sense of life. Most people, I find, have distilled these influences into a sort of personal metaphor, something that can be held up for comparison  to everything else.

I have two such metaphors. I can make anything connect in a logical, natural way to either:

Horses    

Baby horse gif

or Childbirth

Dumbo gif

Today’s a childbirth kind of day.

When the idea for a book is…um… conceived by a writer, all things seems wonderfully possible. The future book is soft-focused, as if seen through a dusting of talcum powder and hope. It’s a maybe-baby. chinchilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

But unless the writer has the remarkable talent and good fortune to be an author-illustrator, a picture book cannot be born until it has complementary artwork made by someone else — an illustrator who will create a visual counterpart to the text and bring the whole into glorious being.

In other words, the writer’s adorable book-baby is going to have another parent.Bird gif

I think embracing this truth is one of the first steps to becoming a serious picture book writer. The sooner you understand that both the process and the end result are a shared enterprise, the better. No matter how much time you have put into crafting your (under 500 word) story, when it’s bought by a publisher, it’s only halfway finished.

Illustrations can take — I’m just going to say it — years. That can feel like a long time to wait. Breathless gif

It’s critical to remember that the chosen illustrator has only just begun to nurture the manuscript. To them, it’s still a maybe-baby and needs a lot of time and attention to come to full fruition.

Some things are worth the wait. Like babies. And picture books. As I wait for BABYMOON, I trust the process. Everyone who has taken an interest in my manuscript has its best prospects at heart. I will be purposefully patient. I will keep working. I will wait in talcum powder hope for a happy book-birthday. It will arrive when it’s ready, and I’ll be waiting with open arms.

Book heart gif

Enjoy the day!

Hayley


 

Gravatar

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com.

.

6 Comments

Filed under Advice, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Editor, Faith, Illustrators, Inspiration, Patience, Picture books, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, waiting, Writing and Life

Stepping Back

Sometimes, you’re just too close to your project.

Sometimes, you are your own worst stumbling block.

Sometimes, you just gotta step back.

hamsterwheelfail

…And sometimes, stepping back just happens TO you, whether you’d like it to or not.

I’ve spent the last two weeks not writing. Not revising. Not even scribbling out notes. Now, this hasn’t been by choice–life has been busy! I haven’t had any time to sit and work on my Book 2. And while this had been stressing me out beyond belief, it turns out it’s actually been a blessing in disguise.

Without the pressures of a blank page in front of me, I have had time to think. Both consciously and subconsciously. I’ve taken all the tidbits I had rattling around in my head, and merged them into nuggets of pure creative gold. Thanks to this forced break, I now know not just what my main character’s biggest passion is (something I’ve two dimensionally known for ages), but how she acts on it and applies it in the real world. I also know the backstory on my antagonists–where they align with one another and where they definitively do not. And there’s so much more. I know which characters need to show up when. I know at what point I can throw in the twists I have planned. I know when I need to bring in tension, and when to bring in conflict.

awesomesauce

I had time to sit down and work on writing today for the first time in two weeks. I chose to spend that time with blank scrap paper, rewriting my outline chapter by chapter. When I was done, I read it over, and sat back, amazed.

I have what (at least on scrap paper) sounds like…a book.

This means tossing out the draft I’d been working on up until now, but it also means the next draft is likely going to kick serious butt. I will take it. Yes!

danceywin

Feeling stuck or overwhelmed? Take some time off. Step away. Breathe. And watch what happens. You might surprise yourself.


Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) 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.  She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or at her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sidetracked by Track Changes

Like Katie, I also turned in my final manuscript to my editor recently. But unlike Katie’s novel, my picture book manuscript has far fewer words. Like, almost a couple of orders of magnitude fewer. Including the back matter, my book will have about one thousand words. (And that’s considered L-O-N-G for a picture book these days.) So editing it should be a piece of cake, right? There are only a limited number of times you can read a thousand fairly simple words, right?

Nope. No cake. No limit.

dJ4Yw

 

Even though my editor had relatively few comments (yay!), revising the manuscript took a lot longer than I anticipated. It was also much more interesting than I expected. From the first round of edits to the (hopefully) last, we were having a dialogue through Track Changes. Our comment-bubble conversation led me down side roads, some I had already traveled, most I had not.

roundaboutgif

Side roads? Oh, yeah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE NIAN MONSTER is a Chinese New Year story, a folktale retelling, a trickster tale, and a foodie story. It’s also set in Shanghai. One editorial comment, asking about whether the word “chef” would be used in China, took me down a historical path. I ended up writing a long-winded, horribly didactic, reply-comment-bubble about Shanghai’s history as an international port, the French Concession, and whatever other justification I could come up with. When my editor commented back, “Fascinating,” my inner geek did a little jig of joy. Or maybe just arched an eyebrow. (Note: I got to keep the word “chef.”)

b9e9aedb878b69b5512c94a8cf824aeba709f8813c4486a81f0c22f7e920c862

 

Addressing another comment sent me back to grammar school — Chinese vs. English grammar, that is. The comment was about using the word “the” in front of names of landmarks. We don’t say “the Times Square,” but is it appropriate to say “the People’s Square?” How do English-speakers in China refer to these places? I didn’t know how to respond to this. The little Chinese I know, I absorbed from listening to my parents and suffering through Sunday Chinese School. I knew when something sounded right in Chinese, but I could never explain why. It turns out that there is no equivalent of “the” in Chinese — it’s a language without a definite article. That answer allowed me to choose where to keep and where to delete the “the’s.”

the

Keep this one?

THE-UONWebsite-Homepage-TileFeature-246x143_02-1

Or this one?

the-copy-54773ed37044e362cda4eb8a261e079fb8c7d553-s6-c30

Or this one?

 

I did more research and thought harder about my story during the editing process than I had when writing it. None of the history or the grammar I learned will make it into the book. But I don’t regret any of it. More knowledge is never a waste, right? And I love that when I read the text, I see the fingerprints of my mentors, my critique partners, and now my editor. I hope that kids will come up with their own questions after reading the book. Or maybe even the same questions. I know they’re just dying to learn about the French Concession.

bb8ab4ca98ee46529fbdb1a3

I’ll have a cafe au lait, please!


Andrea Wang

Andrea 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 by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 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 embarking on the writer’s journey, 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 http://www.andreaywang.com and on Twitter under @AndreaYWang.

25 Comments

Filed under Editing and Revising, Editor, Picture books, Research, Uncategorized