Hey, I just got here,
and this is crazy,
but here’s my blog post,
so read it maybe.
Whether you like that song or not, it’s inescapable these days. It’s stuck in my head after watching two tiny young girls singing it together, complete with hand motions, at Starbucks the other day. At first I was appalled due to the entirely age-inappropriateness of the lyrics, but their performance was just too innocent and adorable. I couldn’t NOT smile. So, now I’m passing my little ear worm on to you. Aren’t you glad I’m here?
Just to keep you on your toes, we now have two Lauries as well as two Taras. Aside from that, I’m a bird (get it? emus?) of a different feather here so far. I write nonfiction, like Cynthia Levinson, and I write picture books, like Tara Lazar (and more, coming soon!), but I think I’m the only one here to combine the two: I specialize in nonfiction picture books. I love them. I read about 100 of them every year. I have bookshelves FULL of them in my house. Apparently they’re a tough sell, which I don’t really understand, because they’re awesome. But tough sell or not, it’s what I must do. And guess what? I sold one!
It currently doesn’t have a title or a publication date, but I can tell you this: it’s a biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who, with one leg, rode a bicycle nearly 400-miles across his home country of Ghana. His heroic ride garnered international attention and helped to change Ghana’s disability laws. And, by way of introduction, I can also tell you about “The Call,” or in my case, “The Calls.”
I am terrible about answering my phone. I am much better at leaving it in the car, in the drawer, out of battery, on silent, you name it. I also refuse to answer it when I’m doing something important, like writing, or driving, or sleeping. I am usually doing one of those three things. That means I occasionally miss important calls—like this one! Luckily, super-agent Joan knows this about me. Last May she sent me an email saying I should call her, because there was some “interesting interest” on my manuscript. I took a deep breath, got comfortable, and called her back. The interest was from a dream editor (Anne Schwartz) at a dream publisher (Schwartz & Wade/Random House). The interesting part was that she wanted a pre-empt (!), BUT… only if Sean Qualls would illustrate it. Were we interested? Um, one of the things we picture-book writers do if make lists of our dream illustrators for each project. Who was #1 on my secret list for this project? Yep, you guessed it—Sean Qualls! I seem to go into “must-act-professional” mode around Joan, so after a long pause, (I think) I managed to calmly ask, “Is there any downside to this?” Fortunately, Joan said no, so I said, “Let’s do it!” My fate would be in Mr. Qualls’ hands.
After a very long, nail-biting week (during which I only occasionally moaned, “How long does it take to read 600 words?”), I received another call from Joan. This time I was taking a walk with a friend and my husband. When the phone rang (yay, I had my phone, and it was on!), I thought to myself (in my typical phone-avoidance mindset), I am only going to answer this if it’s Joan. Yeah, right, like THAT’S going to happen. *looks at caller ID* Wait! It’s Joan!!! Then I got to say those words every writer longs to say, “Excuse me, but I have to take this. It’s my agent.” Bwah hah hah! Did I really just say that? I don’t even care what Joan says, just getting to say that out loud was enough. Wait, who am I kidding? No, it wasn’t enough. I want more! Geesh, just answer the phone before she hangs up, you moron. Yes, I remember all of that internal monologue perfectly, yet I don’t remember much of anything of the call itself. I was probably hyperventilating. I doubt I acted very professional. I have no idea if I said anything intelligible at all. But Joan must have, because when I hung up, I ran back to my hubby and friend and yelled, “Sean said YES!” There was hugging and crying, and I don’t think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the walk, or that whole day, or even for the next week.
I got my revision letter and notes a few days later (squee!), but there was still the matter of an offer to work out. At that point, I knew there was going to be extremely good news coming, but I still wasn’t allowed to tell anyone! That kind of secret is hard to keep, but I did it for two whole weeks. Then Joan got the offer and tried to call me to discuss the details. No answer. I called her back, but then she was driving. When she called me back, I was driving, on my way to the dentist. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I put her on speaker and we ironed it all out while I zoomed down the freeway. We had just finished as I pulled into the dentist’s parking lot. I bet the dentist has never seen anyone looking that happy when they step into his office.
Well, that’s my “call” story. After all of the wonderful Emu’s Debuts launch parties recently, some of your beloved Emu’s Debuts will soon be retiring. Fortunately, more of us newbies will be stepping in to introduce ourselves and keep the debut ball rolling (or at least be fodder for Jeannie Mobley’s diabolical tricks). Stay tuned!