Author Archives: Tara Lazar

About Tara Lazar

Children's author (THE MONSTORE, Aladdin/S&S 2013; I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, Aladdin/S&S 2014; LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, Random House 2014), foodie, boogeyman assassin & watermelon seed-spitting champion.

Tara Lazar Says Farewell and Shares All the Things She Learned: The Good, The Bad and The Sparkly

Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

hurdlesThings I Learned During my Debut Process:

  1. Landing an agent and selling your debut book isn’t THE hurdle. It’s THE FIRST hurdle.
  2. Not being in Barnes & Noble does make a difference in your book’s success, no matter how many well-meaning people try to assure you otherwise.
  3. Being in Barnes & Noble does not guarantee your book’s success.
  4. You will read reviews of your book that will leave you scratching your head, wondering if it’s really YOUR book the reviewer read.
  5. Just because you have thousands of social media followers doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy your book.
  6. Just because you publish a book with Simon & Schuster doesn’t mean people who schedule author appearances will want you. You’re still just small potatoes. Think fingerling instead of Idaho.
  7. You’ll check your Amazon ranking more often than you care to admit and you’ll cringe every time it goes over 100,000.

OK, maybe all that is a little too depressing. But c’mon guys, this stuff is HARD. This is not an easy business. I knew this when I was trying to break in, but somehow I thought once I did break in, everything afterwards would be a breeze—a warm, tropical breeze with notes of pineapple and coconut. WRONG. There’s no pool-boy fluttering a giant leaf fan. Subsequent books have taken MONTHS to sell…and one took AN ENTIRE YEAR! And I have more in the works that are likewise taking months. And there were even more books that didn’t sell at all. Phhht. Dead in the water. And no pool-boy to fish them out!

But let’s look on the bright side. I’m an AUTHOR now! Woo!

Yes, that was a sincere “woo!” Let’s try it again: WOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo……………! (Those periods are really tiny o’s.)

Things I Loved During my Debut Process:

  1. monstoresmallcoverAll the terribly exciting moments along the journey—seeing my characters for the first time, witnessing the progress of the dummies, revealing the cover, hearing the satisfying KA-THUNK of the author copies box hit the front porch, signing my very first book for a complete stranger.
  2. Holding MY BOOK in MY HANDS.
  3. Making incredible friends—my editor and art director, my illustrator, the imprint staff, fellow debut authors, booksellers, librarians and fans.
  4. Gaining a lot of publishing business wisdom.
  5. People sending me photos of the book spotted in the wild, face-out at bookstores.
  6. Receiving my first pieces of fan mail.

But the most important one is:

  • Seeing kids interact with my book and the joy it brings them.
littlejosbooks

Kids drawing MONSTORE monsters at Little Jo’s Books in Katonah, NY

princetonbookfestivalAnd there’s things I’m going to love that haven’t even happened yet! This weekend I’ll be at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival and the weekend after, The Baltimore Book Festival. I’ve been going to the Princeton festival for years and can’t believe I will be there signing books! Me!

And Baltimore! I’ll be on a stage! On a panel! And people will want to hear what I have to say! BUT WHY?!

After all, I’m still just Tara, wife of Alan for the past 14 years (today’s my anniversary! OMG! I almost forgot!), mother of two girls who find me terribly embarrassing, and neighbor who you’ll find scootering her kids to school while wearing ninja jammies. (That explains the embarrassment.) I’m still the same person I was before the book contract. I haven’t transformed into a sophisticated, radiant being. I lose socks in the laundry, forget to RSVP to birthday parties, and schlep to the grocery store with yesterday’s makeup smeared under my eyes. There are holes in my couches, too much junk piled in my garage and questionable looks when I drop off my kids wearing ninja jammies for the third day in a row.

But how cool that I can be my same dorky self and share my dorkiness with children through my books! Hopefully I’ll gain fans who will want every one of my releases and will never know me as un-radiant. To them, I sparkle.

And so I leave you with this: it’s a wild journey, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The dream was to sell one book, and that dream came true, so a new dream has replaced it. That dream is bigger, brighter and more daring. Will it come true? I dunno. Stay tuned.

And remember, be sparkly!

Fare-thee-well and have fun stormin’ the castle,
Tara

Princess Bride-Tara Lazar

P.S. It’s not farewell forever, just at Emu’s. You can still follow me and my jammies at taralazar.com.

P.P.S. Photoshopping by the talented illustrator Kayla Skogh. Thanks, Kayla!

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Filed under Farewell, Updates on our Books!

SOPHIE’S SQUASH Launch Week and Giveaway Harvest!

Hooray, it’s finally here! SOPHIE’S SQUASH!

fireworks

With its 4 starred reviews and being one of Amazon’s picks for August, we know you’ve been dying for it to be released! (Us, too!)

Sophie's Squash

You know who else has been dying for it to be released? Our own Pat Zietlow Miller, of course!

Did you know Pat was un-agented when she submitted SOPHIE’S SQUASH? It’s a slush pile success story! I asked VP and Publisher Anne Schwartz about the manuscript’s journey.

AS: SOPHIE’S SQUASH was pulled from the slush pile by our assistant, Stephanie Pitts, who was spanking new at the time. She’d been on the job less than a month, I think, which is a testament to both Stephanie and the manuscript itself. Stephanie passed it on to me, and I immediately loved it; I passed it on to Lee Wade, who immediately loved it. And that was the beginning.

Anne, SOPHIE has amassed a collection of starred reviews. What about the story resonates so strongly with readers?

AS: For me, and I assume for readers, there is something so genuine and yet hilarious about this story. The connection between Sophie and her squash is at once completely unexpected and totally relatable. It’s not easy to achieve simultaneously this off-the-wall absurdity and absolute believability, but I think Pat and Anne Wilsdorf, the illustrator, have done so to perfection. We laugh because Bernice is a squash, but we connect because Sophie’s love for her is 100% real.

Speaking of 100% real love, were you ever attached to or fascinated by an unusual toy as a child?

AS: I’m afraid I wasn’t as creative in my love object as Sophie. I had a pink blanket that I was very attached to. In fact, I still miss it…or should I say, her?

I think in this case,  you should say “her”. Too bad her name wasn’t Bernice. That would be quite a story!

We also asked Pat about her side of the slush pile story…

Pat Zietlow MillerPZM: Even though Schwartz & Wade had always been one of my absolute favorite picture book publishers, I had not sent SOPHIE to them earlier because I didn’t think they accepted unagented work. But then, I saw a website that said they did, and I thought I’d give them a try. I submitted it to them in January, and I was, frankly, close to thinking that maybe this particular manuscript wasn’t meant to be. It had had several close calls before and I was running out of spots to send it to.

After I sent it off, I didn’t think too much about it. I’m generally pretty good at that. I had other stuff to work on and I knew the odds were against it being published anyway.

So when Anne Schwartz called me in September, I was stunned. It was a classic, out-of-the-blue, we’d-like-to-buy-your-book phone call. She said they had just hired a new staff person, and asked her to look at some slush. The staff person had pulled my manuscript on a Wednesday, and Anne had called me on Friday. And Lee Wade called later that same day, which also was great.

It was amazing. And surreal. Amazingly surreal.

So after that, a friend of mine who also writes, Jessica Vitalis, said, “Well, you’re going to try to get an agent now, right?” And I actually wasn’t. I didn’t think an agent would be interested in someone who mostly wrote picture books and didn’t illustrate. And Jessica really pushed me to try. So I remembered an agent I’d seen speak at the Iowa SCBWI conference—Ammi-Joan Paquette. I had been impressed by her, but I hadn’t spoken to her because, again, I didn’t see the point. I sent Joan an email with the story and the offer and she got back to me immediately and asked to see more of my work. I sent her several other stories and then we talked on the phone.

And it all worked out and I am now ecstatically part of EMU’s Debuts. So I owe hitting the agent jackpot to my friend, Jessica, without whom, I wouldn’t even have contacted Joan.

What an inspiring story, Pat!

We’ve got a lot more inspiration coming your way this week, including an interview with illustrator Anne Wilsdorf and a top-sekrit Tuesday post with multiple EMUs participating…visually. You’ll have to see it to believe it!

Giveaway alert: comment this week to enter to win a signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH plus some lovable temporary tattoos of Sophie and Bernice!

sophietemptattoos

And if you happen to be near Madison, WI, Pat invites you to attend the in-person launch party on Saturday, August 17 at 1 p.m. at Barnes and Noble West (7433 Mineral Point Road). Plus there’s giveaways on Pat’s blog at PatZietlowMiller.com.

So curl up with your favorite squash and remember to join us all week long!

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Filed under Celebrations, Publishers and Editors

“Norm!” (Whoops, I mean “Tara!”)

Well, 6 weeks post book-launch and it would normally be time to wipe down the counters, flip over the barstools and tell the person knocking outside, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Tara has left the building.

cheersclosed

Instead of that final episode of Cheers, imagine Norm walking back in and everyone yelling “Norm!” Except, um, shouting some other name. “Tara!”

normcheers

Yep, I’m sticking around. Keep the stool on the corner warm for me.

I realized some of the most interesting debut experiences have happened to me post-launch. So why depart now? This is stuff that’s rarely discussed.

  • Like a corporate dispute between your publisher and America’s sole remaining national book chain which keeps your book out of the brick-and-mortar shops.
  • Like a gut-punching review.
  • Like your own child’s school declining your offer of a free school visit.
  • Like your daughter’s name being misspelled in the dedication.
  • Like most bookstores wanting you to appear in October because your book has Halloween appeal, yet very few wanting you NOW, when early sales are crucial to momentum.

BUT, there’s also the really cool stuff.

  • Like bookstores tweeting pictures of children drawing the monsters they’d like to buy at THE MONSTORE.
  • Like receiving fan mail from 22 kids at a summer writing camp, after using the first page of your book as their favorite writing prompt.
    monstorepage1
  • Like Skyping with classrooms across the country…in your jammies.
  • Like complete strangers showing up to your very first book signing. Even the town mayor.
  • Like being on a radio show!
  • Like people reviewing your book on blogs, Amazon and GoodReads, saying they love your book.

Yes, these things make you feel all warm and fuzzy, like an evening at a place where everybody knows your name.

.

So I’ll be here for a while longer. And let’s make this blog post interactive, shall we? Ask me anything about my post-book-launch experiences and I’ll be happy to oblige.

Cheers!

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Filed under Book Promotion, Book signing, Updates on our Books!

The PARCHED Effect: EMUs on Books That Affect Us

PARCHED opens in a dusty, drought-ridden African tundra where children who once enjoyed fountains now struggle to locate life-sustaining water. It’s a book that tackles tough subjects, but one that debut author Melanie Crowder hopes will “cause young readers to grapple with important questions; to weigh the great good and the great evil that humans are capable of.”

In short, this book challenges readers to see the world as larger than the scope of their own experience and to be active in bringing about the kind of world they would wish to live in.

As EMU authors, we are also avid readers. We all recall a book from our childhood that changed our perceptions of the world and shaped who we are today. I asked our EMUs to reflect on books that affected them as young readers and what lessons from those titles have stuck with them.

Joshua McCune
dunctonwoodThe most influential book for me was William Horwood’s DUNCTON WOOD, an epic war story, an epic love story of two moles trying to find their way in a dark world. It touched me b/c the MC was the prototypical loner/outcast who overcame great odds to achieve his dreams. What I most appreciated about it was that the characters were all fully drawn, with shades of gray. These moles were very human!

That, however, was an ‘adult’ book, one that still resonates deeply with me. On a younger level, ENDER’S GAME was the coolest book in the world. That plot twist at the end. Mind blown. Definitely one of those books that inspired me to want to write. The fact that SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD was even better….holy wow!

Adi Rule
There are two books that changed my life as a kid, in two different ways. One was THE CELERY STALKS AT MIDNIGHT by James Howe, which was really instrumental in shaping my sense of humor. American mainstream humor in the 80s was broad and zany, but CELERY—and the other books in the Bunnicula series—exposed me to much drier, language—and timing-based humor, which resonated with me much more and shaped how I write today. The other book that changed my life was RABBIT HILL by Robert Lawson. What I love about this book is that the lives of all the animals on the hill are changed by simple acts of compassion. I read a lot of books with great environmental/social messages as a kid, but RABBIT HILL is a story that, rather than being a call to action on a grand scale, changed me fundamentally as a human being.

thewestinggamePat Zietlow Miller
When I was in middle school, my aunt—who was a librarian—gave my sister and me THE WESTING GAME and BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. I was enthralled by both. I loved Turtle and her commitment to winning the game, and Jess and his commitment to being Leslie’s friend. Although I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a writer yet, there was something about those stories that filled me with longing and with a sense of possibility. And when I read those books today, I still feel the same way.

Carol Brendler
In 6th grade, my school held a book fair. All the cool girls were raving about this book called EDGAR ALLAN. You HAVE to get a copy, they told me (a much less cool person). So when it was my class’ turn at the fair, I was determined to find that book. And I did—but my classmates had gotten the title wrong. The correct title was EIGHTEEN BEST STORIES BY EDGAR ALLEN POE. Even though I quickly realized it wasn’t the cool kids’ book I’d been expecting, I dived into “The Black Cat” and seventeen other tales of horror and really hard, long words—and I loved it! Every terrifying, phantasmagorical bit.

areyoutheregodTara Lazar
I was crazy about Judy Blume books as a young girl, but when I moved from TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING to ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, it was a shock! Who knew there was such a big jump in maturity from elementary school to junior high? Not me! I was so naive. I was born a Catholic and baptized, but my Catholic parents were so disillusioned with the religion after spending their entire lives in Catholic school (my dad was even an altar boy), that we never set foot in church again. I was happy that I had my Sundays free to ride my bike, but I was still curious about religion and God. Margaret made me question religion and the meaning of God as she tried to make sense of her conflicting, dual religious heritage. Moreover, Margaret introduced me to bras and periods and boys and kissing and all that girly stuff I was too embarrassed to ask my mom about. That book made me realize I was slowly becoming my own person, independent of my parents. It helped me to carve out my own identity.

Tell us, what book affected you as a young reader?

parched

Congratulations again to Melanie Crowder on the release of PARCHED

And thank you for joining us for the release party this week!

Lastly, drumroll please…

The winner of PARCHED from our launch party giveaway is:

DONNA GWINNELL WEIDNER!

Congratulations!

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Filed under Interviews

The Fine Line Between Promo & Bozo

There’s an author on a popular social media discussion forum who starts a half dozen Twitter-like threads about her self-published books at least twice a day. My inbox floods with @’s, RT’s and hashtags when it’s supposed to be filled with lively discussion and debate about children’s literature. I’ve tried to gently steer this author, explaining that Twitter blasts aren’t appropriate for a discussion forum, but she continues to promote her books as if she doesn’t care about annoying the group membership.

Likewise, I’ve seen authors on Twitter tweet “read my award-winning book!” and “my book rated 5 stars on Amazon!” ad nauseam, never writing about anything other than their work.

And you know, when it comes to book promotion, that just doesn’t work.

partydrinks

Imagine a cocktail party. Whom at that party do you slowly back away from? The person inflating themselves, talking about their accomplishments, their interests, even their Amway products (“but they really are superior!”). They never engage in conversation, they never ask about you. You stealthily pull out your phone and text a friend across the room: “Save me!”

Social media is no different. If you constantly talk yourself up, everyone’s going to tune you out. It’s like a radio station that loops the same song for 24 hours. Once or twice and you’ll bop your head to the beat; more than that and you’ll bop your head against the wall.

headagainstwallThis is why book promotion is so difficult; there’s a fine line between promo and being a bozo. How do you inform people about your book without sounding like a windbag?

What I’ve learned over the past seven years of blogging is that being a friend to others is the way to go. Be helpful. Prompt interesting discussion. You don’t have to talk about your book to do book promotion. In fact, I roughly adhere to the 80-20 rule. Talk about your work only 20% of the time (or less). If you’re funny and entertaining online, people will assume your book will be similarly guffaw-inducing. And maybe they’ll buy it.

But the worst thing to do is to beg. You’ve seen it: “Only 34 more ‘likes’ and I’ll reach 500! Go ‘like’ me! Please RT!” Really? Is this the way to get quality followers? No. It’s the way for authors to inflate their numbers and their ego. Authors should stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the people. Because people online are just like the ones at the cocktail party–except they don’t need anyone to save them. They just need to press a button and you’ll go away.

(But please don’t go away! Tell me, what book promotion mistakes do you see online?)

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tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book THE MONSTORE will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She’s the “Social Media Captain” for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog, taralazar.com.

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Filed under Blogging, Book Promotion, Social Media

To Party or Not to Party

If you read my last post about balance being overrated, you kinda know I’m not the most organized person. Honestly, I’m a slob. I never make my bed. My childhood philosophy–that I was just going to roll back into it a few hours later–remains ample justification for rumpled sheets as an adult. Plus, I hate planning things. In fact, my daughter’s birthday was in March but her party will be held in May. “Domestic Goddess” is not a term that applies to me. (Unless you’re talking about my cooking. But I digress…)

So when it comes to a book launch party, I’m of the opinion that skipping it would be a huge relief. Nothing to plan. No venue to select, no decorations to arrange, no beef/chicken/fish decision, no favors to create, no RSVPs to field.

ohtheplacesyoullgofabricAnd yet, my writing pals say, “But you only debut once! You deserve the celebration!” Really? Can we make this like a wedding shower instead? I’ll pick a bookmaid of honor and she’ll take care of everything and surprise me. All I’ll have to do is arrive and appear shocked and humbled. In a cute dress. I mean, I’ve already picked out the fabric! Adorbs, right? It’s DR. SEUSS FABRIC! Oh, the parties you’ll go!

I should mention here that I eloped. Yep. We hired “Just Maui’ed” in Hawaii and just showed up. Easy, peasy.

Book launch party? Nothing peasy ’bout it.

The best book launch idea I’ve come up with is the AUTHOR ADVENT CALENDAR. You get a piece of chocolate every day until your book is released. Genius, right? OK, I’m done!

So all this  avoidance was going well until my husband, oh wise husband (remember, the one who agreed to elope), said, “But the book launch party  isn’t FOR YOU. It’s for all the people who helped you  get published. All the people who helped us out when you got sick, too.”

alanpicOMG. HE’S RIGHT.

DAMN, I HATE WHEN HE’S RIGHT.

So guess what?

I’m in planning mode. And, it’s not so bad!

In fact, I discovered A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe this weekend and the amazing cookies they made for CREEPY CARROTS. OMG, I want MONSTORE COOKIES!

There’s a gorgeous restaurant less than a mile from my house, with a sweeping terrace overlooking a golf course. The catering manager said they can work with our budget to create a menu of  hors d’ouvres and kiddie-friendly finger foods.

And yes, there just might be karaoke. (Sorry, golfers.)

It is time for me to give back to everyone who helped me get where I am today. I may not make my bed, but I can sure sleep soundly in it knowing I’ll be saying THANK YOU in the best possible way. With a PAR-TAY!
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tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She writes from her unmade bed in New Jersey. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog, taralazar.com.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Thankfulness

The Book Review Paradox, Sally Field and You

Hey, I got my first-ever review on GoodReads! And it’s GOOD! And I don’t even know this person! At least when the critical ones start rolling in, I can remember that the first made me feel accepted as an author.

monstoregrreview

I know reviews are difficult to ignore, although we authors probably should. Sure, a good review boosts our ego a bit, lets us know that all the hard work was worth it. But a critical review? It can make us spiral down into the depths of the creative dungeon. It makes  us second-guess all our decisions. Is there something I could have done differently? 

We kidlit authors have one thing in mind when we write–to slap a smile on a kid’s face. To make them laugh, make them think, make them realize they’re not alone in this world. When we succeed in brightening the life of just ONE reader, it makes the whole process (in this case, a FOUR-YEAR journey from initial manuscript to publication) worthwhile. We feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar for “Places in the Heart”. You like me! You like me!

And so, when the critical reviews pile up, it’s too easy to imagine the converse: You hate me! You really, really hate me!

Why is it so difficult to separate ourselves from OUR WORK? Part of it has to do with where the work originates: in our minds. I can’t yank my brain out of my skull and admonish it: Bad cerebellum, bad! Go sit in the corner!

Part of it has to do with how hard we work to get it right: the umpteen revisions we make prior to submission, the rejections we receive that make us revise again, the editorial letters spiked with red. We think we’ve already been through the wringer, polishing and buffing our story to a sparkling sheen. We’ve satisfied ourselves, we’ve satisfied our agents and editors, but have we satisfied YOU? We don’t know. We hope we have. And we’re disappointed when we haven’t. We’ve let you down, and we didn’t mean to.

Truth be told, we want to be Sally (without the 80’s perm and frosting). We want everyone to embrace us. And by embracing us, we mean loving our book. But that’s impossible. We cannot please everyone. Critical reviews are inevitable.

Frankly, I’m scared over how I will react to critical reviews. Especially if they are factually incorrect, or based upon the [agonizingly long] time Amazon took to deliver the book. Will I get upset? Angry? Feel like quitting? I have no idea.

I’m trying to prepare myself to be brave. To toughen my skin. Everyone in a creative field has to weather criticism of their work. And not liking the product doesn’t mean people don’t like ME. They’re not going to light torches and wield pitchforks. (At least I hope not.)

I don’t want to be the author who sits at the computer all day hitting “refresh” on Chrome, checking her sales rank and star average. So I need a strategy to avoid the urge. Got any ideas? Because, you see, I have other books to write. Because I really do want to get it right.

And not for me or the Academy–FOR YOU.

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Filed under Anxiety, Reviews, Satisfaction, Writing and Life

Balance is Overrated

kwan

Michelle Kwan, who has superior balance.

I once had very good balance.

As a competitive figure skater, I teetered on a 1/4 inch blade, jumping and twirling. The feeling was exhilarating—a pristine, smooth sheet of ice at 6am, my edge hugging deep curves, a satisfying crunch beneath my boots.

Then I became a mom. I had to put skating aside. I was injury-prone and the thought of being laid up with a stress fracture while having to care for a baby seemed terribly selfish. I said I’d go back when she began sleeping through the night and I could skate having felt rested.

I never felt rested. The baby didn’t sleep. For three years. (Of course, now I can’t get her out of bed to go to school in the morning, but I digress.)

Then I had a second daughter. Skating was no longer important to me. I figured I’d go back when my girls were old enough to skate themselves. But my older daughter never showed interest. And then, just when my younger daughter was at a suitable age to take lessons, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The balance center of my brain was scarred, destroyed.

It’s something you never imagine will happen to you. It will happen to someone else, but not you. When it does, you ask yourself “Why?”. But that’s the wrong question to ask, as it assumes there is a reason. There is no reason. It just happens.

As an author, I’m often asked how I balance writing for children and raising them. Heck, it’s even the name of my blog!

Well, I don’t balance them. I can’t. I find it impossible. Balance is a term that no longer exists in my world.

laundryThere are laundry piles on my living room floor, school papers littering my kitchen counter, things I have to sign and write checks for. I don’t have any more apples left and I don’t have the energy to go buy them. (This will cause a scene later. My daughters must have their apple slices after school!) I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. There are two holes in my bathroom wall from when I yanked the towel rack out to stop myself from falling. My suitcase—from a December trip—remains unpacked in the corner of my bedroom. I’m writing this blog post unshowered, still in my jammies.

But, I have a new submission going out this week. And I just finished the first draft of a hilarious new picture book story and sent it to my critique partners. Two weeks ago when the idea flashed into my brain, I had to search Amazon to see if anyone else has already done it. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found NOTHING. I have high hopes for this manuscript.

But last month, when my kitchen floor was mopped and my bathroom wall still intact, I hadn’t written a thing. I didn’t have writer’s block per se, but I just didn’t feel like writing. I had all our dinners planned, all the clothes washed, and I attended weekly 4th grade basketball games and YMCA ballet lessons. January I was in full mom mode.

If you ask me how I balance writing and parenthood on a day-to-day basis I will answer that I don’t. I’m no good at it. I struggle. I want to go back to sleep after I drop the girls off at school. And sometimes I do. Then I wonder why 3pm comes around so quickly.

I don’t know if I am supposed to balance work and home so gracefully. I don’t think it’s a natural thing to do. Balance, in my opinion, is overrated. Some days writing takes precedence. Other days, I’m nothing but mom. I volunteer at the school, I bake brownies, I chauffeur around town.

It took me a very long time to not feel guilty about not doing housework or not writing a new manuscript. Both my family and my writing are important to me, of course, but one has to suffer while the other thrives. I can’t do it any other way and I’m tired of trying or apologizing to myself when I’m not as perfect as I want to be.

And that’s another thing—perfection is overrated, too.

So come on over, knock on my door and let’s have a cup of tea and chat about our latest manuscripts. You’ll ignore the crumbs on the floor and the fingerprints on the fridge, right?

After all, it’s in the name of art.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Writing and Life

Auto-Correct Texts: Funny and Embarrassing EMU Moments

In Laurie Boyle Crompton’s debut BLAZE, Blaze’s friend takes a photo of her while they’re goofing around trying on lingerie and she sends it to Blaze’s crush. (Uh-oh!) Later on, the crush dumps Blaze and she retaliates by drawing a comic that outs him as a total man-whore. His reaction is to post her ‘sext’ photo which then goes viral. She ends up getting “slut shamed” by her peers and hilarity ensues. (Yes, despite the heavy topic, the book is still funny and upbeat!)

So today we polled EMU members to see if they’ve had any embarrassing texting moments. Who doesn’t love the automatic humor of auto-correct texts?

Laurie Boyle Crompton:
One time my phone auto-corrected my “xoxo” to my husband to say “I love you Xbox.” He immediately responded with, “I love you too Atari.”

Also, I once accidentally sent a text about a gathering to someone who wasn’t invited. When they wrote back that they didn’t know about it I pretended that their invite must have slipped through he cracks. It worked out for the best that they couldn’t make it on short notice since it would’ve made for a really awkward combination of people but I wasn’t about to tell them the text was a mistake and they weren’t invited!

Years ago when “text speak” was still new we had a friend who thought LOL meant “Lots of Love”. They wrote a heartfelt message consoling another friend over the death of a loved one and ended it with LOL!

Pat Zietlow Miller:
I work in corporate communications. In a former job, spell check would always suggest changing the name of one of our employees to “Party Dynamo”.

Carol Brendler:
When someone posted a photo of a snow Totoro I typed the comment “a Snotoro!” Which was corrected to “a Snot pro!”

Laurie Thompson:
My husband’s name is Bernie, but I usually call him Hon (short for Honey). Once while I was on a trip to NY with girlfriends, he got a little worried and jealous. I tried to send him a nice “I love my Hon!” text to reassure him, but it auto-corrected to “I love my John!” Luckily, he had a good sense of humor about it and we both had a good laugh.

Tara Dairman:
I may once have called my significant other “pookie” in an e-mail that I thought was just going to him, but that actually cc’d all his siblings and their spouses. We didn’t hear the end of that one for a while.

I may also have sent out wedding save-the-dates by e-mail, and accidentally included someone from my address book who had the same first name as a family member, but whom we were not actually planning to invite to the wedding. Oops!

On a more literary note, I may have recently contacted a couple of fellow EMLA clients by e-mail to request autographed books for a gift…and accidentally hit send on one e-mail when I was only halfway done changing all the “Trent”s and “Stealing Air”s to “Jen”s and “The False Prince”s. Luckily, EMUs are an understanding lot!

Jeannie Mobley:
Not an auto-correct text error, but one of the most interesting papers I ever graded is one where a student summarized the entire plot of HAMLET, except he had used the “change all” function in his word processor spell check and replaced Hamlet with PIGLET throughout the document, so it ended up as a bit of a Winnie-the-Pooh/Shakespeare mash-up in my mind. My favorite part was where Piglet stabbed Polonius through the curtain. I think Eyore might have been playing Polonius.

OK, so what about me? Well, I am a cell phone luddite. I’ve actually never texted. (GASP! SHOCK! HORROR!) But never fear, I collected a funny one from a friend…

My friend’s elderly mother was hospitalized and someone commented “I hope your dead mother comes home soon”. Of course they meant “your dear mother”.

Can’t get enough of the texting humor? Check out When Parents Text!

And be sure to check out BLAZE, too! Just two days till its launch!

And let’s continue the fun–leave your funny texting moment in the comments!

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Confessions of a Next Book Addict

monstoresmallcoverWhen you’re told in 2010 that your first book will be released in 2013, you imagine it’s so far off in the future, you’re sure to have a robot butler and a flying car by then. Sadly, I’m still pouring my own tea and my Honda remains on terra firma.

But, it’s my debut year–finally! My book is less than five months away. It’s already up on GoodReads and Amazon, ready to be marked “want to read” and pre-ordered. I’ve had conference calls with Aladdin marketing and publicity, and I’ve learned that the books will be in the warehouse on April 29th. I should have them in my hot little hands by early May.

And yet my focus now isn’t on this book. It’s on THE NEXT BOOK.

It seems unfair, all the anticipation leading up to this book and I’m worried about my next sale instead of THE MONSTORE’s release.

But here’s the thing–I always intended on having a career, and a career means a steady stream of books, for if a child loves THE MONSTORE, they’ll hopefully visit other Tara Lazar titles on the shelf.

I do have two more picture books under contract, and I penned an essay for a YA anthology called BREAK THESE RULES, so I should be able to relax a bit, right? No, I can’t.

Before I ever got a publishing contract, I imagined myself as a different person once I signed on the dotted line. More confident, somehow. I’d walk down the street holding my head a little higher. But hey, I’m still the same person, and as I will remind you, the same person without a nuts-and-bolts Jeeves. I’m still insecure about my writing, I still cringe at rejections, I still pine after the next book contract like I never had a book contract in the first place. It’s THE NEXT ONE that’s important, as it sustains my career a little further into the future.

I need Cher to slap me outta it, to tell me to enjoy this time. But I can’t stop thinking about the books I have on submission, the stories that I’m revising, and the next big idea that hasn’t hit me yet. (When is it coming, muse? I’m waiting!) And of course I think about all the deals I see crossing the wire—deals that aren’t mine. And I get upset.

Gosh, I’m confessing a lot. And yet, I don’t think I’m so strange. I’m ambitious. There’s worry wrapped up in that, there has to be. If you’re overly confident you don’t try as hard, right? You think everything should come easily. And obviously, it doesn’t.

And it shouldn’t. The stories that are worth reading are the ones we have slaved over to ensure they’re the best they can possibly be.

So I keep working toward the next sale, the next contract. Because I’ve got two books in 2013, two slated for 2014, but right now 2015 remains a blank. If I want to be able to afford that electronic servant, I’d better get something new signed!

In the meantime, so I don’t completely shirk my marketing duties, would you mark THE MONSTORE “want to read” on GoodReads? Thanks. I can check something off my promotion list now!

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