Author Archives: Jeanne Ryan

All those release parties in the past few months mean a lot of goodbyes now. *sniff*

As you can tell, this is the season of hails and farewells on Emudebuts. As a member of the “second wave,” my tenure here wasn’t all that long, but I’m so thankful I got to join this group for the dizzying months before and after publication.

Given that most of my publication journey still falls on the “before” side of the equation (It’ll take eight years of being a published author until I break even), those prepub days carry a hefty weight on my psyche. Like most Emudebuts, my first post focused on “The Call”, and the rest of my posts have described the exciting/scary/overwhelming run of events up through launch.

But goodbyes bring with them a desire to look back. I never want to be so jaded that I take anything about getting published for granted. Therefore, I thought I’d focus on the darkest-before-the-dawn time preceding the call that made me eligible to join this blog in the first place. And I’m making it personal. As in ripped from the pages of my diary personal. Below are selected excerpts from my journal in that last year before the deal. At that point in the process, I’d been writing “seriously” for five and a half years, and had signed with amazing agent Ammi-Joan Paquette a year earlier when she took me on with MANUSCRIPT#3 (Not its real name).

April 28, 2010

MANUSCRIPT#4 is off on submissions! I have so much more hope for this book.

In the meantime, I should start my fifth manuscript. Yeeesh. What am I excited about anyway?

May 12, 2010

Bleh. I want my book to be sold NOW. Either one of them. [MANUSCRIPT#3 had been on sub for a year.] Now, now, now. I’m having a hard time starting something else. Those editors should be in love with MANUSCRIPT4, chomping at the bit for it and its sequels. What’s wrong with them?

May 20, 2010

[My journal is filled with story ideas and blurbs. Here’s one that might sound familiar.]

Moria Mann is ticked. Her best friend is all over Finn, Moria’s person-of-interest. This party isn’t going the way she’d planned at all. Moping outside, she makes a rash decision to play NERVE, an on-line version of truth or dare, without the truth part. Players can win big—but almost no one does. With some skin the game, Moria’s determined to at least get her entrance fee back. But when her dare pairs her with a hottie from the other side of town and builds an audience equally as enticing, she’s tempted to push her luck too far. She realizes too late that she stands to lose a lot more than money.

May 24, 2010

Feeling mopey…got another rejection on MANUSCRIPT4.

As for NERVE. Moria (think I’m going to change her name) has completed a dare at a bowling alley that got kind of violent. But the thrill of surviving it, plus winning the money, plus attracting a huge audience has her seduced into trying one more.

May 28, 2010

Wow, I’ve only been writing NERVE for eight days and I’ve got over eight thousand words. Crazy. I’ve changed Moria’s name to Venus, for now. Guess it’ll keep changing till something clicks.

I got two rejections on MANUSCRIPT4 today. *&^%. I really thought this book would sell quickly. Guess a writer has to have that kind of faith or why keep writing? Still, it sucks, sucks, sucks to be rejected again.

Okay, back to NERVE, what should the next dare be?

June 9, 2010

Alas, my fifth rejection for MANUSCRIPT4 today. The editor thought the writing was strong but… Sigh. Ugh. Phooey. My sure-fire winner is getting pummeled. I really thought it would sell fast. It’s sure getting rejected fast.

June 18, 2010

A funny thing happened yesterday. I was reading “The Angel’s Game” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The main character is a writer, and he was going through some writerly ruminations. I thought to myself, yeah, that’s exactly how writers would experience it. The odd thing was, I was thinking of writers as a “we” rather than “them.” I think that’s the first time I included myself in the fraternity. It was a weird realization, since the threshold I’ve always set for being called a writer was to be a published writer, or to at least have something under contract.

Now, I don’t see myself introducing myself as a writer unless/until that occurs, but in my heart, I finally feel that I am one. Only took four manuscripts and a good start on number five to get there.

September 24, 2010

Revising NERVE. MANUSCRIPT3 and MANUSCRIPT4 are out of the game until I revise them again. So, no irons in the fire. Hate that sitting-on-the-sidelines feeling.

October 30, 2010

Sent NERVE to Joan. Good news was that she really liked it. The challenging news is that I need to come up with a new ending.

December 5, 2010

I sent the latest revision to Joan last night and hopefully she’ll deem it sub-worthy. At this point with MANUSCRIPT4, I was so sure it would sell. Now I feel the same way about NERVE. I’m like a new contestant on The Bachelor, ever hopeful that this time things will all work out. It’s as though the previous heartbreaks haven’t happened. Or, if they did, I’ve recovered enough to put my heart out there again.

December 8, 2010

What to write? What to write?

What if the earth stopped spinning? Guess the atmosphere would mess up and the oceans too since the centrifugal force of the Earth spinning at 1000 mph keeps water over the equator.

[NOTE: Fortunately, I did not pursue this idea since, even if it had sold, THE AGE OF MIRACLES would’ve come out sooner.]

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

My theme word for this year is:

            RELEASE

All I can do for this publishing dream is write. The rest is out of my hands. Let it go.

Saturday Jan. 8, 2011

An editor at AWESOMEPUBHOUSE was hooked by NERVE, pitched it at an editors meeting where they loved it, and passed it along to other editors to read this weekend. This weekend! As in today and tomorrow! Somewhere in New York, an editor could be reading NERVE right this minute.

February 14, 2011

On the writing front, I STILL haven’t heard from AWESOMEPUBHOUSE. It’s been over a month so they must not be that excited about it. I’ve finished rewriting MANUSCRIPT4.

On the non-writing front, it’s Valentines Day! Way more fun to focus on that.

February 16, 2011

Going crazy with the lack of word on NERVE. I know I should put it out of my mind, but every day feels like it could be the one when I get THE CALL. Maybe I should accept that the call may never come and just get busy being useful.

Princess of Perseverance or Duchess of Delusion?

I think/know I need a break, but this writing addiction has become worse than that of a gambler who’s promised himself“Just one more game.” It’s clear where this is heading. Just one more manuscript…And another, and another.

At what point does it become simply ridiculous?

[NOTE: I expanded this whine and posted it anonymously on the Verla Kay blueboards where I received all kinds of support from other writers.] 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I GOT AN OFFER!!

And the rest, including another offer, was documented in my intro post.

It’s weird that while culling through my journal to collect these tidbits, I relived some of the stress. But I also remembered that there were other writers I could commiserate with, at every stage of the journey.

Our kitty Bella admiring all the pretty Emudebut titles, and looking forward to the many more to come.

As a reader of Emudebuts, I found it an enlightening guide. As a member of Emudebuts, I found it a blessed sounding board. As an Emeritus of Emudebuts, I know it’ll be a cherished memory. And I will never fail to smile when remembering the videoed dares of my fellow Emudebuts when NERVE was released.

But this isn’t truly goodbye, because I’ll be stalking the comments section for a long time to come. And you know I’ll be here to celebrate each book launch of the latest authors to wear the Emudebut mantle.

Aloha!

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18 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Farewell, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

When Good Writers Were Bad

Regrets, we’ve had a few…

Being human means having a conscience (hopefully), even if we don’t always listen to it. In League of Strays, the main character Charlotte is tempted by the opportunity to become part of a group which seeks to pay back bullies by bullying them in return. She knows it isn’t right, but…Well, you’ll have to read the story to see whether revenge worked for her and the other characters.

This story will get readers talking. And at Emudebuts, the conversation’s been about times when we did something that went against our own consciences, and what we paid and/or learned as a result. Here’s a peek into our checkered pasts: 

Melanie Crowder

I was nine. I had transferred elementary schools and even after a year or so to adjust, I didn’t fit in with kids there. To be honest–they were mean. They took turns picking on one kid, ostracizing her, and then welcoming her back into the group only to turn on someone new. I had survived my week of misery, and they had moved on. I wasn’t sure how to act. I wanted to have friends, but I didn’t want to be mean to someone else. I remembered too well what it had felt like.

One day at recess, the group was taunting a girl while I stood there and watched. A teacher became involved and he reprimanded us all. “But,” I protested, “I didn’t say anything.” He turned to me and said in a voice straining with conviction that standing by and doing nothing was every bit as wrong. His words stung, and they stuck.

We talk about bullying as if it’s just a schoolyard thing, but it’s not. It’s something I encounter frequently in my adult life. Even now, 25 years later, I find myself checking my actions against that teacher’s words.

L.B. Schulman

There is one teeny little scene on my book based on reality. I guess now is the time to admit it. No, I didn’t make out with a hot sociopath. But I did, with a few friends, mess up a French teacher’s room. It wasn’t nearly as bad as what my characters do, but there was some knocking of papers to the floor and drawing on the walls with chalk. This was when I was 14, pretty much the worse, most juvenile-delinquent time, in my life. But then one of the kids felt so guilty, she went right to the principal. Next thing I knew, I was in his office. And what did I do? I admitted everything, apologized to the French teacher, and offered to clean the cafeteria for a week. Oops, scratch that. OK, I denied it. Every last bit. In the end our principal, who was a bit on the lazy side, figured that it wasn’t worth the effort to figure out who’d done it, so he just dismissed it. I remember feeling several things: one, immense guilt at what I’d done to the teacher, and for lying about my part in it, and two, utter relief that the principal was going to let me go, even though he knew I participated. In the end, that one experience was so powerful that it partly motivated the writing of this book. I remembered what it was like to be a bored, angry teen, and the stupid things I did as a result. Even though I did them, they were a symptom of teen angst, more than who I was or would become as a person. Oh, and I remembered the value of a Get Out of Jail Free card. I didn’t waste it. From then on, I strived to be a much better person.

Mike Jung

High school was a very, very difficult time for me. I was the target of a lot of bullying, enough so that it probably became the defining aspect of my high school years, at least in terms of self-definition. Sadly, there was more than one time when my response to being bullied was to turn around and try to bully someone else. There was one other guy in my graduating class – let’s call him Danny X. (not his real name) – who was similar to me in some ways. He was also a target of our school’s bully population, although I think he actually stood up to it better than I did. It was a mark of how damaged and insecure we both felt that we spent quite a lot of time bullying each other. You’d think we could have become friends, or at least perceived each other as fellow exiles in a land of sadistic immaturity, but no, instead we engaged in our own little war of derision.

One day I decided to put my writing skills to use and create a petition with a single question on it: “Is Danny X the biggest _______ in the world?” I circulated the petition, feeling a mean-spirited enjoyment in the attention it garnered. It came to blows, of course, and whatever else Danny may have been, he was certainly a much better fighter than me. I ended up with a goose egg on my forehead, which eventually healed, and a dark stain on my conscience, which is probably still there. I know why I did it, of course – it was because I was immersed in feelings of helplessness, rage, and self-loathing. Those feelings, particularly the self-loathing, made it sadly easy to lash out in a wholly unadmirable and hurtful way. I’ve regretted the entire incident ever since, and if I could go back in time and do it differently, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Jeanne Ryan

When I was seven, my family visited my grandparent’s home in a distant state. Next door lived a girl a couple of years older who I thought was the coolest. As grown-ups would put it, we “played well together.” We both loved spooky stories and TV shows, so when she suggested we write a bunch of scary notes and leave them anonymously around her neighborhood I was all in.

As you can imagine, the neighbors got quite upset at discovering threatening notes scrawled in child’s handwriting. It wasn’t long before we were busted. Our parents demanded that we go from house to house to apologize. But, sad to admit, I absolutely refused to, crying and stomping and throwing an Oscar-worthy tantrum. Now, as an adult, the tantrum bothers me as much as the crime itself. I wish I’d had the courage to take responsibility for my actions.

Jeannie Mobley

When I was in junior high (as we called it back then), I was a quiet,
overweight, glasses-wearing, book-reading goody two shoes. We lived in
the country, so I had about an hour-long bus ride to and from school
every day. The cool kids all sat in the back of the bus, and pulled off
all kinds of shenanigans, so one year the bus driver assigned us seats.
I was in the second-from-front seat, and whenever one of the cool kids
misbehaved, she made them come sit in the seat with me, where she could
keep an eye on them, and where, presumably, I would be a good influence.
Instead, it gave them an opportunity to pick on me, and they all came to
think of me as the bus driver’s accomplice. I felt like I was being
punished for being a good kid.

Somehow, I finally got to sit where I wanted, so I moved to the very
back of the bus and looked for my chance to prove myself as a cool kid
and not a bus-driver’s pet. That chance came in the form of a fire
cracker and book of matches, that were given to me with the instructions
to light it and throw it under the seats, so it would go off 1/2 way up
the bus. I lit it, but the “cool kids” had, as a double prank, cut the
wick extra short, so before I could throw it, it exploded in my lap. It
blew the cover off of my library book, which appropriately enough, was
GONE WITH THE WIND.

In the end, I was suspended from riding the bus for a week, after my
sister confessed all (except that she had been the one to smuggle the
matches onto the bus.) And I had to pay for the library book. And the
worst consequence is that I have never lived it down with my family.

I can’t say I’m racked with guilt about what I did, although I’m a
little ashamed at having been so easily drawn in by peer pressure. But I
do think as a teacher, I am always mindful about thrusting the trouble
students onto the good students to try to reform them. I understand that
that is torture for the good students, and an unfair “reward” for their
efforts. I also learned that you can’t fake who you are. I am the nerdy
good kid. I have to accept that and embrace it; trying to be someone I
am not tends to lead to disaster.

_______________

Thank goodness for second chances.

How about you? Got any youthful indiscretions you want to get off your chest? Better yet, a lesson learned? It could be such a relief to finally come clean…

L.B. Schulman’s book is sure to spur a lot of conversation around bullying and how to deal with it. Hopefully it will raise probing questions and productive conversation around a topic that’s far too often in the headlines.

Remember, if you want a chance to win a copy of LEAGUE OF STRAYS, comment on any Emudebuts post this week to be entered into a drawing.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion

Getting the Word Out about Those Wishes

Katerina’s Wish takes place circa 1900, but sharing her story with the widest audience possible is a 2012 challenge. Some of that responsibility falls on the author. But a lot of it also falls on the shoulders of a publisher’s in-house publicist. Ideally, the two work hand-in-hand, yet one of the biggest questions that authors seem to have when gearing up for their book’s promotion is what the role of a publicist entails (which may seem counterintuitive, given that it’s, well, about being public).

Fortunately, Courtney Sanks, the Simon & Schuster publicist behind Katerina’s Wish, generously answered a few questions about what this key player in a book’s success does.

– In a nutshell, can you explain what a publicist does to promote a book?

A book publicist’s goal is to great buzz and awareness of an upcoming title throughout different communities. There is the traditional media community such as local and national newspapers, magazines, television, and radio as well as the book trade community. This includes industry review publications (think Publishers Weekly) as well as librarian and academic publications (School Library Journal).

Every book campaign is different but once a book is set to publish a publicity plan is created. Every single book we publish is sent to our list of reviewers either in the form of an ARC or finished copy. The publicist also sends a finished copy and pitch letter or press release to a refined list of media deemed appropriate for that title. We ask ourselves, “Is this more on the literary scale of the spectrum? Does this book target middle grade or teen readers? Is this good for any niche publications? Any particular bloggers? Does the author have any contacts we should send to?” We really aim to target our audience so every book has a chance to succeed. A lot of meetings happen between the publisher, marketing and publicity teams.

Perhaps that is a very large nutshell, but book publicity is an intricate web of planning and reacting at a moment’s notice so that at the end of the day we can say we did as much as we could to get a book out there!

– What can/should authors do to dovetail with your efforts? Any advice on which strategies might be more fruitful than others (e.g., setting up blog tours and/or book store events, speaking at conferences/festivals, creating swag, generating press releases)

Work your contacts! Prior to the book’s publication date start networking in your community. Get to know your local booksellers and librarians. Local connections are invaluable when it comes to setting up book signings and events and this also encourages booksellers to pay special attention to hand-selling your titles in their stores. Once the book is in stores, we also encourage you to offer to sign stock at your local bookstore, as signed copies generally sell more swiftly.

-Research neighborhood events such as book festivals and find out how you can get involved. Be sure that any “off site” (an “off site” is an event that takes place somewhere other than a bookstore) can accommodate the sale of your books by partnering with a local or chain bookstore.

-Go online! Set up a Facebook or Twitter account page for yourself and/or in the name of one of your characters. This can be a great marketing tool and previous authors have found that teens and tweens really respond to their sites. Updating your personal website with information about your new book is also helpful. Touch base with your editor to set up your author portal or your publisher’s equivalent author website.

-Make connections with the editors and reporters at your community newspapers. Local newspapers are often interested in highlighting the talents and accomplishments of their readers. Op Ed columns are another great PR tool for certain books. If your book topic or area of expertise is timely, controversial and lends itself to an Op Ed letter then we encourage you to write and submit one to your local paper.

-Don’t forget to reach out to your fan base about your bookstore signings. Including the store, date and time on your website, Facebook page, etc., is a great way to promote the event and let your fans know where to find you.

– Anything else you’d like writers to know about the author-publicist relationship?

Don’t hesitate to keep an open line of communication with your publicist! We are here to help your book succeed and any contacts you make along the way could lead to more coverage. If you are participating in any writer’s workshops, teaching seminars, or just on vacation and want to pop into your favorite bookshop to sign some stock, let us know and we’ll always lend a helping hand! We publish several hundred books a year (that’s a lot of press releases!) but we’ll always do our best to maintain a working relationship with you and get your book out into the world, (it just might take a day or so to get back to you.) And remember, not only is it our job, we’re book lovers too!

Thanks Courtney! I’m sure you’ve helped a lot of writers today. Best of luck getting this beautiful book into as many readers’ hands as possible!

5 Comments

Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Promotion, Social Media

Freedom, Freaking out and Fireworks

Happy Fourth of July! You’re probably wondering if this post is about Independence Day, pre-publication angst, or things that go KABOOM.  Think of it as a three-for-one deal.

Let’s start with freedom. One of the things I’m most grateful for is the freedom to put stories on paper. I try never, ever to forget this amazing privilege–that’s more a matter of where I was born and who I was born to than anything I earned. Fifteen percent of the world’s population can’t read or write. Of those who can, many can’t imagine the luxury of devoting their time to tasks beyond acquiring food and shelter. Add to that the opportunity to be paid for doing what I love and, whoa, talk about the pursuit of happiness.

And yet I freak out.

So. Not. Me.

Jeannie Mobley’s post on Monday about the spotlight on writers and their books reminded me of an uncomfortable truth. Although many of us writers choose this profession as a means of being heard, a number of us are extremely queasy with the notion of being seen. After all, I’ve built an awfully cozy nest here under the radar. Case in point, when my sister got engaged a couple of months after I did, my first impulse was to invite her to do a joint wedding. More than one person expressed shock at my decision to share the limelight on my big day. Really? That thought had never entered my head. For one thing, a joint ceremony was practical since I have eleven siblings and getting everyone together is a logistical feat on a scale of the D-Day invasion. But honestly, I was relieved to deflect some of the attention.

In ten weeks, my book will sail into the world with my name plastered on the cover in large enough font to make John Hancock proud. (Doh! I shoulda used a pseudonym.) And when people read what I’ve written, they’ll assume some part of my psyche has been revealed, no matter how much I claim the story’s all fiction (really, it is!) Along with my freedom to write and share my words with others, comes the freedom of others to interpret those words, and respond with words of their own. And no matter how much I’ll attempt to resist, I’ll read those critiques. There’ll be reviewers who appreciate the thriller-y plot, yet others who’ll note that my story doesn’t stop to smell the metaphors.

What will I do with the criticism? Hopefully, take what’s useful and make my next book better. Hopefully, develop thick enough skin to avoid needing intensive therapy. But also, hopefully, there will be readers who connect with the story in a way that entertains them and inspires them to consider some of those things I like to ponder while I’m nestled in my under-the-radar-nest. Issues such as social connectivity, on-line privacy and where we place our trust.  Boy, encountering that type of reader engagement sure would be another gift in the pursuit of happiness thing. Because I’d bet creating such connections and shared understanding would feel like another Fourth of July tradition—fireworks!

At any rate, the fuse has been lit…

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Filed under Anxiety, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion, Reviews

Helping Non-native English Speakers Take Flight

Culture and language play a huge role in FLYING THE DRAGON. As a reader, I really felt Hiroshi’s sense of alienation, which stemmed from not speaking English and not understanding American customs. ESL was a life-saver for him, and for many kids in our communities. To that end, today’s post delves a little deeper into that aspect of the story.

As luck would have it, two of our very own EmuDebuts authors are ESL teachers. Natalie Dias Lorenzi, the author of FLYING THE DRAGON, was an elementary classroom teacher for nine years before deciding to specialize in English language acquisition. Melanie Crowder, whose debut PARCHED comes out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013, has been a Colorado educator for over ten years and thinks of teaching ESL as a pay-it-forward opportunity for the gift of bilingualism that she was given in elementary school.

Welcome, Melanie and Natalie!

What inspired you to teach ESL classes?

Melanie: Over half of the students in my elementary school are learning English. It is a huge area of need, and the most rewarding teaching job I’ve ever had.

Natalie: I’d been an elementary classroom teacher for eight years in multicultural schools in Virginia, Italy and Japan, and I loved working with kids from all over the globe. When I came back from living overseas, I taught at a school where the vast majority of students were monolingual English speakers. They were lovely to work with, but I really missed teaching ESL students. It’s an amazing privilege to witness their growth as they learn to speak English and gain confidence during their first months in this country.

Are there different teaching techniques you employ for working with ESL students versus teaching kids whose first language is English? Do you use different approaches for building rapport?

Melanie: Absolutely. There is so much that we take for granted as native English speakers. Little things that we have accepted and absorbed over the years that can be really confusing to someone who is first learning the language.

  • Try to speak in clear, straightforward language. Idiomatic phrases like “on the fence”, “keep your chin up,” or “sleep on it” can muddle a sentence that an ESL student might otherwise have understood.
  • Use pictures and diagrams whenever possible—nonfiction books are great because they allow language learners to connect the content that they know in their native language to the vocabulary they need in their second language.
  • Dual language books are a great way to create a bridge between the first and second language, and to involve parents in their child’s language acquisition process.

The most important thing to remember is that inside the mind of that student who hasn’t said a word for weeks, an enormous amount of learning is taking place. Be patient, and try to find ways for them to make meaningful contributions every day.

ESL instruction has come a long way since materials such as this poster were offered to immigrants in 1918! (Photo from the US public domain, originally published in National Geographic)

Natalie: Paradoxically, building rapport is so important, yet difficult when two people don’t share a common language. Teachers in the US tend to be much more casual in class compared with their counterparts in other countries. Just like Hiroshi’s teacher, Mr. Jacobs, in Flying the Dragon, American teachers might give students a “high five” to encourage them, or sit on the carpet with students during a classroom meeting. For many of my newly-arrived ESL students, this atmosphere takes some getting used to. I try to be cognizant of that, because while this way of relating to students is meant to help them feel more comfortable, it often has the opposite effect—students can be more stressed at first because they don’t know how to react when their teachers joke with them or give them a hug. I give newcomers time to observe how other students act around teachers before I start offering them high-fives!

As far as teaching techniques, I try to make everything as visual and active as possible. For example, I had a group of 5th grade newcomers who were learning about multiple meaning words. They knew what the bark of a dog was, but I couldn’t explain what tree bark was; they kept thinking it was the trunk. So we went outside and I showed them—we peeled a small piece of bark from a tree in the school yard. Their eyes lit up and they told me the word for tree bark in their home languages.

One of the more endearing aspects of this book was Skye’s special “English tips”. How big a role do you believe slang should play in ESL classes?

Natalie: Slang is an important part of learning any language, because it helps develop the language that kids use on the playground and after school with friends. I do introduce my ESL students to American idioms—not as a separate lesson, but when it comes up in books they read or in the things they hear in the hallways. They often don’t feel comfortable asking their peers what something means, but they will ask me. They love sharing versions of American idioms that exist in their own languages. For example, “talking behind someone’s back” in the US is the equivalent to “talking behind someone’s shoulders” in Italy.

What can mainstream teachers and/or librarians do to help ESL students thrive? (Besides making lovely stories such as Flying the Dragon available to them :))

Melanie: The biggest thing is to create a culture of inclusion in the classroom, to make school a place where differences are celebrated. This can be so difficult in today’s classroom, but a little bit of empathy goes a long way.

Natalie: Most teachers are friendly and open with ESL students—lots of smiles and non-verbal signs of encouragement. They also know that ESL students need lots of visuals and modeling of what they need to do. The best way to help ESL students thrive, however, is to give them tasks that they can actually do, and hold them accountable for completing those learning tasks. When I was a classroom teacher, I was guilty of letting ESL students slide with assignments because I knew they were going through a tough transition, and I didn’t want to add to their burden. When I would give a test to the rest of the class, I would tell my ESL student to skip certain questions that I thought would be too hard for them. Big mistake! All kids want to show teachers what they know and be proud of their accomplishments.

It’s fitting that we end this interview with a final note from Natalie about her ESL learners:

They clear hurdles that would fell many adults, myself included. My novel, Flying the Dragon, is dedicated to my students:

To all of the Hiroshis and Skyes who have ever walked through my classroom door. Your strength and resilience never cease to amaze me.

Thanks Natalie and Melanie!

BTW, A teaching guide for FLYING THE DRAGON will be available later this summer. Check out Natalie’s website.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a learner of languages, and speaks Italian fluently along with a smattering of German and Japanese.  Her Italian husband speaks English as a second language, and their three children are bilingual speakers of English and Italian. This comes in handy when Natalie wants to say things to her kids in public like, “If you don’t do as I say within the next three seconds, there will be no ice cream after dinner.” She says this (and other variations on that theme) in English while in Italy, and in Italian while in the US.

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Filed under Celebrations, Interviews

Brainspace for Rent, Enquire within

I can easily relate to Jeannie’s post about having to let go of those manuscripts to which we’ve become so attached. After several rounds of revision to get it ready to show our agents, another few rounds before it goes on sub, and then the whole post-sale revision process that includes structural edits, line edits, copy edits and first pass pages, you’d think an author would want nothing more to do with her book. But, you know what? If I’d been offered another few chances to tweak it, I’d have taken them. And I bet most authors would say the same. Like a home remodeler or plastic surgeon, we can always spot something to fix.

Don’t these guys look like they could use some dressing up? Manes and wings of billowing silk would do just the trick.

So it’s good thing our publishers say when. Because letting go of that book means we can open our psyche to accept a new tenant. That’s the trade-off–give up tinkering with one story and you get to start dreaming of, and exploring, another. One you can shape and reshape over the course of another dozen versions. Watching your idea evolve is like playing an intricate game of Telephone, where your original pages look nothing like the end result. Case in point, my first manuscript was women’s fiction about an artist who falls for a guy newly arrived from East Berlin at the time the wall fell. Fast forward a few years and the story had morphed into a contemporary YA about an artsy girl whose dream is to dress up the massive shipping cranes that line Seattle’s harbor.

I think of storytelling like mining, chipping away until we find an ore, and then seeing how far it’ll go. My hard drive is littered with the first fifty pages of many stories whose vein of ore didn’t travel far enough. But that’s okay. All that gold dust will get used somehow, some way, in some other story.

So, during this waiting time between turning in the final draft and diving into the launch, I’m happily chipping away at the next new thing. Deciding that maybe the story of a girl whose mom is kidnapped because she’s developed a secret new energy source is really the story of a mom who runs away of her own free will, say, to Bali, where she’ll use her scientific discoveries to wipe out all technology in the region and create her own version of Eden, unless her daughter foils her crazy scheme. No, wait, the mother doesn’t disappear at all—the girl’s whole family travels to Bali on vacation, where the girl contracts a mysterious virus that has both desirable and lethal side effects. No, wait, it isn’t a virus, it’s a man-made drug…Well, you get the idea.

Enjoy the satisfaction that comes when “The End” really means the end. Chances are you’ve already found “The Beginning” of another adventure that will lead you on journey that can keep changing until you’re told when once again.

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Filed under Editing and Revising

Wicked Wonderful and Flying High!

Those who are lucky enough to have already read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s ONE FOR THE MURPHYS know that recurring references are made to the musical WICKED Toni, a minor character with a major role, is crazy about the show’s theme song, Defying Gravity. Really, it could be the defining song for getting published—getting beyond the myriad of obstacles each potential author faces is seriously a gravity defying act in its own right.

Which is why we here at Emu Debuts are celebrating!

Not only has this amazing book made the journey from imagination to store shelves, garnering rave reviews and a Kirkus star along the way, but it’s touched our hearts. To that end, we want to show how much we love this story with some wicked partying of our own! Cue the curtain!

Laurie Boyle Crompton rocks the Wicked-wear in a shirt that Toni would kill for.

Jeanne Ryan says that one of the secrets to creating a book is learning to juggle.

Any Murphy will tell you that baseball offers a magic all its own. Natalie Dias Lorenzi enjoys the powers bestowed by a Boston Red Sox hat.

Cynthia Levinson has friends in high places, who also have excellent taste in books. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hentoff, Circus Harmony).

This image was not digitally altered. Um, not that any of the other pictures were. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hentoff, Circus Harmony)

Mike Jung, who knows something about super powers, demonstrates Levitation 101.

J. Anderson Coats puts her research of medieval fortress-building to good use.

Jeannie Mobley not only defies gravity, but does so in Wicked style.

L.B. Schulman Hangs onto Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Every Word! (Picture courtesy of Annalise Schulman.)

From all of the Emudebuts, brava, Lynda! Take a bow!

And one more thing: we’ve got a PARTY FAVOR for all our guests today! Downloadable Wicked Paper Dolls of your very own, with three pages of clothes!

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Filed under Celebrations

Blame it on the ARCs

Have you plucked all the confetti out of your hair from last week’s launch of THE WICKED AND THE JUST? Now that J. is off making historicals the new black, it’s back to business at Emu Debuts. And today’s subject is Advance Reader Copies, otherwise known as ARCs or galleys.

In the longer-than-an-elephant’s gestational period of getting a book ready for publication, seeing your cover could be compared to the second-trimester ultrasound, when you get to fawn over the first image of your baby (or elephant, as the case may be). Receiving your ARC is like holding the newborn in your arms, okay, maybe a not-quite-ready-for-primetime newborn, but awfully close. The tactile sensation of paging through a book, filled with words you wrote a year, or years, ago, is a huge thrill. My five-year-old kept asking, “Did you write all those words, Mommy? All of them?” Even I had a hard time believing it. But there they were, bound in a stunning blue cover.

Now, once upon a time, it seemed that ARCs were everywhere. You could barely stroll across the blogosphere without tripping over images of galleys placed lovingly into stacks, or giveaways that offered a chance to be the first on your block to devour a coveted title. Lately, however, there appears to be a trend toward electronic galleys, which makes sense cost-wise. Even before the advent of NetGalley, publishers had different strategies for how many ARCs they’d provide their authors. So I feel extremely lucky to be with a house that gave me a couple dozen to distribute. Admittedly, I also feel an embarrassment of riches in telling folks I got that many, probably akin to what Octo-mom experiences when someone (who surely lives off the grid) innocently asks how many children she has.

I’m keenly aware that this may not be the case with my next book. Which has only made it more difficult to let them go. I want to keep every single one, stroking its shiny cover. Alas, that’s not their purpose in life. So I had to figure out a way to get my fill before sending them off into the world. This is actually out of character for me since the notion of hoarding and documenting isn’t one that comes naturally. I didn’t even own a camera for ages. Yet the urge to capture the moment was compelling, so what to do? After a little brainstorming, my husband helped me concoct something that did the trick. It’s silly. It’s amateur. It’s on YouTube! Yes, I’ll probably be cringing a week from now, but here it is:

How about you? If you’ve gotten a book published, did you find yourself tempted to document or celebrate in a unique way? (The weirder the better, so I don’t feel alone here.) If you’re pre-published, what’s on your list for ways to celebrate? Don’t be shy; it’s not like I’ll hold you to it when you get a book deal. Okay, maybe I will, but you’ll be so giddy, you won’t mind a bit.

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Filed under ARCs, Celebrations

My “Useless” Skill

I think Mike’s description of the beast of marketing’s awakening was spot on. Which is why I took my little beastie to its usual haunts on the Internet this morning, and fed it a carb-heavy snack of tweets and status updates. While it naps, I’ll take part in an Emudebut tradition–using my first post to share that magical moment when chasing the dream became catching it.

Like many writers, it took multiple years and manuscripts, as well as a plethora of supporting documents, the most cumbersome of which was the synopsis. But since synopses were necessary for writing classes, grants and contests, as well as agent-seeking, I wrote them, grudgingly. To my surprise, by the third manuscript, people began mentioning how much they liked my synopses. Really? Those useless, ol’ things? Okay, it was better than hearing folks hated them, but hardly cartwheel-worthy.

Once I landed an agent, hah! No more query letters; no more synopses! For my fifth manuscript, I constructed beat sheets, outlines, story grids, all that groovy, writerly stuff. And on a blue-skied day in March 2011, I finally got that knee-weakening, eye-watering, fist-pumping, oh-my-God CALL! Someone wanted to publish my book!

And then a funny thing happened.

A second publisher was very interested, but wanted to talk about some possible revisions. I agreed to speak with the editor. He described what drew him to my manuscript, and then he laid out the areas where it could be improved. Oh. It was one of those times where you instinctually know that what you’re hearing is right on the mark. At the same time, I calculated that addressing the issues would mean tossing out, let’s see, half the manuscript. Ack. Before I could faint or hyperventilate, we shifted into brainstorming mode. By the end of the call, I saw what the second publisher saw—a bigger, better version of my story. And, even though I could’ve gone with publisher number one (whose books I love) and saved myself a ton of work, you can’t unsee a vision once you’ve glimpsed it. You just can’t. I hung up eager to get to work.

Of course, imagining a substantially new plot is a far cry from writing it. In order to make the case for the powers that be to acquire my book, I had to prove that I understood their concerns and could address them. Because of the offer already on the table, there wasn’t time for a revise and resubmit. The only thing hanging between me and this second possibility, the one with that sparkly new plotline, was–you guessed it, a synopsis. At first I panicked, but then I remembered. This was something I could do. My useless skill would finally have its day.

Burning the midnight oil for a few nights, I replotted my story and produced a synopsis. Not long after, I had an offer. Not just any offer. An offer from a publisher who’d push me to make my book so much better than I’d imagined.

Contrary to popular belief, this guy has nothing to do with synopsis-writing.

So when writers lament over synopsis writing, invariably using words such as “dreaded,” “daunting” and “evil,” I get it. Yes, synopses are difficult to write. There’s a reason for that. In roughly five pages, you have to hook your reader with the seduction of a query letter, make your main character’s voice compelling enough to care about, and present a cohesive plot with twists, turns and a satisfying ending. It’s the hardest type of writing we’ll probably face–the butterfly stroke in our swim medley, the decathlon in our track events, the a cappella in our repertoire.

But it’s also incredibly useful. Not just for getting the deal. But as a communication tool for agents and editors to share with sales staff, subrights folks, movie agents, etc… Who knew these little suckers could carry so much weight?

Well, now I do. I doubt I’ll ever find them easy, but they’re doable. And clearly, worthwhile. Which is a far cry from evil and useless.

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Filed under craft~writing, Publishers and Editors, Satisfaction, Synopsis, Writing