Author Archives: Jason Gallaher

Who, Who Made Whobert?

I can’t believe this day has finally arrived! Whobert is hatching from his little egg and becoming a fully fledged book bird! It’s so unreal, and I still can’t quite believe that this book is actually getting published, nearly two and a half years after the book was acquired. During that time, I learned that this book is so much more than just the manuscript I wrote back in 2014. So to celebrate the hatching of Whobert into bookstores, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge who, who helped create Whobert and make his hatching possible.

Jess Pauwels! You are such an amazing illustrator, and you make Whobert and his pals pop off the page. Your facial expressions! I can feel Whobert’s suspicion ooze off the page. Thank you for making Whobert come alive.

Tricia Lawrence! You are the best agent a guy could ever ask for. You work for me tirelessly, and Whobert wouldn’t be in the hands of readers if it weren’t for your hands guiding me along this thrilling writing rollercoaster.

Annie Nybo! That first critique you gave of Whobert really spurred me on to keep creating. I can feel your enthusiasm for Whobert through every email and text, and I feel so lucky to have worked with you.

Bethany Hegedus! The Writing Barn feels like home. That ball that started rolling towards a real writing career was given that initial push because of you and the beautiful space of inspiration and creativity that you’ve created.

My entire family! You’ve supported me since birth, and have never once doubted me, even at the times I doubted myself. Thanks for cheering me on during the good news, and for boosting me up during the bad. I love you all!

Jerry! Words cannot express how much I love you. I am so thankful everyday to have you rooting for me and supporting me at every turn. I live a real life fairy tale, and that’s all because of you.

And lastly, to all my fellow Emus! Whobert may be hatching today, but he wouldn’t be able to take flight if not for your constant efforts, not only letting people know about his publication, but also being my cheerleaders and offering advice as I got closer and closer to this book birthday.

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Jason 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 TODAY, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, and days when the goofy characters that live in his mind get to actually make their way into the real world. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Interview with JASMINE TOGUCHI editor, Grace Kendall!

The launch for Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI series continues with an interview with Debbi’s editor, Grace Kendall of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. Read below to get the inside scoop on all things Jasmine!

JG: What initially drew you to Debbi’s writing and JASMINE TOGUCHI?

GK: Oh! What a tough question. I think, aside from the writing itself–which is sweet and fun and pitch-perfect for this age–I was in awe of how elegantly Debbi handled big issues. In MOCHI QUEEN, Jasmine is simply trying to have a new experience before her older sister. It’s also about questioning traditional gender roles in a Japanese-American family. But the story is funny and energetic and packed full of silly sister drama. Jasmine has a ton of gumption, just like Debbi. That’s why I couldn’t put the manuscript down!

How have Jasmine, her adventures, and her family changed through the editorial process? Did JASMINE read much differently in the original submission from what we read now?

No, I think the Jasmine of Draft 1 is the Jasmine you see in the final books here. But when we decided to sign up four titles, it became clear that Jasmine’s voice needed a bit more volume to help sustain a whole series. So we worked on pulling out the brightest details in her personality. Debbi knows this character so well, and I love this little girl more with every book. It’s been so fun to see her develop over four stories!

One of my personal favorite characteristics of Jasmine’s is her insistence that she can do anything she sets her mind to, even if it’s labeled a “boy” activity. What is your favorite personality trait of Jasmine’s?

I can’t pick one, so I’ll give you three:

Artistic trait: Jasmine loves to make collages from her mother’s old magazines. I did the same thing when I was a kid.

Kinetic trait: Hopping. When Jazz (as I fondly call her) is anxious or excited, she hops from one leg to the other. It’s the perfect solution to too many nerves. And funny in a serious scene!

Emotional trait: I adore her sisterhood with Sophie. I’m a lot like Sophie, and my younger sister is a lot like Jasmine. I think it’ll be helpful for young readers to see these two siblings get through their growing pains–and look for any similarities in their own relationships.

Elizabet Vukovic’s illustrations are so dynamic and really showcase Jasmine’s personality. How did you find and decide on Elizabet Vukovic as the illustrator for these books?

It was a journey! We looked at A LOT of portfolios. But the second I saw Elizabet’s drawing of a little girl with big glasses playing dress-up in a glowing red gown, I knew we had our artist. I love Elizabet’s use of ink, the weight of her lines, and the phenomenal sense for color wash. We were SO lucky she was free. Her enthusiasm for the texts has brought a whole other layer of narrative to these books.

We get four whole JASMINE books, the first two releasing on July 11th! What adventures are in store for Jasmine as the series progresses?

Every time Debbi sends in a new manuscript, I’m convinced it’s my favorite Jasmine book yet. So, get ready for even more awesome adventures! In Book 3, Jasmine learns how to play the taiko drum for the school talent show. But there’s a big difference between being the best and trying your best. And a new kid in school will challenge Jasmine’s patience to hilarious and heartfelt effect.

In Book 4, Jasmine’s grandmother sends her and Sophie daruma dolls to wish on. So, Jasmine decides to wish for a pet: a flamingo! But where will it live, and how will Jasmine feed it? Can she even convince her parents to keep her pet flamingo? Jasmine gets a big surprise when a different wish is fulfilled!

Thank you so much for your time, Grace! We can’t wait to get our hands on more Jasmine adventures!

You can enter to win a copy of MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

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Filed under Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Editing and Revising

Going Out with a Bang (of Fireworks)!

It’s the last day of our celebration of the release of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Sarvinder’s book celebrates the beauty of America, so to wrap up the launch of Sarvinder’s debut, we thought we’d go out with a bang and talk about our favorite Fourth of July memories!

Debbi Michiko Florence: When we lived in Upstate NY and my daughter was younger, Bob, Caitlin and I would go to Bob’s brother’s house and then both families would go to the park in downtown Saratoga. We’d set up blankets, check out the booths and play cards and board games until it got dark. Then the fireworks show would start – and it was spectacular, but the best part was spending it with family. I miss those days! Our kids are all grown up and while we sometimes still get together with Bob’s brother and sister-in-law, I miss having the kids around.

Hayley Barrett: I love a parade and my neighboring town, Wakefield, has the best 4th of July parade in Massachusetts. A few years ago, I had the joy of seeing Rex Trailer — a local television personality from my childhood — ride by on a SPECTACULAR and high-spirited palomino horse. He would have been about 82 years old at the time and rode like the true-blue cowboy he was. Boom, Boom, Boomtown Forever!

Katie Slivensky: Growing up in my neighborhood, we would all decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue and have a giant bike parade to our local pond. There, we would swim and bbq and celebrate with bomb pops and all our neighbors! It was one of my favorite days of the year.

Jason Gallaher: There is absolutely nothing like going out to Coeur d’Alene Lake in Northern Idaho on the Fourth of July. I have so many memories of hopping in a boat, water skiing all day, then bobbing along just after sunset and watching fireworks blast over the lake. It’s beautiful, and I’m positive it’s the inspiration behind Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus: My favorite 4th of July memories happened AFTER it was all over. The fair used to come to town, and set up at the park just down the hill. I could see it from the tops of my climbing tree. They had a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, swings (my favorite because I was flying). My neighbor girl and I would go down after it was all over. What a mess! But as the hazy lazy days of summer dragged on, it was hard to find an adventure. So we’d go down and sift through the plethora for “treasure.”

You can see fireworks and so much more of America’s landscape and history in Sarvinder’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, out now! Grab a copy for yourself from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

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Bike photo from Bike Provo; Ferris wheel photo from Northforker/Katharine Schroeder

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Our Favorite America!!

The launch for Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS continues! To keep the celebration going, we talk about our favorite cities, states and national landmarks in the USA!

Terry Pierce: City – It’s a tie between Boston, MA, and Portland, OR. I love the “intimacy” of both these large cities and their “walkability” (a word I just made up to mean “ease of walking.”). Portland is the essence of the Pacific Northwest with its small coffee houses, frequent bookstores and gorgeous distant mountain scenery. Boston’s incredibly rich history, amazing food (Hello, North End!) and sight-seeing points of interest make it a favorite big city to visit (yes, I visited Robert McCloskey’s mother duck and ducklings statue—what children’s writer wouldn’t?).

Natural landmarks – No doubt, Yosemite National Park. There is nothing like it with its massive granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife and the lazy Merced River meandering down the middle of the valley floor. When I drive through the Wawona tunnel and see the full view of the valley, it still takes my breath away. It’s truly spectacular and makes me appreciate the amazing natural forces of our planet. I mean, to think that a glacier carved away the solid granite and sculptured the valley is mind-blowing.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Oh it’s hard to pick just one place, so can I pick a few? While there are many landmarks, states, and cities in the U.S. that I love and enjoy returning to, because I’ve moved so often in my adult life, my favorite places are those that take me to be with family.

San Francisco – City of my birth – I love the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the foggy mornings, and all my precious memories created there.

Huntington Beach, CA, and Portland, OR – My parents live in Huntington Beach and visiting them means down time, relaxation, walks to the beach and on the pier, sunshine and ocean. My sister and her family, and my stepson, live in Portland and there’s nothing like hanging out with family while visiting a vibrant city with great food and sights.

Christina Uss: I will narrow down my list of eight million to two.

Philadelphia. I went to college here and spent four amazing years soaking in the history and culture of Philly. I’d finish classes for the day and then have to decide – did I want to go for a run up the steps of the Art Museum with the theme song to Rocky playing in my head, or go visit the Liberty Bell, or peruse an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, or stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the U.S.? Or just go eat a cheesesteak or a butter-soaked Amish pretzel? Or do ALL of them? I adored how day-to-day life of people of so many diverse backgrounds was swirling around these historic sites every day, all hours of the day. Philly feels to me like a place where every layer of American history from colonial times to an hour ago is alive.

My heart swells with patriotic pride when I visit any part of our National Parks system, often called America’s Best Idea. I particularly love the ones out west with historic, epic National Parks lodges built in the early 1900s, like Many Glacier in Montana’s Glacier Park, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, El Tovar at the Grand Canyon. I was so grateful in my former life as a bicycling adventure tour guide to get to stay in these lodges; they struck me as the most brilliant combination of human architectural vision and craftsmanship with spectacular natural settings.

Katie Slivensky: Tough one! I love Glacier Bay National Park. It’s just so gorgeous and eerie and serene and wild. Also, Mackinac Island. Lots of horses. No cars. Beautiful sights. And FUDGE.

Anna Crowley Redding: Acadia, specifically Night Sky Fest, a week in the park with astronomers looking at planets, galaxies, and constellations!

Carole GerberCharleston, SC. Gorgeous city with wonderful restaurants, and mannerly, friendly people with beautiful southern accents. Did I mention there are lots of beaches nearby?

Hayley Barrett: I’m a true-blue Boston girl. I love that dirty water!

Jason Gallaher: Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite place in America and the whole wide world is Malibu, CA. I love strolling down the pier, I love having deep conversations with local dolphins by cackling back at them, I love recreating scenes from The Craft at Leo Carrillo Beach, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that Miley Cyrus just came out with  a song named after the city.

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I love the Grand Canyon and national parks!

You can see even more beautiful pictures and descriptions of America in Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS! You can find out more about the book here, and you can order a copy from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

 

 

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My Baby is Real!

As you can tell from a lot of our posts on Emu’s Debuts, the path to publication is a long one. It’s been over two years now since my debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, sold. The release is almost upon us (July 18, 2017). For the past six months or so, however, I entered a state of disbelief. When people asked if I was excited for my book to come out, I felt like Miranda on Sex and the City when people asked if she was jazzed to have a baby boy, and she would have this awkward pause, then squeal, “Boy, am I ever,” because she thought that was the right response, even when she wasn’t sure if that’s how she felt.

I told people at the beginning of this year that it still didn’t feel real yet that a book with my name on it would be in bookstores. Since it’s been a while since that call from Trish about our first sale, I didn’t think it would really hit me until other people were reading WHOBERT that the book would actually be out in the world. Well…that moment finally happened, and now I can’t stinking wait for WHOBERT to be among us. I feel like this:

The moment when I finally realized other people were reading the book came in the form of a review from Kirkus. When I saw an email from my editor saying Kirkus had taken a look at my book, I was immediately nervous. My stomach catapulted into my throat. I think I shouted to my partner, “THE REVIEW FROM KIRKUS IS IN WHAT DO I DO?” After his ears stopped ringing from my banshee shriek, he replied, “Um, read it.” So I did…

I pored over that thing. I think I was holding my breath the entire time. Here was real life proof that WHOBERT is actually going out into the world and that other people are going to read it and have thoughts about it. I am so, so happy with what Kirkus had to say (they used phrases like “witty wordplay” and called it “a cracking whooooo-dunit”), but what really hit me is that my baby is about to enter the world. After years of gestating in the womb that is Simon & Schuster, being cared for by so many loving hands, little WHOBERT is going to say “who, who” to the world and people are going to respond. So now when I’m asked if I’m excited, I can legitimately say, “I’M FREAKING OUT!” without a hint of Miranda hesitation.

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Jason 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 on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Despite his connection to Miranda in this post, experts agree he most closely resembles Charlotte, but he’d prefer to be likened to Anjelica Huston. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

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Aaaaaand…Action!

Sometimes I think that all writers are gluttons for punishment. Whether it’s because of the waiting game wondering what’s going to become of your manuscripts to experiencing the ups and downs of your characters’ emotions, writing can be crazy-making.

For me, the crazy really started happening back in November. I participated in NaNoWriMo writing my first YA, and I was having all the feels. For the first time ever I was writing about first loves and losses, and the ups and downs of reliving some of my teen years while I was writing was making me very emotional. I cried for the first time while at my keyboard. I had to pace up and down the halls of my shared office space to get over it, and the other people in there looked at me like I was insane.

I couldn’t blame them. If you had looked through the glass walls into my office with me sitting at my keyboard with tears running down my face, then cut to me in a capital “M” Mood making grooves in the floor with my pacing, I probably seemed like I was a second away from a straightjacket.

So I had to find a way to fight the crazy! I was getting so much creative anxiety and energy build up that wasn’t being expended from writing alone. In fact, writing was causing a lot of this anxiety, putting my soul into a work and then wondering what will become of it. I needed a way to let out all that creative energy and get instant feedback. So, what did I do? Inspired by a Jennifer Lawrence SAG Award acceptance speech in which she said her first union gig was shooting a commercial for MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” I enrolled in acting classes.

Let me tell you, it has worked! I find myself living for every second of the class. It’s been such a great way to be creative in front of a group of people and have those people give you constructive criticism right then and there. It’s also helped me so much in my writing. I’m used to characters talking to me inside my head, but becoming a character someone else created has been an entirely different thing, and has helped me dive even deeper into the psyche of people I’ve created.

While it remains to be seen whether or not I will ever become the next Leo D. or Sean P. or Charlize T., I’m going to keep at it because I feel waaaaaay calmer. Which is kind of ironic seeing as how I’m pretending to be other people to feel less crazy.

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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 on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Roles Jason would love to one day play include any Animorph, a young Jareth in a Labyrinth prequel, and/or any part in anything that would allow him to meet Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Inspiration from Songs, Chants, and Slogans

The launch of Cynthia Levinson’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, a picture book about the youngest civil rights marcher in Birmingham, Alabama, continues today! As Cynthia described on Tuesday, the strength in nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks’ voice was often boosted by music and protest chants. In that spirit, Emus gathered together to discuss different songs, chants, and slogans we found memorable and inspirational in civil rights movements.

Darcey Rosenblatt says that “It Could Have Been Me” by Holly Near was a life-changing song for her when she first heard it, and that it still carries power with her today. Holly Near sang this at a memorial for the four students shot at Kent State University as they protested the bombing of Cambodia in May 1970.

Jason Gallaher says he will never forget the immediacy and the impact of the NOH8 campaign after Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same-sex marriage. Thousands of people came together to get their pictures taken in a silent protest against the proposition. Even though the protest was silent, the amount of photos of people with NOH8 painted across their faces created a sort of hum in the air, moving more and more to speak out in favor of same-sex marriage. While same-sex marriage is legal today, the campaign still serves as a stand against any kind of discrimination.

Hayley Barrett says she thinks it’s hard to top the emotional impact of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strikers carried signs with the words “I AM A MAN” on them, fighting against dangerous working conditions and discrimination. You can find more information about the strike at the National Civil Rights Museum website. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his last speech, “Mountaintop,” to Memphis sanitation workers the night before he died.

Anna Crowley Redding says that Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has stuck with her over the years. In addition, she read his “Christ in Alabama” in the seventh grade in Spartanburg, SC, and remembers thinking, “This is the best thing I have ever read. EVER.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus says that “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” is one song she found memorable in the Civil Rights Movement.

This article by Cynthia provides more information about the history of songs in the Civil Rights Movement.

Cynthia’s THE YOUNGEST MARCHER is out now and can be found at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite local bookseller.

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The Scariest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Before now I would have said the scariest thing I’ve ever done is…um…well, I guess I haven’t ever really done anything I would label scary. Maybe swim with sharks once? But they weren’t even scary sharks, they were nurse sharks that just loved to rub up against your leg like a cat and eat rotisserie chicken.

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And then I did NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal of the event is to write 50,000 words in one month. It takes place every November, that busy month of Thanksgiving and, this year, the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon and, oh yeah, the emotion-filled election. This is, by far, THE SCARIEST THING I’VE EVER DONE! For the whole month of November, that looming word count goal was staring me in the face like this:

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To make matters even more frightening, I was writing a Young Adult manuscript for the first time. I’m a picture book and middle grade dude. I can write about unicorns and kids battling trolls all day long, but love, angst, emotional firsts as you head into genuine adulthood? The only time I’ve written about love was in regards to a squirrel who discovers he loves candy, soooooooo.

But I decided I would face my fears, because doing so has paid off before. *Insert flashback noise and sepia filter* Back in 2012, I started an internship with a children’s literary agency. The awesome agent I was working for asked me to look at picture book manuscripts, and I just didn’t get them. How could you write an emotionally resonating story in under 500 words? And how was I supposed to tell what a good manuscript was without accompanying illustrations? PBs scared me to death!

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So I started taking picture book writing workshops in my spare time to figure them out. These workshops led to me writing picture book manuscripts of my own, and I fell head over heels for them. Cut to today, I’m now a bona fide children’s book writer, my first picture book coming out in July! *Insert flash forward music, there’s no more filter*

When November was rolling in this year, I said to myself, “Self! Time to face another fear,” and I dove into NaNoWriMo. First I had to figure out how I was going to tackle the word count on a day-by-day basis. To stay on track, you need to write 1,667 words a day, but I knew that I would be traveling for a week for Thanksgiving, so I tried to write more than that to add some wiggle room for the holidays. I made a nifty calendar in my office so my horrible failures (or successes!!) would stare me in the face.

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Then came the matter of an actual plot, which I guess is important. I plotted that whole sucker out at the end of October so I could write bullet point by bullet point in November. This helped me immensely. I pantsed my first middle grade manuscript a few years back, and all the drafts I had to do to go back in and get a storyline that made sense totally has converted me into a plotter. My little plot road map became such a trusty friend for those 30 days because for the first time ever, I wrote non-linearly. When I got stuck in one scene I could look at that map and say, “On to the next one!” That was crucial in meeting my word count goals, especially when writing in a genre that I don’t feel exceptionally comfortable in yet.

The other crucial element? Writing. I know that sounds really obvious, but what I mean by this is just write everywhere. Don’t limit yourself to one environment, write wherever and whenever something strikes you. I wrote in my office, I wrote little scenes on my phone notes app when something popped in my head and I was waiting for coffee, I wrote on the airplane when heading to see family. And it worked! This was the final word count on my little calendar:

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I made it! But here’s the weird thing about achieving this goal: At first, I did not feel excited about writing a first draft so quickly at all. I was like, “Well I faced that fear of doing NaNoWriMo, but now I have this draft that needs a ton of work, just faster than I would normally have a first draft.” Writing non-linearly helped me get the word count, but my transitions are a bit fuzzy in places. Those bullet points were a lifesaving guide when it came to reaching 50K, but some of them morphed a bit as holes developed and now I have to go back and fix those holes. On the night of November 30, my head was swimming with what still had to be done on the manuscript and not on the achievement.

Then I thought back to facing my fears with picture books. I went to multiple workshops, wrote a few manuscripts, but that didn’t instantly make me a success. I still had to submit to agents, hope one signed me, hope an editor liked one of my stories, hope bookstores buy it, hope people buy it, the hopes—some of them now realized, others TBD—go on and on, and it’s a loooooooong process to see how those hopes turn out.

So here we are now, two weeks after NaNoWriMo ended, and I am feeling Jazzed with a capital J about it! I’m so glad I did it, I’m so glad I jumped into my first YA project and let that word count goal drive me to type, type, type, type, type and not think too hard about making something perfect from the start. No manuscript is ever perfect from the start, and in a publishing world where every step forward can take quite some time, why not try to write a first draft quickly? It can speed up the whole process. And who knows, maybe facing this fear will help me someday see a YA book on the shelves with my name on it, something I never thought would happen. Just like I never thought I’d see any book with my name on it, but, here we are 🙂

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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 on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason fears include rats, an empty fridge (he gets hangry), and dying without meeting Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)
 

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Interview with THE NIAN MONSTER Illustrator, Alina Chau!

The launch for Andrea Wang’s THE NIAN MONSTER continues with an interview with the book’s illustrator, Alina Chau! Scroll below to read about New Year celebrations and mythical monsters, and to see some stellar illustrations!

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Jason Gallaher: Your illustrations for THE NIAN MONSTER are absolutely stunning! Can you describe your style and the materials used to create the illustrations?

Alina Chau: Thank you.  The Nian Monster illustration is mostly watercolor on paper, except the two pages about Nian’s legend. I use Photoshop to create the Chinese paper puppet look and some of the decorative elements on the flap, that looks like traditional Chinese paper cut art.  As for the style, since this is a Chinese New Year story, I use a design style that is influenced by traditional Chinese folk art and painting.  A lot of the New Year decorations in the book are inspired by the traditional decoration.  The feel and atmosphere of the New Year is very much drawn from my childhood memories in Hong Kong.  Chinese New Year was one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Before the New Year, the market will be extra festive.  At home, everyone is busy preparing for the big new year dinner.  Chinese New Year dinner is kind of simliar to Thanksgiving here.  It’s an important evening for family to get together and give thanks and good wishes to each other.  Kids often get new clothes in red as a symbol of a new beginning.  I painted my favorite childhood new year memories in the pages.

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Alina’s workspace

How did you come up with the design for the Nian Monster? Did his look change much throughout the editorial process? Do you happen to have any images of his development that you could share?

As a kid, when we learn about Nian’s story, I always imagined it sort of looking like another Chinese mythological creature, Qilin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qilin).  While Qilin is considered a heavenly creature who protects the mortal world, Nian is a trickster.  Qilin looks a bit more like the relative of a dragon.  I imagine Nian would look like an earthy creature – the Chinese Lion.  I pretty much drew the Nian from my childhood imagination.  As for Nian’s color, my gut feeling is to have it be an orange and red creature, since they are the color of the New Year.  But I also did a color test of the green and blue color scheme.  The doubt I had was that I knew there would be many red elements in the background, as well as Xingling’s outfit.  I was worried the color would clash.  But after the color test, I don’t like the blue and green color.  It doesn’t feel right.  I decided to stay with red and orange and make the color work.

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How about Xingling? Is the way she looks now how you envisioned her from the start?

When I first read Andrea’s manuscript, I could see Xingling very clear in my head.  While I knew Xingling’s look well, I did spend some time trying to come up with a cute outfit for her.  I want her to feel relatable to our readers, but still reflect her regional culture trend.  I therefore researched current girl fashion styles in Asia.  The style of her pink dress is fairly trendy in China and Korea.  But I also tried to balance and not to push it too far.  I want the illustration of the book to be time lasting and have universal appeal.  Towards the end of the book, Xingling changes to a little red dress. I wanted her to wear red to celebrate the New Year tradition.

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Your depiction of Shanghai is so detailed and vibrant. Did it take a lot of research for you to create the Shanghai environment, or are you familiar with the area?

Jordan, my art director at Albert Whitman, sent me a lot of reference images of Shanghai.  I also went online and did research to get myself familiar with the cityscape of Shanghai.  I have never been to Shanghai, so all the Shanghai city designs are heavily relied on Google.  As for the atmosphere of the city, that is drawn from my own experience growing up in Hong Kong and occasional travel to China.

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What else are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of new picture book and graphic novel ideas.  I want to try writing my own books.  My stories are focused in culture diversities, some are drawn from my personal experiences.  I was born in China, immigrated to Hong Kong during British colonial time and then moved to the US.  I have been a citizen of three countries.  I am blessed and never get into bad discriminatory situations.  Yet, it’s still challenging to grow up and be the kid that’s different for one reason or another. With the current political climate, there is more urgency to share diversity stories with children.  Ensure the children that it’s OK to be different.  It doesn’t matter if they have different cultures, skin color, beliefs etc., their voices and stories matters.

 

Thank you so much for your time, Alina! We can’t wait to see what you illustrate next!

Andrea is giving away a copy of THE NIAN MONSTER to one of our readers! Just comment on any of the posts celebrating her launch, and you will be entered to win! You can also buy a copy of the book at IndieBoundBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Diversity, Illustrators, Interviews

Friendships Can Be Just LIKE MAGIC

The launch of Elaine Vickers’s LIKE MAGIC continues! LIKE MAGIC is a story of friendship, so to go along with that theme, us Emus are sharing some of our friendships that have brought magic and joy to our own lives!

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Katie Slivensky: A friend who changed my life…probably my childhood best friend, Carolyn. We were both kind of awkward nerdy kids, but through her I grew confident in myself and my interests. She always lifted me up, rather than pushing me down. She lived “just over the hill” behind my house, and we grew up together. I was older than her by two weeks, but she was always a foot taller than me as kids (she was tall for her age and I was short for mine), so we got weird looks a lot. Together, though, we didn’t care! It’s so valuable to a kid to have a friend who raises your confidence when you don’t quite “fit in” in the world. We’re still good friends. Fun fact: she is actually the photographer for my author photos!

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Katie and Carolyn, Age 5

 

Terry Pierce: The one true friend who changed my life is my husband, Mark. I met him when I was in the eighth grade (he was in the ninth), so we were still kids. We were friends for a year and then dated for four more before getting married. Forty years later, he’s still my BFF. I say he changed my life because he’s been my rock through all the ups and downs that happen in one’s life. We forged a mutual path together with love and respect, so I know that if Mark wasn’t in my life, it would be very different, and I’m guessing not nearly as fabulous, exciting or fulfilled. I guess I’m lucky that I married my best friend!

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Terry and Mark Then

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Terry and Mark Now

 

Andrea Wang: I didn’t meet Lisa until my thirties, but it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be where I am as a writer without her. We were both enrolled in the same online writing class, but it was Lisa who figured out we lived in neighboring towns and reached out to me. From there, we bonded over books and writing. She welcomed me into her critique group, encouraged me to apply to an MFA program (which we went through together), and cheered me on (and up, too) every step of the way. Her friendship helped me give myself permission to pursue a writing life.

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Lisa and Andrea, March 2016

 

Debbi Michiko Florence: A friend who has changed my life: Lynn Bauer – We met in line for the last Harry Potter book, in 2007. We call each other Anam Cara – Soul-Friend, because we are that tightly bonded. We started out talking about books and writing, but since then it’s as if we’ve known one another forever. We’ve seen each other through the worst of times and the best and, without her, I’m not sure I would be the person I am today. She props me up, cheers me on, and supports me no matter what, and I do mean NO MATTER WHAT. She’s always on my side and I can count on her anytime, every time. (And I do have to mention Anne Marie Pace as someone who has changed my life because without her telling me that morning to line up for wrist bands for the book, I wouldn’t have gone to the book store early that morning and wouldn’t have met Lynn!)

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Debbi and Lynn

 

Jason Gallaher: I have to say one of the most magical bonds I share with anyone on this planet is with my cousin, friend and spirit animal, Andie. We are 8 days shy of a year apart, but I feel like we are twins. I bash my shin and Andie calls me with pains in her leg. Andie has been there for me through every monumental moment in my life: births of new family members, deaths of cherished loved ones, coming out, identity crises, and pretending to be mermaids in Thailand. She brings so much magic to my life, which typically manifests in tears pouring down my face from laughing so hard. An-DAY (read like Whitney Houston shouting, “Bob-BAY!”), I love you!

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Jason and Andie, Age Adorable

 

Hayley Barrett: When my children left for college, I gave them lots of advice. One thing I told them was to not expect their friends to remain the same. To imprison people with old memories and stories is unwise and unkind, and efforts to hold people to who they “used to be” invariably fail. The best way to preserve friendships, I said, was to welcome change, even if it meant letting a friendship fade. Doing so leaves hope for it to someday flourish again. I only have a couple of dearest, oldest friends. I won’t single any one of them out, but they have something in common. They’ve all been willing to let me, and in fact have helped me, to become a more fully developed, nuanced person. They’ve been willing to let our friendship wax and wane and wax again, as circumstances changed over the years, without fuss or consequence. I hope I’ve done the same for them. A forbearing and flexible approach is the best recipe I know for truly loving and long-lasting friendships.

 

To read about more magical friendships, pick up Elaine Vickers’s LIKE MAGIC, available now! You can find Elaine’s book at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

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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. He would also describe a magical friendship as the one he and Anjelica Huston have yet to forge. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Filed under Book Launch, joy, Launch