Author Archives: Laurie Ann Thompson

About Laurie Ann Thompson

I write books for curious young minds and open hearts, no matter what their age. BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, a teen guide to saving the world, will be published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September of 2014. EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, a picture-book biography, will be published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January of 2015. And MY DOG IS THE BEST, a heartwarming fictional picture book, will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan in May of 2015.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!

I was lucky enough to have been able to convince the good folks here at Emu’s Debuts that my first three books were different enough from each other to qualify each and every one of them as a separate debut. And I’m sorely tempted to see just how far I can continue to push it… I mean, my next book to be published will be middle-grade nonfiction/fiction hybrid, which is totally different from a YA how-to or a picture-book biography, don’t you think? No, not really? Okay, probably not.

So, although I’ve put it off for as long as I could possibly justify (and then some), I guess the time has finally come for me to say farewell.

I published my introduction post in October of 2012, which means I’ve been here almost three years, and in that time I’ve seen quite a few Emus come and go. Despite the constant turnover due to the nature of this blog, however, one thing has remained wonderfully constant: the enthusiasm and supportiveness of the group for its members. I’m so lucky to have been a part of this blog for any time at all, let alone for such a long time and through three book releases. I think we’ve all done things we never dreamed we would (singing opera in Viking horns?) to cheer on one another’s book launches, and we had each other’s backs behind the scenes, too, for all of those burning newbie author questions like “What’s the best pen for signing?” and “Where did you get your bookmarks?” and “How do I throw a launch party?” I’ve read some truly amazing books because of my participation in this blog, I’ve learned an incredible amount about how to be a professional author, and I’ve made some great friends.

I was a software engineer before turning (back) to writing. Although I was never even remotely in competition with my colleagues in the technology industry (we were all working on the same product, after all), there was very little support to be found there. In fact, at times, it felt like quite the opposite. The programming culture seemed to be more about tearing each other down whenever possible. You’d think authors would be even more competitive given that we’re all trying to sell the same thing—books. But children’s book publishing is not that way at all.

From the international professional organization of SCBWI to its regional chapters, from our literary agency siblings to our critique groups, from our publishing houses to our marketing collectives, children’s book publishing is built on supportive, nurturing communities, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of many of them. I value them all, but the Emu’s Debuts community will forever hold a very dear place in my heart. Thank you to all of those who worked to make it a reality before my arrival, thank you to everyone who shared their journey along with me, and thank you to those who will keep the blog going in the months and years ahead. It’s a special place, celebrating a special time, with special people contributing their time, energy, and love.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye…

goodbye.

 


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, was released June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. She has said she doesn’t write novels, but she may have to just so she can rejoin Emu’s Debuts someday.

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Colleagues, Farewell, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

What would YOU feed a hungry dragon?

There Was an Old Dragon cover

It’s launch week here at Emu’s Debuts for Penny Parker Klostermann’s delightful picture book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight! Yesterday, Calista brought you an insightful interview with Dragon’s editor, Maria Modugno. And today, we’re bringing you… FOOD!

I asked my fellow Emus what they would offer a hungry dragon to convince it to eat that instead of them. And, let me tell you, if we Emus were all together in a mob, it would be a mighty fine feast indeed! (For added fun, try to spot the new Emus who will soon be joining the flock!)

For appetizers…

Garlic BreadLuke Reynolds would offer the dragon a full loaf of garlic bread, with extra butter melted and nuzzled within the rich, warm doughiness. The dragon would certainly have no choice but to remember how deeply satisfying melted butter is, and the soft dough would be so much more amazing than a crunchy, yucky human being!

Darcey Rosenblatt would try not only to save herself but further humankind, so she would offer a recipe for yummy roasted vegetables and engage her dragon friend in the cooking process. Never heard of a vegan dragon? Darcey is sure it happens!

I myself (Laurie Ann Thompson) would offer up some steaming crab macaroni & cheese. I just hope that old dragon knows how to share!

We have quite a few main courses for Dragon to choose from:

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly w/ pickled gingerOne of the most delicious things Megan Morrison has ever eaten is pork belly with crispy crackling skin. She was at Beppe in New York and asked the waiter for a recommendation. It sounded so gross, but oh. It was not. It was bacon on crack. She and her husband still talk about it with reverence. Surely a big slab of pork belly would be far tastier than Megan!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman would serve the dragon the largest turkey she could find with a side of stuffing and an extra dose of tryptophan in hopes that he’d fall asleep.

Carole Gerber did her research first: Komodo dragons–the kind in zoos–eat deer, according to the fact sheet she read. The dragon first knocks the deer off its feet before killing and eating it. Carole would distract the dragon with a heap of deer toenails to confuse him as she made a quick getaway.

UntitledJason Gallaher would offer this hungry dragon a nice rare steak. Not only would it serve as a talking point about something they have in common (Jason likes his steak mooing), but the slab of meat would really save this guy a lot of trouble. He can still get his craving for meat satiated, but he doesn’t have to worry about chewing through all Jason’s clothes, his shoes, the change in his pockets, etc. Plus, deodorant. Jason applies deodorant regularly, and who in their right carnivorous mind would want to eat a creature that just lathered himself in Old Spice? Not Jason, that’s for sure.

Adam Shaughnessy would try to distract the dragon with guinea pig. Not because it’s particularly delicious (it’s fine), but because it might alleviate his guilt to share it. Adam had guinea pig while he was in Peru. It’s good to try new foods when traveling, but when he came back to the elementary school where he was working, a colleague shared Adam’s tasting adventures with a kindergarten teacher—without thinking about the fact that the teacher’s entire class was lined up behind her. They walked past Adam with looks of horror and an obvious terror that he was coming for Mr. Whiskers, their classroom pet, next.

Mmm... pulled pork with slawOne of Debbi Michiko Florence‘s favorite meals her husband makes is pulled pork–North Carolina style (vinegar-based). She would offer the dragon a giant plateful of pulled pork sandwiches piled with her husband’s cole slaw, because even a carnivorous dragon needs his greens!

Indian food is Christine Olson Hayes‘ first choice whenever they go out to eat. So many amazing flavors and textures! She’s pretty wimpy and usually orders things on the mild side, but she’s sure the dragon would appreciate a nice Indian curry, super extra hot and spicy!

And, of course, we mustn’t forget dessert!

StroopwafelMylisa Larsen would offer up stroopwafels! They’re these lovely thin waffle cookies sandwiching a layer of caramel. Best eaten warm. When her husband travels to the Netherlands, their children greet his return not with “hello” or “so glad you’re back” but with “Did you bring stroopwafels?” For Mylisa’s sake, she’d be hoping the dragon felt the same enthusiasm.

To make a hasty escape, Maria Gianferrari would douse the dragon with honey so he’d be in sticky straits. Or if he were in a friendlier mood, she’d serve him some goat cheese since it tastes so delicious when baked.

Vanilla Milkshake @ Lori's DinerHayley Barrett imagines something simple and refreshing… Something to cool a scorched palate…. Something to tame the fire in the belly…. She’s got it! A double-thick vanilla milkshake! Slurp!

If there was a dragon alert, Donna Janell Bowman would make a marshmallow vest with giant chocolate buttons and dragon fruit all over it, then she would trick the meanest bully into thinking it had invisibility powers. When the bully snatched it from her and put it on, she would say, “don’t you dare touch my super powers milkshake!” and, “Hey, back off from that graham cracker wand. Or else!”  Of course the bully would steal it, without realizing that she had lured him into the dragon’s lair. Gulp! And she wouldn’t feel guilty at all because mean bullies are not “nice humans.” Two problems solved.

Bubblegum with bubbleIf Elly Swartz were in danger of being eaten by a dragon, she would offer the dragon a tub of Bazooka bubble gum to ensure her safety. You see, not only would Sir Dragon find Bazooka gum sugary and delicious, but he’d also surely want to learn how to blow a bubble. And Elly would need all of her body parts to teach him. So, she would, of course, offer to teach him how to blow a bubble, saving herself and all her body parts in the process!

S'Mores!Janet Fox knows just what she’d give our hungry dragon: S’Mores! Sweet and tasty and so easy for a dragon to cook in an instant. Plus…chocolate. Did you hear her, Dragon? Chocolate!

Rebecca Van Slyke thinks dragons would prefer ice cream to a tough teacher like her! (Probably chocolate ice cream, but maybe a nice raspberry ripple.) Besides, if he DOES eat the ice cream, it would put out his “internal combustion” and she could get away!

Peanut ButterTamara Smith‘s great idea is peanut butter, of course! Have you seen dogs eating peanut butter? Their jaws get glued together and they make that slurpy, smacking sound as they try–for just enough time for, say, a person to get away–to open their mouths. Tam would definitely give the dragon peanut butter. Plus, it’s the most perfect food on the planet!

For her part, Penny is glad her dragon didn’t encounter the Emus Debuts before he encountered the kingdom… His story would be one of frustration instead of gluttony! And the meter would be all screwed up…

There was an old dragon who swallowed a stroopwafel.
I don’t know why he swallowed the stroopwafel.
It isn’t lawful!

There was an old dragon who swallowed raspberry ripple ice cream.
I don’t know why he swallowed the raspberry ripple ice cream.
It seems extreme!

(“See what I mean? There’s no need to go on!” –Penny) 😉

What's for lunchSo, how about YOU: What would you offer a hungry dragon to entice him to eat it instead of you?

Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight!

Or buy a copy right away. You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order fromTexas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

There Was an Old Dragon, and he’s HERE!

confetti

Photo from ADoseOfShipBoy on Flickr

Get out your confetti cannons and toot your horns: it’s time for another week-long Emu’s Debuts book launch party!!!

This week we’re celebrating the launch of Penny Parker Klostermann‘s There Was an Old Dragon. We’ve had dragons on the blog before, thanks to Joshua McCune’s Talker 25 and Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s Flying the Dragon, but this dragon is for the younger set (and everyone else who loves jaunty rhyming text and colorful, clever artwork!). I mean, just look at that face!

Dragon Cover High Res copy

This particular dragon is up to a bit of no good, though, as you might expect from the title.

Here’s what some early reviews had to say about it:

“No matter how many swallowed-fly titles you own, this one belongs on your shelf too.” — Kirkus

“The author has used a broad range of words—savory, shady, fattens, tassel, guzzled, bloat, quote, perchance, amass, and billow. These will add depth to the young listener’s vocabulary.” — School Library Journal

Penny has been busy pounding the virtual pavement to get the word out about this fantastic book. In addition to what we have planned for you the rest of the week, don’t miss the ongoing “There Was an Old Blog Tour.” Here are the list of places this very hungry dragon has visited or will be visiting soon:

And you can click HERE for the free downloadable activity guide From Random House!

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order from Texas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

Of course, you can also try your luck: Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon. And don’t forget to come back to see what’s cooking for tomorrow: it’ll be delicious!

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations

Emus love dogs, especially literary ones!

It’s easy to see that we Emus love books, and you may have figured out by now that many of us love dogs, too, so what could possibly be better than combining the two? To continue this week’s celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s Penny & Jelly: The School Show, which released yesterday, here is a collection of our favorite dogs from literature. Woof!

Penny & Jelly cover

First, we have some classics…

Susan Vaught:

I’m a sucker for Lassie, not the television one (okay, that one, too), but the dog in Lassie Come Home written in 1940 by Eric Knight. I read it when I was about 10, nice and hefty, around 270-300 pages? Something like that. I absolutely lived in that book.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Toto from The Wizard of Oz. “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” I worried about him through the whole movie even though was feisty and brave and revealed that the Wizard of Oz was not a wizard at all.

Carole Gerber:

Snoopy, of course! He is beloved by people all over the planet and still appears in cartoons and books sixteen years after the death of Charles Schultz, creator of “Peanuts.”

Donna Janell Bowman:

Hands down, my fave literary dogs were Old Yeller, and Old Dan and Little Ann from Where The Red Fern Grows. As a kid, I read each book a billion times. More than the actual plots (which would be questionable by today’s standards,) I was so enamored by the dogs’ personalities and with the bond between boy and dog(s).

 

And then there are some more modern middle-grade canines…

Megan Morrison:

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I’ve got to go with Hagrid’s dog Fang. I love that he’s huge, and his name is fierce, but he’s really just a lovable, slobbering coward who runs from the fight – unless he’s protecting Hagrid, in which case, he’ll take a Stunning Spell to defend his big best friend.

Mylisa Larsen:

I’m always amused by Hagrid’s dogs–Fang and Fluffy (aka Cerebus). I also love Winn-Dixie because you’ve gotta love a dog who can smile.

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers:

Ranger, the kind old bloodhound from Kathi Appelt’s THE UNDERNEATH. So inherently good and true, as literary dogs should be.

Rebecca Van Slyke:

Winn Dixie. He helps India Opal negotiate the tricky business of moving to a new town and making friends in unlikely places. Plus he can smile so hard it makes him sneeze.

Tamara Smith:

Both my daughters and I are madly in love with Bigfoot, from Alison McGhee’s JULIA GILLIAN series. According to Julia, they can telepathically communicate! Too awesome! Bigfoot is the quintessential big-hearted canine best friend.

 

And, of course, we wouldn’t forget the picture books!

Janet Fox:

My favorite literary dog is Martha from MARTHA SPEAKS by Susan Meddaugh. I remember how much I loved reading that book to my son!

Christine Olson Hayes:

I love the adorable dog named Hondo from Peter McCarty’s picture book, HONDO AND FABIAN. The story is simple and sweet, but it’s the art I adore–it gives off a warm, cozy glow that makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with a favorite book!

Kevan Atteberry:

I was moved by a graphic novel I read recently about Laika, the first dog in space. It was terribly sad though. I read the Plague Dogs years ago and enjoyed it but don’t remember the two dogs’ names. Brian from Family Guy probably wouldn’t count, so I’ll go with Olive from Olive the Other Reindeer.

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

I’m partial to “Dog” from Dog in Charge by K.L. Going and illustrated by Dan Santat. It’s a sweet and funny story about a dog left in charge of five cats with this refrain to describe him: “He’s a good dog, a smart dog, a very good dog.”

Adam Shaughnessy:

I always loved Clifford the Big Red Dog when I was little. I remember being especially fond of the illustrations and drawing (or trying to draw) Clifford again and again. I went through a lot of red crayons.

Laurie Ann Thompson:

Harry the Dirty Dog was one of my favorite books as a child, and it still is. I just love his transformation from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots! And, of course, I love the happy ending.

 

Penny & Jelly author and fellow Emu Maria Gianferrari shared some of her favorites, too, as well as those of Penny and Jelly themselves!

Some of my favorite literary dogs are Bob (from the One & Only Ivan), Rontu (from Island of the Blue Dolphins),
Dismay (from Each Little Bird That Sings), and Rain (from Reign Rain).

Penny’s favorites are Winn Dixie, Hound (from the Penderwicks), and HMS Beagle (from Susan Patron’s Lucky books).

Jelly’s favorites are Gaston, Daisy (from A Ball for Daisy), and Hachiko.

(Of course, they’re all really my favorites too!) 😉

 

As you know, this week we’re all celebrating the launch of our newest favorite literary dog in Penny & Jelly: The School Show, and I’m sure the delightful Jelly will soon be one of your favorites, too! Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of this heartwarming book or some Penny & Jelly swag. You can visit Penny & Jelly at pennyandjelly.com, and be sure to purchase a copy for yourself and your favorite dog lovers by visiting one of the sites below:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Amazon.com Books-a-Million Barnes & Noble IndieBound Politics and Prose Powell's The Toadstool Bookshop
Also available as an eBook in several of these locations, and at iBooks and Kobo.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books, Updates on our Books!

Finding my balance between promotion and writing

On Thursday, Luke put up an honest, heartfelt post about the realities of being a writer (please go read it right now—all the way to the end!). There are often many years spent waiting—writing, revising, submitting, revising again, submitting again, writing something new, repeat—the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes. We long for that golden ticket, that recognition, that validation that will make all of that effort worth it.

Then, finally, success: we’re published! We think our new status will make things easier for us somehow, like we discovered the secret formula and can just apply it over and over whenever we need to produce a publishable manuscript. In some ways it does: people do take you more seriously when you’re published. But in many other ways, it actually makes things harder.

I’ve seen writers with a successful first book struggle with the second, fearful that it won’t live up to their previous work. Others want to write something completely different, but feel pigeon-holed in a single genre. An unlucky few are so stung by negative reviews that they have a hard time putting themselves out there for more. Still others spend so much time promoting the first book that they simply don’t have time to write another one!

My challenge was similar to Luke’s: It’s so exciting to check on the status of your book, so compelling to want to nudge it out into the world a bit more, so easy to pop in and do quick, light promotion. And there’s always more you can be doing pre- or post-launch to get the word out. You’re constantly wondering what else you should be doing, who else you should be talking to. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in the world of that first book.

It’s not so much that you don’t have time to write anymore. You really don’t have to do all of those things. It’s more that all of the checking, nudging, and promoting feels necessary. It seems important. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of your first book—and, heaven forbid, of that first publisher who took a chance on you and made all of your big dreams come true!—to do anything less. It’s exceedingly difficult to switch gears and go back to the waiting; back to the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes; back to the writing.

This was actually one of the scariest and hardest parts of the whole journey for me. For months after Be a Changemaker came out, I worried that I’d never be able to write again, never be able to get myself back into that mindset, back to the focus and discipline needed to dive into writing something new. It was part of the process that I wasn’t at all expecting, and it took me completely off guard. Fortunately, I had other author friends (mostly Emus!) to discuss it with. They all said things like, “Yep, the same thing happened to me. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

And, you know what? I did. I’m back to writing, and I’m loving it. I still do promotion, and I’m loving that, too. But, I’m finally starting to find my balance, discovering ways to foster the creative beginning of the process with one project while at the same time managing the more analytical business end of the process on another.

As I told the kids at the school visit I did last Friday: “Writers write. Period.” And, eventually, we discover that the writing itself is what makes it all worth it. We realize that we can’t NOT write. And we get back to work.

Writers write


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Colleagues, Creativity, Discipline

It’s the launch party for BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry!

!!!

Please forgive me if I use too many exclamation points in this post, but with a title like BUNNIES!!!, it’s easy to get excited!

First, if you’ve been a long-time reader of this blog, you’ve already gotten some sneak peeks from the talented (and wonderful) author/illustrator Kevan Atteberry himself (like this one, or this one, or this one)! If you’re new, check out this Publishers Weekly review!

Second, you gotta love this adorable cover, with its expressive characters and eye-poppingly bright colors!

BUNNIES cover

 

Third, just take look at this unbelievably cute book trailer!

 

Finally, let me tell you a little backstory. Kevan is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I’m fortunate enough to be part of an amazing critique group with him, and we all try to meet every two weeks to give each other feedback and cheer each other on. It’s a talented, generous, supportive group, but it’s also got the perfect amount of honesty and tough love. We don’t hold back if we see something that isn’t working for us or have a question, idea, or suggestion. We all have strong opinions, and sometimes it can even get a little loud. But that is exactly what you want from a critique group! There have been very few times when we don’t have much to say about a manuscript. I’ll never forget the night Kevan came in with even more humility than usual, giving us disclaimers about this new thing he’d done, and telling us not to hold back on any opinions. We read it through the way we usually do, then went around the group asking for comments. You could have heard CRICKETS!!! All of us unanimously agreed it was done. Not just ready, but perfect! OMG! Brilliant! We all loved BUNNIES!!!

And I know you’re going to love BUNNIES!!! as much as we did (and still do)! For a chance to win a signed copy of your very own, just comment on this or any other post this week! Or, if you can’t wait (and trust me, you don’t want to), you can order one (or ten) right now from any of the following links!

Oh, and you can also add it on Goodreads!

Be sure to check back every day this week, as we’ll be putting up special posts to celebrate this very special book!

Welcome to the world, BUNNIES!!! We’re so glad you’re here!

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Celebrations, Launch

Everyone Has a Story… and We Need Them All

MLK Day panel at WSHM

Last Monday, I was honored to participate in a panel on diversity and changemaking in children’s literature as part of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at the Washington State History Museum (you can read an excellent summary of the full panel here). In preparing for my part of the panel, I couldn’t help thinking back to my Emu’s Debuts from exactly two years ago (have a really been here that long? Meep!). That seemed like a good place for me to start.

In that old blog post, I referenced an MLK quote that resonated with me…

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

…and I talked about how our job as authors is to facilitate that kind of communication through story, whether true or fictional, and how stories can speak to universal human truths, even when the specific life experiences and situations are very different, such as mine and Emmanuel’s, as shown in Emmanuel’s Dream.

While drafting my recent speech, I also went through my transcripts from my interview with Emmanuel in 2010 and stumbled across this gem I hadn’t noticed before for some reason. He told me,

“When you hear about so many people—their story and their lives—you can say whoa, that guy’s story sounds like my story. It’s familiar. Because you know, the rich person has a story to tell, and the poor person has a story to tell, and the person who won the race has a story to tell, and the person who is in last place has a story to tell. So people have to come together to educate ourselves with stories, so that we can be able to move forward.”

As I concluded in my speech on Monday, I believe Emmanuel is right: stories will help us move forward. I have almost nothing in common with Emmanuel, yet his story touched me, and I hope it touches young readers, too. I hope it will help them understand and value other people despite their obvious differences. I also hope it will show them that each and every one of us—including themselves—has value and can make a positive difference in the world, just like Emmanuel did, and just like Dr. King did.

Their stories matter, and so do everyone else’s. That’s why so many of us in the children’s literature community are supporting the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The more diversity we have in our stories, and in our storytellers, the more we can all communicate with one another, the less we will all fear each other, and the better we can all get along. Diversity in literature builds understanding, and understanding builds empathy. With enough mirrors and windows, maybe we can finally stop the hate.

So, please, keep sharing stories–stories like Emmanuel’s, Dr. King’s, and, most importantly, your own. The world needs them all, now more than ever.


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 2015 from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…
Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Diversity

So, how’s the book doing?

One of the most common questions a pre-published author gets asked is:

How's the writing going?I’ve never been exactly sure how to answer that, since so much of writing—especially in nonfiction—isn’t actually “writing.” There’s the brainstorming, researching, outlining, and, eventually, the revising. I spend a lot of time in each of those other phases, and the actual writing phase is a small fraction of the overall work. Still, as long as I’m making forward progress on a project, in any phase, I’ll typically answer, “Great! I’ve been doing a lot of ______________ lately.” On the other hand, if life or other things are getting in the way and I’m feeling less than productive, I might say instead, “Not so great lately. I’m hoping to get back on track as soon as ______________.” I think those are satisfactory, honest answers.

Since BE A CHANGEMAKER has come out, though, the question has changed. Now the most common question I get asked is:

How's the book doing?I’m having a much harder time coming up with a satisfactory answer to that one. First of all, what does that even mean: sales figures? reviews? press/publicity? awards? Amazon ranking? speaking gigs? fan mail? There are so many ways to measure a book’s success. Which yardstick should I use to measure how the book is doing?

Second, how’s it doing… as compared to what, exactly? All books have a unique place in the market, and that market is constantly changing. A rather dismal Amazon ranking may be just great for a niche market book, while a rather fantastic one may be disappointing for a well-known author or series. Even within my book’s categories, the other books have obviously been out longer, so those comparisons don’t make much sense to me either. And the way these numbers fluctuate? It’s hard to distill any meaning whatsover.

Third, we authors don’t really know too much about how a book is doing quantitatively. True, Amazon’s Author Central gives us some useful numbers, but it’s not the whole picture, and it’s hard to know just how complete and up-to-date the information is. What’s the reporting delay? Which sales are counted in those numbers and which are not? It’s an indicator, sure, but I’ve yet to figure out just how important an indicator it is for me. The more important metric is whether or not a book is performing as well as the publisher expected it to. But those numbers seem to be impossible for authors to come by (which is probably for the best all around, don’t you think?).

Finally, there’s the issue of timing. Should any of us be worrying about how our book is doing so soon after publication? Yes, we put a lot of time and energy into the pre-launch, launch, and immediately post-launch phase, and we know books aren’t given a very long runway on bookstore shelves these days, but still, doesn’t it typically take quite a while for a book to find its audience? Is how the book is doing a week or a month after its publication date necessarily all the relevant to how it will be doing a year or two from now?

Clearly, I don’t have satisfactory answers to any of these questions, and frankly, I’m not really sure I want to. I just hope no one is offended or thinks I’m dodging the “How’s the book doing?” question when I answer honestly with:

I don't really know. I'm just trying to focus on writing the next one.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this lovely quote from Martha Graham:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

— Martha Graham

Keep on marching.


Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. She also has two upcoming picture books: EMMANUEL’S DREAM, a picture-book biography with Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House (January 2015), and MY DOG IS THE BEST, a fiction picture book with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.

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Filed under Anxiety, Sales, Writing and Life

Remembering Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Today we’re offering something special, a moving tribute to author Zilpha Keatley Snyder written by fellow Erin Murphy Literary Agency client Susan Lynn Meyer. Susan is the author of MATTHEW AND TALL RABBIT GO CAMPING, and BLACK RADISHES, which won the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in 2011, and NEW SHOES. Please read on for Susan’s heartfelt guest post…

Susan Lynn Meyer - my author photo

Susan Lynn Meyer

I was very saddened this week to learn of the death of Zilpha Keatley Snyder, best known to the world as the author of The Egypt Game, The Witches of Worm, and The Headless Cupid, all Newbery Honor winners. Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote some of the books most important to me in my childhood. I still own my disintegrating green paperback copy of The Changeling from 1970, a book I deeply loved, its pages now discolored by time, the cover, bearing the price “$.95,” about to fall off if it is read even one more time.

ZKS n14441Zilpha Keatley Snyder is one of the children’s authors whose work I most admire. And, as I came to know, she was also a person of tremendous kindness and generosity. A few years ago, I was trying, rather cluelessly, to find a publisher for my first novel. For reasons too lengthy to go into, it was sitting on the desk of a very well-known editor who had expressed interest in it. Every day I hoped for an email from this editor. But one never came, and after about nine months (yes, I know now that was too long to wait!) I started thinking about sending it elsewhere. I sent it to two other editors—and then it belatedly occurred to me to try submitting to agents.

I had no real idea of how to go about this. I started to investigate agents who had published writers whose work I admired, work that seemed in some respects like mine. I looked online to see who represented Zilpha Keatley Snyder—and it turned out that she and Patricia Reilly Giff, another writer whose work I loved, had the same agent. They were among the most senior and renowned writers on my list. Writing to their agent was obviously an incredibly long shot. But I sent him a letter, as I did to many other agents.

ZKS 1850137_290Rejection letters came back, plenty of them. But then suddenly a lot of things happened at once. The first was a phone call from Rebecca Short (who has just gotten married and is now Rebecca Weston) at Random House, one of the two other editors to whom I had sent my manuscript before I decided to try agents. Rebecca wanted to acquire my manuscript, Black Radishes! I leave you to imagine the utter ecstasy and astonishment I was thrown into by this phone call.

But I also still had submission letters out with literary agents, and I didn’t want just to publish one novel—I wanted a literary career. So I contacted the three agents who hadn’t yet definitively said no. And suddenly all three wanted to represent me. I was astonished that all of this was happening—to me!—but still, choosing between them was surprisingly stressful. One of the agents who was interested was Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s. I phoned the agents and emailed some writers represented by them—and then another amazing thing happened. The phone rang.

Zilpha Keatley SnyderMy husband was making dinner. I was on the exercise bike, working off the stress of sudden, unexpected good fortune and major life decisions. Our daughter was lying on the sofa, reading, as it happens, Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Janie’s Private Eyes. My husband answered the phone. “Susan?” he called, sounding confused. “It’s Zilpha. . . Snyder?”

“Let me talk to her! Let me talk to her!” our daughter shouted as I ran to the phone and, sweaty and panting, spoke my first words to a writer whose books had meant the world to me. Zilpha Keatley Snyder didn’t know me at all. I had never met her or even heard her give a reading, as she lived all the way across the country. But when I emailed her to tell her that I had queried her agent because of my admiration for her books and that he had offered me representation and that I was choosing an agent, she didn’t just email back a reply—she telephoned to talk over the decision with me. Many writers of her stature wouldn’t have bothered to reply at all. “You must have written a really good story!” she kept saying to me.

In the end, I chose a different agent, the wonderful Erin Murphy. (I had decided to write to Erin after swooning over her writer Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold.) But as my novel, Black Radishes, was just about to come out in 2010, my editor at Random House asked me if I knew any writers I could ask for blurbs for the novel. I didn’t know many writers yet. Black Radishes, my novel, was inspired by my father’s experiences as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France. Snyder’s Gib Rides Home was inspired by her father’s experiences in a harsh orphanage in Nebraska in the early 1900s. There was, I thought, a connection between the subject matter of the books.

So I very hesitantly emailed Zil again (this is the name she signed her emails with) and asked. I explained that I realized that she didn’t know me or my work at all, and that I completely understood that when she read my book she might not like it and might not want to blurb it, and that if so I would completely understand. But, I asked, could I send her an advance copy of the book?

BLACK RADISHES cover She said yes—and she blurbed my debut novel. I will always treasure the words from her on my book jacket, as I will always treasure the many wonderful books she gave to the world.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote forty-six books over the course of her long and distinguished literary career, books that won many awards and were translated into twelve languages. Her fiction is notable for its emotional depth and complexity, for the respect it accords to the minds of children—to their fantasy lives, their desires and wishes, their pain, their struggles, their courage.

ZKS th_0440400538This emotional depth is evident even in her funniest novel, Black and Blue Magic. This novel is about clumsy Harry Houdini Marco, who lives with his widowed mother in a California boarding house. A strange, funny little man gives Harry a magical ointment that allows him to grow wings secretly at night. Yet, amidst the humor, with deft, light touches, Snyder gives Harry a wistful yearning to live up to the aspirations of his dead father—and though he never fully loses his clumsiness, he comes to feel closer to his father in the novel’s end.

ZKS 220px-TheChangelingSnyder represents children from a wide variety of backgrounds and in complex, sometimes difficult family situations. Robin in The Velvet Room is from a family of homeless migrant workers living in California during the Great Depression. Cat Kinsey, in Cat Running, is from a tense blended family with a weak mother and a severe, uncomprehending father. In The Changeling, perhaps my favorite of Snyder’s novels, Ivy has an alcoholic mother and various members of her family are frequently in trouble with the law. She finds refuge in her friendship with Martha and her belief that she is not really a Carson but a changeling—of supernatural origin and switched at birth with a human child. Martha’s affluent, seemingly perfect family is challenging in its own way: conformist, highly successful, and judgmental. Martha’s friendship with Ivy allows her to grow and develop outside the confines of her family’s narrow ways of thinking.

In Snyder’s fiction, the line between the real and the magical is sometimes ambiguous, and it is this quality that is perhaps most unique and most haunting in her fiction. There are moments when the reader can’t really be sure whether what has happened can be logically explained. Is Jessica’s cat magical in The Witches of Worm, and does he speak to her without words? Is some other poltergeist at work in The Headless Cupid besides angry adolescent Amanda? And has Ivy somehow managed, at the end of The Changeling at once to escape her family and not to grow up?

In The Witches of Worm, Mrs. Fortune, an eerie and fascinating elderly neighbor who loves cats, tells Jessica, “Belief in mysteries—all manner of mysteries—is the only lasting luxury in life” (116). It is this luxury that Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s many great works of fiction give us, as readers—an exploration of the mysterious ways our everyday world comes into contact with the unknown, as well as a profound exploration of the mysteries and depths of the human spirit.

Visit Zilpha’s webpage, here, for more information about her and her books.

And get to know Susan better by visiting her web page, here. Thank you, Susan, for sharing this with us today! 

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Filed under Guest Posts

It’s the NOT IN THE SCRIPT launch party kickoff and giveaway!

You may think we Emus have been doing an awful lot of partying lately, but we’re not done yet. This coming Tuesday is the official release date of Amy Finnegan’s wonderful debut, NOT IN THE SCRIPT! So, toot your horns and throw that confetti, because we’ve got more celebrating to do, and we hope you’ll join us!

Not in the Script cover

Doesn’t that cover look fun? Check out this description:

The best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script.

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships.

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance.

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

– See more at: http://bloomsbury.com/us/not-in-the-script-9781619633988/#sthash.f08cASwU.dpuf

One of my favorite things about the book is how it immerses you in the lives of the young actors, both on set and off. How was Amy able to bring the entertainment world to life so vividly? She’s heard years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother, plus she’s been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood, so you can be pretty sure the fictional experiences are authentic. Want to know more? You can follow Amy on Twitter: @ajfinnegan, Instagram: StrangerThanFictionWriter, Facebook: Amy Finnegan, Author, or visit her at AmyFinnegan.com.

Check out this awesome book+swag package put together by Amy herself:

Not in the Script giveaway package

For a chance to win this super swagalicious giveaway, just comment on any of the launch party posts today through Friday. We’ve got all kinds of fun things planned to celebrate, so be sure to check in every day this week!

Of course, if you just can’t wait to see if you win (trust me–you don’t want to wait!) or you need more than one (trust me–you’ll want extras to give as gifts!), you can order hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks from:

And don’t forget to add it to Goodreads here!

Cut! And that’s a wrap. (We’ll pick up again with scene 2 tomorrow!)

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Filed under Celebrations, Launch