Author Archives: Lindsey Lane

About Lindsey Lane

To say that Lindsey Lane loved reading when she was small would be an understatement. Her closet held more books and comics than clothes and always featured a pillowy place to sit. The words in books equaled worlds beyond her front door in Westfield, Massachusetts. The world she entered over and over again was Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty because it told the truth about love and cruelty—two impossible roommates in the human heart. This book, more than any other, inspired her to be a writer. With only a pen and an imagination, what a world a writer can create. After she graduated from Hampshire College with a BA in Theatre Arts-Playwriting, Lindsey moved to Austin and started writing plays like the award winning The Miracle of Washing Dishes. Later, her inquiry into words and worlds led her to journalism where she interviewed death row inmates, cops and wayward millionaires for the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American Statesman. When she wasn’t writing, she trained as a boxer and promoted the first all women’s boxing event to raise money for Austin Rape Crisis Center. In 2003, her world building shifted to children’s literature when Clarion published SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN, named Best Children’s Book of 2004 by Bank Street College of Education and winner of the Children’s Crown Gallery Award. In 2011, PicPocket Books published SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN as an app so that this beloved children’s book could continue to delight children of the digital age. Lindsey received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. At VCFA, she stretched into middle grade and young adult writing, including an honor-winning young adult short story. This degree helped her grow as a writer and speaker. In fact, Lindsey is a featured presenter at many schools where she gets kids (of all ages) excited about reading and writing. To this day, Black Beauty is one of Lindsey’s favorite books and still informs her writing because, no matter what world she is building, she believes it is the heart of the character—that quixotic and diabolical heart—which draws the reader in and makes us laugh, cry, gasp and not put the book down. Speaking of hearts, Lindsey could not have written a word without the love and support of her daughter and their community of friends and family, near and far.

Debut Out

sound of music

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.*
                                                             -Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers

Dearest Emu’s and beyond…

When Adi “Appleblossom Catbiscuits” Rule contacted me about joining Emu’s Debuts shortly after I had my first book contract as an EMLA client (Sigh. Faint. Swoon.), I was thrilled (Yay! A new tribe of writers) and overwhelmed (What? A whole new listserv? A whole new onslaught of communication? On top of revisions and copy edits and promotion and, and, and…Oy!). Yeah… at times, it was a lot (Singing opera to my computer?!?!) but joining you mob of birds was one of the best things I ever did.

Now it’s time to leave.

Damnit. I don’t want to leave. I didn’t think I would have to except well, really, after your debut has debuted, you have stepped into a new reality. Simply, you are no longer preparing for the debut, you are promoting that book and writing the next one. It’s time to go.

Before I do, a couple of thoughts:

I went to lunch with a friend of mine recently. He was recounting how much the music business has changed. “It used to be that labels would sign artists with the idea that those artists develop their craft over time and the labels would be there to support them. Now artists are signed and if their product isn’t a hit, well, you know the story.”

I could see the similarities with our business. Many editors have become agents because they want to be in the business of helping a writer grow their career. Publishing is changing and no one really knows how or where it will go. It’s crazy making but it’s going to be okay. Writers, like musicians, have a community. We stick together. We help each other. We cheer and support and tell one another it’s going to be okay. Because it will. No matter what happens. This crazy world will always want storytellers. Whether we publish traditionally or paint on walls or self publish or drip blood from our veins. The world wants stories because stories lift us out of our lives. They make us laugh and cry and think and sigh. They make our lives better.community

So everyday, think about your community: other writers, readers, editors, agents and do what you can to weave us together. Gratitude, praise, cheering, thoughtful comments. (That’s how I will stay connected to you birds now.) It all matters. Because no matter how fast this world moves or how much the sands of publishing shift beneath us, we are storytellers, weavers of words and worlds and we are responsible for how our community grows.

Which leads me to my next bit of wisdom. It’s not really mine. It comes from my agent Erin Murphy. A year ago, I was totally stressing about promotion: How do I do it? Should I hire someone to help me? What do I do first, second, third? She said: “Write the next book.” What? But. But. But. Aren’t I supposed to…?

write bookWrite the next book. If your readers like your book, they will want to read the next one. Your publisher wants you to write the next book because it will sell the first one. You need to write the next book and the one after that because that’s who you are now: an author. A published storyteller. A world builder. Write the next book and the one after that so you can keep growing.

What about promotion you wonder? Well, it’s definitely a job you have now because you have this book and you do want to do things to get it in the hands of readers and generate interest. But it’s a balancing act. Here’s what I do: I respond to everything that comes in. Awards. Speaking engagements. School visits. But I’m careful about how much I have to go out and generate. You don’t want to spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources (i.e. your writing capital) promoting. For instance, If you’ve been invited to a book festival in a city, great. Go. Then spend some energy putting together a school visit in that city. Make it make sense. But if the promotion is taking too much time away from writing, then you are out of balance.

Yeah, so that’s it. I’ve cleared off my desk. I’m out the debut door. But I’m right down the hallway. In a room with a whole bunch of other authors. I’m saving you a spot.

XO,

L2

*A word about song lyrics. Trying to get the rights to use them in your novels is soul-sucking process. Avoid it at all cost: http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2013/03/so-you-want-to-use-song-lyrics-in-your.html

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Filed under Farewell, Thankfulness

One Glittery Star In A Constellation

meteorIt all felt meteoric. Or stratospheric. Or whatever it is when there is a whoosh of propulsion behind you and you think you are finally on the path to fulfill a great destiny. First, there was the call from the agent. Two months later, there was the call from the editor. Four months later, the manuscript was off to copy edits. My star was rising and it felt all glittery and singular.

And it was.

Sort of.

Except what really happened on September 16, 2014 was my debut novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN took its place among a whole constellation of books. It was not a solo star, glittering in the heavens.star

On that same day, three other authors I knew well had their books published: Laurie Thompson’s Be A Changemaker, P.J. Hoover’s Tut: The Story Of My Immortal Life and Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun. I do not know how many other books were released that day.

My book’s arrival in this twinkly constellation was its destiny but it wasn’t alone in the heavens. Nor was I, as its attendant author, drifting solo like some celestial firefly.

What happened on September 16, 2014 was I became a part of a beautiful Milky Way of story tellers whose books are cradled by our readers late at night, reading page after page, resisting sleep until they can’t anymore. Then they dream and our stories leak into their dreams conjuring who knows what. Whatever it is, it wakes them. They aren’t afraid but they feel different inside. As if their cells had rearranged themselves a bit. They sit and look out the window, through the tree branches at the stars beyond. They wonder about their future, about what’s going to happen, about who they are going to be. There, in the quiet of the deep night, they make a wish.

I made such a wish once upon a time.

When that wish comes true and your book joins the constellation of stars you wished upon, it feels nothing short of miraculous. Meteoric, even.

milkyway

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Writing and Life

Books Change The World by Trent Reedy

trent2The EMU’s would like to welcome Trent Reedy, fellow EMLA client, to share some thoughts about how he came to the realization that being a writer and writing books was the best way for him to change the world.

I used to think I could change the world.

In my early twenties, I thought that if I could only get my political party to defeat the opposing side, then everything would be set right. I wasted a lot of time and energy arguing about that stuff. Then I was sent to the war in Afghanistan with my Army National Guard unit and everything changed. With a very real possibility of death lingering over so much of my time there, life was stripped down to only what was truly important. I promised myself that if I made it home, I would dedicate my life to my faith, family, friends, reading, and writing. True to that promise, I no longer get wrapped up in socio-political debates or the current cause du jour. I don’t display argumentative posts on my social media or argue with the posts of others whose viewpoints differ from mine. I no longer believe I can make a change in America or in the world, at least not on the scale or in the manner I once envisioned.

This I believe: The power of a book to improve the life of its reader is beyond measure.

During the most challenging part of my time during the war, my fellow soldiers and I were living in a rented mud-brick Afghan house. The house was built for an Afghan family, and not for nearly fifty soldiers with their vehicles and equipment. Insufficient cold storage meant we were limited to small field rations. The well was shallow and often went dry, so we were allowed three-minute showers once every three days. If the well went dry on a soldier’s shower day, he’d have to wait three days and try again. The heat would flirt with 120 degrees, and was nearly unbearable under our helmets and heavy body armor. The Taliban sent us frequent death threats, and my life was reduced to an endless, colorless drudgery of duty, guns, filth, and fear.

That kind of living ground me down, reducing me to a machine-man who was slowly dying inside. Then one day the mail finally arrived, and with it a copy of Katherine Paterson’s novel Bridge to Terabithia. Some miracle allowed me to find the time to read the whole book that day, and I remember my spirits being lifted up and freed, in a manner similar to the way I felt when I could finally take off my heavy baking hot body armor.bridge

Bridge to Terabithia reminded me that there is still hope, even in the most difficult circumstances. More than that, it was a spark of beauty at a time in my life where beauty seemed so very hard to come by. I needed that spark of hope and wonder. I needed that connection to another person’s personal thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Bridge to Terabithia helped me keep going through those long fearful days. Because of that novel, I will never forget the awesome power of one book to affect its reader. It was that book that gave me hope, not only that I might survive the war and return home, but also that I, too, might one day follow my lifelong dream of becoming a writer.

My goal as a writer isn’t to change the world, but to make a connection with each single reader of each of my books.

trentand girl

During my time in Afghanistan, my fellow soldiers and I encountered a young Afghan girl named Zulaikha who had suffered from birth from cleft lip. An Army doctor had volunteered to conduct her needed corrective surgery, but the Army could not send a helicopter for her. So my fellow soldiers and I pooled our money to pay for civilian transportation to get Zulaikha to her surgery. When she returned to us, she was completely changed. Only a tiny scar hinted that anything had ever been different about her. And although she was very young, and we were probably intimidating strangers from a distant land, she faced the entire situation with a wonderful quiet courage and dignity. For me, she began to symbolize the struggle that all Afghans face in working to build a better country for future generations. The last time I saw Zulaikha, I promised myself I would do dustwhatever I could to tell her story. That’s what led to my first novel Words in the Dust, the story of a young Afghan girl named Zulaikha who dares to dream, who finds the courage to pursue her own best destiny.

I once heard from a young Afghan-American reader who thanked me for writing “a book that shows that not all Afghans are bad.” I worry for this reader, wondering what she must have to deal with in her daily life that makes her feel that such a book is necessary. But I’m honored that she could find some measure of comfort and common ground with Words in the Dust. And I hope that other readers might find an Afghan friend in Zulaikha, a connection to this country that has become such an important part of our own country’s narrative. The Zulaikha I met in Afghanistan didn’t set out to change the world. Instead she inspired me and the soldiers with whom I served. And I hope her namesake character will make a connection with others, one reader at a time.

I recently celebrated the publication of my fourth novel If You’re Reading This. This book, about a ifyourereadingsixteen-year-old young man who begins to receive letters that his soldier father wrote before he was killed in the war in Afghanistan, is my attempt to say goodbye to this long war that has affected millions of American young people. My goal with If You’re Reading This isn’t to convince anyone to support or to protest the war, but to offer the reader a sense of what the mission in Afghanistan has meant to Afghans, to the soldiers who served, and to the families who sacrificed in support of that service. If I can help even one young person who has missed his deployed loved ones, then I’ll have done my job. An entire generation of young people has grown up, enduring the sacrifices in support of our long wars, and I believe they deserve to know why. They deserve to know that they’re not alone and that their sacrifices are valued and appreciated.

I wonder if a great deal of the problems we continue to face in society may be at least partially the result of too many people trying to “change the world,” of too many people stuck in a default mode of thinking in sweeping generalizations, of seeing in each person they encounter, not an individual in all his rich complexities, but rather as a subset of a larger group with all the potentially problematic assumptions that view can bring. My YA trilogy Divided We Fall depicts America’s divdedpolitical divide stretched out to its furthest nightmarish extreme. In my story, this division has resulted from two sides, two clashing socio-political ideologies that are both trying to “change the world” for what each of them believes is the better. Instead of communicating with individuals person to person in order to seek common ground and practical solutions, the people in Divided We Fall flock to those whose thoughts and ideologies mirror their own. Safe in those self-affirming alliances, they set about trying to “change the world” by hurling partisan insults and blanket accusations at their adversaries, until all they’re left with is the divide itself.

Ten years ago, in the violent maw of another divide, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia reminded me of the life saving power of books, of each book’s awesome potential to connect the individual to hope and a better life. I believe that all the wars, weapons, and worries of the world could be overcome if each individual strove to live for the positive and uplifting. Nothing brings an individual to that way of thinking better than the real human connection that is possible through the pages of a book.

trent and katherine

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Filed under Guest Posts, Writing and Life

Welcome to the World: BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddThis week at EMU’s Debuts, we are celebrating the launch of Laurie Ann Thompson’s debut BE A CHANGEMAKER, which will be published on September 16. Part how-to manual, part confidence builder, BE A CHANGEMAKER empowers youth to create the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world through real-world examples as well as personal reflections by Thompson, who volunteered with Youth Venture, an organization that supports teens with big ideas.

To honor and promote this exceptional book, some changemaking clients of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency have agreed to share their own experiences. To be fair, these five are but a few of the amazing writers and illustrators at EMLA who are committed to making change in their communities and the world.

Please join us in welcoming BE A CHANGEMAKER to the world. And if you want a signed arc of BAC, comment on any post this week and you could be a winner!

Chris Barton

As a picture book writer, Chris Barton had a vague notion about the need to make the general population more aware of the bounty of great contemporary picture books. But when he read by the New York Times essays “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” by Walter Dean Myers and “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” by Christopher Myers, the vague notion became a more urgent issue. Barton approached the Austin independent bookseller BookPeople to create the Modern First Library program, which makes it easy for parents, grandparents, and other gift-givers to select not only classic picture books but also new titles that reflect the diversity of today’s world.

modernfirstlibrary“I already had a great relationship with BookPeople,” says Barton, “But I was nonetheless surprised by how receptive they were to my idea — I didn’t have any bookselling experience or other particular qualification, but sharing my idea rather than keeping it to myself felt like the good-citizen thing to do, and the store’s welcoming response reinforced that impulse.” This experience has taught Barton that one key to being an effective changemaker is to disseminate rather than dismiss your own ideas for making things better, and he has been reminded by BookPeople’s example that it’s equally important to be open to changemaking ideas even though they may come from an unconventional source.

Ann Braden

When the federal government failed to pass legislation that does a better job of keeping guns out of the wrong hands, even after the horrific murders of first graders in Newtown, CT, Ann Braden helped start Gun Sense Vermont because it was clear to her that the only way we could bring balance back to our gun laws was to act at the state level. In 18 months, membership has grown to 5,000 members, and they are working to pass universal background checks during the upcoming legislative session.

GSVT-Web-ButtonAt the beginning of her changemaking journey, Braden encountered that small fringe group of extremists who are determined to keep gun laws from being passed no matter how sensible they are. “It was like I had to hold on tight to the sides of my boat as they tried to capsize it and make me give up. But after a while, I realized that my boat was stable and I wasn’t in danger of capsizing at all. That’s was when it occurred to me that I could stop holding onto the sides and just paddle forward.”

Braden was inspired by Wangari Maathai, who mobilized huge numbers of women in Kenya to plant trees and start a green revolution. Though Maathai died too soon, she managed to plant seedlings of activists around the world who, like Braden, approach life with the same ‘I-can-do-this’ attitude that inspires people to come together for a common purpose. “If you leap,” says Braden. “A net really does appear. And that net is made up incredibly supportive people.”

Braden believes a willingness to jump makes an effective Changemaker. “I joke that I ended up getting into to this just because I said ‘yes’ a whole bunch of times in a row.  Can you start an online petition? Yes. Can you help organize a group to deliver the petition to the statehouse? Yes. Can you speak at a press conference at the statehouse? Yes.” Even though she hadn’t done any of those things before.

Which is why Braden also advises changemakers that focus is really important. “If we try to fix everything all at once, we’ll end up in a fetal position in a corner somewhere. Zero in on what is achievable and what will be effective, and then put your head down and go.”

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

When e. E. Charlton-Trujillo embarked on a narrowly self-funded, hybrid book tour for her third novel FAT ANGIE, she did not know she was going to be a changemaker. “I packed my belongings into storage and drove from Cincinnati, Ohio, across America to hold creative writing workshops and discussions for youth on the fringe, at no cost to their programs.”

Never Counted OUtTrujillo’s inspiration comes from activist Amanda J. Cunningham, children’s author Linda Sanders Wells, her brother Kurt, and music. “Mozart to Eminem, Krudas Cubensi to Mazz Swift, or John Coltrane to Beyonce. Music feeds the soul and no doubt invigorates my passion to rock the word.”

And rock the world she did. Not only did Trujillo change kids’ lives, she changed her own life. “Working with kids taught me that the darkness of my youth was actually a strength. I was able relate to and work with any kind of kid. I get to be my unwrangled-hair, hoodie-wearing, tattoo self and inspire others. Talk about invigorating . . . I am constantly amazed how simple and powerful it is when you show up and say, ‘I believe in you.’ Empowering and inspiring others ignites awareness and understanding for something outside of yourself. That is such a crucial thing for me. It keeps me humble and genuine and curious.”

For Trujillo, the most important quality of being a changemaker is authenticity. “Never underestimate the potential of authenticity. Being real and honest and shedding the layers that allow us as ‘adults’ to be acceptable is some work. Young people need to have a person stand in front of them with healthy boundaries and the excitement to share creative space with them. I can promise you showing up has currency!”

From her experience, Trujillo created Never Counted Out, to empower young people through creativity and discussion. She believes that harnessing their tenacity and talent of youth through spoken word by taking their strength from page to mini-stage. She also filmed the documentary At-Risk Summer to capture the impact of a creative mentor and redefine how we talk about ‘at-risk.’ Her website is BigDreamsWrite.

Corinne Duyvis

Corinne Duyvis is the co-founder of Disability in Kidlit, a blog that discusses and dissects the representation of disabled characters in MG and YA novels. The bloggers analyze stereotypes, talk about their own experiences as disabled people, and review character portrayals from a disability perspective. “All three editors of the blog and all contributors identify as disabled, which is incredibly important because disabled people–just like many other marginalized groups–are often erased from conversations that supposedly center about us.”

Disability in KidlitBefore founding Disability in Kidlit, Duyvis followed initiatives like Diversity in YA, Angry Black Woman, and other discussions of marginalization in YA and science fiction and fantasy (SFF) novels. “While disability is often included in these discussions, just as often, it’s ignored entirely. Over the years, I became more and more aware of this lack. I discussed it with friends, tried to counter it in my own fiction, and sighed every time I saw people call for more diversity while glossing over the existence of disabled people and the need for disabled characters. When my friend and fellow YA author Kody Keplinger approached me about organizing a “Disability in YA” event, everything crystallized. Kody and I had the ability, knowledge, and desire to address those problems.”

Since they began, the website’s influence and content has grown. Not only does it help disabled people find realistic portrayals of characters, librarians and teachers use it to find books for their patrons and students. Because of the site, readers are beginning to think more critically about disability portrayals.

In addition to connecting with many wonderful, smart people who are just as dedicated to disability representation as she is, such as her fellow Disability in Kidlit editor Kayla Whaley, Duyvis has spoken with authors who said the website encouraged them to include disabled characters in their next work, or who said the site changed their approach to tackling these characters so that they are portrayed more accurately and respectfully.

Duyvis is astonished at how much she has learned in the year since she founded this blog. “I thought I was savvy before, but between reading new books all the time, maintaining the site, being in regular contact with some brilliant contributors, and keeping an eye on disability-related content on Tumblr and Twitter, I’ve doubled that knowledge. Of course, it’s also helped me realize how much I still have to learn!”

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

In a way, Lynda Mullaly Hunt was destined to create the Book Train. Not because she was teacher. Not because she is a writer of children’s books. She created Book Train because when she was in sixth grade, her teacher gave her a book that changed her life. It was a novel by Judy Blume and she devoured it. For the first time, she cared about the character and wanted to know what happened to him. For the first time, she invested in her book report. For the first time, her teacher was proud of her. For the first time, she felt self-esteem. One book.

Book TrainWhen she began writing for children, Hunt met many kids who lived in the foster care system or in shelters. She became aware that few of them owned their own books. It bothered her. A lot. After one particularly hard visit to a teen homeless shelter, she wondered what small thing she could do for kids like this. “I’m a big believer in the domino theory of changemaking. I think there are people out there who change the world for the better every day – in small ways that are not perceptible at first but send rings of change into the world the way a rock thrown in the water does.”

“I found myself brainstorming ways to get books to kids. Not just my books—all books in all genres for all ages.” One night, she was tweeting with a few teachers about how to get more people on the love train for ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. The 70’s song, Love Train by the O’Jays, popped into her head. After a flurry of tweets, Book Train, was born. Since its beginning, thousands of brand-new books have been hand-delivered to foster children, ages newborn to eighteen. Their names are in the front and those books belong to them. Forever.

To be a changemaker, Hunt believes you have to be able to think BIG without holding yourself back and thinking about what’s realistic. “When people have told me an idea I had was unrealistic, it motivated me to work even harder.  I absolutely love the quote, ‘The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’ Yup. There’s a lot of truth right there.”

***

You can get your own copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!

 

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch

Debut Author To-Do List  

I’m a list maker. Not plain old lists. I tab my lists and then on Sundays, I cull from the tabbed lists and create a more immediate to-do for the week. I know. A little obsessive but it works for me. Here are some things I recently checked off the debut to do list and stuff I learned as a result.

Overhaul The Website
Website work can be daunting. Why? Because your website is your home on the web. It is where people will come to check you out. You want it to be the best representation of you. What started an existential quandary turned out to be a fun creative process but there were a few hurdles I had to clear to get there.

My first hurdle was bending to the web designer’s will and follow her way of working. This meant we had no phone contact. I couldn’t involve her in my angst or wondering about the website. I couldn’t woo her with my sweet voice and get her to counsel me through my website angst. I had to get clear about what I wanted so that I could communicate it to her via email and drop box.

Eventually, I stopped whining about this restriction and got focused on what I wanted: Simplicity, clarity and super functionality. Yes, I wanted my site to look fabulous but here’s what was most important in the end. The workability of the site. I researched a lot of author sites and function trumped form. I wanted an easy-to-use site. I gave my web designer several links of sites that accomplished that goal.

As for the look of the site, it kind of matches my home, which does not have a lot of overstuffed armchairs or ornate furniture. I like a spare design. I don’t like a lot of clutter. I didn’t want gobs of information on each page. People are barraged these days. When they are going to a site, they know what they want. So I kept it lean and I tucked a lot of info into links which visitors could click on if they want more stuff. (Hmmm, the closets and cabinets in my home are a bit overstuffed. Hmmm.)

Breathe-Part 1
Anxiety is a constant. I don’t know what reviewers are going to say. I don’t know how book breathesales will be. I can’t predict the future (Darn it). When a good review comes in, be glad and humble and share it with your world. If a bad (or unexcerptable) review comes in, let it go. Put it in the rearview mirror. Don’t give it energy. Try not to think about them. Practice mental Tai Chi. Not everyone will like your book. (Really. It’s true. Even J.K. Rowling had detractors.) It’s okay. Let it go. Breathe.

Plan The Launch
Because this is my YA debut, I definitely wanted to do a book launch at my local independent bookstore. I wanted to celebrate with my family of friends and fellow partywriters. But how big? How much hoopla? What kind of snacks and drinks? What sort of presentation? It started to get very big in my head. No, really. Very big. (Think famous people living in Austin.) And as it got bigger, I got smaller and more overwhelmed. I took a step back in my head and asked this question: Why are people coming? Answer: To celebrate me and the launch of EVIDENCE. When I had that answer, I knew I couldn’t hide behind the bigness of an event. I wanted to create an event where I could show up and thank the people who were there and introduce them to the book. I want to create an event that is as authentically true to myself as possible. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Get Printed Materials Ready
Once I had the book cover and website design, the printed materials pretty much fell into place. All my writer pals say that I need a boatload of bookmarks. Actually two boatloads. And to leave a space for signing my name. Apparently that’s important. What about postcards? I asked. Not so much. I chose to do a few because I wanted an easy way to send thank you notes. I also revamped my business cards because mine were way out of date. For those, I keyed off the font and color of my website for consistency.

Write The Next Book, The Next Blog Post, The Next Email
When the anxiety of the debut process really starts to wage war on my psyche, sitting down to write is the best medicine. Even with all the hobgoblins and insecurities and wonderings that writing can visit upon me, the tap-tap-tap of my keyboard means I am going forward and that I am doing something in the face of all the stuff that I can’t control.

Breathe-Part 2
Because I cannot predict the future, anxiety—the natural state of being on the edge of the unknown—is a constant. Breathe. Try to be curious about what the day will bring. Go outside. Notice the present moment. Deeply. Inhale it. The future will come. Try to let it unfold instead of bracing against it. Kiss your life. You are a debut author.

IMG_1083

breathe

 

IMG_0107a 5 x 7Lindsey Lane’s debut young adult novel THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers on September 16 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an app on iTunes. You can follow Lindsey on Facebook or find her at her website or on twitter @lindseyauthor.

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Celebrations

Blurbelicious  

IMG_1699Writers love to have wonderful words said about their manuscripts. Critique partners. Professors. Conference critiquers. We live for encouraging words. They keep us going during the long, tap-tap-tap days and nights with our keyboards. But what do you do when your manuscript is accepted for publication and you need people to write nice things—a.k.a blurbs—for the cover of your book?

Like many tasks in the publishing industry, there is no uniform, one-size-fits-all, process to getting blurbs. Every writer I’ve talked to has had a different experience. Debut authors. Series authors. Getting blurbs is as individual as the book you have written. That said, I think I can share a few tips so you don’t get too bobbled by blurbing, so to speak.

As soon as your manuscript is acquired, be thinking about who you want to blurb your book. Talk to your critique group about possible blurbers. They’ve read it. They know other authors in that genre. Talk to your editor and agent about who they think would be a good household name on the front or back of your book. Think about all the writers you know. Think about writers your writing friends know. Think wide.

Now narrow the list to those writers who write in the same genre as your book. Sort the list into people you know and people for whom you need introductions. Try to find out ahead of time, who blurbs and who doesn’t. Also, find out the requirements of asking for a blurb. Some writers require that an editor or agent approach them. In other words, do your homework. Prioritize the list: who are you asking first, second and third? No, you may not send a mass email to all these people.

Asking writers for blurbs takes time. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will know if they have the time to read your book. Talk to your editor about when they want to have blurbs for the arcs. Figure out when you will be able to send a clean, copyedited pdf of the book to the blurbers. Give your blurbers the deadline. As you can see, there are several time factors you are juggling: the blurbers’ busy lives; the publishing schedule, your own editing deadlines. You can do it. You wrote a book. Keep everyone in the loop and be respectful.

Yes, you might be the one asking for blurbs. Some editors want the authors to reach out to their community of writers because they think an author asking is more genuine and the potential blurber is more likely to say yes because they know the writer or the friend of the writer. While you might feel an editor asking is a stronger endorsement of your book, editors are concerned that their request might put a professional obligation on the potential blurber. Ain’t no right or wrong answer here, folks. Whether you or your editor asks for blurbs, realize that what blurbs do is build the community for your book. That’s your goal: build the community for your book.

Now if you are terribly shy or introverted or just plain get apoplectic about asking for blurbs, talk your agent. They can send out blurb requests on your behalf to those who authors who require a professional contact or to your entire list.

Okay, now the no’s and yes’s are starting to come in and only one person on the A-list has said yes. Do not get all pouty faced. One blurb from an A-list author is great. Also, B and C list authors have followings; their careers are growing and, most importantly, you are building community for your book, not celebrity endorsements.

Do figure out how many blurbs you want to get. I chose to get four. My reasoning was that I wanted each one to be important and matter. I also wanted the blurbers to be honored for the time they had taken to read the book and not find their words lost in a pages and pages of blurbs. That said, I have since had the happy good fortune to have a community of writers who have written spontaneous blurbs. I have sprinkled them in different places like on my website and videos. They don’t all need to go on the book cover.

Nice words are nice words. No matter where they go.

(Readers, please feel free to chime with any questions or other blurbely words of wisdom.)

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Talker 25, The Evolution of a Kick Butt Cover

Holy Hell!

A Kick Butt Cover

I know the expression is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but we do. We just do. That’s why anyone in the publishing biz from writers to editors to sales and marketing folk will tell you a great cover will sell a book. Particularly a debut book. For debut authors, a great cover will mean the difference between turning off girl readers, attracting boy readers, looking too childish as well as a whole host of perils that writers making black marks on a white page never think about.

Joshua McCune’s debut young adult novel TALKER 25 has a great cover. No. A kick butt cover. Today, on the launch week of TALKER 25, Paul Zakris, Art Director at Greenwillow Books, is joining Emu’s Debuts to talk about how the Talker 25 cover evolved and why he loves it as much as we do.

Paul Zakris

Paul Zakris

Zakris has been designing children’s books for almost twenty-five years. Twelve years ago, Virginia Duncan, vice president and publisher of Greenwillow Books, recruited him to be the art director at Greenwillow Books where he oversees everything from board books to young adult novels. “Because Greenwillow is a boutique imprint, I do see everything,” says Zakris. “I’m not in on the acquisitions meetings but I do hear about manuscripts soon after they are acquired.”

As soon as Duncan gave him the manuscript, Zakris loved TALKER 25. “It’s my kind of book. Sci-fi, dystopian, action adventure with a dark side. A future with dragons in the world and a government cover up. What’s not to love? I like that it’s a boy book with a lot of action. But it’s gritty and dark with a female heroine.”

“Once we’ve acquired a book, we have a jacket strategy meeting pretty early on,” says Zakris. “That’s when we meet with the publisher and head of sales and marketing and we talk about what we want to show. Do we want a character cover? Which one? The girl? Or do we want to focus on the love interest? Or maybe we want to go with something a bit more iconic? We pretty much bring every idea to the table.”

Zakris says he initially focused on the characters. “I went with a tough girl and the three dragon colors.” But the group felt like focusing on a girl might skew the appeal away from boys. “Once I had that feedback, I knew we were headed into a more iconic direction. Except we couldn’t put a dragon or even a dragon’s eye on the cover because dragons on the cover signal middle grade and this is definitely a teen book.”

Sammy Yuen

Sammy Yuen

At this point, Zakris decided to bring in one of the best designers of iconic covers in the business: Sammy Yuen (Remember the cover of Ellen Hopkins’ cover CRANK? That was Sammy Yuen.) “I oversee a lot of freelance designers,” says Zakris. “I may get to start on a project but because we are small house, I have to reach out to many designers. This kind of collaboration is one of the many things I love about my job.”

Zakris gave Yuen the TALKER 25 manuscript, a summary and a few guidelines. “I told him we wanted it to be gritty with kind of a military aspect but also incorporate dragons. He worked on it for a few months and came back with six or seven versions with twenty or thirty comps.”

Yuen nailed it. The logo had a military feel. With a dragon in it. And the distressed metal was the perfect background to suggest grit and war and darkness.

Because the cover was so extraordinary, Zakris looked for other ways to make it pop. “We printed it on foil. In other words, we did four-color print but accentuated with foil so it pops even more. As a result, the distressed metal has more depth and grit. I think the jacket conveys cool and serious at the same time.”

Once the cover was done, Zakris got busy with the interior design elements. He carried the distressed metal background through the section breaks. Also the first word of each chapter links to the logo style. “I also wanted the type to be more adult looking, smaller but still readable. I wanted the font to be high tech looking. The chapter breaks are simple black numbers. It has a really clean look.” Yuen has begun work designing the second book of TALKER 25.  “Sammy has all the elements to play with. It has to relate to TALKER 25 but also be different.”

Who gets final say over a cover design? Is it the art director or the editor or the head of sales and marketing? “Actually,” says Zakris. “Everyone has to be in agreement. There’s a real back and forth in our process. We want everyone to be excited. We want sales and marketing to go to Barnes & Noble with a book cover that they like because it makes it easier for them to sell the book. But all of us want the cover to be great because we think the book is great.”

We, over here at Emu’s Debuts, think this cover kicks some serious butt, Paul Zakris and Sammy Yuen. So go ahead, world, judge this book by its cover because the story that Joshua McCune tells in TALKER 25 follows through on the promise.

Remember: Comment on any post this week, Monday thru Thursday, to be entered to win a signed hardback copy. The winner will be announced on Friday.

You can find Talker 25 online at IndieboundAmazon, BN.com, or at your local bookstore.

 

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Launch

Faith Redux

Last month, I wrote a post about faith, which told a recent story about a particular act of faith in my journey as a writer. This post addresses an earlier time in my journey. It is for writers who haven’t had The Call and might not have an agent. It is for all of us who sit down, face the blank page and keep going.

A few years ago, friend and fellow EMLA client Liz Scanlon sent me her annual family Valentine’s card. It was a picture of her girls about ready to climb onto to a zip line in Costa Rica. The phrase underneath the picture said, “Leap and the net shall appear.” I kept this card on my fridge for a long time. Everyday, as I made my tea, before I went to sit down at the computer, I would look at it. I didn’t have any cognitive thought about it. But on some level, I think the thought comforted me and guided me as I took a leap each day as a writer.

No agents were knocking on my door. No editors were reading my manuscripts. At the time, I think I was enrolled at VCFA and I leaped every time I sat down at the computer unsure of what to write, but writing just the same, page after page because that’s what I had signed up to do. That’s what was expected. That’s what you do as a writer every time you face the blank page. Leap.

But I couldn’t do it without faith.

Faith is what gets me to sit down with the blank page. Faith gets me to leap with the smallest wing of an idea or character. Faith that what I have to say matters. Faith that the words will come. The story will come.

I am in the middle of that act of faith now. Prewriting and finding my way into a story and its characters. I have some ideas but I am resisting the ideas and listening to the characters instead. For some darn reason, one is writing poetry to me. What I notice about the poems is that they have energy and I feel energetic when I write them. I have no idea if they will remain but their spareness is working right now. And they help me stay away from the idea of the story. Yeah, ideas get a little preachy and ponderous. For now, I need to stay inside the skin of the characters and write from there.

Faith. The blank page is such a bold move. Only by putting the words down do we create the net. Only then can we see what the heck we’re trying to get at, and find, as per Tim Wynne-Jones, the gems that have washed up on the shores of the page. In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King says the first draft is telling yourself the story. After that you can look and see what’s there. Right now, in this prewriting phase, I have to have faith that I will get to a first draft.

Leap and the net shall appear.

index

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FAITH

Okay, I swear this happened.

I am driving to Spec’s to buy a really expensive bottle of champagne to share with Gail Allen, my friend and employer of fifteen years, because we were finally going to celebrate my book contract.

That’s what you would have seen if you were recording my movements with a video camera: a woman driving, parking the car and going into a store.

What you couldn’t see was the debate going on in my mind: I am wondering if it is time to leave this job in order to devote myself more fully to the job of being a writer. For more years than I can count, I have juggled three part-time jobs plus being a single mother plus writing. One part of me said this contract was a huge yes and adding it to pile of things I did might not be in my (or the book’s) best interest. Another part of me countered with how I had added in pursuing my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts successfully so I should be able to add in launching a book and writing the next one, right? It was a ping pong match in my head. Should I let it go? Should I stay?

After purchasing the champagne, I got back in the car and, in an effort to tune out the mental gymnastics, turned the radio on. A man with a French accent was speaking:

“I leave the balancing pole. I approach the edge. I step over the beam. I put my left foot on the cable. The weight of my body raised on my right leg, anchored to the flank of the building. Shall I ever so slightly shift my weight to the left, my right leg will be unburdened, my right foot will freely meet the wire. An inner howl assails me. The wild longing to flee. But it is too late. The wire is waiting decisively. My other foot sets itself onto the cable. Faith is what replaces doubt in my dictionary.

“It’s interesting, because when I put one foot on the wire, I have the faith, the certitude that I will ppactually perform the last step. If not, I will run away and hide in cowardice, you know. So you cannot have a project, a goal if you don’t have faith. If not, it will be like, oh, I hope one day, you know, the success will fall from the sky and, you know, I’ll be there to receive it. It doesn’t work like that, in my opinion.”

Philippe Petit talked to me the entire drive to Gail’s house.

By the time we uncorked the champagne and held the glasses towards each other, my foot was on the wire. Gail toasted my perseverance and dedication and told me how my journey is an inspiration. We took a sip. We hugged. She had been a single mother, gone to graduate school, created her own business. She knew what working hard toward a goal and reaching it means.

I said, “I have to stop working for you.”

My other foot left the flank of the building. Just as Petit had predicted, I heard the inner howl. “Take it back. Don’t leave.”

I kept silent. Gail and I looked at each other. The only sound was the bubbles fizzing in our glasses.

Holy crap. What had I done? Fifteen years, I had managed her practice. We had become friends. I didn’t want to leave her. The comfort of her practice. The steady income. I howled inside.

Then Gail laughed. I laughed. We cried. If someone had been running the video camera, they probably would have set it down in disgust and told us to figure out what scene we were playing. Or maybe they would have hung in there and taped every second of this most extraordinary of human moments: when we feel about fifteen emotions at once, when we get bigger because we feel so much, when we hold onto each other and know that whatever happens, if we expand, if we love, if we don’t contract in fear, all will be well. All will be well.

For next three hours, we laughed and cried. We danced on the wire between our old lives and whatever lay ahead.

petit

If you want to check out the full talk by Philippe Petit on the TED Radio Hour at National Public Radio. Click here.

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Cover Reveal: EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN

As my fellow emu Joshua McCune so correctly pointed out in his cover reveal post, books are judged by their covers. Sure, word of mouth, blog buzz and personal recommendations can get readers past a misleading cover but that first look can bring out the Judgey McJudger in all of us.

When Joy Peskin, my editor at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, emailed me the cover of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN in December, she was very circumspect, giving a lot of props to the designer Elizabeth Clark, saying how much the sales and marketing folks like it and ending with “I’ll hope you’ll feel the same.” Then she attached this cover:

EOTNS_hires-600x900

Fortunately, I was sitting at my desk when the email came through and as soon as I opened it, I gasped (a wow kind of gasp), hit reply and said, “OMIGOSHOMIGOSHOMIGOSHOMIGOSH….WOW…I love it…omigosh.”

Yeah, I know, way to be articulate, right? But I’m so glad I did that because Joy wrote back instantly and shared that showing authors their covers is her #1 most terrifying part of her job and receiving my email in response is the # 1 most awesome part of her job.

So what do I love about it? Well, I love the boy. I love the ghostliness of his image since the book is about a boy who disappears. I love the landscape because it is nearly exactly what I pictured as I wrote the book. I love the abstract symbols of connection because so many of the characters in the book struggle with belonging and disconnection. I have no idea about the subliminal magic of typeface but I love the way NOT SEEN ironically pops off the cover.

Thank you Elizabeth Clark for designing the perfect cover. I was lucky enough to see some of the versions that the team at FSGBYR had rejected and all I can say is I am one lucky author because these folks who hardly know me are really looking out for my book.

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN is due out September 16, 2014.

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