Author Archives: Megan Morrison

About Megan Morrison

Megan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

I Flit, I Float, I Fleetly Flee, I Fly

This is my last post as an EMU.

I’ve spent two years in this group, and I’ve done some bizarre and wonderful things. I’ve sung opera in Viking garb for Adi Rule’s STRANGE SWEET SONG. I’ve made a Where Is Tommy Smythe? news video for Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN. I’ve photographed Flat Gladys reviewing airplane food on a cross-country flight, as well as written an Amazeballs recipe for Tara Dairman’s ALL FOUR STARS. I’ve attended Laurie Thompson’s BE A CHANGEMAKER launch, and I’ve watched her words directly influence the actions of students in my classroom.

During my time here, so many incredible books have been launched into the world. I’ve collected stories for Luke Reynolds’s THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT, Maria Gianferrari’s PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW, Laurie’s MY DOG IS THE BEST, Susan Vaught’s FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, and Amy Finnegan’s NOT IN THE SCRIPT. I’ve cheered for Jennifer Bertman’s BOOK SCAVENGER, Christine Hayes’s MOTHMAN’S CURSE, Tamara Ellis Smith’s ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE, Kevan Atteberry’s BUNNIES!!!, Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL, Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25, Laurie Thompson’s EMMANUEL’S DREAM, and Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT.

It’s been an honor to participate in such important moments in my fellow authors’ lives. I’ve also had the very keen pleasure of being celebrated during my own launch week by this kind, generous, and intelligent group. I am grateful for their support and proud to call them my colleagues.

I’ll miss being part of this amazing mob of fledglings. I wish I had some wise parting words, but the truth is that life hasn’t changed since publishing my first book. I’m still teaching full time, still a mom, still a wife, still writing, still doubting what I write on some days and feeling great about it on others. GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL is out there in the world, and that’s nothing short of a dream come true. But I’m still just me, and GROUNDED is just one book in the Great Big Book Pile.

What has changed is the “I’m A Writer” conversation. You know the one I mean, because every struggling author has had it more times than they wish to count. It goes like this:

Other Person: So what do you do?

Not-Yet-Published Author: I’m a teacher. (Hesitates) And a writer.

Other Person: A writer. Really. What have you written?

Not-Yet-Published Author: (Awkwardly) Well, I’m working on a book, and I’m trying to get it published…

Other Person: (Barely resists rolling eyes)

It is the worst. People’s expressions change. They look at you like you’re worthy of pity. Like it’s kind of sad how you still have a dream. You immediately wish you hadn’t said anything about the writing, because you are a writer, damn it, and you have been one for years, but now you just feel bad about it. It’s hard to explain to a product-obsessed world that your work is legitimate, even without a finished product to show for it, and you just haven’t had your stroke of good luck yet.

I no longer have to dread that conversation. Now it goes like this:

Other Person: So what do you do?

Published Author: I’m a teacher and an author.

Other Person: An author. Really. What have you written?

Published Author: (Points to solid evidence) That book right there.

Other Person: (Clearly surprised) Oh! Wow. You know, I have an idea for a book…

So while nothing else may have changed, that has changed. I wish every hardworking writer might experience that change. It’s extremely satisfying and much easier on the old psyche.

And now, off I go into the future, whatever that may hold. Book two in the Tyme series will come out next fall, and I’m in the process of drafting book three. This year will be my seventh as a middle-school teacher. My husband and I are expecting our second child in December. Writing goes on. Life goes on.

Thank you for having me here, EMUs and friends. It has been a real privilege.

 

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Megan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, published April 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. It has garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, as well as being named an Amazon Best Book of 2015 So Far and one of the Seattle Times’ summer reading picks. Book two in the Tyme series will be published in 2016. For more information, visit meganmorrison.net

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Farewell, Thankfulness

Living Life Looney ~ Let’s Welcome THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT!

First order of business: To announce the winner of Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT launch-week giveaway. Congratulations Rachel, you’re the lucky winner! To claim your fabulous reward, please e-mail Penny directly at penny.klostermann@gmail.com – and do it soon, or a dragon may swallow you. 

And now, drumroll please… We’re kicking off yet another fantastic EMU debut! Last Tuesday, Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel hit the shelves – and this week, we’re celebrating!

THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT is a remarkable book. Here’s a little about it, from Luke’s web site:
LOONEY EXPERIMENT coverAtticus Hobart couldn’t feel lower. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, he is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe—just maybe—discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.”

Mr. Looney knows – and so does Luke Reynolds – that being true to yourself takes a special kind of courage. To honor that courage, we EMUs have looked back on our own lives for moments when we have lived life “Looney” and taken personal risks in order to be true to ourselves.

Janet Fox confesses that her biggest Looney leap…

VCFA“was when I decided to go back to school for my MFA in writing (from Vermont College of Fine Arts). Why looney? I had a teenage son, a husband who traveled all over the world, and no income to pay for those two years. My sweet friend Kathi Appelt said, “Do it. The money will follow.” Well, it did: my dad, who I thought had only enough left to live on, gave me a legacy gift that covered the whole thing. Bless you, Dad. Bless you, Kathi. And – leap of faith!”

Carole Gerber lived life Looney when…

OhioState“I left a secure teaching job to return to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State. At that time, the job market for journalists was flat. Fortunately, I received a graduate assistantship that paid my tuition, and I earned a small stipend writing press releases for the OSU Department of Communications. Thanks to the contacts I made and the experience I racked up, I was also able to find a job in my field immediately after graduating.”

 

Jason Gallaher tells his tale of a recent risk…

Brony2“The biggest risk I took to be true to myself actually happened just a few short weeks ago at our annual EMLA retreat. In front of all my writing sisters and brothers, I finally came out of the closet as a Brony—a grown man who watches My Little Pony—by wearing an adult-sized My Little Pony onesie (it was of Rainbow Dash, for those of you familiar with the show). I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and now I can express my Brony ways with pride! Neeeeeeigh!!!!”

Penny Parker Klostermann reflects on making her Looney dream a reality…

There Was an Old Dragon cover“I think taking the leap into getting published was my Living Life Looney. I dreamt of it for years but made excuses for not being true to my dream. I know that had a lot to do with fear. Probably the biggest step I took was sending my work to my now critique group when they were searching for a new member. That was scary but it made me feel like I was taking a serious step. After being accepted I knew I’d made a commitment to other writers and not just to myself. There was no looking back!”

 

Laurie Thompson knows that going for what you want can feel pretty Looney…

ThisIBM“When I was in college, one of my best friends got an internship at IBM. When I heard about what she would be doing there, I was so jealous. I hadn’t planned on going on an internship that semester, but it sounded like the perfect job. I called directory assistance to get the manager’s home phone number, and called him–at home on a Sunday–to tell him how much I wanted the job and why I’d be the perfect candidate and to beg him to consider hiring me, too. He refused to look at my resume or check my references or anything. He said that anyone who wanted the job that badly and had that much chutzpah was an easy hire, even though he could only think of a few months’ worth of work for me at the time. Shortly after I arrived, however, one of his full-time employees had to go on extended medical leave for most of the project, and I was there to step in to some degree and help keep things on schedule in her absence. I ended up staying a full year, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It was also a valuable lesson in not being afraid to ask for what you want!”

Maria Gianferrari gets Looney when animal safety is at stake…

2787614567_3fbd79a560_b“Writing is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken—rejection is scary, so I’m proud that I continued to persevere. But I can think of an incident, perhaps not the biggest risk, but another that I was proud of myself for when I was in 5thgrade. My mother had to drop something off for a church event at a classmate’s house, and two of my male classmate friends were in the yard preparing to move from shooting targets with a BB gun, to shooting some birds and squirrels. I was a shy, non-confrontational kid, but as an animal lover, I was not going to let them harm anything while I was around, so I kept shooing them away. They were so mad at me, and kept yelling, but I didn’t care.”

Finally, Tamara Ellis Smith’s wise words on Living Life Looney…

MFA“Probably one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken was deciding to go back to school.  I had two little kids at the time, so making the commitment to take two years to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults, was a big decision—for me and my whole family.  I had this deep intuition, though, that it was exactly what I needed to do, and I am forever grateful that I chose to listen to that.  (I am also forever and beyond grateful to Derek, my husband, for being so supportive of my choice too.) It felt like a big risk to spend all that time (and take out all those loans) on something I wanted so intensely.  The stakes were high, you know?  It also felt like a big risk, socially.  Until then, I had avoided situations that would place me with new people in new environments because my social anxiety was so great.  Deciding to go to grad school was one of the first times I recognized that my desire could be bigger than my fear.

The other thing that ended up being so cool, and magical—I had no idea how I would go away for two weeks every semester for the residencies. How would I find childcare so that Derek could continue to work? How would I afford that?  A few months before my first residency I re-connected with my best friend from my hometown. She was looking for a way, in essence, to restart her life. She wanted to come back to Vermont. She wanted to ground herself there. But she needed to figure out a way to get back.  She ended up coming to live with us, and she watched the kids during those two weeks over the two years I was in school.  It was amazing. She had a place in which to hunker down, my kids had the best “fake mom” ever, Derek got to know this dear friend of mine, and we got to reconnect.  She ended up living with us for over five years!

Identifying your deepest desires and taking those risks—you never know what magical things will come!”

Join the Looney ranks! Comment below and share a time when you were courageously Looney, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel: THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Or, if you just can’t wait for your copy (we definitely can’t!), click any of these links to purchase THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT now:

Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Faith, Launch

PENNY & JELLY and the Weird, Wacky, Wonderful Talents!

Happy, happy book birthday to the inside-and-out beautiful Maria Gianferrari and her perfectly darling debut, PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW! From the Penny & Jelly web site: “This young and funny picture book showcases the soon-to-be star of her school talent show: Penny. With a little help from her dog Jelly, Penny realizes that she and Jelly have a unique talent to share – unlike any other in the show.”

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What I love most about this book is that Penny is so resilient. She can’t immediately figure out what her talent is, so she exhausts every weird, wonderful, and wacky talent she can think of – and even when those talents don’t turn out to be so hot, she never stays beaten for long! She and Jelly are a great example of how to enjoy the creative process – and each other – without getting too hung up on results.

To celebrate Penny & Jelly’s birthday, the EMUs are here to share our own weird, wonderful, and wacky talents – and it turns out that we have quite a few!

Crybaby

That’s right, kid. Laurie cancelled Firefly with her mind.

Laurie Thompson “can go right back to sleep after getting woken up in the wee (or not so wee) hours of morning (useful when mothering small children… or pets). I can force new television series off the air simply by liking them. I can apparently go entire days without doing anything useful whatsoever. And I can (mostly) disguse my overwhelming shyness, extreme introversion, and social anxiety… at least for short periods of time.”

Penny Parker Klostermann’s “weird, wonderful, wacky talent is singing opera. But only to one song. And the one song isn’t meant to be sung in opera, but it’s so much fun when it is. The song is Sad Movies (make me cry), originally sung by Sue Thompson.  I shared this song opera-style at a college social. It wasn’t a talent show like in Penny and Jelly…but I think it was a hit in a weird, wonderful, wacky sort of way.”

SewerGrate

Hey, Janet, a little help here. I dropped my wedding ring down this grate…

 Janet Fox is a Finder of Lost Things

 

Christine Hayes “is pretty good at walking into a thrift store or flea market and finding stuff worth reselling. I kind of have an eye for interesting and unusual decor pieces, and can usually judge on the spot if an item is overpriced or if there’s money to be made. Of course taste is subjective, and a lot of the stuff ends up in my house, so it’s not exactly a profitable talent. But it’s a fun one!”

 

Handwriting

This guy was probably hungry. Or a murderer.

Carole Gerber is “an amateur graphologist and can tell a lot about a person by examining his or her handwriting. Years ago, I wrote a paperback for children titled “Secrets Your Handwriting Reveals.” I got interested in the science (it actually is a science) of graphology because my dear, departed mother-in-law was a certified graphologist. She was sometimes hired by companies to analyze handwriting of potential hires to sort out those who showed undesirable traits -i.e., dishonesty, mental disorders, etc. My husband used to send her his girlfriends’ handwriting when he was in high school and college to get her “take” on what they were really like. I also showed her samples of my friends’ handwriting and was astonished at her accurate insights into people she had never met. Her skill intrigued me and I obsessively studied library books on the topic. My interest has waned over the years but I can still get a quick “read”on people by examining a few written sentences and a signature.”

Pink

Not this kind of bird.

Megan Morrison “can whistle like a bird. I don’t mean that I have a beautiful, sing-song whistle; I mean that I can whistle in such a way that it confuses people – and sometimes cats – into looking around for a bird. I do not know why or how I developed this talent, but so it is. I used to list it on my acting resume under Special Skills, and sometimes in auditions directors would call me on it. ‘Whistle like a bird,’ they would say, and then I would do it, and they would sit back and say ‘Huh,’ because by George, I had done it. Somehow, this delightful trick never landed me a Broadway role… but my 4-year-old son thinks it’s very funny that ‘a bird lives in my mouth’.”

 

MLP

Sing it, Adam.

Adam Shaughnessy’s talent is that “I sometimes have trouble remembering what I had for dinner the night before, but I have an uncanny ability to remember the theme song lyrics for almost any show or cartoon from the 1980s and can sing them upon demand. Of course, there are very few demands… possibly because “the ability to sing” does not also appear on anyone’s list of my talents.

TamPic

Tam’s husband enables her with peanut-butter Valentines.

 

Tamara Ellis Smith says that “the one talent that I have been cultivating for as long as I can remember is my ability to put peanut butter on just about any food.  I practice every day—holidays and weekends included—and I have gotten pretty darn good at it, if I don’t say so myself.  🙂  I have peanut butter mixed into my oatmeal for breakfast, on apples for a snack, in the sauce I pour over vegetables for dinner.  I like it on pancakes, bananas, celery, tofu, to name a few more foods. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.  (The top of the jar?!)  Don’t even get me started on desserts… I have worked hard to strengthen my fingers to they can reach all of the way to the bottom of the jar, and I have repeatedly scraped the inside of peanut butter containers so that I know how to get every last bit of it out.”

Finally, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman has this to say:

I was drawing a blank on what my unique talents might be, so I decided to ask my three-year-old son for his input. This is the conversation we had:

Me: What is something Mama is really good at?
Son stares out car window, thinking . . . thinking . . .
Son: Ice cream.
Me: Ice cream? I’m good at ice cream?
Son: Yes.
Silence as I ponder this. I don’t make ice cream, and it’s probably been a month since we’ve had ice cream together. I decide to try again.
Me: You know how you’re really good at playing with your trains and doing Play-Doh? What is something Mama’s good at?
Son: Ice cream.
So there you have it. That’s my weird and wacky talent straight from the source of someone who spends a lot of time with me: Ice cream. And he might be onto something because shortly after that conversation, this happened:
IceCream

Next time I’ll say that her talent is “Disneyland”.

 

All in all, the EMUs are a mob of wonderfully wacky weirdos, and just like Maria Gianferrari and her fearless protagonist Penny, we are not afraid to show it.

Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a signed copy of PENNY & JELLY – or some PENNY & JELLY swag ! You can purchase it for yourself and everyone you know by visiting the web site and choosing the buying link that’s best for you.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Picture books

Laurie Thompson is the BEST.

Sometimes we pick up a book because it simply looks excellent, and sometimes we pick up a book because we want to support an author who happens to be an excellent human being.

Laurie Ann Thompson head shot

She is also extra pretty.

Today, we can do both.

Laurie Ann Thompson is wonderful. Her debut picture book, MY DOG IS THE BEST, is wonderful too. She and illustrator Paul Schmid have created a gem that’s full of charm, heart, and huggable warmth – much like Laurie herself. Today, we celebrate not only MY DOG IS THE BEST, but also the bestness of its author, whose kindness and guidance has helped every single one of us Emus to become more sure-footed on this publishing journey. Everyone lucky enough to know Laurie is ready and willing to sing her praises. Here’s why.

Lindsey Lane

Laurie is community. She believes in it. She fosters it. She creates it. Whether I have a bumbling tech question or a crisis of confidence or a query about the politics of social media, she is ALWAYS there to help and advise. Her generosity of spirit is beyond compare. Laurie Thompson is the best. Really. I feel lucky to know her.

 Ammi-Joan Paquette

Laurie is an incredible multi-tasker: fiction PBs? Non-fiction PBs? Non-fiction for teens? You name it, she can do it. She’s organized and creative and her research skills—and attention to detail—never cease to amaze me. What’s more, she does it all with a smile and warm glow about her that just can’t be faked. Laurie Thompson is the real deal!

Tamara Ellis Smith

I’m not sure I can do brief when it comes to describing supportive and Laurie Thompson in the same breath. Laurie has been such a wonderful support to me personally, both emotionally (with such kind words about my book deal and my first EMU blog post and and and… the list goes on) and logistically (giving me technical pointers and book launch ideas and and and…THAT list goes on too!)  And the thing is…I know she is this way for so many people.  Laurie is just simply kind hearted and articulate.  At her core. Which is a very lovely, very unique combination!  🙂  She is a gentle, smart leader and a creative, intuitive soul.  I am grateful to know her.  (And I will never forget FINALLY meeting her in Vermont at the 2014 EMLA retreat.  it was a little like coming home.)

Christine Hayes

When I was nervous about joining EMU’s Debuts, Laurie welcomed me in and answered my many questions with kindness and patience. Throughout my time here she has been a steady presence: calm, smart, down-to-earth, supportive, super talented…I could go on and on! My favorite memory, though, is going horseback riding with Laurie and her family during the EMLA retreat in Montana. Although my back was mad at me for a few days afterward, I will never forget the spectacular scenery and the unique opportunity to chat with Laurie and learn first-hand what a fantastic human being she is.

Penny Parker Klostermann

Laurie Thompson is the BEST because she’s an expert at spreading EMU love. She’s a HUGE supporter of EMUs, as well as children’s authors in general. Luckily, she’s always there to answer technical WordPress questions. Laurie’s an EMU guru and we’re going to miss her terribly when she moves on to the EMU Emeriti Lounge. Love you, Laurie!

Maria Gianferrari

Laurie Thompson is the BEST—period .  I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Laurie in person, and yet, through all of our online exchanges, I feel very connected to her. I think it’s a combination of things: we have a lot in common, but she also just generally exudes warmth and kindness, and that’s not an easy thing to do in the cyber world, let alone in the real one. Laurie’s books, especially Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream, are so inspirational and moving. They make me want to be a better person. And My Dog is the Best is sweet and funny. I really look forward to the day when we’ll finally meet in person!

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers

Laurie Thompson is the best! I met Laurie about two years ago and was immediately impressed by how kind she is. There are people who preach kindness (which is good!), and then there are people like Laurie, who embody it in a hundred ways each day. And that’s the best.

Mylisa Larsen

Laurie Thompson is the best because she can write fiction and nonfiction, long form and short form, she can herd emus with grace and good humor, she can steer people through trauma-with-technology crises with endless patience, and she does all this with a smile and a sense of humor. She may just be the best of the best.

Kevan Atteberry

Laurie Thompson is the best. As a support group member she is supportive (natch) and enthusiastic and so damn smart! As a friend she is also supportive and enthusiastic and caring. Her cheer is contagious. She has the best smile, the best laugh and is always a pleasure to be around. Laurie has a heart that not only sings, but takes requests.

Megan Morrison

Laurie Thompson is the best because she is truly kind. When she finds good in the world, she happy cries. When someone is flailing, her first instinct is to help. I wrote a whole post based on her helpful spirit. Laurie was the person who took me under her wing at my first Kid Lit Drinks Night and introduced me to everyone so that I wouldn’t have to stand around feeling new and awkward. She’s a class act from the old school, who promptly sends handwritten thank-you notes when they are called for (I know this because she sent one to my mother that surprised and delighted her). She also genuinely supports kids in their endeavors. One of my students is devoted to another of Laurie’s books, BE A CHANGEMAKER, and Laurie has sent him supportive e-mails, encouraging swag, and links to grant applications throughout the school year. Truly, she is outstanding.

Laurie Ann Thompson, congratulations on this debut, and thank you for being you.

 

Laurie’s debut fiction picture book, MY DOG IS THE BEST, is available at University Book Store, Amazon, Powell’s, and Indiebound.

Laurie herself, unlike her book, unfortunately cannot be cloned and distributed nationwide. But if you ever get a chance to attend one of her author visits or to meet her at SCBWI, you should take the opportunity.

You should also comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of MY DOG IS THE BEST!

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Filed under Launch

Heading Back, Trying Again

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Tejas

Last week, my husband and I took our young son down to visit his relatives in Texas. We flew into Dallas first, then boarded another plane to fly way down south to McAllen. Air travel is tedious in the first place. Add a small child to the mix and it becomes a high-energy challenge to make sure said child is kept busy enough not to annoy everybody else on the plane. When we began our final descent into McAllen, we were relieved, to say the least. Our uncomfortable slog was almost done. Soon we would collect our bags, check into the hotel, and start the vacation.

We were flying over the landing strip – we could barely see the runway beneath us, through a thick mist of low clouds – when the plane pulled sharply up and began to climb. The captain’s voice crackled over the PA. “They’re telling us not to land, due to weather conditions. We’re going to try to divert to Corpus Christi. Don’t worry, folks, we have plenty of gas.”

Ugh.

We got to Corpus. Same thing again. Bad weather. Couldn’t land. “We’re going to have to head back to Dallas and try again later.”

Malcolm

My son, four years ago, immediately after his very first long plane ride. “That was really stupid, Mommy,” his adorable face seems to say.

NOOOOOOOOOOO.

The plane turned around. My son, who had believed he was about to escape from confinement and get sneaked lots of pieces of early Easter candy by his loving relatives, now had to sit through not one but two more plane rides. He threw himself to the floor in front of his seat and cried “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO DALLAS!” (Since this was exactly how every adult on the plane wanted to react but could not, nobody minded the display.)

The reason I share this story is that, right now, I have to revise a long novel in short order. I’ve already revised this sucker a couple of times, but it still requires some pretty extensive rebooting, and frankly? I don’t want to go to Dallas. I didn’t anticipate that I would have to go all the way back to Dallas. Corpus Christi, sure, a quick diversion – but back from whence I came? NOOOOOOOOOOO. *throws fit on cabin floor* See, to me, the story seemed to be landing beautifully. I could see the runway fine. I didn’t know there was a problem. But as it turns out, there’s some bad weather, so if I really want to reach the destination, then there’s just nothing for it but to circle back and try again.

The worst part is, now that the bad weather has been pointed out to me, I can see it. There it is. Yep. I do have to go back to &*$#ing Dallas. And while I’m sure that, deep down, I do have enough gas to get me there, it doesn’t feel like it right now. My debut is coming out in two weeks (insert ONE MILLION HOORAYS!), which is a huge and exciting big deal that has me completely off kilter. I’ve found it impossible to keep up my usual levels of productivity.

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A Christmas gift from one of my students, since I am always after them to revise. Lately, every day, this thing mocks me from the cupboard.

Luckily, there are other people with me on this flight. Just seeing them there and knowing that they understand exactly how I feel is enough to keep me sane. The lovely and talented Tara Dairman, whose debut novel launched last year, was in Seattle a few weeks ago, so a few of us EMLA folks in the area met up for dinner. Being out with Tara, Laurie Thompson, Jeanne Ryan, and Trish Toney Lawrence was delightful and bracing. At one point in the conversation, I admitted that I’m just not writing the way I usually do, and it’s really scaring me. Tara (who is now working on the third book in her series) replied, “That’s normal. On the Fourteeners board, there was a whole thread about how none of us could write anymore, now that our first books were launching. It’ll pass, you’ll be fine.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I know that she’s right. Just yesterday, I found myself mentally problem solving some of the manuscript’s biggest issues, and I was excited about the possible solutions. So while it might be uncomfortable and tedious, I’ll get there. Sure, I might have to go back and sit in the airport. Eat a soggy, twelve-dollar sandwich. Stay a night at the Ramada and then climb back into the same clothes again tomorrow.

But I’ll get there.

HiRes_Morrison_6814_crop Megan Morrison is a mom, a middle-school teacher, and the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. Visit her at meganmorrison.net.

 

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Filed under Editing and Revising, Writing

From the Files of FOOTER DAVIS (and Friends)

Susan Vaught’s disarming, delightful, devourable middle-grade debut features a trio of young people who are truly worth spending time with. Luckily, in FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, we get a chance to know these wonderful characters intimately, as Susan lets us peek inside their journals. We get to read Footer’s school papers, complete with doodles, tangential thinking, and teacher commentary. We watch over her shoulder as she lists and crosses out information that’s key to her uncovering the truth about the fire. We keep track of Peavine’s detective journal, where he faithfully records all suspect interviews and makes his personal observations in the form of stage directions. We even get glimpses into Angel’s astronaut journal, when she puts her oar into the investigation.

Susan so deftly uses these devices to draw us ever deeper into the world of Bugtussle that it got us thinking: What other books do we love that make use of characters’ journals and notebooks as central elements of the stories?

From the nifty notebook of Penny Parker Klostermann:

I loved THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. The main character, Lennie, writes poems on scraps of paper, lollipop wrappers, to-go cups, etc. The poems are interwoven in the story to give readers a glimpse of Lennie’s emotional journey as she deals with the untimely death of her sister. The inclusion of the poetry is powerful and moving.

In EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane, main character, Tommy, disappears. We learn about Tommy from other characters that answer the sheriff’s questions and speculate about his disappearance. But Lane also includes excerpts from Tommy’s journal which add to the mystery of his disappearance.

From the dangerous diary of Mylisa Larsen:

One of my favorite uses of a notebook in a book is Vida’s (“My public calls me Velveeta.”) letters to Calvin in Bluefish.  You’ll have a couple chapters of narration and then you’ll read one of Velveeta’s letters and getting to see what happens to Vida from the outside (narration) and the inside (the letters) is fascinating.

From the marvelous missives of Megan Morrison:

Right now, I’m rereading MONSTER, by Walter Dean Myers – a powerful book about a young, black male who is on trial for murder. The protagonist, Steve Harmon, deals with the surreality of his situation by setting down every word and action of the experience as if it’s happening in a film. The book flips between the courtroom scenes, which are formatted exactly like a screenplay, and Steve’s personal journal, scrawled in his messy handwriting. The journal is where Steve becomes vulnerable and emotional, processing the horror of his situation on a more personal level. The journal is where he deals with the fact that, after court is finished each day, he has to face the realities of jail, where he might well be stuck forever.

From the fabulous files of Maria Gianferrari:

One of the most ingenious ways I’ve seen visuals incorporated into a story, literally, is in Jennifer L. Holm’s Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff. As the subtitle suggests, newspaper clippings, to-do lists, report cards, post-it notes, school assignments, even police blotters about garden gnomes and wheelchairs gone missing (thanks to Ginny’s older juvenile delinquent brother) are woven into the fabric of the story.

I also love the way Abigail, the protagonist in Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s Always, Abigail narrates the story through a variety of letters, both sent, and un-sent as well as her favorite to-do lists. Cavanaugh also does a similar thing to great effect in This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, where homeschooled Ratchet tells the story in journal form where she writes poems and completes her school assignments, making it an emotionally engaging and fast-paced read.

From the authorial archives of Laurie Ann Thompson:

The first one that comes to mind for me would have to be the delightful Ellie McDoodle series, starting with Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel, by Ruth McNally Barshaw. Here’s a bit of that first book’s description:
Twelve-year-old Ellie McDougal, aka McDoodle, is a prisoner. Sentenced to a week-long camping trip with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, she is determined to hate every single minute of the experience. Thank goodness she at least has her sketch journal, in which she records all the excruciating details. Mosquito bites and trips to the Fred Moose Museum she can handle, but how will she keep her journal from falling into Er-ick the Enemy’s hands? And what will happen if-gasp-she actually starts having fun? Part graphic novel, part confessional journal, part wilderness survival guide, Ellie’s story is a treat for young campers, vacationers, or any kid looking for a great summer read.
I loved it, my sketchpad toting kid loved it, and everyone who has met Ruth can’t help but love her, too, so this one will always have a special place in my heart.

 

And finally, from the lyrical letters of Tamara Ellis Smith:

I second Ellie McDoodle!

And we all second, third, and fourth FOOTER DAVIS!

Footer Davis CvrWelcome, FOOTER, to the ranks of these unforgettable books.

 

Don’t forget, to enter the drawing for a free copy of FOOTER DAVIS MIGHT BE PROBABLY IS CRAZY, please comment on any post this week! 

You can also buy your own copy of Footer Davis at The Flying Pig BookstoreIndie BoundBarnes & Noble, or Amazon!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations

Cover Reveal – GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL

I. Love. This. Cover.

Technically, this isn’t a reveal. I’ve already posted this sucker all over the place. I couldn’t not. I can’t stop staring at it. It is awesome. It is GREEN. It is VIVID. It’s graphic and bold and fairy-tale gorgeous, and I am forever grateful to artist Iacopo Bruno and to the team at Arthur A. Levine Books and Scholastic for sending GROUNDED out into the world looking this spectacular.

grounded_cover

Hilariously, some of my students have asked me if I drew this myself.

Uh, no, kids. No, I did not. But I’m glad you think I’m made of magic. Now go and do your homework, while I sit here and stare at this cover.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28, 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blogon Twitter, or on Facebook. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under cover art, Happiness, Thankfulness

The Despair-Free Guide to Planning Your Book Launch

So you’ve written a book, and the launch of your darling debut approacheth with increasing speed. Congratulations! And welcome to hell.

If you’re like me, you innocently went searching for helpful self-marketing checklists and guides that might assist you in preparing for the big day. And then you skimmed through those checklists and choked. I’m supposed to do what now? In how long? With whose cash and time and energy? After that, you sent off a panicky, tearful e-mail to your friend and fellow author Laurie Thompson, who herself recently launched her own spectacular debut, and who promptly met you at Panera for a three-hour, no-frills, no-lies marketing session.

I’m going to pass along the fruits of our conversation, because in three hours, Laurie turned me from a hyperventilating asylum candidate into a serene debut author with a reasonable to-do list. And maybe you, like me, are mortal and get tired. Maybe you have another career. Maybe you have kids. Maybe marketing your book cannot be your full-time, or even your part-time job. And maybe the idea of going into the world and promoting yourself makes you want to die a little. So maybe you need a little soothing, a la Laurie. Here it is.

Prepare – But Don’t Despair.

You don’t have to do everything.

You don’t even have to sell your book. To anyone. As an author, your job is to write a book. Once the book is released, your job is to write another one. Your secondary job is to raise visibility, which means letting people know your book exists. You’re probably already doing that in lots and lots of ways.

When you see a list of things you could be doing, think of them as exactly that. Things you could be doing. Not things you should be doing. Pick out the ones that make sense to you and that you feel capable of tackling. Do those.

Laurie and I went through her super-maxi-extreme-ultra checklist of doom, and together we identified some things that I want to keep on my personal, sane-person list, such as:

  • Create the story around your book – your one-or-two-sentence Why – and be ready to share it. This isn’t an elevator pitch; it’s an answer to the question “Why did you write this?” or “What was your inspiration for this book?” or “What does this book mean to you?” It’s the story behind your story, and it will provide your publisher’s publicity department, as well as librarians, teachers, and booksellers, with a handy hook for generating interest in your book.
  • Make postcards and bookmarks, because they’re useful for all sorts of things. Send them to stores and libraries, or drop some off at local places. (Honestly, the mailing-list thing? I dread it. Researching to build the lists and finding the time to write hundreds of notes and print labels and apply postage… That’s all extremely daunting to me, so it’s one of those things that I’m going to do as I can, when I can. A few notes a week. I’ll target the stores I care about, and the libraries within driving distance that I might actually be able to visit.) Remember, once your book is out, it’ll be out for a while. Not everyone has to buy it on the actual launch date.
  • Make some fun swag for giveaways and launch events, if you’re doing those things. People like free stuff. Keep it cheap and thematic. Tap into your circle of talented friends and family. My brother knows how to make chainmail, so he’s creating some really neat giveaway bookmarks for me. People also like food, so cupcakes will make them happy, but swag is nice because it might rattle around in a purse or a coat pocket for a while and remind people of you.
  • Do you have an online presence? Good for you. Social media can be overwhelming, but again, you don’t have to do everything. Pick one or two things and manage them as you will. Maybe a blog and a Twitter feed. Maybe a Facebook page and your web site. Maybe just one of those things. Update at your own speed. Yes, it’s fun to be able to find authors online and see cool new fresh content on their super nifty pages, but you know what? An author’s lack of (or lackluster) media presence has never yet stopped me from buying a book I’ve heard great things about.
  • Shake your trees. Even if they are small trees and seem insignificant and not terribly fruity, go ahead and give them a shake. Your experiences and connections matter. Make a list of anyone in your life, past or present, who might support you (e.g. send a postcard to the current librarian of your old elementary school and tell them Hi, I used to go there, and I would be so thrilled to think of my book sitting on the very same shelves where I used to hide from all the other kids and cry my way through recess… Or maybe don’t do that, because that’s oversharing).
  • Make a little press kit that’s easy to give people. Quick and dirty. Your bio, your book synopsis, your contact info (and your agent’s). Get fancy with it, if you want. Or don’t.
  • Do the things you’re good at, in which you can take pleasure, and in which your genuine joy and excitement about your book will shine through. People don’t like pushy, saccharine nonsense; but they will like you. So do what’s authentic for you. I personally love using iMovie, so I had fun making my book trailer. And I love my students, so my “launch party” will actually be a library event, held within walking distance of my school, so that all my kids (who are middle-schoolers and can’t drive) can be there.

And then, once you’ve figured out the few things that matter most to you, let the rest of it go.

Now, it’s true that most publishers do expect varying amounts of self-promotion from their authors, so certain responsibilities may be handed to you, and as a professional, you’ll have to sort that out. Stuff will come up that you need to do. Stuff will fall into your lap that you ought to try to say yes to, for the sake of visibility. And some stuff – maybe even some really neat-o stuff – will come your way, if your book gets a lick of positive attention from the right source, so have your ducks in a row. All I’m saying is that if you don’t suddenly transform into a highly experienced publicist and throw over the rest of your life in order to haunt Twitter for the next six months, that’s okay.

Because you know what? The bottom line here – and it’s not exactly cheerful, but I think it’s freeing – is this: No matter how hard you throw yourself at self-marketing and promotion, it’s very hard to tell which of the checklist items will actually translate into sales. Even if you do ALL THE THINGS, you should prepare yourself for the fact that, after your launch, there may be very little fanfare. Just do what feels right. Do what you can. And make sure to enjoy it, because this is your baby, and you earned this joy. Don’t let some well-meant but soul-sucking checklist take this moment away from you.

Finally, remember that while the launch date feels enormous, it’s actually only a big deal to you and your loved ones. It’s a big splash followed by a long, leisurely, less attention-getting swim. Books take a long time to grow into their full, true readership, and that part can’t be forced (if it could, then every giant advance that a publisher gambles on would turn out to be a bestseller success). Your authentic audience will build organically over a long period of time as readers pass your book from hand to hand and give it the ultimate praise: “You have to read this.”

And then maybe, just maybe, they’ll search for you on Twitter. And maybe, if you feel like it, you’ll be there waiting.

 

This post was made possible by the gifted and generous Laurie Thompson.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28, 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Advice, Anti-Advice, Book Promotion, Launch, Panic, Promotion, Time Management

NOT IN THE SCRIPT: From Books Into Movies

Not in the Script coverIn honor of the beautiful and talented Amy Finnegan’s debut novel NOT IN THE SCRIPT, a delightful story about a tender teen romance that blossoms on the set of a TV series, we Emus are sharing our feelings on book-to-movie and book-to-TV adaptations. Which adaptations have succeeded? Which have failed? And which ones that haven’t been made yet do we wish we could stream on Netflix? (Aside from NOT IN THE SCRIPT, of course!)

Rebecca VanSlyke
I know that they already made a movie out of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, but I think it could have been SO much better! Although I loved the choice of Anne Hathaway for Ella, they took too many liberties with subplots that weren’t in the book, like Mandy’s boyfriend, Benny (who was turned into a talking book?), the whole character of Char’s cruel Uncle Edgar, and a whole lot of silliness with the battle at the ending. The book was so strong on its own, I thought, that all the additions of the movie just whittled it down to a shadow of what it couTBWBld have been.

Lindsey Lane

Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief was a great book. Full of voice, humor, imagination. And it’s kid-centric. What does Hollywood do? They start with Zeus and Poseidon chatting. Wrong. So wrong. Apollo and all of the Muses should have smote a whole studio for that travesty.

Tara Dairman

A book that needs to be turned into a movie or TV show? Our very own Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25! I mean, it’s got a page-turning plot. It’s got awesome characters, both human and dragon, ready for actors and CGI artists to take them on. And it’s even got its own Ttalker25V-show-within-a-show–Kissing Dragons–built in. I know I’m not the only reader who feels this way. Hollywood, please take note!

Laurie Thompson
Most recently, Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25 struck me as a book that needs to be made into a movie. I think the visuals would be stunning, and it’s a powerful, impactful story. Of course, I might have to close my eyes during a few of the scenes. You know the ones. WOW.

Before that, the book that I closed and immediately gushed, “This HAS to be a movie!” is Jeanne Ryan’s NERVE. Lucky for us, a movie is in the works (there’s some news here). Squee!

Lastly, I would love to see Laini Taylor’s early novels, the Dreamdark series, made into movies. Laini created such a lush, detailed world and filled it with a cast of unique, fascinating characters on an epic quest of good versus evil. BLACKBRINGER and SILKSINGER are still on my favorite-books-of-all-time list. I can never get enough of them!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
I recently finished GREENGLASS HOUSE by Kate Milford and I think it would make a wonderful, wonderful movie. The story is very Clue-esque, for any other fans of that movie out there, and revolves around 5 mysterious people showing up at an inn on a snowy winter night and the mysteries that get unraveled from there. I can imagine fabulous potential for the cinematography between the snowy cliffside setting and the mysterious mood of the story.

Christine Hayes

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander would make a fantastic movie series, if someone had the money and the vision to do it right. The books had humor, adventure, tragedy, and romance. I wish the sad Disney version of The Black Cauldron had never happened! Taran’s journey from Assistant Pig-Keeper to (spoiler alert) High King was epic, and his romance with Eilonwy is one of my favorites in all of literature, children’s or otherwise.

Megan Morrison
Two of my favorite book-to-screen ventures are Jane Austen adaptations. I love Emma Thompson’s and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility – a story that may actually shine brighter in their retelling than it does in the book (don’t hurt me, Austen people! I’m one of you). I wish only for one thing: that they’d kept the scene where Willoughby returns and tries to explain his behavior to Elinor. But even without that, this film is a masterpiece. I also have a massive crush on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy amount of respect for the BBC’s 1995 TV miniseries of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s faithful, well acted, and completely worth the 5+ hours it takes to watch. It’s also worth investing in the new blu-ray release, because the costumes and sets are detailed and spectacular, but their beauty can only be fully appreciated in blu-ray. However, near perfect as this miniseries is, I’d still rather read my battered copy of the book.

Penny Parker Klostermann
When I think about a book that should be made into a movie, I would pick a book that has stayed with me in some way. So I would choose Unwind by Neal Shusterman. The reason this book has stayed with me is because the whole idea a being unwound creeps me out. It haunts me. It’s one of those things that you think would never come to be…but what if it did? Shivers! And I love movies that give me the shivers!  I searched the Internet and it seems Unwind will be made into a movie but details are sketchy. When it is a movie…I’ll be there. Creeped out, haunted, and with a major case of the shivers! 

Tamara Ellis Smith
One of my favorite books in the universe is Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath.  I think it would make a fantastic and fantastical movie and I think, specifically, Hayao Miyazaki should come out of retirement to make it!  Can’t you just see it? Ranger, Puck, Grandmother Moccasin and Miyazaki together?  The landscape begs for Miyazaki’s magical perspective and the story is just up his alley.  It would be gorgeous and riveting.  C’mon, just one more movie, Miyazaki, please?!

Remember, comment on any post this week to win a fantastic book+swag package put together by Amy Finnegan! 

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Promotion

Where Is Tommy Smythe? (An EMU News Special Report)

Local teenager Tommy Smythe has disappeared, and the local sheriff is tirelessly hunting for clues.  Where is Tommy now? EMU News takes us live to the small Texas town where the young man was last seen alive.

And that’s the news.  Thank you, and good night.

On a more serious note, Lindsey Lane’s YA debut is truly extraordinary. EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN tells truths both beautiful and terrible; it is funny and tragic, uncomfortable and uplifting.  Tommy Smythe and the subtly interlacing stories of the deeply human people in his town will linger in your mind long after you turn the last page.

Congratulations on your debut novel, Lindsey Lane!  It’s been an honor to participate in the launch of such a special book.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!

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Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Interviews, Launch, Promotion