Author Archives: Calista Brill

Ammi-Joan Interview! (The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, by Adam Shaughnessy + a GIVEAWAY)

fib_cover

 

Hello everyone!

I’m so happy to kick off a week of celebrating the publication of Adam’s remarkable middle-grade novel, The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, with an interview with Adam’s remarkable agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Enjoy! And be sure to tune in for a whole week of FIBby fun!

Best,

Calista

Calista: How did you find Adam — or how did he find you? Was the Unbelievable FIB the book he queried you with? 

Ammi-Joan: I first met Adam through a manuscript critique at the NESCBWI conference. His writing voice captivated me right from those very intriguing opening pages of THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB. I knew right from the start there was something truly special in his work. We didn’t sign together right away, but that opening stayed with me over the months to come – and that’s the truest sign of when I know I’ve found a winner 🙂

Ammi-Joan Paquette

Calista: Did you guys do a lot of work on The Unbelievable FIB together before you started sending it out to editors? 

Ammi-Joan: Adam is a terrific reviser, and one thing I really admire is his ability to take in council and advice, and use it to craft his own best version of the story. In this case he did some terrific revision on FIB before it sold – mostly refining the story direction and bringing together the elements within this incredible world that he’d created.

Calista: Who’s your favorite character in the book?

Ammi-Joan: I confess to having a soft spot for Pru. She’s so mischievous and inquisitive – the kind of character who makes you want to follow her wherever she’ll go.

Calista: Who’s the perfect reader for the book?

Ammi-Joan: Honestly? I think this book has something for everybody. My first thought upon reading it was that it had the feel of a “modern classic”—one of those books that you just know will still be on shelves in 10, 20, or 50 years, still a bookshelf staple, sparking the imagination and warming the heart. If you haven’t tried it yet, just read the first chapter. You’ll see what I mean.

Thanks for celebrating with us! Leave a comment, and be entered for a chance to win a copy!

Here’s where you can buy your very own copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB!!

Indiebound

Amazon

BAM

Barnes & Noble

 

 

 


Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.

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Interview with Maria Modugno, editor of There Was an Old Dragon by Penny Parker Klostermann

DRAGON coverCalista: Do you remember what it was about this manuscript that made you go, “I want it,” when you read it on submission?

Maria: Not only did I think, “I want it,” I also thought, “I love it!” A huge percentage of the submissions I receive are written in rhyme. And a huge percentage of those manuscripts just don’t scan. I loved that this book would appeal to both boys and girls. After all, who doesn’t love a dragon? I also thought the burp moment was deftly handled with just enough “eewww” and humor to make me laugh out loud.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Maria: I’m personally drawn to cumulative tales. I think repetition and good rhyme are excellent traits for a picture book text, especially one that will be read aloud. And DRAGON is a text that begs to be read aloud. The other key ingredient is humor, one of the most difficult qualities to pull off in a universal way.

I actually comped this to the first book I ever signed up as an editor years ago, The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. When I mentioned this to Penny, it was pure serendipity that she was in touch with someone trying to locate Don in order to return a piece of original art from the book. We made the connection and the oil painting is back with Don in Hawaii. I know this piece meant a lot to him because Don always said that illustrating a picture book was like having your very own personal art gallery!

Calista: How – if at all – did the text change during the making of the book?

Maria: Penny and I discussed “It’s not polite!” versus “It isn’t right!” for the key line. Perhaps because it was such an important line, I wanted to make sure we settled on the right one. Penny actually presented me with the two options. At first, I chose “It isn’t right!” but when I re-read the manuscript six months later, I knew “It’s not polite” was the one.

Calista: What’s your favorite line from this book?

Maria: That’s too hard to answer. I would say: “clippity, clippity, lippity clop.” It’s brilliant and original and adds an unexpected dimension.

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.

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

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

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

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


Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.

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Interview with Christy Ottaviano, editor of Book Scavenger

To mark the occasion of Book Scavenger‘s publication, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer’s phenomenal editor, Christy Ottaviano, publisher of Christy Ottaviano Books at Macmillan Children’s. It’s always fascinating to hear what the editor of a book loves about it!

Calista: Do you remember what it was about this book that made you go, “I want it” when you read it on submission?

Christy: When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was The Westing Game.  I was also a big fan of From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E Frankweiler.  Both of these books came to mind while I was reading the submission of Book Scavenger.  I was immediately intrigued by the book gaming element — I love mysteries and especially books that have puzzles to solve and secrets to uncover — but what really drew me in was the voice of Emily.  She is such a rich character — a bookworm and a loner; someone who could really use a friend. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is such a gifted writer.  In Book Scavenger she creates an exciting mystery yet the characters never take a back seat to the layered plot — everything works in tandem and in good rhythm.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Christy: The comp titles referenced were a few books I’ve published by Elise Broach — Shakespeare’s Secret and Masterpiece given that they are both mysteries and feature quiet, thoughtful characters who are curious about the world around them, whether it’s learning about Shakespeare or Albrecht Durer!  I also referenced The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart) as well as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) for similar reasons.

Calista: What are some ways the book changed during the editing process?

Jenn did an amazing job revising the novel.  She approached every aspect of the editorial process with such insight, thoughtfulness and focus. We worked on a variety of elements — making the mystery more compelling, incorporating more challenging puzzles and ciphers into the clues, building to a more satisfying climax and conclusion, and, most especially, fleshing out all of the characters (getting rid of a few even) so that each was clearly defined in relation to his/her role in the book. On a personal note,  I really fell in love with Emily and James and think their friendship is such an honest example of a girl/boy tween friendship in middle school.

Calista: Who is the ideal reader for this book?

Christy: The ideal readers for Book Scavenger are kids who like all of the books I’ve referenced in this Q&A as well as fans of the Chasing Vermeer series (Blue Balliat), The Gollywhopper Games (Jody Feldman), and Rhyme Schemer (KA Holt).  It’s for kids who love to read stories about quirky characters who have unusual talents; fans of sleuthing stories and mysteries; and lovers of puzzles in all forms.  Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.  A treat on so many levels!

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.

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“I’m an Author!”

So I’ve got this book coming out.

Not for a while yet, granted. But sometime next year a picture book with my actual name on it is going to see the light of day. And then another after that, and another after that one.

I guess this means I’m an author.

Does this mean I’m an author?

Some folks just know, right. They’re writing from the moment they learn their letters. They’re writing novels in high school, going to conferences in college. They have an agent at 22, and a book deal at 23, and you can kind of see the word “Author” hovering over their heads in an atmospheric haze of talent and ambition.

Not all of us have such an easy time attaching that title to ourselves. I guess I’m an author now that I have an agent, now that I’ve sold a couple of books. But maybe I actually became an author when I wrote my first work-for-hire title under a pen name six years ago? Or was I an author when I put together the text for a Disney Princess novelty book, my second week on the job as an editorial assistant at Disney Press, over ten years ago?

Or maybe I’m not an author yet. Maybe I’ll be one when my book actually comes out. Or when a book I write is a hit. Or when I’m making my living from writing books. Or when I die and they put “…Author?” on my tombstone.

Like a lot of titles that are self-selected, “Author” is a tricky one. Claim it too early and it’s a little embarrassing. Take too long, and you just seem confused, poor thing.

Also like a lot of self-selected titles, “Author” is one nobody really cares except the person laying claim to it.

So, okay. As of today:

I’m an author.


Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. She has a cat named Percy and a husband named Perry and she hardly ever gets them mixed up.

Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.

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I’m an editor-turned-author, and it’s just as disorienting as you’d expect!

When you stare into the void, the void stares back.

I’m not sure whether the “void” in this regrettable analogy is the author or the editor. (Which is more insulting? Don’t answer that.) But as an editor of over ten years, I thought I knew what being an author was like. After all, I’ve witnessed it from the other side of the book-making process more times than I can count. I’d stared into that particular void a whole bunch.

But now I’m on the other side of the void, staring back at my own face, and I’m beginning to realize (to switch metaphors altogether, thanks and sorry) that it’s sort of like the difference between being a midwife and actually giving birth. When midwives give birth, are they constantly reminding themselves to be model patients? To be calm and rational and to trust the other midwives? Probably. Does it work?

Um.

I’ve set out to be a model author. I know what a model author is, because I’ve edited a few of them. A model author cares deeply – maybe even insanely – about her book, but she spares her editor her moments of insanity whenever possible. A model author defends her own interests, but she never lets her worst impulses rule the day. She tackles revisions like a champ, with minimal ego and no defensiveness. She endears herself to her entire publishing team by being deadline-driven, honest, hardworking, flexible, and (most importantly) polite.

It’s not that I thought it would be a walk in the park, trying to be a model author. But it is harder, sometimes, than I thought it would be. All these FEELINGS come boiling up out of nowhere every now and then, and completely overwhelm my good sense. MY BOOK MY BOOK MY BOOK, shrieks this tiny, demented voice in the back of my mind. MY BOOK MY BOOK, I WILL BITE YOU, KEEP BACK, MY BOOK MY BOOK MY BOOK. And this is why I’m very, very grateful for my agent, Erin, who has the thankless but oh-so-necessary job of letting me vent a little craziness at her here and there, so that I can turn around and blithely pretend to be a paragon of sanity to my editors.

Maybe soon I’ll have mastered the fine art of sanity altogether! I’m certainly trying. But until that day, I’ll fake it till I make it as a model author, and I’ll try to remember something important–the view from the void, whether you’re an editor or an author, is always the same:

A human being, trying to publish a book as best she can.


Calista Brill is a writer and editor based in New York City. During the day she edits award-winning graphic novels, and at night she writes stories for children about pixies, pirates, princesses, and pterodactyls. She has a cat named Percy and a husband named Perry and she hardly ever gets them mixed up.

Her first picture book will be published by HarperCollins in 2016.

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