Category Archives: Advice – Helpful or Otherwise

Embracing the Imperfect

Our lives are set up around milestones: memorable, noteworthy events that we mark with rituals and celebrations. In my own life, I can recall events that mark those big occasions: important birthdays, graduations, weddings, my godson’s baptism. There was a set moment for each of those, a moment that I can look back at and say, “Oh, yeah. I’ll never forget where I was and what I felt when that happened.”

For many writers, the journey to publication is marked with the same joyful celebratory dinners, champagne toasts, and group hugs as any of the more traditional life milestones. I love hearing friends’ stories of getting that agent phone call and bursting into tears, their families beaming with pride beside them. Their stories are beautiful, and my own heart bursts with happiness to cheer and celebrate all of that magic. But what if your own journey looks different?

Through circumstances beyond anyone’s control, my own first book milestones have been bittersweet. That heart-stopping call from my agent? I was on my way to work, and my husband was 3000 miles away on a business trip. He happened to fall asleep that night without charging his phone, so I carried my bottled-up joy to work with me. I finally couldn’t keep it in anymore, so I eagerly spilled the beans to my ten-year-old student, who could not have been any less impressed or interested. Humbling, to say the least.

A few weeks later my deal announcement appeared in the trades; seeing my photo and name in there made everything feel so real, and it meant I was finally free to share the news publicly.  However, just minutes after I saw the announcement, my husband called to tell me that his dad had been diagnosed with cancer. As our family worked together to help my father-in-law navigate the complicated world of cancer treatment, celebration couldn’t have been further from our minds. And now that he has successfully completed chemotherapy, his improved health and happiness feels like a much more special milestone for our family to mark.

I am incredibly lucky to have a publishing deal, and I am beyond grateful to have the chance to earn money as a writer. But, much as it pains me to admit it, when I remember these first Big Author Moments, while there is joy and gratitude in those memories, there is also loneliness, worry, and disappointment.  I have a book deal and a supportive circle of friends and family, but I still can’t help but wish that those first moments had been a little different. And then I can’t help but feel ashamed of myself for wishing that. It shouldn’t matter, I think. I am a jerk for caring about this.

Every writer I know has worked incredibly hard to get this far, and we all remember the wistful feeling of seeing other writers ahead of us, hitting those milestones. And while everything might look rosy and golden from a distance, there is no doubt that up close, everyone’s road is littered with frustrations and slights and missed opportunities.

So, and I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to anyone else, the journey toward publication is magical and thrilling and awesome and inspiring. But a lot of it can also be kind of sucky. That’s OK. Embrace the suck.  The disappointing, difficult, exhausting moments mean that all of this is actually happening. Living the Dream doesn’t mean turning your life into a dream; it means you’re turning your dream into real life. Your very own messy, imperfect, glorious life.


Kat Shepherd is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. Her wonderful father-in-law lives nearby. They are planning a massive celebration when the first book from her Babysitting Nightmares series (Macmillan/Imprint) debuts in fall 2018. You’re all invited. You can find Kat at katshepherd.com or connect with her on Twitter @bookatshepherd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Families, Guilt, Happiness, Inspiration, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

After the Ecstasy, the Editing

Everything editors, agents, and authors have told me at SCBWI conferences has turned out to be true, particularly the things I didn’t believe would be true for me.

For example, I’ve been told that getting a book deal will not magically transform me into a permanently satisfied, optimistic, and resilient human.  When SCBWI folks said stuff like that, I remember thinking, “Oh, I’m sure that’s true for the other pre-published writers here, but not me. Once I get a book deal, I may still be an easily-exhausted anxiety-prone weirdo, but then I’ll be that weirdo WITH A BOOK DEAL AND THAT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.”

Nope. Sigh.

After the ecstasy of getting “the call” in 2016 from my darling agent and connecting with my talented editor to begin the publication journey for my debut middle-grade novel, I expected to wallow in utter contentment for a long time. Years of wallowing. At the very least I’d wallow through the whole process of getting my manuscript out into the world.

Then the first round of revision edits was delivered to my door, and with it arrived the Mind Games Writers Play On Ourselves (yep, MGWPOO).

I got caught up in such MGWPOO favorites as:Shel Silverstein head

  • I’m Not a Real Writer
  • Before I Can Handle Criticism, I Need to Die
  • Chasing False Measures of Success
  • Envy of All the Other Writers Who Don’t Struggle with This Crap
  • The 33 -Minute Limit of Success-Fueled Joy-Basking Before I Find a Way to Undermine Myself
  • The Permanent Longing for Success That Makes Hope Painful.

 

TheySidecar (4) come roaring along with every new delivery of manuscript revisions, like rumbling motorcycles leaving greasy tire tracks across my soul, and this thousand-pound steel sidecar is attached to every single one: Beating Myself Up for Falling into Mind Games Again.

What’s an anxiety-prone weirdo to do?

First, I think, find another writer somewhere who will tell you that you are not alone in this. (You’ve found me. I’m telling you. You’re not.) Airing out the mind games, bringing them into the light of discussion with your fellow writers shows them up for what they are: common. Common as commas.  I’m beginning to think none of us can publish a manuscript with some of them in the mix.

Editing Kit Kats

Next, it seems smart not to assume the mind games will pass us by.  We must arm ourselves for the ongoing battle; perhaps with weapons of Show Kindness to Fellow Writers and Give Yourself Time and Turn the Nebulous Sense of Mortal Despair into a Concrete To-Do List. I’m still working on this concept as my battle armor currently consists of a jar of Kit Kats.

But I’ve got my MGWPOO out in the open now, here in the light of EMU’s Debuts, and that’s a start.

(Many thanks for the warm wit and wisdom of my agency-mates Anne Nesbet, Ann Bedichek, and Sophie Petersen for convening the Special Committee on Writerly Mind Games and How to Defeat Them. Check out Anne Nesbet’s Middle Grade Mayhem post on the same topic!)


Christina Uss

CHRISTINA USS is a bike writer, bike rider, mother of twins and dweller of Massachusetts. Her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out Spring 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House. Help her learn to dodge the MGWPOO at http://www.christinauss.com.


 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, jealousy, process, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Border Collies and Babies—It’s Never Too Soon To Start (plus a giveaway!)

The story I’m about to tell is relevant to Terry Pierce’s MAMA LOVES YOU SO. I promise.

mama-loves-you-so-coverYears ago, my brother got a beautiful border collie puppy. I remember how excited Warren was, and I remember the solemn advice the breeder gave him. It was this: Show the dog everything he’s ever going to see within the first six months of his life. In short, it was Warren and his family’s responsibility to quickly give intelligent, impressionable Comet the information he’d need to thrive.

*presses pause on dog story*

My first professional, if unrequited, love is midwifery. Permit me to geek out for a bit.

The importance of verbally communicating with babies—and I mean from about 6 months gestation onward—cannot be overstated. Auditory function in the human fetus is complete at 7 months. Not only do they hear and respond to outside noises, research suggests babies learn intonation and can develop a basic recognition of words before birth. After birth, newborns rapidly form brain synapses that correspond with their birth language. In fact, studies have shown that young children who leave their birth language behind through immigration or adoption retain an enhanced ability to relearn it. Cool, huh?

Now let’s talk about MAMA LOVES YOU SO. This book, meant for the tiny ears of the tiniest of people, employs exquisitely rich and melodic language. It describes a world that is sparkling, stony, and ablaze. These are words an adult would be happy to use on a given day. MAMA LOVES YOU SO is crammed full of such delicious and nutritious words. It’s a brain-building buffet for babies and a boon to the brave souls who care for them. Baby and Book

Babies are exhausting. I know. I’ve had two babies, and two aren’t many at all. My in-laws had ten. My parents had five. Have I wondered if  I’m a slacker in the baby department? Yes. But that’s not my point.

Babies require mountains of back-breaking, laundry-making, sleep-taking care, and that’s just to keep them alive. We’re also supposed to educate, encourage, and entertain them. While all forms of communication nourish babies’ language readiness, including singing and everyday conversation, it’s challenging to know what to sing or say to a baby all day, every day.

I ask you, how are sleep-deprived people, wracked as they are with desperate love and stabs of anxiety, supposed to dredge up words like ablaze? They need books. They need books to give them words when they are too tired or overwhelmed to think up their own. Their children are primed to quickly learn millions of discrete, dynamic words, and optimally, they’d possess this treasure trove before starting school.  Where language acquisition is concerned, variety isn’t the spice of life, it is life. Books like MAMA LOVES YOU SO are a sure and happy route to that variety.

We must encourage caregivers, all the caregivers, to talk to babies early and often. Encourage them to talk to the belly, to sing to it, explain stuff to it, and for the love of literacy, to read to it. Encourage them to talk to the newborn. To sing. To explain. To read. We can smile at them benevolently when they do all of this in public. If we get the chance, we can give the caregiver a minute to shower and eat something while we talk, sing, explain, and read.

It might be possible to show a puppy everything it’s ever going to see in six months, but it’s impossible for a human newborn. Luckily, we have opposable thumbs, and opposable thumbs are great for making bookstores and libraries. That’s where Terry Pierce’s beautiful and important MAMA LOVES YOU SO can be found, ready and waiting to offer intelligent, impressionable young people information they need to thrive.

*presses play on dog story* 

Comet lived a long and happy life. He understood his world and how to conduct himself in it, thanks to purposeful attention to his formative experiences. May we do the same for each new child. We have longer than six months to accomplish it, but we don’t have forever. It’s never too soon to start.

 

Terry is giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make this week—and please comment only once per day—she’ll enter your name into the giveaway.

Additional resources:

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/book-mom

Valerie Garfield, Simon & Schuster editor of MAMA LOVES YOU SO, blogs about reading to and with children.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/about-us/mission-statement/


Enjoy the day,

Hayley
Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press, spring 2019. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, narrative nonfiction illustrated by Diana Sudyka, is also coming spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Inspiration, Picture books, reading, Uncategorized

Aaaaaand…Action!

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Roles Jason would love to one day play include any Animorph, a young Jareth in a Labyrinth prequel, and/or any part in anything that would allow him to meet Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise

My Friend, Fear

fear-quotes-growth

Fear is a fickle friend. I mean at first glance it’s hard to imagine her as your lunch buddy, but as time goes on, you understand her subtle ways. Confession – I’m not always the bravest. I’m scared of hairy/crunchy/large bugs, heights, the dark, mice crawling over my sandals at the movies. You get the picture. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as publication for my debut mg novel, Finding Perfect, inches closer, so does fear. She visits with some regularity these days. She accompanies me when I hit send to my editor and when I venture into uncharted territory, like this week at the New England Independent Bookseller Association Author Reception. This is me at the reception hanging with Gillian Kohli, owner of the amazing Wellesley Books and president of NEIBA. (Fear aside, the night was amazing.)

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Fear tugs at my chest as the years/months to publication dwindle to days. When my daily activities of marketing, tweeting, blogging, signing, visiting school, and participating in panels, all fall outside of my comfort zone and squarely into the box marked ARE-YOU-KIDDING. But it’s in these moments that I have begun to see fear less as my-roller-coaster-going-to-throw-up foe, and more as my you’ve-got-this friend. You see, fear is what has taught that to grow I need to learn and to learn I need to step beyond what’s comfortable. I need to embrace the itchy, the awkward, the feared. I need to welcome all of it. Because it’s in those moments when the real magic happens.

So as the days to publication now number 26, I say, bring it on! The fear, the challenge, the awkward itchiness.  Let’s do this thing!

***

IMG_9552

Elly Swartz’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October 18th, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. FINDING PERFECT is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her family. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Writing and Life

Celebrate….EVERYTHING!

In honor of today, Independence Day, I would like to recommend that you take this opportunity and every opportunity to celebrate your writing/illustrating progress.

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I recently had two things to celebrate. First, I found out my release date for the first two books of my chapter book series! JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN (book 1) and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (book 2) will be available from FSG on July 11, 2017. Yes, it’s a long way off, but I’m so excited to have an actual date! Second, I finished a novel and sent it off to my awesome agent. I celebrated both with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of Prosecco.

It’s easy to focus on the “big prize” — the agent offering representation or an editor offering a contract. But, at least for me, the road to both of those was long and bumpy. If I had waited to celebrate until those two wonderful things happened, I would have spent many many years NOT celebrating. So, instead, I made sure to celebrate any and all accomplishments.

Some things I’ve celebrated:

  1. Sending off queries.
  2. Receiving an encouraging response (request for full, a kind/personal rejection).
  3. Finishing a SFD (shitty first draft).
  4. Applying for/getting accepted into a workshop or retreat.
  5. Coming up with a new story idea.

Ways I’ve celebrated:

  1. Buying a new book/journal/pen.
  2. Taking myself out on an “artist’s date” to a museum, garden, hike.
  3. Going to coffee/tea/lunch with a friend.
  4. Champagne/dessert.
  5. Taking a break – to smell the flowers, walk the dog, watch the birds, sing a song, dance in the kitchen.

Take time to focus on your accomplishments, bask in the joy that you’ve completed something, that you’re moving forward on the road, that you’re following your passion. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself! I’d love to hear what and how you celebrate.

So, go ahead – celebrate. The road can be long, so you might was well sprinkle some joy along the pathway. You know you have things to celebrate – the new idea, joining a writing group, sending out a query, finishing a chapter. You deserve a treat! Happy Celebrating! And happy 4th of July!

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations

Love Batteries

I think we can all agree that as writers, we stress out a lot. The pressure to find an agent, the pressure to write a stellar manuscript, the pressure to have an editor buy that manuscript then turn it into a book that becomes an instant bestseller can make even the most stable and sane author crack.

giphy

We all come up with our own ways to delay or lessen that writer stress. This past week, I discovered my new go-to stress relief: Love Batteries. What are Love Batteries, you ask? They are those little bursts of good juju you get from doing non-writer things with those you love. And the charge in those little Love Batteries goes from a tiny AAA to a Transformer-sized car battery when you can do those fun non-writer things with other writers who are in the same boat as you and need just as much of a boost.

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I discovered this fact firsthand at the annual EMLA retreat. This wasn’t my first go-around at the retreat. The craziness and loveliness and silliness was something I’d experienced last year, but for some reason I didn’t catch onto Love Batteries during that getaway. I think it was because it was my first time among the snuggle bunnies of EMLA, and although everyone I met was ready and willing to give me a hug, I was too nervous as the new guy to realize the recharging benefits of my fellow writers’ love. But not this time. This time around I felt like I was back among family, and from that first moment pulling into the lodge carport with a half-dozen EMLAs waiting to hug and laugh and squeal with me, I felt those batteries recharge. At first I thought part of the week might include me pulling out my WIP, but ultimately I realized that nope, this wasn’t the time for that. That first spark of energy in the carport made me realize my Love Batteries were empty, and trying to write would only drain them further. So I played. I played like I haven’t played in a while. I swam in the ocean every single night, I sang parody songs with my writer pals, I got as close to making my dream of becoming a merman come true by dressing up like a merwhal, and I did it all surrounded by writers I love and who made me feel like I was loved back. I’m sure there were quite a few times when my EMLA sisters and brothers and I looked like this:

giphy-2

And at the end of it all, my Love Batteries were fully charged, and now I’m ready to rock. I’m ready to write stories that make kids laugh, I’m ready to create books that hopefully turn kids into lifelong readers, I’m ready to spread the love. If ever there has been a week when more love is needed in the world, this is it. Remember to recharge your Love Batteries often, learn to recognize the signs when those batteries are being depleted, and above all, have some extra love to spare when you see somebody who needs it.

I’m sending you some right now. Here’s to love.

____________________

IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason loves include mapping how many degrees of separation he has from Anjelica Huston, pondering what Pikachu would look like in real life, and you. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Happiness, Inspiration, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

Hold the Vision

Look what I got in the mail the other day! My signed contract for THE NIAN MONSTER! I was so excited that I hugged it. But not too hard, because that might crinkle the pages. If you look closely, you’ll see that the contract was issued last August – 7 months ago. And that was nearly 7 months after receiving the offer to buy my story.

My first book contract!

My first book contract!

I found out that this is not at all unusual in the publishing industry. It’s still hard to get used to, though. When I worked as an environmental consultant, we never did any work unless we had a signed contract from the client. Sometimes, we even asked for a retainer — payment in advance! But over the past year, I have done a lot of work on the book — all without a signed contract. It didn’t make me feel better to read this line at the bottom of the offer letter: “Please note that this offer is subject to contract and in no way does this offer represent a binding agreement.”

 

And that got me thinking about trust. From the very beginning, when it was just me and the blank page, there had to be trust. I love what Neil Gaiman says about this part of the process: 2016-03-24 07.04.53

After the story was written (and re-written many, many times) and an offer had finally been accepted, there was still no guarantee that there would be a book at the end of the tunnel. I had to trust that my editor and art director shared my vision of the book. I had to trust that my illustrator would bring my words to life and add a layer of emotion and richness that I couldn’t. I had to trust that people were working on my book when I wasn’t there to watch. It was hard. I’d never met any of these people in real life; I hadn’t even spoken to them on the phone. Communication was done over email. I’m sure I could have called, but I didn’t want to hover — I was afraid that if I made any demands, the offer would just vanish into the ether. So I just took a deep breath and chose to believe in them.

2016-03-24 07.12.29

I realized that although it felt like I had lost control, I really hadn’t. My editor had to learn to trust me, too. And I could do something about that. I listened to her feedback on my manuscript. I revised to the best of my ability. When she asked for information on the landmarks and the monster himself, I researched for days and produced what felt like reams of photos and data. And strangely, the more work I did, the more comfortable I felt with the situation, despite the lack of a “binding agreement.” The fact that my editor and the art director were asking for more information proved that they were working on my book. Just like when I was writing the story, I had to trust the process — but this time, it was the process of publication. My editor, art director, illustrator and I ultimately had the same vision: a beautiful book butterfly emerging from its publishing house cocoon.

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I know that the path to publication isn’t always smooth; I’ve had it easy in comparison to some. But even when the road is bumpy or full of detours, trust is involved. Trust in yourself and your story. You will both be fine.

2016-03-24 07.25.01

 


 

Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. At home, she dragged books, chocolate chips, and the cat into her closet to read. Not much has changed since then, except now she reads and writes sitting in a comfy chair in a sunny room. With a lock on the door. Before embarking on the writer’s journey, Andrea was an environmental consultant, helping to clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in a wooded suburb of Boston with her very understanding husband, two inspiring sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com and on Twitter under @AndreaYWang. What’s the “Y” stand for? Take a guess!

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Faith, Uncategorized, waiting

How to Handle a Book Launch Without Falling On Your Pen

In one week, I’ll be overseeing my fifth book launch. Obviously, this isn’t a new thing for me, but oh how it feels like a nail-biter! With the wisdom of hindsight and the fear of foresight, I thought I’d throw out some (tongue-in-cheek) tips on making your book launch a success.

  1. Throw a party. The bigger the better. Invite everyone you know in town: your dentist, your dog-groomer, your auto mechanic. Approach strangers on the sidewalk with invitations. They aren’t middle grade age? That doesn’t matter – they probably know someone who is middle grade age. Or you could flatter them: “Gosh, you don’t look a day over thirteen!”
  1. Serve lots of food. Lots and lots of food. Cakes, cupcakes and cookies are best. Those sweet carbs will lull your audience into a soporific haze of
    Where-to-get-a-golden-retriever-puppy

    Puppies!!!

    willingness to buy, buy, buy.

  1. Hire a band. I’m thinking that, for my novel set in Scotland, I’ll find someone to play bagpipes.
  1. Read a ton from your book. By the seventh ten-page scene, your audience will be begging to buy your book and head home so they can immerse themselves in their new purchase.
  1. Give away cool swag. Think outside the box: bookmarks are so last century. What about puppies? Everyone wants a puppy! Or a kitten!
  1. Advertise. Remember the good old days, when guys wore sandwich boards? Why not try it? Wear a costume underneath the board to get people excited. Chickens are all the rage in costume-wear. Gosh, wear that get-up at the party and you’re sure to engage your audience.

    69034-Super-Deluxe-Chicken-Mascot-Costume-large

    Cute, right?

  1. Blast social media. More Facebook posts, more tweets, more Instagram photos about your book will catch more readers! Experts say you need to tweet about your book every two minutes to grab that new, refreshing audience. Be sure to stop and tweet your book during your book launch party – pausing in the middle of those ten-page scenes – for that “Live From Your Bookstore” experience.

That’s it – the sum total of my wisdom. I really hope not to follow my own advice.


 

Janet Fox is the author of 5 books for young readers. Her newest, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, is out next week from Viking. She’s never dressed in a chicken costume and has no intention of doing so now. You can, however, find her at http://www.janetsfox.com.

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Finding (and Protecting) the Why

emu whyI may be an Emu with a debut coming next fall (!!!), but I’m already a published author. Oh, yes. I am the author of five articles about molecule-based magnets, published in national chemistry journals. They are every bit as riveting as you’d imagine.

Why did I write them? Not for fun, I promise you that. I wrote them because I wanted to teach, and to do that I needed a graduate degree. Those papers were a necessary step in proving that my research was valid and valuable so that I could earn that degree.

But here’s the thing: nobody really asked why I was going to grad school or writing these papers or why I wanted to teach. People somehow seemed to understand. That has not been my experience with the writing I’ve done the last few years.

Why do you write books for kids?

Somebody asked me this recently, and it was hard for me, in that moment, to come up with an answer that satisfied either of us. Even when they don’t ask directly, I feel the why so often, like the vaildity and value of the type of writing I do now are being called into question. If I were a real writer, wouldn’t I be writing for adults? Or writing something academic? There are definitely people who get it, but there are so many who seem totally baffled by the why.

The bigger problem comes, though, when we begin to lose sight of the why ourselves. When we’re faced with that question in another’s eyes or words, as I was, and come up with an answer that’s far short of satisfying, as I did.

So if you haven’t done it yet, or if it’s been a while, take some time to really think about your why. I tried to really articulate mine here, but answers will definitely vary.

Your why may be the stories inside you that just have to come out. The characters who won’t leave you alone until their story is told.

Or the love you have for the craft of writing.

Or the wonderfully supportive kidlit community that you love being part of.

Or the legacy of amazing children’s literature that you want to add your voice to.

Or the kid you once were, or the kids you know now, and the stories you want to share with them.

Whatever your why, take some time to actually put it into words. Then protect it and nourish it and remember it. And whatever your publishing path may throw at you, don’t you dare let go of it.


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Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption. 🙂

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