Category Archives: Agents

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Hope, Heart, Octopuses and Squids: An Interview with Agent Tricia Lawrence

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Now that THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS has officially begun swimming into the hands of lucky readers everywhere, we Emus wanted to talk to one of author Ann Braden’s partners on her path to publication: agent extraordinaire, Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Emu Emeritus Elaine Vickers caught up with Tricia to find out her perspective on Ann’s tenacity and heart, hope, and invertebrate creatures of the deep.

Elaine: THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS has already received rave reviews, including a star from School Library Journal. What is it about this story that makes it so special?

Tricia: This story is special because it’s an Ann story and each story she writes comes from a her heart. This one in particular was so apt and timely because of the economic disparities it focuses on and it gives kids who live this story every day a bit of hope, at least I hope.

Elaine: The title of the book comes right from Chapter 1 and is tied to a question Zoey’s teacher asks of the class–and a question I’m going to ask of you now: Which animal is the best? Like Zoey’s teacher, we’d love a few details to support your answer.

Tricia: I love a good octopus, but I’m a huge fan of the giant squid. Why? I always wanted one (before they were even seen on camera, when we only knew they existed but hadn’t filmed one yet). They are able to battle whales, and any cephalopod is just a cool animal.
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Elaine: What is your favorite thing about working with Ann?
Tricia: Ann is a professional, always. This is a confusing and frustrating business, but she makes it look effortless. Don’t let her fool you, it’s because she works hard and doesn’t give up. Ann has a big heart. It shows. She loves this work and the kids she writes for so much!
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Elaine: Who do you picture as the perfect reader for this book?
Tricia: Any reader who feels the world has passed them by, because there is always hope.
Elaine: What experience do you hope readers have with this novel?
Tricia: That they walk a little braver, stand up a little straighter, settle into who they are more than they ever have before.
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We trust you are even more intrigued and ready to read THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS, now available to spread hope and octopus facts everywhere. Please come on over to Ann Braden’s website to learn more about the author, upcoming events, resources for teachers and librarians, and what Tricia Lawrence might mean when she calls this moving book an “Ann story.” (And see if you can find out where she got this tentacular dress!)

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Filed under Agents, Book Launch, Interviews, Persistance, Uncategorized

THE POET X LAUNCHES (part 1)

The Poet X

All the members of Emu’s Debuts are privileged today to help Elizabeth Acevedo celebrate the launch of her gorgeous debut, The Poet X from Harper Teen.  Read on to learn more about this book’s path to publication and the ways the story is bound to touch and enrich readers everywhere.


The Poet X Belongs On the Shelf in Every School – Ann Braden

Last night I had the privilege of finishing The Poet X. I sat there for a long time, holding all of its amazingness inside me and trying not to burst. It was so real, and it explored such timely issues in such a powerful way that it exposed them for all to see – and to feel.

Take this stanza from page 126:

“She knew since she was little,
the world would not sing her triumphs,
but she took all of the stereotypes
and put them in a chokehold
until they breathed out the truth.”

And what filled me up to the point of bursting was thinking about what this book could mean for our students who not only need to see themselves in books, but who need to be inspired to make their voices heard. I used to be a classroom teacher, and my heart is full of all the students who need this book. Our job is to get it into their hands.

This year’s the NCTE has chosen the powerful theme of “Raising Students Voice: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice.” As Franki Sibberson, the program chair of the 2018 annual convention, reminds us: “Our students’ voices matter. Their voices matter in our schools, our communities, and beyond. As teachers, we want our students to discover their own voices.… Our students deserve stories that impact who they are and who they can become.”

The Poet X is a book that needs to on the shelf in every school. It will show students that their voices matter, and it will show them how their own lives can change when they speak out.

As the main character Xiomara says:

“If my body was a Country Club soda bottle,
it’s one that has been shaken and dropped
and at any moment it’s gonna pop open
and surprise the whole damn world.”


ARCs and Electricity – Kat Shepherd

I have been eagerly awaiting the book birthday of Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X for almost a year now, so I felt doubly lucky that not only did I get a sneak peek of an ARC of the book, I also got a chance to attend my first even poetry slam this past weekend, where Elizabeth was the featured performer.

 

For those who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. These are early, unproofed copies of an author’s book that are sent out to librarians, teachers, and other reviewers to help build buzz around a book before it’s released. If you’ve ever followed groups like #bookvoyage or #bookexpedition on Twitter, you’re probably used to seeing kidlit folks excitedly tweeting about the latest ARCs making their way to mailboxes across the country. Having the chance for an early read already feels incredibly special, and THE POET X was everything I hoped for and more.

 

Xiomara, or X, is entering high school and working to make sense of the conflicting worlds that try to define her: childhood and adulthood, Dominican and American, skepticism and faith, self-love and shame. Poetry is what allows her to fit the pieces of herself together and share her voice with the world. So it was fitting that I got to get a glimpse into Xiomara’s real-life world just as I was reading her story.

Lightning Strike

Elizabeth Acevedo had been invited as the featured poet at a Macalester College poetry slam in St. Paul last Saturday. I already knew she was a phenomenal poet and speaker, but I had never seen her perform in person before. Have you ever felt that pull in your belly when you see someone do something that they were just absolutely born to do? That’s what it felt like seeing Elizabeth. She read poems, she told stories, she made goofy little asides, and she had us hanging on her every word. She was absolutely electrifying.

And the slam itself: undiluted and intense, with poets sharing their most vulnerable selves. Audience participation isn’t just encouraged; it’s absolutely vital. There are snaps, claps, hoots and hollers, peppered with the occasional hiss or cursing of the judges. It is organized chaos punctuated by moments of the sublime.There are poems with lines that cut into the deepest part of you and leave you struggling for breath. It’s the same rawness and urgency of emotion that is captured so beautifully in Acevedo’s novel.

 

THE POET X reminds of that art is a lifeline, and it’s also a heartline that connects us to one another. It allows us to be our most vulnerable and urgent selves, and still have faith that we will be loved.


The Team Behind the Launch  – Christina Uss

The Poet X began its transformation from manuscript to ARC to full-fledged launching hardcover book when Elizabeth Acevedo signed with her agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, who then connected her with the book’s editor, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen. Pre-published writers often agonize over how they’ll find an agent or editor, wondering if there’s some magical, mystical way to get noticed. In Elizabeth’s case, all the magic she needed was right there in her words. Her writing spoke so strongly to these two, they both knew they simply had to work with her on this book.open-a-book

Ammi-Joan Paquette explained how her part in the journey began:

“Liz and I had been in touch a few years before, and at that time she had sent me sample pages of another work she had in progress. Although that was a bit earlier in her writing journey, she definitely had the magic already! We kept in correspondence, and when she eventually sent me the manuscript for POET X, I was hooked. I knew this was what I had been waiting for. Pure magic.” The main character, Xiomara, particularly drew Paquette in: “Her voice rings through so clearly and vividly. From the earliest lines she is a living, breathing, multi-dimensional character, and her personality is exquisitely captured as she develops and grows across the course of the story.”

            Paquette submitted Xiomara’s story to editors she thought might make a good match, and The Poet X ended up selling at auction – an enviable situation when multiple editors/publishing houses all want to be the one to publish a work. “When that happens, the various editors each make their case for why they would provide the best home for the work. That’s what happened with POET X—it’s very exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking, as you might imagine, for the author to suddenly be in a position to have to choose between such an array of excellent options. In this case, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen was inarguably the top choice for POET X, and I can’t imagine a better home for Liz and Xiomara anywhere!

Rosemary Brosnan let Emu’s  Debuts know she agrees:

Everything about THE POET X drew me in and made me want to acquire it! The voice, the wonderful poetry, the story—everything about this book screamed to me, ‘You must publish!’ I was also quite taken with the Afro-Dominican main character, Xiomara, as she is someone we have not seen a great deal in YA literature. And Liz herself is a force; I watched videos of her performances after I read the manuscript, and I was completely bowled over. (See links below to catch your own glimpse of Elizabeth’s power onstage.)

        Like Paquette, Brosnan found Xiomara to be a unique character. “Some of the issues…in the story have been dealt with by other authors, but Xiomara is a truly memorable character, with her Dominican heritage, her love of poetry, her ultra-religious mother against whom she rebels.” She hopes all the book’s readers will leave its pages knowing “that poetry does not have to be obscure or written by dead white males! That poetry is fun!”


Savoring Poetry – Please Join the Challenge – Hayley Barrett

The Poet X is stunningly beautiful, inside and out.

I tried to read it—to sit quietly and read it—but I couldn’t. My voice wouldn’t cooperate. My ears wouldn’t cooperate. I should have expected as much. I’m predominantly an auditory learner, and my voice is sometimes the best tool I have to explore an idea. As I read The Poet X, my lips began to move. Eventually, I realized I was whispering and began to read aloud. Sweet, poetic relief!

To experience poetry silently, to only ever experience it like that, is to do it a disservice. Poetry does not care to be silenced or made to be less that all it truly is. Poems deserve to be read quietly, to be read out loud, to be shared with many voices. The Poet X certainly deserves that.

Throughout my education—which included an undergrad English major—only one teacher required me to memorize and recite poetry. I often chose the work of my favorite poet, Maxine Kumin. When I recited Kumin in class, I heard her voice and, perhaps as importantly, I heard my own. Savoring her words broadened my poetic palate and whetted my appetite for language. The experience nourished and strengthened me.

There are many videos of author Elizabeth AcevedoElizabeth Acevedo on her website and YouTube, including spoken word, two TEDx talks, and others. I encourage you to seek them out. In a recent one, she introduces The Poet X and talks about how she hopes her readers “hear a voice they’ve never heard.” If they read The Poet X aloud, one of the voices readers hear will be their own. I believe this experience will nourish and strengthen them. They may even discover their own poetic voice. I hope so.

As we celebrate her launch of The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo challenges each of us to identify a female poet, choose one of her poems, and commit it to memory. I didn’t retain the Kumin poems I memorized for Professor Briggs, but I can reclaim them. I accept the challenge.


The rest of the Emus plan to do the same! Will you accept the challenge with us? Please comment below and share the poems and female poets who help you hear a voice you’ve never heard.



The Emu’s Debuts nest is honored to count Elizabeth Acevedo as one of our own! Contributors to this Emu’s Debuts post include middle-grade authors debuting in 2018 Ann Braden , Christina Uss, and Kat Shepherd, and picture book author Hayley Barrett, debuting in 2019.


 

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Filed under Agents, ARCs, Launch, Poetry, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice

WHO, WHO IS YOUR AGENT? An interview with Tricia Lawrence of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency

whobert hoover

As we continue the debut celebration of Jason Gallaher’s WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, I got to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how WHOBERT went from manuscript on submission to debuting picture book with the help of agent extraordinaire, Tricia Lawrence. For those of you interested in becoming agent-signed authors yourselves, here’s how the process worked for Jason and WHOBERT:

Tricia, I saw WHOBERT as an advance reader copy and was immediately charmed by this over-eager owl detective. Was WHOBERT WHOVER the manuscript that led you to sign Jason as a client? (If not, please tell us how you and Jason first connected!)

Actually, this wasn’t the only manuscript. Jason had a few more manuscripts and WHOBERT made me laugh out loud for the second time. The first time I laughed out loud was at his manuscript about a squirrel that hoards unusual sustenance for the winter (that one hasn’t sold yet, but if you love WHOBERT, you’ll love that one too!)

squirrelI’d love to see that one – I’m already trying to imagine what that squirrel is up to! What was it about Jason’s writing that drew you in?

 

His incredible sense and use of humor; his understanding of what makes a text strong enough to stand up to being illustrated; his vision coming through only the text (very sparse art notes) and the beauty and strong emotion of his writing. 

 
I understand you’re the kind of agent that helps her authors revise and polish their manuscripts before sending them out to editors. How did you and Jason work together to make sure WHOBERT was in tip-top shape before going out on submission?

I didn’t have to work on this one, and that is very rare. Usually, I am much more involved in manuscript revisions. This is why I knew I had to sign Jason immediately. The majority of his PB texts come to me ready to go. Jason has that strong eye to know when he needs revision before I even seen the manuscript.

Being on submission can be a nerve-wracking time for authors, since every day can Jason G.bring the chance of an offer…or the chance of another rejection. While WHOBERT was out on submission, did you do anything to keep up Jason’s spirits? (Did he even need spirit-up-keeping? He seems like one of the bubbliest and cheerfullest authors ever. And I know livens up any costume party.)

Jason doesn’t need much spirit up-keeping, true! But we keep in close contact anyway, because even if the submission process is going smoothly, he also writes novels and he is awesome about keeping me in the loop on his progress and always ready to ask for help when he needs it. 

 
Knowing when to ask for help is a skill in and of itself; Jason’s main character Whobert the owl certainly has trouble doing that! Have you ever done something Whobert-esque, where you were certain you were right but completely misunderstood the situation?

Oh, yes. Haven’t we all? It’s usually me intervening in the dog negotiations at our house. The big mastiff, Toledo, is a bit intimidated by his younger and smaller sister, husky-shepherd mix, Rue, and they have this long “Wookie”-esque conversation about who gets to come through the dog door first. I often think it’s Toledo trying to bug his sister, but he’s just trying to get inside out of the sun or outside into the sun. 

dog negotiationsDog negotiations do sound complicated. I know you are closed to unsolicited queries, so if there’s an author out there who thinks they have something special like WHOBERT, is there a way they can query you? And do you have a suggestion on how their query can shine as brightly as an owl’s talons among all the queries that come your way?

 

They can attend a conference where I’m on faculty (I’m done for 2017; stay tuned for the 2018 schedule) or they can get referred into Erin Murphy Literary Agency by an EMLA client or another industry professional. Write something good! The query should not shine brighter than the manuscript. Make your manuscript amazing first. Then get help with the query by reading aloud a lot or having someone more experienced read and review it for you. I am a BIG FAN of critique groups and beta readers. Use them.

I’m going to take a page from some previous Emu agent interviews and ask you to finish this sentence: the perfect reader for WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE is…

Who, Who, Who, Whover-ific!

Who could doubt that? Thanks, Tricia!


Christina UssChristina Uss loves being part of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency since she gets to hang out with terrific people like Jason Gallaher and Tricia Lawrence and see sneak previews of books like WHOBERT.

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Book Launch, Picture books, Uncategorized

Loving Your Literary Litter

Here’s the truth of it: The manuscript you first write may not be the exact same manuscript that convinces an agent to represent you. The “I-got-an-agent” manuscript may not be precisely the same manuscript that the two of you sell to a publisher. The “I-got-a-book-deal” manuscript will likely not be the manuscript that eventually ends up as a book on a proper shelf in a proper bookstore.

These manuscripts will be similar. Oh, yes. They will be similar.  Many of the words will be the same. The narrative structure might even be the same. Of course, the living, beating heart of the story that gave it a chance in the first place will be the same. But as the manuscript evolves, what initially seemed like one beautiful and stalwart dog…

Golden

becomes more like a litter of puppies. Where-to-get-a-golden-retriever-puppy

I hereby give you permission to love them all. You may love the brand-new one, all sweetly damp with its eyes sealed shut. You may love the one that snores while it sleeps with its tummy full of milk. It might not be the liveliest, but it sure is cute! You may love the one that’s starting to show some personality, that scampers around and nips just a little too hard with its razor-sharp puppy teeth. You may and you should love them all.

But unless you’re going to be some kind of puppy hoarder—which doesn’t serve you or your plentiful puppies—

puppy attack

You get to keep only one. That’s right. One.

You’re not going to make this choice by yourself. Others will be involved. The potential puppy’s vet. The potential puppy’s trainer. They will look at all the puppies in the litter, tumbling about and tearing the place up, and they will help you decide on one.

Wait. We’re not talking about a *real* puppy. We’re talking about YOUR BOOK. The others involved will be your trusty agent and editor.

Secret Agent

But back to puppies.

Bit by bit, the right puppy will emerge. It will distinguish itself from its littermates. It will mature, develop manners, learn not to jump on guests. Its essential sense of self will be cultivated, its strengths enhanced. It will be groomed until it shines like a shiny, shiny show dog.

Groomed

(Dog geek alert: I’m pretty sure this is an English Toy Spaniel. The muzzle looks too pushed-in for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Feel free to weigh in.)

It will be ready to strut its stuff in front of the whole world and make you proud. Griffon

And your puppy-love will deepen into true love.Jenna Marbles

Remember, none of this happens by accident. Without long walks, lots of attention, some sleepless nights, and consistent discipline, your book-puppy will never become all it’s meant to be.

And it’s meant to be nothing less than a champion.

Best In Show

I look back fondly at my many versions of BABYMOON. They still have all their puppyish charm for me. The earliest is spare yet lyrical. Later ones are more developed, with complete sentences and a more varied rhythm. The final, more nuanced version is quite different from its siblings, and yet it bears a strong resemblance to all of them. I guess you could say it’s the pick of the litter.

Enjoy the day.

Hayley

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I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press. Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Colleagues, craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Editing and Revising, Editor, Publishers and Editors, rhythms, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing and Life

Taking The Leap

Because of the earth’s orbit and math, we sometimes get an extra day tacked onto February. Leap Day. It’s a sweet bonus, like those yummy after-dinner mints that (too rarely) come with the check. A chance to take a breath and look around. A chance to decide what’s next. Today’s one of those days, and it begs the question, what leap are you going to take in the year ahead?

Jump!

Maybe this year you’ll lift your chin and start to call yourself a writer. Fellow EMU Darcey Rosenblatt has some thoughts on that: http://bit.ly/1Lokayk

Maybe you’ll commit to devoting a chunk of your precious time to starting or upping your word count. You might attend your first conference. Join a critique group. Seek representation. Start submitting manuscripts.

To my knowledge, there is no way to do this work without taking the big, scary, chancy leap at some point. When is that point? I think it’s when your work is as good, as powerful, as irresistible as you can make it. You have to honest with yourself. Outside opinions can be valuable, of course, but what ultimately matters is you. Your inimitable point of view. Your voice. YOU.

As writers, we are the midwives of emotion. We are called to pull the heartstrings, to summon the tears, to tickle the funnybone. Out of words and our own vulnerability, we forge a profound and mysterious bond of togetherness with our readers. We say to them—you are not alone. We both find this funny. We both find that sad. We both see this particular beauty right here and right now.

When you believe you’ve approached that point of connection, that point where you’ve done all you can, you should do it. Take the leap.

Gravatar About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My debut picture book, BABYMOON, is coming from Candlewick Press.

 

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Filed under Agents, Colleagues, Creativity, Inspiration, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing, Writing and Life

MOM SCHOOL! Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette

To celebrate the launch of Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL, we’re starting the week off with a bang. I snagged an interview with the stellar Ammi-Joan Paquette, Rebecca’s agent extraordinaire. Here we go:

Janet: Hi Joan! Since we’re celebrating Rebecca Van Slyke‘s MOM SCHOOL release, I’d like to start with how you met Rebecca.

Joan: Many of my clients come to me via referrals from one of my existing authors, or from other author friends. Rebecca actually came referred to me by three such authors: my clients Trent Reedy and Carol Brendler, and the fabulous Cynthia Leitich Smith, who knows a thing or two about talented writers. I’m so grateful to those who sent her my way!MOM SCHOOL cover

Janet: And MOM SCHOOL isn’t the first book of Rebecca’s you’ve sold, correct?

Joan: MOM SCHOOL was the first book of Rebecca’s which sold—in a two-book deal, actually; its companion title, DAD SCHOOL, is due out this time next year. Shortly after this, another of Rebecca’s picture books got a flurry of interest, and LEXIE THE WORD WRANGLER ended up selling at auction (another two-book deal!) to Nancy Paulsen Books. Another picture book, WHERE DO PANTS GO? is forthcoming from Sterling as well. Busy, busy lady!

Janet: The cover is darling, and Priscilla Burris is an ideal illustrator for the book, in my opinion. Did you have much input on the art side of the sale?

Joan: Nope, this was all the terrific team at Doubleday. I absolutely adore Priscilla Burris, and couldn’t imagine anyone better to bring these wonderful characters to life!

Janet: This is such a great concept – as a kid, I imagined my mom knew everything. Of course she would have gone to school! What’s your favorite of the charming images Rebecca conjures up for “mom study”?

Joan: You really expect me to pick just one? Impossible! I am in love with every bit of this book, from start to finish. 🙂

Janet: There’s a rumor that Rebecca’s secret dream is to become a penguin tamer. Do you have a secret dream that you’d, ahem, like to share?

Joan: I don’t know that I have any dream quite so jazzy as Rebecca’s, but if my secret future could involve an unlimited supply of buttery pastry, chocolate, and never-ending books, I’m not sure I could want for anything else.

And neither could we, especially when those books include something as delightful as MOM SCHOOL!

Find MOM SCHOOL at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound

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Filed under Agents, Book Launch, Picture books

Emmanuel’s Dream Launch Party Continues With Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette

We are having a wonderful week as we celebrate the release of Laurie Ann Thompson’s new book, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Laurie has done an amazing job of telling Emmanuel’s inspiring story.cover

Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream.

Ammi-Joan PaquetteToday we are happy to have Laurie’s agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, on the blog to answer a few questions about working with Laurie.

How did you come to represent Laurie?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I first started corresponding with Laurie in 2010, when Erin sent her my way as someone she felt might be an excellent fit for my list and interests. She couldn’t have been  more right! Laurie and I corresponded for a good year, during which time she did some terrific revisions and sent me a number of her projects to consider. The more time that passed, and the more I read, the more I knew that I had to work with her. The combination of passion for her subjects, a strong desire to make a difference, and of course incredible writing talent had me hooked!

What was it about Emanuel’s Dream that caught your attention?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: EMMANUEL’S DREAM (then under a different title) was actually the first project that Laurie queried me with! At the time I was looking for a non-fiction author to work with, and both this character and his story really compelled me. I was also impressed that when I sent Laurie revision notes, she dug in with zest and really transformed the project.–Not only that, but during this time of revision she actually met with Emmanuel Yeboah in person (and came out of the meeting with 18 pages of notes, which she then used to inform her next draft). EMMANUEL’S DREAM has changed hugely over the course of its polishing, submission, and later still further after acquisition. But the core story is still the same as it first was, and it has only gotten more glorious in the retelling.

Laurie’s book, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, debuted in September. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah is a changemaker and did start something that matters. Does Laurie have other books on the horizon that highlight people who have changed the world?
AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I guess you’re seeing a trend here, aren’t you? I can’t get into specifics here, but Laurie definitely has other ideas in mind spotlighting people who have changed the world. I love this side of Laurie’s passion and I’m eager to see how these next projects may come together!

We’re eager to see them too, Joan. Thanks for joining us for launch week and sharing about your work with Laurie.

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 Remember to comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Emmanuel’s Dream. Pick up a signed copy at  Secret Garden Bookshop (if you add your personalization request in the comments section, Laurie will sign it for you!) or check out IndieBound for a local bookstore near you. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon.com or BN.com.

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

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: Agent and Editor Interviews!

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey LaneThis week, we Emus are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating the launch of Lindsey Lane‘s debut young adult novel, EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN! A twisty, turny, super-smart story about a teenager who goes missing and the people in his small Texas town who are affected, EVIDENCE is an unputdownable read that will be out in the world on September 16.

Here’s a more detailed summary:

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Evidence of Things Not Seen explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities

Want a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, and a T-shirt? Just leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win!

We’ll have a new post every day this week, delving into the fascinating world of this book, and today we’re kicking things off with interviews of two very important people: Lindsey’s agent, Erin Murphy, and her editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Joy Peskin.

Interview with Agent Erin Murphy

Erin pictureTara Dairman: EVIDENCE is not your typical YA novel. What about it grabbed your attention when Lindsey queried you with it?

Erin Murphy: Well, first of all, Lindsey herself grabbed me. We’d met a few years earlier, when she was just going into the program at VCFA, and I really liked her then–her energy, her focus–but I felt she should wait to sign with an agent after she was through the program, because it can change a writer so much. When she approached me after she graduated, I appreciated how READY she felt. She sounded sure and steady.

And the manuscript itself–the concept was intriguing, in a could-fall-flat-or-could-blow-the-doors-off kind of way, and it blew my doors off. The different voices carried me away. It had incredible potential, and it was one of those situations where I had complete and utter confidence that the writer could take it to the next level. It certainly helped that while she was waiting for me to read it, Lindsey had time to step away from it herself and come back to it anew–and then she did something completely unorthodox: She read it through and wrote herself an editorial letter, and sent it to me to see if I concurred with her thoughts on what needed work. I did, although I had some thoughts to add to the mix, too. I loved that she did that. It showed me how hard she’s willing to work, how self-motivated she is, and how clearly she can see her own work.

TD: Did the unique structure and premise of EVIDENCE make it easy for you to decide which editors to submit it to, or more difficult?

EM: It made it easy. It went to editors I knew would fight for it despite the unusual form if they fell in love with the writing. (And how could they not fall in love with the writing?) I focused on editors who were known for taking chances to good effect, and who were well established. I think if new-ish editors had gotten a manuscript like this, it would have been harder for their team to trust them to have a vision for it–although if we hadn’t seen success on the first round, I would have definitely broadened my thinking about that. Joy Peskin at FSG read it quickly and fell in love with and had a strong vision for it, and worked fast to put together a preempt so we’d take it off the table elsewhere. She and Lindsey spoke and hit it off so well that it felt like we’d found the best possible home for the project, so we accepted the offer. I had thought that because of the unusual structure, we might find just one editor who was interested–the right editor, the one person who really got it. But it turned out that if we hadn’t taken the preempt, we would have had quite a lot of interest from others, too. Editors really are looking for something they’ve never seen before, something completely fresh and new.

 

joy peskin photo may 2013Interview with Editor Joy Peskin

TD: Most novels have one or two protagonists, but in EVIDENCE, there’s a new protagonist in every chapter. How did this affect the editorial process?

Joy Peskin: That’s a good question. Lindsey’s skill with the range of protagonists is one key thing that drew me to this book. Oftentimes, authors struggle to give multiple narrators (even just two!) distinct voices. But Lindsey was able to create this wide cast of characters and each voice was immediately different. I never got one character confused with another. One thing we did work on in the editorial process was lengthening the book, because when it came in it was a little short. And the way we did that was to weave in a few all-new characters and also to elaborate on some of the stories of the existing characters.

For example, in the original draft of the manuscript, the chapter called “Ritual” didn’t exist. The main character in that chapter, Tara, showed up in the chapter called “Lost,” but she played a minor role. Lindsey decided to give Tara her own chapter, and to tell more of her story, and we ended up with one of the most powerful chapters in the book. So the wide range of characters gave us a unique way to extend a manuscript. Instead of telling more of the story overall, we looked for supporting characters who demanded more of a starring role.

TD: One of the most striking aspects of EVIDENCE, to me, is that some chapters are in first person, while others are in third. Was that something that changed during the editorial process? How did you and Lindsey decide which POV was the right one for each chapter?

JP: Lindsey decided to put each chapter that comes from someone who actually knew Tommy in first person—his classmates, friends, parents, etc.—and to put each chapter that comes from someone who finds something Tommy left behind in third person. I think that worked out really well. I imagine the first person chapters almost like monologues, which makes sense because Lindsey is a playwright. I also imagine that the characters in these chapters are talking to an investigator who is off the page. And the third person chapters are almost like short stories. You may begin reading one and think, “Wait, what does this person’s story have to do with Tommy?” But then you keep reading and see the character find something that belonged to Tommy, and it makes you think about the seemingly random ways our lives overlap. As Tommy wrote, “We leave pieces of ourselves everywhere,” and part of the thrill of reading this book is seeing who found all the pieces Tommy left behind.

TD: What do you think really happened to Tommy?

JP: I hate to say it, but I think something bad happened to Tommy. Maybe he was abducted? It actually really bothers me to say that, because I like Tommy so much, and I wish I could say that he slipped through a wormhole into another dimension. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think it’s possible.

 ***

Thank you so much, Erin and Joy, for taking the time to give us all some behind-the-scenes insight into this incredible book. And congratulations, Lindsey, on your debut!

You can get your own copy of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as FSG, BookPeoplePowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

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 Agents, Book Promotion, Editing and Revising, Interviews, Launch, Publishers and Editors

Hold on Tight and Enjoy the Ride . . . or Why I Love my Agent

large coaster

Imagine yourself on a roller coaster—not some wimpy one with a few repetitive twists and turns, but an unpredictable, double-looped, eighty-mile-an-hour roller coaster. Having fun yet? Great!

Now . . . remove all safety devices. Lap belt, gone. Shoulder bars, gone. In fact, you don’t even have handles to hold on to.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like that ride.

flying coaster peopleI’m convinced that this is what my publishing experience would feel like without my agent. She keeps my head, arms, hands, feet, and legs inside the vehicle at all times. She does all she can to make the ride an enjoyable one. Sure, I might scream my lungs out sometimes and think I’ll never make it off this crazy ride alive, but in the end, I’ll jump out of the cart and race back to the end of the line to do it all over again.

But only because I feel like my agent will keep me from serious harm.

Yep, I’m a play it safe sort of girl. I love the thrill of a fast, bumpy ride, but I want to know that in the end, it will be all right. Having an agent is about even more than that though.

Through a series of fortunate and unusual events, I was able to get an offer for my debut novel without an agent. But I took the advice of several wise friends who told me I should try to acquire one anyway, and thank heaven I listened!

My agent not only negotiated better terms for my contract, but she was also able to explain what the contract terms even meant. I would’ve had no idea what I was signing without her. Boilerplate contracts don’t have to be predatory—though some of them are, so author beware—to make you regret the terms later. A good agent protects you from agreeing to unreasonable clauses. He or she will also work to make sure your terms are the very best they can be.

initial hereAnd even after my contract was agreed upon via email and phone calls, my agent went back through it word by word to ensure that everything that had been discussed was carried through. I could barely comprehend what the papers were saying to begin with, so I certainly wouldn’t have known if the contract had been amended correctly or not. I would’ve just signed it (because, OMG! I have a contract from a major publisher in my hands!!!).

Once the editing process began, I loved having my agent copied on the emails. I’ve been lucky because my editor shared my same vision for the novel, but I know—for sure—that my agent would have had my back if I had needed to fight for something in my novel that my editor and I strongly disagreed over. And if the novel would’ve been better my editor’s way, my agent would’ve been a second voice to guide me in my editor’s direction. And it would’ve been a lot easier for me to make a significant change.

Also, just weeks after turning in my revision based on editorial notes, my editor left for another house. I was heartbroken. I was afraid of being “orphaned.” But both my agent and my new editor made it an easy transition, preventing my novel from slipping through the cracks. I’ve been very well taken care of.

Had I not been . . . guess who would’ve made the important phone call to The Boss? Not me, that’s for sure, because I have a difficult time going after what I want. But my agent would’ve been all over that like ants on a watermelon.

It’s also a comfort to know that my agent is copied on all of my emails involving the sales and marketing side of publishing. For example, she watched over and participated in the creation of my cover and jacket copy. There was a lot of back and forth about both of these important steps, and she was there for all of it.

She’s also told me when it was time to ease off and trust my editor and publisher with particular tasks. She’s told me when I should feel comfortable asking for a bit more support. I trust her implicitly.

She also trusts me. She lets me make the final decisions. She recognizes that this is my career, and my dream, and my name going on the cover of my books. She’s my biggest cheerleader and champion.

Another thing I love is that she doesn’t push me to just “pump out books.” She recognizes that there are other important facets in my life that I often need to pay more attention to (my three kids, in particular). I’m also not the most productive author in the world because I’m an incredibly cautious writer. I need a story to truly feel right to me before I share it with anyone else. That’s just how I work. But my agent doesn’t see me as just another cash cow on her bestseller-producing ranch, and that allows me to give the best of myself, not just the most of myself (which hopefully won’t end up in the dairy section).

I know this sounds like the most shameless commercial ever for my agent Erin Murphy, because she really is the best agent on this entire planet, but last I heard, she isn’t taking on new clients for a while. My actual purpose for writing this is to give those of you who are questioning whether or not you should pursue an agent, a very strong nudge in that direction (check out the fabulous agents at EMLA first! All three of them are the best possible agents any writer could dream up. Now that’s a shameless commercial).

I used to think that having an agent was all about negotiating a deal—which just about any agent can manage—but I now understand that it’s much more about having someone by my side during the entire publishing process.

My best tip for seeking out an awesome agent of your own is to research them like crazy. Get to know their personalities through social media, check out the types of books they represent—do you like them too? And above all things, listen to how other authors talk about their agents. (By far the most common thing I hear published authors complain about is their agent’s lack of enthusiasm or interest in them. Emails aren’t answered, concerns aren’t addressed, and personalities clash.) Pay close attention when authors are raving about their agents in more private situations. Get the name of their agent and begin your research! There are a lot of great agents out there, and one of them surely has YOU on their wish list. Get to know them, and then submit when you feel you’ve found a good fit.

Then hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

 

(PS. In a future post, I’ll tell you why EDITORS are so important, and in particular, why MY editor is beyond amazing. How lucky can a debut author get, huh? I love my team!)

_________________________________

IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).

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Filed under Advice, Agents

No’s Job, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Rejection

     “Dear Author,
Thank you for your recent submission to XYZ Publishing Company. I regret to inform you that …”

Does this letter look familiar to you? If you’ve ever tried to submit a manuscript for publication, chances are you’ve gotten a response similar to this at some time in your writing career. I remember the first one I ever got. I was in college, and my professor had suggested that I submit the dummy that I had done for his literature class to his publisher. Finally- FINALLY- I would be a published author! And at such a young age!

I sent it in. I waited. After a week, every time I went to the mailbox I was sure that this would be the day I would get my SASE back with a contract in the mail. I began to think about changing my major from teaching to writing.

After a few more days (okay, six months), my SASE came back! I pulled out my manuscript dummy and… a tiny postcard that began, “Dear Author…” I was crushed. I cried. I sent it out again in a massive simultaneous submission to every publisher that did picture books.
I got a massive simultaneous rejection.

But I kept writing. I kept learning. I joined SCBWI. I went to conferences, joined a critique group, and took classes. I kept submitting, but I submitted smarter. (Turns out that some publishers only publish certain kinds of books! Who knew?)

I got a LOT more rejection letters.

But. While each rejection letter still felt like, well, a rejection, I noticed that after a while they changed. I was getting some letters that began, “Dear Ms. Van Slyke.” There would be a reference to my actual manuscript, like they had read it. And sometimes the editor would tell me why it wasn’t a good fit for them.

I started to look for an agent. And- oh, goody!- NEW rejection letters came pouring in!
I eventually did get an agent. Unfortunately, it was, shall we say, not a happy match. The rejection letters stopped coming to me. But, as I later learned, that was most likely because no manuscripts were going out. I came to the decision that an unproductive agent was worse than no agent, so we parted ways.

Fortunately, I did get another agent, and manuscripts began going out again. As proof, I started getting rejection letters again. By this time, though, either because my writing had improved or (more likely) my agent was matching them more closely to the right editor, the rejections were very specific. And they started coming with offers to look at more of my writing, or even to look at a manuscript again after a few changes.

Now, after a few sales, I’m still getting rejection letters. LOTS of rejection letters. But I look at them differently now. Instead of focusing on the “No,” I look for themes. Does a manuscript get rejected because it’s weak or because the publisher already has a pirate book on their list? Do I see several of the same comments on the same manuscript? Perhaps it’s time to try another revision based on that feedback.

Most of all, though, rejection letters mean that I’m doing my job: writing. Submitting. Revising. Submitting again. Writing new manuscripts.

Because sometimes instead of a no, there will be a “Yes.”

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Filed under Advice, Agents, Anxiety, Editing and Revising, Editor, Education, Panic, Patience, Publishers and Editors, Rejection, rejection and success, Uncategorized