Category Archives: Celebrations

So much to celebrate when a book is being born!

Lines: So Much More Than a Dash

We’re celebrating the launch of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s LINES! In this beautiful board book, Sarvinder shows us that lines are so much more than just a dash on a page. Lines create the whole world we live in! To bask in the beauty of Sarvinder’s LINES, us Emus are talking about our favorite lines on the planet!

Debbi Michiko Florence: My favorite “lines” make up the outline of my favorite bridge in the city of my birth – the Golden Gate Bridge.

Terry Pierce: My favorite “line” is the one that forms where land ends and water begins. Like this…

Janet Fox: The laugh lines at the corners of my eyes.

Christina Uss: I love lines on a map – the more squiggly and roundabout they are, the better they are for bike riding, since they’re usually not the most direct way to anywhere!

Hayley Barrett: Sometimes we’re online. Sometimes we’re offline. Both states of being have their charms and challenges. When we’re online, we possess an incredible, nearly limitless ability to form connections with others. We learn and grow, are comforted and discomfited in turn as our already small world contracts. When we’re offline, we come back to our earliest sense of self. We are free to daydream, to dig deep, to explore our minds and hearts. I benefit from time spent in each of these lines.

Jason Gallaher: Still, by far, my favorite lines of all time have been the lines outside bookstores waiting for the Midnight Release Parties of the Harry Potter books. People dressed in costume, carrying wands, gabbing about what Hogwarts House they are in…sigh. These were such great times when strangers could come together and make friends through their shared love of Rowling’s magic.

Elizabeth Acevedo: I love the lines of a poem!

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I love the line between night and day. The horizon at dusk.

You can get your own copy of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s LINES next week! Find it at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your favorite bookseller!

____________________

Golden Gate Bridge image from www.history.com

Bike map image from Portland Bureau of Transportation

Harry Potter Midnight Release image from BreakingNews.ie

Dusk image from 6iee.com

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A Proclamation

Normally when I sit down to write a post for Emu’s Debuts, I come in with a plan, feeling assured and confident the post will be done in roughly an hour, I’ll add a few gifs, and voila! The post will be complete. But trying to write this post feels…strange. It’s my Farewell Post, that Emu’s Debuts tradition of thanking the Emus for supporting them on the journey toward their debut publication, and then they flap their Emu wings and fly from the nest. The equation of how this post works has already been given to me, I’ve seen it done a dozen times, but now I’m not exactly sure what to write. What should be the easiest post yet is not the hardest, but the weirdest.

I think this disconnect between my knowing what I’m supposed to post and me actually writing said post comes from my inner Emu soul knowing that the traditional purpose of this post, saying goodbye, doesn’t fit with how reality feels. It doesn’t feel like a goodbye. Goodbyes indicate endings or completion of something, but what I’m feeling right now is really a beginning and that the journey of fledgling little WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, my debut picture book, is nowhere near complete. I’m really just at the starting line.

My mind is focusing on marketing, on spreading the word, on readings and signings and school visits. I know that as Whobert’s path in the world continues, my fellow Emus are going to keep supporting me, keep helping me spread the word, and I’ll do the same for them. So it feels less like I’m leaving the nest for good, and more like I’m able to fly from it from time to time, but always return home. I’ll report back what I’ve seen in the world at large to help those who are still waiting for their debut to hatch, but still receive so much love and support from them when what I see is distressing or concerning and need someone to lean on.

So this isn’t really goodbye, but rather a declaration of how much I’ve come to rely on my fellow Emus as a writer. While my time posting on this blog may be complete, my time celebrating and commiserating and experiencing with Emus is still going strong. No, this is not a goodbye post. It is a proclamation of my identity as an Emu. Thank you for everything these past two years, Emu friends. Here’s to cozying up in the nest for years to come.

____________________

Jason 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, is out now from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, Anjelica Huston, and Emus who have been with him for every step of the journey. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Farewell, Inspiration, Writing and Life

After…

As someone who has moved 8 times in 16 years as an adult, I detest good-byes to the point where I refuse to make a big deal of them. I like to believe that by not saying good-bye it means I will circle back to friends and family during visits, at least. And so this is not good-bye, though I am fledging the Emu’s nest. I will circle in the sky, keeping an eye on the rest of the up-and-coming debuting authors here, cheering them on as they, too, spread their wings and fledge this nest.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth are now out in the wild, hoping to be found (and loved) by readers. Launch week was amazing, and the launch party hosted by my local indie Bank Square Books was fabulous. I was touched to see so many familiar faces in the audience, long-time friends, neighbors, and agency-mates. I especially loved having my husband, Bob, and daughter, Caitlin, there – they have been along for the entire ride and have always believed in me. As I read from the first chapter of Mochi Queen (and the audience laughed in the right places), as I shared the story of my journey, and as I signed books, I was filled with wonder and joy. I will cherish the memory of that day forever.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to after. I had been mentally and emotionally preparing for launch for a long time, but I hadn’t thought much about After. After meant hearing about people buying and reading my books. It meant seeing photos of kids reading Jasmine Toguchi. The first time someone shared a pic of a little girl reading Mochi Queen, I cried. Every time someone shares a picture of a child reading my books, I get teary. Actual kids are reading Jasmine Toguchi! One parent told me that her daughter read Mochi Queen three times in a row. Seeing the books “in the wild” is also a heady feeling. My books. In bookstores! And in libraries!

Books of Wonder, NYC

So while launch and all the excitement of planning and celebrating are now in the past, the real joy continues as readers discover Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth and hopefully find a friend in Jasmine Toguchi. I am extremely grateful for the privilege of being a part of readers’ lives through my books. And there are two more Jasmine Toguchi books in the series that will release next year – Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (April 3, 2018) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (July 3, 2018).

Before I fly the coop, I do want to thank my nest-mates for all their support before, during, and after launch. There is nothing like having friends who are there for you every step of the way. Thanks also to my fabulous agent Tricia Lawrence and my EMLA family, to my wonderful editor Grace Kendall and the amazing team at FSG, to talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and to my family and friends.

*sniff*

Now I’m getting choked up so I’ll end here with a smile, a wave, and a see you soon! xoxo


Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her puppy, Kiku; rabbit, Aki; and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series are now available from Farrar Straus Giroux. Two more books will follow next year: Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl(4/3/18) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (7/3/18).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Farewell, joy, Launch, series

Out of this World! THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY Launch Begins!

It’s time to celebrate the launch of Katie Slivensky’s THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY! To blast off the celebration of this sci-fi adventure, Emus flocked together to answer this question: If you could travel to one place in space, where would you go?

Hayley Barrett: I’d want to go….hitch a ride on C 1847/T1 — Miss Mitchell’s Comet! It’s non-periodic, so it’s going to be a long, long ride. See you later…maybe.

Miss Mitchell getting her star gazing on!

Kat Shepherd: The idea of space has always kind of scared me. That whole concept of infinity, and being in a vacuum, and being completely separate from everything you’ve ever known in your entire life. There is no particular place in space I’d like to visit, but I would love to go up in space, see the earth from a distance, have a little sleepover (because I want to see how comfortable I sleeping would be without gravity), and then come right back down again.

Christina Uss: Space scares the willies out of me, so I’d only go if I could slip into a book universe to do the deed. Then it’s easy: I’d want to get me an Electric Thumb and hitchhike with Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent to the Restaurant At The End of the Universe.

Debbi Michiko Florence: I do NOT want to go up in space, but I’m happy to read about it! So if other EMU’s go into space, I will read your books.

Jason Gallaher: I’m pretending that space travel doesn’t scare the Shatra out of me! I’d want to go to a planet in the Goldilocks zone where conditions are potentially just right for the planet to be habitable. Word on the hyperlane is that Kepler-62f, Kepler-186f and Kepler-442b are the planets to check out!

Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

Katie Slivensky: I’d want to go to Europa and try and see if anything is alive there. Europa is one of the many moons of Jupiter. It’s covered with ice, and under that ice–oceans of liquid water! It’s the PERFECT place to discover alien lifeforms. It’s my not-so-secret-dream that NASA gets its Europa mission together sooner rather than later. I know they’re planning on a more robotic angle for the mission, but maybe they’d let me sign up if I ask nicely. And hey, the Jupiter system isn’t that far away. I’d be willing to put in the 5 years of travel to get there!

Image from Galileo spacecraft

You can get yourself a copy of Katie’s THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your favorite bookseller (all options much easier than blasting into space)!

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WHOOO WHOOO! Interview with Whobert Whover’s Illustrator Jess Pauwels!

We’re wrapping up the party for Jason Gallaher’s debut picture book Whobert Whover, Owl Detective with an interview with Jess Pauwels, the talented illustrator. It’s such a thrill for me to chat with Jess, because not only do I love this “whodunnit” fun story starring an owl (one of my favorite animals), but I adore the wonderful illustrations!

First, WHO is Jess Pauwels? In her own words:

I live in Brussels Belgium. I grew up in a family of professional dancers, but pencils were more appealing to me (and less exhausting ^!^) ! I studied arts and I graduated in illustration from St Luc-Brussels. For a few years, I was both an illustrator and a bookseller.

Six years ago, I chose to concentrate only on my graphic career. I drew for magazines, music labels, and picture books publishers. Since then, I have illustrated great stories, mostly in France, and some of them have been translated into Chinese and Italian.

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my very first USA picture book

And now, on to the interview!

Tell us a little about your creative process. What are the steps you take before you start working on the book’s illustrations? How did you come up with Whobert and the other cast of characters?

First, I sketched all the characters. Like a « forest theme » movie casting – how should they look like to stick to the story? It helped me to get their reactions and to find the appropriate facial expressions for each one.

Then, I waited for the publisher’s creatives to send me the text layout – the way they want the text to be spread from one page to another.

After they decided where to put the text and where my illustrations would stand, I made several storyboards (small fast drawings with the same proportions of the book) to settle who is in the picture doing what and what is the general ambiance. I tried to find a balance between close ups, large views, etc. It helps with the dramatization of the image.

The drawings part was the most creative, fun, personal touch part. I was able to choose how I would tell Jason’s great story with my own touch.

Then, when the publisher’s team validated this part, they pretty much left me to decide on the rest of the job. They gave me advice more than asked for changes.

So next, I drew properly the whole thing, with all the details and the intentions I wanted – every image at the final book size, this time. Sometimes when the image is bigger than in my storyboard, things didn’t work anymore, so I changed or got rid of some stuff. I’m not usually very satisfied with the firsts results. Slowly, I found the right tone to satisfy me.

To complete and color, I scanned my drawings to the computer. This helped me to make final changes (eyes too close together or add a feather here and there, resize a worm …). If I had to do it in traditional techniques it would have taken ages.The computer can be a wonderful tool if you don’t skip important first creative steps.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process? Any particular joys?

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is my first USA picture book collaboration. Humor is very different over there (in the USA). You are less serious and you seem to trust more the kids’s sense of humor. It’s very liberating to illustrate.

But the most challenging thing for me was the long wait before the launch of the book. In Europe, it takes around 3 to 6 months. With my project for Whobert, it took more than a year between the finished illustrations to the real printed copies.

But the real challenge for me was when I was finishing the pictures, because my 10-year-old French bulldog became very hill. Rushing into work helped me not to be too depressed about it, as he was my hairy muse for so long. He left us in February 2016.

A year and a half later we are welcoming our new puppy and Whobert Whover, Owl Detective is going out. It’s been a long, dog-free, but projects-full year in my studio. The wait for this fun picture book gave me hope and kept me focused on my other books to finish.

Meeting Jason through this project and seeing him be so enthusiastic, proud, and thrilled with the result was a vitamin shot to my self esteem.

Who is your favorite character from Whobert Whover, Owl Detective? Why?

This is quite a tough question, because when I draw a story I need to step into the shoes of every character. But, I think it’s really Whobert I like the most. He is so funny and stubborn. He’s a determined hero even if he’s mostly naive. With that kind of character you just cannot stay serious about life. He’s kind of a mix between Sherlock Holmes and Kimmy Schmidt, and I’d love to be this kind of mix! ^!^

(I LOVE Jess’s answer!)

Finally, can you show us a picture of your work space (I’m obsessed with creative work spaces.) What is your favorite part of your work area? Do you have any special rituals or talismans?

I work at home in our apartment in Brussels Belgium. I have my own studio. I tried to work in an outside place with other creative friends, but I was suddenly not so productive (morning coffee talks/lunch breaks talks/afternoon coffee talks). It became harder to focus on the jobs. I love to socialize a little too much.

So back home I’m more effective. I have my morning coffee in front of my social media and news, and I’m launched.

As talismans, I need several things to reassure myself, like music (Nina Simone, Laura Veirs, Joan As police Woman). On the walls, inspiring images like Lewis Carroll’s drawing of Alice in Wonderland, other illustrators’ prints. or pictures of our trips. On my desk are my favorites pencils and markers and two mini statues of Ganesh, brought from India and Lao, which are taking care of my projects.

…and lately COOPER our new companion, watching me from his pillow…not very calmly yet. !-)

Thank you, Jess! Congratulations to you and Jason on Whobert Whover, Owl Detective! You and Jason make a fabulous team!


Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her puppy, Kiku; rabbit, Aki; and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series is now available from Farrar Straus Giroux. Two more books will follow next year: Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl (4/3/18) and Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper (7/3/18).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Illustrators, Interviews, Launch, Picture books, process, Uncategorized

Who, Who Made Whobert?

I can’t believe this day has finally arrived! Whobert is hatching from his little egg and becoming a fully fledged book bird! It’s so unreal, and I still can’t quite believe that this book is actually getting published, nearly two and a half years after the book was acquired. During that time, I learned that this book is so much more than just the manuscript I wrote back in 2014. So to celebrate the hatching of Whobert into bookstores, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge who, who helped create Whobert and make his hatching possible.

Jess Pauwels! You are such an amazing illustrator, and you make Whobert and his pals pop off the page. Your facial expressions! I can feel Whobert’s suspicion ooze off the page. Thank you for making Whobert come alive.

Tricia Lawrence! You are the best agent a guy could ever ask for. You work for me tirelessly, and Whobert wouldn’t be in the hands of readers if it weren’t for your hands guiding me along this thrilling writing rollercoaster.

Annie Nybo! That first critique you gave of Whobert really spurred me on to keep creating. I can feel your enthusiasm for Whobert through every email and text, and I feel so lucky to have worked with you.

Bethany Hegedus! The Writing Barn feels like home. That ball that started rolling towards a real writing career was given that initial push because of you and the beautiful space of inspiration and creativity that you’ve created.

My entire family! You’ve supported me since birth, and have never once doubted me, even at the times I doubted myself. Thanks for cheering me on during the good news, and for boosting me up during the bad. I love you all!

Jerry! Words cannot express how much I love you. I am so thankful everyday to have you rooting for me and supporting me at every turn. I live a real life fairy tale, and that’s all because of you.

And lastly, to all my fellow Emus! Whobert may be hatching today, but he wouldn’t be able to take flight if not for your constant efforts, not only letting people know about his publication, but also being my cheerleaders and offering advice as I got closer and closer to this book birthday.

________________________

Jason 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 TODAY, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, and days when the goofy characters that live in his mind get to actually make their way into the real world. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Happiness

Sweet Treats to Celebrate JASMINE TOGUCHI—Plus A Giveaway!

To celebrate the arrival of the first two volumes of Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI chapter book series, I asked the EMUs to tell me about their earliest kitchen experiences. From batter-covered beaters to Easy Bake ovens, it was a sweet trip down memory lane.

Sarvinder Naberhaus recalls, “I did learn to bake as a child, motivated by (and still motivated by) the objective —  to eat the sweet treats! Cooking was a chore but baking was fun! And who wouldn’t want to use Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook for Boys and Girls with all their fun presentations of food? 

Although I’m torn between sharing our Betty Crocker recipe for Carrot Cake and the cookie dough recipe from childhood, I think I’ll stick with my mentor, Betty.

BETTY CROCKER’S (AND SARVINDER’S) CARROT CAKE

Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350. 

Ingredients:
4 eggs, beaten
2 c flour
2 c sugar
1 1/4 Crisco oil or a bit less
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c chopped nuts, if desired
2 c grated raw carrots

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, & salt to combine. In a medium bowl, blend together sugar and oil, then add beaten eggs. Stir dry and wet mixtures together gently. Fold in nuts and carrots last.
Bake 350 for 1/2 hour or so until the middle bounces to touch. When cool, adorn with:

Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
Beat all ingredients together thoroughly until whitish and fluffy. Frost cake and serve.

“I started learning how to bake at my mom’s elbow when I was four,” recalls recent EMU Fledgling Andrea Y. Wang. Mom was a nurse-midwife and worked a lot, so baking was my special time with her. My favorite thing to bake was chocolate chip cookies, because…CHOCOLATE, but I also loved making banana bread. It was so easy and mashing up the bananas was really fun—and way easier than pounding mochi rice! I still have the Betty Crocker cookbook that we used when I was little, and you can see all the stains on the banana bread page.
I even wrote the smaller amount of milk needed (only 3/4 cup) right on the recipe, because the mashed bananas added the extra liquid. Now that my mom is gone, using her cookbook and her mixing bowls keeps her close to me.

Katie Slivensky enjoyed annual baking bonanzas as a kid. “My childhood baking was cookie-related. Classic chocolate chip cookies throughout the year, or ALL THE COOKIES
at Christmas-time. My mom would have my sister and I help out with the mixing and measuring (and in the case of Christmas—decorating!) I mostly liked to help because that meant I’d get to eat the extra batter off the beaters. I also took decorating the frosted cookies for the holidays VERY seriously.

Here’s my mom’s Frosted Cookie recipe:

KATIE’S MOM’S CREAM CHEESE COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together:

1 cup shortening
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Then add:
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Roll dough out will lots of additional flour. Dip cookie cutters into flour before cutting so dough won’t stick.
Bake cookies 9-12 minutes or until edges start to get light brown.

Cool completely before decorating with:

Frosting (3 batches of frosting to 2 batches of cookies)
1 1/2 confectioners sugar
2 TBL butter (margarine) softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 TBL warm water

Blend ingredients until smooth. Divide frosting into smaller glass bowls and use food coloring to tint. Have fun! After decorating, allow cookies to rest overnight so frosting sets up.

Jason Gallaher says, “My mom is a marvelous baker, and I remember sitting with her in the kitchen while she made a whole slew of goodies. Turtle brownies, chocolate chip banana bread, and oatmeal butterscotch cookies were my absolute fave. I wish I had a recipe to share with you, but I can’t recall any of the *actual* steps in how to make these treats, because the only steps I ever participated in were Dipping Fingers Inside the Batter, and Licking Serving Spoons Clean. But those are steps that I highly recommend in any recipe!”

POM BROKAW THINKS JASON IS SUPER SWEET! >>>>>>>>>>>

Judging from this adorable picture, Terry Pierce was a baking prodigy. Her fondest early childhood memory was baking cupcakes with her mom. “I loved to help pour, mix and my favorite part, licking the leftover batter. My brother and I had to alternate so that one of us got the bowl and the other got the beaters. When I was around five, I got my first Easy Bake oven. I found it fascinating that a light bulb could bake those small cakes! I loved the coveted chocolate cake mix. The vanilla tasted like cardboard!

I still love to bake. In fact, just this morning, I made a chocolate- cream-filled-ganache birthday cake for my family. Yum!

Christina Uss remembers, “Early baking experiences were all about my mom and me and cookies. Her Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies were, in my opinion, far superior to all others. My best friend Karen and I started asking to cook them on our own when we were eleven, and to make sure we got the perfect results, we followed everything my mom did exactly, down to using the same mixing bowls and measuring spoons. It worked! Why? I figured my mom passed on some sort of cooking magic to us. It took meeting my husband who loves to bake but uses his grandma’s old Sunbeam electric mixer for every recipe to realize the real secret to my mom’s awesome cookies wasn’t specific mixing bowls, measuring spoons, or magic, but creaming the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon. It’s hard work (especially if you forget to leave the butter out to soften until you start mixing everything else, which I always did), but gives the cookies this satisfyingly chewy texture that can’t be beat. So here’s my recipe – with two caveats.

 

My thanks to the EMUs for these scrumptious stories. I think I’ll go bake some cookies now and tuck in with my copy of JASMINE TOGUCHI.


I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. It will be illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Families, Happiness, Launch, middle grade, Middle Grade, series, Uncategorized

Interview with JASMINE TOGUCHI editor, Grace Kendall!

The launch for Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI series continues with an interview with Debbi’s editor, Grace Kendall of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. Read below to get the inside scoop on all things Jasmine!

JG: What initially drew you to Debbi’s writing and JASMINE TOGUCHI?

GK: Oh! What a tough question. I think, aside from the writing itself–which is sweet and fun and pitch-perfect for this age–I was in awe of how elegantly Debbi handled big issues. In MOCHI QUEEN, Jasmine is simply trying to have a new experience before her older sister. It’s also about questioning traditional gender roles in a Japanese-American family. But the story is funny and energetic and packed full of silly sister drama. Jasmine has a ton of gumption, just like Debbi. That’s why I couldn’t put the manuscript down!

How have Jasmine, her adventures, and her family changed through the editorial process? Did JASMINE read much differently in the original submission from what we read now?

No, I think the Jasmine of Draft 1 is the Jasmine you see in the final books here. But when we decided to sign up four titles, it became clear that Jasmine’s voice needed a bit more volume to help sustain a whole series. So we worked on pulling out the brightest details in her personality. Debbi knows this character so well, and I love this little girl more with every book. It’s been so fun to see her develop over four stories!

One of my personal favorite characteristics of Jasmine’s is her insistence that she can do anything she sets her mind to, even if it’s labeled a “boy” activity. What is your favorite personality trait of Jasmine’s?

I can’t pick one, so I’ll give you three:

Artistic trait: Jasmine loves to make collages from her mother’s old magazines. I did the same thing when I was a kid.

Kinetic trait: Hopping. When Jazz (as I fondly call her) is anxious or excited, she hops from one leg to the other. It’s the perfect solution to too many nerves. And funny in a serious scene!

Emotional trait: I adore her sisterhood with Sophie. I’m a lot like Sophie, and my younger sister is a lot like Jasmine. I think it’ll be helpful for young readers to see these two siblings get through their growing pains–and look for any similarities in their own relationships.

Elizabet Vukovic’s illustrations are so dynamic and really showcase Jasmine’s personality. How did you find and decide on Elizabet Vukovic as the illustrator for these books?

It was a journey! We looked at A LOT of portfolios. But the second I saw Elizabet’s drawing of a little girl with big glasses playing dress-up in a glowing red gown, I knew we had our artist. I love Elizabet’s use of ink, the weight of her lines, and the phenomenal sense for color wash. We were SO lucky she was free. Her enthusiasm for the texts has brought a whole other layer of narrative to these books.

We get four whole JASMINE books, the first two releasing on July 11th! What adventures are in store for Jasmine as the series progresses?

Every time Debbi sends in a new manuscript, I’m convinced it’s my favorite Jasmine book yet. So, get ready for even more awesome adventures! In Book 3, Jasmine learns how to play the taiko drum for the school talent show. But there’s a big difference between being the best and trying your best. And a new kid in school will challenge Jasmine’s patience to hilarious and heartfelt effect.

In Book 4, Jasmine’s grandmother sends her and Sophie daruma dolls to wish on. So, Jasmine decides to wish for a pet: a flamingo! But where will it live, and how will Jasmine feed it? Can she even convince her parents to keep her pet flamingo? Jasmine gets a big surprise when a different wish is fulfilled!

Thank you so much for your time, Grace! We can’t wait to get our hands on more Jasmine adventures!

You can enter to win a copy of MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

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Filed under Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Editing and Revising

Pinch Me

My new puppy, Kiku, is joining in on the celebration!

Today, my debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi launches with the first two books: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This is the culmination of over 15 years of writing, learning, growing, revising, querying, submitting, and collecting rejections. Having my chapter books published is a dream come true.

I’ve talked about my journey on this blog and elsewhere so I won’t rehash it except to say, for Jasmine, it’s been seven years from the spark of an idea to book release. And it’s been a little over two years since my wonderful editor, Grace Kendall, made the offer to publish Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, not as a stand-alone, but as a series. It’s been a truly wonderful experience working with my editor Grace, my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and the FSG team. I feel so fortunate.

I’ve revised, copyedited, and proofread (with the help of the sharp eyes of professional copyeditors and proofreaders). I’ve reviewed and loved the art. Jasmine Toguchi is part of a Macmillan bookseller campaign called “Got Character?” that features six series. Jasmine is on a poster! The reviews (all good, thankfully) are in. Mochi Queen is a Junior Library Guild fall selection and a pick for Amazon’s Summer Book Club – New Favorite Series for Kids. I’ve been interviewed by some awesome bloggers. I’ve stumbled upon Twitter conversations and Instagram posts about Jasmine. And I’ve held the actual books in my hands. I’m giddy!

So when does it feel real? This still feels like a dream. A very wonderful dream but, still, a dream. I can’t believe that a book I wrote with characters I conceived is really going to find its way into the hands of readers. Perhaps that is when it will feel real – when a child reads my books.

Pre-launch, so much energy and focus is on getting the words and the art just right, on waiting for the reviews to come in, on planning events, on promotion and marketing. All of this is, of course, relevant and important and fun. But during all that, sometimes it’s easy to forget why I wrote the story in the first place, for whom I wrote the story – for a child. When I started my writing career over 15 years ago, I didn’t know about Kirkus or School Library Journal, or the effect of sales numbers or earning out, or how important it was to get parents and educators on board. All I thought about was the child who might pick up my book, read the story, connect to the character, and fall in love. And today, I’m remembering that. I can’t wait for readers to meet Jasmine and, I hope, fall in love with her.

Art copyright Elizabet Vukovic

Maybe that’s when it will feel real. When a child reader says, “I read and loved your book.” That is the review I’m holding my breath for.

In the meantime, I am celebrating this dream come true. I’m pinching myself to make sure this is really happening. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, who has believed in me, who has talked up my books, and who has helped make Jasmine and her stories come alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And extra special thanks to my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, to my amazing editor Grace Kendall, and to my husband B0b and daughter Caitlin!

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Enter to win Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Thankfulness

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