Category Archives: Colleagues

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.


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.


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:


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)



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

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…


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.


(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.




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:


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?


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

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.



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

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye!

I was lucky enough to have been able to convince the good folks here at Emu’s Debuts that my first three books were different enough from each other to qualify each and every one of them as a separate debut. And I’m sorely tempted to see just how far I can continue to push it… I mean, my next book to be published will be middle-grade nonfiction/fiction hybrid, which is totally different from a YA how-to or a picture-book biography, don’t you think? No, not really? Okay, probably not.

So, although I’ve put it off for as long as I could possibly justify (and then some), I guess the time has finally come for me to say farewell.

I published my introduction post in October of 2012, which means I’ve been here almost three years, and in that time I’ve seen quite a few Emus come and go. Despite the constant turnover due to the nature of this blog, however, one thing has remained wonderfully constant: the enthusiasm and supportiveness of the group for its members. I’m so lucky to have been a part of this blog for any time at all, let alone for such a long time and through three book releases. I think we’ve all done things we never dreamed we would (singing opera in Viking horns?) to cheer on one another’s book launches, and we had each other’s backs behind the scenes, too, for all of those burning newbie author questions like “What’s the best pen for signing?” and “Where did you get your bookmarks?” and “How do I throw a launch party?” I’ve read some truly amazing books because of my participation in this blog, I’ve learned an incredible amount about how to be a professional author, and I’ve made some great friends.

I was a software engineer before turning (back) to writing. Although I was never even remotely in competition with my colleagues in the technology industry (we were all working on the same product, after all), there was very little support to be found there. In fact, at times, it felt like quite the opposite. The programming culture seemed to be more about tearing each other down whenever possible. You’d think authors would be even more competitive given that we’re all trying to sell the same thing—books. But children’s book publishing is not that way at all.

From the international professional organization of SCBWI to its regional chapters, from our literary agency siblings to our critique groups, from our publishing houses to our marketing collectives, children’s book publishing is built on supportive, nurturing communities, and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of many of them. I value them all, but the Emu’s Debuts community will forever hold a very dear place in my heart. Thank you to all of those who worked to make it a reality before my arrival, thank you to everyone who shared their journey along with me, and thank you to those who will keep the blog going in the months and years ahead. It’s a special place, celebrating a special time, with special people contributing their time, energy, and love.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye…



Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, was released June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. She has said she doesn’t write novels, but she may have to just so she can rejoin Emu’s Debuts someday.

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Colleagues, Farewell, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

Finding my balance between promotion and writing

On Thursday, Luke put up an honest, heartfelt post about the realities of being a writer (please go read it right now—all the way to the end!). There are often many years spent waiting—writing, revising, submitting, revising again, submitting again, writing something new, repeat—the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes. We long for that golden ticket, that recognition, that validation that will make all of that effort worth it.

Then, finally, success: we’re published! We think our new status will make things easier for us somehow, like we discovered the secret formula and can just apply it over and over whenever we need to produce a publishable manuscript. In some ways it does: people do take you more seriously when you’re published. But in many other ways, it actually makes things harder.

I’ve seen writers with a successful first book struggle with the second, fearful that it won’t live up to their previous work. Others want to write something completely different, but feel pigeon-holed in a single genre. An unlucky few are so stung by negative reviews that they have a hard time putting themselves out there for more. Still others spend so much time promoting the first book that they simply don’t have time to write another one!

My challenge was similar to Luke’s: It’s so exciting to check on the status of your book, so compelling to want to nudge it out into the world a bit more, so easy to pop in and do quick, light promotion. And there’s always more you can be doing pre- or post-launch to get the word out. You’re constantly wondering what else you should be doing, who else you should be talking to. It’s easy to completely lose yourself in the world of that first book.

It’s not so much that you don’t have time to write anymore. You really don’t have to do all of those things. It’s more that all of the checking, nudging, and promoting feels necessary. It seems important. In fact, it feels like a betrayal of your first book—and, heaven forbid, of that first publisher who took a chance on you and made all of your big dreams come true!—to do anything less. It’s exceedingly difficult to switch gears and go back to the waiting; back to the quiet, largely unrecognized work behind the scenes; back to the writing.

This was actually one of the scariest and hardest parts of the whole journey for me. For months after Be a Changemaker came out, I worried that I’d never be able to write again, never be able to get myself back into that mindset, back to the focus and discipline needed to dive into writing something new. It was part of the process that I wasn’t at all expecting, and it took me completely off guard. Fortunately, I had other author friends (mostly Emus!) to discuss it with. They all said things like, “Yep, the same thing happened to me. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”

And, you know what? I did. I’m back to writing, and I’m loving it. I still do promotion, and I’m loving that, too. But, I’m finally starting to find my balance, discovering ways to foster the creative beginning of the process with one project while at the same time managing the more analytical business end of the process on another.

As I told the kids at the school visit I did last Friday: “Writers write. Period.” And, eventually, we discover that the writing itself is what makes it all worth it. We realize that we can’t NOT write. And we get back to work.

Writers write

Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. Her debut nonfiction picture book, EMMANUEL’S DREAM, was published by Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House in January 2015. MY DOG IS THE BEST, her debut fiction picture book, will be available June 9, 2015, from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan. Maybe then they’ll finally force her to retire from Emu’s Debuts, unless…

Please visit Laurie at her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Colleagues, Creativity, Discipline

With Joy and Trepidation

This is not my first debut.

Oxymoron? Not in publishing, where shifting genres allows an author to “debut” again (in my case from historical YA to fantasy middle grade). Plus I have the added delight of being a “debut” EMU, of joining this talented team of authors and being guided by my amazing new agent Erin Murphy.

That’s the joy part.

The trepidation comes from the realization that no matter how many novels I might have under my belt, releasing another into the world is fodder for the worst kind of self-doubt.

There are the standard questions: What if they hate it? What if I didn’t get it right? What if they ignore it entirely? And probably the most frightening: What if they think, She should’ve stuck to YA.

I’ve seen my share of successes – my first novel is still in print – and failures – my second is out of print. I’ve been to reader fests where young girls ask for my autograph, and I’ve sat at bookstore tables alone while crowds drift by, occasionally stopping to ask for directions to the loo.

Being an author is not for the faint-of-heart. Whether one is a debut-debut author or a semi-debut author, snaggle-toothed and hungry self-doubt, that enemy of art and artists everywhere, is waiting to pounce. What is an author to do besides crawl into the Cave of Quit?

David Bayles and Ted Orland in ART & FEAR say, You can only plunge ahead, even when that carries with it the bittersweet realization that you have already done your very best work. They’re right. Art can be great or it can be mediocre, but when you are an artist you have no choice but to make it, and keep on making it, and keep on keeping on, even while doubt stalks.

I have no choice but to venture in new directions with my art, plunging ahead, perhaps blindly and foolishly, but writing because I love it. (Joy!) Maybe this book will soar, or maybe sink, but I had to write this book. (Trepidation!) I have the pleasure of writing every single day. (Joy!) But for how much longer? (Trepidation!)

Bayles and Orland also say that the “operating manual for not quitting” is Make friends with others who make art. I’m here among the best of friends (Double Joy!) and I refuse to crawl into the cave.

Janet Fox’s debut middle grade novel, tentatively titled CHATELAINE, is set in a rundown Scottish castle during WWII. It features ghosts, spies, a steampunk witch, an immortal wizard, new-found friends, a creepy castle, an enigma machine, teachers-who-are-not-what-they-seem (aren’t they all?), missing children, the Scottish Highlands…It’s a race against the clock for one girl, her two younger siblings, and her new best friend to get to the bottom of host of mysteries. CHATELAINE (Viking) is slated for a winter 2016 release. Janet is also the author of three YA novels, all from Penguin: FAITHFUL (2010), FORGIVEN (2011) and SIRENS (2012). Here’s a short teaser for CHATELAINE:


Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Introduction

BE A CHANGEMAKER: Words of Wisdom

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddThis week, we’re celebrating a powerful new arrival on the youth nonfiction scene: Laurie Ann Thompson‘s BE A CHANGEMAKER, a guide for young people who want to make positive changes in the world. Laurie’s book grants its readers two great gifts: first, the courage to believe they can be agents for change, in spite of all apparent obstacles, and second, a practical roadmap to making that belief a reality. That’s inspiring stuff in a world that so often tells us we’re crazy for trying.

Inspiration is a funny thing; it has to be genuine in order to move our hearts and make us strive, and yet we know we won’t reach our goals if we sit around waiting around for it to strike. Instead, we have to learn how to tap in to inspiration every day. Since that’s not easy, it helps to have a few pearls of wisdom stored away for the days when we need a little extra fuel to keep our fires burning.

And so, to honor BE A CHANGEMAKER, the EMU mob has decided to share the things that help us to get inspired, stay inspired, and keep striving no matter what.

Great Advice

First, here’s some of the advice we’ve come to rely on:


Motivational Quotes

Next, some of the quotes that empower us:


The Advice I Wish I’d Gotten 

Finally, Christine Hayes gets real about the things she wishes someone had told her, at the beginning of the journey:


I loved putting this post together, not only because I am passionate about telling everyone how great BE A CHANGEMAKER is, but because watching and editing these videos has given me an inner glow that’s going to last for weeks. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, EMUs – and thank you for sending your tremendous book out into the world, Laurie Ann Thompson. Congratulations on your launch. You are an inspiration.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!



Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Colleagues, Launch, Satisfaction

Taking Care of Each Other

Last week, I was at a retreat with nine other writers. It was intense. We love our teacher and we work hard. It’s a way of honoring the time and love and effort that she pours into teaching us. There were class sessions and writing hours and daily workshopping and daily editing meetings. It was all incredibly helpful.

But just as helpful was the kindness within the group.Talking each other down from ledges. Listening as someone grieved a book that hadn’t worked. Encouraging someone who was  doubting whether she could do this thing she had set out to do. Sharing something you knew when someone else needed it.

No one was assigned to do this stuff. We just paid attention to each other. We helped where we could. It was a beautiful thing. By the end of the week we were exhausted. We also didn’t want to leave each other.


This week, I’m at our annual agency retreat. (I know. An embarrassment of riches.) And I know that I will see it again. People taking care of each other.

Look. It’s a hard thing that we do. It can be a little lonely. And we’re never quite there. We’re always trying to write better, to make the next book better than the last book.  We need other friends who are writers. They’ve been there. They know. They’ll help.




Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at


Filed under Colleagues, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

TALKER 25 Inspires Us to Show Off Our Dragon BFFs


We have had such a roaring good time this week, what with all the celebrations and giveaways and, most of all, DRAGONS! If you haven’t yet picked up your very own copy of Joshua McCune’s  thrilling new YA novel Talker 25, trust us when we say ACT NOW! Find it online at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or shop locally at your favorite bookstore or with the help of Indiebound. We’ll even wait for you. Go ahead.

MOY, wait! Not youYou have WON a signed hardcover! A mysterious figure will be contacting you shortly to arrange a handoff in a secluded glade.

OK, everyone else, are you back? Awesome.

So we ‘Mus have been inspired by all the cool dragons in Talker 25, and we were thinking — all of us must have a dragon counterpart, right? That one special dragon who would be the perfect BFF? Well, I’ve been playing matchmaker! Let’s meet our new human-dragon friends!



Laurie Ann Thompson . . .

We know Laurie is kind and smart, but she also admits to being a bit lazy, hating the cold, and needing food to be readily accessible at all times. And what’s wrong with wanting a little comfort and a little peace? Nothing at all. And that’s exactly the attitude of Laurie’s dragon friend, The Reluctant Dragon.


The titular character from the short story by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1898, is leading a comfortable life, reading poetry and enjoying the countryside. But when faced with adversity, the Reluctant Dragon proves he’s as quick-witted as any villager. Now he and Laurie just need to decide who gets the biggest bookshelf.


Lindsey Lane . . .

Lindsey describes herself as both silently rebellious and easily led astray. We know her as a kind, loving person, but she also acknowledges having a gullible streak. Don’t worry, Lindsey, you and your dragon best friend make the world a better place. Say hello to Elliott, the non-Pete half of the 1977 classic, Pete’s Dragon.


Sure, Elliott has a knack for accidentally getting in trouble, and he can be too trusting, but under that innocent exterior, he’s a force of goodness that changes Pete’s life forever. Who knows, maybe if you wish hard enough, Lindsey and Elliott will come to work their magic on your town.


Gladys Gatsby . . .

Gladys is the 11-year-old foodie protagonist of Tara Dairman’s delightful middle grade novel, All Four StarsGladys, of course, would be drawn to a dragon who appreciated her excellent cooking. That’s why she’d get along famously with the Terrible Creature from Valerie Scho Carey and Lynne Cherry’s Harriet and William and the Terrible Creature.


You see, the Terrible Creature has eaten all of his plants and is forced to live on rocks, which are not very delicious. I’m sure Gladys could tempt him with some crème brulée!


Amy Finnegan . . . 

Amy was the easiest Emu to match up with a mythological pal. She needed a hugs-n-rainbows dragon. She is a hugs-n-rainbows dragon. There’s only one place for Amy to find her soulmate — a magical land called Equestria, home of the cutest, huggiest, rainbowiest dragon of all: Spike!


Many of us of a Certain Age remember vintage Spike, the My Little Ponies’ awesome purple friend. Don’t worry, little guy — Amy’s going to take great care of you!


Rebecca Van Slyke . . . 

It was hard to imagine a dragon who could keep up with Rebecca. She writes everything from picture books to middle grade, she illustrates, she teaches second grade, and she’s a wannabe cowgirl/penguin tamer! I’m tired just thinking about it. Rebecca really needs a dragon friend with endless energy and a sunny disposition who’s just a little bit tough (in case the cows, penguins, or second graders get out of line). And what dragon fits the bill better than Spyro?


Whether he’s collecting gems, skateboarding, or playing cat hockey, Spyro has a lot to contend with in his wildly successful and wildly fun video game series. But he always comes out on top and ready to go. Together, he and Rebecca could take over the world!


Adi Rule . . . 

I had to be honest with myself, here, about who my dragon bestie — bestie — would be. I’m a dragon aficionado from way back. It would be easy to portray myself holding hands with brainy Figment or cuddly Dragolinbut although they were both dear friends of mine, that would be a lie.


My favorite dragon, my Other Half dragon, has always been Bryagh from The Flight of DragonsWhile Smrgol and Lunarian and the others are worried about saving the last vestiges of magic in the world, Bryagh is cruising around laying waste to the land and eating dragon eggs. He’s the honey badger of dragons and I love him.


Donna Bowman Bratton . . . 

Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, Donna is a bit of a prankster who loves the outdoors. While the other Emus are finding their partners in crime, I think Donna would actually be a perfect best friend for Haku, not because they are super alike, but because she would be good for him.


Haku by Akxi-Crescent. Click for more!

Haku, the graceful sometimes-dragon from Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Awayis a beautiful soul who protects his friends and the natural world. But he can be overly serious and sometimes even a little scary. I think he and Donna would connect over their devotion to nature, and her whimsical antics would help him lighten up a bit!


The Mothman . . .

No, we’re not revealing that the Mothman is the newest Emu (he obviously uses a pseudonym when he blogs here), but we will tell you he’s a character in Christine Hayes‘s upcoming creepy middle grade novel, The Mothman’s Curse. I have to say, the Mothman being besties with a dragon might be the best idea ever. But who would he click with? This was a toughie for me, but I finally came to the conclusion that he and Smaug might hit it off.


The Mothman isn’t in this picture because he’s so mysterious. And also, how gorgeous is this picture? Click it to see more of Adam Nibybylowski’s work.

Now, I’m not talking about Arrogant Talky-Talk Smaug, or Wreaking Havoc Smaug, I’m talking about Hanging Out Under The Mountain For Years Smaug. Alone in the darkness with all his things, being all eldritch and quiet, watching (or not), rumbling (or not) — that is super creepy. He and the Mothman could totally be all creepy together.


Megan Morrison . . .

In Megan’s words, she is “late, quick-tempered, and obsessive.” I happen to know that, besides being a rockstar writer, she is also a talented singer/lyricist, particularly in the Space Cat Opera genre. But what her choice of self-describing adjectives says to me is that Megan needs a big, sweet, fuzzy friend to slow down her hectic schedule. Who better than Falkor?


Falkor is the gentle luckdragon from Michael Ende’s 1979 novel The Neverending Story, and from the 1984 film of the same name. (Sorry . . . give me a minute . . . Artax . . .) This maybe lion-like, maybe dog-like fellow is easy-going, super lucky, and always there just when you need him. And he’d love it if Megan gave him a nice scratch behind his ears!


Penny Parker Klostermann . . .

Penny would be awesome to go camping with. She’s enthusiastic and cheerful, loves the outdoors, and is a “walkaholic.” And she’s passionate about picture books, so you know those stories around the campfire would be extra entertaining. She admits to being a little forgetful, in a scatterbrained way, and sure, sometimes her jokes are corny, but she would be a perfect match for a dragon who likes a lot of exercise, has a sense of humor, and is always up for a good time. Who better to share Penny’s wilderness outings than Toothless?


Toothless, from omgbestmovieever How to Train Your Dragonbased on the books by Cressida Cowell, is always ready for adventure. And talk about enthusiastic. He just exudes YES, LET’S! And I bet Toothless would appreciate a good picture book just as much as a fun romp through the woods.


Joshua McCune . . . 

Finally, we come to the Dragon Master, Joshua McCune himself. Quake, mortals, for Josh is a darker, growlier, angrier dragon — don’t let his innocent smile and awesome t-shirt fool you. This week belongs to Josh and Talker 25, so there is really only one dark, growly, angry dragon I could set him up with. One of the oldest and most feared dragons in literature, so terrible we do not speak or even know its name: the dragon from BeowulfNever has so much homicidal rage rained down in fiery blasts than when this dragon was on the rampage. A slave stole a cup from it (dragons don’t even use cups), and instead of alerting the authorities, it decided to KILL AND BURN EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE.


Enter the hero Beowulf, the badassest of badasses: “Oh, what, Grendel’s giving you trouble? Why don’t I just rip his arm off and then kill his mom. By the way, I’m king now, so On Your Knees, B*tches.” But you know what was Beowulf’s undoing? This freaking dragon. Sure, Beowulf defeated it in the end (according to the propaganda, anyway), but he needed his BFF’s help and, P. S., he died. [Spoiler alert. For the previous sentence. You know what, I’m not even sorry, if you don’t know Beowulf dies at the end of Beowulf, you’ve missed your window of Spoiler Protection by about 1200 years.] So look at that picture again. Is Josh’s smile that of an innocent YA author, or is it the fiendish grin of a dragon-worshipping maniac? You decide. The puppies in that burning windmill? They already know.

So who would your dragon BFF be? Let us know in the comments!


Some images used and modified under a Creative Commons license, including images by Seeker900, Froggerlaura, Kenneth Allen, Chuck, AdamNibybylowski-art, Razeau, Akxi-Crescent, and Wikimedia (image, image, and image). Please see the source material for details.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Colleagues, Happiness, Launch, Uncategorized

The Second Time Around the Second Time Around

Riffing off Tara Dairman’s piece, The Second Time Around, from a week ago in which she explored why the excitement factor of her second book paled in comparison to her first book, I’d like to explore the panic factor of the second book.

The first book I penned, BUNNIES!!!, was sold in a two-book deal to Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins a little over a year ago. It was, for all practical purposes, a finished manuscript needing very little editing. I had written it one day in December, 2012. It was inspired by a drawing I had done a couple months earlier and the story just came to me. Seriously. It was that easy. I hate when people talk about banging out a story in a day, an hour, twenty minutes. It is usually people new to the industry and with no clue of what it takes to write a picture book. It seems disingenuous and sounds both dismissive and braggartly at the same time.  I don’t know if it was a rare alignment of the stars, or if I had brushed up against some strange talisman in an antique store, or if it was just dumb luck, but if I spent more than two hours writing and rough-dummying the book I’d be surprised. My critique pals all agreed that with a couple minor tweaks, it was ready for submission. My amazing agent sold it in no time in the afore mentioned two-book deal. I spent most of the rest of last year doing the illustrations and probably prematurely resting on my big fat laurels.

The manuscript for book number two is due at the end of this month. And I’m in second book panic mode. It will feature the same characters from BUNNIES!!! I’ve been working on it pretty regularly since the first of the year with what I thought were some pretty good ideas. They have morphed from one storyline to another to another to another. And I still don’t have it nailed down. I’m close, I think, but not as close as my critique pals suggest after last night’s  meeting. Agh. They are right, of course, the story is almost there, but it is lacking the particular style and delivery of book one. So I am up at 4:15 this morning, unable to sleep and panicking once more about this book. The first one was so damn easy! Why is this one so damn hard? Why doesn’t it just come to me?  When I wrote my dear, sweet editor in a panic late one night last week, she told me to take a break from thinking about it, it needs to simmer. Go see a movie! Relax! She also suggested that maybe this second book does not have to be about the same characters, maybe it could be something else – take a break from them and come back to them later. She was making it so easy for me. And it worked. For a while. I started thinking about other manuscripts I had that I could tidy up and send to her, other new ideas that I haven’t fleshed out. After considering this for a while, I decided that I love the characters in my first book and need to give them one more shot before I temporarily shelve them. So, panicked or not, (panicked) I am back in the land of BUNNIES!!! I will put on my thinking ears and channel the panic into something brilliant. No, really, I have 25 days. Maybe when it is done and it is accepted, the rest of the process of book number two will be the calm that Tara alluded to.


by kevan atteberry


Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Editor, Panic, Writing