Category Archives: Happiness

The Surreal, the Sublime, and the Journey Itself

The time has come for me to leave the Emu nest, and I’d like to end my time here with three quick vignettes:

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First, the surreal. Many Emus use their introductory post to talk about getting The Call (wherein their agent tells them they have a book deal). I decided to save my story of The Call for my farewell post, not knowing that the post would appear exactly two years after that life-changing day. So here’s my story:

On December 5, 2014, I had been on submission for almost two years with three different manuscripts, and I had convinced myself that I loved writing for writing’s sake and it was okay if I was the person who always came close but never quite got a book deal. Some days I even believed this. I had taken a full time teaching job partly because I needed to feel like I was contributing again, rather than just writing stories that would likely never find readers. On that fateful Friday, I taught my last lectures of fall semester, came home, and made myself a plate of nachos as a reward. (This is literally the first time since high school that I had eaten nachos as an after-school snack.) I had just sat down when my seven-year-old daughter came running in with my phone.

“Mom,” she said. “It says it’s..Ammi-Joan Paquette?” (She would have known who was calling if it had just said “Joan.” 🙂

I had hoped for that call for so long that the hope had faded, almost entirely away. I’d dreamed that dream so long that it seemed impossible for The Call to be anything other than a dream, an oasis on the horizon that recedes with every step. It was truly surreal. And yet, there I was, crying into my nachos. It happened, folks.

The second story is of the sublime. I had many teachers who inspired and nurtured me and helped me grow, but none more than my first grade teacher, Kathryn Ipson. She helped me write and illustrate my first story, The Big Bad Pig. She sensed that I needed a challenge and got a computer in our classroom (at a time when nobody had a computer in the classroom), taught me to type, and set me free. We stayed in touch through the years, and when I visited her as a college student and told her my plans to get a PhD and become a professor, she said, “That’s wonderful. The most important thing is to find a job where you’re helping people.” That one statement lingers with me still, and although it didn’t change my professional plans, it changed my priorities.

On October 18, my first book, Like Magic, was published. I had a launch party at our local independent bookstore, and at times the line snaked to the back of the store. The most accurate (if cliched) way to describe that night is a dream come true. But perhaps the most sublime and wonderful moment of that night was when the crowd parted and there was Mrs. Ipson, standing in line with a copy of the book. I showed her her name in the acknowledgments. We hugged and cried a little. A few days later, Mrs. Ipson found me on Facebook and said that she had finished reading and she expected my book would win the Newbery. Okay, I suspect it won’t, but to have someone who has believed since I was very small that I was capable of anything–someone who continues to believe it–well, that is incredibly meaningful.

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Mrs. Ipson finds her name in the acknowledgments of Like Magic (photo by Brooke MacNaughtan)

There have been other moments that have been almost this magical–many, in fact. Signing books in the gorgeous Salt Lake City Library, where my characters spend much of the story. Receiving my first starred review. Finding out that the book had sold in Scandinavia, and that this story was about to find its way into other lands and languages. Meeting and hearing from bright and diverse readers who have connected with the story. Beautiful, unforgettable moments.

If you’re a writer, and you don’t give up, you will have these moments too–even if it feels like you will always be stuck in the spot where you are right now. But the more I think about this whole debut experience, the more moments of joy I see in the journey itself. Evenings gathered with my critique partners. Time spent in workshops when I’m taught something that sparks an idea inside me. Moments at the computer, alone with my characters, when I struggle and struggle and finally get that scene or sentence just right.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

-Jenkin Lloyd Jones

The last few years have been unforgettable and exhausting, yet I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Thank you, thank you, to the Emus and to all who have shared this journey with me. And for all of us, no matter what stage of the expedition, may we find joy and be truly thankful for the ride.


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

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Filed under Advice, Book Launch, Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, Patience, The Call, Uncategorized, waiting

My Traveling Companions

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

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Today, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. On Tuesday, my debut novel, Finding Perfect, found its way into the world, into the hands of kids, teachers, moms, dads, and grandparents. Today, Molly’s story is a shared one. But, it didn’t start that way. Molly’s story started with an idea, then morphed into words on my computer, then into a book. It started with me, but I never traveled this path alone.

And, so today is about all those who traveled with me. All those I want to thank.

My husband. Wow. Not even sure where to begin. You have been with me on every step of this 15 year journey. And at no time did you waver in your steadfast belief in me. You are the love of my life and I am so grateful to have you by my side. Always.

My sons. Two boys, endless inspiration. Through the years, you have inspired me to write, to go for my dream, to work hard, to be better. Your belief in me, allowed me to believe in this dream and believe in me. I am so lucky to be your mom. You make my heart happy every day.

My family near and far. I love you all with all of my heart. Thank you thank you thank you.

My friends. You may never know how impactful your support has been. You gave me hugs and wine and walks and talks and candy, all at exactly the right moments.

FSG. Joy and the entire FSG team thank you for taking a chance on me. For believing in me and my story.

My agent. Trish the amazing. Honestly, so thankful to have you at the helm, helping me navigate these waters and always having my back. You are so much more than my agent. You are my friend. And, for that, I am grateful.

EMLA. You guys rock. I never knew getting an agent, meant I was also getting a writing family.  Love you guys.

Sweet 16ers. It’s been one heck of a year. Thank you for sharing this ride with me. You are kind and supportive and, obviously, sweet.

Educators. You seamlessly welcomed me and Finding Perfect into the kidlit world before the book had even entered the world. You made me feel like Molly and I belonged. You are kind and gracious and dedicated. I wish every kid has a lifetime of teachers like you.

To all of my traveling companions, thank you for being a part of my journey. It’s been one amazing ride!

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IMG_9552  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life

Writing, Twizzlers, and the Music

I write. I revise. I eat Twizzlers. I write some more. Recently, I realized there’s another thing I do when I’m in the writing zone, I listen and sing poorly to songs that inspire me. Now, as I recently confessed to a classroom of fifth graders, I sound a bit like a dying frog when I sing. But, I love it! So, I can’t seem to stop myself from belting out the the music when I’m cooking, driving, or on a run. So, if you happen to be nearby, I truly am sorry.

A while back, while in the kitchen making meatballs and singing poorly and dancing with my sauce-splashed apron on, I realized the song I was singing over a killer tomato-basil sauce, had less to do with dinner, and more to do with my current work-in-progress. I was right in the thick of a first draft. To me, this is the part of the process where I fear everything.  I’ll never come up with a gripping plot. Even if I have a good plot, I’ll never be able to construct a whole story. Even if I can construct a story, it’s going to stink. So naturally, I found myself singing Brave by Sara Bareilles, loudly and out-of-tune, while slicing and dicing. There I was in all my first draft glory singing along with Sara like we were old friends. “Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

So after a delicious Italian dinner, I jumped back into my work-in-progress with purpose, and to my happy surprise, I eventually completed a draft of my new story. Woot! Let the celebration begin! I was super excited until I read the whole thing over and realized it stunk. I mean no-one’s-going-to-read-this kind of stunk. I knew I needed to summon the courage to reconstruct the characters, the plot, the pacing.  So, I popped in my earbuds and listened to The Fight Song by Rachel Platten before I dug back into all those words on the page.

Once I finished, I mean really finished, a process that included several bags of Twizzlers and many many drafts, I sent my newly revised story to Trish, my agent. And, I waited for her thoughts while I jumped back into all the things I had put on hold while revising. The music of choice – The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And then, Trish called. She loved it! So, I popped in my earbuds and went for a run to Happy by Pharrell Williams!

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IMG_9552 Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life

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.

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

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

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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.

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

 

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

Thanks

I have been an emu now for almost three years. (This comment would need considerable clarification if made in any other venue.) So I’ve had plenty of time to say the things I wanted to say about this space in the publishing journey between contract and actual published book.

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Wait, she’s been a what?

Except for one thing and that is how grateful I feel to be working in this industry. Yes, it has oddities (not a few) and frustrations. But it also has some beautiful benefits. I’m grateful to work with people who value creativity and collaboration. I’m grateful to work with people who care about words and kids.

 

Emu’s Debuts is one of those groups that has an expiration date built in. Once you’ve published that first book, you’re no longer a debut author. So while I’ll still be around cheering on the books that are coming (because, oh, I so love some of these books that are coming), I won’t be here in the day to day way that I have been in the past couple of years. As I’ve thought about leaving, there are a few things that I’d like to thank the rest of this Emu mob for.

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Thanks for the fun. From going all out opera to celebrate Adi Rule’s debut to taking Tara Dairman’s character Gladys out to lunch to calling a number in Switzerland hoping to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf (and hoping that whoever answered the phone would have more English than I had French), there have been a lot of moments that were just fun. Those of you who read the blog, sometimes get to see the some of the fun in the post but a lot of it is backstage. And I value the backstage moments the most.

 

Thanks for the books. It has been so much fun to get the ARCs and F&Gs of new Emu books in the mail. I’ve read and loved books that I might never have picked up otherwise. I have my often visited shelves of the library but sometimes I need to branch out a bit. It’s been a pleasure to do that as books of fellow Emus arrived in the mail in the weeks before their launches. I’ll miss that. But I plan on actively looking for them as they’re published. So keep me posted.

 

Thanks for the honesty. It was so refreshing to be able to ask all the newbie questions in this group (everything from “is it normal for a contract to take this long” to “where is the best place to get bookmarks” to questions about craft) and always have them answered with both kindness and honesty.

 

Kindness, creativity, honesty, fun. Can’t really beat that.

 

 

 

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 http://mylisalarsen.com

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Filed under Happiness, Writing and Life

Who, Who’s Excited?!

Ooooh, it’s happening! It’s finally happening! I can officially announce that my debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, will be released by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster in the summer of 2017. Here’s the announcement:

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You can’t believe how hard it’s been not to scream and shout all about this. Trish called me about this deal one year and three days ago (I may or may not have been counting). The anticipation to spread the news has had me like this:

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But now I finally get to be like this:

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Let me take you back to the time when I got the call. It was early in the A.M., and I was doing my usual morning reading routine in my fluffy white robe embroidered with a gold “J” (similar to the get-ups Laverne and Shirley wore).  It takes me a bit to wake up, so reading helps me get all my juices a-flowin’. I was still in my semi-groggy reading state when I get a call from “Tricia Awesome Agent Lawrence” (this is how I have Trish listed in my cellphone). The call instantly made me perk up.

Me: “Gooooood morning!”

Trish: “Guess what?”

Me: “What? What? What?”

Trish: “We just sold WHOBERT!”

Me:

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Needless to say, I was Ex. Ci. Ted.

Here’s to many more robe-wearing, yelling-so-loud-your-throat-gets-hoarse good news for all us EMUs (and all writers everywhere!) in the future!

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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 between Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas. He loves creating punny names for cars and dogs, and often goes for midnight rides in his Fiat, Sofiat Vercara, with his Pomeranian, Pom Brokaw. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. If you know Anjelica Huston, please contact him immediately. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Introduction, joy, Picture books, The Call, Uncategorized

When is it okay to call yourself a writer?

You hear authors say “I’ve been writing all my life” or “I’ve been writing since I was a little kid.” But for many of us I think the moment we actually label ourselves a “writer” can represent a significant step in this journey we’re on. This was true for me. In one of my early journals I wrote the following –

IMG_0152I couldn’t spell (thank the gods for spell check), but I obviously knew I wanted to write. I wrote all through high school, won a statewide poetry award, but then life got in the way. I wasn’t confident that I could make a living writing. I got interested in environmental issues and went a more scientific path. Even so the sneaky writing muse was watching out for me. I didn’t end up in a lab, I became a planner and project manager with significant responsibilities in, you guessed it, technical writing. But the writing I do for work is as far from creative writing as you can get while still using words.

For years I thought I couldn’t write creatively and do the technical work I was making my living at – then after a while (and I mean a decade or two) my thinking shifted. I give huge credit to my parents, they always remembered I was a writer when I forgot, and this helped me admit that since there were always four or five stories gamboling about in my head, I might as well write them down.

For a while it was my little secret. I didn’t tell family or friends. Then over time when people asked “what’s new” I would shyly admit that I was doing some writing on the side. It was well into my second full manuscript, that I realized two fundamental truths. First – if I called myself a writer, not only would others take me more seriously, but I would feel more grounded in the responsibility of putting butt in chair and getting the work done. Second, I’d been hesitant to call myself a writer because I didn’t have an agent and I wasn’t published, but in fact I was a writer. I was putting the words down, reading, honing my craft skills, and becoming active in this amazing world of other writers doing the same thing. So, if you are in that place between “doing some writing” and “being a writer” I urge you to take that leap. Honor your skills and the hard work you’re doing by calling yourself what you are. Print up business cards. Put it on your Face Book page. Then enjoy the journey.

P.S. if you want more in this vein, run don’t walk to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC. Empowering – I promise.

DarceyHighResDarcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in spring of 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. With her critique group she runs the Better Books Workshop – an annual small deep craft conference held in Northern California. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and perfect daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter @Darcey_r

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Filed under craft~writing, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Writing, Writing and Life

Life’s Gravy

Somewhere between drafting, revising, submitting and waiting, a book was created. I mean an actual, bound book with a cover and a title. And a name. An author’s name. My name. This is the are-you-kidding-I’m-freaking-out part. After 13 years, many hugs, Twizzlers and talks that included, ‘I believe in you’ and ‘just focus on the process,’ my debut book, FINDING PERFECT, is actually coming into the world. Where it will meet people who don’t eat Thanksgiving at my table and don’t know me.

For so long my focus never moved off the process. And, now, with a box about to be delivered to my door filled with galleys, my focus has moved from the journey to the actual book. And, if I am being spill-the-beans honest, I’m a blend of dreams-come-true excited and just plain old terrified.  This last part was a huge surprise to me.  I knew I’d be dance happy, but stomach-hurt-nervous, where did that come from?  Then I realized these feelings were similar to those I had when I sent my sons off to college. I was happy for them, but as a mom, I knew the days of me knowing everyone and everything in their lives was, well, over. And, once FINDING PERFECT no longer lives only on my computer to be shared solely with my family and friends, the days of me knowing everyone that reads my story will, well, be over, too.

And that is the absolute privilege of writing. That is the dream. And, that is also where my nerves and joy unite.

I have told myself that in those moments that I promise to remember something my mom used to say, “This is the gravy of life.” While she is no longer here with me, I still hear the words in her loving and mom-knows-best voice. And, you know what, she’s right. This IS the gravy of life. This ranks as a sing-in-the-shower, dance-like-crazy moment. So, when my nerves peek through, I’ve decided to turn up the volume of Happy by Pharrell, embrace my happy, and rock out to life’s gravy moments.

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IMG_9825  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Writing and Life

Bedtime for EMUs

Today’s the day we wrap up the launch of Luke Reynolds’ picture book debut, BEDTIME BLASTOFF! One might even say we are tucking it into bed.

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So to tuck in Luke’s launch, fellow EMUs are sharing their favorite bedtime routines.

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Sarvinder Naberhaus: My favorite bedtime routine was with my very young son. Every night I picked him up, and we went around the room and said “goodnight” to all the items in the room — goodnight to characters within frames… “Goodnight” to all the things he loved most. Then I said goodnight to him, the one thing I loved most.

Elly Swartz: The bedtime routines when my boys were young were some of my favorites and they varied depending on who tucked them in. If it was Mom, it always included a book. I read to them. They read to me. Or both. Then I sang them a song. No need to dwell on that. Needless to say love can only take a tune so far. When the boys realized what the songs were supposed to sound like, that part of the routine ended. If Dad tucked them in, the routine always included an amazing tale he (or they) created. But, whether it was Mom or Dad, it always ended with a goodnight kiss.

Andrea Wang: When my sons were very small, we always said the familiar, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite,” just before turning out the light. Often, we would substitute another creature for the bedbugs. As they got older, the phrase grew longer. We added “Good night, I love you” in Chinese and English. Then, one of the kids wanted us to add an instruction to “stay away from” whatever thing he found distasteful that day. At one point, he insisted on adding one new horrible item to the list each night (sock lint, skunks, smelly feet, etc.), and we would have to remember them all and recite them back. This took a long time (perhaps his ulterior motive?) and required too many brain cells, so it was quickly shortened to “stay away from ALL stinky things,” which effectively covered all circumstances. I love how the original verse grew and morphed into something wholly unique.

Mylisa Larsen: My children’s favorite bedtime routine was something that was completely counterproductive. My husband would pretend to turn into this bedtime monster and the kids would all run screaming up the stairs while he chased them, growling and pretending to grab at their ankles. This would, it’s true, get them into their rooms but in such a revved up, lets-play-some-more state that we’d spend the next 30 minutes getting people down from light fixtures and trying to keep them from jumping on their beds. Weirdly, none of my children have ever been scared of the monster under the bed or in the closet thing. Apparently, it never occurred to them that such a monster could be anything but fun.

Hayley Barrett: When our kids were little, my husband used to tuck them in and tell them what to dream about. They’d close their eyes and he’d choose a special adventure for each of them, whether it was flying in a rocketship or swimming with dolphins. It helped them happily drift into dreamland.

Janet Fox: When I was little, my mom used to sing to me, while holding me in her lap in the rocking chair. Typical, right? But she didn’t sing the usual kiddie songs. She sang the popular songs of the 1920s and 1930s, popular when she was little. Which meant I heard odd things like “Has Anyone Hear Seen Kelly?” and “She’s Dead In The Coach Ahead.” Now, you’d think my mom was strange, but she was the most middle-of-the-road mother ever. And I still love those songs. They still put me to sleep. Plus – they told stories. Maybe that explains why I love storytelling.

Debbi Michiko Florence: My bedtime routine when I was in elementary school was to arrange my 20+ stuffed animals around me in bed. Each stuffed animal had a name of course, and they “protected me” from whatever scary things lurked in the dark. (Closet door had to be closed!) I had so many stuffed animals that I could hardly move, but it was the only way I could fall asleep. (Secret confession, when my husband is away on business, my dog and two teddy bears sleep with me.)

Katie Slivensky: Here’s my cat’s bedtime routine.

Step 1: Get up from evening nap. Stretch.

Step 2: Find resident human. Stare at her until she notices.

Step 3: Meow at human, who has clearly not realized it is 9:30pm and therefore time for bed.

Step 4: Storm the apartment. Human is being ignorant. Slam cupboard doors. Rip up toilet paper. Jump on laptop.

Step 5: Human is yelling! Perhaps she has realized what time it is, and is expressing shock that she could have missed bed time so severely. Stare hopefully.

Step 6: Fall into despair. Human is never going to bed. Yowl loudly. Scratch at the walls.

Step 7: Give up. Collapse in defeat in hallway. Keep an eye on human.

Step 8: Human is getting up! Human is brushing her teeth! Make sure to lay on her feet and meow every four seconds, so she does not forget about bedtime again.

Step 9: Watch human crawl into bed. Refuse to join her for at least five minutes, or risk looking desperate.

Step 10: Success. Human is now convinced you want nothing to do with her. Jump on her just as she’s drifting off. Settle into position. Use claws liberally. Enjoy sleep until the generous hour of 3 am.
giphy

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Happiness, Launch, Picture books, Promotion, Uncategorized

Of Cracked Ribs and Dreams Come True

It was a Saturday in July when I got “the call”.

Actually, missed “the call”.

Actually…*coughs* ignored “the call”.

I was recovering from pneumonia (brought on by severely overworking myself at my day job) and at my biweekly kidlit critique group meeting. One of my crit partners had driven me, because I was in no shape to drive myself. I faded in and oheyarnoldsickut over the three hour meeting, clutching my pirate pillow that I was using to brace my ribs. I’d coughed so hard over the two weeks prior that I’d fractured them. At one point, my phone buzzed and I saw a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I ignored it.

See, I’d been on sub for a while with the manuscript that got me my wonderful agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. She’d mentioned that someone was expressing interest and might take it to an acquisitions meeting that week, but my head was too full of fog to ever think that this could mean I’d get an offer. We’d been close before. We’d been on sub for what felt like forever. I had a new manuscript turned in that we were prepping to take out next, with the unspoken understanding that it meant shelving the old one for the time being. And there was the whole…103 degree fever for a week straight thing. The ol’ synapses were not exactly firing properly.

I fell asleep for a good chunk of my critique group meeting. I was in a haze as I was driven back to my apartment. So when I looked at my email, squashed in the front seat with my pillow wrapped securely around me, at first I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

It was an email from Joan. Asking if I was around to talk. She said she’d tried to get in touch with me, but was overseas and using a number I wouldn’t recognize.

My friend Tara was driving, with my other friend Annie in the backseat. Both published authors themselves, I immediately asked them what they thought of the cryptic message. I don’t think either of them thought it was cryptic–neither would come out and say that it probably meant I had an offer, but the implication was there.

…That’s when it hit me. The reality of what might be happening.

bugsbunnycrazyIt was the oddest sensation. I had zero energy, but I still flooded head to toe with adrenaline. Imagine being buried in sand with a caffeine IV drip buried next to you, pouring into your veins.

I wrote Joan back and told her (probably fairly incoherently, given my mental state) that she could call at anytime. Seriously. Any. Time. However, she’d made it clear in her first email that she was likely going to be busy the rest of the day. I was shaking, and not from a fever anymore.

My friends dropped me off, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I was too sick to go out and distract myself with anything, so I put in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and watched that.

Until my phone rang at 5pm.

I. Had. An. Offer! It was official! Joan (seriously, bless her) called me from Europe to tell me I had a two book offer from HarperCollins Children’s. Erica Sussman wanted to be my editor.

All I could say was, “Ohrdomigosh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh!”–followed by intense periods of ugly coughing/hacking. I wanted to run. Jump. Scream. Dance. But all my body could manage was this odd sort of speed-shuffle around my apartment with my pirate pillow in tow. Both my cats flew around like maniacs, clearly knowing something was up. I called my parents. I cried.

A book deal! My lifelong dream come true, with cracked ribs.

Joan and I got back in touch when she returned to the States that following week, and we formally accepted. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.

I’ve recovered from the pneumonia and the fractures, thankfully.

…Still working on recovering from the shock.


 

Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut Middle Grade novel (title TBD) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her personal blog, Discoverific.

 

 

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, Thankfulness, The Call, Uncategorized