Category Archives: Introduction

The Call… (And It’s Lovely to Meet You!)

Many EMUs have introduced themselves by sharing their experience of getting “THE CALL.” I think all writers have visions of how “the call” will happen but the fact is you never know when it will come. The good news is that no matter when it happens it is A-MAZING and a bit surreal, like flying into a rainbow and sliding into a pot of gold unicorns dusted in purple and green glitter.

To give a little personal backstory (this is my first post, after all. Hello! I’m Terry. Nice to meet you!), before I signed with EMLA, I had sold 18 manuscripts on my own. But when the economy collapsed in 2008, so went my career. It was harder to sell my work so I decided to up my game and go back to school to earn an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Two years after graduation, I signed with Trish Lawrence and EMLA. For another two years I toiled away, writing and revising manuscripts I hoped Trish could sell.

Fast forward to November, 2015. Two days before Thanksgiving, and I was in vacation mode. You know that place where you’ve mentally checked out and the last thing on your mind is your career? My husband and I had settled down for the evening in our cozy mountain home, snowflakes gently falling outside, a warm fire burning, hot drinks in hand.

Suddenly, my phone broke out with the chorus of Pharrell Williams’s song, “Happy.” I instantly recognized it as Trish’s ringtone. But wait—it was Thanksgiving week. Oh nuts! She must’ve accidentally butt-dialed me, I thought, because surely two days before Thanksgiving she was also in vacation mode. I answered the phone, “Hi…Trish?” Well, the ringtone fit because she was happy to tell me that Simon & Schuster had made an offer on my manuscript, Mama Loves You So. Because my husband was right there, I started squealing, “We got an offer on Mama! We got an offer on Mama!” I can still hear Trish’s laughter in the background (that moment will stay with me forever :)). Once I calmed down (because this is how I was feeling…)

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…she explained that Little Simon wanted to publish my manuscript as a board book for a new line of Little Simon books called, Stories to Start (first stories for parents to share with babies). Wowieee!!! I loved the idea of being part of a new book line and perhaps even more I loved the idea that I’d written a board book (who knew? I thought I wrote a picture book!). My writing goal, after all, is to turn young children onto books to begin their journey as lifelong readers.

Fast forward again to two days ago (eight months after “the call”) and I was delighted to see Mama Loves You So listed in Publisher’s Weekly “Spring 2017 Sneak Previews.” Yippeeee! I can finally tell people that Little Simon is publishing my book, a story that’s close to my heart (I first thought of the idea—using nature metaphors to reflect a mother’s love for her baby—when my son was an infant—he’s now 32!).

Back to the point of this post, you never know when “the call” will happen or when your story ideas will come to fruition. So don’t ever count yourself out and always embrace the unexpected!

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About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a  middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension (go Bruins!).

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Filed under Introduction, The Call, Uncategorized

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

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

Going with the Flow

I’m going to steal borrow Hayley’s wonderful idea and start my introduction with an embarrassing confession too. Mine is: I love flowcharts. I love knowing where I am and what I have to do to get to where I want to go. Those little arrows pointing the way to the next step always give me a little thrill. You’re probably wondering, “Control freak much?” To which I reply, “Does it show?”

 

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When I received an email in December 2014 from an editor at Albert Whitman that thanked me for submitting my picture book manuscript, THE NIAN MONSTER, and asked if it was still available, I was stunned. I had submitted to the general address eighteen months prior and assumed that I’d been rejected (in the vein of “no response means it’s a no.”) I didn’t have a diagram for what to do in this situation. What was the next step? I was fairly certain that I should reply, but what should I say, short of begging her to buy my book? In my mind, I had taken the path from “Write a Book” to “Get Professional Critiques” to “Revise Manuscript” (a loop I repeated for a long time), with occasional forays to “Submit to Editors.” At the decision diamond that asked, “Submit to Agents?” I had followed the “No” arrow. At the time, I’d believed that a rejection from an agent was final and I didn’t want to “use up” my chances until I’d also completed my MG novel. Now here I was, agentless and stuck at the rectangle that said, “Get Plucked out of Slush Pile after 18 Months.”

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Once I stopped hyperventilating, I sought advice on what my next step should be. I contacted friends, critique partners, my MFA mentors, anyone who had more of a clue than I did. They were evenly divided on whether I should try to sign with an agent or not. An agent wasn’t necessary for a first picture book, several said. Others thought having editor interest was an excellent opportunity to land an agent. I had ended up back at the “Submit to Agents?” decision and both “Yes” and “No” options carried equal weight.

At the same time, I replied to Kristin Zelazko, the editor who had emailed me. “Yes, it’s available,” I wrote. “Thanks for your interest.” I groaned as soon as I hit send. After two days of religiously following the “Should I Check My Email?” flowchart, I wrote a longer, babbling email to Kristin. It was as equally cringe-worthy as the first, terse email. I was clearly out of my depth. Having an agent now felt essential. I followed the “Yes” arrow and sent out queries to half a dozen agents, including Erin Murphy, to whom a dear friend had referred me. In the month that followed, Erin offered me representation and negotiated the offer from Kristin. I was so overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude, and disbelief that I stayed on the “Gesticulate Wildly” step for a long time.

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In THE NIAN MONSTER, a clever girl named Xingling tries to outwit the ravenous Nian monster with her culinary savvy. She doesn’t have a flowchart to follow and yet she perseveres. I didn’t follow the traditional path to publication – I got “the call” when I was least expecting it and before I had an agent. And yet, everything worked out, better than I could have hoped. Although I know that this is not the end of my chart – that there is a long arrow winding its way from the “Book Launch!” step all the way back up to “Write a (New) Book” – and I’ll probably still send lots of cringe-worthy emails, next time I’ll put aside the flowcharts more often and just go with the flow.


 

Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published on December 1, 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

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

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

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Dreams Come True, Introduction, Panic, Picture books, Thankfulness, The Call

The Long Bumpy Road

learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. — BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth Gilbert

Like many writers, I have been writing stories since childhood. I have always been passionate about stories. I first decided to write fiction for kids and teens as a career path in 2001. I joined SCBWI, received the gift of a mentor in Cynthia Leitich Smith, found critique groups (I moved a lot), went to conferences and workshops, read every craft book available to me, discovered an amazing community on LiveJournal (in 2004), found my writing/critiquing soul partners, wrote and wrote and revised and revised and queried and submitted, and accumulated a healthy pile of rejections.

I had some close calls for different manuscripts — a phone call from an editor (kind and encouraging, but a rejection nonetheless), revising out of contract, going to acquisition, “good” rejection letters. This went on for over a decade. I admit to bouts of extreme sadness, many tears, frustration, and thoughts of giving up. In the meantime, I had two nonfiction children’s books published that I am proud of, but the dream has always been to write/publish fiction. One evening in 2008, after yet another “encouraging” rejection, I decided to quit. I was going to quit writing, quit submitting, quit dreaming of publication. I cried long and hard. My heart was broken. I think I cried for well over an hour. I decided to distract myself with a movie, August Rush. Within the first 10 minutes of viewing the movie, I was struck with a story idea. I ran upstairs, grabbed a legal pad, and wrote out ten pages of a scene. Such was my commitment to quitting. My love for writing stories was stronger.

Flash forward to 2014: I have long admired the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I was flattered when a dear and talented friend referred me to her agent, Tricia Lawrence. Tricia requested a full of my MG novel and then I waited. While I waited, I kept writing and kept querying/subbing. Around the same time, I received a request for a full of my chapter book from editor Grace Kendall at FSG, and then I waited. While waiting and writing, I had an opportunity to write four books for an early reader chapter book series and jumped at the chance. I had a fabulous time writing these stories. In fact, I was having a (mostly) fabulous time writing all my stories.

And then…in April of 2015, Grace emailed to say she wanted to take my chapter book to editorial, and then acquisition! I reached out to Tricia and told her I had a YA novel and a chapter book. She requested both. Within days of each other, Tricia offered representation and Grace wanted not only my chapter book, but three more books for a series! My story Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen about headstrong Japanese-American third grader Jasmine Toguchi and her quest to join in on the family tradition of making mochi, and three more books about Jasmine, are going to be published!

I am filled with overwhelming gratitude and joy and excitement and glee! I am grateful to Tricia and EMLA, and Grace and FSG, and to this incredibly supportive children’s lit community – many of you have been cheering me on from the very beginning. I’m grateful to my husband, Bob, and my daughter, Caitlin, for their unwavering belief in me, their firm support of my writing, and to my family and non-writer friends who even if they didn’t fully get “it”, they got me.

My road to “the call” meandered with many obstacles and detours, but I am glad I stayed on the path, on my path, because the journey is different for each person. Along this path of mine, I’ve met some warm and talented people I now call friends. While there’s no guarantee of publication, the only way you can be sure of never getting published is by quitting. If you love writing, if it brings you joy, if you can’t see doing anything else, keep writing, keep learning, keep growing, and stay the course. Enjoy the journey and the process of creating. Have fun. Believe, even when it’s hard. (And surround yourself with support and love!)

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Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

Before she started writing as her career, Debbi worked at a pet store, volunteered as a raptor rehabilitator, interned as a zookeeper’s aide, taught fifth grade, and was the Associate Curator of Education for a zoo.

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

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Filed under Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, joy, Patience, The Call

My Happy Dance

Hugs. Champagne. Tears. Happy Dance.

Maybe not in that order, but all those things happened on December 17, 2014. After thirteen years of nothing/nada/nope/not yet, that was the day I got my yes.  I had replayed that moment a hundred times in my head. Every time I finished a draft, hit send and waited, my mind filled with images of my yes moment. Fireworks? Dance music? Singing? Nope, not singing – my voice is way more dead frog than canary.

But let’s be honest, after thirteen years of writing, revising, tossing, writing, revising, shelving, deep down I knew the path to yes was not going to be direct. While I had a great conversation with the amazing Angie Chen of FSG, there were so many more people who had to fall in love with Molly and FINDING PERFECT for yes to happen. And that meant more waiting and Twizzlers and finger-crossing and not sleeping.

Finally, THE meeting was to happen the week before the holidays. I was on vacation with my boys and husband. That day, I made sure my phone was charged and dragged it with me to the gym at 7am (as if I was ever getting a call at 7am which actually was 4am for Trish, my agent), dragged it with me to breakfast, the pool, while attempting to read, lunch, and then finally to cards with my family.

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We were playing Continental and I was losing, perhaps not as badly as my husband, but it was close. It was 3 and to say I was distracted would be a horrible understatement. By 4 I was certain it was a no and Trish just didn’t know how to tell me.

Then at 4:30 my phone rang. My boys and husband looked up at me and my heart dropped to the floor. This was it. THE moment. The one I had been imagining all those years.

What would it actually sound like?

“We’ve got a deal. They love FINDING PERFECT.” That was Trish’s wonderfully joyous voice telling me what I longed to hear for thirteen years. Angie and FSG loved my book and wanted to buy it.

Finally, I knew what YES sounded like.

So what did I do?

I cried. A lot. Happy wonderful tears. (My husband later shared how different his business calls are from mine – he’s a lawyer).

Hugged my boys and my husband, beyond grateful they were with me to share this moment. Popped champagne and toasted to dreams coming true.

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Took a selfie to memorialize the moment.

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And did the happy dance. This dance is still in full swing.

 

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Elly Swartz loves writing for children, and not long after she began writing, she got a sign that, indeed, this was the right path for her. She opened a piece of Bazooka Joe gum and wrapped around the sugary, pink delight was a fortune that read, “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.”  She keeps her fortune tacked next to her desk in her office.

Elly’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, on October 18, 2016. 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. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two tall and loving, twenty-something sons and one-year-old beagle named Lucy.

You can visit Elly on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

 

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, Writing

Just the Right Amount of Adventure

Image-1 (2)I’m so thrilled to be posting on Emu’s Debuts for the very first time! I’ve had my eye on this blog since my querying days (okay, years), so writing this post feels like one of those moments when something big (or small) happens and you think, “This dream is really coming true!”

And yet.

When this post goes live, I’ll be headed to a cabin in the mountains with no WiFi, where I’ll be spending three days drafting my second book that’s really my fifth book. Because there are times to blog and tweet and research and live life abundantly, and there are times when you have to just open up your manuscript and write and write and write. It’s all about balance, isn’t it?

My kids are signed up for a Shakespeare camp this summer (one of the advantages of living near the Utah Shakespeare Festival), and for his audition, my son and I found this monologue and both fell in love:

“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.”

~ Thornton Wilder, The Matchmaker, Act IV

(It goes on, and it’s wonderful, and you should probably just read the whole play.)

There’s so much we can learn about life simply by being writers. We know what it means to be obsessed and apathetic, despairing and joyful, rejected and triumphant…the list goes on and on. But there’s a depth and dimension that comes to our writing from getting out there and having real-life, non-writing adventures. We all know this, of course, but sometimes it bears repeating. (And sometimes, when you go to a cabin in the woods with a bunch of neurotic writers, it could go either way. *cues scary music*)

So what I wish for you, writing friends, is that you find that balance again in your life, and that you fill your summer with “just the right amount of sitting quietly at home, and just the right amount of…adventure!”


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

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Filed under Advice, Introduction, Time Management, Writing and Life

From the Journal of Susan Vaught (Who is Not Afraid of Walruses), Plus a GIVEAWAY!!!!

I asked my friend Gisele to interview me for this article, so I could be like my main character, Footer Davis. Gisele rolled her eyes a lot, but in the end, she surrendered. I knew she would.

Why am I interviewing you?
Because interviews are fun. And because my latest book has a lot of interviews in it.

I’m only doing this for brownies. You know that, right?
Yes, I know.

Brownies and cake.
Got it.

What do you do for a living?
By day, I’m a neuropsychologist who works in a haunted monolith I call the Old Asylum. By evening and night and wee hours of the morning, I make up worlds and people and all manner of chaos. I try to paint with words. I live and write in that strange hinterland between psychology and creativity, between seeing patterns and laboring to describe them.

Did being a psychologist help you write your latest book?
Sometimes my two lives intersect, and my stories include characters who have mental health issues. That’s definitely the case in Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, coming in March, 2015 from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books. Footer’s mom struggles with Bipolar Disorder, and Footer lives with the fear that she’ll wind up battling the same illness. That doesn’t stop her from exploring a big mystery, trying to save some missing kids, and working on her upcoming career as a journalist. She’s decided she can’t be an artist since she can’t draw–not that lack of talent stops her from illustrating her own story, especially when she wants to annoy a stodgy teacher, show somebody what snake guts look like, or explain her walrus phobia. Some things, like mutant alien rock monsters and mysterious sneakers, just work better in pictures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.

Alien mutant rock monster, drawn by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, not me, because I can’t even draw stick figures.

 

I was able to ask Jennifer Black Reinhardt, the book’s illustrator, a few questions, so, bonus!

Me:     What does it feel like to be able to draw something other than a stick figure? Because I’m way envious. Even my stick figures stink.
Jennifer:     I’m not sure if I’ve always loved to draw because I was good at it? Or, if I got good at it because I loved to draw? I think it might be the latter. I can remember being very little and having an idea and being absolutely consumed with hurrying to finish my bath so I could go draw. I would spend hours drawing different noses on a person in profile and was mesmerized by how just that one line could transform a darling little girl into an evil witch. But I did have that love and passion for it at a very early age.
Me:        Envy       

Me:           I panicked when I heard they were getting a real artist to draw Footer’s sketches, because like me, Footer can’t really draw! You did such an awesome job of making wonderful pictures that weren’t perfect–and yet were, in every way. How hard was it to draw like Footer?
Jennifer:     I did have to think about how to do them, but it was really fun! Are you sure Footer can’t draw? Because the fact that she liked to document some rather odd/difficult things with her drawings seemed to indicate to me that she thought she could succeed? I looked through some of my daughter’s old sketchbooks from about that time to get a feel for what Footer might do. I thought Footer would spend some time on them. So, I didn’t want to make them as quick as single line. I kind of wanted Footer to think she did a good job.
Me:         love  

Me:     What are you working on now? Where else will readers be able to see your masterpieces?
Jennifer:     This very moment I’m doing sketches for “Yaks Yak” a word play picture book by Linda Sue Park published by Clarion. And right before that I finished final art for a book by Suzanne Slade, published by Charlesbridge  about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. So I’ve gone from non-fiction inventors, to a possibly crazy Footer Davis, to definitely wacky animals! I love being an illustrator!
Me:     You are awesome. Thank you for bringing Footer’s pictures to life. (And, get this, Gisele, she didn’t even charge me brownies for the interview…)

 

Now back to our regularly scheduled questions.

Are you afraid of walruses?
No. That’s Footer.

Suuuuure it is.
Really. I’m not afraid of walruses.

I want oatmeal raisin cookies, too.
FINE.

Have you ever written a middle grade book before?
Footer’s tale is my first published middle grade story, after years of writing for adults and young adults. Writing middle grade fiction is something I’ve always wanted to do . . . well, that and picture books, but the whole picture book thing—yeah. Still working on that (see above re: stick figures). Despite my issues with drawing anything other than ugly blobs, I started this story by sketching a really awful doodlebug, and labeling its parts and looking up its scientific classification. Footer Davis CvrFooter researches doodlebugs as part of a paper where she’s supposed to explore the origins of her town, Bugtussle. Bugtussle got its name from its surplus of doodlebugs, and Footer thinks that’s pretty freaky, but not as freaky as her mom shooting a snake off the pond in their backyard with her dad’s elephant gun. That’s how Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy begins, and it’s how my third grade summer began, too. My mom really did that. I don’t think the elephant gun left any permanent scars on Mom’s shoulder, but it definitely left its mark on the snake. The snake Mom shot was a copperhead, just like the one Footer’s mom removes from the land of the living. The snake ended up on the book’s wonderful cover. I really love the cover, and all the  little bits of Footer’s story tucked into it.

So, how did you get “the call” about this book?
This book sold at auction, so I got several calls from Erin Murphy across the day. When she told me Footer had a home with Sylvie Frank at Simon and Schuster, I was thrilled.

Does your new editor know you’re scared of walruses?
I AM NOT SCARED OF WALRUSES! Besides, Sylvie is completely wonderful and she wouldn’t care.

When you’re not writing or working at the Old Asylum, what do you do with your time?
I spend time with my family, including my adorable new grandson Anthony. I also spend time with my pets–too many dogs, a few cats, some chickens, a peacock, and a parrot.

No walruses, eh? I rest my case. Are the brownies ready yet?
Time to end the interview…

 

Thanks so much, Susan!! Susan is giving away THREE copies of Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, leave a comment and be entered to win!

You can also purchase Susan’s book here:

The Flying Pig Bookstore

Indie Bound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 

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Filed under Illustrators, Introduction, The Call

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:

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Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Introduction

Rules of the Game

hands_inWhen I’m not at home writing, one of the best things I get to do is visit schools, after-schools, and libraries through my enrichment business and work with groups of kids from all over. Well, I call it work. Really, we play games and share stories. But let’s pretend it’s work. The IRS does.

The first thing I do when I settle in to work with a new group is go over the rules for our time together. The rules vary from visit to visit, depending on the program I’m doing. But the last rule I share is always the same. Have fun!

Now, anyone who works with kids will tell you that you need to be prepared to revisit rules a fair bit. That’s true. But the ‘have fun” rule? That’s the one I generally expect to revisit the least.

As I begin this journey from deal to debut, though, I am surprised by the frequency with which I have to remind myself to “have fun.” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It makes sense. The intimate relationship I’ve had all along with my story is about to change. Once it goes to publication, it’s not going to be me and my book anymore. It’s going to be me, my book, and everyone else. That’s a scary thing. What if everyone else doesn’t enjoy my story? It can be hard to have fun when you’re scared.

But rules exist for a reason. And “have fun” is one rule that deserves to be followed, especially in this case. Because this thing I get to do, that I suspect almost everyone reading this blog does—writing for children—this is the best thing ever. It doesn’t matter where we are on the road to publication. We are all absurdly lucky. I write for children in large part because it’s a way for me to express the love I feel for the books that shaped me as a child. What could possibly be more fun than that?

So I thought I’d take this opportunity in my first post for Emu’s Debuts to revisit the “have fun” rule. It’s a great reminder for me, and if anyone out there reading this is in a place where they need a reminder, too, then all the better. I’m excited to be part of this community and I’m looking forward to doing a great deal of rule-following with everyone in the days ahead!

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Filed under Introduction, Writing and Life