Category Archives: Publishers and Editors

Purposeful Patience

We each see the world through our own very particular lens and use our inclinations and experiences to help us make sense of life. Most people, I find, have distilled these influences into a sort of personal metaphor, something that can be held up for comparison  to everything else.

I have two such metaphors. I can make anything connect in a logical, natural way to either:

Horses    

Baby horse gif

or Childbirth

Dumbo gif

Today’s a childbirth kind of day.

When the idea for a book is…um… conceived by a writer, all things seems wonderfully possible. The future book is soft-focused, as if seen through a dusting of talcum powder and hope. It’s a maybe-baby. chinchilla

 

 

 

 

 

 

But unless the writer has the remarkable talent and good fortune to be an author-illustrator, a picture book cannot be born until it has complementary artwork made by someone else — an illustrator who will create a visual counterpart to the text and bring the whole into glorious being.

In other words, the writer’s adorable book-baby is going to have another parent.Bird gif

I think embracing this truth is one of the first steps to becoming a serious picture book writer. The sooner you understand that both the process and the end result are a shared enterprise, the better. No matter how much time you have put into crafting your (under 500 word) story, when it’s bought by a publisher, it’s only halfway finished.

Illustrations can take — I’m just going to say it — years. That can feel like a long time to wait. Breathless gif

It’s critical to remember that the chosen illustrator has only just begun to nurture the manuscript. To them, it’s still a maybe-baby and needs a lot of time and attention to come to full fruition.

Some things are worth the wait. Like babies. And picture books. As I wait for BABYMOON, I trust the process. Everyone who has taken an interest in my manuscript has its best prospects at heart. I will be purposefully patient. I will keep working. I will wait in talcum powder hope for a happy book-birthday. It will arrive when it’s ready, and I’ll be waiting with open arms.

Book heart gif

Enjoy the day!

Hayley


 

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

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Filed under Advice, Creativity, Discipline, Dreams Come True, Editor, Faith, Illustrators, Inspiration, Patience, Picture books, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, waiting, 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…

Golden

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

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

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

puppy attack

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

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

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

Secret Agent

But back to puppies.

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

Groomed

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

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

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

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

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

Best In Show

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

Enjoy the day.

Hayley

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

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

Taking The Leap

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

Jump!

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

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

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

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

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

Gravatar About Hayley Barrett

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

 

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

EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN: Agent and Editor Interviews!

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

Here’s a more detailed summary:

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

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

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

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

Interview with Agent Erin Murphy

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

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

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

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

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

 

joy peskin photo may 2013Interview with Editor Joy Peskin

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

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

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

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

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

TD: What do you think really happened to Tommy?

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

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

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

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a T-shirt and a signed ARC of EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN by Lindsey Lane!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got a LOT more rejection letters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Off To Grandma’s House

I remember when my husband and I took our son to the airport to fly to his grandma’s house. We had to leave him with those in charge of unaccompanied minors-those who would help him get to his grandparents without a hitch. I felt a bit sad that he was ready for this adventure. He was my little boy and he was growing up. I felt nervous that he was going on his own without me to see to his needs and interpret his moods…because Momma knows best. Momma notices every little nuance and expression. She doesn’t have to guess at their meaning. I also felt excitement that he was “ready” for this adventure. I knew this was part of his maturation and the process of preparing him for the world. I knew that his grandparents loved him. I knew how much they were looking forward to this. I knew the importance of his relationship with them and I knew the importance of their influence in his life. I knew that grandparents add a layer to a his life experiences that is important.

As writers we give our stories life. We are the mommas and daddys of our stories. We know every little nuance. But we have to leave them to those in charge-those who help our stories on their journey. We have to leave them with agents and editors and illustrators. It is very emotional. We are excited about this because how else would our stories get out into the world. But we are also nervous. We are hoping that those in charge of our stories will pay close attention to every word. Every mood. Will they notice that expression on page six? What about the humor I see so clearly on page two?

Right now, my debut picture book, There Was An Old Dragon, is at Grandma’s house. It is with Ben Mantle, the illustrator. He will add that extra layer to the story. But before the manuscript arrived, it had to be left with those in charge. First it had to be with Tricia Lawrence, my agent. She got it! She so got it! When she called about my story she mentioned my favorite things. She loves this story and I knew it was in good hands. Then the manuscript spent time with my editor, Maria Modugno. Her excitement was inspiring. She suggested some edits that would make the visit at Grandma’s house more beneficial. She loves my story, too. It’s in good hands. So how am I feeling about the visit with Ben Mantle (Who may not appreciate being called a grandma because . . . well, he’s a man . . . and he’s way younger that me!) I’m feeling especially good! Not because I have a Mommy-cam. I haven’t even seen sketches. But my editor, Maria Modugno, and I talked last week. We talked about changing a few words in manuscript. A few words  . . . but Oh So Important Words. We had this conversation because she had been talking with Ben Mantle about the same few words. He called her to discuss the few . . . but Oh So Important Words. He is paying attention to each expression and mood. Every little nuance! Do you know how good that makes me feel? How confident? He sees the importance of these few words so clearly that he wanted to discuss them. So I know he is adding a layer to the life of my manuscript that I couldn’t add. I know he is taking it very seriously.

I have a feeling I’m going to be very pleased to see my manuscript’s growth and change once it gets back from Grandma’s house. Ben’s influence on the story will make this our story! His and mine. A picture book that is prepared for the world.

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penny3Penny Parker Klostermann’s debut picture book, There Was An Old Dragon, is coming from Random House Children’s Publishing Fall 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @pklostermann and visit her blog HERE. Penny is represented by Tricia Lawrence.

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Filed under craft~writing, Editor, Publishers and Editors, Writing

The Secret Formula for Getting Published

secretformulaYears before I was even offered a contract, new writers started asking me if I would tell them how to get published. Some have asked if I would connect them to an agent or an editor. Others have wanted to know how to write a surefire query letter.

These are the same questions I asked established writers when I was new, and every question is a good one. Every one of them is important if a writer wants to eventually work with a respected, traditional publisher. But—trust me—if I knew a quick-and-easy secret formula, I would’ve used it a long time ago.

If there *were* a step-by-step process, however, it might look a lot like this:

1. Blood

2. Sweat

3. Tears

4. Repeat

But since we’re talking about the Children’s market, rather than the Stephen King method of getting published, perhaps I should use the ABCs to impart the best advice I have to offer:

A: Attend Conferences and Workshops

You don’t need to attend conferences and workshops, but I’m telling you, I would’ve never been published if I hadn’t made the investment in a good education. And I’m not talking about my college English classes.

Writing and selling a manuscript is tough stuff. The good news is that many brilliant authors have done it before you, and especially in the Children’s/Young Adult market, they are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience. At conferences, you get the opportunity to learn from their presentations, ask them questions, and even benefit from their critiques of your work.

Editors and agents are often in attendance as well. Not only does this give you an opportunity to get a feel for what type of manuscripts they’re looking for, but in most cases, you’re then given the okay to submit to them directly. And this is a big deal. Every major publishing house I know of is closed to open submissions, meaning that you need a reputable agent to submit the manuscript on your behalf. And more and more agencies are closing their doors to open submissions, too . . . which means you need to have an “in” with them as well.

So how do you get that “in?” By attending a conference where that agent or editor is presenting.

As far as conference costs are concerned, it’s important to do some serious research. There are workshops aplenty—many of them very beneficial—that are less than $100. And there are also several that are over $1000. Some are even $2500 and beyond. Personally, I’ve never seen a workshop in this later category that looks worth the price (in fact, I think the majority of these highly-priced workshops are predatory). So definitely look into the details, find some conferences or workshops that meet your needs, and decide if the price seems reasonable.

For the Children’s market, you’ll find an excellent array of upcoming events at www.SCBWI.org. And my personal favorite week-long conference—for cost, improving craft, networking, and its impressive track record for connecting writers with their future agents or editors—is called Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. You can find more info about it at www.wifyr.com  (I’m not paid for recruiting, I swear! I’ve just attended it several times and love it).

B: Be Active in the Writing Community

Form genuine relationships with people who can both formally and informally mentor you. Learn as much as you can about the business from them. BUT keep in mind that it generally makes an author uncomfortable when you ask them to hook you up with their agent/editor. If you are genuine friends with an author, then he or she has likely read some of your work, so if they feel it’s a good fit for their agent/editor, they will likely tell you. Otherwise, do your due diligence, just as they did, and query the editor or agent yourself.

Where do you start if you want to get more involved in the community? Thanks to the internet, the world has become a very small place. Technically, there’s no need to even travel away from your laptop when it comes to making new friends, so get out there and make some. Start following writing blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages, especially those by successful authors. Then just . . . absorb. Listen in, and eventually jump into conversations.

Another critical step for a beginner is to find a critique group. And make sure you connect with writers who write for your same genre, or your experience will likely go sour. For example, if you write picture books, then join a group with PB writers only. Even the best novel writer in the world could steer you wrong with their advice for writing a picture book (which are totally different animals!) And vise versa. It takes some effort, but if you seek out like minds, you will eventually find them. And don’t be afraid to leave a critique group if it’s just bringing you down—killing your confidence. Critiques are usually beneficial, but what’s the point if you’re not being productive? Sometimes a writer just needs to step back and take some time to sort things out on his or her own. But keep in mind that if you continue to hear similar comments that particular issues aren’t quite working in your manuscript, then they aren’t quite working. Editors and agents will see these same problems as well, so figure out how to make the issues work, then revise the manuscript. (Like I said: Blood, Sweat, Tears, Repeat.)

Let’s go back to conferences and workshops because they’re the best way I know to do some critical networking. Some people claim that it’s who you know in this business that can get you a book deal, and guess what? They’re often right. But it might not be what you’re thinking. It’s more like who you know, and what they can teach you. Or . . . who they know, and what they tell others about your manuscript.

I landed my first major book deal last May, and it was the direct result of one Important Person in the industry—who had read my entire manuscript—telling another Important Person (during a typical morning commute in NYC) that she felt my manuscript might be a good fit for Bloomsbury. And it was. So very good things can come from simple networking, which often results in forming genuine friendships.

C: Create a Quality Manuscript

Attending conferences, networking with other writers, and joining a critique group will also teach you a lot about craft. And nothing you do will be as important as writing a quality manuscript.

For new writers, especially, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of selling a book (how to write a query letter, how to get connected with agents and editors, etc). But no matter how well you know the publishing business, it won’t mean a thing if you don’t know the craft of writing.

And . . . no pressure . . . but you have to know it well enough to stand out in a sea of millions of others who want a contract just as much as you do.

This will never happen if you’re only doing networking, or seeking opportunities to meet editors and agents, and certainly not if you spend the majority of your time dreaming about how you’ll spend the money from your first book deal. Writing a quality, deliciously-marketable manuscript—that an editor won’t be able to pass up—only happens when you:

1) HAVE YOUR BUTT IN A SEAT

2) YOUR FINGERS ON A KEYBOARD

3) YOUR MIND ON THE STORY

That’s the real Secret Formula, my friends. Now, stop reading this and get to work! You have a book to sell!

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IMG_0723-2Amy Finnegan writes Young Adult novels and is a host at BookshopTalk.com. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, will be published by Bloomsbury, Fall 2014. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, and Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author). She is represented by Erin Murphy.

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Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Agents, craft~writing, Editing and Revising, Editor, Education, Publishers and Editors, Writing, Writing and Life

How Not to Wait

A friend and I were working on a project at the school when her cellphone rang. It was her thirteen year old son. His practice had ended early. He needed a ride. “Ok,” she said. “Give me five minutes to put stuff away and I’ll come.” Three minutes later the phone rang again. Same kid. Hadn’t she left yet? As she walked out the door and down the hall, I heard the phone go off again. “Nope,” she said. “I’m not almost there yet. It will take me fifteen minutes before I’m there. Do your homework while you’re waiting. Go take some shots on goal. It’s a gorgeous day. Look at some leaves or something.”

I laughed but I laughed because, at the moment, I can relate to the kid.

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After all the excitement of the book deal comes a lot (a lot) of waiting.

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And waiting is hard.

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For me, here’s what helps. Talk to people who’ve done this before about what to expect. Is it normal for contracts to take forever to wend their way through some place called Legal? Yes. Is it normal for long periods of nothing happening to be interspersed with other periods of semi-frenetic activity? Yep.

Get back to work. You’ve got other stories that need to be written. And revised. And revised. And revised. You know the gig.

And hey, it’s a beautiful day. Get out of your chair and kick the soccer ball around a little.  Look at some leaves or something.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa 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, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Advice, Publishers and Editors, waiting

Squashing deadlines, one day at a time

Was last week’s launch party a blast or what? I love everything about SOPHIE’S SQUASH, and the Emu’s Debuts book birthday blog bash was no exception. The party’s over, but I still have the honor of announcing of the giveaway winner! So, without further ado, the winner of the signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH and the swag to go with it is…

Erik at thiskidreviewsbooks!

Congratulations, Erik!

Before we broke for the party, we’d had a few posts about dealing with things like deadlines, interruptions and distractions, the guilt about writing instead of spending time with family, and the guilt about spending time with family instead of writing. (We just can’t win, can we?) This summer, I’ve had it all… at the same time. And as my August 1st deadline for delivering the first draft of CHANGEMAKER loomed ever nearer, I started to panic. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it, and even if I somehow did, I’d have to turn in a REAL first draft (and you know what means, right? P.U.!).

Hemingway quote

One of my favorite coffee mugs.

I didn’t feel good about either option, so I broke down and emailed my editor to see if there was any wiggle room there. In the kindest, gentlest way possible (seriously, no sarcasm there—editors are some of the nicest people on the planet!), she explained that there wasn’t, but she also outlined exactly what needed to be in that draft… and what didn’t. It turned out the things I was most stressed about—sidebars, back matter, etc.—weren’t important in this round. Thank goodness I’d asked! I got back to work with a slightly different focus and a much healthier attitude. And I did it!

So, I’m now in this weird place of having met my deadline and turned in my manuscript, but still having a bunch of work to do. Imagine the conversations with friends… Them: “You turned in your book! How does it feel?” Me: “It feels great!” Them: “What are you working on now?” Me: “Oh, the same thing. I still need to finish it.” Them: *blink, blink*

Besides recovering from the last sprint and making my friends wonder about my mental state, I’m still feeling anxious about finishing all of those missing pieces at the same time I’m worrying about how hard the revision rounds might be. I have no idea if that first hurdle was the biggest one in this particular race or if there are even tougher challenges ahead. But I do know that I have loved researching and writing this manuscript. If they cancelled the book today, I’d be forever thankful just to have had the experience (please don’t cancel it! please don’t cancel it!), but (assuming all goes as planned) my own Emu’s Debuts book birthday blog bash is still more than a year away. Until then, I’ll just keep trying to do whatever needs to be done to make this the best possible book it can be.

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Filed under Anxiety, Editor, Panic, Publishers and Editors

SOPHIE’S SQUASH Launch Week and Giveaway Harvest!

Hooray, it’s finally here! SOPHIE’S SQUASH!

fireworks

With its 4 starred reviews and being one of Amazon’s picks for August, we know you’ve been dying for it to be released! (Us, too!)

Sophie's Squash

You know who else has been dying for it to be released? Our own Pat Zietlow Miller, of course!

Did you know Pat was un-agented when she submitted SOPHIE’S SQUASH? It’s a slush pile success story! I asked VP and Publisher Anne Schwartz about the manuscript’s journey.

AS: SOPHIE’S SQUASH was pulled from the slush pile by our assistant, Stephanie Pitts, who was spanking new at the time. She’d been on the job less than a month, I think, which is a testament to both Stephanie and the manuscript itself. Stephanie passed it on to me, and I immediately loved it; I passed it on to Lee Wade, who immediately loved it. And that was the beginning.

Anne, SOPHIE has amassed a collection of starred reviews. What about the story resonates so strongly with readers?

AS: For me, and I assume for readers, there is something so genuine and yet hilarious about this story. The connection between Sophie and her squash is at once completely unexpected and totally relatable. It’s not easy to achieve simultaneously this off-the-wall absurdity and absolute believability, but I think Pat and Anne Wilsdorf, the illustrator, have done so to perfection. We laugh because Bernice is a squash, but we connect because Sophie’s love for her is 100% real.

Speaking of 100% real love, were you ever attached to or fascinated by an unusual toy as a child?

AS: I’m afraid I wasn’t as creative in my love object as Sophie. I had a pink blanket that I was very attached to. In fact, I still miss it…or should I say, her?

I think in this case,  you should say “her”. Too bad her name wasn’t Bernice. That would be quite a story!

We also asked Pat about her side of the slush pile story…

Pat Zietlow MillerPZM: Even though Schwartz & Wade had always been one of my absolute favorite picture book publishers, I had not sent SOPHIE to them earlier because I didn’t think they accepted unagented work. But then, I saw a website that said they did, and I thought I’d give them a try. I submitted it to them in January, and I was, frankly, close to thinking that maybe this particular manuscript wasn’t meant to be. It had had several close calls before and I was running out of spots to send it to.

After I sent it off, I didn’t think too much about it. I’m generally pretty good at that. I had other stuff to work on and I knew the odds were against it being published anyway.

So when Anne Schwartz called me in September, I was stunned. It was a classic, out-of-the-blue, we’d-like-to-buy-your-book phone call. She said they had just hired a new staff person, and asked her to look at some slush. The staff person had pulled my manuscript on a Wednesday, and Anne had called me on Friday. And Lee Wade called later that same day, which also was great.

It was amazing. And surreal. Amazingly surreal.

So after that, a friend of mine who also writes, Jessica Vitalis, said, “Well, you’re going to try to get an agent now, right?” And I actually wasn’t. I didn’t think an agent would be interested in someone who mostly wrote picture books and didn’t illustrate. And Jessica really pushed me to try. So I remembered an agent I’d seen speak at the Iowa SCBWI conference—Ammi-Joan Paquette. I had been impressed by her, but I hadn’t spoken to her because, again, I didn’t see the point. I sent Joan an email with the story and the offer and she got back to me immediately and asked to see more of my work. I sent her several other stories and then we talked on the phone.

And it all worked out and I am now ecstatically part of EMU’s Debuts. So I owe hitting the agent jackpot to my friend, Jessica, without whom, I wouldn’t even have contacted Joan.

What an inspiring story, Pat!

We’ve got a lot more inspiration coming your way this week, including an interview with illustrator Anne Wilsdorf and a top-sekrit Tuesday post with multiple EMUs participating…visually. You’ll have to see it to believe it!

Giveaway alert: comment this week to enter to win a signed copy of SOPHIE’S SQUASH plus some lovable temporary tattoos of Sophie and Bernice!

sophietemptattoos

And if you happen to be near Madison, WI, Pat invites you to attend the in-person launch party on Saturday, August 17 at 1 p.m. at Barnes and Noble West (7433 Mineral Point Road). Plus there’s giveaways on Pat’s blog at PatZietlowMiller.com.

So curl up with your favorite squash and remember to join us all week long!

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Filed under Celebrations, Publishers and Editors