Category Archives: Publishers and Editors

THE POET X LAUNCHES (part 1)

The Poet X

All the members of Emu’s Debuts are privileged today to help Elizabeth Acevedo celebrate the launch of her gorgeous debut, The Poet X from Harper Teen.  Read on to learn more about this book’s path to publication and the ways the story is bound to touch and enrich readers everywhere.


The Poet X Belongs On the Shelf in Every School – Ann Braden

Last night I had the privilege of finishing The Poet X. I sat there for a long time, holding all of its amazingness inside me and trying not to burst. It was so real, and it explored such timely issues in such a powerful way that it exposed them for all to see – and to feel.

Take this stanza from page 126:

“She knew since she was little,
the world would not sing her triumphs,
but she took all of the stereotypes
and put them in a chokehold
until they breathed out the truth.”

And what filled me up to the point of bursting was thinking about what this book could mean for our students who not only need to see themselves in books, but who need to be inspired to make their voices heard. I used to be a classroom teacher, and my heart is full of all the students who need this book. Our job is to get it into their hands.

This year’s the NCTE has chosen the powerful theme of “Raising Students Voice: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice.” As Franki Sibberson, the program chair of the 2018 annual convention, reminds us: “Our students’ voices matter. Their voices matter in our schools, our communities, and beyond. As teachers, we want our students to discover their own voices.… Our students deserve stories that impact who they are and who they can become.”

The Poet X is a book that needs to on the shelf in every school. It will show students that their voices matter, and it will show them how their own lives can change when they speak out.

As the main character Xiomara says:

“If my body was a Country Club soda bottle,
it’s one that has been shaken and dropped
and at any moment it’s gonna pop open
and surprise the whole damn world.”


ARCs and Electricity – Kat Shepherd

I have been eagerly awaiting the book birthday of Elizabeth Acevedo’s THE POET X for almost a year now, so I felt doubly lucky that not only did I get a sneak peek of an ARC of the book, I also got a chance to attend my first even poetry slam this past weekend, where Elizabeth was the featured performer.

 

For those who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reader Copy. These are early, unproofed copies of an author’s book that are sent out to librarians, teachers, and other reviewers to help build buzz around a book before it’s released. If you’ve ever followed groups like #bookvoyage or #bookexpedition on Twitter, you’re probably used to seeing kidlit folks excitedly tweeting about the latest ARCs making their way to mailboxes across the country. Having the chance for an early read already feels incredibly special, and THE POET X was everything I hoped for and more.

 

Xiomara, or X, is entering high school and working to make sense of the conflicting worlds that try to define her: childhood and adulthood, Dominican and American, skepticism and faith, self-love and shame. Poetry is what allows her to fit the pieces of herself together and share her voice with the world. So it was fitting that I got to get a glimpse into Xiomara’s real-life world just as I was reading her story.

Lightning Strike

Elizabeth Acevedo had been invited as the featured poet at a Macalester College poetry slam in St. Paul last Saturday. I already knew she was a phenomenal poet and speaker, but I had never seen her perform in person before. Have you ever felt that pull in your belly when you see someone do something that they were just absolutely born to do? That’s what it felt like seeing Elizabeth. She read poems, she told stories, she made goofy little asides, and she had us hanging on her every word. She was absolutely electrifying.

And the slam itself: undiluted and intense, with poets sharing their most vulnerable selves. Audience participation isn’t just encouraged; it’s absolutely vital. There are snaps, claps, hoots and hollers, peppered with the occasional hiss or cursing of the judges. It is organized chaos punctuated by moments of the sublime.There are poems with lines that cut into the deepest part of you and leave you struggling for breath. It’s the same rawness and urgency of emotion that is captured so beautifully in Acevedo’s novel.

 

THE POET X reminds of that art is a lifeline, and it’s also a heartline that connects us to one another. It allows us to be our most vulnerable and urgent selves, and still have faith that we will be loved.


The Team Behind the Launch  – Christina Uss

The Poet X began its transformation from manuscript to ARC to full-fledged launching hardcover book when Elizabeth Acevedo signed with her agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, who then connected her with the book’s editor, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen. Pre-published writers often agonize over how they’ll find an agent or editor, wondering if there’s some magical, mystical way to get noticed. In Elizabeth’s case, all the magic she needed was right there in her words. Her writing spoke so strongly to these two, they both knew they simply had to work with her on this book.open-a-book

Ammi-Joan Paquette explained how her part in the journey began:

“Liz and I had been in touch a few years before, and at that time she had sent me sample pages of another work she had in progress. Although that was a bit earlier in her writing journey, she definitely had the magic already! We kept in correspondence, and when she eventually sent me the manuscript for POET X, I was hooked. I knew this was what I had been waiting for. Pure magic.” The main character, Xiomara, particularly drew Paquette in: “Her voice rings through so clearly and vividly. From the earliest lines she is a living, breathing, multi-dimensional character, and her personality is exquisitely captured as she develops and grows across the course of the story.”

            Paquette submitted Xiomara’s story to editors she thought might make a good match, and The Poet X ended up selling at auction – an enviable situation when multiple editors/publishing houses all want to be the one to publish a work. “When that happens, the various editors each make their case for why they would provide the best home for the work. That’s what happened with POET X—it’s very exciting, but also a bit nerve-wracking, as you might imagine, for the author to suddenly be in a position to have to choose between such an array of excellent options. In this case, Rosemary Brosnan at Harper Teen was inarguably the top choice for POET X, and I can’t imagine a better home for Liz and Xiomara anywhere!

Rosemary Brosnan let Emu’s  Debuts know she agrees:

Everything about THE POET X drew me in and made me want to acquire it! The voice, the wonderful poetry, the story—everything about this book screamed to me, ‘You must publish!’ I was also quite taken with the Afro-Dominican main character, Xiomara, as she is someone we have not seen a great deal in YA literature. And Liz herself is a force; I watched videos of her performances after I read the manuscript, and I was completely bowled over. (See links below to catch your own glimpse of Elizabeth’s power onstage.)

        Like Paquette, Brosnan found Xiomara to be a unique character. “Some of the issues…in the story have been dealt with by other authors, but Xiomara is a truly memorable character, with her Dominican heritage, her love of poetry, her ultra-religious mother against whom she rebels.” She hopes all the book’s readers will leave its pages knowing “that poetry does not have to be obscure or written by dead white males! That poetry is fun!”


Savoring Poetry – Please Join the Challenge – Hayley Barrett

The Poet X is stunningly beautiful, inside and out.

I tried to read it—to sit quietly and read it—but I couldn’t. My voice wouldn’t cooperate. My ears wouldn’t cooperate. I should have expected as much. I’m predominantly an auditory learner, and my voice is sometimes the best tool I have to explore an idea. As I read The Poet X, my lips began to move. Eventually, I realized I was whispering and began to read aloud. Sweet, poetic relief!

To experience poetry silently, to only ever experience it like that, is to do it a disservice. Poetry does not care to be silenced or made to be less that all it truly is. Poems deserve to be read quietly, to be read out loud, to be shared with many voices. The Poet X certainly deserves that.

Throughout my education—which included an undergrad English major—only one teacher required me to memorize and recite poetry. I often chose the work of my favorite poet, Maxine Kumin. When I recited Kumin in class, I heard her voice and, perhaps as importantly, I heard my own. Savoring her words broadened my poetic palate and whetted my appetite for language. The experience nourished and strengthened me.

There are many videos of author Elizabeth AcevedoElizabeth Acevedo on her website and YouTube, including spoken word, two TEDx talks, and others. I encourage you to seek them out. In a recent one, she introduces The Poet X and talks about how she hopes her readers “hear a voice they’ve never heard.” If they read The Poet X aloud, one of the voices readers hear will be their own. I believe this experience will nourish and strengthen them. They may even discover their own poetic voice. I hope so.

As we celebrate her launch of The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo challenges each of us to identify a female poet, choose one of her poems, and commit it to memory. I didn’t retain the Kumin poems I memorized for Professor Briggs, but I can reclaim them. I accept the challenge.


The rest of the Emus plan to do the same! Will you accept the challenge with us? Please comment below and share the poems and female poets who help you hear a voice you’ve never heard.



The Emu’s Debuts nest is honored to count Elizabeth Acevedo as one of our own! Contributors to this Emu’s Debuts post include middle-grade authors debuting in 2018 Ann Braden , Christina Uss, and Kat Shepherd, and picture book author Hayley Barrett, debuting in 2019.


 

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Filed under Agents, ARCs, Launch, Poetry, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized, Voice

You’re Publishing a Book? How Nice!

I remember walking into my local indie children’s book store and asking if I could talk to their book buyer. “My debut novel comes out next year,” I told her, eyes wild with joy. “How nice,” she cautiously replied, and I could immediately see weariness and wariness in the woman’s eyes. I thought I’m not the first mom to walk in here and say I’ve written a book, am I? I wondered how many folks came in with books printed through Amazon’s CreateSpace, certain every bookstore has plenty of room to stock them and time to hand-sell their self-published creations.  

Telling my I-just-signed-a-book-contract celebration news to acquaintances often elicited this reply: “How nice! My daughter/aunt/ neighbor/child’s teacher/lawyer/candlestick maker published a book too!” 99% of these books were self-published. I can’t guess what percentage of non-writer folks assume that self-published books and traditionally published books are pretty much identical in terms of quality and the time invested to achieve that quality, but it felt high. High enough that I felt compelled to introduce my impending authorship by cramming in somewhat pompous-sounding details before running out of breath: “My first book is coming out next year with a traditional publishing house that’s been in the children’s book business for over eighty years and it’s going to sold in bookstores all over the country just like Harry Potter and yes, you’ll be able to order it not only from Amazon but anywhere fine books are sold.”

When I began my journey to publication, self-publishing was not part of my equation. I never questioned that I was going to seek out an agent and go the standard elephant3

glacially-paced rejection-rife but-oh-so-worth-it-all route. However, after years of work and only six months away from my book’s birthday, self-publishing persistently lurks in the background when I talk about my upcoming debut. It doesn’t lurk maliciously; more like a confused, well-meaning elephant who doesn’t know why its presence near my dining room table (carefully set for a book debut celebration party) is making me uncomfortable.

I learned to accept this sense of a misplaced pachyderm wandering in my writer’s soul until I took over leadership of an informal local writers’ group. One member of my group nearly shelled out big bucks for a “publishing contract” from some vanity press pretending to be doing him a favor. And another elected to print his memoir through Amazon and was amazed to find that my publishing experience bore no resemblance to his. I’m now worried about pre-published writers who genuinely want to become professionals getting sucked into thinking there’s no appreciable difference between self-publishing and traditional.

There are certainly valid reasons to self-publish, like avoiding rejection and having control over your book’s design and timing of release. I would hope that anyone choosing self-publication does so with their eyes wide open, knowing the price they pay for personal control is giving up the giddy fun of receiving advances, the power to reach readers through extensive publicity and distribution networks, and the warm, supportive hammock of confidence in the quality of your book’s professional editing and production.

elephant2

What about your own journey, fellow pre-published and published writers? Let’s talk about any elephants that lurk at your own dining room tables. Have you considered going (or even satisfactorily navigated) the self-publishing route? Have you ever struggled to convince folks that traditionally publishing a book is one heck of an accomplishment? You have? How nice! Please share a comment below.

 


Christina Uss

CHRISTINA USS is proud that it’s taken years of persistence to say her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out June 5, 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House. See the cover reveal on KidLit TV here. Tweet to her about your own publishing experience @christinauss or drop by http://www.christinauss.com.

 

 

 


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Filed under Celebrations, Publishers and Editors, Self-publishing and Traditional Publishing, Uncategorized

Initiate Interview of Erica Sussman, Editor of THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY

I’m delighted to introduce Editorial Director Erica Sussman of HarperCollins. She graciously agreed to be interviewed for Emu’s Debuts as we celebrate author Katie Slivensky’s debut middle grade novel, THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY. 

To begin, Erica, can you explain what was it about THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY manuscript that made you sit up and pay attention? When during your initial reading did you decide to acquire it for HarperCollins?

“I was drawn into the story from the very first page. Miranda is an incredibly sympathetic and relatable narrator, despite the fact that she’s in a pretty crazy situation! I was never a science buff, but Katie’s story is so accessible that I didn’t get confused by any of the technical aspects of the space travel—I was too busy trying to figure out what would happen next! And Katie’s manuscript also made me cry – in the best and most surprising way – which is a pretty tough feat! She’s crafted the most wonderful friendship between Miranda and Ruby, a robot that Miranda built. There’s a moment of such heartbreaking sacrifice in the book (I won’t tell you what happens, don’t worry!) that is handled so deftly – when I read it I knew I had to get Katie’s debut novel on my list.”

Confession: I haven’t read THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY yet. If I asked you for a book recommendation, how would you persuade me to drop everything and read THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY?

Here’s what I’d say: If you’ve ever felt out of your depth, if you’ve ever had to make new friends, if you’ve ever had to step up and be brave, if you’ve ever had to stand up for yourself or a friend, if you’ve ever longed for an out of this world adventure…PICK UP THIS BOOK.

I’ve had to face situations like those, but always right here on terra firma. This book’s readers, on the other hand, will encounter such relatable challenges as they thrillingly zoom through space. Much more fun and interesting.

What were your favorite books when you were a kid? Does THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY have anything in common with them?

I had a bunch of favorites, but the one that stands out in relation to The Countdown Conspiracy is SpaceCamp, which now that I think about it may possibly have just been the novelization of the movie with Lea Thompson. It was about a group of teenagers accidentally sent up into space and I think I read it approximately a zillion times. There was a lot about Countdown Conspiracy that reminded me of it in the best ways: unlikely friendships, strong characters, a great sense of humor, fast-paced adventure, danger—and, thank goodness, a happy ending.

And with that, we are GO for launch. Editorial Director Sussman, in six seconds and six words, please commence the launch sequence for THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

Six…BRAVE

Five…KIDS

Four…HAVE

Three…THE

Two…BEST

One…ADVENTURES

I couldn’t agree more! I can’t wait to blast off with Miranda and Ruby. Thank you, Erica, for all you do to bring exciting, uplifting books into the world. THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY will surely encourage in its readers an enterprising spirit and a love of science and space.

You can purchase THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY at your local bookstore or here:

Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062462558
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Countdown-Conspiracy…/dp/0062462555
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/…/the…/1124860410

To learn more about author and science educator Katie Slivensky, visit her website. https://www.katieslivensky.com

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About Hayley Barrett

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming in spring 2019 from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is also coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.

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Filed under Book Launch, Characters, Editor, Interviews, Launch, Middle Grade, Publishers and Editors, Uncategorized

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.

 ***

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.

_________________________________
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!

_________________________________

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