Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Baby is Real!

As you can tell from a lot of our posts on Emu’s Debuts, the path to publication is a long one. It’s been over two years now since my debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, sold. The release is almost upon us (July 18, 2017). For the past six months or so, however, I entered a state of disbelief. When people asked if I was excited for my book to come out, I felt like Miranda on Sex and the City when people asked if she was jazzed to have a baby boy, and she would have this awkward pause, then squeal, “Boy, am I ever,” because she thought that was the right response, even when she wasn’t sure if that’s how she felt.

I told people at the beginning of this year that it still didn’t feel real yet that a book with my name on it would be in bookstores. Since it’s been a while since that call from Trish about our first sale, I didn’t think it would really hit me until other people were reading WHOBERT that the book would actually be out in the world. Well…that moment finally happened, and now I can’t stinking wait for WHOBERT to be among us. I feel like this:

The moment when I finally realized other people were reading the book came in the form of a review from Kirkus. When I saw an email from my editor saying Kirkus had taken a look at my book, I was immediately nervous. My stomach catapulted into my throat. I think I shouted to my partner, “THE REVIEW FROM KIRKUS IS IN WHAT DO I DO?” After his ears stopped ringing from my banshee shriek, he replied, “Um, read it.” So I did…

I pored over that thing. I think I was holding my breath the entire time. Here was real life proof that WHOBERT is actually going out into the world and that other people are going to read it and have thoughts about it. I am so, so happy with what Kirkus had to say (they used phrases like “witty wordplay” and called it “a cracking whooooo-dunit”), but what really hit me is that my baby is about to enter the world. After years of gestating in the womb that is Simon & Schuster, being cared for by so many loving hands, little WHOBERT is going to say “who, who” to the world and people are going to respond. So now when I’m asked if I’m excited, I can legitimately say, “I’M FREAKING OUT!” without a hint of Miranda hesitation.

____________________

Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases on July 18, 2017, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Despite his connection to Miranda in this post, experts agree he most closely resembles Charlotte, but he’d prefer to be likened to Anjelica Huston. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

 

16 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing Through Doubt: How This Impossible Light was Born

9780399173721

My debut book’s path to publication was an unusual and lucky one. During my sophomore year of college, as part of the Wesleyan University slam poetry team, I performed my poem “Shrinking Women” at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. The poem discussed the way girls learn to shrink, both physically and metaphorically; how we learn not to take up space, learn from the women who came before us that, as women, we must be small. It’s about watching our mothers shrink and learning to mimic them.

While I was studying abroad the following fall, the video went viral. I remember my surprise at returning from a trip to the North Argentinean desert, reconnecting to the internet, and seeing that my poem had more than a million views on YouTube. Soon after that, I heard from Liza Kaplan, an editor at Philomel, who was interested in speaking. We spoke several times, and after she attended a poetry performance of mine at the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute in New York, she offered me a contract for a yet-to-be-created novel.

I was, of course, ecstatic. I’ve wanted to write books my whole life. I’ve been a voracious bookworm since teaching myself to read at age four, and my dream career has always been author, but I never quite dared to believe I was capable of doing it. After all, it’s scary to believe you’re capable of your dream, right? ‘Cause then you actually have to go for it.

This was the constant question in my mind in the two years following, during the writing of This Impossible Light: Am I capable of this? Can I write a book? Sometimes, I thought so; other times, I was positive I sucked at this and Liza had made a huge mistake and the book would be a flop. I doubted myself through every round of edits, but I put in the work because I also loved it. And I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

I also needed to tell this story. Ivy’s story is her own, but it is also my story: the story of a girl, in the middle of adolescence, whose family dissolves before her eyes, who is left to her own devices, who takes out the resulting pain on her own body. This is the story of This Impossible Light, and it’s the story of me, and I wanted to tell it, so I had to work through the doubt.

It wasn’t until the book was officially done that I felt pride. That I re-read the novel and felt Ivy’s pain, her loneliness, and her hope, and I cried. Because her hope was my hope. And I’d proven to myself that I could do it. Regardless of how the book is received, I am proud of the way I’ve told this story.

I’m thrilled that come June, This Impossible Light will be a physical object in my hands, that I can point to it in a bookstore and whisper to my younger self: You did it.

 

LILY MYERS is a writer, feminist and witch. Her debut novel, This Impossible Light, is out June 6 from Philomel. She lives in Seattle with her baby corn snake, Calliope H. Danger.

Lily Myers Headshots -81

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Answering the Question: “Why Did You Write This Story?”

Recently, I sat with my marketing team at HarperCollins and discussed different ideas for promoting my novel, The Poet X. People often ask me what my novel is about (which is a question I hate! I don’t have my elevator pitch down and I often hem and haw my way through every plot point only to wrap up with, “anditisaboutslampoetryandloveandfaithanddaughterhood.”) but at this particular  meeting my publicist asked a question I wasn’t expecting, “Why did you write this particular story?”

I’ve been sitting with that question. I think I wrote The Poet X because as a teen Afro-Dominicana, spoken word was a place that I found I could express myself and question all of the roles that had been impressed upon me by my culture, and neighborhood, and school; roles that sometimes felt like too tight clothing I couldn’t breathe in.

I’ve taught everything from 8th grade English to creative writing in adjudicated youth centers to the award-winning cohort of youth poets, the DC Youth Slam Team, and time and again I was moved by the realization that many of the young people in my classes and workshops found poetry as an outlet to be their full selves. So many of these young people were also trying to stretch into the person they wanted to be. At some point in their life they’d been told they were too big, or loud, or black, or brown, or accented, or poor, or incarcerated, or dumb; and so The Poet X is for them. A place where young people who are “too much” can see themselves reflected back; a reminder they exist and are worthy of every piece of literature.

Between when I began The Poet X and when it sold, I wrote two other manuscripts. One was an urban fantasy novel set in the Dominican Republic and the second one was magical realism centering a teen mom who aspired to be a chef. I loved both those stories and each one of them taught me how to become a better fiction writer. In my heart I knew that I wanted my debut book to be a story that set a strong foundation for my career and if it was the only thing I ever wrote, I wanted it to be something that reflected the values and experiences I hold dear. So for writers working on their first project, here’s what I’ve learned while trying to answer the “why” that I think led to my telling the story closest to my heart.

  • Write with blinders on. That doesn’t mean to be tone deaf to current events, but it’s easy to want to write in response to a trend. I think about all the writers who wanted to write vampires or BDSM after those subjects became trendy, and it was clear what stories had been mulled over for years and explored and writtend irrespective to what was “hot” and the stories that were quickly slapped together to fit the times. If the story doesn’t nag at you, or tug on your heart, or make your palms sweaty that lack of rootedness will show. Write the story that feels urgent to you. Don’t chase a trend because what the market wants will change in a second, but what moves you will move others. If you return to an idea, it’s because you truly love it.
  • Give yourself permission to meander. I had to write a lot of different things before I could finish to The Poet X. Like a first time dater, I had a lot to learn before I could fully commit. I needed to play with other storylines, and try different styles and genres, so that by the time I returned to X, I was smarter, a better writer, and had a clear sense of why this was the story I wanted to be working on and putting out into the world.
  • Allow your book to be a mirror and a window. In The Poet X, I was intentional about how I deployed slang, and non-standard English, and Spanish, and Latinidad, and slam poetry, and urban imagery; I was mindful that not all of my readers would be familiar with ways to navigate those different experiences, but I trust readers will still be intrigued enough to peek in and stay awhile. For other readers, I imagine this world will feel really familiar and I’m so happy they will find a comfortable place to rest their head. Negotiating what needed context clues and what might require the reader to do additional work, was a tough balance to find, but I stayed true to telling my most authentic story.

My “why” will probably change as the release date gets closer and I keep mining the myriad of answers that spring up every time I think about my book. The heart of my answer will probably always be: Growing up, I wanted to find a blueprint for myself in stories but struggled to find a girl like me in books. So, I decided to write her. And so my last piece of advice: write into existence the story you most needed growing up; your younger self will thank you.

20131031-dsc_7508-copyELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance experience, Acevedo has toured her poetry nationally and internationally. She is a National Poetry Slam Champion, and has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018) is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.

 

7 Comments

Filed under Characters, Creativity, Diversity, Editing and Revising, Inspiration, process, Uncategorized, Voice

I Need Space (and so do you!)

Ever feel so focused on the details of a manuscript that you actually lose sight of the entire work? Maybe you are working on the pacing or world building or hunting down ‘telling’ to replace it with “showing.” Maybe you have zeroed in on three words, writing and re-writing them over and over again. Meanwhile, six hours just zipped past. And these three words you labored over––exist in a manuscript that has 35-thousand more!

It’s critical to focus on the bits and pieces, to lose oneself in the particulars. But when I am ready to emerge from the deep the woods of writing, sometimes I need a compass to find my way out.

As I painter’s daughter, I know that artists also become consumed with specific brush strokes or the interplay of colors in hidden shadows, or using the reflection of a painted sterling cup to tell a story. Detail after detail lures the artist deeper into the painting until he is so consumed with the pieces, he can no longer see the whole painting.

Mirror in hand, my father will turn his back to a painting and stare at his work in the mirror’s reflection. This fools the brain into seeing the painting anew, from a different perspective, with more objectivity. And, like magic, mistakes and solutions are suddenly easy to spot.

How do we writers obtain the same distance from our work? How do we back away from the minutia and see the whole story? Free our creative flow? This is especially hairy after we opened the idea cupboard only to find it bare. Or face a tight deadline.

Here are some tricks that work for me:

~ Listen to someone else read your work aloud. This is as close to the mirror trick as we can get. Where do they stumble? Did the emotion in their voice match the emotion you hoped to convey? Did it make sense? Was it too slow in places? Things will jump out at you.

~ Read your WIP out loud to yourself. Did you stumble?

~ Put your MS in the drawer and leave it there (or stash it in a computer a file labeled “incubator”) and don’t touch it. Whether it sits in the incubator for two hours or two years, sometimes you need space. In Television News, self-critique is a staple of the process. You can’t improve your skills without it. But an anchor told me early in my career, let 24 hours pass before “watching back” any tape. Even with the passing of one day, the emotional connection to the performance is broken and now you can view it objectively.

~ Put down the computer and work it out on paper. Sometimes, when I’m especially stumped, stuck, or just not moving a work forward, I turn to cursive. There is something about writing in cursive that activates a different part of my brain. Suddenly while looping letters, a breakthrough appears on the page.

~ Go and do something physical, something out of your routine. Ride a ferry, journal at sunrise by the ocean, take a road trip, or skip down the block instead of walk. Whenever I shake up my external world, it is amazing how quickly things loosen up in my internal world.

~ Take apart the beaver dam. When I’m focused on a manuscript and get a new idea for another story, I find myself shutting it down. “I’ll get to that later, right now I’m working on this project and cannot be distracted.” Story by story, idea by idea, log by log, I’ve built a dam. And then, nothing is getting through. Why not devote twenty minutes in your day for a delicious idea feast? Get those thoughts on paper and keep the dam at bay.

What are your tricks? Share them below!

Here’s to space, new perspectives, and roaring idea rapids!

Anna


About Anna:

_sl13594_lr_2Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids –– which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

Redding’s debut middle grade nonfiction GOOGLE IT! will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2018. Anna is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Writers Need Cats

Writers need cats. Not to say that other pets aren’t lovely, as well. In fact, I don’t consider myself a strictly cat person–more of an “everything” person (bring on the critters!). But when it comes down to it, as a writer, there’s no better companion than a cat. Or two. (Or more.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meet Galileo. He’s my 9 year-old cat, and resident mischievous genius. He’s been with me since nearly day 1 of my journey to publication. Whenever I would get frustrated or down, he’s always be there for me, doing something absolutely absurd to distract me. Sure, that “something” often is breaking through child safety locks to open up cupboards and pull out every item he can get his paws on, but the point stands. Cats provide much needed levity and laughter, and sometimes even remind a person to get out of their writing chair and move around. Quickly. No, seriously. Hurry! Catch him before he–! …Too late, there goes everything from the medicine cabinet.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meet Darwin. He’s my four year-old cat, and is Galileo’s polar opposite. To be honest, not a lot happening upstairs with him, but he’s a sweetheart and impossible not to love. He came home with me a month before I signed with my agent, Joan, so he just as tied to my writing journey as Galileo. Darwin is a simple cat of simple needs. He is a wonderful reminder to stop and look out the window at the trees and the birds. While Galileo provides distraction, Darwin provides peace. Both are needed in a writer’s life.

Cats are natural writing companions. They are usually totally cool with sitting around, doing nothing, hanging out with their favorite person. They love routine, which writers tend to cling to for dear life, so that works out well. They like warm places, so your writerly blanket fort + coffee/tea nook is an inviting space for them to curl up and cuddle next to you in. They’re relatively independent, so when you get absorbed in your work, that’s A-OK. Usually. Unless it is time to eat, which honestly? Is a good reminder for you, too!

IMG_20160716_120059374

Food time! Darwin begs for food by sitting next to me on the floor and opening his mouth wide, hoping I will put something in it. Galileo begs for food by…

IMG_20160108_102241_284

Well, let’s just say Galileo doesn’t beg. He lays claim.

Anyway, now that your cats have reminded you to feed them and yourself, let’s move onto another benefit. Cats keep the mind active! For example: “What was that noise?” “What’s he getting into in the other room?” “Oh my gosh, why is there toilet paper EVERYWHERE?!” These are important questions in any manuscript. Uh…well, maybe not, but they certainly keep an author on their toes! And that in turn, helps us keep our manuscripts full of surprises and plot twists.

IMG_20160206_144123493_HDR

Speaking of mental challenges, how many cats are in the picture above? Just one? Look closer! Cats are great at hiding–just like our character motivations, or the solution to the plot hole you’ve dug yourself into. Odds are, the answer is in plain sight. We just need to look again in a different way.

Finally, cats are wonderful at helping you celebrate your big moments. Like when I got my ARCs in the mail last November, Darwin helped me inspect the box to make sure it wasn’t going to come alive and kill us all, and Galileo helped me by modeling for a photo-shoot. Thanks, guys! You made this milestone even more special.

IMG_20161111_114139975OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So have I convinced you to get a cat yet? Maybe not. But all us cool authors have them, so if you think you have a good home for a feline companion, talk to your local shelters and take your next step on the road to becoming a professional author!


Katie Headshot.jpgKatie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for August 1st, 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Let Nature Nurture You, and Wash Your Spirit Clean

Readers of Terry Pierce’s cozy MAMA LOVES YOU SO will encounter many poetic images of nature nurturing the young, reminding us that nature has room to nurture us at any age.  mama-loves-you-so-coverTerry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. Enter by leaving a comment below, and she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day.) Read on to see how nature nurtures Terry and some of her fellow kidlit writers.

Terry has always found solace in nature, going back to her childhood. “For hours, I could sit cradled in the branches of a tree, or perched on a rock watching the woods. Anytime I’m feeling restless, worried, or at a breaking point, if I can get out in nature I’m instantly calmed and can put things in perspective. And I love writing in the woods! I carry a waterproof journal and pencil in my backpack because my muse often appears in nature. In fact, I wrote MAMA LOVES YOU SO outside, inspired by the grandeur of the mountains.

 

TerryLyingonRock

The place in nature that nurtures me the most are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether I’m sunning on a boulder, climbing, hiking, listening to a stream, or watching wildlife (hopefully with a camera in hand), I’m at peace in the mountains. I once spent five weeks hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

John Muir, one of my favorite writers, once wrote, ‘Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. So true! My hope is that MAMA LOVES YOU SO will inspire parents to take their little ones outdoors so they can learn to love nature and feel its benefits, too.”

 

Author Debbi Michiko Florence finds, “Whenever my mind gets too busy or I feel overwhelmed by my Things To Do list, all I need to do is step outside. I have two ducks (Darcy and Lizzy) and at least twice a day I have ‘duck time.’

IMG_5135

I let them out of their coop to wander the yard and I sit there, watching them, listening to bird song (and duck quacks), breathe the fresh air and watch the clouds roll by. My mind settles and I get present with what is. Duck time is meditative for me and nurtures me like nothing else.”

 

 

Author Hayely Barrett appreciates animals too. “As much as I love people, I’m deeply thankful that humans aren’t the only creatures on this planet. Life on Earth is spectacularly varied, and whether I watch a video of a jaguar slinking through the rainforest or spot a fisher slinking through my yard, I am cheered.

Me and Munchkin

Hayley and Munchkin, fully themselves

I enjoy the company of non-humans, horses and dogs especially. They are fully themselves—unchanging and at peace—and spending time with them helps me to remember who I am too.”

 

 

 

 

Author Katie Slivensky shares,

bluejoyNature calms me by giving me something to focus on that is external. I was stuck on some summary work during a snow day in February, and then a paused and spent an hour taking pictures of blue jays outside. That took my mind away from my book troubles, and when I came back around to work on those summaries later, I had a much easier time.”

 

Author Megan Lloyd’s debut picture book celebrates kids in nature, and she finds support there herself. “When I find myself getting anxious, with my heart racing and my thoughts swirling, going outside for a walk, or just taking a minute to sit in the sunshine, centers me. It helps me let go of my problems and instead feel absorbed in the beauty around me. And then I’m ready to take a deep breath…and return to my challenges (writing and otherwise), with a renewed sense of perspective and focus.”

Author and agent Ammi-Joan Paquette knows where writers can find an ever-present boost beyond their writing chair, saying, “Nature is nurturing because it is always accepting, always peaceful, always there. It’s like a personal magic kingdom that lies in wait for whenever you need it.”

And wherever any of us are in the writing and publishing process, there’s not one of us who couldn’t use plenty of that.

5 Comments

Filed under Book Launch, Inspiration, Nature, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

MAMA LOVES YOU SO: An Interview with agent Tricia Lawrence

mama-loves-you-so-cover

I’m excited to celebrate the launch of this lovely book, Mama Loves You So, by author Terry Pierce. Terry is giving away a free copy of her book, so leave a comment below to enter the drawing. Today I am interviewing Terry’s agent, Tricia Lawrence, from Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Sarvinder: Hello Tricia Dear, Thank you for joining us as we celebrate the launch of Terry’s new board book, Mama Loves You So

Tricia: Terry is a writer with so many talents, from early readers to picture books, to board books, which is what we’re celebrating today, and this book, be still my heart, is the sweetest board book you’ll ever see. 

I know we have a lot of people who want to learn more about you as an agent. Are you an editorial agent? Do you give feedback for revisions before sending out to clients?

mama-loves-butterfly3I am an editorial agent, alas. I have been a freelance editor for almost 22 years and I can’t stop now. 😉  Yes, but revisions are not a guarantee. Sometimes, the manuscript is ready, so out it goes. Other times, the author and I revise together. tricia-lawrence

How many queries do you average per month? What percent are picture books, middle grade or young adult?

It really varies. Sometimes, there’s a lot to go read. I would say the majority of what I read are picture books currently.

What percent of queries do you take on?

Less than 1%. 

mama-loves-foxWhat do you see a lot of, in terms of repetitive ideas? 


Too-short and too-sweet manuscripts or overly long and too-sweet. Not that sweet isn’t good, but I see a lot of that same note sweet manuscript.mama-loves-butterfly

What is a common mistake writers make?                                                                mama-loves-butterfly2

Assuming that writing a picture book is easier than writing a novel. 

As a picture book writer, I LOVE that answer. What are you looking for and not looking for?

  I am looking for everything. I’m having to be super particular with picture books because I have to fit a new writer into a list of picture book authors (like Terry!) that I am already representing. I don’t want any of my clients to compete with each other.

What are some of your processes for considering a future client’s manuscript?

Read the text a few times, both to myself and aloud. Think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what is out there on the market and then if not, think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what my actual clients are already writing or planning to write.mama-loves-you-so-bear

How long does this process usually take?

It varies. For most of my submissions, I know this really quickly. Some, though, I have to sit on for a bit.

Do you respond to every query, or just those you are interested in? What is your usual response time?


mama-loves-butterfly2I respond to every query. I am extremely backlogged from 2016. I wish I could be faster, but my actual clients and their writing and submissions must come first.

How does one submit to you? (I assume look on the guidelines of the submissions page)

I’m closed to unsolicited submissions (as is all of EMLA), so if a writer wants to query me, they should attend a conference where I’m speaking.

What spoke to you about Terry’s manuscripts when she first queried you?

Terry had a real sensibility with her texts. She has a very good sense of fun and whimsy and is able to balance the sweet with beautiful words and a cohesive theme, so it doesn’t come across as too-sweet.tpierceheadshotucla-2

What’s next for you and Terry? 

Terry’s got some exciting things she’s working on that I’m very ready to talk about, but first we’re so excited about MAMA LOVES YOU SO going out to the world. It’s just a wonderful book and is just so lovely.

Sarvinder: Thank you so much Tricia for taking the time to answer these questions and to help celebrate the launch of Terry’s lovely lilting lullaby, Mama Loves You So. Congratulations to both of you!  XOXO
Visit Terry’s website at https://terrypiercebooks.com



sarvinder-naberhaus-1200Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.



3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Border Collies and Babies—It’s Never Too Soon To Start (plus a giveaway!)

The story I’m about to tell is relevant to Terry Pierce’s MAMA LOVES YOU SO. I promise.

mama-loves-you-so-coverYears ago, my brother got a beautiful border collie puppy. I remember how excited Warren was, and I remember the solemn advice the breeder gave him. It was this: Show the dog everything he’s ever going to see within the first six months of his life. In short, it was Warren and his family’s responsibility to quickly give intelligent, impressionable Comet the information he’d need to thrive.

*presses pause on dog story*

My first professional, if unrequited, love is midwifery. Permit me to geek out for a bit.

The importance of verbally communicating with babies—and I mean from about 6 months gestation onward—cannot be overstated. Auditory function in the human fetus is complete at 7 months. Not only do they hear and respond to outside noises, research suggests babies learn intonation and can develop a basic recognition of words before birth. After birth, newborns rapidly form brain synapses that correspond with their birth language. In fact, studies have shown that young children who leave their birth language behind through immigration or adoption retain an enhanced ability to relearn it. Cool, huh?

Now let’s talk about MAMA LOVES YOU SO. This book, meant for the tiny ears of the tiniest of people, employs exquisitely rich and melodic language. It describes a world that is sparkling, stony, and ablaze. These are words an adult would be happy to use on a given day. MAMA LOVES YOU SO is crammed full of such delicious and nutritious words. It’s a brain-building buffet for babies and a boon to the brave souls who care for them. Baby and Book

Babies are exhausting. I know. I’ve had two babies, and two aren’t many at all. My in-laws had ten. My parents had five. Have I wondered if  I’m a slacker in the baby department? Yes. But that’s not my point.

Babies require mountains of back-breaking, laundry-making, sleep-taking care, and that’s just to keep them alive. We’re also supposed to educate, encourage, and entertain them. While all forms of communication nourish babies’ language readiness, including singing and everyday conversation, it’s challenging to know what to sing or say to a baby all day, every day.

I ask you, how are sleep-deprived people, wracked as they are with desperate love and stabs of anxiety, supposed to dredge up words like ablaze? They need books. They need books to give them words when they are too tired or overwhelmed to think up their own. Their children are primed to quickly learn millions of discrete, dynamic words, and optimally, they’d possess this treasure trove before starting school.  Where language acquisition is concerned, variety isn’t the spice of life, it is life. Books like MAMA LOVES YOU SO are a sure and happy route to that variety.

We must encourage caregivers, all the caregivers, to talk to babies early and often. Encourage them to talk to the belly, to sing to it, explain stuff to it, and for the love of literacy, to read to it. Encourage them to talk to the newborn. To sing. To explain. To read. We can smile at them benevolently when they do all of this in public. If we get the chance, we can give the caregiver a minute to shower and eat something while we talk, sing, explain, and read.

It might be possible to show a puppy everything it’s ever going to see in six months, but it’s impossible for a human newborn. Luckily, we have opposable thumbs, and opposable thumbs are great for making bookstores and libraries. That’s where Terry Pierce’s beautiful and important MAMA LOVES YOU SO can be found, ready and waiting to offer intelligent, impressionable young people information they need to thrive.

*presses play on dog story* 

Comet lived a long and happy life. He understood his world and how to conduct himself in it, thanks to purposeful attention to his formative experiences. May we do the same for each new child. We have longer than six months to accomplish it, but we don’t have forever. It’s never too soon to start.

 

Terry is giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make this week—and please comment only once per day—she’ll enter your name into the giveaway.

Additional resources:

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/book-mom

Valerie Garfield, Simon & Schuster editor of MAMA LOVES YOU SO, blogs about reading to and with children.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/about-us/mission-statement/


Enjoy the day,

Hayley
Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press, spring 2019. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, narrative nonfiction illustrated by Diana Sudyka, is also coming spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

17 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Inspiration, Picture books, reading, Uncategorized

Countdown to Launch

jugglerIt’s 169 days until LOST BOYS is let loose to find it’s way in the world and into children’s hands. I recently got to meet my team at Henry Holt and confirmed what I’d been feeling over the last approximately 380 days we’ve been working together – I am lucky to be in their hands. Let me tell you people – there is nothing like walking through hall after hall of shiny bookcases filled with pretty children’s books and knowing yours is going to be there soon.

It’s been approximately 660 days since that champagne cloud of a day when the book sold, so you can imagine Launch Day brings equal parts elation and abject dread. I’m a juggler struggling to keep a large bowling pin, an apple and a chain saw in the air. Are we all done with edits? How will the book be viewed in this political climate? When shall I start the ARC tour? Is the website done? Have I thanked my new followers on Twitter? Am I getting new followers on Twitter? Have I booked my launch? And OMG – is the laundry done?

And in among that avalanche of questions is maybe the most crucial one. How is that work in progress – the next book? On this bright Monday morning I’m feeling good. I’ve finally jettisoned all those characters and scenes that weren’t serving my story and the path forward is clear. But Oh Lordy! Finding the headspace to give it the attention it deserves is not easy. That pure writing time is precious and dear and so different from the twirling tornado that is my everyday. So my friends, thank you for listening as I pledge to carve out time in the eye of my storm and hold in my sights an empty space on that shiny bookcase.

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

7 Comments

Filed under Book Launch, Uncategorized, Updates on our Books!

Meet Our Newest EMU: Elizabeth Acevedo– Keeping it Real

The day my agent said we were going out on submission, I was completely taken aback. I’ve always heard publishing is sloth-slow, but exactly four weeks after becoming Joan’s client, we were sending the manuscript to editors! I didn’t feel at all ready. Although with Joan’s notes I had completed a full revision, although I had worked with two critique partners and felt ready to submit to Joan, although I had been working on this novel on and off for four years, the moment it became real that editors were going to read my work all I could think was “the novel isn’t ready! I’m not a real writer.”

But I didn’t say that out loud to Joan. What I emailed back to her was, “Wow. It’s happening! How exciting is this moment when anything is possible?” And that moment right before feedback, before any rejections, when the publishing world is your editorial oyster really is exciting. And then Joan sent me the words every fiction writer dreams about as they pick away at their keyboards late at night: the champagne and caviar dreams of unpublished writers who sustain themselves with whimsical fantasies: the words that I’d read about but never believed would be said to me: “We are going to auction, Liz.”

It was real. Not just one, but several editors were taken by this world I had penned. The auction? Was real. The interest level? Was real. The squeal I let loose at the restaurant in Kosovo where I was participating in a poetry festival? A whole real squeal. The day of the auctioned dawned with seven editors outbidding one another in an attempt to acquire my book. It should have been one of the most joyous days of my life. And it was glorious, don’t get me wrong. But it was still shadowed with the question: “What if this is all a hoax? I’m still not a real writer, am I?”

The question of “realness” is one I’ve carried for a long time. I found my way to creative writing through music (I really wanted to be a rap star in my teens) and slowly transitioned into poetry. Even while getting my Masters in Creative Writing, I questioned whether or not I should be in the program. Even while competing for—and eventually winning—a National Poetry Slam championship, I questioned if I was good enough to be on stage. So, it’s not surprising that the auction and book sale that should have been an incredibly validating experience was a mental exercise of pacing up and down the halls of self-doubt. When you’ve cloaked yourself in imposter syndrome for as long as I have, it’s not an easy thing to slide off your shoulders and hang up.

I don’t bring up the story of the length of my submission process and auction to brag; I know my process was quick and painless and not the norm. I was so, so lucky and the many years of studying and practicing writing and committing to the craft led me to writing something that resonated with folks. But I was wrong to believe there was a magic moment when something or someone would affirm me enough that I would no long doubt my position as a writer.

That will never be enough external affirmation that I am a real storyteller. There will never be any outside stamp, award, or sticker that will make me believe I deserve to occupy space in the literary world. Even when everything goes right, I question my right to be here, even a member of this EMU Debut blog group.

I grew up never seeing stories about girls like in books. I was the daughter of Dominican Immigrants, growing up in 90s New York City, dreaming of being a rap star or the first woman President and my story was on no bookshelf, in no library. I came from an untraditional path to children’s literature. I have too many scars of being told I don’t have the right to be in certain rooms to not always expect someone to pull the rug from under me. Which is why I know the only person who can determine if I’m a “real” writer has been the same person who had been determining since I was nine years old: me.

teen-liz

Teen Liz on her way to a poetry slam.

It sounds cliché, I know. But the reality is that when I began to actively work at seeing the world as a poet, when I began reading as a writer, when I began to scribble on grocery receipts and fill notebooks full of rhymes; when I wrote for hours and edited for hours more. When I followed ideas down rabbit holes, I never imagined being able to climb out of…that was when I became a real writer. When I was told directly and indirectly that these scribbles would never amount it anything it wasn’t the MFA degree, the book sale, the first collection of poetry winning a contest, not a national championship in slam poetry, it wasn’t any of those credentials that made me believe I was real. It’s been my continuously reminding myself I’m not just playing dress up. That someone isn’t going to magically snatch away what I’ve written.

Every day I think about my novel, The Poet X, being released into the world in a year. I catch myself going down the same path of worry. What if it isn’t any good? What if the world discovers I’m a fraud? What if…

And every day I remind myself to get back to my laptop and my current project and remember that magical moment before pressing send when everything is possible. Although writing means stretching the bounds of imagination, there is a tangible creation that is mine, and every time I make a poem, or a character, or a even something as small as a simple outline, that writing is real. And as its writer, so am I.

About Liz:20131031-DSC_7508 copy.jpg

ELIZABETH ACEVEDO is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance experience, Acevedo has toured her poetry nationally and internationally. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018) is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized