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As writers we’ve all come upon people who say, “I don’t care about being published, I just love the process.” Whoa Nelly – that is not me! WRITING IS HARD and I wouldn’t be beating my head against this particular wall if I didn’t strongly want my stories out in the world. And now LOST BOYS has been out on it’s own for three weeks. It is still a sparkly, giddy thrill every time a friend sends a picture of my book (my book – the one I wrote) on the shelf of some random bookstore.
Tonight I will make my first appearance in one of my local indies. I am overflowing with gratitude for this journey and for the traveling companions I’ve met on this road.
And these traveling companions – my writing community, my tribe, have brought such a richness to my life. Because of their company and their kindness and the way we can jump into one another’s imaginary worlds, I’ve come to actually value the process as much as the end product of my book on the shelf. So today I will be leaving the role of debut and moving into the role of author – there is manuscript and other stories that need attention. This milestone also means fledging the Emu Debut nest. But don’t say goodbye too loudly ’cause ya ain’t getting rid of me easily. I will be here to support all the other Emu’s with future hatchings and share the new ideas and coming success of my nest mates. A hearty SHOUT OUT to all my writing buds and especially the whole Erin Murphy Literary Agency tribe. May we all fare well in this journey, my friends. I might have done this without you, but probably not and even if I had it certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere near as delightful.
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel was released by Henry Holt/MacMillan in August. 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.
It’s been an exciting ride having Blue Sky White Stars and LiNES come out in the same year and a few months apart. One took 4 years to be born, and the other less than 2 years. Both have simple sparse verse. It’s been quite a ride.
When I wrote Blue Sky White Stars, I had no idea if anyone would like it. When I wrote LiNES , I hoped people would like it.
People ask which is my favorite and I have to say LiNES. Both ideas just came to me and I wrote them down as fast as I could to catch all of it.
On thinking about what to post, of course I loved getting to know my fellow Emus and being part of the nest. It was a wonderful feeling to have support while watching my “baby” hatch into the world. Of course when flying the coop, reflection became a natural part of it. That made me start thinking about what it takes to be a writer in this industry. I would have to say that writing takes courage. Courage means you are afraid, but you move forward anyway. Courage involves fear, not lack of.
Sometimes people ask for advice on writing. So I thought in my farewell post, I would list a dozen things that helped me (other than the wonderful Emus). . .
- I would also say, be aware of your fear of success, and make sure that is not stopping you.
- Give yourself permission to succeed.
- Ask lots of questions to yourself and out loud. The answer will come. This is especially helpful when having writers-block or solving a problem.
- Remember to revise more than rewrite.
- Don’t send out a manuscript before it is done. Make sure it spit-shines.
- Put in your 10,000 hours to become a professional. Remember this IS a competition.
- Make your goal that you want your manuscript to be irresistible to any editor.
- Join a critique group (I recommend online).
- LISTEN. Know that you don’t have to take any of the advice. You just need to put your wall down and listen. That is how you will learn. That is how you will grow and get better.
- Regularly do critiques (as in a critique group). Learn to have the eyes of an editor.
- Think out of the box. Picture books have been around for 100+ years in mass. The obvious ideas are taken. Think out of the box.
- Pray! (My secret weapon :o)
Thank you fellow Emus and readers, teachers, librarians, and all the lovely supporters of my writing and books. On that note, it’s late. The sun has gone to bed, and so must I. So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye.
Sarvinder Naberhaus is the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her most recent book, Blue Sky White Stars received 4 starred reviews and is a patriotic salute to the flag, paralleling the forces that forged this great nation, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Look for her STEM & STEAM book, LiNES (also a starred review from PW) with Pinterest boards of activities (click here: of all her books) for teachers, visit her website www.sarvinder.com and find her on Twitter: @sarvindern
THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY has completed its countdown. We’re out there, now. Spreading adventure, science, and engineering to readers around the world.
And so it’s time for me to step away from my EMU nest.
This is unexpectedly one of the hardest things I’ve had to do so far. It’s the end of the beginning, and I’m not sure I’m ready. Nicely, however, I’ve made a lot of friends during the beginning, and they’re coming with me as we all venture into the next phase of our careers. So that is making the transition a little easier.
It’s odd to be on this side of the launch. Everything seemed to build up to that one magic moment when my book hit shelves. I can’t help but compare it to what happened when Curiosity landed on Mars. Anyone who knows me knows how much the Curiosity rover inspired my debut, and now, it continues to inspire me.
When Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, all anyone could talk about was the tremendous feat it took to get it there. The nail-biting landing sequence. The cheers when it successfully set down.
But landing was only the beginning of Curiosity’s job. Its real work started when its wheels touched the Martian surface. And I feel that way about my debut.
We made it. We’re here. Let’s celebrate.
But also…let’s get started. It’s time to dig in and do what we came here to do.
Lots of love to my fellow EMUs who have been a part of my journey. It’s been an honor to share in this experience with you all.
Katie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) released on 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.
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel was released THIS WEEK by Henry Holt/Macmillan. LOST BOYS, a YA novel of historical fiction, tells the story of a 12-year old Iranian boy sent to fight in the Iran Iraq war in 1982. We can’t wait to delve into this lyrical story of music and courage in the face of war. Today we have the pleasure to take a peek into the editorial process of LOST BOYS by hearing from Darcey’s editor, Sally Doherty.
Q: What was it about Darcey Rosenblatt’s LOST BOYS that first got you interested in acquiring it?
A. I was captivated by the opening scene, especially the first few lines. What kind of mother is this? What kind of life was Reza living? I needed to know, and so I kept reading and could not put it down.
Q: Were you actively trying to find a historical fiction manuscript that touched on some of the themes from the novel or was this a book you didn’t even know you were looking for?
A: I had enjoyed editing historical fiction in the past but was not necessarily looking for more. Erin Murphy has an incredible instinct for what might appeal to which editor, and she thought of me for this story, and she was right.
Q: Tell me a bit about what you looked for throughout the editing process for LOST BOYS?
A: For me, the key to this novel was to keep the tension tight from beginning to end. This is, of course, true for any story, but because the book opens with a startling scene and the ending is a chase sequence, we didn’t want the plot to sag in the middle, as some stories tend to do. It’s difficult to keep momentum going, particularly when the characters are hanging around in a POW camp, but Darcey pulled it off, as I knew she would.
Q: Who is you favorite character from the book and why are you drawn to them?
A: It has to be the hero, Reza, because Darcey has made him come alive for me. I think I would know him if he walked down the street toward me, and I would like to hang out with him and hear him play the tar.
Q: Who do you think is the target audience for this book? Is there someone you imagine as the perfect reader?
A: Because the hero is male, it’s natural to assume that the main audience will be boys approximately 10–14 years old. But because the characters are so memorable, I think girls will also be swept up in the vivid world of the story. It’s also a good story for any reluctant reader given the captivating, fast-paced plot.
Thanks so much, Sally! It’s so great to get an inside peek on how an editor approaches a project. We here on the EMU Debut team think YOU reading this blog post interview are the perfect reader for LOST BOYS and we hope you’ll pick up a copy.
For more information on Darcey Rosenblatt, or the inspiration of LOST BOYS check out this post on Darcey’s blog.
Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel, LOST BOYS, is the story of a young boy who is pulled into the very adult world of war. It is heartbreaking imagine any child suffering the horror of violent conflict, but for many children across the world, living through war is a daily reality. UNICEF reports that about half of all civilian casualties in armed conflict are children, but the ravages of war go beyond injury and death: hunger, disease, psychological trauma, and disruption of schooling are just a few of the painful scars that war leaves in its wake.
As authors, parents, and educators, we often struggle with how to expose our own children to the realities of the world without overwhelming them. Books offer a window that allow kids to explore frightening or difficult subjects from a place of relative safety. Several years ago I was in the audience of a panel discussion that explored the topic of writing about war for young people. Each author on the panel could recall a book they had read in childhood that was pivotal in building their childhood understanding of armed conflict.
For me, the most memorable books about war were those I used in my own classroom teaching. Deborah Ellis’ THE BREADWINNER and Yoko Kawashima Watkins’ SO FAR FROM THE BAMBOO GROVE both showed the devastating impact of conflict on children and families, regardless of which “side” the family was on. My students found Yoko Kawashima Watkins’ book particularly powerful, as our study of the novel always culminated in a visit from the author. There were hugs, tears, and questions after questions. Even years later my students talk about what Yoko’s story meant to them.
Today I asked fellow Emus to share their own memories of books about war that resonated with them. Here are their thoughts.
Sarvinder Naberhaus says:
NUMBER THE STARS is a wonderful story of a nation and children’s heroism. I love how children were part of the process of risking their lives to save others.
Debbi Michiko Florence writes:
FAREWELL TO MANZANAR was the first book that taught me about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. I was in 4th grade and I had a billion questions. Fortunately I had a Japanese American teacher. Then I learned my dad and his family had been interned. I still have that book today on my shelf. I bought a copy for my daughter to read as well.
Terry Pierce writes:
I can’t recall a single book about war from my childhood, but if songs could count, I’d say that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young influenced me. I can still recite many of their anti-war songs. The simplicity of the lyrics, harmony and guitar in “Find the Cost of Freedom” are powerful. The other song that resonated strongly with me was “Ohio”. I still remember sitting in shock watching the news of the four Kent State student protesters being killed by the Ohio national guard. It was an eye-opening moment for me to realize that peaceful protesters could be murdered by our own military. Ohio was a strong reflection of the anger and sorrow so many people experienced during that time.
Christina Uss says:
I feel like I was woefully unexposed to books that about war or conflict when I was young. All that pops into my mind was Johnny Tremain, a tale which I remember felt hard to understand and archaic. War appeared to be something that happened elsewhere, long ago, and would never touch me or anyone I knew. The kidlit books I’m reading now and discussing with my kids are enlightening us both about the resilience and vulnerability of children in countries hit by war – I was particularly touched by Ibtisam Barakat’s TASTING THE SKY and BALCONY ON THE MOON about coming of age in Israeli-occupied Palestine. I wrote to Ibtisam and she ended up sending a postcard to my daughter to say hello in Arabic (one of her favorite things as a child was having pen pals from around the world. Even if she couldn’t travel, her words could.)
We are so happy that Darcey Rosenblatt and LOST BOYS have added to the rich list of titles that help young readers begin to grasp the impact of war. Congratulations, Darcey!
Kat Shepherd is a writer and former classroom teacher living in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. Her Babysitting Nightmares series (Macmillan/Imprint) debuts in fall 2018. You can find Kat at katshepherd.com or connect with her on Twitter @bookatshepherd.
I’m thrilled to be writing about author Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut novel, LOST BOYS. While the essential plot follows twelve-year-old Reza’s experience as a child soldier during the Iran-Iraq War, music lives at this book’s heart as well. Reza’s love of music helps him make sense of his world and to survive. I won’t give away any plot points, but suffice it to say, one couldn’t take music out of this book and have it tell the same story.
Since the beginning of human history, from every continent across the globe, we’ve made and shared music. Whether it’s soothing our savage breasts or our savage inner beasts, it hath charms nothing else can quite duplicate. Reza shows us this in one complicated twelve-year-old life.
Darcey’s story of Reza’s reality where music can never be taken for granted smacked me upside the head with the realization of how lucky I was in my own music-filled childhood. I was encouraged to find passion, solace, sanity and happiness in listening to and performing music. I love the idea of young readers having their eyes opened to their own aural freedoms by learning about Reza’s barriers to access.
When Reza finds adults who not only recognize his need for music but take risks to provide it, it made my heart soar. As a parent with kids headed towards the pre-teen years, I think a lot about providing them access to quality music, expanding their auditory boundaries, letting them know music is as good for them as proper sleep and decent food. I often prescribe doses of their favorite pop songs to lift their moods. (As Dr. Mom and a music major, I have the authority to say, “Take two Weird Als and some Katy Perry followed by Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and call me in the morning.”)
I’m so glad that LOST BOYS portrays the power and necessity of music for children – NOT the necessity of music lessons to turn kids into Baby Einsteins, but something that helps us feel balanced, comforted, understood, and more alive. I brainstormed to think about other middle-grade and YA books where music plays an integral role in supporting the main characters. How about Conrad Wesselhoft’s poetry-and-Red Bull-fueled ADIOS NIRVANA, Adi Rule’s gothic mystery STRANGE SWEET SONG, Ann McCaffrey’s classic fantasy DRAGONSONG, Linda Urban’s quirky A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT?
I know there are others out there. Please share with us at Emu’s Debut your own suggestions below for books where music is as integral to a character’s happiness as it is for Reza in LOST BOYS!
LOST BOYS can be found at your local bookstore, or online at:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-boys-darcey-rosenblatt/1125067336
It’s not often that you get to say this is the day I’ve been waiting for my whole life – a birth of a child or a wedding maybe or – drumroll please – the birth of your first book. For me today is that day. LOST BOYS can be found in bookstores and should be received by all who preordered! To say this day was a long time coming is sort of like saying Harry is a wizard – merely stating the obvious. My first draft of this book was “finished” over ten years ago.
The idea for this story – historic fiction about the Iran/Iraq war – came to me like lightning — complete with one of those spine-tingling, goose bump-filled moments that writers learn not to ignore. Then for months I did my best to run away. I ran because this was not my story to tell. I‘ve never been a thirteen- year- old boy. I’m not Muslim. But the story would not leave me alone and as my main character grew in my head, I became more convinced he and his story needed to be out in the world. My heartfelt wish upon a star is this book will find its way into enough small hands that it might make a difference – that someday we will see generations of children unaffected by war.
I couldn’t have completed this part of the journey without a host of people who had first hand experience with this story and I am ever indebted to them as I am to the incredible rich writing community that has made my life so much more interesting.
Within that community there are so many people to thank. Lin Oliver and the fabulous folk at SCBWI who taught me so much of what I know now. My long standing writing group – you ladies kept me going when draft after draft got the “not quite for me” letter. Thanks to all the Better Books Conference faculty and alumni (particularly Emma Dryden who took red pen to an early draft). Of course, all the folks at Henry Holt who believed in this story so many had not known what to do with. And I wish I could say “thank you” in 23 languages – that might begin to express my gratitude to my agent, the kidlit wizard Erin Murphy and the magical community she nourishes.
Thanks pour out to my amazing family and friends – my lovely book nerdy Mom and Dad, plus a jumble of smart, funny, warm and loving siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins and close friends – they’ve made me feel like today is as special for them as it is for me. Finally (after all I have to leave you time to go buy the book today) I don’t have proper words to thank David and Martha – my bandleaders and my safe haven. Enough said.
LOST BOYS can be found at your local bookstore, or online at:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-boys-darcey-rosenblatt/1125067336
It’s launch week for Darcey Rosenblatt’s LOST BOYS! I’m here to kick things off with an interview with Darcey’s wonderful agent, Erin Murphy.
LOST BOYS is the tale of twelve-year-old Reza, who has no interest in joining Iran’s war effort against Iraq. But in the wake of a tragedy and at his mother’s urging, he decides to enlist, and unfortunately soon finds himself held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq. This book is based on historical events from the 1980s, and is a story of friendship, heartbreak, and survival.
Onto the interview!
1. What first piqued your interest about Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut, LOST BOYS?
Well, the first thing that piqued my interest was Darcey herself. We’d crossed paths several times over the years at conferences, and I thought highly of her from those meet-ups and from things I’ve heard from EMLA clients who know her. I’d even read a much-earlier version on submission years before, and had reluctantly passed on it because I didn’t quite get a shivery feeling when I read it.
When I read it again three years ago, WOW. It had sharpened and had such a sense of immediacy. I loved Reza, the protagonist, from the first page. I especially loved that Darcey showed a spectrum of Muslim believers, from devout to moderate to questioning. Darcey says in the book’s author’s note, “I’ve always been interested in the journey we take from the religious ideas and practices of our parents to owning our own beliefs.” I have, too, and I was intrigued to see that explored with Islam in particular, which we have seen so little of in American books for children.
2. Darcey has talked about all the research that went into this novel. What is something you’ve learned from this story that you didn’t know about before?
The Iran-Iraq War began when I was an eleven-year-old kid living in Arizona, and I hadn’t had cause to explore the history before, so the entire context of the story was new to me. I most definitely didn’t know there had been child soldiers who had volunteered and who were used to clear minefields.
3. What was your thought process like when submitting the manuscript for consideration at Henry Holt?
I had met with Sally Doherty, the acquiring editor, shortly before I went out on submission with the manuscript. She’s someone I adore working with but had always thought of for picture books, easy readers, and young chapter books, so I had been surprised when she mentioned particularly loving historical fiction and multicultural novels. The timing was perfect. When Sally wrote to me after reading it, she said, “Just finished this, and I LOVE it! Wow. Is this really the author’s first book?” Exactly the kind of reaction we dream of! Too, I think Macmillan, which Holt is a part of, has a great presence in the school and library market, which is key for this title.
4.What is your favorite thing about working with Darcey?
She somehow manages to be both grounded and giddy. It truly is hard to believe this is her debut, as she is SUCH a pro—handling things on her own but always looping me in and completely open to course correction and advice. The best kind of partner! I think she found six or eight sensitivity readers for this project so she could do as much as possible to be sure she hadn’t wrongly portrayed key details, nuance, or big-picture things that only Persians would know. Even when she got positive feedback, she kept going—several of these readers were found after the galley went to print, she was so determined to do everything she could, as someone writing out of her own culture, to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. When we approached her publication date, the way she juggled all the details of upcoming launch events, teacher’s guide planning, and publicity was so incredible that I actually took an email that she sent to her editors and publicist at Macmillan and shared it with the other EMLA agents as an example of how to effectively collaborate with a publishing team.
5. What experience do you hope readers have with this novel?
I hope they find this to be a riveting story that is hard to put down, as I did! I hope that readers who find themselves alone and in desperate circumstances, whatever those might be, will see in Reza a friend who found his way through a war and emerged in a place of hope. I hope they are inspired.
The celebration of Sarvinder Naberhaus’ new gem of a board book continues! Have you ever wondered what unicycles, doughnut trucks, towns, and our solar system have in common? (C’mon, you have at least once, haven’t you?) I’ll let you in on the answer: LINES.
And illuminating profound connections between disparate things doesn’t require as high a word count as you may suppose. As authors, we may think more often than most people about the number of words we are writing – did I make my daily quota for NaNoWriMo? Has my picture book inadvertently expanded to chapter book? Is my YA novel so long that no agent could ever even lift the manuscript?
The fewer words we choose to use, the bigger the challenge to create something of substance, a book a child will enjoy having read to them again and again (and a book adults are happy to pull off the shelf again and again). LINES offers the simplest of ideas, carefully crafted. Sarvinder uses sparse language and simple repetition to condense the shapes around us to their basic essentials. Then she expands the reader’s view to see those shapes filling out into every nook and corner of the world around us.
In less than twenty words.
That’s right – she pretty much covers the fundamental interconnectedness of all things, from doughnut trucks to the solar system, with just a double-handful of nouns, verbs, and prepositions. The famously constrained Green Eggs and Ham uses a whopping fifty. Goodnight Moon and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! both have over a hundred. Just sayin’.
If you’re a writer like me who usually functions at maximum verbosity, you can’t help but be impressed with the skill of writers who can pare down to the essentials and create an engaging book for the youngest readers-to-be.
Now are you wondering not only how LINES links so many things but how it does it so succinctly? Only one way to find out – pick up a copy (I promise, it’s as light as a doughnut) at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or your favorite bookseller and take a look at how Sarvinder and illustrator Melanie Beck made it happen!