Category Archives: Updates on our Books!

THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE is Launched!

It’s the release date for the incredibly engaging and moving story, THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE by Christina Uss and the EMU’s Debut Group couldn’t be more excited! A novel about “a girl who loves her home in the Nearly Silent Monastery, but the pull of friendship leads her on a coast-to-coast cycling adventure, complete with hauntings, runaway stallions, lucky inventions, and a mysterious black-clad pursuer.”

Here is Elizabeth Acevedo‘s interview with the brilliant editor of BICYCLE, Margaret Ferguson.

Interview with Margaret Ferguson, Editor of THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE

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What was it about Christina Uss’ THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE that first got you interested in acquiring it and that made this book strike a chord for you?

Every once in awhile, an editor is lucky enough to have a manuscript come across their desk that seems unique and that’s how I felt about THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE. I loved that it was about someone who is an introvert and that it captured that special relationship some children have with their bicycles and all the freedom that goes with being able to get on a bike and go somewhere by yourself.  And I loved the sense of community and that so many people care and watch out for Bicycle on her journey.

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Would you say you were a big cycling fan prior to acquiring this book?

I will admit that I have never been a fan of cycling–it is a very time consuming sport and my husband spends a lot of time on his bike when I think he should be doing other things–but after I read THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE I came home and said, “I get it now.”

Who is you favorite character from the book and why are you drawn to them?

There are too many to pick from–but if I have to, it would be Griffin G. Griffin, the friendly ghost who haunts Bicycle’s bicycle for part of her journey. He is such a good friend–he sings when the pedaling gets tough, offers wisdom, and has her back. Those kinds of friends are hard to come by.

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A book that reads and fast as Bicycle’s bicycle, Clunk, this is a fresh take on  an adventurous twelve-year old looking to find her place in the world. As the Kirkus
starred review claims: “Readers will eagerly join Bicycle and “pedal headfirst” into this terrific adventure, which is chock-full of heart and humor.” Buy your copy here, or here, or here.

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Thank you, for that fabulous interview, Elizabeth! And now the celebration continues with Hayley Barrett and a Bookish Bike Ride.

A Bookish Bike Ride

The Emus are celebrating with Christina Uss! Her debut novel, THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE, follows intrepid cyclist and friend-finder Bicycle as she pedals across the United States.

From the start of her ride in Washington, DC on trusty, rusty Clunk to when she dismounts The Fortune, her whiz-bang, Inspector Gadget-style bike, in San Francisco, Bicycle’s determination and resourcefulness pave the way to her success. She pushes ever onward, through prairies and over mountains, despite challenges and troubles. Along the way, she helps and is helped by others, including a ghost named Griffin, an herbivore named Cannibal, a chef by the name of Marie Petitchou, and a big-hearted pie-fryer called Jeremiah. Finally, Bicycle victoriously concludes her two-wheeled tour of the USA surrounded by new friends and reunited with those who loved her from the start.

I enjoy biking, but unlike Christina, I’m no adventure cyclist. Reading THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE made me realize I’ve rarely pedaled more than a few miles. I wondered where I would go if I decided to try a longer ride. California was immediately out of the question. I needed a doable destination, someplace far but not too far, and because this ride was inspired by a book, someplace with a literary connection. The answer was easy:

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House!

For now, I’ll pedal there in my imagination. Let’s go!

Orchard House is two hour bike ride from home, but given my lack of experience, I’ll probably get there in three. I coast past my own childhood home, but I have to walk (and huff and puff) my bike up the steep Lowell Street hill. I remount and continue into Wilmington, Woburn, and Burlington. The roads are busy, but most drivers are courteous. I wave my thanks to those who slow down and give me space.

I spin through neighborhoods, past strip malls and industrial sites. After two hours, I’m in Lexington. The landscape gets greener here, with fewer houses, more conservation land, and almost no commercial areas. I have to hustle through Tophet Swamp to outrace the mosquitoes. (note to self: John was right. Remember bug spray next time!)

When I skirt the edge of the tree-hidden Air Force base, I know I’m in Concord. I pedal along the pretty country roads, listening to birdsong, and appreciating the shade offered by old, gnarled maples with soft, new leaves. I pause by the big farm near the Battle Road and admire their Highland cow’s sturdy calf. 

I go a little further, swing around the bend, and speed down the final stretch of Old Bedford Rd. At last, I reach the big brown house and dismount. I’m glad to see the parking lot across the street is full. A woman in a old-fashioned dress (Marmee?) greets a tour group at the front door. Kids on a field trip laugh and bump each other as they roll hoops on the lawn. I remember doing that with my friend Diane when we were kids.

I park my bike and take my lunch.  The gardens are in their summer glory. Bees zip around the swaying sunflowers and hollyhocks. I choose a spot beside Bronson Alcott’s church-like schoolhouse to enjoy my solo picnic. LITTLE WOMEN’s four March sisters loved to picnic, so I feel right at home. 

As I rest and eat my sandwich, I can almost hear one of Christina’s characters, Sister Wanda. She asks her usual question, “What have you learned from this?”

Here’s what I’d say:

Riding a bike is a great way to experience the world.

Know when to heed good advice about bug spray.

This land is beautiful from sea to shining sea and full of helpful, generous people, delicious food, sunflowers, and wonderful books like Christina Uss’s THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE.

Lastly, cookies rule! Good thing I brought some. I’ll need them for the long ride home.

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Cookies, of course, are good both on and off the bike. You might want to go get some to munch on as you enjoy Anna Redding‘s interview of Christina herself!

Anna Redding’s Interview of Christina Uss

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle launches today and I have to say I was charmed THROUGH and THROUGH by this amazing middle-grade novel. And you will be, too. It’s one of those stories, the world is so richly drawn, the characters so lovingly crafted… that they come to live with you forever. You just find yourself thinking about these characters, their lives, long after you have read the last line.

I am so thrilled to be able to have a conversation with author Christa Uss about her novel, The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle.

Anna–  I want to start with a couple of questions about craft. From the first sentence of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle, I was swept away. Your world building and character development are so complete and rich, and yet effortlessly falls off the page. And into that, you’ve worked in marvelous pacing and tension. (Readers, I’m not kidding, wait until you open this book, better have a comfy seat!) I’m curious about your process. Was this book inside of you and developed that way? Was the conscious effort? Please, give us fellow writers some insight!

Christina –  This book literally began with its title. My husband was commenting on how I was doing a lot of freelance writing about bicycling while also reading all these books from my childhood when I wanted to relax, and he said, “Someday, you’re going to write a children’s book.” And I said, “Oh yeah? What will that book be?” And he replied, “It’ll be called The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle.” I leapt out of my chair and said, “YES. I AM going to write that book. Why is she called Bicycle? What adventures does she have? I think she rides her bike across the United States.” And I ran upstairs and the story started pouring out of me. (This was before I had my twins, so I could write on a whim instead of having to schedule and protect writing time like I do now.) I wrote nearly every day for weeks, and edited for months. It was so much fun to dive into this universe that was balanced somewhere between reality and the way I wish reality was and ask my characters What Happens Next? And they always had an answer for me.

Anna–  Authenticity is an important aspect of any writing and it’s clear that you have some experience cycling! Was it fun to bring your own experiences into the book? And how do you mine your own experience to inform your writing?

Christina –   It was THE BEST to bring in my own experiences riding a bike across the United States into the story. I felt completely confident that everything I was writing about cycling was as true as I could make it – the thrills, the exhaustion, the chasing dogs, and especially the unstoppable kindness of people towards a two-wheeled traveler who shows up on their doorsteps. I faithfully kept journals from the two times I rode across the country (first east-to-west, then north-to-south), plus during my years working as an adventure tour guide all over the U.S., and I frequently went back to those journal entries to make sure I was capturing what I’d really felt, heard, seen, smelled, and tasted on my own journeys. 

Anna–  Reading The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle, I felt constantly surprised which is a rare gift for readers…surprise. Thinking about that, part of the surprise is the sweetness between your cast of characters, and unlikely friendships. There is a real love that comes through the pages of this book and fills you up as you are reading, even though there is still tension, even though we are marching forward. How did you do that?! Where does that come from?

Christina –  Awww, I love that you said this. I certainly hope kids feel the sweetness. Traveling by bike endlessly renews my faith in humanity. I and many other long-distance cycling friends experience so much surprising generosity whenever we pedal into the unknown – people giving us sandwiches! fresh peaches! cookies! ice-cold lemonade in the desert! a place to sleep! a place to shower! letting us borrow a car to watch fireworks! giving us lifts to the emergency room!  – finding those connections time and time again never stops being magical.  I wanted to communicate to kids that when you meet people face-to-face, especially if you’re perched on the seat of a bike, their first instinct is to help you. 

Anna– And on riding! Bicycle’s packing list for her backpack shows us what’s most important to her, the must-have’s before a top-secret cross country journey. What would you put in your own pack?

Christina –  Oooooh. My favorite riding clothes made out of space-age fabric that keep me warm even when I’m wet, as many snacks as I could cram in including lots of Trader Joe’s crunchy peanut butter and a big ol’ spoon, a credit card, maps from the Adventure Cycling Association, a book of Rumi poetry, and a nice thick journal and a pen. And postcard stamps. I would not bring a phone – I’d stop at libraries and email home when I could!

Anna–  I think the idea of having the freedom to find your own destiny, your own identity, and your own friends is so powerful. Has there been a moment in your own cycling where you touched that, an experience, a chance meeting, a decision that really formed you?

Christina –   I moved away from my home when I was eleven due to my dad changing jobs. (I remember telling my parents I wasn’t going to move with them, I was going to live with my best friend and sleep on her family’s couch for the rest of my life instead. Somehow, that plan didn’t materialize.) When I went in to the first day at my new school, the teacher showed me a seat next to a nice-looking girl with very long hair and said, “Nancy, you be Christina’s friend, all right?” And Nancy did just that – she not only became my instant friend, she made sure all of her friends became my instant friends as well. We’re still friends to this day. Something about that convinced me that if you’re open to the possibility, friendships can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone –  it it’s one of the beautiful mysteries of life.  

Readers, all I can say, is we all have some book shopping to do!

Enjoy!
Anna

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To close out our celebration, here’s Ann Braden with Curriculum Connections.

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle: Curriculum Connections

Kirkus gave The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle a STARRED review and said: “Readers will eagerly join Bicycle and ‘pedal headfirst’ into this terrific adventure, which is chock-full of heart and humor.”

This will be a fabulous book to have on classroom shelves. Introverts especially will be able to connect with this AND imagine going on an amazing cross-country adventure. As we all know the imagination can be a wide open expanse in the middle grade years, and when we’re willing to tap into it as educators, the learning can be remarkable.

I still remember (in vivid detail) the project I did as a sixth grader for a unit on Canada. With three friends I got to plan our own cross-country trip across Canada’s provinces, determining where to stop and what to do there, driving distances, what to bring, etc. We kept a journal to document our (virtual) trip, and my memories are so strong it’s as though I actually went on the real trip.

Not only is The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle a fun story, but it could be a great tool to prompt students to plan out their own cross-country bike trip. Where would they go? How long would it take to get from one place to another? What would they have in their pack? It brings it math, geography, and the all-important investigation into a student’s priorities and passions.

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Here’s to The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle! And here’s where you can buy it: Indiebound (it’s on the 2018 Summer Kids Indie Next List!), Barnes and Noble, and Amazon!

Happy reading!

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Editor, Interviews, Launch, middle grade, Uncategorized, Updates on our Books!

The Countdown to BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES by Kat Shepherd…3..2..1…

Babysitting Nightmares: Shadow Hand by Kat Shepherd is launching into the world TOMORROW, and we are counting the down the minutes!

To start off our countdown, we have Anna Redding with an interview of Kat herself!

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Anna Redding’s Interview with Kat Shepherd

Oh, Friends! Make an appointment for a cozy couch with a comforting blanket and plenty of lighting! When you open the pages of Kat Shepherd’s new Babysitting Nightmares: Shadow Hand, you aren’t going to move until you get to the bottom of this thrilling, spooky and FUN first installment in a new series. Young readers will delight in all the spooks of sounds heard and shadows seen in their own babysitting. And the rest of us former babysitters will adore the chance to remember that deliciously terrifying period of time that occurs immediately after you put the kids to sleep, but an eternity before the parents come home! But first, before you lose yourself in this book, I had a chance to interview author dynamo, Kat Sherpherd!

 Anna–  How I wish I had this series back in my own babysitting days! Were you a babysitter? Did you ever get so freaked out or terrified over the smallest sounds? or did you ever encounter a shadowy hand?

Kat – I babysat a lot when I was younger, and everything always went swimmingly until I put the kids to bed. I never watched horror movies (still hate the jump-scares!), but I did read a lot of horror and suspense, so those quiet hours after the kids were asleep and before the parents got home always had my imagination working overtime. The house always seemed too dark, and the TV room was like a little oasis of light I was loathe to leave except to check on the kids. There were definitely a few thunderstorms, but the power never went out. There was one time I heard a late-night knock at the door. That freaked me out, but it turns out it was just my older brothers’ friends coming by to check on me.

Anna–  One of the aspects of Babysitting Nightmares: Shadow Hand  that really struck me is that you really nail the fun of getting spooked while maintaining the razor edge tension that comes with a good ole fashioned scary read. By the end of the first chapter, you have us. Creaks, sounds, storms, and things out of place, and no explanations for the unexplainable. We MUST read on. And yet, it’s terrific fun ripping through the pages as fast as you can possibly read to find out WHAT IS HAPPENING! So, ‘fear’ and ‘fun’––how did you balance the two?

Kat – I am a former teacher, so I thought a lot about how readers read, and what drives even the most reluctant reader to stick with a book. Short chapters and cliffhangers keep kids turning pages. We speed up our reading for exciting or suspenseful parts, and we slow down for parts with lots of description or exposition. So for those spooky moments I had to intentionally slow the pace to draw out those creepy chills. Much of my storytelling background came from working as a freelance script reader in Hollywood, so everything I write I try to pace the way I would want to see it on screen.

It was also really important to me to write “safe scares.” I wanted readers to have a great ride full of thrills and chills, but I also wanted them to have moments of relief, lightness, and fun. Partly because the contrast makes for a better thrill when something spooky happens, but partly because we need those moments of silly fun to relieve the tension. I also tried to create times when you could stop reading for the night and still be able to fall asleep! At the end of the day, my hope is for the books to feel like a safe place where kids could explore being scared and overcome those fears, knowing that everything would turn out okay.

Anna–   Best news of all for readers, Babysitting Nightmares: Shadow Hand is the FIRST in a series! Without giving anything away, where will you take us next?

Kat – Book 2 is called The Phantom Hour, and it stars Rebecca’s friend, Clio. Clio loves history, and she is thrilled when her latest babysitting gig takes her to a fascinating old mansion that had been vacant for years before the new family moved in. But when supernatural events begin threatening Clio and her friends, they realize the only way they can save the family is by unlocking the house’s secret past. The story has a lot of twists and turns, and it also introduces a new character into the mix. It comes out January 29, 2019, and the ARCs are heading to the printers as we speak. I just turned in Book 3 as well, so we’ll see what it looks like after revisions are done!

Anna–  I love the science pop culture references like NdGT, shorthand for my favorite astrophysicist. Are you a huge science fan and what was it like sprinkling fun references into the pages of your book? And what inspired you to add so much texture to the story with these fun tidbits?

Kat – I do love science, although I love math even more. (I could do algebra all day!) I’ve always been really interested in biology and chemistry, and I read a lot of nonfiction books about science, math, and history. Right now I’m reading The Disappearing Spoon, which is all about the periodic table. I’ve written science curriculum, and I used to oversee the fifth grade science fair at the last school where I taught. I loved helping kids design controlled experiments and thinking about variables and how to correct for them. So I thought about how if I might approach the supernatural from that perspective. I’ve always loved researching stuff, and part of the pleasure of writing is that it’s so much fun to actually use all of that random information I’ve collected over the years! I’m a huge NdGT fan, too; my husband even took me to see him one year for my birthday!

Anna–  I love your main character, Rebecca. Her thought process is so interesting and informed and empowered. For one, the stakes are high. She’s babysitting this cherub she adores. And she has to figure out what is going on. And here is where she really becomes interesting to me because she is going back in forth in analyzing science-based possibilities, and paranormal. And her ability to navigate both worlds as she reasons is sooooo cool. Tell me how that came to be. Why you decided to give her that kind of agency and smarts!

Kat – All of my characters are based in some part on people I know, especially kids I have taught. There is a certainly a lot of me in Rebecca, in that I love to organize and plan and feel in control; when I take the babysittingnightmares.com personality test, I always come out like 100% Rebecca! But for the rest of her I drew a lot from these confident, strong girls I have been fortunate enough to know and teach through the years. I also think Rebecca’s point of view is just as much a function of her age. Middle graders are in that sweet spot where they’re beginning to be educated and informed and form their own opinions, but they’re also still open to the possibilities of the world. They recognize that there’s a lot still left to know, so they don’t rule anything out yet.

And I think that middle graders do have a lot of agency, probably a lot more than we often give them credit for. There are so many kids in the world that look around them and see problems that the adults in their lives can’t or won’t do anything to fix, and so those kids are stepping up and saying, “Well, I guess it’s on me, then.” Our country has an amazing generation of younger activists, like Mari Copeny, Asean Johnson, Marley Dias, and Sophie Cruz. All of these kids were making an impact on the world well before their thirteenth birthdays!

Anna–  Another really cool aspect of the story, is the friendship between Rebecca and her friends. Tell me what inspired you to create these kind of friendships between your characters.

Kat – When I was a kid I loved reading horror and adventure and action, but it was my friendships that lay at the heart of my life. Friendships for me at that age were deep and powerful and complicated, and not always easy to navigate. With this series I knew I wanted it to be spooky and fun, but it was important to me to ground it in the relationship between the girls. And as with any relationship, when crisis arises it either brings people closer or pulls them apart, so I wanted to explore that a little, too. I think a lot about Elly Swartz’s wonderful book, Smart Cookie, which is all about finding your herd. These girls have found their herd, and they’re learning about what it means to really support one another. Nobody can do it alone.

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The countdown continues with Hayley Barrett and a spooky babysitting story of her own…

The Baby That Wasn’t There—A Real-Life Babysitting Nightmare

As the Emu Debuts celebrate Kat Shepherd‘s first book in her creeptastic BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES series, The Shadow Hand, I thought I’d tell a spooky tale of my own. 

But first, a bit of back story.

My late Scottish grandmother, Granny, kept her own counsel. She didn’t like to be questioned, most especially by a child. If she thought a question impertinent, she’d dismiss it with a puzzling retort. For instance, if the phone rang and Little Hayley asked, “Who was that, Granny?” She’d reply, “Och… It was The Little Man Who Wasn’t There.”Granny and Grampa

I spent my entire childhood TERRIFIED of The Little Man Who Wasn’t There, and he lived anyplace she didn’t want me to be. Under the porch? He was there. In the rickety shed? There too. ***shivers***

I never did meet up with The Little Man, but I did experience something—or someone—strange when I was 15.

It was an ordinary afternoon. I was in the kitchen having a cup of tea in with my mother and aunt. My baby sisterHayley and Andrea at Myopia Andrea was napping upstairs. No one else was home.

We all heard the baby’s cry, and because I was closest to the stairs, I jumped up and said, “I’ll get her.” I remember listening to the sound as I climbed. It was a familiar “come get me” cry. There was nothing unusual about it, and I wasn’t at all concerned. Doorknob

But then something strange happened. The split-second I touched the doorknob—to my utter astonishment—the crying stopped.  There was no sound coming from inside the bedroom. Although we had heard the crying downstairs in the kitchen, the upstairs hallway was now silent. I hesitated but knew I needed to check on the baby. I turned the doorknob and eased the door open.

Typically, little Andrea awoke from naps drenched in sweat. She’d fling her blanket off, stand up in the crib, and cry until someone came for her. This time, I tiptoed across the dim room, and peered into the crib to find her curled up, cool as a cucumber, and deeply asleep. I was mystified. There was simply no way this peaceful toddler had been crying a moment ago. I didn’t want to wake her, so I tiptoed out, shut the door, and headed back downstairs.

When I entered the kitchen with empty arms, my mother and aunt looked at me curiously. Without hesitation, Mom exclaimed, “You heard it this time!” Over the years, and well before the arrival of Andrea, I’d listened to stories about a mysterious baby cry heard in our house. It usually happened the middle of the night. Once, both of my parents heard it so clearly they went outside and searched the yard with flashlights, searching for an abandoned baby.

Yes, I had encountered The Baby Who Wasn’t There.

I hope this real-life babysitting nightmare whets your appetite for more shivery stories and exciting adventures from Kat’s BABYSITTING NIGHTMARES series. Start now with The Shadow Hand, and visit the series website for fun crafts, quizzes, and more paranormal pastimes. The next two books in the series, The Phantom Hour and The Ghost Light, will be available in 2019.

 

 

 

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The final stop on our countdown is Educational Connections with Ann Braden

Babysitting Nightmares: Educational Connections

Kat Shepherd has been a teacher, and she knows just the kind of book that students are going to gobble up like candy. This book has been described as The Babysitters’ Club meets Goosebumps, and now that I’ve read it, I can say that that is spot on. This is a book with the relatability of the Babysitters’ Club characters with the page-turning thrill of Goosebumps. It’s spooky in just the right ways, and it will appeal to all kinds of readers. This is a book that you’ll want to have in your classroom library––and once you do, you’ll never see it because it will just go from one student to another.

As educator Michele Knot says on her blog: “A combination of babysitters and scary books….. what’s not to love?  Any series with the word “babysitter” in it is instantly popular.  Scary series are always high on checkout lists.  Combine them?  It’s an instant hit.”

And here’s School Library Journal’s verdict: “Fans of ‘Goosebumps’ and the updated “Baby-Sitters’ Club” graphic novels will find lots to like in this delightfully monstrous mash-up.” Kirkus concludes, “Frightful (but not too frightful) fun for preteens.”

Based on her experience as a teacher, Kat has written about the importance of giving kids the freedom to choose what to read. “To create more joyful, enriching reading experiences in our middle-grade classrooms,” Kat writes, “we have to do one very important thing: We have to trust our readers.” Kat even has a page for teachers on her website that includes some of the strategies she used to build a community of readers in her classroom.

This is a book that will have readers counting the months for the next book in the series. This is a book that will make sure students discover their love of reading.

You can buy it here, here, or here right now! And then tomorrow, you can sit back, feeling accomplished that this fun book is headed your way!

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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.

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Emus love dogs, especially literary ones!

It’s easy to see that we Emus love books, and you may have figured out by now that many of us love dogs, too, so what could possibly be better than combining the two? To continue this week’s celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s Penny & Jelly: The School Show, which released yesterday, here is a collection of our favorite dogs from literature. Woof!

Penny & Jelly cover

First, we have some classics…

Susan Vaught:

I’m a sucker for Lassie, not the television one (okay, that one, too), but the dog in Lassie Come Home written in 1940 by Eric Knight. I read it when I was about 10, nice and hefty, around 270-300 pages? Something like that. I absolutely lived in that book.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Toto from The Wizard of Oz. “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” I worried about him through the whole movie even though was feisty and brave and revealed that the Wizard of Oz was not a wizard at all.

Carole Gerber:

Snoopy, of course! He is beloved by people all over the planet and still appears in cartoons and books sixteen years after the death of Charles Schultz, creator of “Peanuts.”

Donna Janell Bowman:

Hands down, my fave literary dogs were Old Yeller, and Old Dan and Little Ann from Where The Red Fern Grows. As a kid, I read each book a billion times. More than the actual plots (which would be questionable by today’s standards,) I was so enamored by the dogs’ personalities and with the bond between boy and dog(s).

 

And then there are some more modern middle-grade canines…

Megan Morrison:

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I’ve got to go with Hagrid’s dog Fang. I love that he’s huge, and his name is fierce, but he’s really just a lovable, slobbering coward who runs from the fight – unless he’s protecting Hagrid, in which case, he’ll take a Stunning Spell to defend his big best friend.

Mylisa Larsen:

I’m always amused by Hagrid’s dogs–Fang and Fluffy (aka Cerebus). I also love Winn-Dixie because you’ve gotta love a dog who can smile.

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers:

Ranger, the kind old bloodhound from Kathi Appelt’s THE UNDERNEATH. So inherently good and true, as literary dogs should be.

Rebecca Van Slyke:

Winn Dixie. He helps India Opal negotiate the tricky business of moving to a new town and making friends in unlikely places. Plus he can smile so hard it makes him sneeze.

Tamara Smith:

Both my daughters and I are madly in love with Bigfoot, from Alison McGhee’s JULIA GILLIAN series. According to Julia, they can telepathically communicate! Too awesome! Bigfoot is the quintessential big-hearted canine best friend.

 

And, of course, we wouldn’t forget the picture books!

Janet Fox:

My favorite literary dog is Martha from MARTHA SPEAKS by Susan Meddaugh. I remember how much I loved reading that book to my son!

Christine Olson Hayes:

I love the adorable dog named Hondo from Peter McCarty’s picture book, HONDO AND FABIAN. The story is simple and sweet, but it’s the art I adore–it gives off a warm, cozy glow that makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with a favorite book!

Kevan Atteberry:

I was moved by a graphic novel I read recently about Laika, the first dog in space. It was terribly sad though. I read the Plague Dogs years ago and enjoyed it but don’t remember the two dogs’ names. Brian from Family Guy probably wouldn’t count, so I’ll go with Olive from Olive the Other Reindeer.

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

I’m partial to “Dog” from Dog in Charge by K.L. Going and illustrated by Dan Santat. It’s a sweet and funny story about a dog left in charge of five cats with this refrain to describe him: “He’s a good dog, a smart dog, a very good dog.”

Adam Shaughnessy:

I always loved Clifford the Big Red Dog when I was little. I remember being especially fond of the illustrations and drawing (or trying to draw) Clifford again and again. I went through a lot of red crayons.

Laurie Ann Thompson:

Harry the Dirty Dog was one of my favorite books as a child, and it still is. I just love his transformation from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots! And, of course, I love the happy ending.

 

Penny & Jelly author and fellow Emu Maria Gianferrari shared some of her favorites, too, as well as those of Penny and Jelly themselves!

Some of my favorite literary dogs are Bob (from the One & Only Ivan), Rontu (from Island of the Blue Dolphins),
Dismay (from Each Little Bird That Sings), and Rain (from Reign Rain).

Penny’s favorites are Winn Dixie, Hound (from the Penderwicks), and HMS Beagle (from Susan Patron’s Lucky books).

Jelly’s favorites are Gaston, Daisy (from A Ball for Daisy), and Hachiko.

(Of course, they’re all really my favorites too!) 😉

 

As you know, this week we’re all celebrating the launch of our newest favorite literary dog in Penny & Jelly: The School Show, and I’m sure the delightful Jelly will soon be one of your favorites, too! Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of this heartwarming book or some Penny & Jelly swag. You can visit Penny & Jelly at pennyandjelly.com, and be sure to purchase a copy for yourself and your favorite dog lovers by visiting one of the sites below:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Amazon.com Books-a-Million Barnes & Noble IndieBound Politics and Prose Powell's The Toadstool Bookshop
Also available as an eBook in several of these locations, and at iBooks and Kobo.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books, Updates on our Books!

A Fan Letter to Readers

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Dear Readers Everywhere,

I know you probably hear this a lot, but I’m seriously your biggest fan! I’ve wanted to meet you for over a decade, and now that it’s finally happened, I’m totally FREAKING OUT!

You know that one day when you said how much you loved my book? Oh . . . my . . . gosh. My heart was beating a million times a minute. I keep wondering if you’re all secretly related to me, or if maybe my mother has made a hundred or so sock-puppet Goodreads accounts just so she can encourage me to keep writing.

But then you tell me you’re from the Philippines, or Texas, or Canada, or London, or Slovenia, or that gorgeous African island of Mauritius, and I just can’t wrap my head around it! And never in a million years did I think that even one of the 1.2 billion people in India would even know I existed, let alone be excited to read a novel I wrote! Like . . . what?!

You do realize that I grew up in a small town of about 5,000 people, right? That the most outrageous thing I ever dreamed of was going to Hawaii one day? And when that happened at sixteen (my first plane ride), I thought, “Wow. That’s about as good as life can get.”

But then I decided to be a writer. And I hoped people would actually like what I wrote, enough to even pay money for it. But I soon learned that this dream was, as some teenagers today might have told me, totes cray cray.

I had no clue whatsoever how much work would be involved, or how many times I would get my heart broken, or feel like a complete and utter idiot for even thinking I could become a published author.

But you, super-awesome readers, have changed everything. You’ve made me believe that all of the hard work and heartache was not only worth it, but have given me so much HAPPINESS that I’m jumping up and down with jazz hands in the air, wanting to do it all over again!

So sign me up for even more writer’s block, and self-doubt, and pulling my hair out! Go ahead and toss in some of that heartache and rejection! That’s right!

I’m ready.

This time I’m well prepared for the crazy/awful/awesome pathway to publication, because I now know who’s waiting for me at the end of it.

You.

 

All of my fan-girling love and deepest gratitude,

Amy Finnegan, Published author of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, Bloomsbury 2014 (OMG!!!)

Book for Chris

Just one of many amazing people I signed a book for in the past month! #Star-Lord

Gabrielle

Gabrielle from New Hampshire. The first reader I know of to spy it & buy it in the wild!

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Amy Finnegan writes her own stories because she enjoys falling in love over and over again, and thinks everyone deserves a happy ending. She likes to travel the world—usually to locations where her favorite books take place—and owes her unquenchable thirst for reading to Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling. Her debut novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, came about after hearing several years of behind-the-scenes stories from her industry veteran brother. She’s also been lucky enough to visit dozens of film sets and sit in on major productions such as Parks and Recreation and Parenthood. You can follow Amy on Twitter @ajfinnegan, Instagram: StrangerThanFictionWriter, or Facebook (Amy Finnegan, Author).

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, reading, rejection and success, Thankfulness, Updates on our Books!, Writing and Life

TALKER 25 Launch Party Kickoff with Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette AND a Giveaway (or more)!

We Emus are thrilled to be kicking off the week-long launch party for Talker 25 by Joshua McCune. Talker 25 is an intense, action-packed YA fantasy set in a not-too-distant future where dragon wars have shaped society.

It’s a high school prank gone horribly wrong-sneaking onto the rez to pose next to a sleeping dragon-and now senior Melissa Callahan has become an unsuspecting pawn in a war between Man and Monster, between family and friends and the dragons she has despised her whole life. Chilling, epic, and wholly original, this debut novel imagines a North America where dragons are kept on reservations, where strict blackout rules are obeyed no matter the cost, where the highly weaponized military operates in chilling secret, and where a gruesome television show called Kissing Dragons unites the population.

To celebrate the launch of Talker 25, we have all sorts of goodies and interviews and dragon fun planned for the week. Not to mention giveaways! Comment on any post this week, Monday thru Thursday, to be entered to win a signed hardback copy. The winner will be announced on Friday. And there will be more giveaway goodness to come this week, so make sure to check back for additional opportunities to score your own copy.

 Talker 25 is available everywhere tomorrow, April 22, but to hold you over until then we asked Josh’s agent, Ammi-Joan Paqutte, a few questions about working with him and Talker 25.

Ammi-Joan Paquette

How did you come to represent Josh?

AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: I first discovered Josh’s work when I was browsing online and discovered the first line of his novel, which was then called Kissing Dragons: “When Trish called and invited me to go dragon hunting, I should have trusted my instincts.” Wow! Between the title and the first line, I was more than intrigued. I visited Josh’s website and knew I had to read on further. I sent him an email, and eventually received his manuscript to consider.

What was it about Talker 25 that grabbed your attention?

AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: What captivated me about the manuscript right from the start was the fresh approach to dragon mythology, and the way an alternate history (dragons vs. humanity) was seamlessly woven into the narrative. In addition, Melissa was a dynamic character that I believed in immediately and wanted to get to know better. I’ve always been a sucker for stories about good people who overcome terrible odds and go on to do great things, and this story hit all the right notes for me.

If you were a dragon, what would type of dragon would you be?

AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: Oh, that’s a hard one! I think I would be a quietly undiscovered, wise and peaceful dragon, who spends my days in my treehouse lair reading books and eating chocolate. Is that cheating? 🙂

Is there anything else you want to add?

AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE: Only that if you haven’t yet stopped by Josh’s website, you should head over there right now: http://www.joshua-mccune.com/#!news-and-events/c1pz and check out the incredible book trailer! Talker 25 is an incredibly immersive and moving book, and one that you won’t regret reading.

*  *  *

Thanks, Joan, for taking the time to help us celebrate Talker 25! We Emu’s agree that Josh’s book trailer is incredible. So incredible, in fact, we can’t resist sharing it here:

 

You can find Talker 25 online at IndieboundAmazon, BN.com, or at your local bookstore.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Interviews, Launch, Updates on our Books!

Letting Go: A Cautionary Tale for Control Freaks

Pat’s post hit a chord with me. I’m in the prepare-to-prepare stage leading up to my 2015 debut. Trying to forecast promotional efforts in the months leading up to the launch. And, hoping my book is cherished as much as Sophie and Bernice. First, I’m reflecting on the surprising angst that followed my book contract. The angst of letting go.

See, I love the inventive stage of writing. Don’t get me wrong, writing is damn hard. But, I love that evolving sense of possibility when worlds and characters spin out of thin air and land as words on the page. Imagination is magic. Even in nonfiction. From the moment I began writing my debut, STEP RIGHT UP: THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY, I occupied the story. All writers do this. Before we can add depth and motion to our words, writers visualize until our stories unfold movie-like on the big screen of our mind. We are all eager to control the script and staging. We like telling our characters what to do, what to wear, how to stand. If we can’t visualize it, we can’t write it. In the case of nonfiction, it’s about telling the truth and filling in gaps. Sometimes, that means converting 125-year-old images from two-dimensional, dingy black and white to Technicolor. In panorama. And in 3D.

While writing, the world on the page is mine, mine, mine!

I am in control. Mwahahaha!

 Until I am not.

My editor had suggestions on STEP RIGHT UP. Lots of them. Some of her suggestions were that I undo some of her suggestions. Add, cut, expand, simplify, redirect, rinse, repeat… In a way, my story became a collaboration. But, as the word weaver, I still felt a sense of control. Sort of.

Until I wasn’t.

Enter, the illustrator.

I am in awe of artists who can press “copy” on their mental printers and, voila! They sketch, sculp, paint, and pixelate their visual imaginings for all the world to see. More magic!  So, I was surprised to be so full of angst as I awaited the illustrator reveal. Seriously, y’all. Angst! And worry. And maybe a tiny speck of panic. An illustrator will have his/her own visual interpretation. Their own image of the world Doc and Jim lived in. Their own tinted lens through which the mental movie plays for them. Aaaaack! I found myself playing the “What-if” game. What if the illustrator can’t capture Doc and Jim as I see them? What if his/her art is too silly, too serious, too dark, too light, too cartoony, too portraity, too realistic, too unrealistic?

And, besides, horses are hard to draw. Just ask the people I forced, I mean asked, to draw for me. (Some of these people may be related to me. Except for the tile guy.)

photo copy 5photo

 Arin's horse 8

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Donna horse 1

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Thankfully, I can be confident that an illustrator will do better. But letting go is hard. As I peruse the books on my shelf, I’m reminded that it takes many creative perspectives to create visually stunning and memorable stories. Magic multiplied. Now, I find that my illustrator angst has given way to excitement. The kind of excitement I felt, not knowing what kind of wonderfulness was wrapped under the Christmas tree. There is a childlike wonder in this anticipation.

I’m ecstatic to announce that Coretta Scott King Honor recipient, Daniel Minter will bring Doc and Jim to life through his spectacular art. Better still, Daniel and I have been communicating. He would like my input. I think I’m in heaven. Check out his work, y’all. My little book baby is in very good hands.

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Filed under Anxiety, Illustrators, Thankfulness, Updates on our Books!

Tara Lazar Says Farewell and Shares All the Things She Learned: The Good, The Bad and The Sparkly

Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

hurdlesThings I Learned During my Debut Process:

  1. Landing an agent and selling your debut book isn’t THE hurdle. It’s THE FIRST hurdle.
  2. Not being in Barnes & Noble does make a difference in your book’s success, no matter how many well-meaning people try to assure you otherwise.
  3. Being in Barnes & Noble does not guarantee your book’s success.
  4. You will read reviews of your book that will leave you scratching your head, wondering if it’s really YOUR book the reviewer read.
  5. Just because you have thousands of social media followers doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy your book.
  6. Just because you publish a book with Simon & Schuster doesn’t mean people who schedule author appearances will want you. You’re still just small potatoes. Think fingerling instead of Idaho.
  7. You’ll check your Amazon ranking more often than you care to admit and you’ll cringe every time it goes over 100,000.

OK, maybe all that is a little too depressing. But c’mon guys, this stuff is HARD. This is not an easy business. I knew this when I was trying to break in, but somehow I thought once I did break in, everything afterwards would be a breeze—a warm, tropical breeze with notes of pineapple and coconut. WRONG. There’s no pool-boy fluttering a giant leaf fan. Subsequent books have taken MONTHS to sell…and one took AN ENTIRE YEAR! And I have more in the works that are likewise taking months. And there were even more books that didn’t sell at all. Phhht. Dead in the water. And no pool-boy to fish them out!

But let’s look on the bright side. I’m an AUTHOR now! Woo!

Yes, that was a sincere “woo!” Let’s try it again: WOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo……………! (Those periods are really tiny o’s.)

Things I Loved During my Debut Process:

  1. monstoresmallcoverAll the terribly exciting moments along the journey—seeing my characters for the first time, witnessing the progress of the dummies, revealing the cover, hearing the satisfying KA-THUNK of the author copies box hit the front porch, signing my very first book for a complete stranger.
  2. Holding MY BOOK in MY HANDS.
  3. Making incredible friends—my editor and art director, my illustrator, the imprint staff, fellow debut authors, booksellers, librarians and fans.
  4. Gaining a lot of publishing business wisdom.
  5. People sending me photos of the book spotted in the wild, face-out at bookstores.
  6. Receiving my first pieces of fan mail.

But the most important one is:

  • Seeing kids interact with my book and the joy it brings them.
littlejosbooks

Kids drawing MONSTORE monsters at Little Jo’s Books in Katonah, NY

princetonbookfestivalAnd there’s things I’m going to love that haven’t even happened yet! This weekend I’ll be at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival and the weekend after, The Baltimore Book Festival. I’ve been going to the Princeton festival for years and can’t believe I will be there signing books! Me!

And Baltimore! I’ll be on a stage! On a panel! And people will want to hear what I have to say! BUT WHY?!

After all, I’m still just Tara, wife of Alan for the past 14 years (today’s my anniversary! OMG! I almost forgot!), mother of two girls who find me terribly embarrassing, and neighbor who you’ll find scootering her kids to school while wearing ninja jammies. (That explains the embarrassment.) I’m still the same person I was before the book contract. I haven’t transformed into a sophisticated, radiant being. I lose socks in the laundry, forget to RSVP to birthday parties, and schlep to the grocery store with yesterday’s makeup smeared under my eyes. There are holes in my couches, too much junk piled in my garage and questionable looks when I drop off my kids wearing ninja jammies for the third day in a row.

But how cool that I can be my same dorky self and share my dorkiness with children through my books! Hopefully I’ll gain fans who will want every one of my releases and will never know me as un-radiant. To them, I sparkle.

And so I leave you with this: it’s a wild journey, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The dream was to sell one book, and that dream came true, so a new dream has replaced it. That dream is bigger, brighter and more daring. Will it come true? I dunno. Stay tuned.

And remember, be sparkly!

Fare-thee-well and have fun stormin’ the castle,
Tara

Princess Bride-Tara Lazar

P.S. It’s not farewell forever, just at Emu’s. You can still follow me and my jammies at taralazar.com.

P.P.S. Photoshopping by the talented illustrator Kayla Skogh. Thanks, Kayla!

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Filed under Farewell, Updates on our Books!

And now… introducing… RADIO GIRL!

confetti

Photo from ADoseOfShipBoy on Flickr

Guess what, folks — that’s right — we have another book launch to celebrate here on Emu’s Debuts. So, put on your party hats, throw some confetti into the air, and join the fun all week long as we welcome Carol Brendler’s RADIO GIRL into the world!

Carol isn’t technically a debut author. She already has a delightful picture book (WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER), but RADIO GIRL is her first novel. Since that’s an entirely different experience, we’re thrilled she agreed to join us for her second debut journey!

WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER by Carol Brendler

To get you in the mood for the upcoming RADIO GIRL extravaganza we’ve got planned for you this week, though, you should take the time to go back and read Carol’s post about the story behind the RADIO GIRL story, here.

Then, read this great interview to find out more about Carol, including her advice for aspiring authors.

Plus, Carol and fellow EMLA author Trent Reedy did a fun video interview here.

And, watch for Carol on DEAR TEEN ME on Wednesday!

You can also find Carol at her website, which has lots of fun facts about old-time radio and the 1930s, and on Twitter. And, you can buy your own copy of RADIO GIRL here:

  • Indiebound
  • Powell’s
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble

    Finally, one lucky reader will win a signed copy of RADIO GIRL! Just comment on any of this week’s launch party posts (including this one). The winner will be announced next Monday. Good luck!

  • 14 Comments

    Filed under Celebrations, Happiness, Updates on our Books!

    “Norm!” (Whoops, I mean “Tara!”)

    Well, 6 weeks post book-launch and it would normally be time to wipe down the counters, flip over the barstools and tell the person knocking outside, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Tara has left the building.

    cheersclosed

    Instead of that final episode of Cheers, imagine Norm walking back in and everyone yelling “Norm!” Except, um, shouting some other name. “Tara!”

    normcheers

    Yep, I’m sticking around. Keep the stool on the corner warm for me.

    I realized some of the most interesting debut experiences have happened to me post-launch. So why depart now? This is stuff that’s rarely discussed.

    • Like a corporate dispute between your publisher and America’s sole remaining national book chain which keeps your book out of the brick-and-mortar shops.
    • Like a gut-punching review.
    • Like your own child’s school declining your offer of a free school visit.
    • Like your daughter’s name being misspelled in the dedication.
    • Like most bookstores wanting you to appear in October because your book has Halloween appeal, yet very few wanting you NOW, when early sales are crucial to momentum.

    BUT, there’s also the really cool stuff.

    • Like bookstores tweeting pictures of children drawing the monsters they’d like to buy at THE MONSTORE.
    • Like receiving fan mail from 22 kids at a summer writing camp, after using the first page of your book as their favorite writing prompt.
      monstorepage1
    • Like Skyping with classrooms across the country…in your jammies.
    • Like complete strangers showing up to your very first book signing. Even the town mayor.
    • Like being on a radio show!
    • Like people reviewing your book on blogs, Amazon and GoodReads, saying they love your book.

    Yes, these things make you feel all warm and fuzzy, like an evening at a place where everybody knows your name.

    .

    So I’ll be here for a while longer. And let’s make this blog post interactive, shall we? Ask me anything about my post-book-launch experiences and I’ll be happy to oblige.

    Cheers!

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    Filed under Book Promotion, Book signing, Updates on our Books!