Category Archives: waiting

Okay…What’s Next?

This is the big question that comes after the initial book deal. We’re eager to sign our contract, be introduced to our new editor, work on revisions and see our “baby” come to life. Bring it on, world! But the fact is, these things take time. Brace yourself: I’m still waiting to sign a contract for a deal that was made in September of 2015! So, what’s a writer to do while he or she is waiting for all the “book deal” magic to happen?

Start another story!

Many writers, myself included, work on multiple projects but occasionally I find myself in a moment where I’m between projects. It’s like that “moment between breaths” I experience doing yoga, where it feels like time stands still for just a moment. It’s then, in my writing, that I have to find some inspiration for a new story idea.

Where do you get your ideas? Every author is asked this question. Honestly, for me, some ideas strike as quick as lightning while others are as slow in coming as molasses on a December day. I’ve always believed that the best ideas for me to pursue are those that come from the heart; stories about things I connect with. But sometimes my brain needs a “little” prompting. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the ways I get my imagination moving and finding potential story ideas that spark my mind.

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Recycle an existing story or song: You’ve heard of “fractured fairy tales” haven’t you? This is where someone takes a fairy tale and puts a new twist on it. A contemporary example would be Tara Lazar’s Little Red Gliding Hood. Or another favorite is Mo Willems’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Perhaps you could impose a clever twist on a favorite childhood fairy tale or song?

 

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Seek visual inspiration: Google “Interesting Photographs” and see what comes up. Does anything grab your attention and shake your writing brain to a heightened state of curiosity?

 

 readingstacksRead for inspiration: Pour over as many picture books as you can and see if you can find a “mentor text” that inspires you, so that you can use that story for inspiration and run with your own imagination.

 

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Pin the Tail on the Story Donkey: This is where you randomly select story elements (character/s, setting) and let your imagination run wild with possible conflicts. For example, close your eyes and randomly choose one thing from each column below to create your story premise:

MAIN CHARACTER SETTING SECONDARY CHARACTER
Dinosaur Classroom Cowboy
Monster Playground Fireman
Child Park Mailman
Unicorn Child’s bedroom Teacher
Cat Bathtub Ballerina
Dragon Mom’s office Race car driver
Puppy Pond Pirate
Gorilla Mountains Shark
Lizard Ocean Principal
Worm Cave Doctor
Parrot Circus Ghost
Squid Zoo Grandpa

 

Once you have a nugget of an idea, read these blog posts from author Tara Lazar’s Blog, where every she annually hosts PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month):

Kelly Bingham on developing an idea.

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen on developing your character.

Diana Murray on creating a character-driven story with conflict.

Or better yet, sign up for Tara’s 2017 PiBoIdMo (in January!) where you have a fun challenge of thinking of one picture book story IDEA every day (that’s 31 ideas by the end of the month!!!).

Best of luck with creating your new story sparks!

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PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes picture books, easy readers and board books and is whittling away at a middle-grade adventure novel. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to Mammoth Lakes every summer to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. She has two books coming out in spring 2017, My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

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Filed under Inspiration, Time Management, waiting, Writing

The Surreal, the Sublime, and the Journey Itself

The time has come for me to leave the Emu nest, and I’d like to end my time here with three quick vignettes:

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First, the surreal. Many Emus use their introductory post to talk about getting The Call (wherein their agent tells them they have a book deal). I decided to save my story of The Call for my farewell post, not knowing that the post would appear exactly two years after that life-changing day. So here’s my story:

On December 5, 2014, I had been on submission for almost two years with three different manuscripts, and I had convinced myself that I loved writing for writing’s sake and it was okay if I was the person who always came close but never quite got a book deal. Some days I even believed this. I had taken a full time teaching job partly because I needed to feel like I was contributing again, rather than just writing stories that would likely never find readers. On that fateful Friday, I taught my last lectures of fall semester, came home, and made myself a plate of nachos as a reward. (This is literally the first time since high school that I had eaten nachos as an after-school snack.) I had just sat down when my seven-year-old daughter came running in with my phone.

“Mom,” she said. “It says it’s..Ammi-Joan Paquette?” (She would have known who was calling if it had just said “Joan.” 🙂

I had hoped for that call for so long that the hope had faded, almost entirely away. I’d dreamed that dream so long that it seemed impossible for The Call to be anything other than a dream, an oasis on the horizon that recedes with every step. It was truly surreal. And yet, there I was, crying into my nachos. It happened, folks.

The second story is of the sublime. I had many teachers who inspired and nurtured me and helped me grow, but none more than my first grade teacher, Kathryn Ipson. She helped me write and illustrate my first story, The Big Bad Pig. She sensed that I needed a challenge and got a computer in our classroom (at a time when nobody had a computer in the classroom), taught me to type, and set me free. We stayed in touch through the years, and when I visited her as a college student and told her my plans to get a PhD and become a professor, she said, “That’s wonderful. The most important thing is to find a job where you’re helping people.” That one statement lingers with me still, and although it didn’t change my professional plans, it changed my priorities.

On October 18, my first book, Like Magic, was published. I had a launch party at our local independent bookstore, and at times the line snaked to the back of the store. The most accurate (if cliched) way to describe that night is a dream come true. But perhaps the most sublime and wonderful moment of that night was when the crowd parted and there was Mrs. Ipson, standing in line with a copy of the book. I showed her her name in the acknowledgments. We hugged and cried a little. A few days later, Mrs. Ipson found me on Facebook and said that she had finished reading and she expected my book would win the Newbery. Okay, I suspect it won’t, but to have someone who has believed since I was very small that I was capable of anything–someone who continues to believe it–well, that is incredibly meaningful.

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Mrs. Ipson finds her name in the acknowledgments of Like Magic (photo by Brooke MacNaughtan)

There have been other moments that have been almost this magical–many, in fact. Signing books in the gorgeous Salt Lake City Library, where my characters spend much of the story. Receiving my first starred review. Finding out that the book had sold in Scandinavia, and that this story was about to find its way into other lands and languages. Meeting and hearing from bright and diverse readers who have connected with the story. Beautiful, unforgettable moments.

If you’re a writer, and you don’t give up, you will have these moments too–even if it feels like you will always be stuck in the spot where you are right now. But the more I think about this whole debut experience, the more moments of joy I see in the journey itself. Evenings gathered with my critique partners. Time spent in workshops when I’m taught something that sparks an idea inside me. Moments at the computer, alone with my characters, when I struggle and struggle and finally get that scene or sentence just right.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

-Jenkin Lloyd Jones

The last few years have been unforgettable and exhausting, yet I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Thank you, thank you, to the Emus and to all who have shared this journey with me. And for all of us, no matter what stage of the expedition, may we find joy and be truly thankful for the ride.


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Advice, Book Launch, Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, Patience, The Call, Uncategorized, waiting

Purposeful Patience

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

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

Horses    

Baby horse gif

or Childbirth

Dumbo gif

Today’s a childbirth kind of day.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book heart gif

Enjoy the day!

Hayley


 

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

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

Hold the Vision

Look what I got in the mail the other day! My signed contract for THE NIAN MONSTER! I was so excited that I hugged it. But not too hard, because that might crinkle the pages. If you look closely, you’ll see that the contract was issued last August – 7 months ago. And that was nearly 7 months after receiving the offer to buy my story.

My first book contract!

My first book contract!

I found out that this is not at all unusual in the publishing industry. It’s still hard to get used to, though. When I worked as an environmental consultant, we never did any work unless we had a signed contract from the client. Sometimes, we even asked for a retainer — payment in advance! But over the past year, I have done a lot of work on the book — all without a signed contract. It didn’t make me feel better to read this line at the bottom of the offer letter: “Please note that this offer is subject to contract and in no way does this offer represent a binding agreement.”

 

And that got me thinking about trust. From the very beginning, when it was just me and the blank page, there had to be trust. I love what Neil Gaiman says about this part of the process: 2016-03-24 07.04.53

After the story was written (and re-written many, many times) and an offer had finally been accepted, there was still no guarantee that there would be a book at the end of the tunnel. I had to trust that my editor and art director shared my vision of the book. I had to trust that my illustrator would bring my words to life and add a layer of emotion and richness that I couldn’t. I had to trust that people were working on my book when I wasn’t there to watch. It was hard. I’d never met any of these people in real life; I hadn’t even spoken to them on the phone. Communication was done over email. I’m sure I could have called, but I didn’t want to hover — I was afraid that if I made any demands, the offer would just vanish into the ether. So I just took a deep breath and chose to believe in them.

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I realized that although it felt like I had lost control, I really hadn’t. My editor had to learn to trust me, too. And I could do something about that. I listened to her feedback on my manuscript. I revised to the best of my ability. When she asked for information on the landmarks and the monster himself, I researched for days and produced what felt like reams of photos and data. And strangely, the more work I did, the more comfortable I felt with the situation, despite the lack of a “binding agreement.” The fact that my editor and the art director were asking for more information proved that they were working on my book. Just like when I was writing the story, I had to trust the process — but this time, it was the process of publication. My editor, art director, illustrator and I ultimately had the same vision: a beautiful book butterfly emerging from its publishing house cocoon.

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I know that the path to publication isn’t always smooth; I’ve had it easy in comparison to some. But even when the road is bumpy or full of detours, trust is involved. Trust in yourself and your story. You will both be fine.

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Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

Andrea spent most of her first grade year reading under the teacher’s desk, barricaded by tall stacks of books. At home, she dragged books, chocolate chips, and the cat into her closet to read. Not much has changed since then, except now she reads and writes sitting in a comfy chair in a sunny room. With a lock on the door. Before embarking on the writer’s journey, Andrea was an environmental consultant, helping to clean up hazardous waste sites. She lives in a wooded suburb of Boston with her very understanding husband, two inspiring sons, and a plump dumpling of a rescue dog.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com and on Twitter under @AndreaYWang. What’s the “Y” stand for? Take a guess!

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Faith, Uncategorized, waiting

And Then There’s a Cover and a Catalog Listing

I think several of us may have mentioned that the period between when you get that call saying, “Yes, we’re going to publish your book” and when the book actually appears on a bookstore shelf is composed mostly of long periods of waiting with occasional flurries of intense activity over edits or titles or whatever.  (Yes, I see we have mentioned that. See here and here. And here. Never mind. We’ve all mentioned it.)

clock

And, in most cases, before you got that “yes” there was quite a bit of writing and waiting and writing and waiting while you wrote some more. Years and years of it for most of us. We’re not all patient people when we start but we get better at it perforce.

But it can sometimes feel like nothing much is going on. It can feel a little unreal, like maybe you dreamed that book sale and you will wake up and. . . But then your editor sends you some of the sketches and an enormous envelope with printers proofs arrives. So it’s happening. Not for another year and a half but it is happening.

And then suddenly, there’s quite a bit going on. There’s a cover.

Yep, an actual cover

Yep, an actual cover

This lovely fat envelope of F&Gs arrives. You’ve heard of these. They sound mysterious but they’re just your book, all folded and gathered together, but without the binding. You can pick one up and sit down on the couch and read it to a kid, just like you would a book. It feels pretty real.

Then your sister-in-law calls to say, “How come you didn’t tell me you could order your book already?” Umm, because I didn’t know. But you go out to the HarperCollins website and there it is–a catalog listing. You spend fifteen minutes looking it up on the website of every bookstore in the world and it’s there–every time. And I’m not gonna lie. That feels pretty great.

Creative Commons license Ben Smith via Compfight

Now, somewhere in my files is a list of the ten thousand things I’m supposed to be doing to market this book. . .

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under cover art, waiting

What to Expect When You’re Expecting… A Book

“Your book is getting published! You must be SO excited!” a friend gushes over lunch.

And I am excited. Really excited. And nervous. And apprehensive. And bored. I remember feeling a lot like this about twenty years ago. Right after I found out that I was pregnant.

"It's REALLY happening!"

“It’s REALLY happening!”

I think this whole book publishing event is a lot like being pregnant. At first, you’re over-the-moon elated, but you can’t tell anyone. What if something happens? What if it’s all a dream?

Then when you finally tell people, there’s a lot of celebrating.
“Congratulations!”
“When is it coming out?”
“I can’t wait to see it!”
And the ones you know who are whispering behind your back: “It’s about time! I thought for a while she… couldn’t…”

"It's FINALLY happening for her!"

“It’s FINALLY happening for her!”



You wonder. What will the cover look like? Will kids like it? I hope the reviewers don’t pan it. Or ignore it. Will they see just how special—how precious— it is? Oh, I hope it’s one of the popular ones.

You plan, knowing you can never plan enough. The publication date seems SO far away! Is it too early to start planning the coming-out party? The checklists are endless, but instead of painting the nursery, finding a crib, and buying tiny socks and onesies, your checklists say:
 Call bookstores
 Order bookmarks
 Write press release
 Design temporary tattoos to give out at launch parties.

And you wait. As I recall, there was an awful lot of waiting when I was pregnant. Waiting to feel that first fluttery kick, waiting until that “baby bump” started showing. Waiting in doctors’ offices, for test results, for The Day to finally arrive. And even when The Day arrives, there is still a lot of waiting to be done. I got The Call a year and a half ago, and I still have a trimest…errr… three months to go before delivery. Of my books, I mean.

Not that there hasn’t been the occasional flurry of activity. Like those bursts of energy in pregnancy, the periods of quiet waiting have been suddenly interrupted by an out-of-the-blue email from my editor. Please fill out this survey. Here are some revision notes for you to go through. We need a high-resolution photo for your flap. These emails, like the occasional baby kick, remind me that things are progressing, even though I can’t see them.

Things are happening behind the scenes!

Things are happening behind the scenes!


Soon, I know, The Day will arrive, and I will cradle… HOLD! I mean hold a brand new book in my arms, knowing that the whole experience has been worth the wondering, the effort, and the wait.

It’s truly a labor of love.

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Filed under Advice, Anxiety, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Happiness, Patience, Promotion, Time Management, Uncategorized, waiting, Writing and Life

How Not to Wait

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

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

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

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And waiting is hard.

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

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

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

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Advice, Publishers and Editors, waiting