Tag Archives: author interviews

Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

Today on the blog we welcome fellow EMLA author Pat Zietlow Miller, whose latest picture book, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, was released last week. Pat is one of my picture book heroes–so kind, smart, talented, and incredibly hard working. She writes those rare picture books that have incredible amounts of appeal for both kids and parents. (Exhibit A: I got a copy of this book to review and left it on my kitchen table, and sure enough, by the time I got home from work, all my kids had read it already and wanted more. And I was happy to read it multiple times that night!) She’s also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Kite, Charlotte Zoltow Honor, and Ezra Jack Keats Honor. (She’s amazing, folks.)

Without further ado, here’s what Pat had to say about this beautiful book:


EV: I know you’ve gone into detail about your revision process for this book elsewhere, but are there any other behind-the-scenes stories you can share about this book?

PZM: TheWilma_Rudolph_(1960) research for this book was really fun. Early versions featured double-dutch jump-roping, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos about it. Then, when Wilma Rudolph made an appearance, I watched more videos, read all the biographies I could find plus her autobiography and did a lot of website searching.

My first real job was as a newspaper reporter, and it was kind of like doing that again. I liked gathering all the facts and figuring out how to use them.

EV: You’ve already developed such a beautiful backlist and I know you have more books under contract. What is special about this book that will always make it stand out for you?
PZM: This is the first historical fiction book that I’ve written. It stands out to me because I think Wilma Rudolph’s story is one everyone should know. As I’ve tal631px-Wilma_Rudolphked with other people about the book, I’ve been surprised how many folks don’t know who Wilma Rudolph was. So I’m glad I was able to make it an element of my book.

I did a lot of research as I worked on this book, and learned more about Wilma than I had known before. I was able to put some of that information into an author’s note that I hope readers find as interesting as I do.

Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about the illustrations for THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE is . . .

PZM: The faces of the characters.

Frank Morrison put such a lot of emotion in every look the girls give each other. He tells a whole story just by their expressions. He made Alta and Charmaine real. I adore his work.

EV: Finish this sentence: The perfect reader for this book would be …

PZM: Any kid who has ever dreamed of being the best as something.

EV: As a mom of two tough daughters, one of my favorite things about this book is the strong, confident characters. What do you love most about these girls? And/or who are some of your favorite kidlit/PB characters?

PZM: I like how Alta and Charmaine are confident in their own abilities and don’t downplay their skills to keep the peace. But I also like how they are open enough to change their mind about each other and become friends.

And, oh wow. Favorite picture book characters. Here we go:

  • Olivia the pig for her unshakeable confidence and unbridled imagination.
  • The young Patricia Polacco in stories written by the grown-up Patricia Polacco like THE JUNKYARD WONDERS, THANK YOU MR. FALKER and CHICKEN SUNDAY. Everything she creates is perfect.
  • Henrietta of Mary Amato’s THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY for her willingness to believe the unbelievable and for her ability to eventually turn the tables on her annoying older sisters.
  • The determined narrator of Janice N. Harrington’s THE CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY who never loses sight of her goal.

I’m sensing a chicken theme here, which I did not intend, so I will add Nadine the cow from Jill Esbaum’s I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! Even when Nadine’s bragging gets her into trouble, she rises to the occasion and ends up learning new things about herself.

EV: Since this blog is grounded in the debut author experience, can you give any advice to writers who are still in the pre-publication part of the journey? What has surprised you most and/or what do you wish you’d known?

pzmPZM: I wish I had known – or maybe accepted – that there’s a limit to what you can control. I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and check things off and who clings to the nice-but-untrue illusion that if I work hard enough and plan well enough, I can determine my own destiny.

That’s true to a point. But there’s so much in publishing you can’t control. Like what, you ask? Hmmm. Let’s see. Like:

  • What reviewers write.
  • How well your book sells.
  • How much marketing and publicity support it gets.
  • What else is released at the same time as your book.
  • Whether your editor or agent stays in publishing or pursues other opportunities.

So my advice would be to work your hardest to do your part of the job – the writing – as best you can. Also, make every effort to be professional and conscientious and responsible when you interact with editors and agents. And then, try to let the rest go.

View More: http://morgansladephotography.pass.us/vickersfamily

Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) 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.


Filed under Interviews, Picture books, Uncategorized

A Looney Interview with Author Luke Reynolds

I bought, read and loved Luke Reynolds’ debut book, THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT. Robert Looney reminded me of my high school government teacher, Arnold Brix – brilliant but weird. Or is that “weirdly brilliant”? Whatever! It’s a personality type guaranteed to capture the minds and hearts of adolescents. Naturally, I had some questions for the author. (Writers always do.)

You dedicate your book to Robert Looney (for faith), to John Robinson (for hope) and to your wife Jennifer Reynolds, for love. I understand that Mr. Looney and Mr. Robinson were your teachers. Could you give some more details about Mr. Looney— i.e. when he was your teacher? Did he, too, use offbeat teaching methods? How did he influence you?

These two teachers—Mr. Looney and Mr. Robinson—are two of the most remarkable people I was fortunate to know and learn from. I had Mr. Robert Looney when I was a fifth grade student at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Windsor, Connecticut. The real Mr. Looney had wild hair and endless energy, and the thing I remember most about him was when he stood on a chair during our first class session, held up the dreaded spelling textbook in his hand, and then proceeded to toss it into the trash. My friends and I were enthralled. That year, Mr. Looney led us through his self-titled FLAIR writing program, in which we crafted all kinds of stories, poems, and essays.

During college, when I was learning to be a teacher myself, Mr. John Robinson was my mentor teacher. John spoke about literature and writing with so much energy and love that I thought he would burst. His passion translated to his students and I found the two great passions of my own life: teaching and writing. I still correspond with both my inspiring teachers. The Looney Experiment exists because of their model, their passion, and their core beliefs.

I admire your use of similes! A few examples: Atticus’s teacher’s face “stretches out like she’s about to blow painful bubbles.” When she’s angry at Atticus, who’s afraid to speak in class, for not presenting his report, she looks at him “with eyes like the points of nails.” Shy, self-conscious Atticus pretends “My voice is like thunder.” His discomfort amuses the class bully: “a smirk grows like bacteria across Danny’s face, threatening to take over all the skin that remains.” Do you feel similes are particularly useful in writing for this age group? Why?

Similes feel really natural when I write. It’s the way my brain works. I love similes because I feel like they give layers of character and meaning to my book. I can only hope readers of The Looney Experiment feel similarly!

I rewrote a lot of the metaphors to try and keep them fresh and authentic. I owe MASSIVE gobs of gratitude to my amazing agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. The Looney Experiment went through many drafts and Joan offered incredible counsel and ideas for revision. She gave me expert advice on how to keep the metaphors fresh and vivid. I also thought the character of Atticus Hobart—with his wildly active imagination—would be a huge fan of writing with metaphor as a lens through which he viewed the world!

When Atticus’s imagination takes over, he has inner dialogs with various people and objects (i.e., Robert Frost, his gray baseball tights, a sports commentator, Audrey Higgins) are funny and insightful. Did you start out using this technique?

The book did start with this technique in the first draft—and through all 11 versions, it kept the dialogue of intangible objects or long-dead (or non-existent but created) people would have conversations with Atticus. This was certainly the most FUN part of writing this novel. I kind of just let Atticus do his thing.

LOVE your description of Mr. Looney, who subs when his teacher goes on maternity leave: “. . . his sagging, crinkled skin looks like it’s going to fall right off his face and go sliding down his body until it hits the floor in a big puddle of soggy, soppy, old-person flesh.” Did you imagine this physical description right away? Or did you tinker with it throughout your writing process?

This was one of the original lines of the first draft. I realized that Mr. Looney had to be old—it had to seem to 8th graders that he should be in a nursing home rather than a classroom. When I read this part aloud to people, they half-laughed and half-gagged, and I thought: that’s just about the reaction I am hoping for.

Mr. Looney doesn’t fit into Atticus’s description of the four types of teachers. (I taught middle school for a year and they rang true for me.) Please summarize those four types for those who haven’t yet read your book. Which type best describes you?

Sure! The four types that Atticus describes are: 1) the Non-nonsense teacher (tough and could pummel your heart with a pinky). 2) The “Everything is Magical Teacher” who begins with a glow of positivity but rapidly descends into chaotic attempts to take back control because everyone is going ABSOLUTELY CRAZY! 3) The nice teacher who also is stern and whose class is pretty interesting. 4) The “I don’t give a darn about you” teacher. I  hope I am in the category of the third teacher with a mix of Mr. Looney’s zaniness thrown in, but my students could answer that question much better than I can!

Atticus is also dealing with his critical and distant father moving out. As he mulls over what he, his mom, and his brother might have done to cause his dad to leave, he wonders: “I can’t figure out what’s worse: having a crappy dad who doesn’t really like you much or not having a dad at all.” This is just pitch perfect! Have you had your own students talk with you when their parents separated or divorced?

 This is a huge issue for many of my students, and many do want to write and talk about it. For whatever reason, middle school seems like a time when parents choose to separate, so these students are grappling with intense and confusing emotions. I am in a public school system, so I can’t give these students a big hug and tell them that everything is going to be okay. We don’t always know how, but it will. And I remind them that it’s always good to talk things through with people they trust, to journal about it, to ask for help. The truly courageous always ask for help.

Mr Looney tells the class the one thing he’s learned in 47 years of teaching is: “We are most afraid of ourselves.” How did you as a writer come up with this?

I think this came right up out of my own heart. When I look at the situations I’ve been in throughout my life.  I think I am most afraid of myself. Deep down, it’s not all the outward stuff and obstacles—it’s the inner stuff. I love what William Faulkner said about this in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “The young man or woman writing today has forgotten about the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

Mr. Looney defines courage this way: “Courage is the ability to keep going no matter how hard life feels. How did you come up with such a simple, eloquent definition?

I used to admire protagonists who performed amazing acts of heroism. I thought they had the market cornered when it came to courage. But when I became a teacher, my views began to change (and that notion was positively crushed when I became a dad). I saw the students had courage when they faced really tough obstacles at home, but kept trying.  And when, for a few years, I was a stay-at-home father in England, I saw that there was certainly no glory in that enterprise. There was no fanfare for a diaper well-changed or a tantrum skirted. I thought of those who fight unsung battles everyday (far tougher than mine), and began to see courage as the choice to keep moving forward when everything within and around you just wants to stop.

Mr. Looney’s only formal assignment is that the class read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus loves the book and is thrilled to learn his mother named him after Atticus Finch. What part did Harper Lee’s book play in the development of your debut novel?

Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird epitomized quiet courage. He makes the right choice and he keeps moving forward even though everyone thinks he’s doing something crazy—looney—and pointless. I loved that idea—the notion that courage can be doing anything that others say doesn’t make sense, but you know deep down it does. For Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, the stakes are pretty high. So I wanted to change the stakes and show how the same kind of courage is evidenced when, like my character Atticus Hobart, we keep moving forward—with whatever hope we can muster—in our own small worlds and in our own lives.


Filed under Book Launch, Book Promotion

ARCs! A guest post by Mary Lindsey

Today we welcome Mary Lindsey, author of the upcoming debut novel Shattered Souls to EMU’s Debuts, to talk about receiving Advance Review Copies (ARCs) and putting them to good use.  Take it away, Mary:

Being a client of EMLA with a 2011 debut, I was thrilled when asked to join the fun here, on EMU’s Debuts, with a guest post on galleys.

ARC, Galley, ARE (Advanced Reader Edition). If you are an aspiring author, you’ve seen these terms all over the internet. They are the paperback copies of the book distributed for promotion prior to its final print run.

As a debut writer, I dreamed of the day I’d get to hold my bound book for the first time. That day came, and it was amazing. During a Valentine’s dinner with my family, a box with copies of my ARCs arrived, and, after much celebration, I laid them out on my coffee table and took a picture.

Then the reality hit. I couldn’t just give these things away to my favorite people, because I wasn’t going to be getting ARC shipments every day–in fact, I may never get another one. I had to make wise choices.

What had never crossed my mind pre-sale, is how little control authors have over some aspects of the industry, like ARC distribution and how many an author receives, for example. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to demystify the system for aspiring writers. I don’t have a book review blog and had never requested an ARC, so this has all been very educational. Sure, I’d asked my published friends about it, but every experience is different.

What I’ve learned about ARCs:

  1. ARCs are marketing tools, not freebies. Ideally, every one of them will generate multiple sales (in some cases hundreds of sales).
  2. Most authors receive very few ARCs (some authors get only one or two) as they are primarily intended for bookbuyers, reviewers, and librarians.
  3. ARCs are expensive. They often cost much more to produce than the hardcopy book itself, due to the smaller print runs, which is why publishers don’t distribute them willy-nilly.

Here’s what surprised me the most once they came in:

Loads of folks I knew and even people I didn’t know requested one. Really. I was not expecting this at all. I received hundreds of emails requesting everything from a copy for review to a free book because “my mom won’t let me buy books.”

I received several emails requesting an ARC because “7 months is too long to wait to read it.” Yeah, well, that is lovely and flattering, but I can’t wait either, darn it.

Most requests have been super polite and have included links to review blogs and stats, but it’s clear from the volume of requests for a “free book” for non-promotional purposes, that lots of folks don’t understand the purpose of the ARC.

Because “no” is one of my least favorite words, I put the contact information for the person at my publisher who is in charge of my ARC distribution for online reviews in a prominent place on my website and blogs. I also have a standard response to ARC requests that refers them to her, rather than leave the decision to me. That way, she can say no, or hopefully, yes, and take the burden off of me. I cleared this with her first, of course, and it made my life much simpler and allows me to play the good guy.

My publisher has been generous and has provided me with enough copies of my book to fuel a sizable blog tour when my release gets closer, as well as several copies for giveaway contests, but I’m still very careful about their placement. In today’s market, the buzz from those few ARCs might be the some of the most valuable publicity my book will get.

Happy writing!

Mary Lindsey’s debut novel, SHATTERED SOULS, is scheduled for release December 8, 2011 from Philomel/Penguin.

Having received a B.A. in English literature with a minor in drama from the University of Houston, she currently teaches acting to children and teens at a private studio in Houston, Texas.

Mary lives with her husband, three kids, two dogs, her daughter’s pet rats, an Australian Bearded Dragon, and dozens of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

More about Mary and her books can be found on her website: http://www.marylindsey.com


Filed under Guest Posts, Social Media, Writing

Stages of Taking Criticism and How to Deal By Erin E. Moulton

It’s my pleasure to jump on board EMU’s Debuts today to talk you through the process of reading a critical review of your work.  Whether it’s a random person in the blogosphere, a few low star reviews on goodreads, or a nice old roast by one of the acclaimed literary reviewers, never fear, this is a fail proof system that will teach you how to deal. All complete with the easy to remember acronym SRORRA.

1)    The first stage you’re going to experience is SHAME.  Especially in the well connected world of the internet, as soon as you see your name attached to a critical review, you might just feel your temperature rise.  Bad thoughts are going to start rushing through your mind, and you’ll hurry to the mirror to see if you have BAD REVIEW written across your forehead. Rest assured, you don’t. You don’t have to. In the age of the internet that reviews going to crop up whenever someone googles your name, so it’s about ten times worse than the Scarlet Letter situation.  It’s best to move straight on to stage 2 which is one of my favorites.

2)    RAGE: Once you’ve realized that there’s no hiding it, you get a little defensive, and let’s face it, possibly a little ticked off?  The best thing to do is to lower your adrenalin.  Here’s some healthy ways to do so: Drive really really fast into oncoming traffic, scream into a pillow, smash a few bottles in the road, go for a run, get all your guns and cut down that Oak tree you’ve been meaning to get to in the back yard, punch your hand through a wall a punching bag. These tips should help you decompress so you can move on to the next stage with a clear head.

3)    OBSESSION: The thing about the bad review is that it only has to be one.  One with just a few little remarks about “unbelievability” or “forced symbolism” to plant a seed that can grow into a birch tree. Don’t be surprised if you spend the next several hours googling your name, rehashing and analyzing reviews that were seemingly, at least the last time you read them, in favor of your book.  Don’t be surprised if you start seeing criticisms where there weren’t any before.  She said “one thing you’ll know when you get to the end(of Erin E. Moulton’s Debut Novel, Flutter) is that Maple is a miracle, too.” ONE THING?  ONE? Is that the only thing you’ll know?  Is the rest that unclear? 

Don’t worry. This is totally normal.  The best way to assuage this behavior is to go to the fridge and find the drink or snack with the highest calorie content, whether it’s a Guiness or a carton of buttermilk.  Take it to a dark room and stew for a while.  Your hubby or partner may pop in at this time, noticing you’re not quite right.  The best thing to do is tell them that you’re fine.  They’ll say, “you don’t look fine.” They’re so insensitive.  Don’t they understand that writing is a sedentary profession, and yeah maybe you’ve gained a few pounds but couldn’t they get off your back for a minute and just let you be? They don’t understand you at all right now, so just chuck the empty carton of buttermilk, resume fetal position, and pass out.

4)    Stage four is REACHING OUT: Once you wake up from a glorious slumber, you’ll be feeling more lively, ready to build up your own army support system.  You’ll call all your friends that know the right things to say. In case you don’t have friends that know the right things to say, I have created a handy list for this purpose. You can email this list to your friends then call.

a.     I didn’t find your story the least bit unbelievable, honey.

b.     Have I not taught you anything?  Please repeat after me. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. People are idiots.

c.     Everyone’s a critic

d.     These people don’t know what they’re god damned talking about!

e.     You’re a great writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

f.      Who said that?  You want me to get em?  You want me to smash out their headlights?

g.     People are idiots

h.     It’s just one opinion, darling.

i.      You gonna cry about it? Are you?  You’re gonna cry about it.

j.      Dude, it’s just like in Pirates of the Caribbean. Remember? The guy in town says, “Captain Jack Sparrow?  I heard you were the worst pirate that ever lived.” And Johnny Depp says, “Ah, but you have heard of me.”

5)    Stage five is RALLYING: Buoyed by your friends and family’s enthusiasm (and the Pirates of the Caribbean), you’re going to give yourself the biggest and best pep talk you’ve ever gotten. For this purpose you’ll need a variety of costuming or make-up options.  Because, let’s face it, you’re a writer and you’re a little bit dramatic. You could go all Braveheart with the blue war paint, or you could go with a button up and tie like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, yelling “carpe diem” into the bathroom mirror, or, my personal favorite: pop on a leather jacket, give yourself a little shiner, let one side of your face go slack (if you can) and repeat after me:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s a Rocky Balboa quote.  Be sure to get the hand gestures right for emphasis. And even though you’re a writer, I stress, do not to fix the grammatical errors.  It kills it.

6)    The final stage is ACCEPTANCE.  As you’re looking in the mirror wondering what the hell that gym locker smell is, well, it’s not because your inspirational speech was so good it brought Rocky to life.  The smell is you.  The pity party is over.  Dust yourself off, go take a shower, and keep on writing, because, “It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit (in the soul), and keep moving forward.”  Hey, you can load your face up with Vasoline so the punches slide off easier.  Whatever gets you back at that computer. Sure, the neighbors might talk, but they probably do anyway, so what the hell?

Erin E. Moulton is the debut author of FLUTTER: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey (Philomel/Penguin), due out on May 12th!  Her second novel Lanternlight Dreamers  is due out in 2012.

When she isn’t writing, Erin works as the Northeast Area Director of Springboard After School. You can visit her on the web at www.erinemoulton.com or on facebook as Erin E. Moulton (Author)

Special offer from EMU’s Debuts: Reply to this and enter a drawing for a free, signed copy of FLUTTER!


Filed under Editing and Revising, Guest Posts, rejection and success, Reviews

Trent Reedy Is Here

Guest Week is in full swing!  Today we’d like to welcome Trent Reedy, whose debut novel Words in the Dust (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) has been racking up acclaim in the short time it’s been out.

“Infused with poetry, and wrought with hardship, the story gives a bleak, but ultimately hopeful, portrayal of girlhood in Afghanistan. It is full of hard truths, painful lessons, beautiful human interaction, and the promise of possibility.” — School Library Journal

Words in the Dust follows Zulaikha, an Afghan girl born with a cleft palate whose whole world changes when American soldiers come to her village.  New challenges.  New hopes.  New decisions to make – all of which come at a price.

We are thrilled that Trent, a recent debut himself, has stopped by to share what inspired him to start writing, what about the debut process was the most surprising and where he finds himself now.


Learning as I Go
by Trent Reedy

When in the sixth grade I first told my mother that I wanted to someday be a writer, I received the first of that particular sort of response that I was to encounter for years, almost without exception, whenever I told anyone about my dream.

It always happened about the same way.  Someone would ask, “What do you want to do with your life?”

“I want to write books,” I’d tell her.

Immediately she would put on a forced smile.  “Oh.  Well…you can do anything you want to do,” she’d say in a tone usually reserved for very small children who say they want to be a giraffe or President of the United States.  She would then proceed in one of two ways.  Either she’d inform me that it is very difficult to get a book published or she’d launch right into other careers that I might want to try, the implication being that I should try them because writing would prove impossible.

I don’t blame my mother or the others for their skepticism.  In fact, I am grateful for their more practical concerns for my pre-publication livelihood.  Their doubts encouraged me to strive for a more realistic idea of what it means to be a writer.  They motivated me to polish and polish that manuscript.  They helped me be better prepared for years of hard work and rejection.  When the long-awaited call finally came with an offer from Arthur A. Levine Books to publish my first novel, Words in the Dust, the joy and wonder was even better than I had always dreamed about.

What I was not prepared for, what I had not expected, what I had not read about in all my long studies was the sheer volume of work that came after the carefully crafted and well revised manuscript had been accepted for publication.  I knew that I would have to do some revisions for my editor, Cheryl Klein, and for copy editors, but I simply had no clue about the magnitude of these revisions.

First came Cheryl’s massive editorial letter, followed by the manuscript with what seemed like a hundred thousand little colored comment balloons in track changes on Microsoft Word.  And that was only the first round!  Several more full on screen revisions followed.  Eventually, I even worked on a thick paper manuscript packed with hundreds of post-it notes and marks in colored pencil.  This was all done in addition to the extensive revisions needed in order to accurately portray the Afghan wedding in the novel.

It helped that Words in the Dust is a very important story to me, sort of the last mission from my one-year tour in the war in Afghanistan.  I was also motivated because writing is my favorite thing to do.  Nevertheless I was amazed at how little I was prepared for working on a novel under contract.  I was surprised again and again throughout the entire process.

Now, with Words in the Dust on store shelves for a little over two months, I’m once again ambushed by my own ignorance.  My naïve pre-publication self assumed that a writer simply went to work at his computer every day, writing his future novels while he occasionally checked up on his existing novel’s sales.  I thought there would be plenty of time for writing after my novel was released.

Instead, I have found myself scrambling to once again adapt to a reality that is very different from what I expected.  Now, in addition to writing what I hope will be my second novel, I am also very busy with a number of different publicity activities.  I have been blessed with the opportunity give a few newspaper, video, and radio interviews.  I’ve had the chance to speak at a school and to different groups of people who are interested in children’s literature.  I write guest posts for blogs.

It all makes for a surprisingly busy schedule, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m astoundingly grateful to all of my readers, to those who have helped spread the news about Words in the Dust, and to those who have helped make the realization of my dream possible.  I’m a writer, just like I’ve always wanted to be, even if I didn’t always know what it would really be like to be a writer.


Filed under Guest Posts

Welcoming Penny Blubaugh, BLOOD AND FLOWERS (and the idea of Rejection Cupcakes)

Today we are welcoming our first-ever guest, PENNY BLUBAUGH, author of Blood and Flowers (Harper Teen), which was released March 1. We are also GIVING AWAY a signed copy of Blood and Flowers to one lucky winner. To find out how to qualify for a chance to win, keep reading to the end!

Kirkus Reviews says of Blood and Flowers, “..atmospheric language, arresting “culture mash-up,” unique characters, an alluring overlap of fantasy and reality, and strong themes of family and friendship create a provocative read.”

I would have to agree. My copy arrived in the mail just a day before writing this post, and I had trouble putting it down long enough to pull this interview together!

Blood and Flowers, the story of an underground theater troop that flees into the world of Faeries when a vindictive enemy levels false accusations against them, is not Penny Blubaugh’s first book. Her debut novel, Serendipity Market (Harper Teen) appeared in Spring 2009. While Blood and Flowers is edgy urban fantasy, Serendipity Market is the gentle tale of a gathering of story tellers whose stories and the magic within them sets the world’s spin into balance.

Penny joins us this week to talk about aspects of the writing life after the first book, and how the second book is different.

Welcome, Penny! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer.

In addition to being a writer, I’m also a YA librarian, and co-founder and co-organizer of LitWorks, one huge teen literature festival, now in its third year.  I have an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College of Fine Arts where I worked with Ron Koertge (who I still go to for advice) and Chris Lynch, among others.  (Best schooling ever!!)

I write YA fantasy because I love YA literature and the kids who read it.  I was probably set on the fantasy track the first time I read A Wrinkle In Time when I was 10 or 12.

I hope that when readers read my books they get a sense of magic – that it’s out there and that you just have to be in the right place at the right time to find it.  (Caveat:  Please remember that sometimes that magic may not be the magic you were hoping for).  And I hope they have fun.

When we started our blog a few months ago, we told our stories of “Getting the Call” on our debut novels. What was it like getting the call for you the first time, and was it just as exciting the second time around?

Serendipity Market By Penny BlubaughActually, the second time might have been more exciting.  HarperCollins had had Serendipity Market, my first book for a long, long time – I think it was about two years.  I’d been working on it with them before I had Erin Murphy as my agent.  They’d talked about the possibility of publishing for quite a while – it was almost anti-climatic when it actually sold (which happened about two weeks after I signed with Erin.)

For Blood and Flowers, though – that was the one that, when Erin called, my first response was, “I beg your pardon?” (One should always be polite to one’s agent.)  “What did you just say?”

How was the process of writing your second novel different from your first novel?

I don’t think I changed much about my writing process.  I tend to be rather linear.  I start with an idea, I have another idea about where I want to end up, and I just sort of wander in that direction.  https://i0.wp.com/img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/7/36032.jpgWith Serendipity Market it was slightly different because each story was dropped a frame story, but each story, on its own was still very linear.  Blood and Flowers was a straight shot to the end, and then gallons of editing.

What about the publishing process? Was it different the second time around?

I knew more the second time around.  That meant that all those things (Ooh!  Copyedits!) that were so thrilling and “authorly” were more commonplace and therefore a little less thrilling.  I stressed about a whole new set of problems like publication dates, reviews, and quick turn-arounds simply because I now had expectations.  Those were expectations both for myself and for everyone else involved with the book.  I’d done it once and I thought I knew how it should work.  And it did work that way overall, but of course it was completely different, as well.  I think I was more nervous with Blood and Flowers and probably more paranoid!

What words of wisdom would you have for a writer just “Getting the Call” for the first time?

It’s so exciting.  It feels like everything you’ve been working toward for so long.  And it is, in its way.  So celebrate!  Celebrate every little thing about your writing life that you can find to celebrate.  There’s a lot about this process that can bring you down, so enjoy when you can.  I just indulged in rejection cupcakes!

https://i1.wp.com/ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com/files/2007/07/cupcakes.jpgMmmm. Rejection cupcakes. Next time I get a rejection letter, I’m coming to your house, Penny.  But other than cupcakes, what would you say is the most satisfying part of being an author for you?

I love it when the writing flows, when you read something you’ve written and say, “Wow!  That sounds really good!”  And I love when I find out something about my characters that I didn’t know.  Holding that published book in my hand is pretty high up on the list, too.

Thanks for taking time to talk to us today, Penny, and good luck to you and to Blood and Flowers!

And speaking of GOOD LUCK, and Blood and Flowers, Penny Blubaugh has graciously supplied one signed copy to be given to a lucky reader this week. After much discussion among all of us here at EMU’s Debuts, we have decided the best use of this give-away is to create SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION (Shameless on our part, Penny had nothing to do with the plan, but Blood and Flowers deserves the buzz!)

So here’s how it works: to be entered in the drawing, post/send a link to this interview through Facebook, your own blog, or Twitter. Let us know in the comments where the post is and you will be entered to win, once for each place you announce it (up to three per person if you blog, and tweet, and post to Facebook!)  Shameless, we know. But trust us, Penny’s new book is totally worth it!  Winner will be announced next Monday, March 14.


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