Tag Archives: Erin Murphy

Going with the Flow

I’m going to steal borrow Hayley’s wonderful idea and start my introduction with an embarrassing confession too. Mine is: I love flowcharts. I love knowing where I am and what I have to do to get to where I want to go. Those little arrows pointing the way to the next step always give me a little thrill. You’re probably wondering, “Control freak much?” To which I reply, “Does it show?”

 

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When I received an email in December 2014 from an editor at Albert Whitman that thanked me for submitting my picture book manuscript, THE NIAN MONSTER, and asked if it was still available, I was stunned. I had submitted to the general address eighteen months prior and assumed that I’d been rejected (in the vein of “no response means it’s a no.”) I didn’t have a diagram for what to do in this situation. What was the next step? I was fairly certain that I should reply, but what should I say, short of begging her to buy my book? In my mind, I had taken the path from “Write a Book” to “Get Professional Critiques” to “Revise Manuscript” (a loop I repeated for a long time), with occasional forays to “Submit to Editors.” At the decision diamond that asked, “Submit to Agents?” I had followed the “No” arrow. At the time, I’d believed that a rejection from an agent was final and I didn’t want to “use up” my chances until I’d also completed my MG novel. Now here I was, agentless and stuck at the rectangle that said, “Get Plucked out of Slush Pile after 18 Months.”

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Once I stopped hyperventilating, I sought advice on what my next step should be. I contacted friends, critique partners, my MFA mentors, anyone who had more of a clue than I did. They were evenly divided on whether I should try to sign with an agent or not. An agent wasn’t necessary for a first picture book, several said. Others thought having editor interest was an excellent opportunity to land an agent. I had ended up back at the “Submit to Agents?” decision and both “Yes” and “No” options carried equal weight.

At the same time, I replied to Kristin Zelazko, the editor who had emailed me. “Yes, it’s available,” I wrote. “Thanks for your interest.” I groaned as soon as I hit send. After two days of religiously following the “Should I Check My Email?” flowchart, I wrote a longer, babbling email to Kristin. It was as equally cringe-worthy as the first, terse email. I was clearly out of my depth. Having an agent now felt essential. I followed the “Yes” arrow and sent out queries to half a dozen agents, including Erin Murphy, to whom a dear friend had referred me. In the month that followed, Erin offered me representation and negotiated the offer from Kristin. I was so overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude, and disbelief that I stayed on the “Gesticulate Wildly” step for a long time.

howdoiexcited

In THE NIAN MONSTER, a clever girl named Xingling tries to outwit the ravenous Nian monster with her culinary savvy. She doesn’t have a flowchart to follow and yet she perseveres. I didn’t follow the traditional path to publication – I got “the call” when I was least expecting it and before I had an agent. And yet, everything worked out, better than I could have hoped. Although I know that this is not the end of my chart – that there is a long arrow winding its way from the “Book Launch!” step all the way back up to “Write a (New) Book” – and I’ll probably still send lots of cringe-worthy emails, next time I’ll put aside the flowcharts more often and just go with the flow.


 

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 on December 1, 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 becoming a writer, 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 Anxiety, Dreams Come True, Introduction, Panic, Picture books, Thankfulness, The Call

The Day Everything Changed

We all know selling a debut novel is not a life changing event from a financial standpoint, but I’ve found it changed my life in ways I wasn’t exactly expecting. My “day” was actually several days separated by about five months. The first was in December 2014 – the day the fabulous Erin Murphy said yes! A little back story – over the course of 2009 and 2010 everyone at EMLA had rejected my manuscript! It was rejected in the nicest way by Erin, then Ammi-Joan, then Tricia, all with encouraging words, but rejected none the less. I was sad, but not bitter. Over the next several years at conferences, I met all three of these wonderful people and remained a huge fan of the agency.

In the summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to win one of the SCBWI Work in Progress grants for my historic novel KEY TO HEAVEN and I felt it was the time to up my agent search. One hiccup was that at a conference the previous year I’d had a great conversation with Erin about a story percolating in my head and she gave me some great ideas. It felt a little odd to be taking this story to another agent without giving her a heads up. When I sent that heads up, Erin decided she’d better take one more look at the manuscript she’d passed on. My many revisions must have paid off, because after several conversations back and forth, Erin offered me representation – December 15th, 2014!

So this was the beginning of the sea change for me. I’d been working on this book for over 10 years and as much as your family can love it and your friends tell you it will get published, 10 years is a long time to wait. For Erin, who makes her business selling stories, to value my story enough to champion it was truly important. Even though I’d been writing pretty seriously for a decade, this made me feel legitimate in a way I had not the day before.

Even with the flurry of holidays, Erin was able to have conversations with a number of editors who expressed interest. With fingers and toes tightly crossed, my baby went out to ten editors in early February. By the end of April we had only two no’s and serious interest from Sally Doherty at Henry Holt – by the first week in May she had scheduled an acquisition meeting. Did I mention I’d been writing for a decade? I knew the statistics on acquisitions and had seen many a friend come away with disappointing news from acquisition meetings. Still, butterflies took up permanent residence in my solar plexus.

May 6th was busy at my day job (an environmental planner) and I was working full tilt, but obviously part of my brain was in New York. I’m on the west coast and when 3:00 came along and I’d not heard (6:00 in New York – surely even busy editors  have finished meetings for the day) I decided I’d wait until 3:30 and if I’d not heard I’d call Tara, Erin’s assistant. I tried to focus on the deadlines I had that day. At 3:16 my phone flashed Arizona. I think I swiped before the ring ended. All Erin had to say was “We have a deal.” Much squealing ensued.

Then came several heady days where two other editors requested more time to decide if they wanted to make offers (Yee-gads), but by the end of the week, we had a decision. KEY would be published in “early” 2017 by Henry Holt. Sally Doherty’s excitement about bringing my story to the world was clear and I was over the moon. Over these few days there were hugs and clinking glasses and much celebration (my friends and family are awesome in the true meaning of that overused word), but as the dust settled, I kept thinking of something one of my dear writing friends said in these days. I’d said, “It’s unbelievable.” And she said, “No, it’s not unbelievable, it’s unexpected and wonderful, but you worked so hard and stuck with it, it’s not unbelievable at all.” And I guess that’s what brought this change into focus for me – I realized somewhere in my gut I’d always believed this was a story that I needed to bring into the world and over the decade I’d come to believe (again deep and often hidden in my heart) that it would happen, even though there were times when the many “almosts” made it hard. To have that belief in myself and my story born out means the world to me and means nothing is quite as it was. Am I still squealing? Of course I am, but I’m also working on my next story!

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Darcey Rosenblatt is a farmer of stories – most live in that special place that dances between middle grade and YA. Her debut novel will be published by Henry Holt/MacMillan in early 2017. KEY TO HEAVEN, an historic fiction, tells the story of 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 almost grown daughter, some fish, a cat and the best dog in the world. By day she is an environmental planner and when time permits she paints and costumes for a 5-8 year old theater.

Find her on Facebook or Twitter

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Celebrating Bunnies!!! with Agent Extraordinaire Erin Murphy

It’s been an exciting week celebrating Kevan Atteberry’s BUNNIES!!! thus far. And to keep the party going, we welcome Kevan’s stupendously wise, warm, and talented agent Erin Murphy to join in and share some insider info on Kevan, the book, and hypothetical movie roles…

Let’s hop to it!

LR: How did you and Kevan first come to know each other and start working together?

EM: I heard through the grapevine (aka Joan) that Kevan, whose work I admired and personality I adored on Facebook, was seeking an agent, and it just so happened that I was about to be in Seattle, where he lives, for an ALA convention. We managed to meet up one morning for coffee to chat. It unfolded from there. (Thanks, Joan!)

LR: What about BUNNIES!!! made you think that it needed to be out in the world as a real, live BOOK?

EM: What DIDN’T is a better question, the answer to which is: NOTHING.

When I sign a new client there is often one manuscript that is so clearly the right one to lead with as we go out on submission. Others need development or discussion or wrapping my head around, or feel like better follow-ups. With BUNNIES!!! it was just so obvious that I would send it and it would sell pretty quickly.

LR: Are there any fun details associated with the submission process that BUNNIES!!! underwent and the eventual deal that was reached on its behalf?

EM: There was one editor who really wanted it, but had something too similar on the list already. His impression on the phone of a parent reading the book aloud to a child was absolutely hilarious and adorable.

LR: Can you spill the beans about any fun, little-known quick of our kindly Kevan Atteberry?

EM: He sends FABULOUS mail–envelopes with art on it that I have to keep it’s so good. And it’s always interesting to see how he’s going to sign an email, like, “Kevanticipation.”

LR: If BUNNIES!!! was going to be made into a motion picture, and you were the director, who would you want to cast as the love-seeking monster?

EM: Wow, fabulous question, and my first reaction was, “There’s no good way to answer that,” followed very quickly by “Jack Black,” so we’ll go with that.
Declan?

Declan?

LR: What jumps to mind first as a fill-in when you read this line: “If BUNNIES!!! the book made me want to dance, I would do the…”

EM: Bunny Hop, obviously!

LR: What do you love most about the book?

EM: It expresses such a universal need–to love and be loved–in such an incredibly simple, childlike way.

Thanks for joining us, Erin, to talk about Kevan’s positively perspicacious and beautiful book, BUNNIES!!! And ye wise, lovely readers: remember that two signed copies of this gem of a book are free this week–just leave a comment on any of the posts from the week to be entered into the drawing.

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Debut Out

sound of music

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.*
                                                             -Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers

Dearest Emu’s and beyond…

When Adi “Appleblossom Catbiscuits” Rule contacted me about joining Emu’s Debuts shortly after I had my first book contract as an EMLA client (Sigh. Faint. Swoon.), I was thrilled (Yay! A new tribe of writers) and overwhelmed (What? A whole new listserv? A whole new onslaught of communication? On top of revisions and copy edits and promotion and, and, and…Oy!). Yeah… at times, it was a lot (Singing opera to my computer?!?!) but joining you mob of birds was one of the best things I ever did.

Now it’s time to leave.

Damnit. I don’t want to leave. I didn’t think I would have to except well, really, after your debut has debuted, you have stepped into a new reality. Simply, you are no longer preparing for the debut, you are promoting that book and writing the next one. It’s time to go.

Before I do, a couple of thoughts:

I went to lunch with a friend of mine recently. He was recounting how much the music business has changed. “It used to be that labels would sign artists with the idea that those artists develop their craft over time and the labels would be there to support them. Now artists are signed and if their product isn’t a hit, well, you know the story.”

I could see the similarities with our business. Many editors have become agents because they want to be in the business of helping a writer grow their career. Publishing is changing and no one really knows how or where it will go. It’s crazy making but it’s going to be okay. Writers, like musicians, have a community. We stick together. We help each other. We cheer and support and tell one another it’s going to be okay. Because it will. No matter what happens. This crazy world will always want storytellers. Whether we publish traditionally or paint on walls or self publish or drip blood from our veins. The world wants stories because stories lift us out of our lives. They make us laugh and cry and think and sigh. They make our lives better.community

So everyday, think about your community: other writers, readers, editors, agents and do what you can to weave us together. Gratitude, praise, cheering, thoughtful comments. (That’s how I will stay connected to you birds now.) It all matters. Because no matter how fast this world moves or how much the sands of publishing shift beneath us, we are storytellers, weavers of words and worlds and we are responsible for how our community grows.

Which leads me to my next bit of wisdom. It’s not really mine. It comes from my agent Erin Murphy. A year ago, I was totally stressing about promotion: How do I do it? Should I hire someone to help me? What do I do first, second, third? She said: “Write the next book.” What? But. But. But. Aren’t I supposed to…?

write bookWrite the next book. If your readers like your book, they will want to read the next one. Your publisher wants you to write the next book because it will sell the first one. You need to write the next book and the one after that because that’s who you are now: an author. A published storyteller. A world builder. Write the next book and the one after that so you can keep growing.

What about promotion you wonder? Well, it’s definitely a job you have now because you have this book and you do want to do things to get it in the hands of readers and generate interest. But it’s a balancing act. Here’s what I do: I respond to everything that comes in. Awards. Speaking engagements. School visits. But I’m careful about how much I have to go out and generate. You don’t want to spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources (i.e. your writing capital) promoting. For instance, If you’ve been invited to a book festival in a city, great. Go. Then spend some energy putting together a school visit in that city. Make it make sense. But if the promotion is taking too much time away from writing, then you are out of balance.

Yeah, so that’s it. I’ve cleared off my desk. I’m out the debut door. But I’m right down the hallway. In a room with a whole bunch of other authors. I’m saving you a spot.

XO,

L2

*A word about song lyrics. Trying to get the rights to use them in your novels is soul-sucking process. Avoid it at all cost: http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2013/03/so-you-want-to-use-song-lyrics-in-your.html

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Filed under Farewell, Thankfulness

Evidence for Connection

In one of his lectures on the craft of writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the great Tim Wynne Jones said that the only place for a coincidence in a story is at the very beginning.  Random events, coincidences—fate—can set a story into motion. But to bring in a coincidence to resolve the unruly details of a complex plot is a cheap trick. That is unless a book’s theme is built around over the top coincidence as in Uma Krishnaswami’s brilliant The Grand Plan to Fix Everything. By chance, or was it design, Lindsey Lane, was in the room listening that day. In her fantastic debut, Evidence of Things not Seen, Lindsey finds a novel way to use coincidence, fate, and random connection: as the premise of a novel, in which a chance event connects a series of lives that might not otherwise be intertwined.

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane

To celebrate the role of fate and coincidence, we’ve gathered up coincidences that have shaped our books and our lives. Where books start and life begins is not always clear as this coincidence story from Megan Morrison demonstrates:

A long time ago, I co-founded a Harry Potter web site. After a few years of running the site, I became less involved and rarely posted anymore – until one day, when I saw a post written by someone whose username I’d never noticed before. The post was snarky and hilarious; it was something I’d been dying to say, but as a founder of the site, I felt that my saying it would be inappropriate. Still, it was so satisfying to see someone else give voice to my schadenfreude that I privately messaged a thank-you note to the snarky stranger – something I had never done before. Now, the internet is a big place… but what do you know? It turned out that the snarky stranger lived just a few subway stops away from me, in Brooklyn. So we met up for a drink on July 30th (Neville Longbottom’s birthday, for you HP nerds). Nine happy years and one son later, I’m pretty glad that I randomly replied to that post!

Donna Bowman Bratton also found her partner though literacy and coincidence:

I once replied to a two week old casting call for a mystery fundraiser to benefit our local Literacy Council. There was to be a play. On a stage. Now, I’m sure my parents considered me a drama queen, but I had never been in theatre. Yet here I was, in my twenties, answering this ad. What the heck was I thinking? Lo and behold, all parts were cast, except one, the director explained by phone.
      “You wouldn’t happen to be in your twenties,” she asked. “And, by any wild chance, do you have long blonde hair?”
      “Um, yeah,” I stammered, In the most theatrical voice I could muster.
I showed up for rehearsal and learned that my character, Lotta, was to be murdered, strangled, by her “husband” over a winning lottery ticket. Between rehearsals and performances, I died at least thirteen times, falling to the floor with a flourish. And, each time, my gentlemanly “husband” ensured that my skirt didn’t billow up to reveal too much of, um, me. That last part is what got me.
        A few years later, I married my murderer. Yep, falling in love was murder.
Fast forward a few years and we had all but given up hope of having a baby. Until one very memorable day when, in an hugely unexpected way, I discovered I was pregnant. It was Valentine’s Day!

Friends matter every bit as much as partners. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman believes that fate brought one of her best friends into her life:

I’m never quite certain about the difference between coincidence and fate, but I suppose I could chalk one of my best friendships up to coincidence. Katherine and I knew each other peripherally as undergrads. Then, by chance, we attended the same small MFA Creative Writing program—so small, she and I made up 25% of our class! I initially worried that we wouldn’t get along. I am quiet, introverted, and not comfortable with all eyes on me. Katherine is vivacious, talkative, and not self-conscious about being loud. I didn’t think we had much in common, which is hilarious to me now, given how much it turns out we actually do have in common. We both double majored in English and Dance. We’re both from northern California. We both have brothers. We’re both crafty. We have a similar sense of humor. We have both spent a lot of time working with kids. Of course we both love to read and write. We both have a lifelong love of children’s literature. Our MFA program was challenging in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and I don’t know if I would have hung in there that first year without Katherine’s friendship. And that was just the beginning of one of the most enduring and meaningful friendships of my life. Now that’s a coincidence to be grateful for.

Coincidences give us faith. They are signs that we are on the right path as Tamara Ellis Smith found with marbles:

So I signed with my agent, Erin Murphy, primarily for the middle grade novel that became my debut, Another Kind of Hurricane. At the time it was called Marble Boys, because a big part of the story is that one of the main characters, Henry, has a lucky magic marble that he trades back and forth with his best friend…and then loses…and goes on an adventure to find. Shortly after we began working together Erin sent me an email that went something like this: “You’ll never guess what happened! I was digging in a new garden plot, and guess what I found way down deep in the dirt? A marble! A magic marble! A sign!”

Since then, this has happened a few more times with kids in my neighborhood. They have found marbles in their gardens too! I don’t know, but I’m thinking magic marbles grow, like sunflowers or irises…

Laurie Ann Thompson shares how coincidence brought her book to life!

Many coincidences resulted in my third book, My Dog Is the Best, coming next June. After workshopping it for a couple of years, I learned that people either loved the manuscript… or hated it. When I submitted the manuscript that became Emmanuel’s Dream to agent Ammi-Joan Paquette in 2011, she replied saying she liked it and wanted to see what else I had. I sent her the manuscripts that would become Be a Changemaker and My Dog Is the Best. She responded with an offer of representation! We quickly got to work getting Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream ready for submission, but she never said anything about My Dog, so I just assumed she hated it. Two years later, Janine O’Malley happened to casually mention to Joan that she was looking for a cute dog story. Joan remembered filing My Dog away for just the right editor—one who would love it—and she sent it to Janine. Janine loved it! She had a particular illustrator in mind who turned it down, but a few days later author/illustrator Paul Schmid just happened to be in New York handing out postcards, one of which landed on Janine’s desk. She thought his style was a good fit, and he got the job. This book truly wouldn’t have come together without the numerous coincidental intersections between Joan, Janine, Paul, and me. It feels like it was meant to be!

Coincidence and fate shaped my book life too. In August of 2012, on my way from my home in Vermont to spend the year in Yerevan, Armenia my flight from Newark to London was cancelled. As a result, I was sure to miss the once a day flight from London to Yerevan. The folks at United suggested that I just stay put in beautiful Newark for the next 24 hours and take the same evening flight one day later to London. But to be sure not to miss the flight again, I insisted instead that they put me on the early morning flight to London. I was completely unaware that the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) annual meeting was just wrapping up in London at that very moment. I arrived well into the evening, got some take out Indian food, and a decent night’s sleep. The next day, I boarded the tube to return to Heathrow. At the tube stop after mine, a woman struggled to board the train with a number of heavy bags. I helped her get in and settled. Her modest dress, beautiful dark eyes and high cheekbones made me wonder if she, like me, might be heading to Armenia, so I asked her. It turned out that Sahar Tarhandeh, was the Bookbird Correspondent of the Children’s Book Council of Iran and a juror for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize. She had come to London to attend IBBY. Our friendship began with an hour-long magical conversation about children’s literature and the power of books to transcend political boundaries and to promote peace and connections across the globe. A few months into my stay in Yerevan, when Ammi-Joan Paquette sold my verse novel, Like Water on Stone, to Delacorte Press, it was especially sweet to know that Sahar cheered me on from a land just to the east of where my story is set.

In Armenian we say that our fate, jagad a kir, is literally written on our foreheads. Do we write this ourselves or do these events just happen? Whether they are about marbles, books, long lasting friendships, or love, these events, like Lindsey’s Evidence of Things Not Seen, affirm our fundamental human connectedness.

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Faith Redux

Last month, I wrote a post about faith, which told a recent story about a particular act of faith in my journey as a writer. This post addresses an earlier time in my journey. It is for writers who haven’t had The Call and might not have an agent. It is for all of us who sit down, face the blank page and keep going.

A few years ago, friend and fellow EMLA client Liz Scanlon sent me her annual family Valentine’s card. It was a picture of her girls about ready to climb onto to a zip line in Costa Rica. The phrase underneath the picture said, “Leap and the net shall appear.” I kept this card on my fridge for a long time. Everyday, as I made my tea, before I went to sit down at the computer, I would look at it. I didn’t have any cognitive thought about it. But on some level, I think the thought comforted me and guided me as I took a leap each day as a writer.

No agents were knocking on my door. No editors were reading my manuscripts. At the time, I think I was enrolled at VCFA and I leaped every time I sat down at the computer unsure of what to write, but writing just the same, page after page because that’s what I had signed up to do. That’s what was expected. That’s what you do as a writer every time you face the blank page. Leap.

But I couldn’t do it without faith.

Faith is what gets me to sit down with the blank page. Faith gets me to leap with the smallest wing of an idea or character. Faith that what I have to say matters. Faith that the words will come. The story will come.

I am in the middle of that act of faith now. Prewriting and finding my way into a story and its characters. I have some ideas but I am resisting the ideas and listening to the characters instead. For some darn reason, one is writing poetry to me. What I notice about the poems is that they have energy and I feel energetic when I write them. I have no idea if they will remain but their spareness is working right now. And they help me stay away from the idea of the story. Yeah, ideas get a little preachy and ponderous. For now, I need to stay inside the skin of the characters and write from there.

Faith. The blank page is such a bold move. Only by putting the words down do we create the net. Only then can we see what the heck we’re trying to get at, and find, as per Tim Wynne-Jones, the gems that have washed up on the shores of the page. In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King says the first draft is telling yourself the story. After that you can look and see what’s there. Right now, in this prewriting phase, I have to have faith that I will get to a first draft.

Leap and the net shall appear.

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Filed under Creativity, Faith, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Title Search

titleNo, I’m not talking about real estate. I’m talking about the book title variety.books

Sometimes the title to a book comes first.

That’s how it happened with my picture book Snuggle Mountain, I was watching my daughter climb my bed one morning and I thought, I bet my bed looks like a mountain. Boom. I drafted a story about a little girl’s metaphoric climb up her parent’s bed to wake the two headed giant. There was never any question. Snuggle Mountain was the title.snuggle

Evidence of Things Not Seen has had a much different journey.

My first stirrings of this book came from a dream that woke me up. A boy was standing in the middle of a pull out by the side of a road. Just standing there. Alone.

I remember getting up and writing the first bits of a story. (It is still in the novel.) Gradually, I began to place other people in that pull-out, building the world of the novel in that strange patch of dirt.

When I finally came to the end of the first draft, I titled it The Stillwell Pull-out because the Stillwell Ranch butted up against that pull-out. Truth be told, I had called it The Pull-Out but if you Google those words you will find pornographic pictures, not a patch of dirt by the side of the road.

Title aside, I tucked back into another revision of the novel because I’d found a problem with the ending. Namely, that I’d wrapped it up too neatly. And the whole story was being choked by a big red bow at the end.

Thing was, that last section of the novel was called Particles and it held the key to my next draft. I dug into the next revision and remembered that original dream. The boy standing in the pull-out. Tommy.

He was missing. He’d gone missing from the pull-out and he was the thread that connected all these stories. Not only that, he was a physics geek, mostly recently obsessed with particle physics. No one had any idea of where Tommy was but because of his obsession with physics, some kids dealt with his disappearance by speculating that he went into another dimension.

I took the novel down to the floorboards and rebuilt it.

When it was “finished,” I titled it Particles because of Tommy’s obsession with particle physics and because I wrote the novel in multiple viewpoints like particles in space. I sent it to Erin Murphy who sent it to Joy Peskin at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers who loved it (see The Call).

After the acquisitions meeting, Joy told me that the sales and marketing folks were not wild about the title and that she’d said, “No problem. There are lots of title possibilities on the pages of the novel.” I love that she met their hesitation with a positive attitude. It helped me not worry. I knew we’d find a title and I wasn’t attached to Particles. (Word to the wise: Unless it’s perfect, don’t get attached to the title).

Sure enough, when she sent me the first edits, she had circled a bunch of possible titles that were right there in the pages: Anything is Possible; Everything Can Be Explained; The Space Between.titles

I tried them on. I polled friends. Anything is Possible sounded like that Stephen Sondheim musical Anyone Can Whistle. I wasn’t sure I could carry off the irony of a title like Everything Can Be Explained (ahem) by Lindsey Lane. And while I liked The Space Between, sales and marketing was ‘meh’ about it.

Back to the drawing board. Fortunately, Joy went to the drawing board with Angus Killick, associate publisher. She threw out about hundred title ideas, read sections of the book and talked about the ideas in the book. (I still can’t decide if I would have like to be in that meeting.)

And then she hit upon it. Evidence of Things Not Seen. It comes from a quote in the Bible: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) From the moment I read it, I knew it was perfect.

Why?

Because the book is about mystery, about faith, about carrying on, about finding small things that buoy us up even in the face of hardship.

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The Call

loveYou know the story that a friend tells you about how she met her life-long partner the minute she stopped looking for her life-long partner? Like she was sitting at a park reading a book and this person sat down next to her and spilled coffee everywhere and then said something so self-deprecatingly funny that your given-up-on-love friend says something commiseratingly funny back and then they make each other laugh for the next twenty years. You know that story?

Okay, well, that’s sort of what happened the day I got the call.

It was Friday, May 10. I was sitting on my sweet little porch writing a long email to my agent Erin IMG_1859Murphy. I was updating her about what had been going on in my life, by way of explaining why I had been so out of touch that week. You see, Erin had sent my manuscript out to a list of editors that Monday, May 6. I think I responded by saying, “Yea.” Or something equally short. Twice during the week, she forwarded me emails from one editor in particular who was reading the manuscript and loving it. I responded smileywith a smiley face and a wahoo but returned to the task at hand: resolving a protracted two-year struggle with Board of Adjustment over my beloved porch. It was 14 inches into the setback and they wanted me to lop it off. I was getting ready for my last hearing and busy preparing for my Norma Rae moment when I would prevailnorma against the bureaucracy and persuade them that cutting off 14 inches of my porch did not make sense. By Friday, I felt ready for the hearing in three days so I sat down to update Erin on what was going on, comment on the list of editors who had my manuscript and expand on my delight about that one editor who had emailed. It was a cozy, pour-a-cup-of-coffee email. I think it was even raining which is rarity in Texas so it made the moment even more indelible. La. La. La. Press send.

You get the picture?

Two seconds after I heard the whoosh of the email being sent, the phone rings. It’s Erin.

“Hi,” I said, “I just sent you an email.”

“I know,” she said, “Did you get my email?”

“Umm, no, I was writing you.”

Then she reads me the email that editor Joy Peskin of Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers had sent her that morning, saying she was very interested in the manuscript and wanted to talk.

That’s when I started jumping up and down on my porch, followed by flopping into a chair, followed by squealing, followed by “omigod, omigod, omigod.” (Oh, btw, this is all happening on Erin’s birthday, which is omigod special too.)excited

Breathe.

Then Erin and I talked business. I said, “I think I should talk with Joy. I mean, I love that she loves my book but we need to be able to talk and work together and turn this manuscript into the best book it can be, right?” “Absolutely,” said Erin.

Exactly four hours later, my phone rang again and it was Joy. I had my list of questions ready, thanks to Erin and my VCFA pal and critique partner Anne Bustard. Here are a few of them:

  • What do you love about the manuscript?
  • What do you think needs to be developed?
  • What are your thoughts about making the manuscript longer?
  • How do you work with authors?
  • What is the acquisitions process at MacMillan/FSG?
  • What are some of your favorite books?

I remember Joy saying, “Great question,” every time I asked something and then she launched into her answer. I remember writing down the answers to her questions but mostly, I was listening to her voice. I liked the brightness of it and the tumbling energy I heard when she talked about books and characters and writers.

Here’s the thing about questions: They provide a framework for a gathering information but I love when the Q&A twists into a conversation that connects and meanders. So after I was done with my list, I asked her if she had any questions and she asked me where I got the idea of the book. I told her the whole story: from the dream that woke me up; to my graduate lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts; to the revisions I made in the last year.

And then she said this:

“You know, sometimes, when I walk around New York City, I’ll pass by an apartment building where I’ve lived and I’ll wonder if part of me is still living a parallel life in that apartment.”

That’s when I knew she understood the manuscript she had in her hands and me and that we would work together beautifully making it into a book.

So far, so great.

Lane_295webLindsey Lane’s debut young adult novel THE EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers in September 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an app on iTunes. You can follow Lindsey on Facebook or find her at her website.

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