Tag Archives: Jasmine Toguchi

Pinch Me

My new puppy, Kiku, is joining in on the celebration!

Today, my debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi launches with the first two books: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This is the culmination of over 15 years of writing, learning, growing, revising, querying, submitting, and collecting rejections. Having my chapter books published is a dream come true.

I’ve talked about my journey on this blog and elsewhere so I won’t rehash it except to say, for Jasmine, it’s been seven years from the spark of an idea to book release. And it’s been a little over two years since my wonderful editor, Grace Kendall, made the offer to publish Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, not as a stand-alone, but as a series. It’s been a truly wonderful experience working with my editor Grace, my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and the FSG team. I feel so fortunate.

I’ve revised, copyedited, and proofread (with the help of the sharp eyes of professional copyeditors and proofreaders). I’ve reviewed and loved the art. Jasmine Toguchi is part of a Macmillan bookseller campaign called “Got Character?” that features six series. Jasmine is on a poster! The reviews (all good, thankfully) are in. Mochi Queen is a Junior Library Guild fall selection and a pick for Amazon’s Summer Book Club – New Favorite Series for Kids. I’ve been interviewed by some awesome bloggers. I’ve stumbled upon Twitter conversations and Instagram posts about Jasmine. And I’ve held the actual books in my hands. I’m giddy!

So when does it feel real? This still feels like a dream. A very wonderful dream but, still, a dream. I can’t believe that a book I wrote with characters I conceived is really going to find its way into the hands of readers. Perhaps that is when it will feel real – when a child reads my books.

Pre-launch, so much energy and focus is on getting the words and the art just right, on waiting for the reviews to come in, on planning events, on promotion and marketing. All of this is, of course, relevant and important and fun. But during all that, sometimes it’s easy to forget why I wrote the story in the first place, for whom I wrote the story – for a child. When I started my writing career over 15 years ago, I didn’t know about Kirkus or School Library Journal, or the effect of sales numbers or earning out, or how important it was to get parents and educators on board. All I thought about was the child who might pick up my book, read the story, connect to the character, and fall in love. And today, I’m remembering that. I can’t wait for readers to meet Jasmine and, I hope, fall in love with her.

Art copyright Elizabet Vukovic

Maybe that’s when it will feel real. When a child reader says, “I read and loved your book.” That is the review I’m holding my breath for.

In the meantime, I am celebrating this dream come true. I’m pinching myself to make sure this is really happening. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, who has believed in me, who has talked up my books, and who has helped make Jasmine and her stories come alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And extra special thanks to my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, to my amazing editor Grace Kendall, and to my husband B0b and daughter Caitlin!

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Enter to win Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Thankfulness

Detours Can Be Fabulous

If you’ve been following along here on Emu’s Debuts, you know that there is not one path to publication. Some roads meander, some have obstacles, and some are very long. Mine has been a long and bumpy road indeed, but I believe it has been well worth the wait. When I first started out, I had in mind what my path would look like, but I took a few detours on my way to getting my own fiction published.

Almost a decade ago while living in Shanghai China (for my husband’s job), I had the opportunity to write a nonfiction book for kids about China. That followed with an offer to write a book about Japan for the same publisher. Writing these books taught me discipline as I was under contract and under deadline.

More recently, I was offered a work-for-hire opportunity writing an early reader chapter book series about Dorothy & Toto for Capstone. This was my first experience with work-for-hire and I didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a truly wonderful and positive experience. I was given a lot of freedom to come up with my own ideas and write the stories. From this I learned how to write under a very tight deadline, write proposals (which needed to be approved by both Warner Brothers and Capstone), and work closely with an editor. I had a lot of fun writing the four books, which just came out this month. Most importantly, I learned how to write a series.

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Soon after, I received an offer from FSG for my chapter book Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen. Not only that, but they wanted a four-book series! I was overjoyed! This was my dream come true. I’d written a book, submitted it, accumlated many rejections and had a few close calls, and finally, an editor wanted my work! And MORE! Had I not had the recent positive experience of writing the Dorothy & Toto series, I might have panicked. I wrote Mochi Queen as a stand-alone, but writing a series definitely felt doable and exciting. Right now, I’m working on book 4 of the Jasmine Toguchi series. I’ll save the details of what it’s been like to write this series with my awesome editor for a future post.

I’m so grateful for every step along this road, for getting me here. While writing nonfiction for kids and doing work-for-hire had not been in my original plan, they were detours I welcomed. Stay the path! You never know what you’ll come upon. Welcome the surprises and the joys while working toward your big dream! Happy writing!

 

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Filed under Writing and Life

Celebrate….EVERYTHING!

In honor of today, Independence Day, I would like to recommend that you take this opportunity and every opportunity to celebrate your writing/illustrating progress.

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I recently had two things to celebrate. First, I found out my release date for the first two books of my chapter book series! JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN (book 1) and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (book 2) will be available from FSG on July 11, 2017. Yes, it’s a long way off, but I’m so excited to have an actual date! Second, I finished a novel and sent it off to my awesome agent. I celebrated both with a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of Prosecco.

It’s easy to focus on the “big prize” — the agent offering representation or an editor offering a contract. But, at least for me, the road to both of those was long and bumpy. If I had waited to celebrate until those two wonderful things happened, I would have spent many many years NOT celebrating. So, instead, I made sure to celebrate any and all accomplishments.

Some things I’ve celebrated:

  1. Sending off queries.
  2. Receiving an encouraging response (request for full, a kind/personal rejection).
  3. Finishing a SFD (shitty first draft).
  4. Applying for/getting accepted into a workshop or retreat.
  5. Coming up with a new story idea.

Ways I’ve celebrated:

  1. Buying a new book/journal/pen.
  2. Taking myself out on an “artist’s date” to a museum, garden, hike.
  3. Going to coffee/tea/lunch with a friend.
  4. Champagne/dessert.
  5. Taking a break – to smell the flowers, walk the dog, watch the birds, sing a song, dance in the kitchen.

Take time to focus on your accomplishments, bask in the joy that you’ve completed something, that you’re moving forward on the road, that you’re following your passion. Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself! I’d love to hear what and how you celebrate.

So, go ahead – celebrate. The road can be long, so you might was well sprinkle some joy along the pathway. You know you have things to celebrate – the new idea, joining a writing group, sending out a query, finishing a chapter. You deserve a treat! Happy Celebrating! And happy 4th of July!

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations

Here Comes The Pitch!

Today more than ever authors are like small business owners, needing to pitch and sell their products. I can easily talk about someone else’s book, but it’s hard for me to talk about my own. I can share my good news with friends and family, but when it comes to selling my work to strangers, I feel uncomfortable and a little shy.

Mochi Queen and book 2 of the Jasmine Toguchi series will be coming out in May of next year. It kind of feels like it’s too early to start talking about my books, so I haven’t had much practice. A few months ago, at a friend’s book launch I was caught unprepared. The friend introduced me to a family member and told him that I had a children’s book coming out. The family member kindly asked me what my book was about. I froze. Then, I babbled incoherently. Epic fail.

For years I’ve kept a reading list, writing up every book I read with a short synopsis. When I read 75 – 100 books a year, it’s hard to remember what every single book is about, especially after a year or more has passed. I’ve had good practice summarizing a book into a paragraph, but not a lot of practice winnowing book summaries down to a succinct 1 – 2 sentence pitch. So, last year, I made myself write up 1 – 2 sentence pitches of every book I read and I posted them on my reading blog. A couple of examples:

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon – Housebound teen “bubble girl” falls in love with neighbor boy.

Princess Juniper of the Hourglass by Ammi-Joan Paquette – On her 13th nameday, Princess Juniper asks her father for her own (small) kingdom of kids to rule for practice.

This was very good practice. But writing a pitch, even my own, was not too difficult. I am a writer. Talking about my book is so much harder. Plus, just reciting my written pitch to someone felt rehearsed and stiff.

The next step was practicing talking about Mochi Queen to my friends and family. The more I practiced, the more comfortable I became. But, would I be able to talk about my book to a stranger?

The test came sooner than I expected.

A few weeks ago I was at an independent bookstore. A bookseller approached me and asked if she could help me with anything. I told her I was just checking out the new chapter books. She told me she wanted to expand the section and find new and exciting chapter books to add to the shelves. I hesitated. Normally, I would just smile and nod and say nothing. But, it was as if the Universe was giving me an opportunity.

I took a deep breath for courage and told her, somewhat hesitantly, that I had a chapter book series coming out next year. She asked me what it was about. And it rolled right off my tongue – “Mochi Queen is about a third grade Japanese-American girl named Jasmine who lives in Los Angeles. She wants to take part in a Japanese tradition of making mochi.” Pause. “Do you know what mochi is?” She shook her head. “It’s a sweet Japanese dessert. Jasmine not only wants to make mochi with her family, even though she’s too young, but she wants to do the boy job instead of the one reserved for the girls in her family. And there will be three more books about Jasmine.” Whew. Right, not exactly 1 – 2 sentences, but it felt natural, like I was having a conversation, rather than trying to “sell” my work.

The bookseller reacted with enthusiasm. She told me to have my publicist contact the store when the books were closer to coming out and they would love to have an author event and arrange school visits. She was excited about a new chapter book series and said she was on the look-out for more diversity. YAY!

The lesson here? It’s never too early to practice your pitch. Even if you don’t have a book coming out soon, an editor, an agent, a colleague might ask, “What’s your book about?” And won’t you be happy when you’re able to answer? You can do it! Practice makes “perfect”!

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author

Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books and an upcoming early reader chapter book series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/Oct. 2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

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Filed under Advice, Promotion

Words

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It’s no surprise that I love words, and more specifically, I love words that inspire. In my Word Nest where I write, I have surrounded myself with many, many items of inspiration. I could probably do a whole series of posts about the trinkets I’ve picked up from my travels, photos of friends and family, gifts I’ve received from loved ones, art created by my daughter, and so many bird and elephant figurines.

On the wall in front of my laptop are sticky notes of quotes and cards from friends and family to inspire and motivate me.

I currently have four sticky notes of quotes that I look at daily before I start writing and while I write.

1. Love is always an act of courage. — Alice Hoffman

This reminds me to be brave as I write, to risk digging deep and to risk being vulnerable. Even now as I draft this blog post, insecurity runs rampant within as I worry about sounding trite or insincere. As with anything I write, blog post or stories, I wonder, will anyone care? And so, writing as with love (and love of writing) is truly an act of courage. Be brave!

2. Is it true yet? — Jo Knowles

Long time writing partner, talented author, and dear friend Jo shared this with me years ago. Jo first heard this from author Jennifer Richard Jacobson and she asks this of her own drafts as she writes. I ask myself the same as I write, and when my answer is “not yet,” I continue revising and digging and exploring and writing. It forces me to take my time, to not rush to be done, to write what’s true to me and to my heart.

3. When I’m writing a book, I’m writing 95% for myself and 5% for my best friend. — Ann Patchett

Recently, an author friend asked a group of writers whether or not we keep the audience in mind when we write. It was a good question and the answers were varied. I am distinctly aware that I am writing for young adults or children, but while I write, I’m not thinking specifically of the audience. If I did that, I think I’d become paralyzed with fear of meeting expectations. Instead, I write the story I want to tell. I definitely try not to think about the “market” and whether or not it’s going to be a best seller or award winner. I try to write the book I want to write, I try to write the book that’s true, and I try to write the book that requires courage.

And finally, the last quote/s on my wall:

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Emily Spring by Kevin Slattery

The art of Emily Dickinson is by Kevin Slattery, a friend who passed away just this year. Almost up to the day that he died, he continued creating. While I miss him and am so sad he’s gone, I’m comforted by his art, hanging here on my wall, keeping me company, reminding me that life is precious and not to squander this gift of time. The quote from the artwork:

A light exists in spring.  –Emily Dickinson

I love her poems and this one in particular. I won’t go into what the poem means to me, here, but I will say that this one line helps me get through dark times, including the down times when I lose confidence and faith in my stories and writing. It reminds me that even in darkness, light will come.

And the last sticky note that is stuck right below Kevin’s Emily Spring:

4. I live in possibility.  –Emily Dickinson

This one reminds me that dreams can come true – and that one of my own dreams has, with the sale of my chapter book Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen to Grace Kendall at FSG. Not only that, but dreams can be surpassed, as I now have a contract to write three additional books about Jasmine. I’m still in the process of writing these books and I am very grateful to have such a smart and fabulous editor to help guide me.

What quotes and words inspire you? I’d love to hear yours! Happy writing, happy reading. Keep believing!

 

 

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authorDebbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

Before she started writing as her career, Debbi worked at a pet store, volunteered as a raptor rehabilitator, interned as a zookeeper’s aide, taught fifth grade, and was the Associate Curator of Education for a zoo.

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

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The Long Bumpy Road

learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. — BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth Gilbert

Like many writers, I have been writing stories since childhood. I have always been passionate about stories. I first decided to write fiction for kids and teens as a career path in 2001. I joined SCBWI, received the gift of a mentor in Cynthia Leitich Smith, found critique groups (I moved a lot), went to conferences and workshops, read every craft book available to me, discovered an amazing community on LiveJournal (in 2004), found my writing/critiquing soul partners, wrote and wrote and revised and revised and queried and submitted, and accumulated a healthy pile of rejections.

I had some close calls for different manuscripts — a phone call from an editor (kind and encouraging, but a rejection nonetheless), revising out of contract, going to acquisition, “good” rejection letters. This went on for over a decade. I admit to bouts of extreme sadness, many tears, frustration, and thoughts of giving up. In the meantime, I had two nonfiction children’s books published that I am proud of, but the dream has always been to write/publish fiction. One evening in 2008, after yet another “encouraging” rejection, I decided to quit. I was going to quit writing, quit submitting, quit dreaming of publication. I cried long and hard. My heart was broken. I think I cried for well over an hour. I decided to distract myself with a movie, August Rush. Within the first 10 minutes of viewing the movie, I was struck with a story idea. I ran upstairs, grabbed a legal pad, and wrote out ten pages of a scene. Such was my commitment to quitting. My love for writing stories was stronger.

Flash forward to 2014: I have long admired the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. I was flattered when a dear and talented friend referred me to her agent, Tricia Lawrence. Tricia requested a full of my MG novel and then I waited. While I waited, I kept writing and kept querying/subbing. Around the same time, I received a request for a full of my chapter book from editor Grace Kendall at FSG, and then I waited. While waiting and writing, I had an opportunity to write four books for an early reader chapter book series and jumped at the chance. I had a fabulous time writing these stories. In fact, I was having a (mostly) fabulous time writing all my stories.

And then…in April of 2015, Grace emailed to say she wanted to take my chapter book to editorial, and then acquisition! I reached out to Tricia and told her I had a YA novel and a chapter book. She requested both. Within days of each other, Tricia offered representation and Grace wanted not only my chapter book, but three more books for a series! My story Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen about headstrong Japanese-American third grader Jasmine Toguchi and her quest to join in on the family tradition of making mochi, and three more books about Jasmine, are going to be published!

I am filled with overwhelming gratitude and joy and excitement and glee! I am grateful to Tricia and EMLA, and Grace and FSG, and to this incredibly supportive children’s lit community – many of you have been cheering me on from the very beginning. I’m grateful to my husband, Bob, and my daughter, Caitlin, for their unwavering belief in me, their firm support of my writing, and to my family and non-writer friends who even if they didn’t fully get “it”, they got me.

My road to “the call” meandered with many obstacles and detours, but I am glad I stayed on the path, on my path, because the journey is different for each person. Along this path of mine, I’ve met some warm and talented people I now call friends. While there’s no guarantee of publication, the only way you can be sure of never getting published is by quitting. If you love writing, if it brings you joy, if you can’t see doing anything else, keep writing, keep learning, keep growing, and stay the course. Enjoy the journey and the process of creating. Have fun. Believe, even when it’s hard. (And surround yourself with support and love!)

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author

Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

Before she started writing as her career, Debbi worked at a pet store, volunteered as a raptor rehabilitator, interned as a zookeeper’s aide, taught fifth grade, and was the Associate Curator of Education for a zoo.

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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Filed under Discipline, Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, joy, Patience, The Call