Tag Archives: Jeannie Mobley

Enter the Sophomore EMU, with Wild Eyes and Frothy Spittle

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The original EMU’s Debuters: Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Natalie Lorenzi, L.B. Schulman, Jeannie Mobley, J Anderson Coats, Cynthia Levinson (not pictured, Mike Jung and Michelle Garson Ray)

It’s been about four years since I first got the idea of creating EMU’s Debuts We started out as eight writers who had all sold our debut books close in time, and wanted to band together through the debut experience and share it with the world. But after our debut books came out? Well–we weren’t really thinking that far ahead four years ago. We were all still reveling in the glorious glow of that first book sale–of passing through the golden gate of We Made It and All Our Troubles Are Over Now.

It's no wonder each step is a surprise when I'm walking around on these weird dinosaur emu feet.

Walking the path together is always better when you have a mob of emus walking it with you.

We all gained a fringe benefit we hadn’t counted on with the blog. We became a strong support group for each other as we entered the forests of Oh My God, What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?! found just on the other side of the golden gate. Together, we traversed the You Want the Revisions When?! Mountains, and passed through the desolation of the Waiting For Reviews Wastelands. And of course, we were all there together with aid and confetti for the Who Knew A Book Release Was this Much Work?! stretch at the finish line. And that turned out to be really, really good support to have.

Where our reasoning broke down, however, was in the belief that there was, in fact, a finish line. In the confusion between whether the debut book release was the finish line, or the starting line. Because after the first book, there is–hopefully–a second book, and then–hopefully–a third book, and so on. And none of those book deals are necessarily easier than the first. That’s right. That gold on the gate? It’s just spray paint.

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

So, here I am, back to celebrate the release of my sophomore book, and wondering why we didn’t set up a sophomore book blog, or a…Um. What is the third book? Junior book blog? That sounds odd.

There aren’t many blogs that talk about those second book deals, which is a shame, because several people have told me that around the second to third book is when it gets really rough–when a lot of authors find themselves in a convoluted morass that threatens their careers and sanity. I didn’t really believe the people who told me this. Some of them, I suspected, were just looking for an excuse to slip the word “morass” into a sentence. Others had that wild look in their eye or that weird tic at the corner of their slightly frothing mouths that rendered them, in my opinion, a bit untrustworthy.

But here’s the truth. The second book is hard. Just like the first book is hard. And also, in totally different ways to how the first book is hard. There. I said it, and very little foam escaped my lips when I did. So you can trust me on this.

The truth is, this is a hard industry, and the minute you let yourself think, “I made it! It’s going to be a cakewalk from here on out!” you’re in for a heap of trouble and disappointment.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn't a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina's Wish release party in 2012.

Me, trying to convince family and friends that I wasn’t a total failure, despite evidence to the contrary, at the Katerina’s Wish release party in 2012.

I learned this lesson on the afternoon before the release party for my debut novel, Katerina’s Wish. I was less than 24 hours away from having a whole crowd of friends and family at the library celebrating my rising star as a novelist, when I got the email to let me know that my editor was rejecting both of my next two manuscripts. Two manuscripts that, to me, felt so much stronger and better than the book that was coming out. Manuscripts that I had already anticipated would set up my future. When Katerina’s Wish had gone out on submission, I had no reason to believe it would be acquired. Now I had a great relationship with an editor, and two new manuscripts in which I had incorporated all I had learned from the first book. I was sure they were the next big thing. I had made assumptions that I had some kind of “in” that was going to see my way to success. Now there I was, facing a release party where I had to smile and give everyone the impression my career was roaring forward when I had just slammed face first into a brick wall, and my career was a twisted wreckage around my feet.

That was my first lesson about the sophomore book. Assume nothing. Every book is unique in the acquisition process (unless you get one of those crazy multi-book deals, which can have its own pitfalls, including the high probability that I’m going to totally hate you for it.) Selling one book predicts very little about selling the second. Or the third, or probably the four thousandth. I’ll report back in about a million years and let you know for sure about the four thousandth.

As it turned out, however, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, probably cast by that bonfire of my vanities. Because a conversation with my editor a few weeks later about one of the two rejected manuscripts led to revisions, and my editor acquired the revised manuscript about four months later. And so the sophomore book process began, despite the terrible timing that had cast it all in such devastating light.

The difference between getting the second book out into the world compared to the first, though, was that the debut book was an adventure–a dive into the unknown. The second book, at least for me, was acquired, and then I felt like the main work was done and I needed to be looking farther forward. After it was acquired, I didn’t feel I could relax into the process of publishing that book. Revisions, copy edits, first pass pages–the whole process felt like something of an afterthought, because my focus moved immediately to what I needed to do to get the next manuscript out there. The crushing smack of reality that came with those rejections somehow reframed my thinking into a focus more on the career track than on the individual manuscripts. Which is not to say I was writing for the market–not at all. But I did become much more concerned with the struggle for survival as a published author.

Lions hunting Africa.jpg

A metaphoric representation of the novelist after her debut. She’s the big cow, in case you were wondering. (Photo credit: Corinata, via Wikicommons.)

With the first book, there is a sense that you have been given life, that you are growing, thriving, coming into your own. After that, it’s just the tooth and claw struggle to survive in a dog eat dog world, where every scratch and bite has the potential to fester, gangrenous on your soul, until you rot from the inside out and

 

die

DIE

DIIIEEEE!!!!!

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I get a little frothy spittle on your face there? Let me just wipe that off.

Years ago, when I first decided to go from writing for a hobby to pursuing it as a career, I hesitated, afraid doing so would take the enjoyment out of the process for me. This is what I let overtake me in the years of my sophomore book.

I let myself bog down in the industry details, railing and storming against the walls and barriers and silent indifference that blocked my way forward. I struggled fruitlessly in the conflicts between my vision and the vision others have for my work. I got lost in the morass of difficulties that had nothing to do with the bottom line–me and my muse and the words on the page.

And that was my biggest error. I let the business of being an author overshadow the joy, the beauty, the story at the heart of being a writer. I forgot to play- with language, with my characters, with plot. I forgot that that is what matters, because that is all I can do, all I can control. All that will make me better, instead of bitter.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

Playing the suffragist at the Searching for Silverheels release party, 2014.

And so here I am, the sophomore novelist, having come through the fire–one that I no doubt stoked myself. Ironically, my second novel, Searching for Silverheels is the story of an innocent, romantically minded girl and a cynical old woman, a story of what feels a bit like the old me and the new me, although I penned it well before the events that would reshape me began. The book now feels somehow prophetic.

I hope to eventually have a third book, and a fourth, and eventually, a viable career. But in the mean time, I’m playing. I’m seeking joy. And I’m rereading my ending, where the cynic and the romantic find a peaceful, secure path forward together. And I’m wishing every writer out there, debut or otherwise, the good luck and good sense to find their way through, or better yet, around the morass. Because, seriously. It’s an awesome word, but you can find other ways to slip it into a sentence.

Relish the joy, and the celebration of every book, published or otherwise.

 

***

About Searching For Silverheels

by Jeannie Mobley

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

Searching for Silverheels, by Jeannie Mobley, Margaret K. McElderry Press, September 2014

In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

“An engrossing, plausible story of several unlikely feminist heroines with a touch of romance and intrigue.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Readers follow Pearl in her quest to learn the truth about the dancer nicknamed Silverheels, and they see her shed her complacence for a determination to do right, no matter the cost. Mobley uses the microcosm of Como to echo the broader issues of the day—women’s suffrage, the Great War, prejudice, and class divisions—yet she doesn’t overwhelm readers or the town with these themes.” (School Library Journal)

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Filed under Happiness, Launch, Patience, rejection and success, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

AMAZING KIDS, BOOKS, GRANDMAS, AND GOLDFISH. OH, AND ME!

On Monday, Pat Zeitlow Miller introduced herself as our newest EMU hatchling, and, as she put it, a “Book Geek.” As I read her comments, I saw many traits that seemed familiar, but I am not sure I like the term “Book Geek.” Sounds a bit, um, maladjusted to me.

When I was a kid, the term “Book Worm” was more often applied, but I can’t say I care for that one either. Especially since they were always drawn in cartoons like slimy earthworms, or those nasty worms you get in apples, wearing glasses. And since I started wearing glasses at the age of five, I wasn’t all that keen on the “book lovers with glasses are worms” implications.

So the question is, what is the right term to use? What conveys the correct sense of what the young-lover-of-books is really all about?

As it so happens, I am in a position to address this question, because just this past weekend, I met with a young book group for the first time.

The group consisted of one dedicated grandmother, three young lovers-of-books, and a little white carp named Goldie. They had chosen Katerina’s Wish as their book for this month (although in truth, I’m not convinced Goldie read it–she was pretty quiet in the discussion.)

I knew they were gathering at 12:30 to discuss the book before I arrived at 1:30. This was a good plan, I thought, because it gave them the freedom to be perfectly honest about the book, just in case. As it turns out, meeting ahead of time gave them time to do more than that.

What do you need for a great book group? Start with three great kids and an enthusiastic grandmother…

When I rang the doorbell, they all greeted me at once, wearing blue hair ribbons! (For those of you who don’t know, early in the book, two wishes are granted: one for blue hair ribbons and one for plum dumplings.)

So, guess what was waiting around the corner for me in the kitchen? That’s right–the table all set, with place cards for everyone, paper dandelions for a centerpiece (also a reference to my book):

Dandelions out of season? No problem, if you are as creative as these kids!

and a big plate of fresh, warm plum dumplings! We also had goldfish crackers and apples. And let me assure you, it was all quite delicious!

Add one author and a plate of plum dumplings, and you have everything you need for a GREAT book discussion. (There were a lot more of the dumplings when I first arrived. This was post-feast!)

Then the hard work began–I had to answer their questions. Of course, it wasn’t really hard work; they asked GREAT questions: who was my favorite character, did I think of Mark as a good guy or a bad guy, how do I take criticism from my editor, and even did I see the lessons that my characters learned as important lessons or struggles in my own life. Boy, do I ever!

I asked them plenty of questions too, and adored their answers. Here are a few highlights:

  • They each had a different favorite character, but among them, they picked all my favorites too (Holena, Martina, Old Jan, and Trina)
  • They liked that it ended without everything being perfect for the main character, because that’s how life is.
  • They thought Mark was his own worst enemy, because he was always being negative and putting himself down.
  • They were glad Trina chose the path she did and not the other one.
  • One of the girls was even gracious enough to compare Trina’s youngest sister Holena to Beth in Little Women.

After we ate our fill, we moved to the floor, where the conversation really got going. And Goldie admired our fish necklaces.

Then I shared with them everything that went into the book, from the first, handwritten draft, through the copies that came back from the editor, the bound galley, to the finished book. They were complimentary of my handwriting and maybe a little horrified by how many trees died in the process of producing all that paper.

I was supposed to leave after an hour, but I couldn’t tear myself away quite that soon. And when I left, I felt so lucky to be writing for such a bright, exuberant audience.

So, back to my question: what do we call these young-lovers-of-books? These kids like the young Pat Zeitlow, or the young Jeannie Mobley? Like the members of that wonderful book group (with the possible exception of Goldie)?

Book Geeks? No way. When I looked at those girls I was impressed to see such a solid, well-adjusted, socially responsible foundation for the future!

Book Worms? You’ve got to be kidding! Nothing slimy there. I saw so much clever, creative intelligence. Those young women are not going to crawl through the dark underground–they are going to shine, shine, shine!

Advanced Readers? That sounds kind of dull and academic, doesn’t it? I mean, these kids knew how to joke and laugh and have fun, too!

How about

GREAT KIDS?

Hmmm. That feels right, but maybe not quite enough. How about

AMAZING KIDS!

Or

AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS!

Or

AMAZING KIDS WITH BOOKS, A COOL GRANDMA, AND A GOLDFISH!

I think that sums it up well, except it’s going to be abbreviated AKBCGG, which, frankly, is the worst acronym ever.

I’ll keep working on it. And in the mean time, I will just rejoice in knowing such great kids are out there. And I’ll be writing more books for them. After all, I have to. They told me what I needed to put in the sequel! 🙂

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Filed under Celebrations, School Author Visits

I Wish I May. I Wish I Might. Read Authors’ Wishes. That Delight.

So, I am the last party thrower of the week as part of this fantastic celebration of Jeannie’s novel, KATERINA’S WISH. Today, I have decided to explore wishes of children—but not just any children, though. Children who grew up to become children’s authors.

Before, I introduce the many generous authors who offered childhood wishes that range from poignant and tear-worthy to laugh-out-loud funny, I’d just like to say that I am thrilled to see KATERINA’S WISH finally enter the world. It is a fantastic book. Interesting. Rich. Layered (I love layered books!). It is the kind of book that lingers afterward. It is the kind of book that leaves vivid images behind. Trina is a kid that so many of us can relate to. I certainly could—that’s for sure.

For wishes are a big part of any childhood. I also think that wishes are a vital aspect of any book character, for knowing the wishes of a person (real or not) is a special peek into the heart. Often good fiction is about the wishes. The longing. And Trina has plenty of both.

So, what did some children’s authors wish for as kids?

Audrey Vernick:

Despite a profound lack of talent or a ability, every four years, I wished to be an Olympic athlete. I knew I could tolerate the early mornings, long practices, and other sacrifices. I’d even be kind of noble about it. I’ll let you guess whether or not that one came true.

Christina Mandelski

When I was in second grade I had a friend who lived in a trailer, and I thought it would be so cool to live in that compact space and be able to move wherever you pleased (in theory). So when I grew up I wanted to live in a trailer, drive a cute red Chevy Chevette and eat Fruit Stripe gum any time I wanted. I also wanted to be an Olympic ice skater like Dorothy Hamill. I never did take lessons, but I did get the hair cut she made famous, and that was good enough for me (and probably less dangerous).

Jeanne Ryan

My childhood wish was to play in the NFL. It wasn’t until fifth grade, when scrawny little me received my “Stars of the NFL” paperback ordered through the Scholastic Book Club, and made a sobering discovery: Everyone in the book was male and about 200 lbs. I was bummed for a few days and then decided I wanted to be a writer.

J. Anderson Coats:

I wished for a pony.  I got braces instead.

Deborah Underwood:

I had a lot of childhood wishes, but the first one that leapt to mind was wanting to turn our basement into a perfect replica of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, complete with chocolate river and boat ride. I drew up plans and everything. My parents, strangely, refused to let me begin construction. They were not totally unreasonable, however: they let me flood our back yard one freezing night to see if I could make an ice rink (that didn’t work so well either).

I also wished I could ride on a starship. Still do.

Ann Bedichek Braden:

When I was in kindergarten, my wish was that when I grew up I would be
able to work at the checkout counter at Stop and Shop with my best
friend Amy. When I moved up to to first grade, I upgraded my wish to
World Peace — slightly more difficult to attain.

Lisa Schulman:

When I was a kid I wanted to be a famous actress. I forced my mom to let me audition with a “NY agent” who came to our small town to find talent. My mom let me audition but quickly pulled me out of contention. I was so mad because my friend’s mom let her go to the next step and travel to NY to meet with the agent. A few months later, the agent was sent to jail for stealing kids’ money by telling them she would make them a “star.” I went all the way to a theater major in college before I realized that I was really talentless. Then I switched to screenwriting, which gradually led me to here. However, let me say that I was writing stories all through my childhood, usually stolen plot ideas from The Brady Bunch. But I never really thought about being an author–not when there was a possibility of being a huge movie star. Funny, because now I will be signing my autograph, which I worked on endlessly as a kid. Still looks horrid, though, so the practice did no good.

Peter Adam Salomon:

Here are the wishes I can actually remember:

1) lots of wishes about being famous, usually as a writer/poet but occasionally as a dancer (don’t ask)
2) LOTS of wishes about one cute girl or another…not quite what I want to be known for 🙂
3) sadly, that’s about it…I was a little fixated on the whole writer/girl thing as a teen 😀

Natalie Lorenzi:

My wish was to become an elementary school teacher, which I did. I actually did wish to be a writer for a bit, but as I grew up, I never considered it as a career path. I do remember in 4th grade starting the first few chapters of a fan-fiction Nancy Drew story, but I abandoned that, leaving Nancy stranded on her front lawn just as a mysterious helicopter had landed. My teacher was big into reading and writing that year, and that really planted the seed for me as both a reader and writer. The next year, in 5th grade, however, we switched classes for all subjects, much like middle school, so I didn’t know my teachers as well as I had in earlier grades. One day I turned in a story I wrote for English, and the teacher called me up to her desk and asked if I’d actually written it, or copied it from somewhere. I told her I wrote it myself, but I could tell she didn’t believe me, and I was mortified. I remember “dumbing down” my writing assignments after that, and didn’t write again for pleasure until I was in my 30s.

Carrie Gordon Watson:

My childhood wish was to be able to see the teeny-tiny people I was SURE lived in the walls of our house. I’d set up little rooms for them and even set out food. =)

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Well, my whole life was about wishes. One of the more goofball ones was my deep, deep, thought-about-it-so-much-it-was-distracting wish to be able to travel back in time to the world of Little House on the Prairie. (Yeah, I know) I wanted to be able to bring Laura forward in time to shock and amaze her with the terribly futuristic culture of the 1970’s. Just imagine what she would have thought of a transistor radio, a Buick, or my Huffy Dill Pickle Bicycle.

I also spent a lot of time imagining how I would intro each new thing as well. None of that, “Hey, look at this!” and then just flipping the switch. No, I would come up with ways to have her think one thing and have the item turn out to be something different. Somehow, I think I would have transformed into some ten-year-old version of Alan Funt.

The really weird thing (Again—I know) though? I never liked Laura that much. I probably should have focused on bringing Nellie forward in time. Proudly sporting a bow in her hair the size of a propeller, she would have insisted that she knew how to drive that Buick even though she’d never laid eyes on one. Still, though, it would have been an adventure.

Laurie Thompson

When I was young, my one wish was to discover my talent, the thing I was meant to do. Pretty sure I finally got it. 🙂

Hilary Weisman Graham

When I was 15 years old, my father was on a wait list for a kidney donation, so I wished for that a lot, sometimes even prayed for it, even though we weren’t religious and I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God. One time, I was alone in the house when I got a call from his doctor saying that my dad was next up on the list for a compatible kidney, but only if it didn’t match the person who was first on that list. Unable to contact my parents (this was before cell phones) and not sure of “the right way” to pray, I copied the way Meggie did it on the TV miniseries The Thornbirds–kneeling dramatically in a patch of sunlight and closing my eyes. But a kidney never came. My father died a year later. –Hilary

Sheila O’ Connor

I spent my first many years wishing I was a cowboy–a handsome man on horseback, a man with a fast gun who took care of trouble fast. I wished it when I went away to Catholic horse camp, when I dressed as the Lone Ranger, when I grew into Butch Cassidy, when I sat outside our small basement apartment and stared into the field across the street. Once, watching a rodeo, I put my name into a drawing for a horse and sat there in the stands with a tiny daring hope that I would win it. It’s that horse hope I stil think about today–what it means to believe in the impossible–to make a wish against all reason–the horse, the gun, the slow ride out of town.

Mary Sullivan:

To gallop on the Black Stallion faster than the wind.

Michelle Gerson Ray:

To be interviewed by Oprah. To go to Disneyland everyday.

Gabrielle Carolina:

To be on Broadway!

And last but never least. The woman of the hour. The woman of the day. The woman of the whole darn week! Our own Jeannie Mobley!

I think I was more of a dreamer than a wisher–that is, I was always daydreaming myself into another life or another world, but I don’t remember explicitly wishing for those things to come true. I spent hours practicing figure skating in my socks on the kitchen floor and imagining a daring and heroic gold medal finish at the Olympics, but that never went so far as me actually enrolling in skating lessons. And of course as a pre-teen and teen I spent far too many hours wishing I was prettier, thinner, and more popular, but I consider those to have been frivolous wishes.

The summer between third and fourth grade, my family took a trip to Canyonlands National Park and spent the summer hiking and exploring. I came home from that trip wanting to be an archaeologist, a wish that I held onto unwaveringly. When I was sixteen, my parents let me go on an archaeological dig for a week, thinking I’d get bored and want to come home. At the end of the week, I called and asked if I could stay longer.

When I was in junior high and high school, I had many English teachers who pushed me to become a writer, and though I completed three novels before I graduated from high school, I never intended to make a career out of writing. It wasn’t until I was around thirty that I came back to writing fiction, and not until I was past forty that I decided to pursue it as a career.

………………….
Well, thank goodness you did, Jeannie, or we wouldn’t be here celebrating your dream come true. Your beating the odds. Your amazing achievement that will get readers to think—and even learn a thing or two! (Gasp!)

Congrat’s my friend. It has been an honor, a privledge, and a joy to be with you on this journey. I look forward to our continued travels…

And finally, to end this week of wishes and dreams, here’s a magic carp for YOU to wish on. You just have to print it out and fold it first.

Here’s hoping all your wishes come true!

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Happiness, Promotion, Updates on our Books!

DO WISHES HAVE DREAMS?

The title of Jeannie Mobley’s exquisite debut novel, Katerina’s Wish, hints tantalizingly at the notion of teenage desires (though teenagers’ desires in a turn-of-the-last-century immigrants’ mining camp were certainly tame by today’s standards, even if girls were betrothed at much younger ages than they are today, thank goodness). I won’t share the thirteen-year-old main character’s wish here. Whether or not she has one, which her younger sister doubts, and whether or not she’ll share it with her family are important parts of the plot and of her personality. No spoilers allowed!

One of the book’s themes, appropriately, is the idea of dreams. Katerina gets two different perspectives from her parents. Do dreams propel us to achieve fantastic goals, such as those of her father, who brought the family from Bohemia to America so he could own his own farm with “acres of green fields?” Or, do dreams “get you hurt,” as Katerina’s mother believes because they’re nearly impossible to achieve, inevitably resulting in disappointment and dead-end detours, like the “dry, barren hills of southern Colorado” where they struggle to live?

This multi-layered book also deals with questions of magic. Does it exist? If so, do we need it to make our wishes come true or can we reach them without magic? And, what is it about that carp that seems to look Katerina directly in the eye just when she most needs help getting past insurmountable hurdles?! 

As in other wonderful books for young readers (at least, in those that are not fairy tales), Katerina doesn’t rely solely on wishes, dreams, and magic to reach her goals. She works—hard, by washing and ironing miners’ filthy clothes, and cleverly, by negotiating deals with a tradesman.  Nevertheless, she ponders the roles that these forces might play in her life. After all, her hard work takes so much time, it seems to deflect her from her goals, not help her attain them. As a result of Katerina’s curiosity and thoughtfulness about wishes, dreams, and magic, the reader, too, ponders them. And, how clever of Jeannie to wrap these essential conundrums of childhood within such a moving tale!

 I don’t know whether or not Jeannie intended to raise semantic issues about the meaning of “wishes” as opposed to that of “dreams.” But, she’s so brilliant and creative that I suspect that every nuance and symbol in Katerina’s Wish was intentional.

The reason I started pondering this theme is that, with her typical insightfulness, Jeannie suggested that I write, during her Launch Week, about another person who had a dream—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who delivered his glorious “I Have a Dream” speech 49 years ago next week. She knew this would be a topic close to my writerly heart since my own debut book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, focuses on civil rights in that city, where Dr. King had rehearsed portions of the speech at mass meetings earlier that spring.

Most of us have listened to it so many times, its refrain echoes in our consciousness. Can’t you hear his resonant voice rising and falling when you read, “I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today”? It is so integral to our memories or, for younger readers, to their knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement that it’s as hard to imagine the Movement without this iconic delivery as it is to imagine it without the popularity of the freedom song “We Shall Overcome.”

 But, what if, instead of envisioning his dreams, Dr. King had declared, “I have a wish today?” He might have called out to the 250,000 or so people gathered in front of the Washington Monument on August 28, 1963,

  • “I wish that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed ‘…that all men are created equal.’”
  • “I wish that one day…the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together…”
  • “I wish that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls.”

Somehow, despite the same clarity of the imagery, “I wish” doesn’t ring as resoundingly to me as “I have a dream” does. His dreams were not mere wishing-well tokens. They were fully envisioned scenarios, complete with references to “the red hills of Georgia” and to Mississippi as “a state sweltering with the heat of injustice.” In fact, dreams were the perfect metaphor for Dr. King’s vision because he linked his with “the American dream.”

 And, so, without quite explicitly saying it, does Katerina link her wish to the American dream. She lives in a miners’ camp, filled with (though segregated by) an as-yet un-melted pot of Bohemians, Scandinavians, Greeks, and more. Yet, she envisions a place where miners are treated fairly, where they are not taken advantage of at the company store. She turns herself into an entrepreneur. Through both her wishes and her dreams, Katerina embodies the American Dreams of hard work and fair play.

 Does she succeed? And, does she need magic? Read the book! Katerina’s story will ring resoundingly, too.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Promotion

Interview With An Agent…aka: Katerina’s First Wish was to be signed by Erin Murphy

Erin Murphy, agent extraordinaire and owner of superdog Lulu.With the debut week for Katerina’s Wish in full swing, it’s time to turn to the first person to recognize the wonders of this book: Agent Erin Murphy.

PAS: On the EMLA website, you often wish our books “into the hearts of readers.” What about Katerina’s Wish really captured your heart and/or will capture readers hearts?

EM: Trina (as Katerina is called) is like so very many people (girls and women in particular) in that she’s incredibly empathetic and aware of the needs of those around her, and as the eldest daughter in a poor family, she tends to those needs, as she must–but often, she does it exhausted–willing, but not thrilled about it–and she is aware of her own needs that are NOT being met, and that eats at her a bit. Despite feeling downtrodden, she is, like her father, a dreamer. And she isn’t hardened by hardship; she is made determined, but she doesn’t lose her spirit, her sense of adventure, or her ability to be taken surprise by kindnesses and her own tears. I guess that is a long way of saying that Trina herself captured my heart, and I know she will be beloved by readers, as well.

PAS: As an agent who works with writers through their careers, you must see changes in those writers and their work. Jeannie Mobley had been with your agency for four years before Katerina’s Wish went under contract. How do you think she has changed as a writer in that time (or how has her work changed)?

EM: Jeannie might laugh to hear me say this, but I think she’s become much more confident in her writing–more sure of herself as a craftsperson. I love that; it is well earned!

She’s always been very organized with her time, too, so far as balancing her day job as a college professor with the time she needs to write–but now that she has experienced the whole publishing process, she’s able to even more carefully plan things so within her writing time, she has times of the year that are best for brainstorming/researching, drafting, revising, and working on revisions, copyedits, and proofs with her editor. If only publishing schedules were as cooperative!

The Zombie Chicken War Chronicles. It’s gonna be huge!

PAS: An offshoot project of Katerina’s Wish was the Zombie Chicken Chronicles, written very late one night on Facebook, by Jeannie, and fellow EMLA clients Mike Jung, Deborah Underwood, and Jennifer Ziegler.  What future do you see for that series in the world of publishing, movies, toys, and amusement parks?

EM: Oh, it’s going to be huge, of course. Massive! Which also makes me a little sad in the way I am whenever a cult favorite goes mainstream.

PAS: If you were granted one wish by a magic carp, what would it be?

Only one? Stingy carp! In the spirit of KATERINA’S WISH, I would have to say that I would wish for all of my clients, and for that matter all writers, to reach the success due to them from their hard work and talent. (And for all writers’ agents to profit accordingly!)

Wishes are wonderful things and with KATERINA’S WISH the magic carp made sure every dream came true…

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KATERINA’S WISH Launches (Along With its Official Companion Snack!)

Launch week is finally here for Jeannie Mobley’s gorgeous debut novel, Katerina’s Wish, and all of us at EMU’s Debuts couldn’t be happier to be celebrating it! We have a variety of fun festivities planned for every day this week, so we hope that you’ll join us back here as the week goes on. But there’s no need to stop there! You can also take the party home with you by winning a signed copy of Katerina’s Wish (scroll down to the end of this post to find out how to enter) and by cooking up a batch of homemade plum dumplings to munch on while you read.

Plum what? you ask. Plum dumplings (known as svestkove knedliky in Czech) are the official companion snack for Katerina’s Wish, thanks to their presence in a key early scene in the book. As a favorite meal from Katerina’s native Bohemia—which her family has left behind to come to America, where they struggle to make ends meet in a Colorado coal camp—the dumplings loom large psychologically as a reminder both of the sweetness of home and the luxuries they can no longer afford.

But when a series of lucky coincidences—or is it a wish granted by a magic fish?—bring the family into possession of some plums, a very special meal results. Here’s the author herself reading from the scene in the book:

If, after reading this scene, you find yourself with a hankering to try this Bohemian treat, you’re in luck! With the help of Jeannie and our fellow Colorado-dwelling debut author Melanie Crowder, I am going to take you through the steps for making your very own plum dumplings at home.

Step 1: Find an affordable source of plums.

In Katerina’s Wish, Katerina is able to buy plums for the bargain price of 1 cent per can. Pretty good, but not quite as cheap as free plums from Melanie’s tree!

Gather up as many debut authors as you can find, and start picking.

Step 2: Find a good plum dumpling recipe.

Oh, how convenient—author Jeannie Mobley already has one up on her website.

Step 3: Remove plum pits.

The easiest way I managed to do this was to cut each plum in half…

…then put the two halves back together before wrapping them up in dough.

Step 4: Make dumpling dough.

You will need flour, milk, eggs, salt, melted butter, and a big bowl to mix them in.

Using the proportions from Jeannie’s recipe, combine and mix. You may start off using a fork…

…but will probably end up with your hands in there sooner or later!

Step 5: Press or roll out the dough.

Grab a small ball of dough and press it out until you have a flat piece that’s large enough to wrap around a whole plum.

This method is a bit laborious, so if you have a rolling pin and a husband handy, you may want to press (haha) the two into service preparing flattened dough pieces for you. (No picture, alas, but trust me that it’s an excellent method.)

Step 6: Assemble the dumplings.

Place your two plum halves inside the dough pancake and wrap’em up!

Bonus step 6.5: Strongarm the author herself into wrapping some up for you!

Step 7: Boil in salted water for 8 minutes.

Keeping the dumplings in one layer is smart.

Step 8: Garnish, and enjoy!

With a bit of melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on top, these dumplings are divine.

The dumplings are a treat on their own, or you could serve them as part of a larger Bohemian-style dinner like Katerina’s family does (though the “grisly meat” and “bread spread with salted lard” that they eat may not be to everyone’s taste). And to make the meal even more festive, you can bestow an “Aneshka Award” on the person in your party who eats the most plum dumplings—named for Trina’s sister, who “ate so many we all thought she would be sick, and Momma made her stop.” (At our gathering, Jeannie’s son and my husband vied mightily for this award.)

No matter how you enjoy them, you’ll probably agree with Trina that “they were the best things I ate since we had left Bohemia”—almost as good as the delicious book that inspired them. 🙂

Giveaway!

Would you like to enter to win a signed copy of Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley? All you have to do is leave a comment below telling us about your favorite childhood food, or a food that takes you back to your childhood when you eat it now. We’ll draw a winner next Tuesday, August 28—which is also the official release date for Katerina’s Wish!

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