Tag Archives: Laurie Ann Thompson

So, how’s the book doing?

One of the most common questions a pre-published author gets asked is:

How's the writing going?I’ve never been exactly sure how to answer that, since so much of writing—especially in nonfiction—isn’t actually “writing.” There’s the brainstorming, researching, outlining, and, eventually, the revising. I spend a lot of time in each of those other phases, and the actual writing phase is a small fraction of the overall work. Still, as long as I’m making forward progress on a project, in any phase, I’ll typically answer, “Great! I’ve been doing a lot of ______________ lately.” On the other hand, if life or other things are getting in the way and I’m feeling less than productive, I might say instead, “Not so great lately. I’m hoping to get back on track as soon as ______________.” I think those are satisfactory, honest answers.

Since BE A CHANGEMAKER has come out, though, the question has changed. Now the most common question I get asked is:

How's the book doing?I’m having a much harder time coming up with a satisfactory answer to that one. First of all, what does that even mean: sales figures? reviews? press/publicity? awards? Amazon ranking? speaking gigs? fan mail? There are so many ways to measure a book’s success. Which yardstick should I use to measure how the book is doing?

Second, how’s it doing… as compared to what, exactly? All books have a unique place in the market, and that market is constantly changing. A rather dismal Amazon ranking may be just great for a niche market book, while a rather fantastic one may be disappointing for a well-known author or series. Even within my book’s categories, the other books have obviously been out longer, so those comparisons don’t make much sense to me either. And the way these numbers fluctuate? It’s hard to distill any meaning whatsover.

Third, we authors don’t really know too much about how a book is doing quantitatively. True, Amazon’s Author Central gives us some useful numbers, but it’s not the whole picture, and it’s hard to know just how complete and up-to-date the information is. What’s the reporting delay? Which sales are counted in those numbers and which are not? It’s an indicator, sure, but I’ve yet to figure out just how important an indicator it is for me. The more important metric is whether or not a book is performing as well as the publisher expected it to. But those numbers seem to be impossible for authors to come by (which is probably for the best all around, don’t you think?).

Finally, there’s the issue of timing. Should any of us be worrying about how our book is doing so soon after publication? Yes, we put a lot of time and energy into the pre-launch, launch, and immediately post-launch phase, and we know books aren’t given a very long runway on bookstore shelves these days, but still, doesn’t it typically take quite a while for a book to find its audience? Is how the book is doing a week or a month after its publication date necessarily all the relevant to how it will be doing a year or two from now?

Clearly, I don’t have satisfactory answers to any of these questions, and frankly, I’m not really sure I want to. I just hope no one is offended or thinks I’m dodging the “How’s the book doing?” question when I answer honestly with:

I don't really know. I'm just trying to focus on writing the next one.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this lovely quote from Martha Graham:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

— Martha Graham

Keep on marching.

Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, was published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. She also has two upcoming picture books: EMMANUEL’S DREAM, a picture-book biography with Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House (January 2015), and MY DOG IS THE BEST, a fiction picture book with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Anxiety, Sales, Writing and Life


Oh my goodness, what a great time the last two weeks have been, with two book launch celebration parties in a row! We Emu’s are a little hungover from all that partying (in the best kinds of ways), so today we’ll keep it simple and I’ll share some pictures with you. You may have noticed them in the left-hand sidebar, since I sneakily put them up there a few weeks ago, but here’s the official unveiling. Drum roll, please…

First, the cover for EMMANUEL’S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH (Schwartz & Wade/January 2015), illustrated by Sean Qualls:

Emmanuel's Dream cover


Second, the cover for MY DOG IS THE BEST (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/June 2015), illustrated by Paul Schmid:

My Dog Is the Best cover


So different, yet each perfectly fits their book, and I couldn’t be happier with the results!


Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Happiness, Picture books, 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.


Filed under Launch

Music to Be A Changemaker By

Mozart to Eminem, Krudas Cubensi to Mazz Swift, or John Coltrane to Beyonce. Music feeds the soul and no doubt invigorates my passion to rock the word.

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddChildren’s author e.E. Trujillo shared this on Monday – that one source of inspiration for her is music. This is true for so many people; there’s so arguing that a great beat can feed your body with energy or that clear, powerful lyrics can make your brain buzz with ideas. And then there’s that hard-to-articulate quality that music can bring – almost like a magnifying glass or a drop of concentrated flavor – it makes what’s already there just so much…more. What a great source of inspiration for making change!

On this final day of welcoming Laurie Ann Thompson‘s debut BE A CHANGEMAKER into the world, we wanted to explore this idea. BE A CHANGEMAKER is a guide for young people who want to make positive change within their communities and beyond. This is good, hard work. Music helps harness the determination needed to do such work, it fills the room with creativity, and, as Trujillo said so well, it invigorates the passion you need to rock the word – or world.

And so, here are some of the songs that invigorate the EMU mob. Read about why we chose these particular songs and then click on our Spotify playlist to hear them for yourself!



Megan Morrison

Being a changemaker means having the courage and motivation to get things done.  My Get-It-Done music falls into three categories:

  1. Philosophical. Sometimes, the ability to make change comes from a place of deep faith and serenity, a place of openness and optimism.  All Will Be Well by the Gabe Dixon Band is a song I listen to when I want to tap into my better self and achieve that sense of serenity.
  2. Revolutionary.  Sometimes, change comes from outrage in the face of injustice, and the desire to rebel against that injustice. I love a lot of songs with that message, but Muse’s Uprising is the boss.
  3. Triumphant. Making real change in the world is a slow, frustrating process, so it’s important to celebrate and appreciate every small success along the way.  I can’t think of a better song for that purpose than Queen’s cathartic power ballad We Are the Champions. 


Hallelujah for Mr. JimLindsey Lane

So I am not a religious person but I am a spiritual person and music, for me, is a spiritual experience. In fact I would say that the soundtrack that has played throughout my life has deepened me, inspired me, and generally made me a happier person.

Here are some of my faves:

  1.  Van Morrison – On the Bright Side of the Road – This song always makes me happy and makes me believe in a brand new day.
  2. Joan Osborne – One of Us – Her question: “what if God was one of us…just a stranger on the bus…trying to make his way home?” Well, that’s just sheer brilliance.
  3. Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah – Enough said.
  4. Rodney Crowell – Earthbound – The beauty of being alive and the irony of being earthbound.
  5. Bob Dylan – Just Like A Woman – It’s cruel to pick only one Dylan song but it would be even crueler to leave him out.
  6. Grateful Dead – Sugar Magnolia – This was my seminal song.
  7. Olu Dara – Okra – African rhythms, simple lyrics, deceptive in their depth; it will get you dancing in the kitchen.


Christine Hayes

 I listen to music pretty much all the time! Movie soundtracks are my favorite. They’re just so spectacular, and they make anything seem possible. I love anything by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. I love Lindsey Stirling and Jake Shimabukuro. Two albums in particular that I love are Audiomachine’s Chronicles and Kerry Muzzey’s Trailer Music 2. I could go on and on!


images Mylisa Larsen

 Samuel Barber’s Adagio (the Kronos Quartet version from the album Winter Was Hard because it’s a nice, minimalist version.) It’s great clear my head music for when it gets too busy up there. And the King’s Singers version of New Day because, not to get too soppy, but it always makes me think of my kids.



Dana Walrath

 The music of Salif Keita always soothes and inspires.  Keita has spent his life leading change. Outcast on account of his albinism, he also broke the rules by becoming a musician. This was something he wasn’t supposed to do on account of his birth into a noble family, a descendant of the emperor of Mali. I saw him live once and he opened on a huge stage just his soulful voice and guitar carrying the entire audience as he sang Folon.  I love how his lyrics go back and forth between many different languages and show how we are connected.


Penny Parker Klostermann

I don’t listen to music while I work. I like total silence. But when I’m blocked or stuck, I listen to mood lifting music that makes me happy or evokes a creative mood. It helps me get past the frustration.

  1. I’m Yours/Over the Rainbow by Straight No Chaser (Reminds me of my inspiring EMLA family)
  2. Happy by Pharrell Williams (snappy and happy)
  3. Let It Go by​ Idina Menzel (inspires me​ to let my​ creativity go)
  4. Amazing Grace by​ Chris Tomlin (I love hymns. I have sung them all my life and I think singing them  ​helps me recognize rhythm in language.​)​

imagesAmy Finnegan

My song is I Will Survive!

Best disco song ever, and very appropriate for a writer trying to break into publishing. Also appropriate for teens trying to get through their school years – bad breakups, difficult friends, too many bullies, impossible classes – as well as finding their place in the world and making a difference! We will all survive!


Donna Bowman Bratton

 When I’m not working in total silence, I generally listen to a six-hour playlist of quiet instrumentals while I write.  I’ve found a lot of soundtracks do the trick for me: Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Dances with Wolves, Shakespeare in Love, and some albums of reading/studying music that contain that even tone I need.

As for inspiration music, here’s what comes to mind – maybe in this particular order:

  1.  The Climb, by Miley Cyrus (before she went off the deep end)
  2. What Doesn’t Kill You by Kelly Clarkson
  3. These Are the Days by Keith Urban
  4. 100 Years by Five for Fighting
  5. It’s My Life by Bon Jovi


Jennifer Bertman

  1.  The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.  Publishing is a long journey filled with ups and downs. Patience is your ally. The lyrics to this song have always been a good pep talk during the “downs” of publishing (and other life moments): Hey, don’t write yourself off yet/It’s only in your head/you feel left out or looked down on/Just do your best, try everything you can/And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re awake/It just takes some time/Little girl you’re in the middle of the ride/Everything, everything will be just fine/Everything, everything will be alright, alright
  2.  Right Now by Van Halen. Life is precious, time is fleeting. This song reminds me to act now for the things that matter to me. The best line in the song is “Right now it’s your tomorrow.” That reminds me to keep looking forward, and that what I do today – large or small – makes a difference in determining who the future me will be.


Rebecca VanSlyke

 My songs are two versions of What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. They’re just my “feel good” songs. That no matter what terrible things might be occurring, this world has some wonderful things happening in it, too, and it’s worth saving.


Listen to all of these songs here. Really!  On a personal note, I didn’t know half of these songs when I made this playlist and after I compiled it I played it through from beginning to end as I worked. I. Was. Inspired. (And I sang out loud and even—don’t tell my kids or you will embarrass them—danced!)



BE A CHANGEMAKER is coming on September 16! Don’t wait! Run out and buy it, and then put on your favorite tunes and get ready to make a difference! You can get your own copy from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&Nor Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!


Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Creativity, Launch, Promotion, Uncategorized

BE A CHANGEMAKER: A Tool for Change

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddI borrowed this synopsis of Laurie Ann Thompson’s book, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, from Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

“Do you wish you could make a difference in your community or even the world? Are you one of the millions of high school teens with a service-learning requirement? Either way, Be a Changemaker will empower you with the confidence and knowledge you need to affect real change. You’ll find all the tools you need right here—through engaging youth profiles, step-by-step exercises, and practical tips, you can start making a difference today.

This inspiring guide will teach you how to research ideas, build a team, recruit supportive adults, fundraise, host events, work the media, and, most importantly, create lasting positive change. Apply lessons from the business world to problems that need solving and become a savvy activist with valuable skills that will benefit you for a lifetime!”

The book sounds incredible, doesn’t it? You may be wondering how one book can offer all of this. Well, Laurie’s book does. I’ve read it and was amazed, not only with the information, but with the way in which Laurie presented it.

When the publisher says, “You’ll find the tools you need right here—”, they mean it.  And the information is presented with a simplicity that isn’t overwhelming.

Want a peek? Click HERE for a short excerpt from the Event Planning Boot Camp chapter. You will see how Laurie’s easy-to-follow tips will walk you through planning an event by considering your goals, taking a look at your financials, and evaluating staff for your event team.

HERE you can view the first 25 pages of BE A CHANGEMAKER. This glimpse will be inspiring and empowering. You will see how this book’s straight-forward approach is a tool for change.

bigger size

BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO S TART SOMETHING THAT MATTERS debuts next Tuesday, September 16th, 2014.

You can get your own copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!






Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch

BE A CHANGEMAKER: Celebrating with Quotes!

Be A Changemaker by Laurie Ann ThompsonWe are continuing the celebration for Laurie Ann Thompson’s debut Be A Changemaker, which will be published on September 16. Inspirational quotes are peppered throughout the book, and so we Emu’s decided to share quotes that have been meaningful and motivating to us. We’d love to hear your favorite quotes too!

And remember, comment on any post this week and be entered to win a signed copy of Be A Changemaker!



From Donna Bowman Bratton:

This quote by Ben Franklin has been posted above my computer for years. It obviously speaks to the writer in me, but it hints, too, at taking conscious actions for change.


 I love this quote by Charles Lamb because it so simply speaks to the heart of any good deed, large or small.


Of course, the ultimate quote for any changemaker comes from Mahatma Gandhi:


From Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

This quote reinforces my belief that even our smallest actions can make a difference, even though we may never witness the impact, and reminds me that I want to be someone who brightens the day for others, rather than tarnishes it.




From Christine Hayes:

You can probably see why, as a writer, I find this quote inspiring. 🙂 I usually substitute “people” for “men” in my own mind, and I’ve seen that done all over the web as well, but I’m guessing the version below is the correct one. On the days when I feel especially short on talent, this quote keeps me going.



From Amy Finnigan:



From Penny Parker Klostermann:

Dr. Seuss is kind of my go-to guy for a laugh or for a quick reminder that I’m in charge of doing the work it takes to reach my dreams.


From Lindsey Lane:

What I love about this quote is that Goethe was born in 1749 and I’ve experienced the ‘truth’ of his observation time and again. If I don’t begin, nothing happens.




From Mylisa Larsen:

Usually when you see someone making something look effortless, it’s because they spent thousands of hours mastering whatever they’re making seem simple and inevitable. This is a quote that gets me back to my desk to put in some more hours.




From Joshua McCune:

This quote adapted from Emerson’s poem “Merlin’s Song” reminds me to not just live life to the fullest, but to live it as myself, to open myself to new experiences, and to do it with joy. It’s that last part that’s hardest for me. Scowl, and the world scowls at you. Smile, and the world smiles with you. The world could use more smiles.



From Megan Morrison:

This idea is at the marrow of my personal belief system. Success requires two things: a clear vision and the will to carry it out, and this is true whether you want to change your wallpaper or change the world.  The first part is tricky, because it requires that we are honest with ourselves about what we want and what we are willing to do. The second part is grueling, because it requires consistent action over a long period of time, and that action must be sustained even during times of doubt and lack of inspiration. But commitment is its own reward. Nothing is more satisfying than to look back after many months and years of climbing a personal mountain to see how far you’ve really come.


From Rebecca Van Slyke:
I like this quote because I was so, SO close to that ‘give up’ point, but a friend sat me down and pointedly told me that I needed to keep going, fire my current agent, pursue a different agent, and keep writing. A few months later I had 4 books in contract.


From Dana Walrath:





You can get your own copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!


Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations, Creativity, Discipline, Faith, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, Patience, rejection and success

BE A CHANGEMAKER: Words of Wisdom

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddThis week, we’re celebrating a powerful new arrival on the youth nonfiction scene: Laurie Ann Thompson‘s BE A CHANGEMAKER, a guide for young people who want to make positive changes in the world. Laurie’s book grants its readers two great gifts: first, the courage to believe they can be agents for change, in spite of all apparent obstacles, and second, a practical roadmap to making that belief a reality. That’s inspiring stuff in a world that so often tells us we’re crazy for trying.

Inspiration is a funny thing; it has to be genuine in order to move our hearts and make us strive, and yet we know we won’t reach our goals if we sit around waiting around for it to strike. Instead, we have to learn how to tap in to inspiration every day. Since that’s not easy, it helps to have a few pearls of wisdom stored away for the days when we need a little extra fuel to keep our fires burning.

And so, to honor BE A CHANGEMAKER, the EMU mob has decided to share the things that help us to get inspired, stay inspired, and keep striving no matter what.

Great Advice

First, here’s some of the advice we’ve come to rely on:


Motivational Quotes

Next, some of the quotes that empower us:


The Advice I Wish I’d Gotten 

Finally, Christine Hayes gets real about the things she wishes someone had told her, at the beginning of the journey:


I loved putting this post together, not only because I am passionate about telling everyone how great BE A CHANGEMAKER is, but because watching and editing these videos has given me an inner glow that’s going to last for weeks. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, EMUs – and thank you for sending your tremendous book out into the world, Laurie Ann Thompson. Congratulations on your launch. You are an inspiration.

Please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!



Filed under Advice, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Colleagues, Launch, Satisfaction

Welcome to the World: BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!

changemaker_jacket_r3.inddThis week at EMU’s Debuts, we are celebrating the launch of Laurie Ann Thompson’s debut BE A CHANGEMAKER, which will be published on September 16. Part how-to manual, part confidence builder, BE A CHANGEMAKER empowers youth to create the changes they want to see in their communities and around the world through real-world examples as well as personal reflections by Thompson, who volunteered with Youth Venture, an organization that supports teens with big ideas.

To honor and promote this exceptional book, some changemaking clients of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency have agreed to share their own experiences. To be fair, these five are but a few of the amazing writers and illustrators at EMLA who are committed to making change in their communities and the world.

Please join us in welcoming BE A CHANGEMAKER to the world. And if you want a signed arc of BAC, comment on any post this week and you could be a winner!

Chris Barton

As a picture book writer, Chris Barton had a vague notion about the need to make the general population more aware of the bounty of great contemporary picture books. But when he read by the New York Times essays “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” by Walter Dean Myers and “The Apartheid of Children’s Literature” by Christopher Myers, the vague notion became a more urgent issue. Barton approached the Austin independent bookseller BookPeople to create the Modern First Library program, which makes it easy for parents, grandparents, and other gift-givers to select not only classic picture books but also new titles that reflect the diversity of today’s world.

modernfirstlibrary“I already had a great relationship with BookPeople,” says Barton, “But I was nonetheless surprised by how receptive they were to my idea — I didn’t have any bookselling experience or other particular qualification, but sharing my idea rather than keeping it to myself felt like the good-citizen thing to do, and the store’s welcoming response reinforced that impulse.” This experience has taught Barton that one key to being an effective changemaker is to disseminate rather than dismiss your own ideas for making things better, and he has been reminded by BookPeople’s example that it’s equally important to be open to changemaking ideas even though they may come from an unconventional source.

Ann Braden

When the federal government failed to pass legislation that does a better job of keeping guns out of the wrong hands, even after the horrific murders of first graders in Newtown, CT, Ann Braden helped start Gun Sense Vermont because it was clear to her that the only way we could bring balance back to our gun laws was to act at the state level. In 18 months, membership has grown to 5,000 members, and they are working to pass universal background checks during the upcoming legislative session.

GSVT-Web-ButtonAt the beginning of her changemaking journey, Braden encountered that small fringe group of extremists who are determined to keep gun laws from being passed no matter how sensible they are. “It was like I had to hold on tight to the sides of my boat as they tried to capsize it and make me give up. But after a while, I realized that my boat was stable and I wasn’t in danger of capsizing at all. That’s was when it occurred to me that I could stop holding onto the sides and just paddle forward.”

Braden was inspired by Wangari Maathai, who mobilized huge numbers of women in Kenya to plant trees and start a green revolution. Though Maathai died too soon, she managed to plant seedlings of activists around the world who, like Braden, approach life with the same ‘I-can-do-this’ attitude that inspires people to come together for a common purpose. “If you leap,” says Braden. “A net really does appear. And that net is made up incredibly supportive people.”

Braden believes a willingness to jump makes an effective Changemaker. “I joke that I ended up getting into to this just because I said ‘yes’ a whole bunch of times in a row.  Can you start an online petition? Yes. Can you help organize a group to deliver the petition to the statehouse? Yes. Can you speak at a press conference at the statehouse? Yes.” Even though she hadn’t done any of those things before.

Which is why Braden also advises changemakers that focus is really important. “If we try to fix everything all at once, we’ll end up in a fetal position in a corner somewhere. Zero in on what is achievable and what will be effective, and then put your head down and go.”

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

When e. E. Charlton-Trujillo embarked on a narrowly self-funded, hybrid book tour for her third novel FAT ANGIE, she did not know she was going to be a changemaker. “I packed my belongings into storage and drove from Cincinnati, Ohio, across America to hold creative writing workshops and discussions for youth on the fringe, at no cost to their programs.”

Never Counted OUtTrujillo’s inspiration comes from activist Amanda J. Cunningham, children’s author Linda Sanders Wells, her brother Kurt, and music. “Mozart to Eminem, Krudas Cubensi to Mazz Swift, or John Coltrane to Beyonce. Music feeds the soul and no doubt invigorates my passion to rock the word.”

And rock the world she did. Not only did Trujillo change kids’ lives, she changed her own life. “Working with kids taught me that the darkness of my youth was actually a strength. I was able relate to and work with any kind of kid. I get to be my unwrangled-hair, hoodie-wearing, tattoo self and inspire others. Talk about invigorating . . . I am constantly amazed how simple and powerful it is when you show up and say, ‘I believe in you.’ Empowering and inspiring others ignites awareness and understanding for something outside of yourself. That is such a crucial thing for me. It keeps me humble and genuine and curious.”

For Trujillo, the most important quality of being a changemaker is authenticity. “Never underestimate the potential of authenticity. Being real and honest and shedding the layers that allow us as ‘adults’ to be acceptable is some work. Young people need to have a person stand in front of them with healthy boundaries and the excitement to share creative space with them. I can promise you showing up has currency!”

From her experience, Trujillo created Never Counted Out, to empower young people through creativity and discussion. She believes that harnessing their tenacity and talent of youth through spoken word by taking their strength from page to mini-stage. She also filmed the documentary At-Risk Summer to capture the impact of a creative mentor and redefine how we talk about ‘at-risk.’ Her website is BigDreamsWrite.

Corinne Duyvis

Corinne Duyvis is the co-founder of Disability in Kidlit, a blog that discusses and dissects the representation of disabled characters in MG and YA novels. The bloggers analyze stereotypes, talk about their own experiences as disabled people, and review character portrayals from a disability perspective. “All three editors of the blog and all contributors identify as disabled, which is incredibly important because disabled people–just like many other marginalized groups–are often erased from conversations that supposedly center about us.”

Disability in KidlitBefore founding Disability in Kidlit, Duyvis followed initiatives like Diversity in YA, Angry Black Woman, and other discussions of marginalization in YA and science fiction and fantasy (SFF) novels. “While disability is often included in these discussions, just as often, it’s ignored entirely. Over the years, I became more and more aware of this lack. I discussed it with friends, tried to counter it in my own fiction, and sighed every time I saw people call for more diversity while glossing over the existence of disabled people and the need for disabled characters. When my friend and fellow YA author Kody Keplinger approached me about organizing a “Disability in YA” event, everything crystallized. Kody and I had the ability, knowledge, and desire to address those problems.”

Since they began, the website’s influence and content has grown. Not only does it help disabled people find realistic portrayals of characters, librarians and teachers use it to find books for their patrons and students. Because of the site, readers are beginning to think more critically about disability portrayals.

In addition to connecting with many wonderful, smart people who are just as dedicated to disability representation as she is, such as her fellow Disability in Kidlit editor Kayla Whaley, Duyvis has spoken with authors who said the website encouraged them to include disabled characters in their next work, or who said the site changed their approach to tackling these characters so that they are portrayed more accurately and respectfully.

Duyvis is astonished at how much she has learned in the year since she founded this blog. “I thought I was savvy before, but between reading new books all the time, maintaining the site, being in regular contact with some brilliant contributors, and keeping an eye on disability-related content on Tumblr and Twitter, I’ve doubled that knowledge. Of course, it’s also helped me realize how much I still have to learn!”

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

In a way, Lynda Mullaly Hunt was destined to create the Book Train. Not because she was teacher. Not because she is a writer of children’s books. She created Book Train because when she was in sixth grade, her teacher gave her a book that changed her life. It was a novel by Judy Blume and she devoured it. For the first time, she cared about the character and wanted to know what happened to him. For the first time, she invested in her book report. For the first time, her teacher was proud of her. For the first time, she felt self-esteem. One book.

Book TrainWhen she began writing for children, Hunt met many kids who lived in the foster care system or in shelters. She became aware that few of them owned their own books. It bothered her. A lot. After one particularly hard visit to a teen homeless shelter, she wondered what small thing she could do for kids like this. “I’m a big believer in the domino theory of changemaking. I think there are people out there who change the world for the better every day – in small ways that are not perceptible at first but send rings of change into the world the way a rock thrown in the water does.”

“I found myself brainstorming ways to get books to kids. Not just my books—all books in all genres for all ages.” One night, she was tweeting with a few teachers about how to get more people on the love train for ONE FOR THE MURPHYS. The 70’s song, Love Train by the O’Jays, popped into her head. After a flurry of tweets, Book Train, was born. Since its beginning, thousands of brand-new books have been hand-delivered to foster children, ages newborn to eighteen. Their names are in the front and those books belong to them. Forever.

To be a changemaker, Hunt believes you have to be able to think BIG without holding yourself back and thinking about what’s realistic. “When people have told me an idea I had was unrealistic, it motivated me to work even harder.  I absolutely love the quote, ‘The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.’ Yup. There’s a lot of truth right there.”


You can get your own copy of BE A CHANGEMAKER from your local independent bookstore (find one here), or order it from your favorite national or online retailer such as Simon & SchusterPowell’sB&N, or Amazon.

And please comment here–or on any post this week–to be entered to win a signed ARC of BE A CHANGEMAKER by Laurie Ann Thompson!



Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch

Following the Bird in Flight when it Comes to the Debut Author To-Do List

Like Lindsey (see her excellent post from a couple of weeks ago, Debut Author To-Do List), I’m a list maker. Unlike Lindsey, however, I am rather *cough* obsessive about it. My debut author to-do list is a spreadsheet. Okay, that might not sound so bad, but my spreadsheet has an embarrassing 135 rows, sorted chronologically, spanning from more than a year before the book’s release to more than two years after… and that’s just for one book. Yes, it’s totally ridiculous overkill, to be sure. I knew when I built it that I wasn’t going to be able to even come close to doing everything on the list. I put in every possible thing I could think of, anything I might want to remember to even think about doing when the time came. I knew I was going to have to pick and choose, prioritize, and, yes, let go of some (okay, a whole bunch) of the things on the list.

debut author spreadsheet

I got off to a fairly good start, at least.

On Monday, Megan wrote about “following the bird in flight” when drafting (see her excellent post, Writing in One Layer). I’ve been thinking about similar ideas lately, but more as they apply to the debut experience as a whole. I built that spreadsheet because I thought I’d be able follow the neatly organized chronological to-do list. I thought I’d be in control, evaluating and deciding what was really a to-do and crossing out the rest. Then I would just march down the remaining to-do list and the whole process would roll smoothly and efficiently along. Ha! What I’ve learned is that practically everything about the debut author experience is a surprise. Some of the biggest pieces are outside of my control. Being flexible enough to deal with shifting realities—bouncing back from unforeseen setbacks or pouncing on unexpected opportunities—is key.

Every teardrop is a waterfall

I am not this flexible.

  • What happens when you learn that the curriculum guide you’ve been eagerly anticipating—and promising to teachers—is not only not finished yet, but hasn’t even been started… and isn’t going to be? In my case, you come up with a plan B: figuring out how to add Common Core State Standard assignments to the library event kit that is already in progress.
  • What do you do when you randomly notice that, hey, there’s a Goodreads giveaway of your ARCs, and it’s been running for three days already? In my case, you make some room in a few of your days to get the word out and help promote the giveaway.
  • What do you do when you happen to see that the publisher of your upcoming picture book has put the cover—which you have never seen before—on their website? In my case, you SQUEE for joy, dance around the room for a while, hyperventilate, eat some chocolate, and then quietly sneak the image up on the Emu’s Debuts sidebar and your own webpage and hope someone notices.
Emmanuel's Dream cover

I can’t wait to show you what’s inside!

  • What do you do when a local private school director invites you to coffee to talk about possible collaborations, or a well-known blog invites you to do a guest post, or your publisher invites you to do a live video webinar on your book’s topic, or a thriving local startup invites you to their annual company open house as a featured guest, or a trusted youth organization approaches you about giving changemaker workshops? In my case, you say, “YES!” to all of them and start preparing (even though “live” and “video” are two words that should never be put together, in my opinion!).

None of those things were even on my spreadsheet, and I’m not coming at all close to keeping up with my to-do list. (It’s rather fitting that I missed my Thursday morning deadline for this very post, isn’t it?) I expected to be able to just draft a plan and then carry it out, but instead my debut experience seems to be all about following the bird in flight. And I’m okay with that: it’s taking me to some amazing places.

Off you go

Photo from liquidnight on Flickr.


Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, Promotion, Time Management, Writing and Life

On overnight success (Surprise! It’s a lot like failure.)

Both of last week’s posts here were about failure, or at least the constant perceived threat of failure that so often makes it hard for us to move forward. I’m going to continue the theme, but on a slightly different note. Our own Emu Empress, Erin MUrphy, once said something along the lines of, “For every success, there is a waiting period that feels like failure.” And in a post on this very blog almost three years ago, she followed that up with, “But it’s NOT! It’s just waiting!”

When she wrote that post back in 2011, I’d only been with the agency for a few months. One year from now, I’ll have three books published. That doesn’t seem like very much waiting, especially to those familiar with the pace of the publishing industry. Many of my writer friends have walked up to me and said something to the effect of, “Wow, you’re on FIRE!” Some say things like, “I guess you’ve been busy lately!” Others ask, “So, what’s your secret?” as if I’m holding out on them. A few say, “Boy, did you get lucky!” never thinking that some authors might be a little bit offended by that. (I never am: Yes, indeed, I have gotten very, very lucky!)

So, in the interests of dispelling myths and keeping things real, I thought it might be helpful to break down my “overnight success:”

  • Early 1970s: I fell in love with reading: books, magazines, encyclopedias, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, you name it, I read it.
  • Somewhere around 1980: I sent away for the application to the Institute of Children’s Literature, filled it out and was accepted! Sadly, my parents didn’t think I was quite ready for a literary career, since I was still in elementary school.
  • Late 1980s: I wrote lots of angsty teen poetry, got my first word processor, and discovered term papers – what fun!
  • Early 1990s: I minored in technical writing and grammar in college and took honors English courses, even while I went for a “sensible” career in software engineering.
  • 2000: A good friend told me I should stop telling her about all the things I was learning and just write my explanations down for everyone to read. I suspect she might have just been trying to shut me up, but I jumped at the suggestion.
  • 2004: My first article was published by a regional parenting magazine.
  • 2004: I started working on the manuscript that would become both EMMANUEL’S DREAM and BE A CHANGEMAKER (yes, a picture-book biography and a teen how-to guide both evolved from the same project).
  • 2006: I enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature course… finally!
  • 2006: My first magazine article for kids was published.
  • 2008: I joined SCBWI.
  • 2009: I wrote MY DOG IS THE BEST for an online workshop with Anastasia Suen.
  • 2011: I signed with my amazing agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary.
  • 2012: EMMANUEL’S DREAM sold.

You can see that there was an awful lot of waiting that felt like failure in there. Of course, I wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing in those spaces between the bullet points, either. I was constantly taking classes, reading, studying, writing, getting feedback, revising, submitting… I have dozens of manuscripts and proposals that will never become books and hundreds of ideas that will never even become manuscripts. I’ve collected what feels like thousands of rejections, and still that number continues to grow!

Each one of those could be seen as failure (and, believe me, some days they sure do feel like it), but I try to look at them more as necessary delays, like with air traffic control… or Frogger. Remember how you had to ride the log until another one came by and then jump at just the right moment? Having just the right wait time will eventually put me on the right track with the right skills and life experience for the right idea for the right editor at the right time (hopefully!). After all, what can we do but keep working, putting our work out there, and hoping, even if that means to perpetually risk failure? It’s the only way I know of to get to success.

Laurie Ann Thompson head shotLaurie Ann Thompson’s debut young-adult nonfiction, BE A CHANGEMAKER: HOW TO START SOMETHING THAT MATTERS, will be published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in September, 2014. She also has two upcoming picture books: EMMANUEL’S DREAM, a picture-book biography with Schwartz & Wade/Penguin Random House (January 2015), and MY DOG IS THE BEST, a fiction picture book with Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Macmillan (May 2015). Please visit her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Discipline, Faith, Rejection, rejection and success, Writing and Life