Tag Archives: Megan Morrison

I Flit, I Float, I Fleetly Flee, I Fly

This is my last post as an EMU.

I’ve spent two years in this group, and I’ve done some bizarre and wonderful things. I’ve sung opera in Viking garb for Adi Rule’s STRANGE SWEET SONG. I’ve made a Where Is Tommy Smythe? news video for Lindsey Lane’s EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN. I’ve photographed Flat Gladys reviewing airplane food on a cross-country flight, as well as written an Amazeballs recipe for Tara Dairman’s ALL FOUR STARS. I’ve attended Laurie Thompson’s BE A CHANGEMAKER launch, and I’ve watched her words directly influence the actions of students in my classroom.

During my time here, so many incredible books have been launched into the world. I’ve collected stories for Luke Reynolds’s THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT, Maria Gianferrari’s PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW, Laurie’s MY DOG IS THE BEST, Susan Vaught’s FOOTER DAVIS PROBABLY IS CRAZY, and Amy Finnegan’s NOT IN THE SCRIPT. I’ve cheered for Jennifer Bertman’s BOOK SCAVENGER, Christine Hayes’s MOTHMAN’S CURSE, Tamara Ellis Smith’s ANOTHER KIND OF HURRICANE, Kevan Atteberry’s BUNNIES!!!, Rebecca Van Slyke’s MOM SCHOOL, Joshua McCune’s TALKER 25, Laurie Thompson’s EMMANUEL’S DREAM, and Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT.

It’s been an honor to participate in such important moments in my fellow authors’ lives. I’ve also had the very keen pleasure of being celebrated during my own launch week by this kind, generous, and intelligent group. I am grateful for their support and proud to call them my colleagues.

I’ll miss being part of this amazing mob of fledglings. I wish I had some wise parting words, but the truth is that life hasn’t changed since publishing my first book. I’m still teaching full time, still a mom, still a wife, still writing, still doubting what I write on some days and feeling great about it on others. GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL is out there in the world, and that’s nothing short of a dream come true. But I’m still just me, and GROUNDED is just one book in the Great Big Book Pile.

What has changed is the “I’m A Writer” conversation. You know the one I mean, because every struggling author has had it more times than they wish to count. It goes like this:

Other Person: So what do you do?

Not-Yet-Published Author: I’m a teacher. (Hesitates) And a writer.

Other Person: A writer. Really. What have you written?

Not-Yet-Published Author: (Awkwardly) Well, I’m working on a book, and I’m trying to get it published…

Other Person: (Barely resists rolling eyes)

It is the worst. People’s expressions change. They look at you like you’re worthy of pity. Like it’s kind of sad how you still have a dream. You immediately wish you hadn’t said anything about the writing, because you are a writer, damn it, and you have been one for years, but now you just feel bad about it. It’s hard to explain to a product-obsessed world that your work is legitimate, even without a finished product to show for it, and you just haven’t had your stroke of good luck yet.

I no longer have to dread that conversation. Now it goes like this:

Other Person: So what do you do?

Published Author: I’m a teacher and an author.

Other Person: An author. Really. What have you written?

Published Author: (Points to solid evidence) That book right there.

Other Person: (Clearly surprised) Oh! Wow. You know, I have an idea for a book…

So while nothing else may have changed, that has changed. I wish every hardworking writer might experience that change. It’s extremely satisfying and much easier on the old psyche.

And now, off I go into the future, whatever that may hold. Book two in the Tyme series will come out next fall, and I’m in the process of drafting book three. This year will be my seventh as a middle-school teacher. My husband and I are expecting our second child in December. Writing goes on. Life goes on.

Thank you for having me here, EMUs and friends. It has been a real privilege.

 

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Megan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, published April 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. It has garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, as well as being named an Amazon Best Book of 2015 So Far and one of the Seattle Times’ summer reading picks. Book two in the Tyme series will be published in 2016. For more information, visit meganmorrison.net

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Farewell, Thankfulness

Oh Ye, Oh Ye, Oh Ye, We Have a Winner!

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On this 4th day of May, 2015, we welcome with humble duty, the WINNER of Megan Morrison’s awesome Grounded giveaway.

The lucky commenter to receive this most excellent treasure is none other than DARSHANA.

May Darshana be long-lived, happy, and glorious, and one day be able read every book that ever captures her interest!

(It’s been an awesome week for princesses, yes? Congratulations to Britain and the royal couple, too!)

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Let Down Your Hair—And Whip It…

grounded_cover (1)I am always amazed and delighted when an author finds a way to take a familiar character and present her in a way that is both recognizable and new. It’s no easy task. But if you’ve been following the blog this week, you know that’s exactly what Megan Morrison does with her new book, Grounded. While the Rapunzel that greets us in Grounded is familiar enough that reading about her makes us feel like we’re visiting with an old friend, her courage, agency, and adventurous spirit inspire us to view our old friend in a new light.

In celebration of all those qualities that Megan surfaces in the character, the EMUs have decided to collaborate on a playlist to accompany us all on our next adventure. Take it with you on your next road trip or enjoy it as you explore a new book (like, for example, Grounded!).

You need to have a Spotify account to listen to the playlists. If you don’t have an account but would like to create your own playlist on iTunes or any other platform, here’s a list of the songs from the EMU’s Adventure Playlist:

Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas (Anchorman Medley)
Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane
Right Now by Van Halen
Where the Streets Have No Name by U2
Inner Smile by Texas
Harbor by Vienna Teng
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
Roar by Katy Perry
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
Don’t Stop Believing by the Glee Cast
Love Don’t Roam by Neil Hannon

One song remains unidentified on the list but I’ll leave that as a surprise. I’ll just say this: there’s one possible truth about Rapunzel that no writer has explored. Maybe it’s too controversial. But it has been suggested that the real reason Rapunzel grew her hair so long is because she is a HUGE Willow Smith fan. That’s all I’m saying.

[Edit: It was brought to my attention that the Spotify playlist didn’t appear for all users. I apologize for the error! It should load below. Thank you for your patience!]

Enjoy the playlist. And be sure to pick up Megan Morrison’s Grounded if you want to embark on a real adventure! You can buy it by clicking on any of these links:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

You can also enter to win a copy by commenting on this post or any post this week. Megan has even offered to throw in a sweet chainmail bookmark as part of the giveaway!

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Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED book launch and the People Who Have Changed Our Lives!

We are continuing our celebration of Megan Morrison’s incredible GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL with a nod to the people who have come into our lives and changed us – forever. You know who we are talking about. That person who came out of left field, and now you can’t imagine your life without him. Or the person who guided you out of a dark space, and is an essential part of why you live in light. Or the person who stood up to you – how dare you! – and challenged some engrained belief of yours and you were finally set free. Or or or…

That person.

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Here’s what Megan says about Rapunzel’s that person:

Rapunzel lives quite happily in her tower – she loves it, in fact, and has no interest in the ground, where, she believes, everyone is horrible. When Jack climbs into her tower on a quest of his own, he frightens her, insults her, and shakes her belief system. Soon afterward, to protect her Witch, Rapunzel chases Jack out of the tower to get back what he has stolen. Thus begins her journey across Tyme and her first real friendship – both of which challenge her narrow upbringing… and change her forever.

Sounds amazing.

So we decided to conjure our that people (those people?!) – the people who have irrevocably changed us. (You’ll notice we are split about halfway between spouses and writing mentors!)

Adam Shaughnessy:

Given that I am getting married in May, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my soon-to-be wife Jane as a person who has come into my life and changed it forever! I spent a lot of time hoping to meet that one person who would be the perfect partner in life. I didn’t really expect that she would sit down next to me at a conference for children’s writers one day—but I’m glad she did!

Christine Hayes:

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How cute are they in their matching denim?!

It’s probably cliché to say that my husband is the person who changed my life forever, but it’s true! It’s more than the fact that we have three children and are celebrating our 20th anniversary this summer. So much more. Bryce and I are opposites in many ways (beyond the whole short/tall thing). He’s confident, adventurous, and has crazy good people skills. Me…not so much. But after 20 years together, I like to think that I’ve made positive strides in all of those areas, largely because of his example. We’ve had amazing adventures together, including living in Asia for four years—something I never would have been brave enough to do if he wasn’t by my side. We balance each other, make each other stronger. I can’t wait to see where the next 20 years will take us!

Carole Gerber:

John D. Engle, my high school English and creative writing teacher, changed my life forever. He taught me to write, submitted my work, and helped me get my poems published. He encouraged me to go to college and, because he was a fabulous teacher, my first – brief! – career was as a high school English teacher. Lacking his extroverted disposition, I lasted one year, then earned an M.A. in journalism and began my career as a writer.

John and I remained lifelong friends and I visited him two or three times a year (he lived a couple of hours away). I became part of an informal writing group of his friends and former students. He was a respected and widely published poet (1,000+ poems in magazines and anthologies).

When I visited him a week before his impending death, he handed me Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline” and asked me to read to him, as he was too weak to talk. He did not live to see the publication of my book, Winter Trees, but I sent him the galleys so he could read my dedication:  “To John D. Engle, Jr. – tree lover, poet, teacher, friend.” John departed this world on June 6, 2006 at age 83.

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Here is Mrs. Ferguson. Wow.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Oh my! It’s hard to pick one person who came into my life and changed it. Many have. My husband. My son. Friends. But I’m going to approach this from my writing world and go with my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson. I wrote a twenty-six line, rhyming poem when I was in her class. She bragged and bragged about the perfectly metered story it told. She even showed it around to the other teachers. Her words gave me a boost that has stayed with me on my journey as a writer.

Luke Reynolds:

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Robert Looney, deeply changed my life. I will never forget the day he stood up on his teacher’s desk chair and help up the Spelling Textbook. We all groaned. We had gotten used to the drilling from that textbook version for the previous aces. Different cover now, but same program. But then Mr. Looney broke into this wide grin, and proceeded to dump the thing in the trash. We all looked at one another like, IS THAT EVEN LEGAL!? In lieu of the Spelling program, Mr. Looney introduced us to his self-designed program called FLAIR. We wrote, and wrote, and wrote. We learned spelling and grammar in context, and we crafted crazy stories that year—each time to Mr. Looney’s delight. Whenever I think of writing or stories, I think of Mr. Looney’s big grin, a trash can, and a decision that forever changed my life. Thank you, Mr. Looney.

Maria Gianferrari:

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Anya, Niko & Becca in the Grand Canyon

It may be cliché, but it’s true—my husband, Niko, wandered into my life, and it has now changed in so many wonderful ways—geographically, culturally, psychologically, spiritually. Niko’s a scientist who’s originally from Berlin, Germany. Because of his job, we’ve been very fortunate to be able to visit and live in many different places. During his first sabbatical, we lived in Berlin for one year, which was so culturally enriching, and wonderful for our daughter, Anya, who was only 2 ½ at the time. For his second sabbatical, we lived in sunny San Diego, and drove cross-country from our then home in Massachusetts, and back, with daughter and dog, Becca, in tow. It was such an eye-opening experience for our family to see so many different places in the U.S., especially the many national parks that we visited (since I’m a nature girl at heart).

But he’s changed my life in more personal ways too. Through his steady love and support, he’s helped me to peek, even sometimes wholly emerge from my introverted shell, to learn to better argue and disagree without necessarily fighting, and to be more Zen and less reactive—things that have just made me a better person and partner. And it goes without saying that Anya has also enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined before she was born. I feel so lucky, and grateful to have them both in my life!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

I can’t think of a more apt choice for someone who came into my life and changed it than my son. I have wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids. It was something I took for granted would just happen one day. Becoming parents proved to be a difficult road for me and my husband, and it wasn’t until the third trimester of my pregnancy with my son that I let myself relax and finally get excited about becoming a mom. We celebrated my son’s third birthday this past weekend, and I never thought I would be so happy and thankful to spend my days doing the voices of Sesame Street characters and brushing up on my Thomas the Train knowledge.

Do you think he likes books?

Do you think he likes books?

Tamara Smith:

I’m kind of balking at the idea of picking just one person who has changed my life. There are so many! But I’m sure every single one of us thought that – and everyone else dutifully chose one person – so I will do the same. When I was an undergraduate in college I thought I wanted to be an actor. I spent two years taking acting classes and trying out for plays. Then I went to a college in Alabama for a year—don’t ask, I followed my boyfriend!—and while I was there, I was in a play by Maria Irene Fornes. The minute I opened the script to read at my audition I was flooded with this sense of…familiarity, maybe? This sense of amazement. Fornes’ voice spoke so strongly to me, and made me want to use mine. I truly think it was in that moment that I decided I just might be able to write the way I wanted to write, and to say what I wanted to say.

Laurie Thompson:

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So beautiful!

I have to say my husband is the person who entered my life and changed it completely (for the better!). We met at a time in my life when everything was changing for me and I was sort of just drifting. I didn’t know what I wanted from life or even who I really was. I had a pretty poor self-esteem and low self-confidence. I felt like I didn’t really fit in anywhere and never would. From our first conversation, I admired his self-awareness and integrity. I liked that he was such a hard worker yet had an easy-going attitude and never took himself too seriously. He didn’t worry about making mistakes, and viewed life as an adventure. He taught me not to worry so much about what others thoughts of me and always made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted to. Our early conversations really opened my eyes to possibilities that I’d never imagined for myself and gave me the courage and confidence to go after them. I am sure I never would’ve become a writer without him in my life and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done (besides marrying him, of course!). 🙂

Who is YOUR that person? Who is the person who changed your life?

Want to win your very own signed copy of GROUNDED, plus a cool bookmark? (It might just be the book that changes your life!) Please leave a comment here, or after of any of this week’s posts, for a chance to win!

You can also buy a copy of GROUNDED at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Thanks for joining us here at Emu’s Debuts!! Be sure to visit again tomorrow and Friday for new and exciting posts on Megan Morrison’s GROUNDED: The ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL!

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Megan Morrison’s Grounded Launch Party-Flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair!

If you give an EMU a Rapunzel book,
they’re going to want a tower.
If you give an EMU a tower,
they’re going to want some hair.
If you give them some hair,
they’re going to want to show it off.

You know the drill 🙂

So what’s a blogger to do but give them what they want? After all, we’re here to party.
Because today . . .
YES . . .
this very day—
Megan Morrison’s debut novel,

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hits the shelves!!!

So the EMUs are here to show off their newly styled hair as we celebrate with Megan. That’s how excited we are about this book!

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Yes, it took a lot of dye and a lot of hair stylists, but this book deserves all of that! And now you have a chance to win a signed copy of Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel, plus a handmade chain mail bookmark! Just comment on this post or any other post this week to be entered in the drawing.

You can also buy a copy of Grounded today at the following locations:

Third Place Books

The Secret Garden Bookshop

Powell’s

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch

Heading Back, Trying Again

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Tejas

Last week, my husband and I took our young son down to visit his relatives in Texas. We flew into Dallas first, then boarded another plane to fly way down south to McAllen. Air travel is tedious in the first place. Add a small child to the mix and it becomes a high-energy challenge to make sure said child is kept busy enough not to annoy everybody else on the plane. When we began our final descent into McAllen, we were relieved, to say the least. Our uncomfortable slog was almost done. Soon we would collect our bags, check into the hotel, and start the vacation.

We were flying over the landing strip – we could barely see the runway beneath us, through a thick mist of low clouds – when the plane pulled sharply up and began to climb. The captain’s voice crackled over the PA. “They’re telling us not to land, due to weather conditions. We’re going to try to divert to Corpus Christi. Don’t worry, folks, we have plenty of gas.”

Ugh.

We got to Corpus. Same thing again. Bad weather. Couldn’t land. “We’re going to have to head back to Dallas and try again later.”

Malcolm

My son, four years ago, immediately after his very first long plane ride. “That was really stupid, Mommy,” his adorable face seems to say.

NOOOOOOOOOOO.

The plane turned around. My son, who had believed he was about to escape from confinement and get sneaked lots of pieces of early Easter candy by his loving relatives, now had to sit through not one but two more plane rides. He threw himself to the floor in front of his seat and cried “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO DALLAS!” (Since this was exactly how every adult on the plane wanted to react but could not, nobody minded the display.)

The reason I share this story is that, right now, I have to revise a long novel in short order. I’ve already revised this sucker a couple of times, but it still requires some pretty extensive rebooting, and frankly? I don’t want to go to Dallas. I didn’t anticipate that I would have to go all the way back to Dallas. Corpus Christi, sure, a quick diversion – but back from whence I came? NOOOOOOOOOOO. *throws fit on cabin floor* See, to me, the story seemed to be landing beautifully. I could see the runway fine. I didn’t know there was a problem. But as it turns out, there’s some bad weather, so if I really want to reach the destination, then there’s just nothing for it but to circle back and try again.

The worst part is, now that the bad weather has been pointed out to me, I can see it. There it is. Yep. I do have to go back to &*$#ing Dallas. And while I’m sure that, deep down, I do have enough gas to get me there, it doesn’t feel like it right now. My debut is coming out in two weeks (insert ONE MILLION HOORAYS!), which is a huge and exciting big deal that has me completely off kilter. I’ve found it impossible to keep up my usual levels of productivity.

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A Christmas gift from one of my students, since I am always after them to revise. Lately, every day, this thing mocks me from the cupboard.

Luckily, there are other people with me on this flight. Just seeing them there and knowing that they understand exactly how I feel is enough to keep me sane. The lovely and talented Tara Dairman, whose debut novel launched last year, was in Seattle a few weeks ago, so a few of us EMLA folks in the area met up for dinner. Being out with Tara, Laurie Thompson, Jeanne Ryan, and Trish Toney Lawrence was delightful and bracing. At one point in the conversation, I admitted that I’m just not writing the way I usually do, and it’s really scaring me. Tara (who is now working on the third book in her series) replied, “That’s normal. On the Fourteeners board, there was a whole thread about how none of us could write anymore, now that our first books were launching. It’ll pass, you’ll be fine.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I know that she’s right. Just yesterday, I found myself mentally problem solving some of the manuscript’s biggest issues, and I was excited about the possible solutions. So while it might be uncomfortable and tedious, I’ll get there. Sure, I might have to go back and sit in the airport. Eat a soggy, twelve-dollar sandwich. Stay a night at the Ramada and then climb back into the same clothes again tomorrow.

But I’ll get there.

HiRes_Morrison_6814_crop Megan Morrison is a mom, a middle-school teacher, and the author of GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. Visit her at meganmorrison.net.

 

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Cover Reveal – GROUNDED: THE ADVENTURES OF RAPUNZEL

I. Love. This. Cover.

Technically, this isn’t a reveal. I’ve already posted this sucker all over the place. I couldn’t not. I can’t stop staring at it. It is awesome. It is GREEN. It is VIVID. It’s graphic and bold and fairy-tale gorgeous, and I am forever grateful to artist Iacopo Bruno and to the team at Arthur A. Levine Books and Scholastic for sending GROUNDED out into the world looking this spectacular.

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Hilariously, some of my students have asked me if I drew this myself.

Uh, no, kids. No, I did not. But I’m glad you think I’m made of magic. Now go and do your homework, while I sit here and stare at this cover.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out April 28, 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blogon Twitter, or on Facebook. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Evidence for Connection

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

Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Launch

Permission to Fail: Granted

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This is a red F, in crayon, that I have awarded a gold star. Yay, failure.

A draft of my second book is due in a few days, but it’s not finished.  The reason it’s not finished is that I don’t want to write the end, and the reasons I don’t want to write the end are these:

1. I want to write a satisfying ending, but there can only be a truly satisfying ending when the structure of the plot is sound enough to usher the story to an equally sound conclusion.

1b. Therefore, if I write the ending and it isn’t fully satisfying, I’ll have proof that the plot isn’t fully cooked;

1c. Which means I’ll have to do rewrites.

2. If I write the ending, the draft will be finished.

2b. As soon as the draft is finished, it’s due to my editor.

2c. My editor really likes my first book.  What if I give her the second one, and she thinks it’s a total letdown?  What if, as an author – which is something I’ve worked very hard for a chance to be – I turn out to be a one-book wonder?

There’s only one thing on that list – #1 – that’s actually based in a desire to write well.

All the other reasons are based in fear.  Specifically, the fear of failure.

I’m not unique.  We all fear failure.  And we know that we have to push through that fear if we’re ever going to achieve our goals.  But the human brain has an amazing talent for knowing something and ignoring it at the very same time.  For example, take 1c, above.  I am certain that there will be rewrites.  I have come to expect many rounds of rewrites.  Why am I pretending that I can somehow escape what is inevitable (and important)?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I have to write an ending.  Like, right now.

Today, I gave myself permission to write pure crap.  And by “gave myself permission” what I really mean is that I forced myself to write words even while knowing that they are not my best. I let every hackneyed phrase stay put, I let the gushy mushies take over, I overused adverbs and got spicy with the dialogue tags, I exercised no restraint, and I told rather than showed (gasp and horror, yeah, yeah).  I reminded myself that my editor is a professional who has seen first drafts before and will not damn me for mine.

(I also reminded myself that I still have a couple of days, so if I finish now, I’ll have a tiny window of time to do a little tweaking before I send it in.)

The result of giving myself this permission is that I’m finally closing in on the end of this draft, which is exactly what I need to be doing right now.  What I’m generating does not thrill me yet, but that’s okay. It doesn’t feel okay, but it actually is okay.  It’s even necessary.  If I want to write something good, then I have to write something.

While I’m on a roll, I think I’ll also give myself permission to fail in writing a decent conclusion to this post, because you know what?  I really want to get back to writing my crappy ending.

 

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme Series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Deadlines, Writing

The Call

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When I got the call, I sent it to voicemail.

This is not because I am made of stone.  It’s because I was in the middle of teaching.  I had left my phone on – which I almost never do, but that day I made an exception – so I heard the call. I knew what it was. The first book in my series had gone to acquisitions that morning. The answer was imminent.

I had been working on the series for a few months shy of a decade.

I went to my phone, saw my agent’s name glowing there, and made what was possibly the most difficult finger-swipe motion of my life.  I put my phone away and turned back to my class.

“Ms. Morrison, are you okay?” asked one of my 7th graders. “You’re all white. Are you sick?”

Later, once the deal was public, I would tell my students what the call had been, and what it had meant.  At that moment, however, I had no idea whether my agent was calling to tell me “Sorry, let’s try again with someone else,” or…

Or something I couldn’t even let myself fully articulate yet.

I was FREAKING OUT.

I finished teaching the class.  How, I don’t know.  I have no memory of it.  Kids might have been swordfighting; I can’t be clear on that.

When class ended, my half-hour lunch period started.  I picked up my phone.  I swallowed.  I called my agent, Joan. She answered.  There were some words – hello, morning, acquisitions, more information later, but –

“Scholastic is making an offer,” Joan said.

I haven’t written about this moment before.  I couldn’t post about it on my blog or share the news anywhere else at the time, because the deal wasn’t official yet.  Now, with several months’ distance, I realize that I barely remember any details. It was system overload.

I choked.  I seized sort of weirdly; I bent over like someone had jumped on my back.  I said, “Really?” in a very weird, high pitched voice.

Then I mostly remember crying, and laughing, and saying to Joan “This must be the best part of your job, breaking this kind of news.” And then the bell rang, and I went back to teaching as though nothing had changed, though everything had changed.  My book series was no longer maybe, one day, I hope.  It was real.  Cheryl Klein, my editor at Scholastic, really wanted it, and it really made it all the way through acquisitions.  A two-book deal.  A summer 2015 publication date.  Honestly, I still don’t believe it.

So that’s how it was when I got the call.  If there’s a lesson in this story, I guess it’s for my students.  Any phone call can wait half an hour, you guys.  Trust me.

HiRes_Morrison_6861_cropMegan Morrison is the author of GROUNDED: A TALE OF RAPUNZEL, due out summer 2015 from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic. GROUNDED is the first book in the Tyme series, co-created with Ruth Virkus. You can follow Megan on her blog at makingtyme.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @megtyme. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Introduction, The Call, Writing and Life