Tag Archives: Mylisa Larsen

Dogged

You want to write a book. You’re bristling with creativity, wit, love of story and a fascination with words (or images) that borders on the pathological. Great. But let me save you some time. Go down to your local lab and have some blood drawn. Have it tested for doggedness. That’s what you’re really going to need.

photo by rachel_r via PhotoRee

photo by rachel_r via PhotoRee

Last week, Adi Rule wrote about how hard writing is. (To see that excellent and funny post, please click here.) One thing that makes it hard is the lack of guarantees. You spend years writing your debut novel only to discover that it’s not your debut novel. It’s the novel that taught you how to write a novel. Feel free to cry, rant and howl a bit. But then pick up your pen (or keyboard) and start the next novel.

If you write picture books, you may write and then lovingly, compulsively revise 15-20 picture books a year. Only one (maybe) will become a picture book. With actual pictures that exist somewhere other than inside your head. The rest become part of a dogged study of page turns, rhythm and endings. I think there are illustrator equivalents which involve obsessive use of sketchbooks and experiments with form, media and texture.

I hesitate to even bring up this next bit. We are, perhaps, neurotic enough without thinking about this and I don’t think we want to stay here long. Still. Let’s  say you finally publish that first book. Maybe it’s starred in every review that exists. I hope it is. But what if it’s not? What if, in spite of the astonishing hours of work that went into creating, revising and promoting, it makes a distressingly small splash?

Let’s make a pact right now. We’re going to be ok. We’re already going to be on to the next thing. We’ll  pick up our pencil, brush, stylus or laptop and keep going. We’re going to get better and better. We’re dogged.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded. She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at her website.

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Filed under Anxiety, Patience, Writing

Other People’s ARCs

Well, this is fun and unexpected.

The Emus have a tradition of sending their ARCs around to each other before the release date. So every once in a while, I’ll go out to the mailbox and there will be a package with a shiny, brand, brand new book. The fun element of that needs no explanation.

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The unexpected part may require a bit. For me, learning to write has meant reading. Stacks and stacks of books. But it’s a different kind of reading—a take-this-apart-in-my-head-and-figure-out-how-they’re-doing-this kind of reading. An if-this-doesn’t-grab-me-in-the-first-few-pages-I’m-ditching-it-and-moving-to-the-next-one-in-the-pile kind of reading. Necessary, maybe, but a far cry from how I used to snuggle up with a book when I was a kid.

Reading these books is different. It’s not research. I know the person who wrote it. I’m reading it because I’m curious. Because I’m wondering what story she’s managed to tell. Which is really a whole lot better way to read a book.

There are some writers in this group. They can write a book about squash and make it interesting. And funny.

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

They can get you interested in a little kid who has a thing for Vietnamese cinnamon and whisks.

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They can combine freshmen and a conservatory in a mysterious forest and opera and this mythic cat which may or may not kill you and this guy who is the only guy in literature who looks good in green sweat pants and it all works. Really.

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

It’s been a lot of fun to be along for the ride and to be reminded of what it feels like to read a book for fun. To, in a way, be reminded of who we’re writing for. The kid who makes her dad read that picture book to her every night for two months. That ten year old who sneaks the flashlight up to his room and then is so pumped when he finishes the book that he has to come down and talk to someone about it even though it will mean ratting himself out about that whole flashlight thing. The sixteen year old girl on the bus that almost misses her stop because she’s gotten to a really good part.

I need to do more of this kind of reading.

 

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under ARCs

How Not to Wait

A friend and I were working on a project at the school when her cellphone rang. It was her thirteen year old son. His practice had ended early. He needed a ride. “Ok,” she said. “Give me five minutes to put stuff away and I’ll come.” Three minutes later the phone rang again. Same kid. Hadn’t she left yet? As she walked out the door and down the hall, I heard the phone go off again. “Nope,” she said. “I’m not almost there yet. It will take me fifteen minutes before I’m there. Do your homework while you’re waiting. Go take some shots on goal. It’s a gorgeous day. Look at some leaves or something.”

I laughed but I laughed because, at the moment, I can relate to the kid.

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After all the excitement of the book deal comes a lot (a lot) of waiting.

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And waiting is hard.

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For me, here’s what helps. Talk to people who’ve done this before about what to expect. Is it normal for contracts to take forever to wend their way through some place called Legal? Yes. Is it normal for long periods of nothing happening to be interspersed with other periods of semi-frenetic activity? Yep.

Get back to work. You’ve got other stories that need to be written. And revised. And revised. And revised. You know the gig.

And hey, it’s a beautiful day. Get out of your chair and kick the soccer ball around a little.  Look at some leaves or something.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Advice, Publishers and Editors, waiting

7 Years Later–And 5 Reasons You Can Be O.K. with That

It’s no secret that getting that first book published usually takes a lot longer than you think it will.

You were thinking this:

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What you really needed was this:

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The five or ten year version.

Here are five reasons to be ok with that.

1. You needed to read a million books and write a zillion words and let all that soak into you first. All that soaking took time. And made you a better writer.

2. Think of all the amazing people you’ve gotten to know during all these years you’ve been down there in the trenches together—other writers and illustrators, your writing partner who sees everything when it’s horrible and still believes you’re a writer, your critique group,  your agent who keeps you honest and doesn’t let you send out things that should not be sent out. You have a team. A team is a good thing to have in this business.

3. Process. You have one. You’re not just throwing things at the wall anymore. (All right, there are some days.) You’ve been sitting in that room for seven years and you know what it takes to get your brain to that creative spot. You know how much revision it will take before a manuscript is ready. (More than you ever dreamed.) You know what to do when you get stuck. How to win a war of attrition when you have to. Who to call for help. And you didn’t know any of that stuff when you started.

4. Because have you looked at those first books that you wrote back when you started? Yikes. If some editor had accepted those, your name would be on them right now. In public.

5. Because when that call finally comes, it will be like fireworks and lighting the Olympic torch and the world’s most beautiful spring day all rolled into one. Your kids, who are unnaturally knowledgeable about the publishing industry, will be screaming in the background. Your husband will be dancing a dance of joy in his office. You will send emails that abuse the no caps rule unmercifully. You know that rule you have about exclamation points? Out the window for the day.

And all those people that have been in the trenches with you all this time? They will be as happy as you are because they are those kinds of people and because they know what an amazing amount of work this represents.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

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Filed under Patience, The Call

“A book. . .is a whole world.”: An Interview with Anne Wilsdorf

One of the intriguing things about a picture book is how the words and the pictures work together to create a story that neither by themselves could make. If you haven’t had a chance to see how this works in Sophie’s Squash, pick up a copy. It’s a lot of fun. Many thanks to Anne Wilsdorf, the artist who illustrated Sophie’s Squash, for talking to me about this process. Anne lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.

ImageMylisa: One of the things I love about your books is that you take advantage of all the places where illustrations can tell the story. For example, you often illustrate the endpapers as you did in Sophie’s Squash.

Anne: Yes. A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.

Mylisa: When a child and an adult are reading a picture book together, the adult is often reading the words but as each page is turned, the child is reading the pictures. Another thing I love about your illustrations is that there is so much detail for the child to read. And one thing that is often going on in your books is that there will be a cat kind of having his own adventures in the book. Which makes me wonder: do you have a cat?

Anne: I thought you might ask about that. Yes, I have two cats. I have always lived with cats. I love the way they look at the world. But they don’t talk so we don’t know what they are thinking. They have their own story. When I put them in a book, they are like someone who comments on the story. They are another point of view.

Mylisa: I’m sure in each book, there are spreads that are your favorites. . .

Anne: There are always favorite pictures where you were able to express something that you wanted to express. I think my favorite part is that I love not only drawing the actions of the characters but translating their emotions. You use gestures or how a character uses her body to show those feelings and emotions. How you put your hands, how you place your feet. It’s just like theater.

Mylisa: And I think you do translate those emotions so beautifully in Sophie’s Squash. For instance, Sophie’s protectiveness and horror when her mother suggests they cook the squash. And then that lovely picture where Sophie has both of her hands on the windowpane and she’s looking out at the snow, worried about her squash, Bernice.

Mylisa: What are a few books that you loved as a child?

Anne: Oh, there were so many, so many.

I loved Tomi Ungerer. I always had his books first. We lived in Africa then and we had a big family–5 children. We were always together. When we had books, it was such a joy, incredible.

I loved the books of Wilhelm Busch. His Max and Moritz books. They are about two boys who do things that are very wrong, very naughty.

Mylisa: How did you begin to illustrate children’s books?

Anne: Since I was a child, I always loved to do books for family, for my sisters. I just kept going. It was natural for me.

I think it’s a way to know the world. When you are in your imagination, you are free to interpret the world. It gives you a very good feeling, a superwoman feeling.

Mylisa: Do you prefer working in traditional media or digitally?

Anne: I like the manual work. I like doing the drawings.

But I don’t hate the computer. I think that could be an interesting way to do things. I just haven’t done it.

Sophie's Squash by Pat Zietlow MillerAnne: I have something I would like to add about Sophie’s Squash. I love the story because it’s not so cute. So often in books we make things how we wish they were. In this story, there’s a problem because the squash is going rotten. This I love. We are very sad with the little girl and then we are very happy with her.

We are like Sophie in this book. I like to show many things in her room. How Sophie manages these objects, how she arranges them, helps us know her. I like to put her drawings on the wall. She is thinking about her squash. She is drawing her squash.

Many thanks to Anne for both the interview and the art. If you want to see a happy marriage between text and pictures, check out Sophie’s Squash.

 

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Illustrators