Tag Archives: The Monstore

Tara Lazar Says Farewell and Shares All the Things She Learned: The Good, The Bad and The Sparkly

Let’s jump right into it, shall we?

hurdlesThings I Learned During my Debut Process:

  1. Landing an agent and selling your debut book isn’t THE hurdle. It’s THE FIRST hurdle.
  2. Not being in Barnes & Noble does make a difference in your book’s success, no matter how many well-meaning people try to assure you otherwise.
  3. Being in Barnes & Noble does not guarantee your book’s success.
  4. You will read reviews of your book that will leave you scratching your head, wondering if it’s really YOUR book the reviewer read.
  5. Just because you have thousands of social media followers doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy your book.
  6. Just because you publish a book with Simon & Schuster doesn’t mean people who schedule author appearances will want you. You’re still just small potatoes. Think fingerling instead of Idaho.
  7. You’ll check your Amazon ranking more often than you care to admit and you’ll cringe every time it goes over 100,000.

OK, maybe all that is a little too depressing. But c’mon guys, this stuff is HARD. This is not an easy business. I knew this when I was trying to break in, but somehow I thought once I did break in, everything afterwards would be a breeze—a warm, tropical breeze with notes of pineapple and coconut. WRONG. There’s no pool-boy fluttering a giant leaf fan. Subsequent books have taken MONTHS to sell…and one took AN ENTIRE YEAR! And I have more in the works that are likewise taking months. And there were even more books that didn’t sell at all. Phhht. Dead in the water. And no pool-boy to fish them out!

But let’s look on the bright side. I’m an AUTHOR now! Woo!

Yes, that was a sincere “woo!” Let’s try it again: WOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooo……………! (Those periods are really tiny o’s.)

Things I Loved During my Debut Process:

  1. monstoresmallcoverAll the terribly exciting moments along the journey—seeing my characters for the first time, witnessing the progress of the dummies, revealing the cover, hearing the satisfying KA-THUNK of the author copies box hit the front porch, signing my very first book for a complete stranger.
  2. Holding MY BOOK in MY HANDS.
  3. Making incredible friends—my editor and art director, my illustrator, the imprint staff, fellow debut authors, booksellers, librarians and fans.
  4. Gaining a lot of publishing business wisdom.
  5. People sending me photos of the book spotted in the wild, face-out at bookstores.
  6. Receiving my first pieces of fan mail.

But the most important one is:

  • Seeing kids interact with my book and the joy it brings them.
littlejosbooks

Kids drawing MONSTORE monsters at Little Jo’s Books in Katonah, NY

princetonbookfestivalAnd there’s things I’m going to love that haven’t even happened yet! This weekend I’ll be at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival and the weekend after, The Baltimore Book Festival. I’ve been going to the Princeton festival for years and can’t believe I will be there signing books! Me!

And Baltimore! I’ll be on a stage! On a panel! And people will want to hear what I have to say! BUT WHY?!

After all, I’m still just Tara, wife of Alan for the past 14 years (today’s my anniversary! OMG! I almost forgot!), mother of two girls who find me terribly embarrassing, and neighbor who you’ll find scootering her kids to school while wearing ninja jammies. (That explains the embarrassment.) I’m still the same person I was before the book contract. I haven’t transformed into a sophisticated, radiant being. I lose socks in the laundry, forget to RSVP to birthday parties, and schlep to the grocery store with yesterday’s makeup smeared under my eyes. There are holes in my couches, too much junk piled in my garage and questionable looks when I drop off my kids wearing ninja jammies for the third day in a row.

But how cool that I can be my same dorky self and share my dorkiness with children through my books! Hopefully I’ll gain fans who will want every one of my releases and will never know me as un-radiant. To them, I sparkle.

And so I leave you with this: it’s a wild journey, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The dream was to sell one book, and that dream came true, so a new dream has replaced it. That dream is bigger, brighter and more daring. Will it come true? I dunno. Stay tuned.

And remember, be sparkly!

Fare-thee-well and have fun stormin’ the castle,
Tara

Princess Bride-Tara Lazar

P.S. It’s not farewell forever, just at Emu’s. You can still follow me and my jammies at taralazar.com.

P.P.S. Photoshopping by the talented illustrator Kayla Skogh. Thanks, Kayla!

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Filed under Farewell, Updates on our Books!

“Norm!” (Whoops, I mean “Tara!”)

Well, 6 weeks post book-launch and it would normally be time to wipe down the counters, flip over the barstools and tell the person knocking outside, “Sorry, we’re closed.” Tara has left the building.

cheersclosed

Instead of that final episode of Cheers, imagine Norm walking back in and everyone yelling “Norm!” Except, um, shouting some other name. “Tara!”

normcheers

Yep, I’m sticking around. Keep the stool on the corner warm for me.

I realized some of the most interesting debut experiences have happened to me post-launch. So why depart now? This is stuff that’s rarely discussed.

  • Like a corporate dispute between your publisher and America’s sole remaining national book chain which keeps your book out of the brick-and-mortar shops.
  • Like a gut-punching review.
  • Like your own child’s school declining your offer of a free school visit.
  • Like your daughter’s name being misspelled in the dedication.
  • Like most bookstores wanting you to appear in October because your book has Halloween appeal, yet very few wanting you NOW, when early sales are crucial to momentum.

BUT, there’s also the really cool stuff.

  • Like bookstores tweeting pictures of children drawing the monsters they’d like to buy at THE MONSTORE.
  • Like receiving fan mail from 22 kids at a summer writing camp, after using the first page of your book as their favorite writing prompt.
    monstorepage1
  • Like Skyping with classrooms across the country…in your jammies.
  • Like complete strangers showing up to your very first book signing. Even the town mayor.
  • Like being on a radio show!
  • Like people reviewing your book on blogs, Amazon and GoodReads, saying they love your book.

Yes, these things make you feel all warm and fuzzy, like an evening at a place where everybody knows your name.

.

So I’ll be here for a while longer. And let’s make this blog post interactive, shall we? Ask me anything about my post-book-launch experiences and I’ll be happy to oblige.

Cheers!

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Filed under Book Promotion, Book signing, Updates on our Books!

Kids celebrate THE MONSTORE in creative fashion

M2If you’ve been helping celebrate the release of Tara Lazar’s debut picture book THE MONSTORE (Simon and Schuster, 2013), you know that it’s about a boy who keeps buying more and more monsters from a not-so-helpful neighborhood store in hopes that one of them will be able to keep his pesky little sister from bothering him.

It’s a great idea, even if it doesn’t work out exactly as the boy might have hoped.

So … I thought the best way to mark the arrival of this great book, which is MM1illustrated by James Burks, would be to ask some kids what kind of a monster they would create if they could make their own. No over-exposed creatures like Frankenstein or Godzilla or King Kong. Just custom-made, newly minted monsters from the creative minds of the next generation.

As you’ll see from the responses and the art, my young friends were up to the task.

Meet Eli, who is 4. He says his monster stomps on and grabs bugs with his four M3arms. The monster lives in a cave and he eats spiders. He has green fur, and it’s all crazy.

Now, let’s welcome Joshua, age 6. His monster is Mosde, a 9 -year-old girl, who takes care of kids, helps kids if they fall, and gives Band-aids as needed (which she carries in her purse).

M4Anna is 11, but she’s not too old to believe in monsters. Spike is a water monster with water wings that propel him through water. He has bright skin that glows in the dark, deep water and many instincts that help him navigate the water. Spike can swim under water, but he can’t breathe M5underwater — has to swim to the surface to breathe and then hold his breath. But he can hold his breath for one century. That is why no one has ever seen him.

Jacob, age 7, designed a monster that can fly. He shoots fire out of his mouth. He catches prey with his talons. His name is Talon, and he’s 20 years old. Because Talon can fly, he helps Jacob retrieve balls from roofs and whatever gets stuck high in trees.

M6Jaiden says, “I would buy a monster that would make my bed, do my homework, and make any kind of candy I wanted.”

Sienna says, “I would buy a monster that could turn into a kitty when I wanted it to and it could be a nice monster that could shoot out hot chocolate.”

M7Then, there’s Drew. He just finished kindergarten, and he designed a monster named Mr. Monster. Drew says Mr. Monster is a very strong monster who helps Drew wash dishes. Not that Drew currently washes dishes in his home. But, with the help of Mr. Monster, he tells his mom that he could start.

Abby, who is 5.5, said she would like “a monster who eats fruit and vegetables and likes to go to the pool with me so I can float on his back.”

Jake, who is 8.5, says he would like “one that can play Minecraft and find all the diamonds.”  If you are not familiar with Minecraft, it is game (usually played on the computer or iPad) where you create or customize your world, build houses, mine for resources AND kill monsters.

Sam, who is 10, says: “Only friendly monsters? Hmm. I’d buy one to do my homework and play Minecraft multi-player games, and somehow get me lots of money.”

Isaac, who is 4, notes: “I would get one to help me tie my shoes and to help me drive. And I would want it to make me marshmallows and shoot cotton balls with rocks inside of them at ghosties and other scary things.”

Georgia, who is 6, says: “He would get me lunches that I like and eat all of the things I don’t like that my mom makes. And he could teach me how to drive. And make me cakes. Strawberry cakes. Also, he could spray magic on me so that I can sleep at night so my mom doesn’t go whackadoodle.”

John, who’s 6, says: “I would like it to have fifty heads, one eye, one tooth, one baseball cap, and one hundred arms. Oh, and one more thing — a mean father. (It’s just like the Cyclops and the Hecatonchires and Uranus.)”

And last but not least, meet Ellie, who’s 9. She says: “I would like to have a nice little monster named Pie. It’s fluffy and has little pointed ears, and it’s blue. It has little bows on each side of its ears, and little round arms and feet, and is very cute and friendly.”

Well, then! There are more than enough idea for Tara and James to write a sequel.

If you could design a monster to help you with something, what would it look like? What would it do?

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THE MONSTORE launch party continues with agent Ammi-Joan Paquette!

Today we’re welcoming Ammi-Joan Paquette, the agent who sold THE MONSTORE, to do a guest post on what originally got her excited about the manuscript, and what makes it a successful debut picture book. Welcome, Joan!Ammi-Joan Paquette

LAT: THE MONSTORE is Tara’s debut book. Was it also the first manuscript you saw from Tara?

AJP: Yes! Tara queried me with this picture book, also mentioning that she had several other projects in the works. I read and loved THE MONSTORE, and asked Tara if any of her other works were complete and available to send me. She did! The more I read, the more I loved Tara’s effusive writing, dynamic characters, and wildly inventive imagination. I was hooked.

LAT: What was it about THE MONSTORE that really made you sit up and take notice?

AJP: I think THE MONSTORE is the definition of high-concept. Right from the title you know that you are in for something really special—and then the story itself delivers on every level. Tara takes an out-of-this-world premise and pairs it up with a story that is both fun and wacky, yet also very warm and relatable to kid readers. You are reading about Zack and his parade of defective monsters, but you are also reading a story about a boy who is fed up with his pesky little sister—and a kid sister who turns out to be a lot more than she seems. And all of this is wrapped in a delightful read-aloud package full of rollicking rhythm and wacky wordplay. How could I not sit up and take notice?
monstoresmallcover
LAT: Now that you’ve seen the final version, is it much different from the original that you first fell in love with?

AJP: Yes and no. The story’s gone through some polishing revisions, of course, but the text is very similar to the one I originally read. What is wildly different now, of course, is that it comes with some stunning artwork! James Burks has done an amazing job bringing THE MONSTORE to life, and his characters take the story to an entirely different dimension. Being able to pick this book up off the shelf and leaf through its pages, then send my mind back to that day, three years ago, when I opened yet another email query, this one from a debut author named Tara Lazar… well, that’s really something, isn’t it?

LAT: Quick! Use three words to describe THE MONSTORE:

AJP: Hilarious! Inventive! Winner!

LAT: Is there anything else you want to add?

AJP: You should also know that Tara Lazar has several other books on the horizon—the next one of which is forthcoming from Aladdin next year: I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK is another wacky tale about an alien who falls out of his library book and into a different story altogether. And her next book, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, is forthcoming from Random House Books for Young Readers as well. If I were you, I’d keep a particular eye out for Tara’s books, because I think we’re going to see some increasingly amazing and memorable stories coming out over the next few years. So mark your calendars and clear space on your bookshelves—because this picture book author is here to stay!

LAT: Thanks, Joan! I have to agree that THE MONSTORE is a winner. I’m also looking forward to your own picture book, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, along with not one, but two, new novels, PARADOX and RULES FOR GHOSTING, all of which come out in just a few weeks! Congratulations on all of your success as an agent AND as an author, and thanks again for taking time out of your crazy busy schedule to celebrate THE MONSTORE launch party with us!

Ghost in the House cover Paradox cover Rules for Ghosting cover

Don’t forget: this is your last chance to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of THE MONSTORE!And you can find your own copy of THE MONSTORE (or buy one to give as a gift!) at places like Indiebound, Amazon, and BN.com, or at your local bookstore.

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Filed under Agents, Celebrations, Interviews, Updates on our Books!

Ssh! Don’t Tell the Grownups

Mother would not approve.

Mother would not approve.

The Monstore is a place that only kids know about. No grownups ever go there, and they wouldn’t know how to get in even if they did. As we continue our week celebrating the release of her new picture book, author Tara Lazar has us EMUs thinking about the secrets we once kept from grownups and the kids-only places we retreated to way back then.

Hiding Out

Hiding Out

So, here they are. Pretty sneaky kids, these EMUs. Read on.

Pat Zietlow Miller: When I was growing up, my babysitter, who lived just down the street, had a small hideout under her front porch. You crawled under the porch through a little green door. It was musty. It was dirty. It was awesome. She had a guest book you would sign, plus games and magazines. And she let us visit a lot.

It made me feel so cool!

Laurie Ann Thompson: Two places stand out for me. When I was a preschooler, my brother and I found the space under the eaves in our old farmhouse. It had been used for storage by previous owners long ago, but had been forgotten. There were old clothes, black and white movie reels, etc. We would go in there and stretch the movies out by hand against the window so we could see the images. Our cat liked it in there, too. Small, dark, and cozy, where the adults would never go. Perfect!

Going to great heights to hide out.

Going to great heights to hide out.

Then when I was in first grade, we moved to another old farm. We weren’t really farmers, so it didn’t matter that much of it had fallen into disuse and disrepair. When I wanted to get away from everything (which was fairly often since I was such an introvert), I used to climb up the barely attached rusty metal ladder to the top of the crumbling concrete silo so I could sit on the rotten wooden platform at the top, legs dangling down. I loved being up so high, seeing everything for miles, feeling the wind, enjoying the quiet. No one knew I was there. In fact, years later when I told my dad that was my favorite place to go while we were living there, he was shocked. He said he would never have let me climb it, as the whole thing was ready to collapse… let alone having a child 60 feet up in the air unharnessed and unsupervised! I guess it’s a good thing I was tiny and had very good balance. 🙂

Josh McCune: I’m feeling as if I led a rather dull childhood. I cannot for the life of me recall a secret hiding place. I did try to create secret traps – i.e., holes covered with leaves. Thankfully I was about as good at making traps as I was at finding secret places to hide. I did once hide in a box dressed as a monkey for my grandparents’ anniversary. Does that count?

Jump-on-the-Head, a popular game among the 5-year-old set. Its rules vary from state to state.

Jump-on-the-Head, a popular game among the 5-year-old set. Its rules vary from state to state.

In terms of stealth maneuvering, when I was five, my best friend was spending the night. We were playing this awesome game of jump-on-the-head. He lost. He was not happy and went home w/o my parents’ knowledge. I knew my father would be furious if he discovered what had happened. So I skulked out of the house at like midnight (okay, it was probably 9, but it felt like midnight), crossed the street, cloak-and-daggered it inside his house and convinced him to sneak back over to my house. Not sure if that story’s relevant, but it’s one of my favorite under-the-parent-radar memories 🙂

Cattails

Now largely obsolete, weaponry such as these once struck terror into the hearts of the enemy.

Christine Hayes (our newest EMU!): My grandparents ran an apple orchard for many years, and their home was a natural gathering place for the all the cousins. Down in a gully behind the house grew thick patches of reeds, or cattails–probably not the proper name for them, but that’s what we always called them. We used to split into groups and build forts in the reeds with any spare supplies we could scrounge: cardboard, wood scraps, even apple crates. Then we would declare war and attack each other’s forts, using the fuzzy tips of the cat tails as weapons. Such a great memory!

Carol Brendler (aka Me): One summer, the row of empty lots next to our house became a sea of grass several feet high. It must have been very dry that year, because we discovered that crawling in the grass made it flatten into paths really easily. So my brothers and me and the neighborhood kids set to work making a vast (to us) network of trails that connected a bunch of secret chambers where we could sit and talk and no one could see us, ever. I don’t remember how many days or weeks we spent expanding our web in the field that summer, but it didn’t last. By the following summer, the lots had mostly been sold off and houses were built, and our secret hideout was gone forever.

Won’t you tell us in the comments about your forts, hideouts, and secret places? Come on, it’s fun!

The Monstore is now available!

The Monstore is now available!

And look for The Monstore at your local bookshop and online.

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Filed under Celebrations, Colleagues, Happiness

Monsters Galore!

monstore_1 (2)

Look at these illustrations! Amazing, right?

Well, today we have the oh-so-talented James Burks on the blog to tell us all about them! Welcome, James!

monstore_1

 

Will you share with us a little bit about the process–how it works when a publisher brings a story to you? Do you send them samples or sketches? Or do they know you’re so awesome that they beg you to take the contract?

JB: The process is a little different depending on the project and the publisher. Sometimes you have to do samples and compete against other artists and then the publisher picks the one that they think best fits the project. That wasn’t the case with the Monstore. They had contacted my agent out of the blue after seeing something on my website that caught their eye. So they had already decided they wanted me to do the project. All I had to do was say, “YES!” Fortunately, there was no begging involved on anyone’s part. They asked and I said “YES.” Easy-peasy.

What was your first impression of the manuscript? When did it begin to come to life in your mind?

I think I was excited about this project before I even read the manuscript. All I had to see was the title and I was hooked. A book about a store that sells monsters. How could I pass that up? When I take on new projects one of the first things I consider is; Will this be a fun project to draw? And with the Monstore the answer was a big YES! Drawing monsters ranks right up there with aliens, dinosaurs, and cats. monstore sketchesThe first thing I did after reading the manuscript was start drawing pages and pages of monsters or various shapes and sizes. They had multiple eyes, multiple arms, you name it, the kookier the better. Then I went back through and picked the ones that I thought best represented the main characters of Manfred, Mookie, and Mojo.

3. Did Tara leave you any illustrator notes, or were the artistic choices all up to you?

There were minimal illustration notes. I think Tara was comfortable enough to let me take the reins on the visuals for the book. That’s what I do. I take words and turn them into pictures. Even if there had been a lot of illustration notes I probably would have still sketched out what I was seeing in my head. Then if Tara or the publisher wanted something else I’d give them something else. But initially I have to go with my gut. Once I start second guessing myself then the creative process comes to a screeching halt and that’s no fun. I think every illustrator has a certain point of view and that’s why they are asked to do projects. If someone else had illustrated the Monstore it would have probably looked very different. My goal as an illustrator is not to just illustrate what was written but to take the story to another level. To create a world beyond just the words where these characters exist. Almost like they are living and breathing. This includes giving all the monsters names and sometimes a backstory that wasn’t in the manuscript. That’s just how my brain works.

Monstore_4

4. It must have been so much fun creating all those monsters–each one is unique! Which is your favorite?

Working on the Monstore was a ton of fun. I really pushed myself artistically to the next level not only with the character designs but also the overall look of the book and how it was colored. Which monster is my favorite? Hmmm… wow, there are so many good choices. How can I possibly choose one? I guess if I had to pick one it would be “Peepers.” He’s the little eyeball monster that appears in various places through out the book. He tends to hide in the shadows here and there just outside the light. So keep your eyes peeled for little ol’ Peepers. He might just follow you home.

monstore_2

5. What did I miss?

On the technical side of things. I did all the initial sketches of the monsters, kids, and the manager in my sketchbook as well as the rough page layouts. Then once I had something that worked I scanned those into my computer where I used Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq monitor to do all the final art including the color. The text you see in the speech bubbles of the kids is actually my own hand writing. I made a custom font a few years back and use it on most of my books.

I guess that’s about it. I hope everyone enjoys the Monstore as much as I did creating it. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me these great questions.  See ya at the Monstore!

You bet! See ya at the Monstore!

James Burks started his art career working in the animation industry on various movies and television shows, including THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE, ATLANTIS, TREASURE PLANET, HOME ON THE RANGE, SPACE JAM, THE IRON GIANT, WOW WOW WUBBZY, FAN BOY & CHUM CHUM and currently on the Cartoon Hangover show BRAVEST WARRIORS. James’ first book Gabby and Gator (Yen Press) was a Junior Library Guild Selection as well as a CTA Read Across America title for 2012. His other books include Beep and Bah (Carolrhoda) and BIRD & SQUIRREL ON THE RUN (Scholastic/Graphix). James is currently hard at work on his next graphic novel Bird and Squirrel on Ice.

Visit him online at www.jamesburks.com.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, cover art, Interviews

The Fine Line Between Promo & Bozo

There’s an author on a popular social media discussion forum who starts a half dozen Twitter-like threads about her self-published books at least twice a day. My inbox floods with @’s, RT’s and hashtags when it’s supposed to be filled with lively discussion and debate about children’s literature. I’ve tried to gently steer this author, explaining that Twitter blasts aren’t appropriate for a discussion forum, but she continues to promote her books as if she doesn’t care about annoying the group membership.

Likewise, I’ve seen authors on Twitter tweet “read my award-winning book!” and “my book rated 5 stars on Amazon!” ad nauseam, never writing about anything other than their work.

And you know, when it comes to book promotion, that just doesn’t work.

partydrinks

Imagine a cocktail party. Whom at that party do you slowly back away from? The person inflating themselves, talking about their accomplishments, their interests, even their Amway products (“but they really are superior!”). They never engage in conversation, they never ask about you. You stealthily pull out your phone and text a friend across the room: “Save me!”

Social media is no different. If you constantly talk yourself up, everyone’s going to tune you out. It’s like a radio station that loops the same song for 24 hours. Once or twice and you’ll bop your head to the beat; more than that and you’ll bop your head against the wall.

headagainstwallThis is why book promotion is so difficult; there’s a fine line between promo and being a bozo. How do you inform people about your book without sounding like a windbag?

What I’ve learned over the past seven years of blogging is that being a friend to others is the way to go. Be helpful. Prompt interesting discussion. You don’t have to talk about your book to do book promotion. In fact, I roughly adhere to the 80-20 rule. Talk about your work only 20% of the time (or less). If you’re funny and entertaining online, people will assume your book will be similarly guffaw-inducing. And maybe they’ll buy it.

But the worst thing to do is to beg. You’ve seen it: “Only 34 more ‘likes’ and I’ll reach 500! Go ‘like’ me! Please RT!” Really? Is this the way to get quality followers? No. It’s the way for authors to inflate their numbers and their ego. Authors should stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the people. Because people online are just like the ones at the cocktail party–except they don’t need anyone to save them. They just need to press a button and you’ll go away.

(But please don’t go away! Tell me, what book promotion mistakes do you see online?)

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tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book THE MONSTORE will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She’s the “Social Media Captain” for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog, taralazar.com.

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To Party or Not to Party

If you read my last post about balance being overrated, you kinda know I’m not the most organized person. Honestly, I’m a slob. I never make my bed. My childhood philosophy–that I was just going to roll back into it a few hours later–remains ample justification for rumpled sheets as an adult. Plus, I hate planning things. In fact, my daughter’s birthday was in March but her party will be held in May. “Domestic Goddess” is not a term that applies to me. (Unless you’re talking about my cooking. But I digress…)

So when it comes to a book launch party, I’m of the opinion that skipping it would be a huge relief. Nothing to plan. No venue to select, no decorations to arrange, no beef/chicken/fish decision, no favors to create, no RSVPs to field.

ohtheplacesyoullgofabricAnd yet, my writing pals say, “But you only debut once! You deserve the celebration!” Really? Can we make this like a wedding shower instead? I’ll pick a bookmaid of honor and she’ll take care of everything and surprise me. All I’ll have to do is arrive and appear shocked and humbled. In a cute dress. I mean, I’ve already picked out the fabric! Adorbs, right? It’s DR. SEUSS FABRIC! Oh, the parties you’ll go!

I should mention here that I eloped. Yep. We hired “Just Maui’ed” in Hawaii and just showed up. Easy, peasy.

Book launch party? Nothing peasy ’bout it.

The best book launch idea I’ve come up with is the AUTHOR ADVENT CALENDAR. You get a piece of chocolate every day until your book is released. Genius, right? OK, I’m done!

So all this  avoidance was going well until my husband, oh wise husband (remember, the one who agreed to elope), said, “But the book launch party  isn’t FOR YOU. It’s for all the people who helped you  get published. All the people who helped us out when you got sick, too.”

alanpicOMG. HE’S RIGHT.

DAMN, I HATE WHEN HE’S RIGHT.

So guess what?

I’m in planning mode. And, it’s not so bad!

In fact, I discovered A Dozen Eggs Bake Shoppe this weekend and the amazing cookies they made for CREEPY CARROTS. OMG, I want MONSTORE COOKIES!

There’s a gorgeous restaurant less than a mile from my house, with a sweeping terrace overlooking a golf course. The catering manager said they can work with our budget to create a menu of  hors d’ouvres and kiddie-friendly finger foods.

And yes, there just might be karaoke. (Sorry, golfers.)

It is time for me to give back to everyone who helped me get where I am today. I may not make my bed, but I can sure sleep soundly in it knowing I’ll be saying THANK YOU in the best possible way. With a PAR-TAY!
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tarafall2011piccloseTara Lazar loves writing witty bios that make her sound interesting, but often fails. Her debut picture book, THE MONSTORE, will be released with the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster on June 4th. She writes from her unmade bed in New Jersey. There’s more hilarious authorly escapades at her blog, taralazar.com.

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Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Thankfulness

The Book Review Paradox, Sally Field and You

Hey, I got my first-ever review on GoodReads! And it’s GOOD! And I don’t even know this person! At least when the critical ones start rolling in, I can remember that the first made me feel accepted as an author.

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I know reviews are difficult to ignore, although we authors probably should. Sure, a good review boosts our ego a bit, lets us know that all the hard work was worth it. But a critical review? It can make us spiral down into the depths of the creative dungeon. It makes  us second-guess all our decisions. Is there something I could have done differently? 

We kidlit authors have one thing in mind when we write–to slap a smile on a kid’s face. To make them laugh, make them think, make them realize they’re not alone in this world. When we succeed in brightening the life of just ONE reader, it makes the whole process (in this case, a FOUR-YEAR journey from initial manuscript to publication) worthwhile. We feel like Sally Field accepting her Oscar for “Places in the Heart”. You like me! You like me!

And so, when the critical reviews pile up, it’s too easy to imagine the converse: You hate me! You really, really hate me!

Why is it so difficult to separate ourselves from OUR WORK? Part of it has to do with where the work originates: in our minds. I can’t yank my brain out of my skull and admonish it: Bad cerebellum, bad! Go sit in the corner!

Part of it has to do with how hard we work to get it right: the umpteen revisions we make prior to submission, the rejections we receive that make us revise again, the editorial letters spiked with red. We think we’ve already been through the wringer, polishing and buffing our story to a sparkling sheen. We’ve satisfied ourselves, we’ve satisfied our agents and editors, but have we satisfied YOU? We don’t know. We hope we have. And we’re disappointed when we haven’t. We’ve let you down, and we didn’t mean to.

Truth be told, we want to be Sally (without the 80’s perm and frosting). We want everyone to embrace us. And by embracing us, we mean loving our book. But that’s impossible. We cannot please everyone. Critical reviews are inevitable.

Frankly, I’m scared over how I will react to critical reviews. Especially if they are factually incorrect, or based upon the [agonizingly long] time Amazon took to deliver the book. Will I get upset? Angry? Feel like quitting? I have no idea.

I’m trying to prepare myself to be brave. To toughen my skin. Everyone in a creative field has to weather criticism of their work. And not liking the product doesn’t mean people don’t like ME. They’re not going to light torches and wield pitchforks. (At least I hope not.)

I don’t want to be the author who sits at the computer all day hitting “refresh” on Chrome, checking her sales rank and star average. So I need a strategy to avoid the urge. Got any ideas? Because, you see, I have other books to write. Because I really do want to get it right.

And not for me or the Academy–FOR YOU.

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Filed under Anxiety, Reviews, Satisfaction, Writing and Life

Confessions of a Next Book Addict

monstoresmallcoverWhen you’re told in 2010 that your first book will be released in 2013, you imagine it’s so far off in the future, you’re sure to have a robot butler and a flying car by then. Sadly, I’m still pouring my own tea and my Honda remains on terra firma.

But, it’s my debut year–finally! My book is less than five months away. It’s already up on GoodReads and Amazon, ready to be marked “want to read” and pre-ordered. I’ve had conference calls with Aladdin marketing and publicity, and I’ve learned that the books will be in the warehouse on April 29th. I should have them in my hot little hands by early May.

And yet my focus now isn’t on this book. It’s on THE NEXT BOOK.

It seems unfair, all the anticipation leading up to this book and I’m worried about my next sale instead of THE MONSTORE’s release.

But here’s the thing–I always intended on having a career, and a career means a steady stream of books, for if a child loves THE MONSTORE, they’ll hopefully visit other Tara Lazar titles on the shelf.

I do have two more picture books under contract, and I penned an essay for a YA anthology called BREAK THESE RULES, so I should be able to relax a bit, right? No, I can’t.

Before I ever got a publishing contract, I imagined myself as a different person once I signed on the dotted line. More confident, somehow. I’d walk down the street holding my head a little higher. But hey, I’m still the same person, and as I will remind you, the same person without a nuts-and-bolts Jeeves. I’m still insecure about my writing, I still cringe at rejections, I still pine after the next book contract like I never had a book contract in the first place. It’s THE NEXT ONE that’s important, as it sustains my career a little further into the future.

I need Cher to slap me outta it, to tell me to enjoy this time. But I can’t stop thinking about the books I have on submission, the stories that I’m revising, and the next big idea that hasn’t hit me yet. (When is it coming, muse? I’m waiting!) And of course I think about all the deals I see crossing the wire—deals that aren’t mine. And I get upset.

Gosh, I’m confessing a lot. And yet, I don’t think I’m so strange. I’m ambitious. There’s worry wrapped up in that, there has to be. If you’re overly confident you don’t try as hard, right? You think everything should come easily. And obviously, it doesn’t.

And it shouldn’t. The stories that are worth reading are the ones we have slaved over to ensure they’re the best they can possibly be.

So I keep working toward the next sale, the next contract. Because I’ve got two books in 2013, two slated for 2014, but right now 2015 remains a blank. If I want to be able to afford that electronic servant, I’d better get something new signed!

In the meantime, so I don’t completely shirk my marketing duties, would you mark THE MONSTORE “want to read” on GoodReads? Thanks. I can check something off my promotion list now!

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Filed under Anxiety