Entries tagged with “Authors you should know”.
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Sat 23 Feb 2013
Posted by Pat under Authors
For writers, few things in life compare with the release of their first book.
And Jesse Klausmeier is happily celebrating the debut of her first picture book Open This Little Book (Chronicle, 2013).
Jesse first got the idea for this book when she was a child, and she even created her own version of it with crayons and paper. Then she grew up, worked as an editor at Dial Publishing and — eventually — sold a refined version of the book that’s illustrated by Suzy Lee.
This is a creative picture book, because it is several books inside one, each smaller than the last. It’s an entirely new experience for early readers and those who love them.
Jesse was kind enough to visit and share a little bit about how she broke into the picture book market.
This is such an interesting concept for a picture book. When you were submitting the manuscript, how did you format it so the editor knew what you envisioned? What was your submission process like?
My acquisitions process was pretty unique for this book. I brought the manuscript to the SCBWI Working Writers Retreat in Encino, CA. The format of this retreat is special because you have many opportunities to share your manuscripts with industry professionals in a small critique group setting.
I took this specific manuscript to the retreat for a few reasons. First, I wasn’t sure how to format the manuscript, so I wanted to get feedback on that before submitting it. Second, I knew that Victoria Rock, editor-at-large and founding publisher, Children’s Division of Chronicle Books was going to be attending. Chronicle makes gorgeous, innovative books, and it was my dream home for Open This Little Book. I was thrilled when Victoria asked if she could take the manuscript back with her to Chronicle, and then acquired it a few months later.
How did your experience working as an editor help you in knowing what might succeed in the market?
When I worked for Dial Books for Young Readers, I always asked myself two questions when considering a manuscript. What’s the hook, and what makes this story unique to the genre?
Editors need to be able to pitch their books to sales and marketing, and being able to easily and clearly state the hook and how it’s a fresh take on the genre is essential. For example, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is a fresh take on the bedtime story because it incorporates vehicles. If you’re writing a princess book, what makes yours different?
As an author, I need to be able to concisely state the hook of my book, and differentiate my manuscript from others within the genre to capture the attention of my readers (and editor).
What type of feedback have you gotten from readers so far?
I have been overwhelmed by the positive reviews, blog interviews, tweets and pictures people have shared. Being an Amazon Top Pick for January, getting a starred review in Kirkus, and a great review from Publisher’s Weekly has been amazing.
Whenever someone shares a story of how Open This Little Book is their child’s new favorite book, I get teary. When teachers and librarians tell me that they have shared my book with their classes, I get teary. When authors, illustrators and editors I have admired reach out to me to offer congratulations, I get teary. Suffice it to say, I’ve been a bit of a blubbering mess so far in 2013.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a number of projects right now, including a few manuscripts for older readers.
I’m excited to share news as soon as I can!
Thank you, Jesse!
If you’d like to learn more about this beautiful book, watch this video. Or, you could read this lovely interview with Jesse on Mr. Schu Reads. It even includes photos of Jesse’s childhood version of the book.
To learn more about illustrator Suzy Lee, you can:
Tue 12 Feb 2013
Posted by Pat under Authors
A few months ago, Ellie reviewed a picture book I love called Zayde Comes to Live (Peachtree Publishers, 2012).
So I was thrilled when this beautiful book won a Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Young Readers category.
And I was even more thrilled when I learned that I was going to be part of the blog tour featuring Sydney Taylor award winners and their books.
So today, please help me welcome author Sheri Sinykin. She was kind enough to provide very thoughtful answers to my questions about how she came to write her award-winning book.
Zayde Comes to Live was your first picture book. What inspired you to write for that audience?
The inspiration for Zayde Comes to Live came from several strands. When braided together, they suggested a story for a much younger audience than the middle school children I have written for ever since 1990, when my first novel, Shrimpboat and Gym Bags (Atheneum), was published.
My mother’s diagnosis of Stage 4B endometrial cancer in 1997 sparked a lot of fear and anxiety in me, along with a devastating period of writer’s block. As part of my healing journey, I became a hospice volunteer, hoping to conquer a fear of death as well as to “pay it forward” for someone else’s parent in case I was unable to “be there” for my mother. At the time, we lived two thousand miles apart. Mom challenged me to deal with the writers’ block by earning an MFA in Writing for Children at Vermont College.
My first semester mentor, Louise Hawes, urged me to write about what terrified me — which, of course, was my mother’s death. Giving Up the Ghost (2007, Peachtree), a suspense novel for readers ages 10-14, grew out of addressing that fear head on.
I might not have written Zayde Comes to Live at all, save for a hospice rabbi’s casual comments at a brunch over eight years ago. He shared his experience that Jewish hospice patients have a harder time accepting death than other patients because few know what our religion believes about death and the afterlife. He said it’s as if we Jews are more focused on mitzvah, on doing good deeds in the Here-and-Now, rather than on the promise of a Hereafter. I wondered if Jewish hospice patients’ anxiety — like my own — might be reduced if they had learned as children about death and Olam Ha-Ba. I also pondered whether this knowledge might give Jewish children and their friends of other faiths a sense of mutual respect, comfort, and healing about where their loved ones will “go” — even if they believe different things.
And so, in writing Zayde Comes to Live, I set out to tell a compelling story that would give Jewish children a specific belief system, while at the same time providing hope to all children that a loved one’s spirit will live on through love and memories. The hospice philosophy that people are not dying, but rather living until the moment they die, provides a backdrop and an impetus for making every moment of life count. It also suggested my title, which can be understood on several levels.
How was writing to a picture book format different than your previous middle grade work?
Even though I had tried to write successful picture books since the 1980s, I came to realize that my natural voice and interests were more attuned to older readers. Publishing eighteen novels and short chapter books (I wrote eight books as the lead author of The Magic Attic Club series in the mid-90s) suggested that I concentrate my efforts there. In writing Zayde Comes to Live, I needed to filter the story through the heart, mind, and words of a much younger character. My greatest challenge was to avoid being didactic and to let Rachel’s character propel the action. As a novelist, I was conscious of the need to “write spare and young” with honesty and grace. Despite the tender age of this audience, I felt it of utmost importance to be candid about the inevitability of the circle of life, as well as to be reassuring about death, a subject many adults dread introducing, let alone discussing.
Zayde is my first book to garner pre-publication praise, and I am grateful for blurbs by Jane Yolen, Rabbi David Wolpe, and Rabbi Jan Brahms on the back cover.
This seems like a picture book that could transcend ages from small children to adults. How have you seen that happen?
I have made a conscious decision not to read Zayde Comes to Live to an audience of children, but rather to parents, educators, and other professionals who know and love specific children in a would-be audience. I am sensitive to the fact that young children may be at different stages, developmentally, and that they may be highly emotional or reactive, sick themselves, facing the death of a loved one or even grieving a recent loss. I don’t think it is my place as an author to presume they are ready — as a group — to receive what this book offers. In fact, I did not read Zayde to two of my own grandchildren until their “Papa Ron” died unexpectedly in his sleep last fall.
Toward this end, I have created for those caring adults a PowerPoint presentation titled “GOOD GRIEF: How to Talk to A Child about Death.” It is part book talk about Zayde, part education seminar, and lastly, a reading of my picture book. The education component is based on research for my MFA critical thesis on “how to make books about death and bereavement authentic for young readers;” on my hospice training and volunteer work; and on my life experience, including taking care of my mother at the end of her life, grief therapy, and, gratefully, recovery following the deaths of my parents in 2006 and 2008.
Unusual family dynamics at the time precipitated “borderline post-traumatic stress and complicated grief” just when I was struggling to complete Giving Up the Ghost revisions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A child play therapist — specializing in grief and also treating adults — not only helped me heal, but in the process, deepened the backstory of Davia, the novel’s main character, and brought greater resonance to its theme of forgiveness. In part because of that evolution, I’ve come to believe that “no book is published before its right time.” That is also evidenced by Zayde’s long journey from contract to print while my publisher searched for — and found! — the perfect illustrator in Kristina Swarner.
I am not, nor do I claim to be, a social worker or therapist. But I have come to feel a calling to help adults reframe the subject of death and to learn how to initiate a conversation with children at the “right time” for each particular child. It is not unusual for members of my adult audiences to weep openly and without shame during the reading of Zayde Comes to Live at the end of my presentation, as well as to share aloud their own experiences with the loss of a loved one. That energy is as uplifting and healing for me as it seems to be for them. For that, I am grateful. It is an unanticipated gift I’ve received from Zayde’s publication and my decision to share the book in this way.
How did your mother’s death and your work as a hospice volunteer shape this story and your previous novel, Giving Up the Ghost?
As noted earlier, Zayde Comes to Live was inspired by my mother’s life — the way she lived each day as fully as possible for eight-and-a-half years after her diagnosis — more than by her death itself. It was her habit to prominently display a cartoon of a pelican trying to swallow a frog; the frog’s legs were wrapped around the pelican’s neck in an attempt to strangle him. The cartoon was boldly titled, “Never give up!” And she didn’t. Each time we feared the end was near, she rallied, attending all three sons’ college graduations, two sons’ weddings (even singing in one ceremony!), one son’s MBA graduation, and my own Vermont College MFA graduation in the dead of winter.
The influence of my hospice training feeds Zayde Comes to Live like a stream feeds a lake. Inseparable from the story, it runs beneath the surface, infusing it with life. The character of Zayde himself was inspired by one of my hospice patients who I followed for close to a year. He had congestive heart failure and lived his days attached to an oxygen tank in a recliner in the living room. His life was reduced to what he could see out the window, on TV, and around him. I imagined how Zayde’s shrinking world would look to a young granddaughter who knows intuitively that his time with her is winding down. This imagining was made vivid by a hospice training exercise where volunteer-trainees created index cards on which we wrote all the things that made our lives meaningful and joyful. The trainer then described our changing circumstances “in hospice,” and one by one, we removed cards listing things we could no longer do. Soon our world became small, indeed. But the flip side of this exercise was imagining things we could do as volunteers to still bring joy into that patient’s life.
Though Zayde revolves around worries over Rachel’s grandfather’s “last breath,” I was grateful that this book could wait to go to press until the “first breath” of our newest Sinykin. As a result, I was able to dedicate Zayde Comes to Live to all five grandsons — Brayden, Logan, Akiva, Elon and Hillel.
Giving Up the Ghost was dedicated to my mother and published a year after her death, but she was aware before then of Peachtree’s intention to publish both books she had inspired. Though the story is fiction, the setting of the haunted Louisiana plantation — created from a composite of places Mom and I had visited — and many of Davia’s memories of her mother’s battle with cancer were stitched together like a patchwork quilt from my own memories of Mom’s challenges. Davia’s fears that her mother’s cancer might recur were my own fears. Mrs. Peters listened to the soothing affirmation tapes that I helped record for Mom, so she could hear them before and during her surgeries.
My hospice volunteer experience is evidenced in what Davia learns first-hand from the Louisiana hospice staff that helps her family care for their eccentric Great Aunt Mari, who is not only nearing the end of her life, but also battling ghosts on many levels. Because death is the biggest mystery of life, I wanted middle school readers to have their curiosity and questions about it answered sensitively but also truthfully, rather than glossed over, portrayed “off screen” or told in euphemisms. I’ve learned that, in the same way expectant mothers’ childbirth fears can be reduced or allayed by accurate information, so too can anyone’s fears about death.
While I was writing much of the novel’s first draft, I was also taking care of my mother in California, rising two hours earlier than she did so I could capture the story before we started our day. That helped infuse Giving Up the Ghost with more immediacy than had I been writing from imagination and memory alone.
Has the reaction to the book been what you expected?
I had hopes and dreams for how Zayde Comes to Live might be received, of course. But, honestly, over the twenty-something years I’ve been publishing, I have learned to let go of “expectations” as much as possible. An author releases a book-baby into the world like a child, knowing it must find its own way. But in my experience, the more I’ve “attached to results,” the less joy I’ve attracted into my life.
In that sense, the reaction to Zayde Comes to Live has surpassed even my wildest dreams! Winning both a Sydney Taylor Honor Book Award as well as a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award validates my publisher’s and my intention that Kristina Swarner’s and my picture book would reach not only a Jewish audience, but a wider, multi-cultural audience as well. My dearest wish is that Zayde will bring reassurance, peace, and completeness — shalom! — to children just discovering the circle of life they’ve heard sung about in the popular animated movie.
What are you working on now?
In terms of new projects, I’d be grateful to find a publishing home for Saving Adam, a historical novel set in 1963. Shelley Lewis’s Jewish family in Sacramento would be “perfect” if not for a troubled eight-year-old brother for whom she feels supremely responsible. Set against the backdrop of the growing civil rights movement, Saving Adam served as my creative thesis and is interspersed with Shelley’s poetry and the pain of a searing event from my childhood.
Thank you, Sheri! And congratulations again on being a Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner.
If you’d like to learn more about Sheri, her website includes reviews, grief handouts, a teacher’s guide for Giving Up the Ghost, and a downloadable brochure with contact details and information about her author presentations.
And, you can learn more about Kristina Swarner, illustrator of Zayde Comes to Live, in her interview at The Book of Life.
Wed 30 Jan 2013
Posted by Pat under Authors
In a little more than a month, Anna Staniszewski will have a second book out in the world.
Her first novel, My Very UnFairy Tale Life, was released by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in November 2011. The sequel, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail, is coming March 1.
And the new book picks up with even more adventures for Jenny, a girl who has a strange job as an official “adventurer.” She travels across enchanted kingdoms saving magical creatures and fighting horrible beasts that most people think are only myths and legends.
Jenny’s new mission is to travel to the Land of Tales to defeat an evil witch and complete three Impossible Tasks. Throw in some school friends, a bumbling knight, a rhyming troll, and a giant bird, and happily ever after starts looking far, far away. But with her parents’ fate on the line, this is one happy ending Jenny is determined to deliver.
Anna was nice enough to drop by and answer a few, fun, fairy tale questions:
Why do fairytales always take place “once upon a time?” Wouldn’t it be interesting if things happened “Twice upon a time” or “Thrice upon a time”?
I think part of the reason I like fairy tale retellings so much is that the story can happen anytime. Today, next week, a hundred years from now. Fairy tales are such simple stories that they can work in pretty much any time or place. That’s why my next project is going to be about robot fairies that live on Mars. (Okay, not really. Well, maybe.)
Please complete the following sentences:
To truly be charming, a prince should always … Have perfect manners, a great sense of humor, and plenty of chocolate on hand.
When encountered by a frog claiming to be a prince, a princess should … Threaten to stomp on the frog if he tries to kiss her.
If a fairy godmother suddenly appeared in your living room, you would … Ask her to fix the broken lamps we have around the house. Oh, and maybe fix our broken microwave. And my husband’s car. Clearly, I could use a handyman instead of a fairy godmother!
Fire-breathing dragons are inherently evil. Discuss.
If dragons breathed rainbows and glitter, I think we’d feel differently about them. But fire, while useful in small amounts, is usually pretty dangerous. I would suggest not getting too chummy with any creature that could turn you into a s’more.
The best fairytale ever written is:
“East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It starts off as a Beauty and the Beast story, but then it turns into a tale about a girl rescuing her prince. You really can’t go wrong with a magical story about a girl who saves the day (says the author of a magical story about a girl who saves the day).
“Happily ever after.” Is it a fairy tale?
I think it’s funny that people associate “fairy tale” with a story in which things are perfect. Most fairy tales are full of danger and deceit. Yes, there’s magic in the tales, but usually that magic hurts people. So “happily ever after” might be a nice idea, but I wouldn’t advise calling it a fairy tale … unless you want a potentially flesh-eating monster showing up at your door.
Thank you, Anna!
Want to know more about Anna? She was born in Poland and raised in the United States, and grew up loving fairy tales in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.
Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch.
Visit her at www.annastan.com.
Or, watch this really cool book trailer she created for My Epic Fairy Tale Fail.
Wed 14 Nov 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
Princesses and dragons have been staples of children’s literature since the very first fairy tales.
But as fairy tales have evolved, so have the kinds of princesses and dragons you’ll see. Case in point are two recent picture book releases — Dangerously Ever After written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Dial, 2012) and Oh No, Little Dragon (Atheneum, 2012) written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck.
How are these characters different? For starters, the princess in Dangerously Ever After has a pet scorpion and a taste for danger. And the dragon in Oh No, Little Dragon is a sweet fellow who gets into normal childhood mishaps, only to find there’s nothing his mother can’t fix.
Today, we’re lucky enough to have Dashka and Jim visiting Read, Write, Repeat to talk about their books.
First, let’s talk to Dashka about her princess book.
I hear you and Jim are on a “Dragon and the Dangerous Princess” blog tour. Isn’t it usually the other way around?
Don’t believe everything you read. Dangerous princesses have been making life exceedingly difficult for sweet little dragons for centuries! Hunting them nearly to extinction with their demand for dragon-skin handbags, raiding dragon hoards whenever they need spending money, insisting on equal time in the dragon-battling arena, and in Amanita’s case, stealing plants out of their gardens.
Is Princess Amanita friends with other nontraditional princesses in children’s lit? Who do you think she’d get along best with – the Paper Bag Princess? Princess Bossypants? The Princess Knight?
Princess Amanita loves sharp things, so she particularly enjoys hanging out with The Princess Knight, who always has a good supply of swords, daggers and lances. She has a good time with The Apple Pip Princess too, since they share an interest in all things botanical.
How much of her is inspired by you? Do you like dangerous things and thorny roses? What about humongous noses?
I’m actually a gibbering coward when it comes to many dangerous things — I tend to close my eyes on the roller coaster, and I’m perfectly content skiing on the bunny slopes. But I am attracted to dangerous characters, spiky plants, edgy humor, bad language and spicy food. And now that you mention it, my husband does have a pretty big nose.
What do you hope young princess readers will take away from this story?
That there’s a vast difference between smelling good and smelling well.
What’s the story behind your story? How did it come to be?
One day, my then-six-year-old son announced he was going to write a story about a queen who meant to plant rose seeds, but planted nose seeds instead. I couldn’t wait to read it! But when a couple of weeks had gone by and he still hadn’t written it, it seemed the only way I might get to read it is if I wrote it myself. That’s motherhood in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Now, let’s talk to Jim about his dragon book:
Who’s Little Dragon’s literary dragon hero? The Reluctant Dragon? The dragon in My Father’s Dragon? The dragon in the basement of Gringotts that Harry Potter frees? Someone else?
Smaug from The Hobbit. Little Dragon respects his pure destructive power but also recognizes his largely ignored tender side. In fact, in a sequel I am writing to Oh No, Little Dragon!, Little Dragon’s father is reading a story about the lies the hobbit spreads about dear Uncle Smaug.
Little Dragon sounds like quite a handful. What was the worst thing you ever did as a child? Could your mother fix it?
I was a most helpful child, actually. I mean, the vase and ash tray were much more difficult to knock off the coffee table once they had been glued down. And I understand that two dozen raw eggs, thrown from a great height onto the driveway, are a good conditioner for the concrete. And it furthered science to find out that you could chop down a tree with the claw side of a hammer, given enough time. And since I learned that the firemen are our friends, it was an act of friendship to give them a reason to take the hook and ladder truck out for a spin. So there was really no reason for mom to fix any of it, even had she been able to.
What should rambunctious little dragon readers take away from this story?
That it is very dangerous to take a bath, unless you are properly equipped.
What’s the story behind your story. How did it come to be?
I’ve told in other interviews how, when traveling through China, my guide’s name was “Little Dragon” in Chinese. That’s what started me on the path to writing the book. But there’s another part. I was once teaching a class on writing picture books. We did an exercise where I put a character in the center of the page and asked people to cluster characteristics of that character around it. When I wrote “9-year-old boy” in the center, all the characteristics that came back were negative: smelly, destructive, dirty, etc. I have to admit I was surprised and a bit offended. One mom in the audience raised her hand and said, “I have a 9-year-old boy, and I think he’s sweet and brave.” This made me want to write a story about a rambunctious boy, but to show his emotional side too. I think that experience informed the creation of Little Dragon, whose greatest concern is that he be loved.
And finally …
What type of readers would enjoy both your stories?
Jim: I think any reader between ages 2 and 10 years of age, or less than 24 months old who is either a boy or a girl would enjoy both stories. Also people with at least one X chromosome.
Dashka: Any reader who likes swords as well as pretty dresses, fire as well as water, roses as well as thorns, peanut butter as well as jelly, hats as well as shoes, and princesses as well as dragons. All right-thinking people, in other words. Also people with allergic rhinitis and anyone who has suffered the heartbreak of an extinguished fire. Consult your doctor before reading any dangerous literature.
So if you get a chance, check out these delightfully dangerous picture books and share them with a child in your life.
Wed 24 Oct 2012
How far will people go to fit in?
League of Strays (Abrams, 2012), a new young adult novel by debut author L.B. Schulman, explores that question. The book tells the story of a group of teens who feel left out and looked-over.
A charming, charismatic student brings them together for friendship and support, but turns out to have other motives as well.
How long will it take for everyone in the league to see that Kade might not be what he seems. And how much damage will happen before they do?
I’m thrilled to welcome L.B. Schulman to Read, Write, Repeat to answer some questions about her book and how it came to be.
Tell us about your process for writing and revising League of Strays?
I only had an hour a day to write this book (when my daughter napped), so it took a…w…h…i…l…e. Revising took much longer. It was the first book I ever wrote, so I had to do a lot of work to correct my initial newbie writing. If it had been my fourth, I’m sure the process would have gone quicker.
What was its path to publication? What did you learn along the way?
It was a serpentine path! I had two agents that weren’t right for me before I found The One (Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.) After a few rejection letters would come back with similar comments, I revised. I kept this up until two editors expressed interest in it at the same time. I then revised again for them, and Abrams accepted it first.
What I learned is that revision is essential to making a project work, and it isn’t something that is done quickly or easily, and also, that if you don’t give up on a project too early, you increase your odds of success tremendously.
The book discusses bullying, a topic that’s gotten a lot of attention in the media recently. Did you always intend for that to be a theme, or was that just how the plot evolved?
The book came out exactly as I’d intended. I wanted to portray a girl who gets sucked up into a bullying scheme and has to claw her way out of it. I wanted to explore the idea of “bullying the bullies” and examine why it’s not the right thing to do. I didn’t realize this was going to be such a controversial book, so that part surprised me.
What type of reader do you think is most apt to enjoy this book?
I’ve had very surprising reactions to this book. People seem to love it or hate it, and most feel strongly about their opinions. I think the ideal reader enjoys thought-provoking books and has patience for characters that don’t always make the best decisions, because in life, this happens a lot.
We all make lousy decisions at times. Charlotte is swayed by the tenacious clutch of a sociopath who plays up on her need for attention, so it takes her longer to escape his influence. People who don’t mind controversial subjects and enjoy darker books will most likely enjoy League of Strays.
What do you say to the reviewers who feel that Kade is an obvious psychopath and that Charlotte should have run from chapter one?
I say, if I had done that, there wouldn’t be a book! Seriously, though, many people — men and women — get swept up by psychopaths. They tend to be charming, they lie without remorse, and they make people feel important. To expect that ALL teens would know to run away seems unrealistic to me.
What are you working on now?
I am very excited about my work-in-progress. It’s about a girl who discovers a huge family secret, as well as relatives who she thought were dead but are actually alive. She has to unravel the family past before it destroys those she loves. It involves a major historic situation that we are all familiar with, but that’s all I will say. I am ¾ of the way done and charging through now. I have a rule about writing: Don’t talk about it, write it.
What advice would you have for aspiring authors?
If you want to be published, you have to be persistent. You almost have to be an agent-querying machine. Get four rejection letters, then send out four more within 24 hours. I made rules like this to keep me focused and on target.
I also have a contract with a writing friend: Every day we write for at least one hour, which we report to the other person. This hour usually stretches on for longer. It’s amazing how fast a book moves forward when you are consistently writing and not letting excuses get in your way.
Thanks for inviting me on your site, Pat!
Thanks, Lisa! It was a pleasure having you stop by.
If you’d like to learn more about the author, you can visit her website or watch this video.
Sat 15 Sep 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
There’s nothing like seeing your first book go out into the world.
And this week, E.M. Kokie saw her young adult novel Personal Effects (Candlewick, 2012) debut.
I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about the book and its author.
What’s the book about? Normally, I’d try to write some witty or moving synopsis, but this book has some of the most effective promotional copy I’ve seen. So why tamper with perfection?
One letter: 876 miles.
Five days to find his brother’s past and his own future.
Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, seventeen-year-old Matt Foster feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps.
T.J.’s gone, and the worst part is, there’s nothing left of him to hold on to.
Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on T.J.’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. He wasn’t expecting T.J.’s personal effects to raise even more questions about his life.
Now, even if it means pushing his dad over the edge … even if it means losing his best friend … even if it means getting expelled from school … Matt will do whatever it takes to find out the truth about his brother’s past.
I’m thrilled to have E.M. Kokie stop by the blog and tell us more about how Personal Effects came to be.
How did you first get the idea for Personal Effects?
I was doing some free-writing exercises — sitting down and writing whatever came to mind, looking for a novel-length story idea to run with. In one of those sessions I wrote parts of what is now chapter two of Personal Effects.
For a long time it was the first chapter of the story. I had this scene with this amazingly angry kid, sitting in an office after a fight, waiting for his father. He was reliving and almost relishing the fight, but what he had done was also starting to sink in. He was so viscerally angry, and vulnerable, and he seemed so real. I wanted to know why he was so angry. I wrote the first draft to find out, and to get to know him.
What process did you follow to turn that idea into a fully completed novel? How long did it take?
I just started writing, pretty much chronologically, without any idea where the story was going. And I joined a novel writing group to push me to write regularly and so I could get critique while I was writing. Once I had a few chapters, the plot began to take form, and the need for research kicked in. At some point I had to start making authorial decisions about what would happen. But for a good portion of that first draft I was learning about Matt and his life and experiencing the story as he experienced it.
In fact, I had to cut a lot of scenes in later drafts because I had not fully understood Matt in the early drafts. For example, in that first draft I thought Matt wanted to go to college, and the story was going to be about his efforts to make that happen. I’m not sure if I realized in drafts two or three that he actually wanted to avoid college at nearly all costs.
I wrote the first draft in about ten months. I then spent another five months or so researching, revising, getting critique from other writers and trusted readers, and then revising some more. In late 2008 I started querying agents. I queried slowly, a few agents at a time, and I did at least one more revision in between query rounds. In the fall of 2009 I felt my manuscript and my query were both working (getting interest from agents) and I decided to query in larger batches. I ended up signing with one of the agents I queried in that first large batch of queries in August or September 2009.
What was your biggest learning along the way?
I learned a lot about the industry, and about agents and publishers, so that I could best arm myself for approaching the business side of writing. But I think what I learned the most during the writing and revision of Personal Effects is to trust my reader.
The mechanics of my writing improved in so many ways once I started to trust my reader to understand and connect with my characters, and to read the nuance and implications of their words and actions. Once I started to trust my reader more, multiple aspects of my writing improved, including pacing and the authenticity of dialogue.
How did the sale come about?
The way I think many debut authors break in. I signed with an agent (Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary). He and I revised and polished the manuscript, and then he pitched it to a number of editors. Ultimately we accepted an offer from Andrea Tompa at Candlewick Press. It has been amazing to work with Andrea and everyone at Candlewick.
Was Personal Effects the first book you wrote? Or do you have previous “starter” novels that you did not sell?
Personal Effects is the first novel I finished. I had been writing for years, but I had never finished a novel before.
What’s the most common question you’ve been asked since your book sale was announced?
It’s a toss up between where the idea came from and how I got published. Both are common topics of interest to writers and to non-writers.
You’ve led seminars on finding the agent who’s right for you. What advice would you give to someone looking for an agent?
Educate yourself. Do your research. It’s not enough to merely look for agents who represent your genre. You need to go deeper to have a better chance of connecting with an agent who is best situated to sell your particular book and to work with your needs and expectations. Also, the concept of “dream agents” has led many writers astray. You want the agent who is best for you, and not all agents, even all agents who represent your genre, are right for all writers.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a contemporary, realistic novel. This one with a female POV character.
And at this point, I just want to say that the book is crazily, amazingly good. It’s suspenseful. It’s sad. It’s surprising. It’s real. I think you should read it as soon as possible.
You can learn more about E.M. and Personal Effects by:
Mon 10 Sep 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
Today, I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming debut author Jeannie Mobley to this blog to talk about her middle-grade novel Katerina’s Wish (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012).
Although the book is brand new, the kidlit world is already buzzing. The book has earned several starred reviews, including one from Kirkus. The sometimes hard-to-please publication called Katerina’s Wish “top notch” and said, in part:
“Thirteen-year-old Katerina and her little sisters want to believe in their dreams, but life in a Colorado coal camp threatens to turn them into pipe dreams. Take one maybe-magical carp and three sisters who believe in wishes, stir them together with an evil shopkeeper and add a dash of romance, and you have one dandy first novel.
“Katerina’s sisters wish for little hair ribbons and plum dumplings when they find a special fish, but big sister has appropriately bigger plans. She wishes that her family could leave the coal town and have the farm they hoped to own when they left Bohemia for America in the late 1800s. But dreams are tricky things, easily dashed when real life interferes.”
I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jeannie at a writing retreat earlier this year, and I can truthfully say she is as smart and as talented and as nice as you’d expect after reading her answers to my interview questions.
Take it away, Jeannie!
How did you first get the idea for Katerina’s Wish?
I had a dream, which was really different from the book it ultimately became. But I woke up from the dream and my first thought was, “That would make an interesting novel.” Of course, dreams have many things that wouldn’t really work well in a novel, so as I become more awake and rational, I began to filter through what was really interesting and what was just strange. I also began to figure out how I would change it to be a more complete story and a unique story.
What process did you follow to turn that idea into a fully completed novel? How long did it take?
After the dream, I spent a couple weeks thinking about it and determining a time, place, and main character that best fit the story. Once I had those ideas figured out, I took about a month to write the book, gave it a rest, then spent about a month revising it. I gave that version to my agent to send out on submission in the summer of 2006. Within a few months, we had pulled it because we got similar feedback from multiple editors that it felt incomplete.
The story sat in a drawer for about three years while I wrote other things, and went different directions. I couldn’t get interested in working on it again. However I was gently nagged by my agent and my critique partners to get it back out. When I finally did, in the fall of 2009, I hated it so much that I didn’t even re-read the old version, I just started rewriting from the beginning, changing the voice, the plot, the point of view. It was a drastic rewrite, filled with doubts on my part, because I wasn’t feeling very connected to the main character.
I kept sending it to my critique group saying, “Are you sure this isn’t boring?” It took me six weeks to rewrite it, giving it a more complex plot, and adding other things based on the editorial feedback. It went back out on submission in 2010, and fairly promptly sold to Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster.)
So, actual writing time was about ten weeks, with another six to ten weeks of editing. Which translates to four years of actual time that passed from starting it to selling it.
What was your biggest learning along the way?
Wow, it’s hard to say. I grew so much in my writing at every step. After it was acquired, I learned a huge amount from my editor in the changes she made or requested and her explanation of why those changes needed to happen. I learned a lot about readers and expectations they bring to a book from her.
I also learned a lot about voice and plot in addressing the concerns that editors had after the first try with this manuscript. So, I have the editors who rejected it to thank, as well as the one who acquired it. I guess something else I learned is to accept the rejections and learn from them, rather than feeling destroyed by them. They can move you forward. (Even though they don’t feel that way at the time!)
How did the sale come about?
Erin sent it to Karen Wojtyla at McElderry right off, recognizing she was a good match for it. After the acquisition meeting, Karen asked if I would be willing to make the characters younger to set the novel firmly in the middle grade range (the characters had been about sixteen to eighteen and they were changed to thirteen to fifteen.) I agreed, and the deal proceeded. After it sold, I aged it down right away without any other notes or guidance from the editor. I sent that manuscript back in, and her subsequent editorial letter was based on that draft, rather than the one that originally sold.
Was this the first book you wrote? Or do you have previous “starter” novels that you did not sell?
Hahahahaha! My first book! You are funny, Pat. Let’s just say I am lucky to have a hard drive, so that I don’t actually have all those manuscripts literally in drawers.
Katerina’s Wish was the third novel that I sent out on submission. As for the ones that never went out on submission, because I recognized they weren’t ready? It’s in the single digits, but not by much. I love to write first drafts. It wasn’t until I had written quite a few that I got interested in actually revising them to turn them into something worthwhile.
What’s the most common question you’ve been asked since your book sale was announced?
“How is your book doing?” Followed by “When is it coming out?” Very few people in my life realize how long it takes a book to come out, so most of them think it has been on sale for years now. (It was acquired in the fall of 2010.) Two years is pretty normal for a book’s journey from acquisition to publication, but a lot of friends and family started assuming it was on the market within about two or three months of acquisition.
You are, I believe, an archeologist. Have you always been a writer, too? Do the two areas support each other, or are they totally different sides of your personality?
I decided to become an archaeologist in fourth grade. I wrote my first novel in sixth grade, so both have been part of my life for a long, long time. I think both professions stem from a fascination with and passion for, exploring the human condition. I love to imagine what other people’s lives are (or were) like, and how they were shaped by the constraints or opportunities that society offered. I do that both in my writing and in archaeology. However, the two use very different parts of my brain and require entirely different styles of writing, and in that sense, they compete for my time and attention more than I would like.
What are you working on now?
I have several more historical fiction manuscripts floating around. I seem to be working my way forward a decade at a time. Katerina’s Wish is set in 1901. I have stories in various stages of the submission/writing/revision process: one based on a Colorado legend set in 1917, a second about a boy on a Central Illinois Railroad train set in 1923, and a third that’s a middle-grade detective story set in 1933. Once I get those out into the world, I will only have to write seven or eight more before I will be doing contemporary fiction instead of historical.
Thanks, Jeannie! It was great having you and Katerina stop by.
If you’d like to learn more about Jeannie and Katerina’s Wish, you should:
Thu 12 Jul 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
When I read Flying the Dragon, the new middle grade novel by Natalie Dias Lorenzi, I was impressed from page one.
On the surface, the story shares how two cousins — Hiroshi and Skye — build a relationship even though one has grown up in Japan while the other lives in America. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on — kite building and flying, soccer tryouts, finding friends, learning new languages, deciding how important family and traditions are, and learning what it means to lose people and things that are loved.
All these pieces come together so perfectly and satisfyingly that, when the book is over, readers might just want to flip back to page one and start this story over again.
I am thrilled that author Natalie Dias Lorenzi is joining my blog today to talk about how this book came to be.
Take it away, Natalie!
Your book combines soccer, Japanese kite making, flying and fighting, cancer, and the ins and outs of learning a new language. How did you think to combine all these elements? What came first?
The kite flying and fighting definitely came first. Even though I’d lived in Japan for two years, I had never heard of this sport until I read Khaled Housseini’s novel The Kite Runner. I was completely fascinated by the idea that this seemingly relaxing, low-key hobby was actually a rather strenuous, sometimes dangerous sport in many countries around the world. In doing some digging, I found that it’s also got quite a following here in the U.S. I thought it would be an interesting topic for kids, so I originally brainstormed possible picture book plotlines.
I was taking an online course on writing for children through Writer’s Digest at the time, and one assignment was to write a 500-word exchange that featured dialogue between a protagonist and antagonist. I wrote a school scene on Hiroshi’s first day of school where he’s reaching out to a Japanese-American boy and trying to start a conversation. The boy is completely embarrassed to speak in Japanese in front of his American classmates, so Hiroshi is left friendless for the day — that’s where the ins and outs of learning a new language emerged. From there, I realized that what I actually had was an idea for a novel, not a picture book, and things built from there. The boy in Hiroshi’s class became a girl named Susan, who eventually became Skye, Hiroshi’s cousin.
I needed a way to get Hiroshi to the US from Japan, so I came up with Grandfather having cancer and the family deciding to go the U.S. for a last-hope treatment.
Soccer came last; Susan didn’t play soccer at first, not until I revised and added her as the second main character. At that point, I made her into Hiroshi’s cousin, and I needed a conflict that would make her resent the arrival of her extended Japanese family, yet remain sympathetic to readers. Thus, Skye the soccer star was born.
Which parts were the easiest to write? Which were more difficult?
For me, Skye’s chapters were probably easier to write than Hiroshi’s. Once I let her share the spotlight with Hiroshi, she really won me over. Considering that she’d started as a boy, then a girl, who wasn’t very nice to Hiroshi, I enjoyed getting to know who she really was. Since she was born and raised in America, this made her easier for me to figure out. In the scenes where she’s in the hated Saturday Japanese lessons, I drew heavily on my 10-year-old daughter’s experiences in Saturday Italian classes, where most of the kids are only here for a few years and have to reenter Italian schools. They’re at a much higher level with the grammar and vocabulary, whereas we just wanted our daughter to feel more comfortable talking to her Italian relatives when we go to Italy for the summers. My 13-year-old daughter plays on a travel soccer team, so I was in my comfort zone when writing Skye’s soccer scenes.
Hiroshi was harder to write. He reminds me of many former students who came to me with little to no English, were very reserved, and eager to impress their teachers. The scene where he wants to tell his ESL teacher all about Grandfather being ill and the move and missing the kite battle back home, yet doesn’t have the words—that scene is one that still touches me whenever I go back and read it, because I’ve seen this happen with many of my students. The biggest challenge in writing Hiroshi’s point of view is that I wanted to create a character to whom American readers would relate, yet it was important to me to stay within the parameters of Hiroshi’s culture. For example, there’s one scene where Hiroshi becomes angry with Grandfather, but instead of yelling and stomping out of the room, as an American kid might, I had to paint his anger in a different way, while still getting the intensity of Hiroshi’s emotions across to the reader.
What kind of research did you do for this book? How did you approach it and how long did it take?
I knew from the start that I’d have to do some heavy researching on kite fighting and kite making. I initially did research on the history of kite fighting for a children’s magazine called Learning Through History. In the meantime, I read Linda Sue Park’s middle grade historical novel The Kite Fighters, and I noticed that in her acknowledgments, she thanked a man named David Gomberg, president of the American Kitefighters Association. I sent him an email, and he was incredibly helpful and generous with his time. Over a period of a month or so, he eventually read over all the kite flying and kite fighting scenes and offered invaluable input. He also put me in touch with Harold Ames, who has won the Smithsonian Rokkaku Kite Fighting Competition more than once. That competition is now called the Cherry Blossom Rokkaku Kite Battle, and the same one that my main characters, Hiroshi and Skye, enter at the end of the book.
For the Japanese phrases and cultural details, I relied on my two years living in Yokohama, Japan as I wrote the very first draft of the story. But living in Japan for two years certainly did not make me an expert in Japanese culture, especially when it came to the everyday lives of a typical Japanese family. Once I had the final draft finished, two teachers who were raised in Japan and now live in the U.S. agreed to take a look at the manuscript, and hoo-boy, am I glad they did! They caught lots of little things that needed tweaking, and hopefully now the story will feel authentic to readers who are familiar with the Japanese language and culture.
Writers are always told to make things difficult for their main characters. I think you did that admirably with Skye and Hiroshi. In fact, several times when I thought things had gotten as bad as they could get, they got even worse. Was it hard on you making their story so hard on them?
It was hard, actually. I really debated with myself about the fate of Grandfather, because I love him! And I know how dear he is to both Hiroshi and Skye. I talked it over (via email) with my critique group, and there were pros and cons for both avenues, but I think the one I ended up with was the right one. Both Hiroshi and Skye had to navigate some tough times in order to become the people they become by the end of the story—both individually and as cousins in the same family. But during the writing of many scenes, I found myself cringing and apologizing to Hiroshi and Skye!
What was this book’s path to publication? Quick and easy? Long and tortuous? Somewhere in between?
Definitely long and tortuous, but well worth the path it took. In its early stages, I received an offer from a small house with an equally small distribution radius. I had submitted the manuscript to this publisher before signing with my agent, and she advised me to let her submit the manuscript elsewhere, and I’m so glad I did. After some minor revisions (which included the addition of Skye’s English Tips of the Day for Hiroshi), it went out on submission. We had a lot of no’s, most of which said that the writing was lovely, but the story was too quiet for the market.
After about a year of this, we pulled back to reassess and started taking revision. At the time, the story was only told from Hiroshi’s point of view, and Skye was a girl named Susan in Hiroshi’s class who wasn’t all that nice to him. I’d mentioned earlier to my agent that if the manuscript sold, I’d eventually love to write a book from her point of view, because she got a bit of bad wrap in Hiroshi’s version, and maybe she could tell her side of the story. In that phone conversation with my agent, she said, “I think Susan is dying to tell her side of the story … now.” So we settled on a revision where the chapters would alternate between the two points of view. Susan became Skye, Hiroshi’s cousin, and I instantly fell in love with her! She added some much-needed levity to the story and to Hiroshi’s personality.
Once the revision was finished, it went back out and we had interest from Charlesbridge within a couple of months.
Now that your book is out, what’s the nicest thing someone has said about it?
The very first review that Flying the Dragon ever had was from a boy named Erik who has his own book review blog called This Kid Reviews Books. When he emailed to say that his review of my book was up, I was so nervous! Here was a well-read kid who was part of my target audience. Would he like my book? It turned out that he did, and ended his review by saying that, “It is definitely a book I would read again.”
Another thrill for me was when I found out that Kirkus had given Flying the Dragon a starred review. The last line reads, “A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family,” which gave my agent and me a chuckle; the original manuscript had been rejected so many times for being “too quiet,” and here was the word “quiet” being used as a positive!
Based on your experiences with this book, what’s the most important thing you learned?
That revision can sometimes mean rewriting. I always keep a file of the various versions of my manuscripts, so cutting entire chapters isn’t as painful. I used to be much more reluctant to cut words and phrases that made me swoon, but I’ve learned that story trumps even pretty words.
What advice would you give to fellow writers?
Don’t write in isolation. Join a community of writers in some way—through SCBWI, Verla Kay’s Blueboards, or a local writers’ group. I’ve been with the same critique group for about seven years now.
What are you working on now?
As a teacher, summer is my most productive time, but my writing to-do list is always longer than what I’m able to accomplish! Right now, I’m working on another middle grade novel and tweaking a picture book manuscript. Wish me luck!
Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog, Pat!
Thanks for stopping by, Natalie!
If you’d like to learn more about Natalie, visit her website.
Mon 7 May 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
I’ve never lived anywhere that could remotely be considered Southern.
But I’ve always loved reading Southern fiction. So when I first heard about Glory Be (Scholastic, 2012), a middle-grade novel set in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, I knew it was something I should check out.
And I am so glad I did.
The book is about the summer of 1964. Gloriana June Hemphill — known as Glory – will turn 12. Suddenly, she’s faced with an array of changes and questions she never had to consider before. Her relationship with her sister is changing. So is her relationship with her best friend.
And people in town are choosing sides in a debate about what should become of the town’s segregated pool.
All in all, it’s not the summer Glory imagined — or wanted — in any way.
This is author Augusta Scattergood’s debut novel, and I am thrilled that she is joining Read, Write, Repeat today to tell us more about it.
You’ve said you started writing this book after Ruby Bridges visited the school where you worked as a librarian. Had you thought about writing books for kids before? Or was that moment an epiphany for you?
I’m sure a lot of librarians dream of seeing their own books on a library shelf someday. Maybe an occupational hazard? I’d always written— letters, newsletters, reports, book reviews. But an actual book, with a book jacket, an ISBN number, a dedication and author’s note, all those chapters? I’m not sure I’d considered how much hard work that actually involved. Maybe that’s a good thing!
When I heard Ruby Bridges say she thought things might have been quite different for her had the adults stepped out of the way gave me a beginning. That’s the moment I realized GLORY BE was a story I could tell.
How did being a librarian help you, or hinder you, as you wrote this book?
I certainly felt the stakes were pretty high! I knew the best literature, and that could have been intimidating. But I always advise anybody who wants to write to read a lot. I think the benefits of being a librarian who read great books outweighed the hindrances.
Walk us through GLORY BE’s path to publication. I read that this started out as a short story and evolved from there.
I started thinking about a card game my younger sister and I played when we were kids. During the summers, we were trapped in our rooms in the hottest part of each day, supposedly napping. We dreamed up a card game played with our collected “junk.” Those Junk Poker boxes were the visual image I remembered when I thought about the sisters’ relationship.
At that time, I was also planning my daughter’s wedding. My short story was going to be about two little girls and their wedding planner/church organist babysitter. Fortunately, I took a different path!
I wrote the first draft during a class at The New School in New York. It was a writers’ workshop, a weekly class with an amazing teacher Margaret (Bunny) Gabel. When she read aloud a chapter of the then-inaptly-titled Junk Poker, and I heard the responses, I was encouraged to continue.
About seven years later, after sending it hither and yon, getting the requisite number of rejections, putting it in a drawer, working on something new, I met an agent at a Maryland SCBWI event. A year later, she took on Glory Be and sold it to Andrea Pinkney at Scholastic.
What’s that they say? Ten years to overnight success. That would be me. Ha.
This is your debut novel. Now that the book is out, how is being a published author different than you anticipated?
I don’t think in a million years I could have imagined what fun/work/excitement this could be. Although I’d heard a lot of writers describe publishing their first books (from my many years of hosting Author Visits and attending writing events), it’s still hard to explain what it feels like just to hold a book that you wrote and know it’s touching so many young readers.
I think the best part may be the responses I’ve gotten from kids, parents and teachers who’ve discovered Glory. I even met someone who’s reading it aloud to her grandmother and her friends in their assisted living facility. She tells me they love the story. You can’t imagine—or predict— how that will feel.
What advice would you have for writers working to sell their first book? What do you know now that you wish you had known earlier?
My biggest mistake was sending the manuscript out before it was ready. I didn’t know what “ready” meant. It was free of typos and any kind of obvious mistakes. It was formatted perfectly. Everybody loved the characters, the voice, the setting. It just didn’t yet have a plot to match, or enough conflict and emotion. That was something I needed to learn, the hard way. Patience is a virtue. There is something to that 10-year thing!
Thanks for visiting!
You can learn more about Glory Be and Augusta by visiting her website or reading her blog.
Fri 3 Feb 2012
Posted by Pat under Authors
A few summers ago, my youngest daughter attended science camp. One day, she came home quite excited.
She had spent the day talking about different kinds of animal excrement and had even made models — using Play-Doh — of various types.
Because I try to be a good mother, I sat and listened while she eagerly explained that wolf poop often has fur in it because wolves eat bunnies, but don’t digest the fur and other interesting, um, bits of information that I have not retained.
If Lisa Morlock’s new picture book, Track That Scat (Sleeping Bear Press, 2012) had been out then, I could have happily channeled my daughter’s energy to it.
And, as soon as I received my copy, I handed it to her, and she was instantly lost reading the story and learning even more facts about animal scat.
Today, I’m thrilled to have Lisa join us to talk about her debut book.
When and how did you first know that you wanted to write for children?
My mom was a teacher, and she took me to an International Reading Association conference where Cynthia Rylant talked about The Relatives Came. Her story was magical—my family “drank up all the soda pop and ate up all the crackers” too.
I was young, and Rylant was a first real writer I’d ever met. She was wonderful, and I wanted to be just like her. That goal has never really changed.
What gave you the inspiration for this book?
Another mom and I took our young sons to a summer library program. We were really early, so we went for a walk outside. The library had a nearby pond with a huge flock of geese on it. The boys started running toward it. By the time we caught up, the geese were chasing the boys, and the two were up to their big toes in goose scat. We moms gagged, but the boys were fascinated by the color and content. That stinky day, an idea was born.
What research did you do? Was any of it hands-on? Tell us some gross details!
We had our nose to the ground for this one! Since the process began, our family has photographed, drawn, and poked (with a stick) about every questionable pile we’ve come across. I also used lots of books, a few websites, and some experts for research.
How did the story evolve? What was its path to publication?
I wrote the story and sat on it for a bit. At an SCBWI-IA conference, I had a critique with editor Amy Lennex of Sleeping Bear Press. She liked it and soon after acquired it. The tale went through a few revisions, including one in which Finn became a girl. (My son is still bent out of shape on that one.) There would have been no “path to publication” without the support of SCBWI-IA friends.
I like how you incorporate the three meanings of the word “scat” into your story. How did that come about?
It’s a fun word to say, and the triple meanings were just there from the beginning.
For the jazz reference, I’ve always loved legendary trumpet player Clark Terry’s scat song entitled “Mumbles” and Ella Fitzgerald’s scat version of “One-Note Samba.” They’re fast, funny feats of talent — and my very favorite type of scat.
For the final verb form, we always told our farm cats, who were notoriously underfoot, to “skit-scat.”
What’s been the most exciting part of this process for you?
It’s all pretty great. The excitement of the manuscript sale is incredible, but seeing Carrie Anne Bradshaw’s whimsical illustrations with the total book design truly takes the cake.
What were you most surprised to learn about the book publication process?
It takes a team. Thank you to my encouraging community of writers, great editor, talented illustrator, sales team, and, finally, to my family. I really did drink “up all the soda pop” in the process — at least all the Diet Coke.
If you want to learn more about Lisa — and you really should, she’s very nice — you can: