Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Today is the official publication date for What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. Hurray!! I am so excited to see it in bookstores at last. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Excerpts from some early reviews:
"Recycling becomes lots of fun in this sprightly activity book. . . what really makes this a a standout is Alter's adorable artwork featuring a coterie of animals at work and play."
"This is a great choice for environmental units and a valuable resource for parents interested in teaching their children about reuse at home."
--School Library Journal
Saturday's Book Bash was a lot of fun and a huge success, the place was packed! Lesson learned: partnering with a radio station for an event is super smart as they advertised the like crazy. Also, I am starting to see that events in smaller towns (as opposed to large metropolitan areas) seem to bring out more of a crowd, maybe because people's time isn't spread as thin with other events they could attend? Of course having great programming helps too, Jarrett (organizer of us book folks) and The River put on a great event and a good time was had by all. You can see more pictures on the radio station's web site, but here are some highlights...
The main room was filled with vendors of all kinds, including of course local independent book store The Odyssey:
There were art activities for kids all over the place, including this one that looks just like one of the art projects in Old Red Shoe (actually they were making May baskets):
Bands played all day on multiple stages, so of course there was lots of cute tiny kid dancing:
In between bands, us authors took the stage. I drew and read and talked about my new books:
After me came Timothy Basil Ering, who gave an amazing talk about how he gets his ideas, including an underwater video of catching lobsters at the Cape:
Jane Yolen took the stage next, and enthralled the audience with her reading of How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? while she played a gorgeous animation of the art:
And to finish off the day Jarrett Krosoczka amped up the audience with his rock star reading of Punk Farm, the kids were in love:
Monday, March 30, 2009
BUT, I spent the first 100 pages confused. I found it extremely hard to follow, with too many characters to keep track of. For some reason, I kept thinking it was a dystopian fantasy. It took me a while to realize that it was set in contemporary Australia! And then I spent the next 50-100 pages irritated by the main character. I know, right? Not exactly a glowing review. And yet I loved this book! The writing was beautiful, and I stuck with it, and I'm so glad that I did, because the second half was so fantastic, I forgave the issues I had with the beginning. And, in fact, I understood better the reason why the beginning was set up the way it was.
But I realized that if this had been submitted to me, I would have probably declined it, because when I review novels, I generally make up my mind in the first 30-50 pages. If I'm pretty sure it's a pass, I will skip to the end to see if it ends on a really powerful note, but it's hard to say in this case if skipping to the end would have changed my mind. In my first year or so as an editorial assistant, I actually read through every submission all the way through. Sure, I may have skimmed, but I had the time and interest to get to the end. But I came to realize that I rarely if ever changed my mind about a book after making up my mind in the beginning. I also started getting more novel submissions and was unable to read the entire manuscript and still keep up with the reading pile. (I should say that if I'm liking a book, I'll read the whole thing.)
So, what made me stick with the book in this case? The fact that it was a Printz winner was a reason--I knew that it must end powerfully for it to have won over a committee of librarians. Knowing that the author was well-respected played a role, too. Plus the fact that I was reading it for a book group and started it early enough to have time to finish it, of course!
I was talking about my experience with this book with an agent last week, telling her that because of the nature of the business, I might have a passed on a book that I ultimately loved, and she thought for a moment and said, "Well, I suppose that's where a good agent comes in." The agent can advise the editor to stick with a book, and if the editor trusts the agent, she will. It's true. There are certain agents I trust, and know that they would never send something unworthy. I give the submissions they send me a little more attention and patience than others sent by agents I don't know, don't know well, or know but don't generally trust their taste. Other readers at the book group said they stuck with it because colleagues had told them how amazing the book was, and they trusted their advice.
But I must say, ultimately, I think Jellicoe Road is the exception to the rule. There's a reason why so many conferences have first-page critiques--because it's so crucial to hook your reader from the very beginning. I won't be drastically changing the way I review submissions, but then again, I may be a little more patient with certain novels under very special circumstances.
Just a reminder that tomorrow night I will be on a panel at the New School on getting published, along with Ben Tomek, marketing associate, Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing; and Anna Olswanger, literary agent, Liza Dawson Associates. It's only $5 (free for students, faculty, and alumni), so if you're in the NY area, come on out! More info here.
And finally, the winning name for my segments on the books I edit is...
Beyond the Book!
I wrote everyone's name who voted on a scrap of paper and drew one winner, and that lucky person is...Lindsey, who was the 5th commenter on this post. Congratulations! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know which Little, Brown book you would like.
Thanks everyone for voting, and tune in next Monday for...
Beyond the Book: The Curious Garden.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Also, if you're wondering why I'm doing this... well... not really sure. It started with my "see inside the studio" video, and then I guess I felt the need to expand... oh yes, into something ENORMOUS! I really do think that the home environment is very important to the self-employed individual, mostly because if you have a home "office" and "studio" then you're there A LOT. And, well, I thought I'd document it. Making a mock CRIBS is a good way to do it. I'm also going to show some of my favorite books and that sort of thing, so it'll all be tied in soon enough.
p.s - yes, I'm obviously feeling better because the OCD tendencies are coming back like the plague. Fingers crossed.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
"The eagle flies at dawn" when groups of game particpants approached and whispered their password.
I had imagined this scene taking place in a bar, where my outfit would blend in or it would be so dark that no one would see me, but my post was the closest thing my town has to a hippy hangout, and one that was flooded with sunlight. But it was fun and I got paid $100 for two hours! Work like that doesn't come often, though.
As all freelancers know, it's an anxiety-filled life, never to know when you're going to have work and when you're not, when you're going to be able to pay your rent and when you're going to be late..... SOME pressure is good, but this kind of anxiety puts a kind of pressure on writing that is the opposite of helpful.
The ideal situation for me -- a writer without an independent income or partner to pick up the slack -- is, I think, a part-time job. I wrote letters and sent out my resume for months, applying for full-time jobs when I realized that the part-time ones barely existed. The only company to respond had what sounded like a dream job: writing children's stories for a Web site as a paying, steady job. As a friend said:
"It sounded too good to be true and it was."
But, he didn't make that comment until after I'd wasted a lot of time (my own and the BRGs'!) trying to pick out an outfit, going into NY for the interview, and starting a sample project for the company. I stopped the latter when they told me how little they were going to pay me.
After that fiasco (and there were others -- that was just the proverbial straw), I added up all the time I'd spent on my job search, and decided that it had been time wasted.
At this point, one of the BRGs suggested that I become a nanny. At first, I thought that was ridiculous, but she persisted (you love kids, it would be great for your writing -- with the right family), and the more I thought about the idea, the better I liked it. I've done it before and loved it; in fact, it was while I was a nanny before that I made my first real sale (a short story to REDBOOK).
So to test the nanny idea, I've been babysitting for the last two weeks -- I get to spend my working time playing with kids -- yesterday the kids (I was only babysitting for one but two others joined in the expedition) and I visited a local farm and later walked to a river where we made boats..... The thing that surprised me most about is how many kids there are out there who spend their free time doing stuff like this (something that is not reflected much in YA books or even many books for tweens) as well as playing video games.
The kids I've been meeting lead more old-fashioned lives than the media would have us believe. True, everyone I've been babysitting for attends a good private school, and this is the country, not the city -- but still. There are kids whose parents don't allow them to go online, who don't watch much television (half an hour a day during school was the rule most of the parents had), and who are in sixth grade and not even close to dating.
This is really encouraging to me! Babysitting has also removed a lot of financial pressure and (as my fellow BRG predicted) is giving me ideas for stories, too.
Friday, March 27, 2009
She also encouraged blog readers to create poems using the online Magnetic Poetry Kit—saying: "Go ahead, give it a go. If you write some (G rated) magnetic poems come back here and share them in the comments. I'd love to see how you do."
Later, she posted the poems we composed. Here’s the poem I created using words included in the “Artist” Magnetic Kit:
By Elaine Magliaro
fashion fiery impressions
chisel rhythm & symbol
Click here to view my poem as it appears on the Magnetic Poetry site.
You can also read Cloudscome’s post and the other “magnetic poems” that were created here.
Magnetic Poetry Site
You can create your own magnetic poem in five different categories:
My poem is posted in the “Other” category. You’ll see me listed under Elaine M., MA, USA, 3/22/09.
Click here to find the page with links to the poems submitted in all categories.
NOTE: If you compose a poem using one of the magnetic kits, leave it in the comments. I’ll post all the poems I receive next Friday.
At Political Verses, I have another original poem entitled Rush and the Pussy-Cat. It’s a Limbaughyme that’s a parody of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussy-Cat.
At Wild Rose Reader, I have Things to Do If You Are a Pencil, an original poem that’s included in Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems, a new anthology edited by Georgia Heard.
Julie Larios has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Stay tuned for me watching TV and some commercials thrown in for good humor. Sham Wow! anyone?
Just a reminder to folks in western Massachusetts looking for a fun event to bring their family to this Saturday, come join me at The River's Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash! I'll be doing a brief presentation at 11:40 am about how I made What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, then signing books afterwards. I am honored to join Jarrett Krosoczka (who co-organized the festival), Jane Yolen, and Timothy Basil Ering, who are also presenting. There will be great food, local vendors, storytelling, lots of bands performing, and activities like hula hooping and trapeze!
Saturday, March 28, 10 am - 4pm
JFK Middle School
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
This is part of part one. I've got a long way to go!
p.s - the picture quality is way better on my website:
Stay tuned for the first part. See inside the lovely studio! And maybe the refrigerator!
Even so, I must confess that I am a bit drained, which is why this post will be a bit truncated. But besides the cranes I wanted to share these other tidbits:
1. There was a lovely blog post at Xiaoning's Blog about the anniversary of The Ugly Vegetables. That's better than a card!
2. I was forwarded this link. It's my first review of my new novel (out June) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! And it's a good one (phew!). Terry Hong of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program calls it "...definitely a glowing, loving, memorable read." THANKS!
3. I have figured out how to get my blog on my Amazon Connects profile. At least I think I have. If I haven't, don't tell me until after I have had a good night's sleep.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I am just settling back into Boston after a lovely in week in Charlottesville (my hometown) at the Virginia Festival of the Book. It wasn't quite as warm as other years, I didn't get to wear flip-flops like last year, but we did hit 70 on Wednesday! And I got to see some flowers in bloom before returning to the arctic north. Here is a little preview of spring for those of you weathering March in New England:
I was especially pleased to see these, clearly someone had an advance copy of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?:
The festival itself went great! I visited three head start programs, two elementary schools and met the most delightful librarians. On Saturday I threw an event open to the public at an art center with my mom, a local art teacher. The response was overwhelming- families began arriving half an hour before we planned to start, and quickly filled the room! As most authors will attest, its pretty challenging to draw people out to book signings these days, so I was really quite thrilled to see such a crowd. I was lucky enough to have my dad the photographer there taking pictures, he got this great shot of the room during my talk:
I began by comparing my very first book to my most recent, then went about explaining all the steps in between:
I finished by drawing some of the characters in RED SHOE:
Then invited kids to come color them in, which was a big hit:
After the talk kids rushed our recycling craft table, grown-ups had a peek at the original art for the book and I busily signed books and chatted with folks. All in all a great day! Its going to be a lovely spring.
Monday, March 23, 2009
1. Beyond the Book
2. An Editor's Story
3. Every Book a Star
If you vote, I'll enter you into a drawing for a Little, Brown Book for Young Readers of your choice! Voting will end at 5 pm EST next Sunday, March 29th.
Next Tuesday, March 31st, I will be on a panel at the New School on getting published, along with Ben Tomek, marketing associate, Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing; and Anna Olswanger, literary agent, Liza Dawson Associates. It's only $5 (free for students, faculty, and alumni), so if you're in the NY area, come on out! More info here.
A few weeks ago I listened to a Radio Lab podcast about will power. It described an experiment done in the 1960s where Dr. Walter Mischel tested the will power and ability to delay gratification of hundreds of preschoolers, offering them a marshmallow now, or two if they waited 15 minutes. Listen to it here.
There had been highlights of an adorable Oreo cookie version on the blog, but it seems to have disappeared, and I'm unable to find it online--if anyone can find it, please let me know! It was cute, although short. There are several reenactments online, here are a few of the better ones:
This one is good, although the video of the experiment is sandwiched between a preacher's sermon:
I wonder how I would have fared when I was four...
Sunday, March 22, 2009
It's hard to imagine, but my very first published book has hit its 10 year anniversary! Yes, The Ugly Vegetables is 10 years old. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the publisher has printed an anniversary edition and it is finally IN STOCK (both in hardback and paperback)! The new edition features a new cover, design and an updated pinyin glossary.
The last was a most important change, as the original book used out-dated pinyin which made it difficult for those non-Chinese speakers (including myself) to pronounce the names of the vegetables. So, in honor of this edition I've added an Ugly Vegetables Chinese Lesson on my website.
Listen to audio clips of each of the correctly pronounced vegetable names (thanks, Mom!) here: UGLY VEGETABLES CHINESE LESSON
and have a Happy Birthday Cupcake for The Ugly Vegetables!
Yippee! I hope it has many happy returns of the day!
Friday, March 20, 2009
I’ve been busy lately working on poetic rants for my new blog Political Verses. I’ve found it difficult focusing on anything else. When it comes to writing, I can experience long dry spells when I have little inspiration to write—when no ideas for penning poems bubble up in my brain. That’s what had happened to me for a few months. Then, a few weeks ago, I saw Tom DeLay on television. Not long after that, I watched a portion of Rush Limbaugh’s performance at CPAC. And, lo and behold, I felt inspired to write once again. Of course, I’m not writing children’s poetry at the moment—but snarky verses about the likes of the two men mentioned above.
Here is an excerpt from my most recent political verse—a poem about Rush Limbaugh. It’s one of my Limbaughrhymes!
Winnie the Pooh-Bah and the Hundred Acre Wood
(With apologies to A. A. Milne)
He lives in the forest
But he can’t see the trees.
He suffers from
Far right optical disease.
He looks at things his way—
And not as they are.
This Winnie Pooh-Bah reigns
As GOP Czar.
He sits on his wooden throne,
An old oak stump…
And talks into his microphone.
He likes to harrumph
About the feminazis,
Liberals and their kin.
And for one Know-Nothing?
He can make an awful din.
You can read the rest of the poem here.
For Poetry Friday at Political Verses, I have a poem by J. Patrick Lewis about Henry Kissinger entitled Henry K., Man of Peace.
Here’s the link to another original poem that I posted this week at Political Verses: Bernie Made Off with My Money.
My Winnie the Pooh post at Wild Rose Reader includes lyrics to Kenny Loggins’ song Return to Pooh Corner, a video with pictures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends and Loggins singing his song, and some children’s poems by A. A. Milne.
I’m doing the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Wild Rose Reader. Please leave the URL of your poetry post and a short description of it in the comments at my special Roundup Post.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
>Just curious as a new author ... if we consider that your time is worth a certain dollar amount per hour, do you end up making money on the sale of your books at these events? How many books sold make it worth it? Or is it more just getting your name out and hoping that will later translate to sales?
and I realize I have been thinking about this all the wrong way. The problem with events and promotions is that when you begin to think about them as "cost on investments" you always will end up short, unsatisfied and very likely a tad resentful.
This last holiday season, I offered free bookplates to anyone who wanted one. I did this a couple years before, so I knew what I was getting into. Making, mailing and signing--time and money that probably would not yield a greater return then what I invested.
But I didn't really care. I called it a promotion, but in my head, it was more of a thank-you to anyone who had ever bought one of my books.
And that is the attitude I would like to shift (back) to. I want to make promotion feel like a gift, to me and the receiver. So, I want to think of my book launch as a party, an event of celebration instead of an event to sell books at. I don't want to think, how many books will make this event worth it? I want to think: I have written and illustrated a book I am proud of! It is something to be happy about! This is something to celebrate!
I hope you will celebrate it with me!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
The final three are:
1. Beyond the Book
2. An Editor's Story
3. Every Book a Star (Charlotte, you may have just been joking about this, but I like it, because it's true!)
Please vote for your favorite name! And as Charlotte wins a book regardless, don't let that affect how you vote.
Okay, so here's my post about North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, as promised.
On Friday night I went with a girlfriend to see the movie He's Just Not That Into You--not the greatest movie ever made, of course, but with my realistic (low) expectations, it was a fun time, and afterwards there was plenty to discuss regarding dating and men and how we view ourselves.
We discovered that we were both incredibly awkward teens, and considered ourselves fairly unattractive. That's nothing new--I'd guess that at least 90% of the population considered themselves ugly and awkward as a preteen and teen. But we were both shocked that the other was not of the special 10%, and marveled at how far we've come. When I reflect on it more, though, I realized that there was a point while I was still in my awkward stage when I started to consider myself pretty--I just never thought that anyone else (aside from my parents) truly found me attractive. Even in college when I started to date somewhat successfully, I thought that only after someone of the opposite sex got to know me well would they be able to find me physically attractive--hence, my whole "friends first" approach to dating, which is how my first three relationships developed. My theory was confirmed when my second boyfriend, after we had dated for a few months said, quite honestly over dinner one night, "I just realized that you're really pretty!" Umm...thanks?
This all leads back to North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. This novel is narrated by Terra--tall, blonde, kick-a*s body, but no matter how much she works on herself, no matter how much make-up she wears, she never sees herself as beautiful because of the port-wine birthmark that covers half of her face. We've all been there, right? Especially as a teen. "If only my teeth were straight, I'd be beautiful. If only my skin cleared up, I'd be pretty. If only my nose were smaller. If only I lost 20 pounds. If only XX"
Over the course of the novel, Terra learns to adjust her definition of beauty, and Justina hopes that the same will happen with the readers. In one guest blog during her blog tour, Justina talks about the influence of Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman" on her novel, saying:
I’d rather be The Most Phenomenal Me I can be than The Most Beautiful Girl in the room. One will sustain me forever, the other will fade and leave me yearning for my glory days. I don’t want to live in memories of my past prime when I have the beauty of now.
Now to choose a question from the many great suggestions. These two were related, so I'll address them both:
I loved North of Beautiful--did the book come in pretty much perfect like this, or did you get to work with Justina to weave all those themes together so beautifully?
I always love to hear about process. It would be interesting to hear about a problem or course change from your perspective and from the perspective of the author/artist.
Justina's previous two novels, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) and Girl Overboard came to me in very good shape and almost complete. North of Beautiful, on the other hand, I first read as a proposal--I think about three chapters and rough synopsis. And to be perfectly honest, I was a little concerned. First of all, the main character was a Chinese adoptee with a port-wine birthmark. Her father was not just verbally abusive, but physically abusive as well. Oh, and her mother was a borderline alcoholic. Sounds like a lot, huh? Frankly, it felt almost depressingly oppressive. I had complete faith in Justina's ability as a writer, but I had to recommend that she make some significant changes and see if we were on the same page.
Justina really is a dream author for an editor to work with. She's not only a smart and skilled writer, but she's also very open and listens to and carefully considers feedback. I don't expect authors to agree with every comment I make, but it makes a world of difference when an author really listens to my questions and edits and addresses them in a seamless and believable way. In this case, she dealt with many of my comments by taking the original Terra, and transfering some of her issues over to the wonderful character of Jacob. She toned down Terra's parents as well. And it all worked.
I absolutely love what Justina has accomplished with this novel. It's beautifully written, compelling, moving, rich, and layered. And it introduces the reader to fascinating things such as geocaching, cartography, travel, adoption, and collaging. I also love the relationship between Terra and her mother. And as to the question about whether I played a role in weaving the themes into the novel, that was all Justina. She is a genius! Truly. And don't just take it from me, take it from the glowing reviews all around the blogosphere--and did I mention it's received three starred reviews?
"With every carefully chosen word, well-crafted sentence, and fully developed character, Headley maps out a wholly satisfying reading experience that takes readers from terra nullis to terra firma."--Booklist (starred review)
"This emotionally satisfying novel is replete with themes about the true meaning of beauty, the destructive power of verbal abuse and the restorative ability of art. Mapping and cartography terms are expertly woven throughout the text, adding yet another level to an already complex and deeply felt read. Look out, Sarah Dessen. You may have met your match in Headley." --Kirkus (starred review)
"Laced with metaphors about maps and treasure, Headley’s (Girl Overboard) finely crafted novel traces a teen’s uncharted quest to find beauty....All of her characters hold secrets; finding them out will be as rewarding as Terra’s discoveries of caches."--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Justina always tries to give back in some way with each book, and for North of Beautiful she is sponsoring a Video Challenge where she'll be donating $10 for every video uploaded (up to $1,000) to Global Medical Surgeries, which helps kids with cleft lips in third world countries.
I neglected to read the guidelines before creating my video, so it's a bit longer than it's supposed to be, but oh well. Here's my video! Make one of your own!
Read the full rules of the Find Beauty Video Challenge here.
Charlotte, Martha, and the Anonymous who submitted the second question, please email me at email@example.com with your book choice (check the website for options) and mailing address. Thanks, and congrats!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Remember the 13-year-old so eager to go on that she sang and danced along while she was waiting in the wings? The next time I saw her, she had been doing two shows a day for a week. Before she went on, she sighed, smiled a little, and said,
Between numbers, she and the other girl didn't dance, or even stand -- they sat, cross-legged.Their dancing was as good as ever, though.
Photographs in this post copyright
© 2009 Cornerstone Productions
--and how I always remember how to spell "copyright" (which I always think should be "copywrite") is from this line in a hilarious MAD spoof of a Micky Mouse cartoon:
"Walt Disney © copied right."
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Earlier this week, I was thinking about some of the political verses that I had written for Wild Rose Reader last year. I was inspired to pen my first political poem after listening to Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention. (Matt Taibbi's description of Palin speaking to the assembled Republican delegates makes me laugh every time I think of it: "It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag.") After watching the Governor of Alaska's performance, I wrote my first in a series of Palinoems. Then I was inspired by Joe the unlicensed plumber...soon afterward. Recently, it was Tom Delay and Rush Limbaugh who sparked my poetic invective. (Did you see Limbaugh jumping up and down and ranting at CPAC?)
Mary Lee of A Year of Reading commented on All Bow Down Now, the poem I wrote about Rush Limbaugh: "I love it when idiots make you mad because your poetry rants are so spot-on!" I appreciate her opinion of my political verses. And Mary Lee is correct—they usually are rants. Ranting poetically is a great cathartic for me. I find it more productive and less painful than banging my head against a wall or pulling my hair out.
I made a decision the other day to start a new blog called Political Verses. Why? Because I thought some of my future rants might be more appropriate for posting at a blog outside of the kidlitosphere. I also thought it might be a good idea to have just my political verses available on a separate blog.
At Political Verses, you will also find links to The Daily Show, Colbert Nation, The Nation, Matt Taibbi's articles at AlterNet, and some of my favorite political blogs.
I have included a link to Political Verses in the sidebar at the right. I'm not sure how often I'll be posting there. At the moment, what you'll find at Political Verses are the poems that I have posted to date at Wild Rose Reader—and two new poems—one about Ann Coulter and one entitled And Who Will Lead the GOP?.
I do hope you'll visit my new blog every now and again.
Here is an excerpt from one of my most recent political verses:
From And Who Will Lead the GOP?
by Elaine Magliaro
Little Boy Blue,
Come blow your horn.
Mitt’s in the Meadow.
Mike Steele’s in the corn
Rush is out riding
His hippo this morn.
Boehner’s in Congress—
He’s bitchin’ and moanin’.
And Newt’s out of town—
So, I guess, he’ll just phone in.
Gone into seclusion.
He’s getting a needed
You can read the rest of my poem here.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
As Anna has posted an impressive number of events for her new book, I've been wondering how much I should do for my upcoming book without looking like a slacker. Yes, I have already planned a book launch (virtual and at a bookstore)...is that enough? Just right? Or rather wimpy?
The truth is I am rather torn about what is the right attitude to take for book events. Is it better to just have one book event, put all your energy in that--and make all your friends, family and fans (hopefully) come to it--making it more likely it will be a successful event?
Or is it better to have lots of events, a cluster of events to build "buzz" (at least 15, as I recently read at BubbleStampede) to reach as many people as possible? Even if it "waters down" the crowd?
Is it better to have one large-ish, successful event or many smaller, not as successful events?
I have a feeling the latter might be the winner, in terms of eventual sales and the book's long term success. However, for the ego (reading to an empty room is no fun!) and for personal energy preservation (just reading some of the event schedules of my fellow authors make me tired) I am tempted to go with the former. But I don't want to be lazy. This book means a great deal to me and I really do want to follow through to even the promotion without excuses.
What do you guys think?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
This spring I am very excited to see the publication of two books a long time in the making, What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? and Abigail Spells. I invite you all to come celebrate with me! If you live in any of the areas below (or even if you don't) I would love to see you there, it is always fun to meet BRG readers face to face.
*I will be returning to the Virginia Festival of the Book. This year I am offering a free event where I will present the process of creating a book to kids, run an art activity, and sign books. All are invited!
Saturday March 21st at 12:30
McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, VA
*I will be reading, signing, and presenting about my books at The River's Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash. This will be a fun event, co-organized by fellow author Jarrett Krosoczka that includes book readingss, music, hula hooping, and trapeze!
March 28th from 10-4, my presentation will begin at 11:40 am
JFK Middle School in Northampton, MA
*Come celebrate Earth day with What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. I will give a presentation about how the book was made, read and sign books, and run a recycled art activity for kids!
April 22nd at 3 pm
Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, MA
*Celebrate What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? at the Wenham Museum in coordination with the exhibit Soul of the Shoe. Artists interpret how shoes are shaped by our culture; from Boston Celtics star Larry Bird's famous Converse high tops to fancy dance shoes that graced the stages of Broadway in productions such as Cats, The Wizard of Oz, and others. I will read Red Shoe and do a presentation about how it was made, followed by a craft activity.
April 23rd at 10:30 am presentation
Wenham Museum in Wenham, MA
Craft activity and booksigning 11:00 to 1:00 pm
*I will be selling my new books and prints at the RISD Spring Alumni Sale with Grace! Free Abigail Spells coloring sheets and spelling activities! Come by for an autographed book or just to chat.
May 2nd from 10-4:00 pm
Benefit Street in Providence, RI
Monday, March 09, 2009
Not that interesting. So, I try to give a little anecdote that will be interesting for readers, like our cover redesign for Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass that I wrote about here, and Peter Brown's surprising fan, Jon Stewart when I wrote about The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder.
I'm planning to write about Justina Chen Headley's third novel North Of Beautiful next week. So, I have two questions for you all.
1) What do you want to hear about North of Beautiful? Justina went on a blog tour when the book came out, so there's a lot of great information out there already. What don't you know that you want to know?
2) I'd like to come up with a name for these book posts I do. I thought I could do something like "Inside Edition" or steal the name of some other entertainment show. Any ideas, all you wonderful, creative Blue Rose Girls readers? If you need inspiration/more examples, on my personal blog, a bunch of my posts about my books are linked to on the right side under "A sampling of my children's book-related posts."
Post your questions and ideas in the comments section. If I pick your question and/or naming idea, I'll send you a Little, Brown book of your choice! This contest will close at 5 pm EST on Sunday, March 15, and you'll find out if you've won when I post on Monday morning. And because I need all the ideas I can get, I'm going to ask my fellow BRGs to give me ideas, too--but if I end up going with something they suggest, I'll choose another entry at random as the winner.
Thank you in advance!
Saturday, March 07, 2009
In this show, the actors are joined by two thirteen-year olds who have been doing Irish dancing for six and ten years, respectively; these girls take lessons and compete and hold up their socks with Sock Glue. (In competitions, it counts against you if your socks slip, or aren't on straight.)
The girls seem thrilled to be there. Before one of them goes on, she stands at the bottom of the backstage steps, smiling and singing along (quietly, so the audience can't hear her), dancing with her shoulders and feet. She's not practicing, these aren't her numbers -- it's energy and exuberance and enthusiasm. I will bring my camera on Monday; but in the meantime-- imagine her. Picture someone short (she probably hasn't quite finished growing), smiling up at that stage (and around at anyone backstage who seems excited, too), eager to get out there and dance, so eager that she's singing and dancing along.
I'm going to think of her the next time I sit down to write -- maybe I'll have her dancing attitude towards it. I used to. Now it only comes in flashes; but who knows, if I do enough yoga and take enough vitamins I can sustain it, steadily enough to finish this novel. At least I can think of her and try!
in Olde Mistick Village
March 15-16-17, 2009
Friday, March 06, 2009
Here are the beginning lyrics to The Last Resort, one of my favorite Eagles’ songs.
From The Last Resort
by The Eagles
She came from Providence, the one in Rhode Island
Where the old world shadows hang heavy in the air
She packed her hopes and dreams like a refugee
Just as her father came across the sea.
She heard about a place, people were smilin’
They spoke about the red man’s way, how they loved the land
And they came from everywhere to the Great Divide
Seeking a place to stand or a place to hide
Down in the crowded bars, out for a good time
Can’t wait to tell you all what it’s like up there
And they call it paradise, I don’t know why
Somebody laid the mountains low while the town got high
You can read the rest of the lyrics here.
Here’s a video of the Eagles performing The Last Resort:
At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original poem inspired by the painting Grace Lin created for the Small Graces March auction. Earlier this week, I posted an extensive list of Resources for National Poetry Month at my blog. And last night, I posted Fairy for Hire: An Original Poem in response to Tricia's Poetry Stretch.
Edited to Add: I posted a second original poem for Poetry Friday that I wrote this afternoon. Here is the link: A Poem Inspired by Rush Limbaugh?
Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
I've also been doing some home improvements. I painted my bedroom violet (after trying out red, dark brown, light brown, stripes, you name it - yes, I drive myself crazy). I also repainted a piece of furniture, which quite frankly I think looks super and I tiled a little strip in the kitchen. Perhaps I will show pictures at some point. Repainting the bedroom forced me to clean out under the bed and I got to go through all my old art work and put it in the new flat files. It's fun to see what I did in school.
Okay, that's all for now. I need to get to work!!!!
p.s - if I get time today I'll post some of the great drawings the kids did for my school talk on tuesday
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
This is from the Just One More Book podcast, which you can listen to online or as a podcast. I'd stumbled upon this site before and had been meaning to add it to my long-over-due-to-update "links" page on my website. Perhaps this will get me to redesign that sucker sooner!
Anyway, listen to it and be sure to check out the other podcasts too.
It seems like I have been non-stop traveling...because I have! I've been fortunate to be invited to visit many schools this spring, lately in Ohio and Texas. They've been wonderful visits, where lovely librarians have introduced me to the wonders of Metro MintWater:
(Really, this stuff is amazing. I am on a search to find it on the east coast!)
Also, I was given the BEST complimentary gift to give to an author, an assortment of post-it notes in its own case:
(Oh, why did I not have you 6 months ago when I was revising my novel?)
And I met the greatest bunch of students, including some Chinese-American twins!
(Ling and Ting, here I come!)
But, it is a little tiring. As I gear up for more marathon visits this Spring, here are some extra tips in addition to my first tips:
1. Don't underestimate the joy of a bowl of cereal alone in your hotel room.
On the way from the hotel to the airport, ask to stop at a grocery and pick up some milk and a box of cereal. If the hotel room does not have a refrigerator, fill the wastepaper basket full of ice for your milk. Believe me, it's worth it. After a day "on," it's a luxury to sit in the quiet of your room and not deal with restaurants or even room service.
2. Don't eat the hotel breakfast.
Along the same lines as #1, covet the alone time as much as possible! Cereal and milk in the morning is a nice, leisurely way to start the day, and saves you the temptation of the unhealthy bacon and sausages.
3. Check the weather before you go.
I went to Ohio, where the weather was in the 40's to Texas where the weather was 80! And I only brought turtlenecks. Not the most comfortable in TX!
4. Take photos of all the activities that the schools do with your books.
I particularly enjoyed this collection of student illustrated Year of the Dog similes:And it's inspired me to work on a Simile Workshop program to offer to schools.
5. Have something to leave behind.
Students inevitably all want your autographed, but it is overwhelming to be bombarded by hundreds of kids waving scraps of paper. And when you sign one, you must sign all--and it's unlikely that these scraps of paper will make it past the recycle bin in a week. So, to ward this off I usually give autographed bookmarks to each of the students. This, however, is getting unwieldy so I am going to switch over to a poster to each classroom instead. Regardless, I don't think it matters so much what you give, as long as you give something to make up for refusing to sign scraps!
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
a) because she is in agonizing pain and couldn't sleep?
b) because she worked so hard last night, er, this morning painting that she didn't go to bed yet
c) she has a school visit
Actually, all of these are quite plausible.
Monday, March 02, 2009
So, shame on me.
I'm fairly out of touch with what kids think of the books I edit, especially picture books. I do give books to kids I know and watch them interact with them, but these occasions are few and far between. I'm mainly drawing on my memory of the types of books I loved as a kid, the ones I read over and over again, and hope that there are kids today that have the same type of sensibility I had/have. (For novels, in terms of feedback, teens will write reviews and post them on blogs. We also get feedback from our hip scouts. Six-year-olds don't generally have blogs.)
One specific example of a book whose child friendliness is in question is Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young. Perhaps you've heard of it? (I write about it enough, don't I?) I know that there are people who find this to be a book more for adults, or older kids, but from the moment I read an early draft of the manuscript, I had faith that younger kids would love this story about a cat trying to find out the meaning of her name, and that kids would also respond to the gorgeous collage illustrations. Not every kid, of course, but many of them. And now that the book has been out about six months, the only evidence I have to go on is from what people tell me and from the reviews I read. Some of the reviews on Amazon vary from:
My favorite seven-year-old girl bookworm (and cat lover) begged me to stop reading it at about page three. And my favorite nine-year-old boy bookworm and ravenous reader wanted nothing to do with it.
My four-year old grandson enjoyed the story as did his nine-year old sister.
What a wonderful way to expose a young audience to meaningful simplicity. One reviewer said this wasn't a children's book but I guess it depends on the child. Curled up in bed with his dog and his cat my son pays rapt attention to this story.
One of my favorite reviews was one I read recently online. Here is the bit regarding its child appeal:
This is not your ordinary children’s book. But nevertheless, my almost 3-year old was completely absorbed as I read haiku after haiku. Sometimes I mistakenly believe that complex thoughts and art are beyond my toddler. But really I think if we as adults could appreciate art and words like a toddler must, we might have an unanticipated deep understanding of truth. That is, in one sense, the beauty of wabi sabi.
One thing I've been thinking about lately is how we in publishing will categorize books as "institutional" versus "commercial"--which maybe is another way of saying: "will sell mainly in libraries" versus "will sell mainly in bookstores" and also: "the type of books teachers and librarians need to introduce to a kid in order for him or her to like it" versus "truly kid friendly." I always hope that the books I edit will be successful in both ways, but generally, when I'm acquiring a book I do believe that it will be more successful in one over the other. And in the case of Wabi Sabi, I'm sure my publisher thought it would have more institutional appeal. But now, as it reaches its tenth week on the NYTimes Bestseller list, we've realized that it has become a true commercial hit (not that it hasn't been a success institutionally, too!).
Anyway, I suppose when people say "child friendly" they mean, "will be liked by most children." A good example would be the four "butt" books that Alison Morris highlighted on her PW blog recently (my personal favorite is the last one, Chicken Butt by Erica Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole).
It would be an interesting study to see how many kids, when forced to choose between Chicken Butt and Wabi Sabi, would choose the latter. If any of you lovely blog readers want to do a test study, I'd love to hear the results!
A question: have you ever been surprised by a book, either one that you thought would be a no-brainer in terms of kids liking it, but they turned out to not be interested, or vice versa--a book you were pretty sure they would hate, that it turned out that they loved?