Saturday, August 05, 2006

success and the road to publication

It’s my turn to post and just as suspected, I can’t come up with a thing to say. Certainly nothing insightful like the previous posts by the wonderful and talented others. I’m going to take this opportunity to throw some random thoughts and questions your way. Consider this sort of a free association.

My first question is––if you are a writer, what would you do if you won the Newbery? If you are an illustrator, what about the Caldecott? I’m afraid, sadly, that I’m the type of person who can never truly enjoy things for what they are. This is a conversation I posted on my personal blog––

What would I do if I became successful?
On Monday, while at work, a coworker asked what I would do if I ever won the Caldecott.
"Yeah, like that would happened," I said.
She said "You'd pass out, wouldn't you?"
I said "I would never win. It's like winning the lottery. It's not gonna happen."
"But you'd pass out."
"No, I wouldn't."
"Yes, you would."
"No, that wouldn't happen. This is a silly conversation."
"You'd pass out. I would."
"IF that happened, and I got the phone call, then I'd think someone was prank calling me. I'd tell the caller they were mean and that it's not cool to do something like that. Tricking people is not nice"
"Well, once you realized that it was for real, you'd pass out."
I thought for a moment. "No, I'd worry about giving a speech. I'd worry about what I was supposed to wear. I'd worry that I wouldn't be able to get up early enough to make it onto the Today Show."

My second random thought is I guess more of a complaint––I can’t stand that 3 out of the 4 publishers I’ve worked with want the cover before any interiors. Obviously you want the cover to reflect the book as a whole… but how can you do that if you don’t know what the rest of the book will look like! This is a constant problem. It is also a problem when you’re not quite sure what you want your characters to look like and keep changing your mind. Okay, the “you” in this rant is obviously a fill in for “me.” If there are others out there who feel the same way, speak up! It’s time we illustrators take a stand!

Here’s another random thought––I often forget how large my desire and desperation was to be published. At the tender age of 22, fresh out of RISD, ALL I wanted was to be published! I didn’t care if I was successful or had money or anything else. That was my one goal. I remember when I got the “phone call.” Actually, it was a phone message. I had just moved to NYC and was not mature enough to leave normal voice mail messages. Instead, I did accents. One week it sounded like a southern belle lived in the little Williamsburg ghetto-style apartment while the next week one could swear it was someone from Englad. Confusing? Yes. Funny? I thought so! I think my editor-to-be called back three times before leaving a very discombobulated message. She said something like “Um…I don’t know... um... I don't know if I have the right phone number… this is…um…I’m looking for Meghan McCarthy. This is so-and-so from Viking Children’s Books and I’m calling with good news…” I remember leaping out of the shower with no towel on (feel free to imagine whatever you’d like there!) and jumping up and down. I knew what this meant! I took a moment…more like 15 min…to collect myself, then called my mom and a few friends…THEN called the editor back. After I got the official offer I thought I would be set for life! I told my friend “I’m going to be an author and I will never have to worry about money or holding down a crappy job again!” Okay, I was WRONG WRONG WRONG but that’s the way the story goes.

What was your first offer like? Editors––what’s it like from the other end? Let me and all of us know!

I have now rambled on for a VERY long time. It’s funny how “nothing to say” turns into a LOT to say.

(soon I will come up with my own amazing tagline! Or perhaps you can help me decide what it shall me. Yes, that will be grand)


alvinaling said...

I wrote a little about "my first" on my blog, which I would link to here if I knew how to. But to be more specific,I was in my cubicle at work when I called Libby to give her the offer, and it was all excited exclamations and happiness. One of the other editors told me later that she heard me making the offer over the phone, and congratulations! She knew that my first time was important and exciting.

I don't remember my exact words, but maybe Libby does...

Conference update: Jarrett just got a standing ovation, I believe the first of the conference. He was fantabulous, and I'm glad I made it to his 8:30 talk.

Libby Koponen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Libby Koponen said...

Alvina, I don't think there IS a way to link in comments. Everyone, Alvina's "first" post is at

I still say THANK YOU ALVINA! It would never have been published if you hadn't been so passionate about it. I'll always be grateful to you for that passion -- and for your belief in it and me. You made a comment a few days ago about this blog being a love fest so I think that is all I want to say now. Besides I've been at the computer all weekend with one break for a long bike ride and swim...written out for the day!

Maybe someday I will blog about it. Or maybe it's more interesting for people to read YOUR blog! We don't often get to hear these stories from the editor's point of view.

Anyway, thank you, Alvina!

Grace Lin said...

Let's see, if I won the Newbery or Caldecott I'd probably scream and then think "Now, we can get the closet doors fixed!"

While this seems a bit strange, it would be understandable if you saw our closet doors. They are constantly falling apart and I swear they will eat me someday. So, winning an award would save me from being my closet's lunch...

Grace Lin said...

oh yes, and I hate it when publishers want you to do the covers first. That happens to me all the time. When I think back to when I was a kid and used to get mad how the covers didn't match the book...and now I know why.

And my first time getting the offer is quite a blur to me. I don't really remember much, except that I faxed the contract over to my mom, who said, "It's your first book, I guess you have to take anything..."