Saturday, January 31, 2009

FLOW for writers

I'm guessing that everyone reading this has been in what some people call flow --in that state of total concentration, when you're so absorbed in what you're doing that it seems effortless. Whatever you're doing (even something really hard) seems to be happening without any conscious direction from you. If you're ski-ing, you're flowing down the mountain, your feet making the turns by themselves....if you're writing (painting I bet is the same?), you forget where you are and are surprised when (hours later) you look around and see your room.

It's the most amazing, fun state of being in the world, when you're in it -- and I'm not in it nearly as much as I used to be. I thought if I looked at the book about it I might be able to figure out how to get there more often.

It said that SOMETIMES it happens all by itself (you're traveling and see an amazing view or something) but that usually, you are doing "a task." And usually, you:

1. Believe that you have a chance of completing the task

If "completing the task" means "finish this novel as fast as I can" flow is unlikely. So I made each day's task a specific scene. (Of course, I could write more than one -- but I HAD TO write one.)

2. "Concentrate completely on the task. This is made easier when" (he says and *I* say, when there's no email! Not checking it is so hard!):

3. "The task has a clear goal."

For this week, my goal was pretty simple: write what interests ME, not what I think I "should" write. Next week, I may make specific goals for each scene.

4. "The task provides immediate feedback."

This is where reading it to someone whose judgement you trust RIGHT AWAY would be great. But, I (like most writers) really know when something I"m writing is good and when it isn't. Sometimes I don't WANT to know -- but I do.

The next four (I think) are a result of the first four, so there is nothing I can do to make THEM happen but do the first --so I'll just quote the book. It is FLOW by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi (YAY! someone with a name harder to pronounce and spell than mine!):

5. "One acts from a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of daily life."

6. "Exercise a sense of control over your actions"

....this is a really impossible one for writers, I think, because at least for me, it's when I'm NOT in control that the best things get written - they just sort of pop out. But, I know they are more likely to pop out when I'm at my desk, writing, (or HAVE written and am going for a walk) than if I am, say, at a party.....maybe just sitting down and doing it, the good old "butt in chair" rule (or BIC, as Jane Yolen said in Jarret's video), satisfies this one? I can control THAT.

7. "The sense of self disappears."

8. "Time disappears."

So, after all that, I STILL didn't get into Flow -- I had a lot of unavoidable distractions (job-hunting). I'm going to keep trying. Making a specific, do-able goal for the day did make getting to work easier. And what I read of the book was interesting (I'm not one to read a self-help book all the way through).

Another thing he talked about that really related to freelancing is pressure: how pressure can both increase and inhibit flow, but this post is already long enough. I might post about that next week, especially if I have progress to report.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Children of Our Era by Wislawa Szymborska

It’s been hard to ignore politics—especially in recent months. Then again, I guess everything and every era is rife with politics. Here is another poem by Wislawa Szymborska—one of my favorite poets.

Children of Our Era

by Wislawa Szymborska

Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

We are children of our era;

our era is political.

All affairs, day and night,

yours, ours, theirs,

are political affairs.

Like it or not,

your genes have a political past,

your skin a political cast,

your eyes a political aspect.

What you say has a resonance;

what you are silent about is telling.

Either way, it's political.

Even when you head for the hills

you're taking political steps

on political ground.

Even apolitical poems are political,

and above us shines the moon,

by now no longer lunar.

To be or not to be, that is the question.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here is another stanza from the poem that I’d like to point out because it resonated with me. It brought back a memory of the 1970s and the discussions that took place prior to the negotiations that were held in hopes of bringing the Vietnam War to an end.

Or even a conference table whose shape

was disputed for months:

should we negotiate life and death

at a round table or a square one?

Now read the following excerpt from a 1977 interview in U.S. News & World Report.
When I think back to the Vietnam negotiations, and of the many months that we spent arguing about the shape of a table, about the speaking order, about whether there would be flags or not, when all the time killing was going on, it has left a rather deep scar.

Here’s a link to the interview: Interview with Secretary of State Vance in U.S. News & World Report, 7 November 1977


At Wild Rose Reader, I have some winter-themed original poems.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Adventures in Daily Living.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

February:small graces

This is the painting that will be auctioned for for February's small graces. The auction is tentatively scheduled for the 2nd week in February, so I made the painting a bit Valentine's Day themed. Stay tuned for more details (and of course, spread the word!)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

So I am in Texas for a week of schools visits, so I am a bit belated with the Chinese New Year wishes. Please visit Elaine's excellent post for Chinese New Year book suggestions (including my new favorite, The Pet Dragon). To make up for it, I plan on watching Gund Kwok's lion and dragon troupe will perform in Boston when I get back (on Feb. 1st around 10 or 10:30 a.m. at the main stage on Beach Street). It's the country's first and only all Asian-women's Lion and Dance troupe and they're based in Boston. I received an e-mail from one of the members inviting me, and I admit to be extremely intrigued. Doesn't it sound like a great idea for a children's book? It just seems like there should be something there. Anyone suggestions?

Or maybe it's just a good idea for a new hobby!

my B&W art - anthropomorphism?

Perhaps some of you have noticed (or not) that I don't do anthropomorphic stories or illustrations. No talking animals. No animals wearing clothes. None of that. When animals are in my books they seem like they could talk -- Show Dog for example -- but they don't. I give them voices via the narrator, but that's as far as I'll ever go. I wasn't actually aware of this myself until Alvina pointed it out to me. Go figure.

Anyway, because of this, my B&W art also doesn't contain any animals wearing clothes or seeming like they could. I illustrated a donkey, but he is an animal in all his glory--naked to the world, void of clothing, housing and excessories.

Anyway, I thought I'd give anthropomorphism a try. I will never do a book like that myself but I'm willing to illustrate other works in B&W (no picture books).

So here is my pig:


I've ceased to pay attention to any of them. After leaving the kids' dept. at B&N and becoming a cashier I stopped obsessing about the whole thing. I never liked what was picked. The art awards, for example, I thought were either a famous illustrator trying something new (so they needed a pat on the back) or something that got a lot of hype and seemed artsy so the committee thought they needed to award it something. The books that I thought deserved the Caldecott never got anything. And here's a question--why do the same people always win over and over again for doing the same thing?

As for me--I'll probably never win one of the big awards because my books don't fit nicely into one of the categories. Lets take the Sibert for example. I hate to say it but every one of the books that has won that I've noticed seems to cater to adults---they look like oversized coffee table books with illustrations here and there and tons of text. Forget me trying to read one of them as a kid... I can't get past that stuff as an adult! Could I write a long-winded nonfiction book and try to win the award? Yes. Will I? No. My goal is to make learning seem effortless and fun. I want my nonfiction to read like fiction. I want kids to read my books and to want to discover more. I want my books to be the jumping off point for more learning and discovery instead of trying to pack them with every bit of information out there. The challenge in writing a nonfiction book for me is what am I going to leave out? When researching something it's hard not to want to put it all in there. But kids can't digest it all easily. It's too overwhelming that way. That's why I leave a lot out. That's why I make mine simple.

Anyway, perhaps I'm frustrated that I'll never get anywhere and I'm sure I shouldn't bash other people's accomplishments, but heck, this is the blog for honesty right?


Awards, Priscilla, random things...

I have to admit I have not read most of the ALSC winners this year (I am always behind on my reading), but I am thrilled to see two illustrators I love get recognized; Beth Krommes and Melissa Sweet. I ADORE their work and think its really great to see "quiet books" get some attention! When I worked at Houghton Mifflin way back when, I got to see original art from some of their books in person and it is GORGEOUS. I especially loved Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women and Grandmother Winter.

Speaking of awards (nice transition eh?), I just found out that Priscilla and the Hollyhocks has been chosen as a 2008 National Council for Social Studies Notable Trade Book! Hurray! The book will be featured at the NCSS Exhibit in Atlanta in November, as well as in the NCSS magazine. Its my first illustrated book gone *notable* so I am very excited.

Okay back to the drawing board! I am working on a new project I'm very excited about, will show sketches soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

ALA Midwinter 2009

I won't have time to post tomorrow morning--I'm meeting my colleagues at 6:15 am for breakfast, and then it's on to the press conference announcing the big awards. Finally, the wait will be over.

This was my first time to the ALA Midwinter conference, and I must say that there's definitely a different feeling to it. There are very few authors in attendance, so I've had more time away from the floor, and have had the opportunity to sit in on some of the committee meetings that are open. (The "major" awards are closed, of course.)

Today, I sat in on the BBYA (best books for young adults) session where they invite local teens to attend and talk about the books they've read on the list. Not all the books are talked about, and there were a few that stood out as the most popular, at least in terms of the number of teens who read them and wanted to talk about them. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Gone by Michael Grant, and The Host by Stephenie Meyer were the titles that had at least 7 readers. Many books had no readers, so that was saying a lot. Of course, the comments were quite mixed, and I was impressed at how articulate, poised, funny, and passionate the teens were. It was also fascinating to sit in on the committee meeting afterwards and hear how different they reacted in some cases from the teenagers.

I'll try to write more later in the week, but for now I'll leave you with a few pictures from our booth. This year, the booth had a Curious Garden theme in honor of Peter Brown's books. We wore cute gardener aprons (made by Zoe!) and gave out seed packets, signed posters, and had flower and plant details throughout the booth. Very cool.

And I always love these book display towers that my colleague Andrew is an expert at making:
Here's a video of the tower:

Impressive, eh?

Whatever happens, it's been a great conference. On Saturday morning we gave a librarian preview of a selection of our 2009 books, and I'm really excited about everything coming out this year. Here's to 2009! Onward and upwards.

Tip (or mini-post)

I'm one who rewrites a LOT -- probably, too much. But it's just how I do it....and I recently discovered a way to get a fresh look at a ms. after many, many rewrites.

I was reading something over for what I hoped would be the last time; but I wasn't really reading. I was just kind of looking at the shapes of the letters and admiring them. I get really attached to fonts and this ms. had been written in one of of my two current favorites, Big Caslon. So I changed it to a font I REALLY HATE, Courier.

I made it big, so it would be extra-obnoxious. And guess what? After awhile I started really reading and noticing all the little things that needed to be fixed.

But maybe this only works if you really get attached to fonts? I always have; even when I was a child I liked some fonts way better than others. Then I hated Bodoni, which is now my other favorite font -- probably I didn't like it as kid because a magazine I disliked used it for everything. I really liked Times Roman and Baskerville; but maybe just because favorite books used them.

ANyway, I notice fonts! This so-called tip may be totally obvious to others who do, but it worked for me.If anyone has any other tricks for looking at something with a fresh eye I'd love to hear them!

Friday, January 23, 2009

a new portfolio

I'm working on putting together a new portfolio. A B&W one so that I can hope to get interior work for MGs, YAs, etc. I put the whole thing together on my website but you can only see the thumbnails for now. It's a big project to put up the images and link them all together. Anyway, if you want to see the thumbnails go here: BW portfolio

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander: Poems & Videos

Read about Elizabeth Alexander at

Read about Elizabeth Alexander at the Poetry Foundation.

Praise Song for the Day
A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here are excerpts from other three poems by Elizabeth Alexander:

From Blues

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Ladders

Filene's department store
near nineteen-fifty-three:
An Aunt Jemima floor
display. Red bandanna,

Apron holding white rolls
of black fat fast against
the bubbling pancakes, bowls
and bowls of pale batter.

This is what Donna sees,
across the "Cookwares" floor,
and hears "Donnessa?" Please,
This can not be my aunt.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

From Race

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Elizabeth Alexander Videos

A Reading by Elizabeth Alexander (The Online Newshour Poetry Series, January 13, 2009)

Elizabeth Alexander Describes Inauguration Plans (The Newshour with Jim Lehrer)

Video of Elizabeth Alexander Reading the Inaugural Poem

Elizabeth Alexander on The Colbert Report


Just for Fun—One of my Irish friends sent me a link to the following video the other day:


Here are the beginning lyrics:

O'Leary, O'Reilly, O'Hare and O'Hara
There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama

You don't believe me, I hear you say
But Barack's as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy's daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

He's as Irish as bacon and cabbage and stew
He's Hawaiian he's Kenyan American too
He’s in the white house, He took his chance
Now let’s see Barack do Riverdance

Toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a loo, toor a lama
There's no one as Irish As Barack O'Bama

From Kerry and cork to old Donegal
Let’s hear it for Barack from old moneygall
From the lakes if Killarney to old Connemara
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama

You can read the rest of the lyrics here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have reviews of three winter picture books for very young children that were written in verse.

Laura Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some recent poems and sketches

These are some poems (still in progress) from the sequel book proposal for What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? I've been working on. Shoe will be on book shelves in just two months!

Solomon’s dad
had an old tin kazoo,
it was shiny and small
and broken.

It sat high on a shelf
painted robin’s egg blue,
a gift from his aunt
in Hoboken.

Sue eats cereal for breakfast
and cereal for lunch.
Her favorite kind to snack on
is banana crispy crunch.

There are boxes in the cupboard
and boxes in the sink.
Sue will have cornflakes at dinner time,
with chocolate milk to drink.

Monday, January 19, 2009

hoping, and praying, and wishing

A week from today, we will know the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, Coretta Scott King Awards, and more. I will be in beautiful Denver at ALA for the announcements, and I have very mixed feelings about it. Last year Grace and I were in China during the announcement, and therefore were literally far away from it all, and I really didn't have too much invested in it, except to think/hope that Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of the Part-Time Indian would win the Printz (it didn't). This year, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young, will get a mention. I'm not really superstitious--I tend to believe in the power of positive thinking, but in this case, when I know that it's completely out of my control at this point, I go back and forth with how to feel.

It's won the gold or honor in a few Mock Caldecotts, although didn't place in others (one said that the illustrations lacked "warmth"--hmph). I've seen bloggers say that it would either win the gold or get nothing, (yes, I'm a bit obsessed), and Fuse #8 declared it the front runner. Eek.

I don't know if it really IS the front runner, but I know it's a contender, and to be honest, it's a bit of an odd feeling to be in this situation. I do realize that this is not a bad position to be in--and I'm honestly happy to be here. It's always been my goal to edit books that are up for discussion for awards. It's just that I'm used to editing quiet books with modest expectations that surprise my publisher (although not to me) when they do extremely well. I prefer to be in the position of the underdog.

Well, all will be revealed next Monday. Think positive thoughts for Wabi Sabi (unless you hated the book, in which case, think neutral thoughts!)!


In other award news, I'm proud to say that Tony Abbott's The Postcard has been nominated for an Edgar Award!! Somehow, it's more satisfying to have a book that both I and the author have worked especially hard on be recognized, which is definitely the case here. Congratulations to Tony and the rest of the nominees!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Google ads

I've had a Web site since 1999 - and most of it was made ten years ago. The weird thing about marketing is that you never know what's going to work and what isn't. While I was putting in all the moves for cat's cradle, with a photograph for each one, I thought:
"Why am I doing this? No one is ever going to read it."

People did read it though - and that became the most popular page on the site. It gets about 30,000 visitors a month. But -- does this Web site help my children's book career? Who knows. The site costs $19.99/month -- so it's cost me about $2500 over the years....and this week, I decided to make it earn its keep with Google ads.

How this works:
1. You submit your site to Google
2. When you're accepted, choose the ad formats you want
3. Paste the code for the ads onto your pages (theoretically, this just takes a second - and so it would, if I didn't start cleaning up the rest of the page once I see it!). You can choose exactly where they go, but you have no control over the ads' content, beyond barring pornography.
4. The ads themselves then just appear-- they are supposedly related to the page's content.
5. Once you've earned $10, Google starts sending you checks.

My ads have only been up for three days, so it's too early to tell how much money I'll be making, or even what the ads are like.

Some are clearly connected to the content -- on my Cinderella page, one of the ads was for a TV show about Cinderella. Some of the connections are harder to see -- the Sleeping Beauty page featured an ad that said "End Tax Worries." (I love that way of ending tax worries, going to sleep for a hundred years!) The story "The Youth Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was" had an for some kind of eye-wrinkle cream.....and, my favorite: the page where I show kids how to make hovercraft has an ad for REAL helicopters!

Alas, when I went back to take a picture of this ad -- which showed several helicopters, including a bright red one-- it had been replaced. I think the kids who are interested in how to make hovercraft might have been curious about how much a real helicopter costs -- *I* was!

Sadly, one of my favorite stories ("Jack, the Clever Thief" -- if you haven't rea a witty, romantic, Irish folktale) attracted ads for religious stuff. No way to block I may take the ads off that page.

Most ads were for things like this:

Can you read that? It says "What does the length of your fingers say about your personality?" I was tempted to click that one myself. But, I didn't --you're not allowed to click the ads on your own site. You're also not supposed to tell people to click the ads. (But if there is a huge surge after this post....thanks guys!)

So, how much can you make? There isn't a simple formula for how much you get paid per click -- each click pays really differently depending upon -- what? I don't know. So far, I've had 16 clicks; one paid 62 cents, one paid 6 cents, some paid between one and two cents each, and some paid between 4 and 5 cents each. (They only report the number of clicks per day and the total per day.)

I've made 95 cents so far. Nevertheless, I'm going to persist with this, maybe even add some pages to my Web site and put ads on them; right now, I only have ads on 12 of the 100 pages. If I could get 60 cents a day, the site would be self-supporting. Is this revoltingly commercial of me? Will it make potential readers avoid my site? Will I lose all my recommendations? (The site is on lots of good lists.) And if anyone sees the ads, and has suggestions for better places to put them -- or thinks some should be removed -- please tell me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

last chance to bid!

The auction for my January small graces painting ends TODAY!

POETRY FRIDAY: The Peace of Wild Things

I often worry what our country…our world will be like in the coming years. I worry about global warming, the environment, our economy, war, terrorism, famine and disease. I worry for my daughter and her generation—and for future generations. What helps to keep me sane is laughter, which I find to be a great catharsis. That’s why I love watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

In the following poem, Wendell Berry provides us with another suggestion for helping to forget—at least for a time—things that trouble our thoughts.

From The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

You can read the rest of the poem here at American Life in Poetry.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original fairy tale poem entitled A Charming Prince Has Second Thoughts.

Karen Edmisten has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

sketches and gum

I stayed up until early this morning to turn in a piece for the "launch meeting" for my bubble gum book. Oy. I was trying to get onto a normal schedule again. So much for that. I did manage to finish an illustration in one evening. Go me. The pink one (ends) has not been finished. Of course I have no idea if they like the art or hate it. I guess I'll have to wait....

I bought a book a few weeks ago called AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE. It's all about artist sketch books w/interviews and interior drawings. I've never been able to keep a sketch book but am fascinated by the people who do.

I love this quote: "My sketchbook is the opposite of my job. It's like a pocket-sized vacation." For me keeping a sketch book is a chore. I did read one comment about doodling that I 100% identified with. I can't find the actual quote but the artist said that doodling helps him pay attention. What first seems rude is actually a way of keeping on track and listening to the person/people talk. I am the same way. Lots of times if I doodle while some one is talking I have an easier time listening.

anyway, I highly recommend getting the book. It's really great and the sketch books are amazing!



The rewrite is on its way to editors (thank you, Fabulous Agent!); the old drafts are on their way to another destination. And I'm working on the next book.

Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard

I was visiting with a friend who owns a small, independent children's book shop yesterday. She called my attention to Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard, an article that she had just read at My friend expressed her concern to me about the negative impact that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 may have on her business.

You can find links to the article and to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 at Wild Rose Reader in the following post: Safety Act Catches Publishers Off Guard.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


My head has been filled with dumplings lately. Not only is my new work-in-progress novel tentatively titled "Dumpling Days," one of the stories in my upcoming early reader Ling & Ting prominently features dumpling making: With so many dumplings in my head, I decided there was no time like the present to accomplish #4 of my new year's resolutions: make my own dumplings!

My goal this year is to try a few different dumpling recipes and figure out which one I like best. When I recently read on Jama Rattigan's blog that her book "Dumpling Soup" was having it's 15 year anniversary (wow!), I knew her recipe was the one I wanted to try first.
"Dumpling Soup" was one of the few multicultural picturebooks around when I began my journey as an author/illustrator, it was one of the books that inspired me to write about my own cultural heritage. So, why not start my dumpling making experience with a book that started my book-making experience? Seemed fitting to me!

So, following the Yang family recipe, I murdered a cabbage. It was gruesome, I chopped it into many pieces. I didn't know I could be so cruel:

Then I mixed meat:

and folded the dumplings:

Don't they look good? They are not as nice as my mom's, but I was proud.

Then I cooked them

and ate them! YUM!
These dumplings are going to be hard to beat, but I plan on making the Lin family recipe next...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More sketches

Sorry for the short posts, I've been busy lately revising a book dummy for an upcoming project, Greta's Dad. Here are some sketches...

Monday, January 12, 2009

What are those effin' gees, anyway?

Recently at a work lunch, I started talking about geeky publishing terms that could be used for names of bars. Like, "Hey, you guys wanna go to F&Gs tonight?" or "There's a cool new place called TK."

Its possible that all of you already know what these mean, but I thought I'd outline a few publishing terms, with particular focus on sales materials, as right now our design department is working towards getting the cover designs finished for our Fall 2009 ARCs. What are ARCs, you say? Well, I'll tell you!

ARC=advanced reading copy. When speaking, I actually interchange saying it as the word "arcs" and saying it as the initials "A.R.C.s" fairly consistently, so I think saying it either way is fine. ARCs are the main sales materials we produce for our novels. They look exactly like a paperback book, and ideally will have the cover design on the front, although oftentimes the design is not final and will change either slightly, or in some cases, the final books will have a completely different cover. For example, we completely changed the cover of Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass from ARC to final book after getting some negative feedback. (I would post the ARC cover, but I can't seem to find the image anywhere...I really loved the ARC cover, though!)

Galleys: this can actually refer to two different things that are related. One refers to page proofs, which is basically the manuscript when it's typeset and laid out in the design of the book. This comes after the copyedited manuscript. Galleys can also refer to ARCs, although oftentimes the difference is that galleys don't have the cover design--the cover is plain, usually uncoated paper. (I'm not sure if this is the same across the board in publishing.) Sometimes, though, ARCs and galleys are used interchangeably.

F&Gs=folded and gathered pages. The common publishing joke is that of an intern or newbie who, after working in publishing for a while, asks someone, "What are Gees, and why is everyone so mad at them?" F&Gs are our sales materials for picture books--it's basically the color proof for a book that has been cut, folded, and gathered so that it looks like an unbound book.

BLADs=Basic Layout and Design. BLADs generally look like F&Gs, but aren't the complete book. We make blads generally for longer illustrated nonfiction books, where you don't necessarily need to see the whole book to decide if you want to buy it. For example, we used BLADs to sell Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, a Beatles biography we published last Fall. But we also used BLADs to sell the longer picture books by Jimmy Liao, The Sound of Colors and The Blue Stone, because doing full-length 80-page F&Gs would be too expensive.

TK=to come, as in "copyright information TK." It's used as a placeholder and reminder that you're waiting for additional material. Yes, I know, "To Come" should be TC, but it's not. Basically, from what I've been able to understand, it's an intentional misspelling meant to catch the eye. 

Are there other publishing terms/abbreviations that you've always wondered about?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

talk today at 2pm - come see me!

This is from Fuse #8's blog (because I'm lazy)

Graphic Elements in Biography and Non-Fiction

Join C.M. Butzer (Gettysburg), Meghan McCarthy (Seabiscuit, the Wonder Horse), Sean Qualls (Before John Was a Jazz Giant), and Dan Yaccarino (The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau) as they discuss their work melding picture book and graphic novel elements with biographical and informational subjects.

The Children’s Literary Café is a monthly gathering of adults who are fans of children’s literature. Professionals, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, teachers, and anyone else interested in the field are welcome to attend our meetings. The Literary Café provides free Advanced Readers galleys, a rotating series of talks with professionals in the field, and great conversation.

New York Public Library
Children's Center at 42nd Street
Room 84
475 Fifth Avenue
New York , NY 10018

Friday, January 09, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem by Philip Appleman

Here is a poem for the beginning of the year that I had planned to post last Friday—but we had no Internet access in the timeshare where we were staying with friends in New Hampshire. Happy New Year a week late!

To the Garbage Collectors in Bloomington, Indiana, the First Pickup of the New Year
by Philip Appleman

(the way bed is in winter, like an aproned lap,
like furry mittens,
like childhood crouching under tables)
The Ninth Day of Xmas, in the morning black
outside our window: clattering cans, the whir
of a hopper, shouts, a whistle, move on ...
I see them in my warm imagination
the way I’ll see them later in the cold,
heaving the huge cans and running
(running!) to the next house on the street.

My vestiges of muscle stir
uneasily in their percale cocoon:
what moves those men out there, what
drives them running to the next house and the next?
Halfway back to dream, I speculate:
The Social Weal? “Let’s make good old
Bloomington a cleaner place
to live in—right, men? Hup, tha!”

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original poem from my unpublished collection of memoir poems entitled A Home for the Seasons. I’ve also included five other poems from the collection that I posted previously.

Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

a new studio

After Christmas came some craziness. To sum up a VERY long story, there was a leak coming from my sink and the neighbors' ceiling came down and my landlady threatened to call a lawyer and evict me and "make me pay," etc. Ugh!!! So I was planning on re-designing where I paint. It used to serve as a useless dinning room. I'm getting rid of the dinning room table and chairs and moving stuff around. Good fun! I was excited. Ikea and Home Depot here I come. Of course, the awful nightmare of being yelled at for literally more than 2 hours - from 1:30 - 5 to be exact, I got depressed and scared and thought I might lose my home. I also haven't been able to sleep well because of stuff like this:

I hope this doesn't gross anyone out. It shouldn't. It's my foot. Anyway, I get this all over body itching thing that the doctors can't figure out and I end up cutting up my feet and other places. Nice, right?

Moving on. Before I was informed of my very tight book deadline, I was finishing up this:

and starting what I'm calling the "zerox series."

And of course documenting more street art:

Now I must give that up and work on the book (this is the ends)

...and finish moving around the space:

I have WAY too many books.

This is what I've decided to do with my antique dress form:

And I bought a very creepy antique clown at the antique store near my parents' house. He's to keep my company during my long work hours (yeah right).

I'm going to make a whole new "see inside the studio" when I'm done moving things around and building things. My dad is going to help me make a wooden flat-files type thing and I'm buying two long, high kitchen carts to serve as my working space. My dad bought me two big pieces of glass to use as palates, which I highly recommend... and I'm going to make a music station space and all sorts of other stuff, so stay tuned! (if you are interested, of course). I will document it all.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thanks to a kind hint by fellow blogger Mitali Perkins, I've figured out how to get a custom domain name for my charity project: Please spread the word!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Small Graces: A Painting a Month for the FCB

As I mentioned in my 2009 post, I was very proud of Robert's Snow. It is probably one of the most meaningful things I have ever done and it made me a true believer in the Winston Churchill quote, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

While I don't feel capable of running a large project like that again, I do want to continue its spirit if only in a small way.

So, I am proud to announce my new charity project:

Small Graces: A Painting a Month For the FCB

Once a month a small(roughly 5x5 inch), unpublished, original painting of mine will be auctioned off through eBay with 100% of the proceeds to benefit the Foundation of Children's Books. This painting(above) will go on auction from Monday, January 12 through Friday, January 16.
(I'll post a link then!)

It is a variation on Robert's Snow except:

1. I'm the only artist, and there is only one painting during each auction

2. It will happen once a month for the year of 2009

3. The original paintings will all be illustrated small bits of wisdom (inspired by the collecting I've been doing for Fortune Cookie Fridays)

4. The money (all of it) will go to the Foundation of Children's Books to support author visits in low-income schools. Why? Read HERE.

This is just my small way to give back to schools and the community, and it can be yours too! Please spread the word and bid!


Recently, when my fellow BRG Meghan wrote a frank post about authors, money and school visits, it made me think. Her honesty made me wince and nod at the same time.

Because here is my truth--I do a lot of school visits. I am so grateful and honored that schools invite me. But a great portion of my income depends on the fees I receive from these visits. AND, my most natural state is introverted--there are only so many visits I can do in a year without stammering incoherently. I'm kind of like a jar of marbles--every visit I do I am less one marble until I am empty. So, I can't give away my marbles for free.

But, it isn't fair that the only schools that get authors to visit are the ones that can afford to. Every visit I do, I can see the excitement in the students. But it also isn't fair to ask the author (the usually financially-strapped author) to do it for free either.

That is where organizations like the Foundation of Children's Books, the beneficiary of my new little TBA project, comes in.

The Foundation
funds school visit programs for low-income schools. So, schools that usually can't afford an author to visit, get one and the author doesn't have to suffer financially either.

Supporting the Foundation is win-win for everyone. Students of all incomes get wonderful programs and fellow authors are able to make a living to keep creating books! Isn't that great?

Now, don't you want to know what my new little charity project is? Stay tuned!!!

Monday, January 05, 2009

I resolve in 2009...

Happy 2009, everyone!

I do love making new year's resolutions, and listed a few over on my personal blog. Here are some of my work-related goals:

-Come up with plan to manage submissions in a more efficient way--do not keep authors/agents waiting for more than 3 months (I know, I resolved to do this last year, but this year I'm being more specific!)
-Read (including audio books) at least one adult book every three months, and one published MG/YA book every month (I know this probably seems pitiful, but I always feel guilty when I'm not reading submissions)
-Clean my office for at least a half hour each week (I went into the office on Friday to clean and organize, so I have a bit of a head's start now...)

I managed to read a lot over the holiday break, and it felt fantastic. I read Malcolm Gladwell's newest, Outliers (loved it). I read Jenny Han's upcoming novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty (SO good). I read Sarah Ockler's upcoming debut novel Twenty Boy Summer (what a tear-jerker!), and Coraline by Neil Gaiman (fantastic!). And I finally made significant progress into a book I had started last year but never finished, What Is the What by Dave Eggers. And yes, I even read some submissions. I also read the newspaper almost every day. And it all felt fantastic. And so this is why I am determined to keep reading actual published books throughout the year. I will, goshdarnit! It's why I wanted to be involved in publishing in the first place, after all. For the love of the books.

Did you read any good books over the holidays?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Grace Lin Books Group

So, my New Year's resolutions are up and running...though, no thanks to me. I am miserable with a cold, looking oh-so-glamourous-like this:

(like my hat? It was an X-mas gift!)

But resolution #8 (lucky 8!) has begun thanks to cyber-friend Jenny who started a Grace Lin Books Group on Facebook. She also made a Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Book Release Event too! Isn't that neat? Thanks, Jenny!

Please join! It'd be fun to have an online booklaunch! Once my congestion clears up, I'll try to think of some fun virtual party favors, as I think virtual cupcakes are sorely lacking in tastiness.

*question to self--do I join my own book group, or is that weird? Hopefully answer will be forthcoming as my head clears.