Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Last weekend, I "performed" at The River's Family Music Meltdown & Book Bash (which was organized in part by Lunch Lady author Jarrett Krosoczka). In between musical acts, authors gave a book reading. It was a loud, fun & energy-packed event, with great authors and rock bands.

But it was also a bit challenging for me--not because the kids or people were rude, but because the venue was so large with so many other things going on (vendors & food in the back, lots of people walking around). Enormous crowds are not my forte.

But, I think I did okay. I've done so many school visits that I'm not really nervous onstage anymore. I was able to get about 30% of the audience's attention, which was still pretty good.

However, after me, came Mo Willems, who commanded 100% of the crowd with awe-inspiring mastery:

It was quite impressive. And it reminded me of Meghan's thoughts about talent and Libby's post about what it takes to succeed as a novelist. The truth is, I've worked and worked to become a better public speaker. And I've gotten much better at it. I'm proud of that. But when I see a speaker like Mo, I realize that no amount of practice will ever make me a public speaker like that. It is a pure talent that sets him apart.

Just as I feel when I am faced by another author's amazing book, it is impossible not to acknowledge a superior talent. But strangely, this doesn't cause me great despair nor will it stop me from continuing and trying to get better at it. I think Mo will always be a great speaker, in any environment, continually and without exception. Me, maybe, once and a while when all the right elements combine & I keep working at it, I feel I can get a glimpse of creating that myself. And that's enough.

Letters from the kiddos

One of the best parts of school visits is going through the thank you letters afterwards. They are beginning to arrive from last week's trip.

Check out these hip rollerskating foxes:

On the back of this one it says "I likt yors books vare muh":

One packet included some Abigail coloring sheets (you can download them here), I like this kid's abstract approach:

And of course there is always at least one big letter from the whole class:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Beyond the Book: GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD by Karen Healey

Beyond the Book: GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD by Karen Healey
The description:

In less than a day I had been harassed, enchanted, shouted at, cried on, and clawed. I’d been cold, scared, dirty, exhausted, hungry, and miserable. And up until now, I’d been mildly impressed with my ability to cope.

At her boarding school in New Zealand, Ellie Spencer is like any ordinary teen: she hangs out with her best friend, Kevin; obsesses over her crush on a mysterious boy; and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. Then everything changes: In the foggy woods near the school, something ancient and deadly is waiting.

Debut author Karen Healey introduces a savvy and spirited heroine with a strong, fresh voice. Full of deliciously creepy details, this unique, incredible adventure is a deftly crafted story of Māori mythology, romance, betrayal, and war.

As I've mentioned on this blog, my very first agent lunch was with Barry Goldblatt. And if I think about the success rate of submission to acquisitions of any agent, he would be number one. The first thing he ever sent me was GEEKTASTIC by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. The most recent submission/acquisition was The Diviners series by Libba Bray. And in between? He sent me Guardian of the Dead. There may be another submission or two somewhere in between all of these that I've turned down, but my memory is failing me. So: We're three for three! And wow, what a three they are.

Barry called me first to ask if I liked urban fantasy--up till then, I hadn't published any fantasy on my list. But yes, I did like it, and I'm glad he called to ask first rather than assume. Then again, that's why he's a good agent. He knows these things.

I first read Guardian of a Dead when I was going through a "reading slump"--I hadn't read a submission that I had loved in at least a few months, and I despaired that I would never again find love. Well, I fell in love with this novel.

I was absolutely blown away by the voice. It was strong, fresh, and authentic. And I fell in love with the main character, Ellie. To be frank, she's overweight and not as put-together as she would like, but she’s also a martial arts master and is just plain kick-ass. In fact, I can't think of a better adjective to describe her than kick-ass. It really fits.

I loved the setting: New Zealand. And I loved that overall the book was different. Yes, it's urban fantasy, and yes, there's a romance, but there's not a vampire, werewolf or zombie in sight. No angels, either. As for fairies...well, kinda. But you've never seen fairies like this before in YA lit!

Did it have some problems? Of course. The main issue being that in that draft that I read, Ellie was in college, and acted as such (lots of casual sexual encounters, drinking, etc.). But I knew all that was editable, and fell in love with all the things it had going for it: delicious horror elements, incredible action and adventure, mystery, magic, humor, romance, betrayal, monsters, and of course an epic battle at the end.

The submission came with two amazing blurbs from two NY Times bestselling authors, which certainly didn't hurt: Libba Bray said:
It’s been a long time since a debut novel grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Quite simply, GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD is my favorite kind of read—creepy, funny, sexy, smart, and sometimes just downright, pull-the-covers-up-to-your-neck-and-pray-for-morning frightening. This book completely rocked my socks.

And Holly Black said:

Smart, hilarious, and wholly unique. Healey makes juxtaposing totally modern characters with numinous and ancient magic look effortless.

I acquired the book in auction while Barry was also selling to an Australian publisher, as Karen was a New Zealander living in Australia. The Australian publisher is Allen & Unwin, and we agreed to edit the book together, which was an interesting and rewarding process, and we were lucky to all be on the same page about what we felt needed to happen. Their posts about Karen on their Alien Onion blog are here. It's been a great experience! Great synergy. And may I just add that Karen is a fantastic reviser?

Some other things this books has that makes it unusual/special:
-an asexual character (I know--whoa!)
-a fantastic multicultural cast, including a strong Chinese New Zealander gal, Iris.
-because Karen borrows from the Maori culture for the mythology of the book, she had several cultural consultants read various drafts to make sure she got it right. Or, at least, as right as she could hope to achieve.

If you read the cultural consultants post I linked to a few lines above, you'll know that Karen is a great blogger as well. And I've loved her writing about the process--I've been in the publishing business for a while, and I sometimes forget that for a debut author, the whole process is all shiny and new. It's great to see it all in that light again.

Here are a few of my favorite of her blog posts about the book:

Karen revises
Karen reveals the cover
Wherein Karen muses on reviews
Karen waits
Karen receives the final books! (complete with great photos)
Karen discusses covers and the Cover Fail controversy

She's also very fun to follow on Twitter!

I absolutely adore this novel. It's so durned good. Really. Read it! Others have, and they've liked it! A lot! Here's what some other authors and reviewers have to say:

Guardian of the Dead is funny, heartbreaking and always interesting: Ellie is one of my favourite heroines.” – Sarah Rees Brennan (The Demon’s Lexicon)

“A fresh and original urban fantasy debut with none of the usual suspects. More please!” –Justine Larbalestier (Magic or Madness series, Liar)

Guardian of the Dead is an action-packed tale with an uncanny balance of romance and mystery. I found myself mesmerized by the legends and stories woven into modern-day New Zealand.” – Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush)

"Debut novelist Healey pulls readers in immediately with Ellie's funny, occasionally profane and often self-deprecating voice. The smart, strong protagonist is supported by a cast of equally intelligent peers. Fast-paced adventure and an unfamiliar, frightening enemy set a new scene for teen urban fantasy." --Kirkus

"Dynamic...Ellie is both inspiring and enjoyably real." --Romantic Times

The official pub date is this Thursday, April 1, but I've heard that it's already out in stores (although I have yet to see it in the wild myself). I'm so excited to introduce Guardian of the Dead to the world. Karen Healey certainly has a bright future ahead of her, and I'm honored and excited to be with her on the journey.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

$ and Writing: What People Said

When good stories are summarized, something is lost -- so I think it's best to let the comments on my Money and Writing poll/post from last week tell their own stories: I was surprised and moved by how open the stories people told were.

Mary Jane! 37,000 and 67,000 copies sold is a lot by ANY country's standard. Jeff! Congratulations to you on two books about to be published. Liana, Sally, Hazel, Mary, Elspeth, Steve, Karen, Officegirl, Laurie, Annie, Doreen, Melissa, and Anonymous: thank you. I was surprised by everything people said, except that those who worked at something else and wrote, too, found that hard. I personally think it gets harder as you grow older. When I was in my thirties and I worked 50 hours a week and wrote in the evenings and on weekends; now (like most of the people who answered) I work part-time.

But read what people said if you haven't: it's fascinating. And encouraging.

Supported at some point (I counted money like my Fidelity money and Jeff's severance pay as "support"): 7

Not ever supported: (I counted knowing parents would help but not being supported by them as "not supported" -- though maybe I shouldn't have! That is a nice security net and not everyone has it) 9

Published: 10

Not published: 6

--others might count things differently, and the interesting part of this to me was what people said, not the numbers.....though I guess if we had more numbers and knew more about statistics, we could say something meaningful about the numbers too.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Poetry Friday for Farm Animals

I spent so much time working on my Poetry Friday post for Wild Rose Reader that I didn’t get around to looking for a poem to post at Blue Rose Girls today. I wrote a review of a special new children’s poetry book for my other blog. The book, written by Maya Gottfried, is titled Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary is a place that rescues neglected and abused farm animals. It is located in Watkins Glen, New York. Gottfried wrote the poems after volunteering at the Farm Sanctuary. The poems are told from the perspectives of different animals that actually live at the sanctuary—including Clarabell, a goat; J. D., a piglet; Miss Grandma Moo; and Hilda, a sheep. Hilda was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary.

In her “Note for Grown-ups,” in the back matter of the book, Gottfried talks about the terrible conditions under which the majority of farm animals live out their lives. She writes: “They are usually housed in huge, crowded facilities where they are denied the wind, the sun, the green grass, and the warm dirt they love. Enter Farm Sanctuary. Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary provides shelter for neglected and abused farm animals.”

It is sad that sentient creatures are treated so horribly by our huge agribusiness industry. It’s one of the reasons I eat much less meat than I once did. I don’t eat veal any longer—and buy only free range chickens and eggs produced by chickens that aren’t caged animals. I hope I’ll have the strength of will to become a vegetarian one day.

Here’s one of the illustrations from Our Farm, which has exceptional artwork—done in watercolors, pencil, and ink—by Robert Rahway Zakanitch.
Here’s a video of some piglets playing at the Farm Sanctuary.

I’m sending all of you who are animal lovers over to my post today at Wild Rose Reader: Poetry Book Review & Videos: Our Farm by Maya Gottfried.

Julie Larios has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Drift Record.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I wish there was one day a year - like a Valentine's Day - kind of "holiday" for authors, where we would be free to complain about bad reviews and write rebuttals if necessary.

Fortunately, I haven't gotten that many bad reviews. Even my "bad" ones have not been all that bad - more mixed. But these said reviews once in a while pick on my facts and say that they're not correct. This is what I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to write my own correction on! I mean, let's face it, do these reviewers have the time or energy to do the research that the writers do? I doubt it. So on occasion I've noticed that a reviewer has seemed to get his/her information from a book on the same subject that came first. For whatever reason they just assume that that book is the correct one. I'm not sure why.

But there's a new breed of annoyance out there. The ordinary public wanting to voice their opinion on nonfiction. Arg! Some of my nonfiction topics--Charles Atlas and now Walter Diemer (the inventor of bubble gum) seem to come with some baggage. They come with their very own conspiracy theories! Think Kennedy or 9/11 only it's kids' books. Ugh. There are always nutty people out there but I just wish they'd keep to themselves!

This is an example of something a person wrote in a "review" on Strong Man from Amazon: "Charles Atlas was never a weakling." Ummm... yeah, he was. I have proof. Behold!

This is a photo of him as a teenager. I don't know what you consider a weakling, but he was no muscle man in this photo. There are these nutty people out there who are in two different warring sects: the weightlifters and the non--ala dynamic tension sort. They both want to argue different things about Atlas. I want to stay OUT OF IT! And I want my book to stay out of it as well.

It really pains me when I see people making really ironious comments and I'm supposed to bite my tongue and just let it be! Why? We're not talking about fiction reviews here--this isn't a matter of OPINION. It's fact. These are facts people are getting wrong. Why shouldn't I be able to stand up for my books? What about just one day? A holiday of sorts? A day when I and other authors like me can go crazy and say - No, YOU are wrong!

Pretty please?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

thank you

Recently, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was awarded the Josette Frank Award for fiction by the Banks St. College of Education. I was thrilled to accept at the awards ceremony, especially when I saw the impressive list of books that were also honored.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Red Sings from Treetops, Almost Astronauts, Moonshot

It was also great fun to meet and catch up with the other authors as well!

pic 1: Pamela Zagarenski, me, Joyce Sidman, Alvina Ling
pic 2:Tanya Lee Stone, me

However, the only thing I wasn't exactly thrilled about was that I was expected to make an acceptance speech. I was told it didn't have to be anything too formal, but I know that I have a tendency to stutter and blather incoherently if I try to do anything off the cuff. Also, I truly wanted everyone to know how much I appreciated the attention and honor they had given my book. So, I was a bit nervous.

But I did it.

After I gave my little speech, Alvina suggested that I post it online. At first, I thought I wouldn't...but then I realized that my thanks were incomplete; that there were so many other people I was grateful to.

So, even though this speech was addressed to the Bank Street Committee, it is also for Newbery Committee, the Indies Choice Booksellers, the Parent Choice Reviewers, the teachers, parents, librarians, and kids...this is for anyone who read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and loved it:

Thank you so much for your great honor.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was a labor of love for me and everyone involved—from the wonderful editing of my friend Alvina Ling & Connie Hsu to the production and design by Alison Impey and the marketing efforts of Victoria Stapleton & Zoe Luderitz. I am truly grateful for this award.

And I suppose it is apropos that gratitude is the emotion that I feel, standing here, as it is a primary theme of the book. It is, in fact, what Where the Mountain Meets the Moon claims as the secret to happiness. Minli travels long and far to discover this; and looking back, I realize that I, too, journeyed a distance to be here today.

Because this book was perhaps a book of destiny for me. Even though it was inspired by stories I read as a child and travels to Asia as an adult, I only began to write it when pushed by my late husband Robert. Even while terminally ill, he enjoyed hearing my writing and asked me to write a fantasy—something to help him imagine he was elsewhere. And so I began.

But midway through, Robert’s life journey ended and, at my lowest points of grief and sorrow I believed that that was end of the book as well. It was suppose to be a book about hope, a book about overcoming and accomplishing the impossible—just as I had fantasized about Robert’s illness. But as his death became unflinchingly real, the unfinished story was, to me, lost.

Until one day, a friend of mine, the poet Janet Wong came to visit. She asked about the story and I shook my head.

“I couldn’t finish it before Robert died,” I said, “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”
“No,” she said, “It’s better that you didn’t finish it because now you can change the ending.”

And the truth of her words struck me. The story, my story was not finished. It didn’t have to end because Robert was gone. It was up to me change the ending for the book, and really my life.

So, Minli’s journey is a search to change her fortune and to find happiness just as mine was as I was writing. Minli is not perfect, but she tries her best and at every point she learns and grows until finally she realizes that happiness is not a prize that can be bought or won. Happiness is a gift that is cherished, something that one is truly grateful for. Just as I am to all of you, today.

Thank you very much.

Robert Mercer, 1972-2007

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back North

Last week was the busiest I've had in awhile! As I mentioned in my last post, I was traveling down South to give school visits as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book and a few other lovely book gatherings. I am from Virginia, so its always fun to go back there and visit family and friends while I have some book fun. And of course its encouraging to see the first signs of spring that have not yet made their way to Massachusetts:

I had the pleasure of speaking to both little kiddos and teachers... the week began at James Madison University speaking to their kidlit class, taught by the amazing Joan Kindig. Teachers always have such great questions and are so polite, enthusiastic, and fun to talk to, truly its one of my favorite groups to visit.

Then I began my week of visiting little ones. One school I went to was having a "book-in" on the day of my visit. Everyone came to school in pajamas, ate chocolate chip pancakes and waffles, and laid around reading books all day (sounds like a good time to me!). The campus was composed largely of log cabins in the woods and had the most adorable little library I've ever seen. Don't you just want to curl up in one of those rocking chairs and read all afternoon?

Here I am drawing a soccer playing dragon, as suggested by my very cute audience of K-3rd graders:

In my slideshow I start by showing a pic of me drawing as a little kid:

Then I show them all the cats in my house growing up, which inspired me to make up animal stories:

The week finished off at the New Jersey Annual Kindergarten Teacher's spring conference, where they had a "go green" theme, and thus brought me in to talk about What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? A Green Activity Book About Reuse. I had a lot of fun walking through how this book evolved, and what the book making process is like. I went over my favorite art activities from my years spent teaching, such as painting with "texture paintbrushes" and making paper by hand:

Then I described how these led to the activities with reused materials I made up for Old Red Shoe, such as the flip-flop activity:

And of course what you can do with that old red shoe:

These teachers just blew me away with their creativity... they collected 20 pairs of old red shoes and made centerpieces for each of the lunch tables, with green chrysanthemums, that looked like this:

And a decoration for the podium (Dorothy shoes!):

Groups of teachers presented their own recycling activity ideas, including this tri-fold board with ideas about how to combine recycling with math activities:

There were recycling songs with Woodsy the owl (Smokey the Bear's sidekick, remember?) sung bravely for the group:

One teacher made a ring toss with an old soda bottle, an Edible Arrangements box, and some reused tinfoil:

There was also a hockey game made from a pizza box and laundry detergent bottle tops (genius!):

And another favorite, a bowling set made from milk jugs and a tinfoil ball:

Thanks to everyone who made the week so much fun!

Josette Frank Award

The Newbery Honor is not the only award that Grace's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has won. Last week Grace was in New York to accept the 2010 Josette Frank Award for fiction, awarded by the Bank Street College of Education. From the website:

This award is given each year to honor a book or books of outstanding literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally. In addition to being a well-known author of articles about children's books, Josette Frank was the first editor of the Children's Book Committee publications and remained a member for over sixty years.
The prize to the author of the award books has been generously provided by The Florence L. Miller Memorial Fund.

She shared this honor with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. The other honorees were Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone and Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca for nonfiction, and Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski for the picture book award. Everyone but Jacqueline Kelly was on hand to accept their award, and it was a lovely ceremony.

I know Grace was a little relieved to know that Newbery Honor winners do not give speeches, but she did have to give a few words to accept this award. And wow, what words they were. Grace seriously brought the room to tears with her heartfelt, beautifully written speech.
After all of the speeches (and to be honest, Grace wasn't the only talk that made me tear up!), the authors signed books. They were seated behind a desk with quite a bold sign, and Grace showed us what kind of rebel she is:
Grace, me, agent Rebecca Sherman, and Connie

Afterwards, the winners (and a few guests--including me!) had lunch with the committee members. It was nice hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones.

Congratulations, Grace!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

a few statistics... and schools...

Yesterday I did another school event. Even though I was sick the two days prior, I'm glad I went! The kids were great and as always, had many great questions. A funny one a lot of them had was why do all of my characters have big eyes. They also wanted to know what the birds were eating in City Hawk (Lola was feeding them a pink looking thing). It took me HOURS to sign all the books (there were 200 or so of them). The librarian said they used to sell even more before the recession. I can't honestly imagine signing more than 200 books! I don't know how many kids I talked to, but I think it was the whole school. When I went to Alabama I did the same thing. It's so great to see the kids so excited about what I do and hopefully I'll inspire them to be creative and follow their dreams! I always show them what I wrote down for what I wanted to be when I grow up and then ask the kids what their goals are--some things were: a chef, a librarian, a baseball player, an illustrator, and one kid wanted to win the lottery! I'll post some of their drawings when I get a chance.

Today I went to a bookstore and did a reading. Unfortunately the wrong age group was there (mostly toddlers) and my books are for older kids. Sooo... I ended up having to read other authors' books! I sold ZERO books thanks to my book reading. I did sell one book before and one book after--both were for older kids who happened to be in the store and were going to birthday parties. When I did a panel talk last week I also sold zero books. The people in the audience were mostly people that I knew. I think there were two kids. The panel talk was fun, though, because we got to talk shop for a bit and if you witness me in person I do tend to tell it like it is (you may have noticed).

Now, take from this what you will but I hope for the people who didn't understand the difference between school visits and book signings now do have some understanding. I also get paid nothing to visit a bookstore but get paid anywhere from 1200-1500 per school visit. I feel appreciated when I go to a school but sometimes feel like free entertainment when I go to a bookstore. As I've said before, it is great to meet the booksellers and owners and they're always very nice BUT if you're an author and have some serious deadlines (like I do) then pick and chose what you do wisely!

I hope you all realize that I'm not a diva and that there ARE divas out there. You'll know them when you meet them! Librarians have told me things and I've heard stories. I'm easy going and, for example, I will take the extra time (and hours!!!) to make sure that each kid has a picture drawn in each book and not just a signature.

And on another topic which maybe I'll post more about later: I'm saddened by the cuts to funding that schools are having to deal with. The school in NJ has to fire many young teachers. This is really sad! Alabama also said they were losing a lot of money. Kids (especially little space cadets such as I was) need attention. They can't all function in huge classes. And young teachers breathe fresh air and new creativity. It will be a huge shame to lose them! My mom works in the RI school system and in one school ALL of the teachers were fired due to low test scores, etc. Obama supported this decision! Another sad thing. I could go on but I'll stop here. I just don't like what I'm hearing.


Friday, March 19, 2010

$ and writing

I'm really curious about this:

1. Has anyone ever supported you financially or given you money so you could write/paint?

2. Have you had any books published?

and I hope lots of people answer in the comments, with as much or as little detail as you want. I'll post the numbers next week.

My own most productive writing time was when I had three months of severance pay from Fidelity. Being able to write without having a job OR worrying about money was amazing! I finished a book, a good book. Since then, my mother has lent and sometimes given me money a few times, and I'm grateful--but sporadic help is not the same thing as being supported! Worry about money is still underneath everything....and when you don't have enough to pay the rent, you really can't think about anything else. At least, I couldn't.

I put it in the past tense because between babysitting and freelancing, I'm making enough now to feel cautiously confident. I hope it's not bad luck to say that! And thank you Grace! (The babysitting was Grace's idea and it's worked out really well: I owe her a special thank you because the first TWO times she suggested it I thought it was a terrible idea. But she persisted.)

But authors whose autobiographies I've read have done it both ways.

Were supported financially:
*F.Scott Fitzgerald (wrote his first published novel while living at home, being supported by his parents)
*Agatha Christie (wrote her first mystery while living at home; her first PUBLISHED book while being supported financially though not emotionally by her first husband. "WEll, you really don't know much about _____, do you?" he said
*Jane Austen (though she worried about money, too, she didn't have to have a job -- and didn't write when the task of directing the servants fell to her! "I can not write when my head is full of mutton and orange wine," she wrote to her sister Cassandra, who normally took care of the housekeeping)

Supported others:
*Louisa May Alcott (supported her parents, starting when she was a teenager)
*Frances Hodgson Burnett (started writing to support her children after her husband died)
*E.Nesbit (started writing to support her husband and children)

Yes, all these people are in the past -- but I don't know about modern authors finances, no one talks about it. Let's hope WE (all of us who post and comment on this blog) can be frank about it!

POETRY FRIDAY: Spring Acrostics

Last September, I was reading through all the acrostic poems that I had written. Several of them touched on the theme of spring. That gave me the idea to write an entire collection of spring acrostics that would take readers through the season from March to June. My collection now contains twenty-one poems. It includes acrostics about the following subjects: hibernation, crocus, bud, sky, peeper, showers, puddles, mud, seeds, apple tree, pollen, nectar, and dragonfly. Some of the acrostics still need a bit of work.

As spring is waiting at the door, I thought I’d post the first and second poems in the collection, which is tentatively titled Spring into Words: A Season in Acrostics.

Maybe I’ll
Roaring like a lion and
Chase spring away with my frosty breath until I
ear April purring in my ear.

How long have
I slept? How long has it
Been since I’ve
Eaten? I hear the river running again. I must
Rouse my cubs from their slumber
Now…open their eyes to the wonders of spring,
Awaken them to a new life. It is
Time to take my children out
Into the sunlight,
Out into a brighter world they’ve
Never known.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have reviews and excerpts from three excellent picture books in verse that are perfect for reading aloud at this time of year: Bear Wnats More; Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud; and Waddle, Waddle, Quack, Quack, Quack.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Some Novel Ideas.


I've been sick for two days and have eaten NOTHING in days and have a school visit at the crack of dawn this morning! This SUCKS. What also sucks is that I totally forgot that I have a booksigning tomorrow morning, also very early. I also have something the day after that and then have to go to work. I have had NO time to work on my book, which is already very late! What am I supposed to do? I can't help it if I get sick!

Anyway, if you're in the area, here's the info (let's hope I don't get sick again):
Mar. 20 Sat. Time: 10:30 GREENLIGHT BOOKS presents MEGHAN MCCARTHY
686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217 INFO: 718.246.0200

I NEED A BREAK! I don't even have time to go to the doctor, which I really really need to do. Sigh. Help.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

school visit fun

Like Anna, I am also on a school visit whirlwind! This week, last week, I've been all a-school-visiting! But here are some fun photos of how the teachers had some students prepare for me--they storyboarded their favorite parts of The Year of the Dog. It was great fun to see what they did:

The Story of Uncle Shin and the Cake was extremely popular:
As was the Story of Mom's Haircut in School:

I was glad to see that my favorite stories were also favorites of the students' as well, like the Story of The Paper Piano:

And the Story of Mom's First Day of School:

Aren't these great? What a talented bunch! Thanks so much, 4th graders!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Old Red Shoe Illustration in Progress

This week I am in Virginia on a whirlwind tour of school visits and presentations to teachers. As part of a talk I'm giving for Kindergarten teachers, I put together this painting-in-progress movie of an illustration from What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? (similar to the work-in-progress posts you see on BRG). It is so hard to explain how an illustration evolves from sketch to finish, its so much easier to show...

Check out my first painting-in-progress movie for Priscilla here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest post: Beyond the Book--HAPPYFACE by Stephen Emond

Guest Post: Connie Hsu
Beyond the Book: Happyface by Stephen Emond

I'll always remember my first--first acquisition, that is: Libby's beautiful Blow Out the Moon. And so, with the recent publication of my assistant's first acquisition, I asked if she'd like to do a guest post. Connie's first acquisition was not the typical "agent sends in a submission, editor acquires said submission." Nope. Connie WORKED for this one. And what an acquisition it was. Happyface is a beautiful, awe-inspiring, unique book--each page has fully integrated text and art. The book itself and its creator, Stephen Emond, are both absolutely brilliant. And with that, I'll let Connie take it away. (P.S. Connie is brilliant, too)


Hello, Blue Rose Girls readers! I’m excited and honored to guest blogging about HAPPYFACE by Stephen Emond, a young adult novel that just came out this month. Not only is this is my first post on Blue Rose Girls, but it’s also a post about my first acquisition ever.

To give you the full back story of HAPPYFACE, I will need to take you all back in time with me, to a time when Brangelina only had four kids and Lehman Brothers was still in business. It was February 2007, and I was less than a year into my job as editorial assistant at Little, Brown (my first job in book publishing, in fact). I was volunteering at the LBYR booth at the New York Comic-Con, where I met Stephen Emond, who was signing his EMO BOY comic book series. I walked up to his booth, picked up EMO BOY, read it, liked it, and decided he should write a book.

I was young, green, and naïve, so I approached him with the line, “Hey, do you want to write a book?” I didn’t even have a business card or anything proving that I was from Little, Brown, but for some reason, Steve believed me. He said he was definitely into YA, and that he had ideas galore (I later found out he didn’t). A few weeks later, Alvina and I met Steve for lunch, and he had seven ideas on hand, each concept typed up on full-color one-sheets with art.

Steve had many amazing ideas, running the gamut from a metaphysical sci-fi fantasy romance adventure involving a re-imagined Greek underworld to a realistic story, told through journal entries, about a boy, a family tragedy, and how he reinvents himself to hide from his painful past. It was called HAPPYFACE, and there was something about it that felt really raw, honest, and compelling, even though the description was under 300 words. It spoke to both Alvina and me, and we agreed that he should pursue HAPPYFACE.

After nearly a year of developing the outline, shaping the story, and working on art and design, Steve finally had a full outline and 70 or so pages with the text and art fully laid out. Like DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, the text and art complemented each other, and each page/spread as its own design. At this point, Steve wasn’t signed up yet—he had done all this fantastic work on spec, and now it was up to me to bring it to our acquisitions committee. I was a wreck. What if it didn’t pass? What would I tell Steve? Where would I hide so he couldn’t hunt me down and make me pay for wasting a year of his life?

Fortunately, it passed! (and I nearly passed out when I heard the news)

At this point, Steve had about six or seven months to write the rest of the story and complete all the art. Keep in mind, he’d done about a quarter of the book over a year, but somehow, he did it! (I promise you, I didn’t threaten him! Just made whip cracking sounds over the phone.) He had somehow transformed from comic book guy to YA super hero.

And then… the design process. When we went into this, we knew we couldn’t just run the text and drop in art, which is what’s done with most other books, even ones with art. This wasn’t an option with HAPPYFACE. The art didn’t just sit alongside the text; some pieces actually worked as pieces of dialogue or had to correspond to a specific line. There was spot art, comic strips, sidebars, doodles, and taped-in I.M. conversations and e-mails, and this meant that each page had to be designed and laid out separately. Steve took the helm in navigating us through these confusing waters, showing us how he wanted each page laid out, and our designer, Ben Mautner, would go through and make sure everything was in its right place.

The process of keeping track of every piece of art (I believe there are over 400 pieces) in a 320 page book is pretty difficult. I remember slamming my head down on the typeset pages while reviewing them, with joy and happiness of course.
Then off to the cover. We had discussed using interior art, or something that would let the reader know this was an illustrated novel, but everything felt too young or clunky. Finally, Ben shared this cover, and it was simply brilliant. The face looks hand-drawn, the yellow cover really popped, and unlike the typical circular face, it was a full bleed cover. He then had the idea of adding a paper texture to the background, to evoke the sense of a journal and of a sketchbook.

And then one night, he had a dreamed about a partial cover, a preprinted case, and an unrequited love with a vampire.

Well, actually, I don’t know how he came up with this, but I’d like to think it was really dramatic. Ben thought it would be neat to have a partial jacket with just the smile; the jacket would wrap around a preprinted case. When you remove the jacket, ta-da! Sad face underneath. It’s both surprising and a great way of playing up one of the central themes in the book. It’s also just cool. When he demonstrated this at our jacket meeting, people actually applauded. And Ben actually bowed.
Meanwhile, some incredible authors agreed to review HAPPYFACE and contribute blurbs—Scott Westerfeld, Adam Rex, Michael Buckley, and Hope Larson all said wonderful things (thank God). Their support for Steve’s YA debut was phenomenal. Shout-outs and fist bumps!
It’s still hard to believe that it’s actually a book. We were at Steve’s book launch party on Saturday at RJ Julia Booksellers, and it was amazing to see how two naïve but hopeful people could meet randomly at Comic-Con three years ago and have a book today.

 It’s a real live book! In real live stores! And it’s gotten starred reviews from PW and Kirkus! Real live reviews!

“Whimsical, thoughtful, boyishly sarcastic, off-the-cuff… achingly beautiful.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[An] engaging and absolutely heartfelt tale.”—Kirkus ( starred review)

So I feel like I have a lot to be happy about, from finding an immensely talented, easy going, and nicest-guy-on-Earth author, to having the best support system in the world named Alvina Ling. She encouraged me the entire way, gave me the best advice (“Stop whining”), and even schlepped up to Connecticut with me in the rain for the HAPPYFACE book launch. If that can’t put a grin on my face, I don’t know what can.


Aww. Thanks, Connie! This book has been such an amazing journey, and I'm so thrilled it's being well-received. Seriously, you have to see this thing in person, it's a work of art.

And now, for a little bonus, here's a fun teaser trailer we filmed at an office Halloween party. Yes, that's Connie behind the mask, and yes, that's me singing (cringe). Enjoy!