Saturday, July 30, 2011

will you still love me tomorrow?

So, I'm in the last stretches of writing the first draft of my upcoming novel and even though I know it needs a lot revision and work (as well as an ending) I'm in the honeymoon stage of writing. It's that temporary high when the writing is going swimmingly and I find myself thinking, "Hey, this is pretty good! I'm a real writer!"

Unfortunately, I know from experience that this stage never lasts and its length is also much too brief. Before long, the euphoria will leave and I'll be full to the brim of doubt and loathing of what moments before had seemed beautiful.

But I'll try to enjoy it while I can!

My theme song (and a sad nod to Amy Winehouse):

Friday, July 29, 2011


I'm making a Balto video -- I've done the sound already. It's going to be the complete book, melded with real photographs and videos. I thought I'd try my hand at animation... but I don't have Flash so I figured -- how hard could it be to animate things old school? So I tried it with the boat in Photoshop. I cut out the boat and the smoke and colored in the background and then put the pieces back on and then moved them inch by inch. All of this took me a day and a half and all I have to show for it is about 10 sec of a boat moving in a jolted manner!

YOU BEGIN: A Poem by Margaret Atwood & An Original Wedding Poem

Last week, my daughter Sara sent me a picture of my first grandchild. I should note that she hasn’t been born yet. Still, It was such a great thrill for me to see my granddaughter’s face.

I’m posting one of my favorite poems today. It’s by Margaret Atwood. It was the inspiration for the wedding poem that I wrote for Sara and my son-in-law Jerry. They got married last July.

You Begin
by Margaret Atwood

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here is the wedding poem that I wrote:

Wedding Poem for Sara & Jerry
(Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s poem “You Begin”)
by Mom

We begin this way:
this is my hand—
take it in yours,
hold on to it tightly.
Now we are one.
Here is my heart.
It holds rivers of love
that will flow to you freely
this day…and forever.

Outside the church window
summer awaits
with songbirds and sunlight
and shade trees to cool us
when days get too hot.

This is our world—
our family and friends
who know us and love us.
They’re smiling and happy
on our wedding day.

Now we are married…
we’re husband and wife—
we are partners for life.
We will share all our days,
all our sorrows and tears
all our laughter and triumphs
throughout the years.

This is my hand, this is my heart,
this is our world,
ahead is our future
filled with surprises
that we can’t imagine.

It all begins here
with our family and friends
with our promises…vows…
with the taking of hands
and the binding of hearts.

We begin and we end:
Here is my heart.
It holds rivers of love
that will flow to you freely.
This is my hand—
take it in yours,
hold on to it tightly
this day…and forever.
Now we are one.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an originalmemoir poem titled Backyard Mermaids.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is over at Book Aunt this week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cupcakes and baby feet

Some of us Blue Rose Girls got together this weekend to celebrate a number of birthdays, discuss books and publishing, and eat cupcakes prepared by guess who. This batch of chocolate gluten-free were delicious. It was so lovely to revive our weekend traditions (it has been a full year since I was able to attend a gathering since I was away). Thank you ladies!

This year there were some new attendees, my Tilda and Juniper (daughter of the ├╝ber-talented Alissa Imre Geis). Juniper has bigger feet, but I believe Tilda has chunkier knees.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What to expect your first few years in editorial

It's summer intern season at work. Hachette Book Group has a great summer internship program (and yes, it's paid. If you're interested for next year, I would suggest checking the job listing website next February) for current college students and recent grads. As part of our interns' education, each week a different department gives a presentation about what they're all about. The presentation is open to the whole company, but we do focus on the type of things we think interns in particular will be interested in knowing. A few weeks ago, I gave the presentation for the Young Readers division, along with our Senior Art Director, Marketing Manager, and Publicist. One of the things we each talked about is what to expect in the first couple of years working in our respective departments.

I basically compared being an editorial assistant with the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Okay, it's not really like that. At least, I hope not.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, publishing, and editorial specifically is an apprenticeship. 99% of editors started as an editorial assistant, learned from their managers, and worked their way up.

The first couple of years are heavily administrative. You'll be answering phones, scheduling meetings, filling out forms, doing paperwork, photocopying, filing (although the latter two happen less and less as the job becomes more digital), mailing packages, doing expense reports, taking meeting minutes, ordering books, and basically doing any task your manager asks you to do. This can range from researching the perfect gift in the theme of an author's book, to tracking down a contract, to hand-delivering art to an agent's office, and more. Personally, I don't ask my assistant to do things like get me coffee or pick up lunch, etc, but other managers do.

In addition to all the administrative work, there's also a lot of editorial work to be done. You'll be writing jacket copy, catalog copy, researching competitive titles, and reading a ton of submissions and giving your recommendation as to whether your manager should acquire or decline something. You'll be drafting letters and other correspondences. You'll be attending our editorial meeting and reading books that other editors want to acquire and giving your thoughts. And yes, you'll be editing--first alongside your manager, and then (perhaps after a year or so of mastering all the admin stuff) more independently. After a year, you may be handling projects on your own--perhaps a paperback edition to start, or a buy in from the UK or Australia. Or maybe you'll take over editing a series once the first book has been edited. How much editorial work you take on, and how quickly, will depend mostly on how quickly you're able to master the other duties. There will be some editorial work right away, but much of it will wait until you've become more efficient with the other aspects of the job.

I think it's pretty safe to say that it will take you about six months before you feel comfortable in the job, and a year before you really master everything, mainly because it takes a minimum of year to follow the path of one book from start to finish.

Some administrative duties will get tiresome quickly, others you may never tire of. In general, though, the hope is that because you're working in an industry that you're passionate about, and working on books and project you love, you'll appreciate the value in the work you do, whether it's photocopying or editing. I know that I loved many of the administrative duties I had. For example, I loved answering the phone for my boss, getting to know the authors, illustrators, and agents she worked with. I still generally answer my own phone. I also loved making photocopies of original art, because I loved the opportunity to see it up close.

On average, expect to spend at least two years as an editorial assistant. The next step up is assistant editor, and for many people, this still means assisting your manager, while at the same time taking on some projects independently. At Little, Brown, our editorial assistants are allowed to acquire under the sponsorship of their managers, but it's not a focus of the job at all, and in fact is not really encouraged until you've been promoted to an assistant editor.

So, that's the first couple of years in children's editorial in a nutshell. Any questions?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

from the BRG archives: rate of consumption

Recently, at a school visit, a young student rushed up to me and said, “I read The Year of the Dog in 2 hours!”
“That’s wonderful,” I said to her, but inside I felt a strange sense of shock. Gosh, that book took me over 4 years to write, but now takes only two hours to read. The rate of consumption is a lot faster than production!

I suppose the surprise was greater because I am knee-deep in my revisions for novel #2. I’m on my 5th revision, which actually doesn’t sound that bad. But it’s the 5th “official” one, which means it’s the 5th time I’ve gone through it with my editor…the times that I’ve gone through it with myself is about, oh, I don’t know, 133?

The hardest part about working on something for 133 times is that when I get to around revision 131, I start thinking, “Oh, this will be fine. As long as it makes sense, no one will care…just get it done.” But there’s always that other part, the side that wants to get every word is right, that makes me stay up until 5 in the morning and haunts me when I try to concentrate on other things, that pushes me to revision 132.

And I think all authors are like that. Because we want those two hours of reading to be the best we can possibly make them.

Originally published October 16, 2006

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Flavor: Laura Jacobsen

My book flavors are back! I actually have a lot of these waiting in the wings, the Sasquatch is just trying to find the time to put them together. The upcoming ones should have better sound as I've figured out a different way of recording. But in the meantime, enjoy this one:

Illustrator: Laura Jacobsen
Book: The Best Eid Ever

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures and dreams

Rudyard Kipling once saw the Taj Mahal from a train window and it was so beautiful that he vowed never to go closer: nothing could equal that vision.

Since I was a teenager, I've dreamed of the islands off the coast of Scotland:
*the Orkneys as they were described in THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING by TH White (a tall stone tower castle surrounded by sea and wind)

*Iona as it looked in the film CIVILIZATION by Kenneth Clark -- again, a tower, but this one surrounded by wildflowers and wind

*a small island in the Hebrides as John MacPhee described it in the NEW YORKER--he lived there for a year, there was nothing commercial on the island except a combination of Post Office and shop, labeled with a card on the door that said "The Shop"

*another island in the Hebrides as described by Josephine Tey, one of my favorite authors, in THE SINGING SANDS -- it rains, the wind literally knocks the hero down, he comes back to his hotel really hungry and wonders what they'll give him for dinner.

He wouldn't turn up his nose at a piece of grilled sea trout, if it turned out to be that. Grilled with local butter. But he hoped for lobster --the island was famous for its lobsters -- and failing that, some herring fresh from the sea, split, and fried after being dipped in oatmeal.

His first meal in the isles of delight consisted of a couple of bright orange kippers cured and liberally dyed in Aberdeen, bread made in Glasgow...the only local produce was a pallid, haggis-shaped mound of crowdie, a white crumbly byproduct without smell or taste.

Despite the wind, there's no fresh air in his room: the window won't open. And at that the hero lies in his bed and laughs and laughs, for the first time in months. Other things happen; he drinks whisky and dances at a ceildh, great whiskey; the scenery is breathtaking, on the rare moments when he can see it through the rain -- and the trip turns out to be wonderful.

*not an island (though I thought for a long time that it had been filmed on the Isle of Skye) but the village and landscape in the movie LOCAL HERO -- houses huddled by the sea, green fields, no trees, white sandy beaches that go on for miles and miles.

This landscape has dominated my imagination all my life. Almost every day, I've imagined being there, in the Northern light I love and have experienced elsewhere, with the wind and the sea and the grass (I love those open landscapes) and sometimes cliffs or white beaches and whatever else is some places, villages by the sea where every house is a different color, as the houses in New England were until the Greek Revival when everything got painted white.

But I've never been. Once, I had a trip all planned -- and then Blow Out the Moon was accepted and needed rewriting, so I didn't go.

Now, I AM going. At this moment, I'm more scared than excited -- WILL it be as I imagine? Probably not. For one thing, in my imagination, it's sunny-- and I know from reading and other people that it rains almost every day: one island had only 18 days without rain in a year! It may be hard to get to some islands-- there may be long waits at ferry and train stations, missed boats, hotels that are a long walk from where I land (and what I will really object to, more expensive: but it's silly to make reservations because I won't really know when I'll arrive, since when the weather is bad the ferries don't go). But that's not what worries me: I'm like Kipling, except that he saw the Taj Mahal from a train and I've seen these places in my mind's eye and on film.

But it's better to find out what they're really like -- and I hope that even if they're very different from what I'm imagining, they will be wonderful. And (this just occurred to me as I was writing this post!) even if they're not, I will always have my imagined version of them. Maybe I'll even write about that someday, or the new reality the trip gives me.

In the meantime, I'll post what I do see here in August. And these are the islands I'm going to; if anyone has suggestions, please tell me!

maybe Coll
Orkney Mainland
Mainland Shetland

I'm planning to get to the Hebrides by taking the train to Oban and Mallaig, to the Orkneys and Shetlands EITHER by taking the train to Aberdeen and an overnight ferry from there to Lerwick, Shetland, then on to the Orkeys,also by ferry. OR, I could take a train to Scarbster,ferry to Orkney, and then head North by ferry to the Shetlands.

Lastly, it's good to get the burbling out of my system now because I know from experience how much the Brits hate it. Once I was walking in London and came upon the house where Jane Austen had stayed with her brother Henry -- I was just staring, transfixed, when a nice Englishman asked if he could help. Without thinking, I blurted out what I was thinking about (those of you who know me and how much I love Jane Austen can imagine) and could SEE his look of friendliness vanish. He might as well have just said disgustedly,
"Another American nutcase."
But of course, he was far too polite to do that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview + goings on

Dreams Can Be Reached posted an interview with me yesterday, check it out here. Thanks for having me Naomi!

And on an unrelated note, here is a list of a few highlights from the past week:

* Baby Tilda is now sleeping through the night on a regular basis. Ten to eleven hours a night in fact. HALLELUJAH.

* I've been sketching for the the first time in months and it feels amazing. Like I stopped holding my breath.

* Our CSA lets you pick unlimited amounts of flowers (see below).

What's on your list?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

google plus what?

So I'm madly trying to write my novel, but during my procrastination breaks I've been poking around at google+. My cousin insists that it is a worthwhile venture, far superior to Facebook. He thinks it will make Facebook and twitter obsolete, as FB did to myspace and friendster (poor friendster).

But I still don't quite understand it. Am I suppose to circle people who circle me? Can I have my tweets and blog post on it? Is "+1" the same as liking something? If people are in my circles I can see their posts but if I am not in their circles they cannot see mine, is that right?

I feel like my head is going in circles! Oh well, maybe I'll figure it out after I write my novel...

Friday, July 15, 2011

COOL POOL: An Original Poem

Fortunately, the weather here has been beautiful the past couple of days. I hate humid summer days when I can barely breathe. I don’t feel like doing anything when the weather is oppressive.

I wrote the following poem a long time ago for an unpublished collection of seasonal poems titled Tasting the Sun.

by Elaine Magliaro

The sun beats down.
It sears.
It scorches.
Sweating neighbors sit on porches
Sipping ice-cold lemonade
Waiting for the day to fade.
When I’m hot as steaming tea,
I stand beneath our maple tree,
Remove my sneakers, socks…and wade
Into a cool green pool of shade.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have Toasting Marshmallows, an original poem that I wrote for another unpublished poetry collection about candy.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is over at A Year of Reading.


P.S. I published a post titled Go the F**k to Sleep: What's Your Opinion of This Picture Book for Parents? at Wild Rose Reader yesterday. I'd like to get people's opinions about this new book that appears destined to be a really big bestseller.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

826 Valencia

I meant to put this post up before I left SF, but didn't, so here it is belatedly. I wanted to share some pictures from my trip to the famous 826 Valencia Pirate Store. In case you haven't heard the story... Dave Eggers co-founded this fabulous writing center, with locations around the country. Each location has its own unique storefront (I used to live near Boston's Bigfoot Research Institute). I'd always wanted to see the Pirate Store in San Francisco and it was well worth the trip. Below are some photos from my adventure there.

There were lots of great activities for kids:

A wall full of drawers that you could pull out and spy inside:

Treasure maps of course:

A wall of mustaches on mirrors:

Lots of pirate paraphernalia:

And these great signs posted here and there (click to enlarge and read):

This is the writing center in the back of the store:

I would have loved to visit a place like this when I was a kid! Wouldn't you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Editorial Director

As Grace reported a few weeks ago, I was promoted to the position of Fiction Editorial Director. I've been asked by different people what this means in terms of my day-to-day job, so I thought I'd briefly outline it here.

-I am now overseeing our Middle Grade and Young Adult lists. The "Fiction" in my title is a bit misleading, as technically I would also oversee MG and YA nonfiction, but as we publish very little nonfiction at Little, Brown in general, we thought it was cleaner to just say "Fiction". This means running the novel portion of editorial meeting, approving which projects go to our acquisitions meetings, and then giving my recommendation at that meeting. Overall, I'm tasked to help shape our fiction list in terms of balance of titles (literary vs commercial, MG vs YA, making sure the books we sign up don't compete directly with each other in terms of subject matter, etc.).

-I will still be editing picture books (I couldn't give that up!), but my focus will be on MG and YA.

-Instead of just one person (my assistant) reporting to me, I have three other editors as direct reports. This means approving more paperwork (expense reports, contract requests, etc.), reviewing copy and P&Ls, etc., more annual performance reviews, responding to MG/YA-related requests/questions/emails, and so on.

-In general, I have more meetings, including attending jacket meeting in its entirety (rather than just for my individual titles), list planning meetings, and weekly updates with each editor.

-Because of my increased administrative duties, I may eventually have to tighten my own title list, and potentially acquire fewer books. I haven't passed any of my books on to other editors yet (I love all my books, so it's hard to give any up!), but I may in the near future. I do want to say that when deciding which projects to pass on, I'm mainly looking at which books are a good fit taste-wise with another editor, and which projects I feel another editor could manage as well or better than myself, especially considering my own increased workload.

I'm excited about the challenges of the new position, but I will say that I never really had this job as a career goal (and those of you who know me know how much I love goal setting!). There are some editors who want to be publisher some day. I've never been one of them. To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy being at the Executive Editor level for a long time--maybe for the rest of my publishing career, because the editing part of my job has always been my favorite. But at the same time, when this opportunity presented itself, I weighed my options, and it felt like a good move for me, a job where I could still do the editing I love, but also learn the business side a little more, to mentor more, and to help shape a list.

We'll see what this new position will bring!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

from the BRG archives: a really long list

Some (ah-hem…many) truths about being a children’s book author (or at least some truths about me). In no particular order.

Petrified of…

1) Running out of ideas

1) Getting burnt out

2) Reading a bad review that is in some small way right

3) Reading a bad review that is completely wrong but your editor says it’s not professional to send hate mail

4) Doing a story hour and noticing there’s a kid in the back who doesn’t care to listen!... or worse, throws spit balls and says something bad about your mama

5) Never meeting that goal to become a moderately successful and semi-known author

6) Not making the next sale and going back to living off of the credit cards and eating pasta 6 out of 7 days of the week (7 is reserved for being luxurious—McDonald’s 99 cent menu)

Worried publisher will…

1) Lose too much money on the books

2) Lose faith in the author

3) Not agree to make changes to the book’s design

4) Use ugly fonts

5) Continue to use the ugly author photo you mistakenly gave because you were sleep deprived

Sick of…

1) Pulling all night-ers

2) Not having time or energy to keep the work area clean

3) Tripping over random computer wires because you don’t have time to figure out where to put them

4) Accidentally drinking yesterday’s coffee

5) Constantly being reminded of work because the “office” is in the “home”

6) Publishers not understanding that creativity can’t be forced—a deadline can’t be made if the author or illustrator is having a mental block! It’s not like accounting! You can’t help it if your brain doesn’t want to be clever or smart or creative today!

7) Going to the doctor’s or the bank or the library or the bookstore or a wedding or the park or a family reunion or on the bus or the bathroom or the soup isle and meeting someone who has a story that he/she thinks would make for the BEST KIDS’ BOOK EVER!!!!!!

8) People asking if it’s okay if they mention you in his or her cover letter

9) People asking for editors’ names and phone numbers

10) Hearing that kids mostly spend their time watching TV and not appreciating a good story on paper

11) Reading that Madonna’s books are on the bestseller list

12) Reading that Madonna is now hiring Rembrandt to illustrate her new book because her spiritual advisor brought him back to life for the very occasion.

11) Reading that 5 more celebrities will be writing about their childhoods because they think when they stuck a cookie up their nose at the age of 6 it was much funnier than when you did it…because they’re celebrities.

12) Knowing your books are just as good or better than the ones selling like hotcakes but no one has heard of your books so Joanne Smith will settle for what’s on the cardboard display with the flashing lights and toilet flushing sound because she’s in a rush and her kid’s is getting whiny and your book is having a grand time collecting dust with the other “spine-outs.”

13) The publisher not promoting your books because it’s more exciting to make blow up pigs that squirt water out of their noses and oink for the book written by adult romance novel writer turned juvie queen who still uses the same hazy author photo that looks like a fog machine had malfunctioned in the background.

14) The publisher expecting you to promote the books because they’re too busy pouring money into the books that already sell. Oh wait, that one was just mentioned. Someone is becoming repetitive.


1) Free lunches

2) Getting to wake up whenever you want

3) Working in pajamas

4) Being special enough to get a name tag at events

5) Free lunches

6) Editors being especially nice and sending delicious cookies

7) Being hugely dorky but seemingly cool

8) Good reviews

9) Great reviews

10) People who GET what you’re doing

11) Hearing that your book is his or her bedtime favorite

Want to add to the list? Go for it!

Originally published Decemeber 6, 2006

Saturday, July 09, 2011

what can you do with one red shoe?

I posted this on my personal blog, but since I just found it so hilarious I thought I'd post it for the readers of this blog too!

My college years were during the age of grunge and combat boots were the rage. In attempt to be cool and artsy, I bought a pair of bright red Doc Martens--mainly because I loved the color and they were on sale (I was a poor college student!), even though they were a good 2 sizes too large on me.

Needless to say, over the years, I realized that these oversized, red boots made me look like Ronald McDonald and weren't very comfortable. But somehow, I didn't have the heart to throw them away. So, I left them in storage at my parent's house where they have been for years.

Recently, when I returned to visit, I saw this is what my mother had done to them:

Ha ha!

Coincidentally, my mother's creative gardening venture is the same project Anna titled her book on.

Next, I think my mom should consult Anna on what to do with my old cassette tapes of the Cure.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

the making of my cover

My book BALTO is coming out in August and so I'm working on a section for it about how the cover was made. My uncle carved the cover for it and then I painted the dog onto the wood. I have finished a page showing the inside of his shop.

Go here to check out the page.

I'm going to make a simple page that shows kids how a sign is made as soon as my uncle gets around to taking some photos for me. I feel bad that I'm giving him projects! I already invaded his space with my camera.

Monday, July 04, 2011

A photo journey of ALA Annual 2011


Happy Fourth of July, all! It's been a hectic time for me, so I thought I'd just share my ALA experience in photos:
oyster po' boy at Mother's
boxes galore!
almost finished with set-up
blackened drum fish at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen

Laini Taylor and I at the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE party
The party turned into an 80s Dance Party!

Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
Karen Healey (author of Morris finalist GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD) signing books
Grace Lin (DUMPLING DAYS), Kelly Barnhill (THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK), and Andrea Davis Pinkney (BIRD IN A BOX) at our Middle Grade breakfast
Bryan Collier and his wife Christina at our luncheon with the Coretta Scott King committee to celebrate DAVE THE POTTER
Banana's foster from Brennan's, originator's of this classic dessert. Served at our dinner with the Caldecott Committee to celebrate Bryan Collier and DAVE THE POTTER

at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet
Bryan accepts the Caldecott Honor for DAVE THE POTTER
Luncheon with Grace and the Geisel Committee
Rebecca Sherman, Grace, and me at the Geisel Award ceremony

A giddy Grace with her award!

Sara Zarr (HOW TO SAVE A LIFE), Daniel Handler (HOW WE BROKE UP) and Karen Healey (THE SHATTERING) pose at our YA luncheon
Paolo Bacigalupi with his Printz Award for SHIP BREAKER
Jewell Parker Rhodes accepts the Coretta Scott King honor for fiction for NINTH WARD

Bryan accepting the CSK medal for illustration for DAVE THE POTTER at the CSK breakfast
It was an extremely busy, but celebratory and rewarding ALA for me, and for Little, Brown. It was also my first trip to New Orleans--I loved the city, and would love to go back soon.

Till next time...