Monday, October 31, 2011

How I edit (2.0)

I've been meaning to update this post about my editing process for a while, as it's changed a bit in the last five years, mainly having to do with technology. Of course, in many ways my process has also remained the same, so I'm following the same general format/text of the original post. So, here goes:

The author will think I'm a horrible editor. They'll think the changes I'm asking for are absolutely stupid and unnecessary.

I get the same anxiety when I send off an editorial letter to an author as I've heard an author gets when he/she sends off their manuscript to an editor or reader. (Okay, well, maybe not "the same" but similar.) I don't want to hurt authors' feelings or anger them. I don't want them to think I'm incompetent, disrespectful of their work, or crazy. I have the highest level of respect for the creative people I work with, because I could never do what they do. I know they're putting their trust in me, trusting me to understand their work and help them make it better. And that's a lot of responsibility!

This anxiety is lessened significantly after I've worked with an author or illustrator for a while, because by then mutual trust has been established, but I do get that same anxiety when working with someone for the first time. I will say that overall, the anxiety has lessened the more experience I have. Although I do always think, "Just because an author has never called me up crying or screaming after receiving my edits, doesn't mean there can't be a first time!"

I hope that my editorial letters have the right balance of praise and constructive criticism. I know that it can be intimidating to receive an in-depth edit, which may include requests to overhaul the manuscript significantly, and to also make lots of annoying nit-picky changes. But I hope my authors know that I love their writing, love their work, and know that we're on the same team.

The task of writing an editorial letter to me is daunting, and I certainly had no idea how to go about doing it when I edited my first novel (sorry, Libby!). But I learned as time went on; I learned from my mentors, and I learned from reading the correspondence files that circulate in my department: each week, everyone in editorial (when we remember) places copies of our editorial letters and other outside business correspondences into a centralized folder which is then circulated throughout the editorial department so that we can be aware of other editors' projects, problems that other editors are having that may be similar to our own, and also so the junior staff can read many different editorial letters to start to understand how to write them. I found this to be a crucial learning tool when I was first starting out as an editorial assistant.

I think every editor develops his or her own editing style, and I've certainly honed my own throughout the years. My process is always changing slightly and is adjusted for specific books and authors, but here's my general process:

1) First, I read through the manuscript (this is my favorite part of the process!). I generally do this on my eReader, and therefore I make very few notes--I'm just reading for the experience. On occasion I'll jot down things I notice--usually broad, over-arching things--but I'm really looking to get a fresh read, and am reading for the overall experience as a final reader would. Is it enjoyable? Am I pulled into the book right away? Is the pacing off? Do I care about the characters? Does the plot make sense? Is the ending satisfying?

2) Then, if I can, I'll let it sit for a few days. Sometimes, right after the first read I think, "there's nothing I could do to improve that novel!" But inevitably things will come to the surface during that "sitting" time: issues with the plot or believability, questions about certain characters, solutions (suggestions, I should say) to problems I've been having with the book, resolution to how I've been feeling about the ending, etc. I also want to see if the book "stays with you"--do I remember it several days later?

3) After a few days, I'll sit down again with the manuscript on my computer and read through it carefully again, line by line. I do some line-editing now, although I think I'm generally pretty light overall in this regard. I'll call out sections or underline sentences that feel clunky or awkward and just aren't working for me, but rarely will I actually reword things myself--I'm not a writer myself, so I like to give the author the freedom to work it out themselves. I use the comment function in Track Changes the most, and on occasion I'll make a quick note and say "see letter" if I know I'll expand on my thoughts further. While I do this, I'm also jotting down notes in a separate Word document that I'll expand later into an editorial letter. If a section strikes me as particularly lovely or memorable, I'll make sure to mark that as well--praise is always good!

4) I'll go over my comments again while drafting the actual letter. This step not only allows me to clarify my notes for the author, but to also review my edits and decide if I still agree with them. I expand on issues I need to in an editorial letter, trying to offer several suggestions for how I think an issue can be solved as I go. I'll add and delete comments/edits as I go along. In terms of the editorial letter, I'll usually just type things out into a Word document chronologically (as they occur in the manuscript) first, and then later go through and reorganize it by topic--characterization, plot, pacing, believability--whatever I think the main issues are in the manuscript.

5) I tweak the letter a lot. Get it to the structure I want, and add the opening and closing. I always start and end the letter with praise and encouragement--this is very important! I also make sure to include a section making sure the author knows that these are my suggestions only, not demands, and that he/she should only make changes he/she is comfortable with. I print my letter out and edit it on paper two or three times until I think it's ready, and then send it off. If there's time, I'll ask my assistant to read over my letter before I send it to catch any typos or sections that are unclear. Then I email the letter and the marked-up manuscript to the author.

Now that I've moved to electronic editing, I've found that my editorial letters have gotten shorter--on average, 2-3 pages (in the past, I'd say the average length was 5-7 pages). This is mainly because of the freedom of Track Changes and comments--it used to be easier to put everything in the letter because of my atrocious handwriting, but now that I can type those comments, I find it easier to expand on my thoughts directly on the manuscript.

I fully expect authors to disagree with me sometimes, and if they offer me an explanation later to why they disagreed and didn't revise something, that's fine with me. Occasionally there's an issue that I feel especially strongly about, and in those cases, I'll keep requesting the change on subsequent revisions, reiterating why I think it's a problem. I'll bring in fresh readers to see if they have the same issues--if so, I'll bring it up with the author again. If not, I'll let it go. Generally, I won't ask more than three times. Ultimately, it's the author's work, and we can't force the author to make changes he or she is not comfortable with, or in agreement with.

This process repeats until the manuscript is "done." I'll usually bring in my assistant to edit the book alongside me for one or more rounds, depending on the project and how busy we all are. In this case, we'll both make comments directly on the manuscript, and I'll incorporate her comments into my editorial letter. Generally, the first editorial letters are more general, and as we go I get more nit-picky about the little things, and the last edit is just "clean-up" of all of the little things that are left. I've never taken less than two rounds, and on average it takes three or four, oftentimes more. Sometimes it feels like it's never really done to the author--they want to keep tweaking and revising. But I do get a sense that a manuscript has been taken as far as it's going to go, and can declare it done and get it into copyediting. I also like to get another editor who hasn't read it before to give a "fresh read" of the final or almost-final manuscript to make sure that we didn't miss anything glaring--at that point, both the author and I are so close to the manuscript, so a fresh read is an important step.

So, there you have it: my editing process. Of course, depending on the time crunch, sometimes this process is cut down--in later drafts, I'll combine 1 and 3 and delete 2 (when I'm reading a revision, unless there were many structural changes or major plot-point changes, the "fresh read" isn't as crucial a step). Or I'll combine steps 3 and 4. Or I'll cut down on how many times I edit my own letter.

I am an editor, and although editing is probably one of the most important parts of my job, I feel that it's only 10-15% of my job description/time put in. But as daunting as it sometimes is, I do relish it--it's my favorite part of my job. I love examining these works of art carefully, trying (and I emphasize "trying") to get to know the book as well as the author does. I do respect the work, even as I seemingly "rip it apart," and ultimately I just want to help the author get the work to the next level and get it ready to introduce to the world.

For you editors out there, is this close to your process? And for you authors out there, any comments or suggestions on how to improve the process would be welcome! How do you edit your own work? Also, has technology improved the process for you? Grace revealed at our IBBY panel that she preferred the old way--editing on paper. I may have to switch back for her! Do the rest of you prefer getting your edits on paper or electronically? Or over the phone or in person?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

from the BRG archives: first books and relationships

I was looking for the exact quote but I think it's long gone. A few years back (I think!) I'd read in PW about Mark Brown's first book memory. He said his editor sent a limo and Champagne to his door on the book's release date. I was SHOCKED when I read this. Was publishing THAT much better back then? When a book of mine gets released, it gets zero fanfare. I've grown accustomed to this fact. But boy would a little fanfare be nice! Picture books have also changed a lot since then. They've gotten bolder... edgier. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? When I was little there weren't any books like the ones I create so I must wonder what *I* would have thought of them. Hopefully I would have liked them.

A friend of mine just gave me Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom. It's clear from reading the letters that Nordstrom really valued her author/editor relationships. So here's another random question-editors and authors out there: what are your relationships like with the people you work with? Do you think having a close, friendly relationship helps? I've talked to so many authors who've told me they've never met their editors! Wow. I don't know how I would operate if that were the case. I like the face-to-face contact. I like to know who's on the other end of the computer/phone. Do you think face-to-face contact matters? Does it make a book better?

Well, those are my rambling thoughts for now.


Originally published Septemeber 28th, 2006

Saturday, October 29, 2011

happy feet

There's a Chinese saying that all journeys begin with the first step. Well, I've been stepping and am glad to have hit a rest stop. Because The Starry River of the Sky manuscript is finished! I've been furiously working on revisions and now it's off to copyediting! Phew! I treated myself to a pedicure as reward.

But my pretty toes have got to start walking soon. Not only do I have to start the illustrations for the book, I have a full calendar of events coming up. Next week (Nov. 4th!), I'll be in Tulsa, OK as part of the Tulsa-County Library Books-to-Treasure event and then Nov. 19th, I'll be in Florida at the Miami Book Fair! Hope to see you!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, before and after

As Grace mentioned, we're in Fresno together for the IBBY regional conference. They asked us to speak together about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. To prepare, we dug up all of the old drafts of the novel, and also my editorial letters/edits (to my horror, I discovered that although I had saved the different drafts with my edits in Track Changes, I had neglected to save any of my editorial letters, as they had been in emails and not saved as separate documents. Luckily, Grace was able to find them in an old email account. Whew!)

Some of the fascinating (at least to us!) things we found:
The 1st draft was 22,859 words; the final draft was 42,840 words, almost twice as long!
The 1st draft had 26 chapters, and the final book had 48 chapters.
The green tiger was not in the original draft.
In the original draft, the parents didn't try to follow/find Minli.
In the original proposal, Minli was named "Cai" (and then "Kai").
The first working title was God of the West. The next title was Never-Ending Mountain.

I also read a portion of my first editorial letter for the book. As I mentioned at the panel, my letters with Grace tend to be a little more casual than to some other authors who I don't know as well. With Grace, I cut to the chase quickly--but I always start with praise! Here's a sampling:


So, I thought I'd get down in writing some of the things we discussed over the phone. But just to reiterate, I loved it. I think overall, it's extremely well crafted with a wonderful story arc. The novel is moving, magical, and engaging. I think this is in really great shape! I have a few main comments, most of which we've discussed:

1) The novel feels a little slight right now, and things overall feel a little too easy for Minli. I'd like to add at least one more big challenge for her, and also make a few of the existing challenges a little more difficult/drawn out. For example, she seems to find the King in The City of Bright Moonlight too quickly--she should struggle with this more. I like the idea you mentioned, of having her spend one night with the boy and the buffalo.

Overall, don't be afraid to put your characters in peril! I don't think I worried once about whether Minli would succeed in her quest, or feared for her safety or her life. This made for a comforting, pleasant read, but I think more conflict overall would go a long way toward making this more rewarding.


3) It's not believable that her parents would just wait around for her at home for her to come back--have one or both of them go after her? Or have them send someone else after her? If they do stay behind, you need a convincing reason why, and also her reunion with them at the end needs to be more dramatic. Wouldn't they cry? And what did they do while she was gone? Did they set up a shrine to her? Pray for her every day? Maybe they sent the old man selling the fish after her, or maybe a man from the village, or a kind traveler passing through?

It was interesting looking back at the publication history of this very special book--and we had fun telling the story, too. We should be on more panels together, don't you think?


If you're in the Los Angeles area tonight (Monday, October 24), head out to the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore at 7:30 for Laini Taylor's signing of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'll be there.

2810 Artesia Blvd. Redondo Beach, California

Check out the glowing New York Times review here. "[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one’s true self that doesn’t let readers down."

Hope to see you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

down the rabbit hole!

me and Alvina!
Lately, I've been horrible about blogging here and at my personal blog. Ever since France, I've been completely buried.

Of course, it's a hole of my own making. When I was in New Orleans in June, I had my tarot cards read and the fortune teller told me that I seem to like to have a lot of projects going on...and I would have to start limiting them. Well, she was right--on both counts. I do have to start limiting my projects, but I also like all of them. I don't know which ones to choose! Ones that feed my soul, ones that pay my bills, ones that have the most people counting on? I think I might need a tarot card reading just to help me choose.

In the meantime, I am just trying to skirt by! Right now Alvina and I are in Fresno, at the USBBY conference where we gave a talk on the author/editor relationship. I read aloud the first chapter of my work-in-progress, The Starry River of the Sky! I guess I was trying to multi-task and work on some revisions at the same time as giving a speech.

Friday, October 21, 2011


This has taken me a long, long time to put it all together. I'd posted parts of it before but I finally put all the images on it that I wanted. This is an interview with my mom on reading, getting my A.D.D self to read, working with disabled kids, etc. Here's a sample:

I remember when I asked you to read my first attempt at a novel. You said something like: “Bridget is the writer in the family. You should stick to art,” or some such. You later explained why you said that. You really thought my writing would be terrible and was trying to save me from embarrassment. But this is why I ALWAYS ask you for advice on my writing before anyone else--because you are honest and I value your opinion. I think we have the same taste in writing and art. Sometimes honestly is hard to swallow, but it always works out for the best. What did you think of my early writing attempts? You can be honest. I won’t cry.

I think you struggled with writing in school for the same reason that sometimes made it hard for me to figure out what you were trying to tell me in everyday conversation. You tended to start telling me something as if I was inside your brain. I remember having to ask lots of questions to figure out where your ideas were coming from. This is a really simplistic example; "Mom, she was there when it happened." And I would be totally puzzled and have to say, who what where and when. Consequently your writing was confusing. I think you also had trouble organizing. Remember your little index card to help with a math test. You were allowed to bring one index card with some helpful facts to a math test. You filled both sides with microscopic letters and numbers with no spaces between them. It was like looking sanskrit .

Your notebooks came home with huge holes where you must have erased right through the paper. I used to marvel at them.

"Basically your attempts to help yourself learn, produced chaos. So I was astounded when you began to write coherently. when you were in your twenties. I think that part of your brain just matured late."


This part was weird because I learned something about myself... or maybe I already knew it but didn't think that much about it. I just went looking for a notebook to use and I had NO idea that my notebooks looked like that! That is what I did in school? That notebook was from college! How did I pull off getting As o papers and tests? I'm really perplexed. I do remember completely spacing out in classes. I'd make up for it when I got home where I could concentrate. I guess when you have attention problems you have to figure out the best way to learn for YOU.

To read the whole interview go here!

Baby Pictures!

Here is one of my favorite pictures of my granddaughter Julia Anna. She's wearing an adorable hat that Grace gave her. My daughter and son-in-law used the picture in their birth announcement.

I am enjoying being a grandmother SOOOO much. I hate to be away from Julia for more than a few days.

Here are a few more pictures of Julia that were taken recently:


P*TAG: The First-Ever Poetry eBook for Teens
Click here to read my Wild Rose Reader post about P*TAG.

Halloween Haiku
Yesterday, I thought I'd try writing some haiku poems about Halloween. You can read a few of my "still-in-progress" haikus here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What IS a good plot, anyhow?

Plot is definitely the thing I struggle most with in writing. Sometimes I think I don't even understand what a good plot is! So I boiled some really good stories by other people down into one or two sentences. I think -- though maybe this is wrong -- that a plot that can't be summarized in one or two sentences probably isn't a plot.

So here are the ones I came up with. I was trying to get their essence -- if I've missed it, please correct me! And if you have more examples I'd love to read them.


A plane crash leaves a boy alone in the wilderness, where he survives until rescued.

A plane crash leaves a group of boys on an island where some kill others until (just as the pack is hunting the hero down) they are rescued.

A teenager who doesn't fit in travels in time to rescue her father from evil, finding love and self-acceptance along the way.

When a mother abandones her children in a parking lot, the oldest daughter leads them all on a journey that ends in them finding a home with their grandmother.

A set-in-his-ways hobbit goes off to burgle treasure for some dwarves; he comes home rich and unrespectable.

A bratty little girl loses both parents to cholera and goes to live in a house with 100 rooms all shut up and a garden. She tends the garden, makes friends, and turns into a nice child.

An adored only daughter is left at a boarding school, where she's the pet pupil -- until her father dies penniless. The girl is made into a servant until she is rescued by a friend of her father's.

Four siblings are sent to the country during the air raids; they find their way to another world, where they fight a witch, save the land from her power, and become its kings and queens -- and then come home, to find that no time at all has elapsed in their own world.

An orphan finds out he's the son of two famous wizards and is a wizard himself. He is taken to a school, where he is famous, too; there he makes friends, learns magic, and battles enemies.

A kind-hearted girl doesn't do anything to stop the other girls from being mean to a poor girl who claims she has 100 dresses--and then, when the poor girl moves away, is very sorry.

Two children who have lost their mother are excited when a woman from Maine agrees to come live with them and hope she will stay; she does.

A girl is blown by a tornado to another world, where she goes on a perilous journey to ask a wizard how to get home, not knowing that she had the power all along.

Do these sound good to you? To me, even all by themselves, they sound more promising than anything I've come up with -- but maybe that's just because I know the books have all done well!

The character can be tested, but stay the same; or the character can be changed by the adventure-- -- either can work. It doesn't matter. The character can have a goal (find that treasure!), or things can just happen to her (be sent or put somewhere by adults,often). Either way, the character is clearly defined at the beginning and then, because of who she is, one thing leads to another after the starting point.

Usually, but not always, the things that happen or that the character does -- the external circumstances -- are dramatic, exciting. But I think they can be small, too, as long as the emotional stakes are high (will Sarah stay to be our mother?).

To me, most -- but not all -- of these sound rich and satisfying. They have a kind of elegant simplicity and symmetry as well as high stakes....and most though not all of them would make me want to pick up the book.

Now if I can just keep working on MINE until it makes me feel the same way I'll be off to a good start.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The fall sale on Saturday was a lot of fun as usual; the main street that runs through the RISD campus was blocked off for the day and filled with alumni selling their wares. Both Grace and I had a table and sold prints as well as books. Below is my new display all set up. Sadly it did not last long before we had to take it down, the sale was hit with 30 mph gusts in some spots that send many a book flying down the street! Thankfully Libby was on hand to help me hold things down (quite literally). We didn't have it as bad as some folks though, not the day to be a glass blower. Every so often the crowd was silenced by an explosion of shattering glass. Yikes!

I will have many of these new prints in my Etsy shop, stay tuned!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Hi all,

I'm in California on vacation right now and am trying to unwind a bit--it's been a grueling month or so work-wise. So, no real post today. And sorry to miss last week too. I've been a little distracted.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

from the BRG archives: There's stuff outside the studio? Seriously?

Thursdays are my day to write in the Blue Rose Blog. I have my own blog that keeps me very blog-occupied, but it is as scattered and variable as my life, which is very scattered and variable, and there's been no mention of children's books there in a long time.

I've been having a lot of adventures lately that seem distinctly non-illustration-oriented, but in fact, the thing about illustration, is nothing is non-illustration oriented. To be an illustrator you have to be someone who is interested in everything in the world, because at any moment you could be assigned a story about a bunny, or a Russian folk tale, or a true account of modern day mountain climbers in Tibet. There is always a lot of research to be done, but the best sources are always your own memories and experiences.

Right now I happen to be working on the true account of modern day mountain climbers in Tibet. There's a challenge there in that I've never been to Tibet, or climbed a mountain. I've immersed myself in a small fortune of pictorial reference books to get a feel for the landscape, and studied the men and the equipment used on the actual journey. But the spirit of the book will come from my own monumental journeys, such as a 3 week ride on horseback from Massachusetts to Canada when I was young, and times I came upon awesome landscapes that took my breath away-- the Utah Salt Lake, Mount Katahdin, the Grand Canyon, Italy.

This blog, being specifically about children's books, and not mine alone, will make me find the links between my eccentric out-of-the-studio activities and what's on my desk. But I'm especially looking forward to reading the thoughts of my fellow Blue Rose Girls, who are all personal heroes of mine. I'll blog about how incredible they are next Thursday. :)

Todays studio music: The Fiery Furnaces.

First published August 3, 2006

Friday, October 14, 2011


I remember going to a fair during the summer. There would be the booth where you'd throw the ball and knock the guy or girl into the water and then the rows of tiny fish bowls. The player got three chances to toss the plastic ball into the bowls. Generally, the balls never landed in the fish bowls, but once in a while the ball landed and the player would win a fish. I remember winning a fish one year and it was so exciting! My dad went down to the basement and cleaned out an old fish bowl to put the fish in. I think the fish lasted a few days and then died. I guess you can't expect much from a fish at a local fair. There were crazier things I've found at local fairs, such as the dung toss game, etc.

I'm sharing this because of Libby's post. I agree with her that some local flavor can and should be added to the right books! I thought of this as I posted about my recent discovery about more advertising in kids' books. Everything is becoming so SIMILAR. All the kids wear the same shoes and little kids are wearing lipstick at younger ages. It's kind of frightening. Something a little different now and then would be nice!


As someone pointed out, the link I gave doesn't work. Oops! I need to check these things. Try this. There are two posts about this. Tell me what you think!

2011 Cybils Announcement

If there’s a children’s or young adult book that you’d like to nominate for a 2011 Cybils, do it soon! The nominations close on October 15th!

I’m happy to be serving as a Round One Poetry Judge this year. We have a terrific panel once again!

Click here to check out the 2011 Cybils Poetry Nominations

The 2011 Poetry Judges

Poetry has long been the genre where we've insisted on the most credentials and expertise. It may get the fewest nominations, but it's far from the easiest to judge. Many of our experts are poets themselves and bring their practiced eye to the Cybils.


Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 

Susan Taylor Brown

Elaine Magliaro

Bruce Black

Tricia Stohr-Hunt

Jone Rush MacCulloch

Carol Wilcox


Diane Mayr  
The Write Sisters

Mary Lee Hahn
A Year of Reading

Julie Larios
The Drift Record

Andi Sibley

Laura Purdie Salas

I reviewed a few of the nominated poetry books for Wild Rose Reader.




Over at Wild Rose Reader, I posted a mini collection of my original animal acrostic poems.

David Elzey has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Fomagrams.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I don't want to overshadow Libby's post today (so I won't make this long) but I did a post on my blog that I think is important. I'll just post a little bit of it:

"Someone pointed out to me that in Mike Lupica's new book The Underdogs there was a bookmark advertising shoes his characters wear in the book placed in the middle of every book that was shipped to the bookstore to sell. The bookmark has a photograph of the shoe in all of the colors."

For the rest of the post go here and please tell me what you think of this!

Corn baths etc.

Last weekend some of the Blue Rose Girls and our friend Alissa visited Anna in her beautiful quiet cozy country cottage. As usual, conversation was the main activity -- Tilda and Juniper (Alissa's daughter) stayed close to us, eagerly joining in with smiles and babble. Neither can talk yet, but they seemed to enjoy being part of the group.

We talked about our writing (so inspiring! and so tempting to just stay in front of the fire doing that the whole time) but one afternoon we did manage to leave the house to attend the Ashfield Fall Festival, where local children make, set up, and run the games. When we arrived, Alissa's boys had already won a small bag of marbles doing things like climbing rope ladders and ringing the bell at the top. They and the other children did this with just as much excitement as the children Grace described grabbing for the brass ring at the Tuileries in Paris or the ones I described dancing at the ceilidh in the Hebrides.

The one that seemed to delight them the most was the corn bath -- tubs filled with raw corn kernels. They rolled and dug and played and only got out when the person running it said -- several times "Come on, guys, time to go -- we have to clean up." Maybe the real proof of how much fun they had was that they helped her do it.

Since I got back I have been comparing this country pretty unfavorably to Scotland (though in fairness to me, at these kinds of festivals where I live, people mostly just buy things, eat, and sit listening to loud music). So it was really great to be reminded that there are communities right here in this country where people take just as active a part in their own amusement --and with just as much enthusiasm and energy. Maybe there are more of these kinds of communities here, and children are taking more delight in simple pleasures, than the media would have us think.

After all, as Grace pointed out, big companies aren't making money with things like corn baths -- maybe THAT'S why we don't see them in the media. But that's no reason not to put them in our books, even if some people do find such things old-fashioned. For others (maybe more than we, and some publishers, realize?), it's reality....and as much fun to read about, too:maybe more fun to read about than, say, Angry Birds. It depends how it's done, of course, like everything else in writing!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall RISD Sale this Saturday

Grace and I will each have a table at this Saturday's RISD Alumni Sale. There will be lots of fabulous handmade goodies at the sale: from hand-blown glass to fine art to knitwear and pottery. It's always a fun day signing books and meeting the other artists. Though the real reason I go may be to shop! It's hard not to covet all the beautiful handmade lovelies I'd like to take home and put around my house.

Grace will be at table #90 and I'll be at table #149 selling books and prints. Libby has been kind enough to join me for the day, so if you are in the area and can stop by you see three Blue Rose Girls! We'd love to meet you so do come say hello.

Saturday the 15th from 10:00-4:00 pm
Benefit Street in Providence, in between Waterman and George Streets

Friday, October 07, 2011


I'm signing this sunday with two other lovely authors in Brooklyn under the Brooklyn bridge in Dumbo. Here's the link so that you can get directions and all of that good stuff.

So why I'm posting is this: I will be giving away 5 drawings of Balto to people who buy my book that day. Just buy the book and I'll write your name and email down. I'll pull the names out before I leave. And because I don't trust myself I'm going to bring the drawings with me and will leave them at Powerhouse so that you can pick them up there. I think that's best. I don't trust myself to mail them to anybody! My first thought was to give the 5 drawings out to the first 5 people but that doesn't seem fair, does it?

These drawings will be with black marker on cardstock and will be colored in if I am ambitious enough and have enough time. I DO know how to go to far with things!!!

So come! It will be worth your while! These pieces of art may be worth money! I may be doing this "give away art" thing again because I'm doing one more signing coming up soon but I can safely say that they will not be colored in.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Too many books? or too few?

I have too many books, I know it, I'm trying to get rid of some. But even after filling 2 boxes, my shelves still look almost the same.

It's discouraging to think of how many more I'll have to give away or sell to make a difference.

And it's so hard to get rid of them! I'm not sure why. It's not because I love my books -- I'm not even trying to part with the ones I love. But even when I don't love a book, it's still hard -- maybe because I'm admitting that I'll never read it again (or in some cases, read it at all!),

or ever go back to the places (travel books) or finish the project (books on King Arthur -- I was once going to write a book about him; make my own clothes -- books on how to that; and even, for some bizarre reason, books on learning Gnu emacs and, less bizarre, Swahili).

Maybe that's always why getting rid of things is hard: you admit that you're never going to wear the great shoes that cost $100 on sale but never fit; or that the beloved cashmere sweater, while flattering and the perfect color, has so many holes that it looks weird-- or as an English friend more kindly put it, "as though you don't care what you look like." But by getting rid of the things you're not going to do or use or wear, you make it easier to do or get the things you really want -- in this case, go to Scotland for six months!

When my resolve to get rid of something weakens, I say:
"Every box of books I get rid of now is one less to move, pack, and store later."
(will be true of kitchen stuff as well when I move on to that category.)

Okay, that's the end of one essay....another was that one thing I find myself saying as I put books in the "to sell" pile is: "Well, if I ever want to read this again, I can read it online." This, I know from experience, though, is only true for some things -- classics, say.

The books that used to form the bulk of my reading (and the publishing industry!) are those well-written books that aren't quite classics and aren't bestsellers, either. This by the way is the category Jane Austen's books were in when they first came out "People are more likely to borrow than buy my books" she said. Now, I'm thinking of the novels of people like Angela Thirkell or Patrick O'Brien -- and many others, too many to list here. Their books don't exist as ebooks -- I know, because I tried to buy them when I was loading up my ipad for my last trip to Scotland.

What's going to happen to books like this when no one (even libraries) has hard copies of anything anymore? Will they just disappear if they didn't get made into ebooks? Maybe there are both too many and too few books -- too few of the kind I really like to read.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Being Elmo

Are you going to see the new documentary about Being Elmo? The trailer gave me goosebumps.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life movie, plus Chris Colfer (again)

Wednesday night I went to the premier of the movie Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life based on the book by Wendy Mass. Wendy had been working with another editor at Little, Brown (hi Amy!), and when Amy left the company, I became Wendy's new editor, but Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life was the transition book--Amy freelance-edited the book from her new home in Maryland, and I was the in-house editor. I love this book--it's still one of my all-time favorite Wendy Mass books, and believe me, there's a lot of competition. But it's a great example of the type of book I love most--it's sweet, funny, and challenges the reader think about life. In this case, the literal meaning of life, of course. And the movie did the same for me. It's been quite a while since I've read the book, so it was wonderful to relive it on the big screen. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. There were a few differences from the book, of course, the most obvious being that Jeremy's mutant candy collection isn't in the movie--oh well.

The movie isn't going to be released in the theaters, but is currently available as an exclusive at Walmart, and then will be released more widely next Spring. See more info on Wendy's blog here. Also, I love that almost all of the commentors on Wendy's blog seem to be children. And they're so enthusiastic and insightful. I especially loved this comment from Ingrid H:

Awesome! The trailer was really cool! I’m kind of glad that it’s not coming to every theater, since it’s sort of an off-beat book, and that would make it more main stream. Congrats Wendy!
Most of the stars of the movie, including Mira Sorvino, were in attendance. Mira's children and father (actor Paul Sorvino) were also there. The event ended quite late (almost 10 pm), and Mira's young son was crying that he needed to go "to his house" because "it's so dark outside"--of course, this was right outside the theater under bright lights--I guess this was his way of saying that it was late and he was tired. Poor kid

We did a media tie-in edition cover to coincide with the movie. We pretty much used the movie poster design, but decided to focus on just the kids:

But the original design with the keys still exists:

Congratulations to everyone involved in the movie! Thank you for bringing this book to life.


On Saturday evening, I went to the New Yorker Festival to see Chris Colfer interviewed by New Yorker editor Susan Morrison. There a great wrap-up of the evening here. I was especially fascinated by the audience, which seemed to be mainly young, avid fans of Glee and Chris's specifically. The wrap-up I linked to had a great description:

His answers were met with aws, gasps and giggles from the audience, who made a mad dash to microphones during the Q&A to express their nervous adoration and question him on a variety of topics ranging from what it's like to kiss his on-screen boyfriend Darren Criss, ("Darren's a good kisser. And he knows it.") to what parts of himself he wished were in Kurt ("He was very lonely,  but I wish he didn't feel like he need someone to be loved. It was a lesson for me as well.").
And when asked about his book deal, props to Chris for mentioning Little, Brown by name!

He also briefly discussed his forthcoming novel, a children's book called "The Land of Stories," which he said he'd been thinking about since he was seven years old, when his younger sister was diagnosed with a rare from of epilepsy and he was seeking an escape.

"I had this old book of fairytales that my mom was given by her mom. I'll never forget because you opened the pages and all the illustrations were actual pictures of dolls in freeze form of the story," Colfer shared. "I remember in the moment never wanting an escape more ever, I wanted to literally dive into the book. I then came up with the story about these two twins that went to fairytale world and all the adventures they had, adventures I wanted to experience rather than what I was going through.  I promised myself then if I ever had the opportunity to write it in a book, I would."  Now Colfer has a two-book deal with Little Brown, with the first installment due out August 2012.

Now, I just have to finish editing The Land of Stories so all of Chris's fans can actually read it!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

from the BRG archives: clearing the decks

I feel a little like a squirrel preparing for winter (and not because it is once again 40 degrees in Boston). I'm about to start the paintings for a picture book and hole up in my studio, my little hollow in a tree.

This involves several stages:

1. Getting rid of all sketches, notes, books, odds and ends that are filling up all usable table space in my studio so that I won't be distracted (above was my desk at the beginning of the day).

2. Now I can start filling up all usable table space with new sketches, notes, books, odds and ends that will weave their way into the illustrations for this book (this is my desk at the end of the day- I'm in OCD paradise!).

3. Settling all unfinished business that has been hanging over my head and dragging on for weeks so that I can, without guilt, completely withdraw into my head and live in the world I'm about to try and paint.

Its a little like going away to camp when you're a kid. You feel a little nervous about going somewhere new. Hopefully I will make friends with my characters and fall into a groove quickly. Then, before I know it, I'll be emerging from this cave and blinking at the sun. I am glad I have my pen pals at the BRG to send postcards to!

Originally published November 21, 2006