Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Sketch

Tightening up the jacket sketch for Sprout Street Neighbors, my first chapter book, due out next year. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

keeping your mouth shut

Like many authors, I had a great laugh at these videos of children's authors reading their harsh online reviews. However, a couple days later I was looking up Ellen Oh's book Prophecy on Goodreads and found myself reading this, an example of how online readers show their ire when authors respond to negative reviews.

And honestly, I do understand that, to a point. When a book is published, it no longer belongs to the author. It becomes the reader's book and its their experience which an author has no right to criticize. The big unwritten rule when it comes to reviews when you are an author seems to be KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Personally, if I can help it, I try just to not read reviews (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't read reviews at all, though).

Sometimes I wonder, though, what they expect from us. Once and a while, I'll get an e-mail from an irritated or even angry reader who wants to know what I meant by this or that, and I never know how to respond. Just as the reading experience belongs to them, the writing experience belongs to us.  Every author I know has written their book to the best of their ability and I've always assumed that readers take it on faith that authors are not out to create books to annoy them. But, perhaps, they just want that agreement acknowledged. So, most of the time, I usually respond, "I'm sorry your reading experience was not what I intended." However, sometimes, I think the best course of action is to follow the rule and keep my mouth shut. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Wise words from Leo Lionni

"Of all the questions I have been asked as an author of children's books, the most frequent one, without doubt, has been 'How do you get your ideas?' Most people seem to think that getting an idea is both mysterious and simple. Mysterious, because inspiration must come from a particular state of grace with which only the most gifted souls are blessed. Simple, because ideas are expected to drop into one's mind in words and pictures, ready to be transcribed and copied in the form of a book, complete with endpapers and cover. The word get expresses these expectations well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

"It is true that, from time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge. The sense of instant recognition with which we pull this image into the full light of our consciousness is the initial impulse of all creative acts. But, though it is important, it produces no more than the germ of an idea. Each book, at the birth of its creative history, has such a moment. Some are fortunate enough to have, from the outset, a strongly identified hero, one with an inescapable destiny. Others are blessed with a promising beginning, or perhaps with the vision of an ending (which means working backwards to a surprise opening). Others stem from a clearly articulated conflict situation. Sometimes, I must admit, the motivations of a book may be found in a sudden, unreasonable urge to draw a certain kind of crocodile. And it may even happen that in the dark of our minds there appears, out of nowhere, a constellation of words that has the bright, arrogant solidity of a title. Only last night I was jolted out of a near-slumber by the words the mouse that didn't exist. I am sure that, temporarily tucked away in my memory, they will eventually become the title of a story for which as yet I have no idea.

"To shape and sharpen the logic of a story, to tighten the flow of events, ultimately to define the idea in its totality, is much like a game of chess. In the light of overall strategy, each move is the result of doubts, proposals, and rejections, which inevitably bring to mind the successes or failures of previous experiences.

"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.

"And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.' "

-Leo Lionni

Monday, January 06, 2014

Looking back, looking forward


As I mentioned in an earlier post, while packing, moving, and unpacking, I've unearthed some forgotten things. Another thing I found was my cover letter when I applied for the editorial assistant position at Little, Brown, and also the thank you letter I sent after my interview. Here's a draft of my thank-you letter:

As the CBC Diversity Committee has been such a significant part of my life the past few years, I especially appreciated my comment about Megan's commitment to publishing diverse books. That still holds true. By the way, the two spaces between sentences drives me crazy now.

Also, note the "Time Warner Trade Publishing"--back then, Little, Brown was part of Time Warner, and the children's division was still based in Boston. Soon thereafter, it became part of "AOL Time Warner"--I also found this:
Now, of course, we are Hachette Book Group, and the children's division is based in New York. The company has been through at least four name changes in the 14+ years I've been here.

And finally, I found this fun note. Grace (Pacy) Lin and I were roommates back then, and she left me this fun little note before leaving for vacation:

Ah, memories.


I did a quick wrap-up of my vacation on my personal blog. I'm really looking forward to putting 2013 behind me, and am looking forward to and hoping for a better, less tumultuous 2014.

As always, I love making new year's resolutions. Here are a few of mine for 2014:

- No internet shopping unless it's a gift, a necessity, or for work. (I successfully kept this resolution from last year, and will try to keep it for at least one more year)

-write in my journal and/or blog at least twice a month

-go on a vacation to Europe with Greg

-achieve a maximum of work inbox 100 at the end of each week

Happy 2014, all!

Friday, January 03, 2014

Writing and going online


I take New Years Resolutions very seriously:  think about them and talk about them and write them down --and, I admit, sometimes forget about them completely after all that.

But not always.

One I'm thinking of for this year is not to do ANYTHING online --even look at email -- until after I've done my morning writing.

In Scotland, I usually started the day by making a fire and heating water -- I had an electric kettle, but if wanted hot water, I had to heat it myself so the day ALWAYS started with that even if it wasn't cold enough for a fire. During that I would just sort of naturally think about what I was going to write and when I was washed, I'd start writing. 

Here, I often begin the day by checking email.....and I got so much more written in Scotland!

Just that little pause to make the fire and boil the water is enough to start the day in a focused way. Going online first means jumping into emails and other distractions -- and I'm easily distracted.  On a bad day, my whole morning can vanish online! That is not good.

So this year I resolve to only go online later in the day, AFTER I've done my writing -- or (on days when I won't be writing, and there will be some), yoga and meditating.