Be Careful What You Wish For

Every now and then I witness a moment so ironic I feel compelled to share with the world.

Yesterday while working in one area of the children's department picking up stufffed animals, I covertly watched an interesting interchange between a woman and her child. He had picked out some Star Wars books to read, but these did not meet with her approval.

"I want you to pick out a book you've never read that you know nothing about," she said. "Go look at the covers and find something."

The boy wandered about and finally settled on Riordian's Sea of Monsters, which is still only in hardcover. The mother, of course, wanted a paperback and picked something off the Newberry shelf. Now I couldn't quite see which book she'd picked, but I think it was Criss Cross or something else with a similarly understated cover with girls on the front.

"Now this sounds good," she said after silently reading the back. "What do you think?" She showed the book to the boy.

"No," he said.

"Why not?" she asked. "Here read the back." She tried to hand him the book, but he wouldn't take it.

"No," he said again. "Look at that cover."

There are two morals to this story:
1) Book covers are very important when it comes to selling a book.
2) Never tell a child to pick a book based on its cover. They might actually take your advice.

*This is a true story. It really did happen. The dialog may not be exact, but it's pretty darn close.

Your Own Worst Critic

In general, you are your own worst critic. This is true until you send your manuscript to me, and then my fellow editors and I become the critics of nightmares. Or at least, that's what people seem to imagine. Yes, I do have to reject something like 98% of the manuscripts I recieve, but many times I reject good manuscripts because the numbers don't work, or we have a similiar title on our lists. And of the manuscripts I do accept, they all still need work. I have yet to encounter the perfect manuscript that I could just send directly to layout and skip all the editing steps in between.

So, what I'm trying to remind everyone is that a rejection is not a personal rejection of you or your life while an acceptance is not a validation either. We editors may be hard to please, but we're not impossible. And if you have worked on your manuscript with your writing group or mentor and have done your homework about where to submit, then relax. It may take a while, but your work will eventually find a home. All quality work does.


With the release of the new Bluebonnet and Lonestar Lists, I've been contemplating lists of my own. For those of you who don't live in Texas, or do live here and don't have school age children, the Bluebonnet is a student voted award given out every year by the Texas Library Assoc. It's aimed at kids in 2-5 grade. The Lonestar is a list of reccommended reading for grades 6-8. Although not required, most Texas libraries buy all the Bluebonnet books and most of the Lonestars. It's great for the authors (and their publishers).

But I digress. Looking at these lists and all of the others that are created, I decided to make some of my own. It's not a particularly original thing to do, but it was still fun. I also decided not to gear the list to children or readers but to writers. These are my YA books I think all children's wrters (even those who don't write YA) should read. I've listed them by skill.

The Buried Editor's Writerly Works (YA):
  • Pacing
    By Stephanie Meyer
    Your opinion of vampires aside, this book has one of the best pacing of any book I have ever read. It breaks all the rules, but it still manages to pull it off. I highly reccommend.

  • Secondary Worlds
    Ender's Game
    By Orson Scott Card
    Orson Scott Card does some of the best science fiction worlds in the kid's world. His world in this book, although based on our own, is complete and total.

    The Dalemark Quartet (or anything else)
    By Diana Wynne Jones
    Jones is the queen of children's fantasy and science fantasy. All of her worlds are meticulously constructed and complete. There are never any slips. These four books show the same world at 3 different periods. Although the 4th book is by far my favorite, they all have wonderful fictional worlds.

  • Retold Fairy Tales
    Goose Girl
    By Shannon Hale
    They say that there are no new plots only new stories. But sometimes you can make a new story out of an old. Hale makes the goose girl fairy tale lyrical and new. Another author that does an excellent job of this is Cameron Dokey.

  • Anti-Hero
    The Chocolate War
    By Robert Cormier
    The book doesn't so much as have an anti-hero as no hero at all. None of the characters are appealing or likeable or even sympathetic. And yet, the book works. Although it is unpleasant to read, the book offers all authors instruction.

  • Edgy
    What Happened to Lani Garver
    By Carol Plum-Ucci
    Potenial murder, homosexuality, eating disorders, leukemia — it doesn't get much edgier than that. In truth, there are edgier books out there, but this one manages to tackle all of these issues tastefully and tactfully. It does a good job of being good literature while tackling difficult subjects.

  • Mystery
    The Body of Christopher Creed
    By Carol Plum-Ucci
    I tried not to include an author twice, but this is an excellent non-traditional mystery in that it's not really, truly solved. Ordinarily this would annoy me to no end, but Plum-Ucci manages to pull it off. It's why everyone should read it.

As you may have noticed, the reason I think these books should be read is because by and large they break the conventions of the genres they are a part of. And they do it successfully. If any of you have read the books I've reccommended, I would love to hear your opinion of them too. Otherwise, happy reading.


The Piles of the Slush Go Down and Down

When I got to work at BTP yesterday I was surprised to see four 18in piles of slush. I was even more shocked to learn that that was all we had left of the back log. Nearly all of them were for picture books. After one pile went home with the intern, the adult editor and I went through 2 more piles in a marathon 2 hour session where we passed back and forth. The result is that we have only one pile of slush and now a huge pile that needs to go back to the authors. It was very satisfying. Out of all that I brought home 6 that I wanted to read further. I know that doesn't sound like many, but if you think about it, it's quite a lot to look through. If I only find 6 a month that I'm interested in, that's still 72 a year. Our house only puts out 6-10 books a year. Out of the hundreds we recieve we obviously have to whittle them down.

And to reiterate what's on the BTP website, we are not looking for picture book manuscripts at this time. Out of all the ones I looked at, I'm only willing to look at one of them again, and then only after significant rewrites. And although the website doesn't say it, I'll just add that we're not looking for seasonal or nonfiction at this time either.

Happy Writing.


Blubbery Blurbs

Venetia Butterfield over at the Penguin blog via Jacket Flap has been chatting about creating blurbs. Now, her job is to write all that delightful jacket copy that we the readers use to decide if we're going to read a book. Sometimes that copy is an excellent representation, sometimes you read copy (not hers I'm sure) that's so off from the actual book that you wonder if the person who wrote it read a single page of the book.

Now, since I work at significantly smaller operations that Penguin, I have to write the blurbs for the books I edit myself. It's a vexing, difficult job. You have to write enough to entice the reader, but not enough to give the story away. You can't be misleading. It's much harder than writing a review since you can't give an opinion. (And admitedly, what I post on this site can only loosely be termed a "review.") And since I generally like, if not downright love, my books, my opinion is a bit biased anyway.

Occassionally, though, I find that someone else, namely the author, writes a better blurb for the book in question. So, I thought I'd show 3 blurbs for 3 different books. I wrote one of them, and the authors wrote the other 2. You're challenge: which one did I write? Which one is your favorite? Which one is my favorite? I'm putting them in order of the books' publication date.

  • Bad Girls Club (no relation to the TV show)
    Book releases in Spring of 2007 (Ok, so I can't remember the date off the top of my head, and I'm to lazy to open my calendar.)
    Destiny has a secret. She’s been told not to tell anyone what happened to her, her mom, and her little sister at Crater Lake. She also can’t tell anyone that sometimes her sister is covered in bruises. Her friends all want her to report her parents, but Destiny won’t tell the school counselor. If she does, it could cost her little sister’s life or possibly her own. When the secret becomes too much to carry and the truth she knows becomes a lie, Destiny has to make a decision. Will she fi nd the strength to speak the truth or will she drown in the lies? Will she discover her own worth and the voice she needs to cry it out, or will she remain what her mother has always called her -- a bad girl?

  • From the Desk of Septina Nash: The Penguins of Doom
    Book releases on 7/7/07
    Dear Reader,
    In order to make this book I had to escape from a mad scientist, adopt a trio of wild penguins, become an Olympic freestyle skateboarder, collect a whole bunch of empty yogurt containers, and fi nd my missing tripletsister. In order to enjoy it, all you have to do is read every page.
    Thanks for doing your part!
    Septina Nash,
    Main Character

  • Knowing Joseph
    Book releases in the Fall of 2007 (again I can't remember the date)
    Brian would give anything to have a normal nine year-old brother — one that doesn’t scream, that normal sounds are not too loud for, or just a brother who would play with other kids. But no matter how often he pretends not to know him, Brian has to face that he doesn’t have a normal brother. He has Joseph, his autistic brother.
    Life with Joseph isn’t easy. Joseph needs order and structure, which is something other kids find weird. Brian connstantly finds himself defending Joseph from kids that understand Joseph even less than Brian does. It takes a new friend and a school project before Brian can begin to truly know Joseph.


Here Kitty, Kitty — Leggo My Bunny

I've read a bunch of stuff at the store and late at night, but I haven't had a chance to tell anyone about it in a while. I thought I'd start by posting my newest favorite picture books. Here Goes:
  • Mr. Pusskins
    This is my new favorite Valentine's book, although it isn't really a Valentine's book. Poor little Mr. Pusskins hates being smothered by his owner, so he runs away. Unfortunately, the great wide world isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Eventually Mr. Pusskins decides he wants to go home and does. He decides life with his owner isn't so bad. Now, this isn't the most original story line, and frankly it's not one I normally like, but this work does an excellent job. The pictures are adorable and the book's layout works as well. It's fun to read and look at. I give it 4 out of 5 wax seals of approval.

  • This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
    Funny and hilarious, this is one of the best picture books I've read in a long time. The lonely queen keeps trying to trade Emily Brown for her bunny, but Emily won't trade. When the queen steals the bunny, Emily marches up and shows the queen how to do something to create a best friend of her own. I loved the text and the pictures were fun. The book is all about imagination and loyalty and sharing. Fantastic. My favorite non-Easter related Easter book. I give it 5 out of 5 wax seals of approval.

Tip of the Week February 20

Just because I've been gone forever, I see no reason not to continue with my usual program. So, on to today's tip.

Tip of the Week: Don't write until you wear out.

This is not really my tip. It's something I learned from one of my creative writing classes a while back — I believe from A. LaFaye, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the point is not to write everything in your head until you're drained. The idea is to leave a little something for you to think about, and more importantly, dream about. That way you have something to start with when you go to write the next day. This tip works regardless of whether or not you're a disciplined writer who works exactly 2 hours a day or you're a sporadic writer. However, if you're afraid you'll forget that brilliant plot twist you're saving for the next day, be sure to make a note of it somewhere. Life sometimes has a way of chasing even the most memorable ideas out of your head.

Contracting My Life Away

Nothing is more exciting than waiting for a publishing contract. I've recieved a whooping 3 in my life (one of which was for a short story and one of which I mercifully got canceled since I hadn't been all that keen on getting it in ther first place). And even when I knew what the contract would say and what little negotiating power I had, it was still exciting. Much less exciting is sending those contracts out. Agents and lawyers argue. Authors can sit back and be uninvolved in that process (after all, that's why they have an agent), but an editor or publisher has to okay every change.

This is all coming out because I got my stock illustrator work-for-hire contract from my lawyer today. This is the blank jumping off point for all work-for-hire's in the future. I have a similiar royalty-based one for authors. In fact I owe an author one now. When I say jumping off point, I mean that even these standard contracts are negotiable. Everything can be discussed.

And even when I have all the current CBAY contracts done, there are always BTP ones and future contracts. The cycle never ends. And who would want it to?


Back at the Blog, Sweet Blog

I tried to start this back up a few weeks ago, and for the life of me, I couldn't think of a single interesting thing to write. I don't know why not. I have 2 new interns (one of which I found through this blog, as inactive as it has been). All the slush is finally being gotten through. And I have a preliminary cover for the very first book that will come out from CBAY. You want to see it? Huh? Huh? Of course you do. Click on it to see the full size pdf.

This is by no means the final cover. For one thing, it's just a cover for the ARC. For another, I'm still not sure what I think of it. And like they say, all dates, sizes, etc. are tenative.

Feel free to leave comments on it. I would love to hear feedback — good or bad. We'll do real honest to goodness market research in a few months, but until then have a look-see and tell me what you think.