Friday

Question of the Week March 30

Does MG fantasy require a significant male character? If no males appear until half way through the story, is the author hurting his/her chances at publication, even if the story is aimed at girls?

I had to think about this for a while, but in the end I concluded that, no, a book does not have to have major male characters. Lots of successful books do not have any major male characters and vice versa. One of the ones that springs instantly to mind is Lord of the Rings and its complete lack of major female characters. There are also fairy-centric midgrade girls books that don't have boys. I can't think of their titles, but one of them had a little fairy that wore jeans. I can't remember much else about it, but I don't think there were any boys in it.

My advice is to write your story the way you see it. If that means that at this point it has no major male figures, then it has no major male figures. You might find in rewrites that this changes, but then again, it might not. A good book will find its market. The sex of the characters is usually a secondary factor.

That being said, I'm a little leery of the whole "no males in the first half of the story." Even if they are not major characters, most girls have interaction with males in someway. So, unless the book is set in a nunnery with no priests, a harem with no eunuchs, a boarding school with no male students or teachers, or in an Amazon-type world where males are not permitted, or some other similar circumstance, I would think twice about having a novel with no males, or mention of males for half a book. It's unrealistic in a way that's hard to suspend disbelief.

Thursday

Bearer of Good News

I always like to be the bearer of good news. It seems that the famous Markus Zusak will be the author in residence for the insideadog.com.au website. This great Australian group concentrates on YA literature. Zusak, for those of you who aren't up on YA authors, wrote The Messenger and The Book Thief, which won a Printz Honor. Hop on over and take a look.

Also, I want to remind you that tomorrow is the last day to enter the 2 last Yak contests. I don't have that many entries. I'd like to have more to make the drawings more of a competition.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week March 28

It's been a while since I've had some slush that merited mention. In fact, this one we just listened to (yes listened to) inspired my tip of the week.

Tip of the Week: When you submit to a press that publishes books, submit a written manuscript.

Now, before today, I thought this went without saying. I sort of assumed everyone sent a written version of their submission. They might send illustrations or dummy books or some strange printed out thing, but somewhere, the words are written down. Today we got a picture book read on an audio CD. It didn't have a single manuscript with this. Not only does it make it hard to evaluate this submission, but the reading of the manuscript itself was hard to listen to. This wasn't a professional recording, but a homemade, occassionally strangely paused rendition. It was distracting. It was unusual. It's now officially the oddest submission I've recieved yet.

Covering Potter

I'm sure every kid lit blog on the planet has already posted this, but Scholastic released the cover art for Harry 7. Publisher's Weekly has the article, as well as the art here. Apparently PW is excited because this is the first wrap around cover. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but don't all the American HPs have art that wraps the whole cover? Maybe they mean this is the first one where the action and central characters are on the whole cover. But then again, I seem to recall Ron and Hermione on the back of HP1. But what do I know.

Tuesday

Interview Tuesday

I've decided to make today interview Tuesday. I've already put up Kay's interview, and now I'm going to add one done by . . . me.

Yes, I know it seems vain, but I received this questionnaire from a well-meaning high school student, and I thought the answers my interest all. I also felt it would be a good jumping off point for discussions. So, here it is. It's slightly abrideged since I left out the gory details of just how poorly paid I am.

  1. Are you ever on call?
    Yes. Anytime I have access to email I can be reached about the books I'm working on.

  2. What are your typical work hours?
    Since I don't work at a traditional press, I don't have traditional work hours. However, I attend one editorial meeting a week for 2 hours on Weds. nights.

  3. What can a starting editor expect to make? After 20 years?
    At a traditional press, $18000 the first year, maybe $50-60k in 20. However, you don't start as an editor. You start as an unpaid intern, then editorial assistant, then assistant editor, then editor. It can take up to 7 years to make editor.
    As senior editor at the press I work for, I do not make anywhere near starting salary for an editorial assistant.

  4. What are some of the benefits offered?
    Where I work, none except free books.

  5. What kind of extra curricular activities would help someone who wants a career in editing?
    Writing clubs and reading clubs. To be a great editor you have to be a decent writer and an excellent reader. Writing classes are useful because they teach you how to really critique other people's writing.

  6. What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
    Seeing a book go from a rough draft to its finsished form. There's a huge amount of satisfaction to know that you helped bring that writing out.

  7. What are some of your dislikes about being an editor?
    Having to do a book's marketing because our house is so small that everyone has to help the marketing department.

  8. What would you say is the stress level of this career on a scale of 1-10?
    It varies. At the moment, 9. We're trying to get the catalog out, the fall books, ready for the printer, and get ready for a conference. After next month it'll go back down to a 7.

I know that from my answers I don't make editing sound very appealing. In truth, I do love my job. I love that I get paid (sort of) to read and read and read. And there is nothing like walking into a bookstore and seeing the books you worked on the shelf. I suspect that the only thing that tops that feeling is to have actually written the book yourself. I would reccomend editing as a career for any creative individual, especially shy ones. I just want to caution that editing is not the fast track to big money. JK Rowlings might have bust out with her book and made a fortune, but her editor is still salaried. (Although her editor got to start his own imprint and I would assume is now enjoying a much larger salary. I'm thinking of the Chicken House guy.)


And that's it. In a perfect world, I would have put Kay's interview on top, but unfortunately, I had already posted it.

An Interview with K. Pluta

Most people would think that only a very twisted person would think to put a yak in some guy’s bed. Still Kay Pluta is a nice, normal(?) person. Here’s the little chat I had with her about her new book.

What inspired you to write There’s a Yak in my Bed?
I’ve been dreading this question, because I honestly don’t remember. I was just playing with words and it happened.

In your book Ted wakes up to find a yak in his bed. Whatever gave you the idea of a yak?
I was looking for an animal with a three or four letter name that wasn’t overused in children’s literature. It’s really not about my name “Kay” spelled backwards like a lot of people think.

Your book is leveled so that a first or second grader could independently read the text. Was that hard to write?
No, it was fun and challenging like solving a puzzle.

How did you learn to write easy readers?
I had been writing testing material for an educational company, and also had just completed Anastasia Suen’s Easy Reader class. Plus, I was teaching my five year old to read and one of my close friends is a kindergarten teacher. She loaned me a lot of books to study.
.

What advice do you have for someone trying to write their own easy reader?
Take a class and/or read articles and books about the specifics of writing easy readers. Read, read, read a hundred or more easy readers before you try to write one. And if you know someone who teaches reading, that helps.

What route did you take to get published?
I started out writing for magazines and online sites. Only recently has there been enough of a lull in my personal life to write full time. But I kept networking, reading, and writing until that day came.

Who are your favorite authors?
Beverly Cleary, Louis Sachar, Dav Pilkey, Polly Horvath, Kate DiCamillo, Gail Carson Levine, David Lubar

What inspires you to write?
It’s my only chance for greatness because I’m too chicken to be an astronaut.

Will there be anymore Yak books?
Yes, I’m working on the sequel now, which picks up on the story from the minor character’s point of view, There’s a Fox in My Lunch.

There’s a Yak in My Bed releases on April 1, 2007. ISBN: 0-9769417-4-0

Monday

Final Contests for Yak

Today we enter our final week of Yaktastic fun. I have two final drawings left to do.
  1. Librarians/Booksellers
    This one is for librarians and booksellers only. All you need to do is use the email link to email me your name and whether or not you are a librarian or bookseller. The four names drawn from the hat will receive a free copy of There's a Yak in My Bed along with a free event kit.
    (If you don't win the drawing, but still want a free event kit, just let me know.)

  2. Children 8 and Under
    This is a drawing contest for kids 8 and under. Go download the activity sheet here. Have your kid draw what they think is hiding under the covers. Then, scan and email me back the sheet. I'll then enter your kid's name in the drawing and post a gallery of artwork. Be sure to fill out and sign the release on the bottom. I will crop the picture so that that won't appear on the web.

Good luck to everyone. I expect to see lots of entries in both contests!

Saturday

Over at the Blue Rose Girls, they're discussing how books don't give credit like movies do. For fun, I thought I'd weigh in on the discussion.

For a while the small press I'm with credited all the production members on the copyright page. Since there are so few of us, it wasn't a very extensive list. The other editor and I convinced the publisher to change this. I can't speak for Meghan's reasoning, but I wanted the anonymity. But I didn't want it because of credit or blame. I wanted to make it harder for submitters to find my name. I know this sounds a little crazy (not to mention paranoid), but here was my reasoning:

We get very little agented submissions, and very few requested submissions. That leaves one mountain of slush. Now there are all sorts of ways to sort slush. One of the things we do is sort by whether or not the person has managed to come up with an editor's name. This is not as hard as it sounds. My name is in our CWIM listing. I have this blog. It's on the copyright page of some of our books. It doesn't take much, but it does take a little work to find it. And you would be surprised how many people don't bother to do that work. These are the same people that either don't know about or don't bother with critique groups, proofreading, and proper manuscript formatting. I am of course talking in gross generalizations, but the slush in the specific editor piles tends to be better than in the generic editor pile.

So, that was why I wanted my name left out of books. I prefer for people to have to go somewhere like CWIM or this blog to find my name. If they're looking for it in one of those places, they're more likely to also read our submission guidelines. And then we wouldn't get as many picture book manuscripts.

And the Winner Is . . .

I had a hard time choosing a winner. Everyone did such creative and interesting things with their entries. I had poems and stories. I had things for adults and things for kids. In the end, though, I had to pick a winner. I chose this one by Kristin:

I feel the warm, yellow sun. It is the start of a new day.
First, I count each leg. Good, there are still eight.
Now, I can eat. I run up to an old fly and take a long drink.
Look! A rip is in the web. I stop. I think. I know what to do.
I jump over the open part. Over and over, I jump.
"I did it!" I say. “Time to play!”


I liked the little twist when she says she has eight legs. And I love how she's talking about a spider, but never uses the word. All in all, this was my favorite.

I do however, have a special Honorary Winner prize that I would like to give to A. She's a six-year-old who submitted with the help of her mom's typing. I have a sneaky suspicion this challenge wasn't as hard for her since these are the words that make up a majority of her normal written vocabulary.

I want to milk my cow when I get up.
I don't want to herd sheep.
I will bring my pet cat to the fair today.
She is pretty and black.
I hope she will get a prize.
She did (first one)!


Both winners will be receiving a copy of Yak.

But wait, there's more . . . This last week leading up to the debut of Kay's new book will have 2 more contests and an interview with the author.

Friday

What's Coming Up

In my attempts to make my blog more interactive and to let you know what's happening (and to play with neat internet widgets), I tried to put a calendar thing on my sidebar. But for some reason, the events don't show up. Anyone know why? Until then you can just click on the link and see what contests and author interviews I've got scheduled for now.

And thank you to the folks who wrote Easy Readers. I've had several comments about how there's nothing easy about it. I know K is snickering to herself. She's known that for a while. You still have until 10 tonight to enter.

Thursday

A Little Reminder

One last post before I skedaddle for the day.

This is your reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter the easy reader writing contest. Don't remember the rules? Click here to see them. The winner will receive an all expenses paid copy of K. Pluta's There's a Yak in my Bed. I know most of you are either procrastinating or polishing your entries, but don't take to much longer. I'm judging them when I get home from the bookstore tomorrow night.

Blocked Up Writers

Are you a writer with nothing to say? Has your idea well gone dry? Well, then, have I got the sites for you.

Over here at Write on Right Now you'll find a huge selection of writing prompts. These are always a great way to practice your craft, and sometimes the most amazing ideas will come from them. Always try to write at least a page from a prompt. Even if nothing seems to be coming at first, some little gem will eventually arrive. Thanks to Miss Erin for the link.

And for the braver souls, come try your hand at the first collective children's novel. Run by Kelly from Big A, little a, you can contribute your own plot twists and turns. It's like that game where you sit in a circle and everyone adds a sentence. Except this is infinitely cooler.

Write on.

Have they considered having employees in the stores?

PW has an an article on Borders today that discusses how the company is trying to save itself from oblivion. As a low-ranking, part-time/full-time (depends on the week) bookseller at the other major chain, I feel more than qualified to lend my BBA-educated two cents.

But all joking aside, I do have a major pet peeve with Borders that generally sends me to B&N or Bookpeople when I need to buy a book: I can never find a freaking human to help me. There is always someone in the cafe and someone else behind the register, but as far as I can tell, there's never anyone else working the store. I actually assume that they must be there somewhere, but Borders employees must be masters of camouflage and handily avoid my searching. This is very ironic because I don't normally like asking employees for help. One thing I like about Borders is that they have computers I, as a customer, can use to see if things are in the store. The problem occurs when the computer says something is there, but I can't find it on the shelf. Now, this happens all the time at B&N, but since I work there, I have sneaky suspicion of where the book might be, and I can then go walk around past all the suspects. Is it in the front window? In backstock? On a cart in receiving, etc. The list goes on. When I'm in a Borders I need a similarly privileged person to do the same thing. And I can never find one. And then Borders loses my sale. This can't only be happening to me.

Tip of the Week 3/22/07

I feel like such a dolt. Not only did I forget to do a tip yesterday, I forgot to do one last week. So here's my belated advice.

Tip of the Week: Never admit it's your first time.

Now this can be taken to mean so many things, but I'm referring here to cover letters. In the submissions for the now defunct ghost story anthology I had a fair number of people tell me that this was there first submission ever. Now other than being slightly flattered that they chose my humble little press to make their first foray into the publishing world, I was confused by these people's choice. Why on an otherwise professional letter would they chose to admit that they were new at this? It won't change my opinion of their actual story, and I've worked with new and established authors. I haven't got a preference. And except for that sentence telling me, I would never have known that these folks weren't experienced submitters. I could tell that they'd never been published because of the lack of publishing credits. However they were professional and properly written submissions that didn't send up any red flags. So, my advice is to never tell an editor or agent that you've never submitted to anyone before. We don't care if it's your first or thirtieth submission. We care about the manuscript attached. You are a professional writer regardless of whether or not you've happened to be published. Act professional. Volunteering your newness to the profession isn't professional.

Wednesday

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell into My Heart

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
By Lauren Tarshis

I loved this book. I loved this book. It's quirky and fun, and I think everyone should read it just for the sake of reading. I will not tell you another word about it in this little review here, because I think you should read it for yourself. On the Buried Editor's rating scale, I give it 5 out of 5 wax seals of approval.


However, I am going to talk more about this book from a writing/editing perspective. The rest of my discussion will be full of spoilers unfortunately. So, what I suggest you do is run out and get this book today. Read it (it's short, you can read it in a day), and then come back here to read the rest of the post. That way, you get the joy of an unprejudiced reading of the book, but you still get to read my thoughts regarding it. It's the best of both worlds.

This is one of those books that I think every serious children's Midgrade and YA author should read. There is so much about this book that is done right. Obviously it has a good plot and compelling characters. Every good book that makes it to market has those. This book has writing that goes above the standard book; writing that makes it outstanding. Let's pick it apart:
  • Voice
    This book has not only one, but two distinct voices. The book is told from the two (very close) Point of Views of Emma-Jean and Colleen. The POVs alternate between chapters so there is never any confusion as to whose thoughts we are having insight too. However, this is one of the few books, that had the author chosen, she could have gotten away with midchapter POV shifts. I never recommend an author doing this. It requires great skill to seamlessly move between characters' thoughts. David does this in his Words of Power Trilogy (his book was the one I was asking for opinions on the ARC cover), but he is the only author I have so far let do this. And he does it seamlessly. David does this by having such distinct voices for each of his characters that there is never any confusion.

    Tarshis does the same thing in her book. Emma-Jean is analytical, rational, and doesn't understand her fellow classmates. She tries to use logic at all times. As a great character quirk that helps with Emma-Jean's voice, she never seems to speak in contractions. Colleen, on the other hand, is your "average 7th grade wannabe girl" who tries to please everyone and manages to please no one, including herself. Her chapters have the feel of stream of consciousness, without actually being stream of consciousness. Tarshis weaves in Colleen's obsessions and worries while still keeping the flow of the story. It's impressive and well done.

  • Plotting
    Tarshis makes extensive use of subplots. Although the characters develop in a normal arc, the plot isn't quite that simple. The main plot involves Emma-Jean helping Colleen solve a problem. But this plot wouldn't fill the pages of what is already a small book, so there are several other small plots along the way. All of them involve Emma-Jean trying to help solve problems so that they dovetail nicely into the main plot. Of course a bulk of the chapters deal with the main plot, but the subplots flesh out Emma-Jean's character. At the time, the subplots seem a bit random, but the last chapter brings all the different plot strands together and ties them up nicely. You realize every word in the book was necessary for it to work. And that brings me to:

  • Style
    I've mentioned before that this book is short. It has no unnecessary words, no tangents, no authorial interruptions. Every scene, every paragraph even, does double and triple duty. You are always learning about the characters, and every scene also moves along the plot or sets the scene or provides necessary information. No detail is wasted. It turns out to be important later on. I admire such concise, focused writing. Even if this doesn't happen to be your traditional writing style, there can still be much that can be learned from it.

And of course the most important thing about the book is that it was a good read. I enjoyed it, and I hope you will too. Fuse #8 has it as one of her longshots for the next Newberry. Her article is A Fuse #8 Production: And Speaking of the Newbery: Newbery 2008 Predictions. I got to say I'm rooting for it to get at least an Honor Medal.

Tuesday

No Ghosts for Me

After much consultation with my calendar, I have decided that I'm going to have to scrap the ghost story anthology I was going to do. I just don't have the time. I've been assigned 3 other anthologies (2 optimistically for this year, 1 for next), and I just can't fit this one in as well. Since I don't have the power to get rid of any of the others, I had to cut the ghost stories. I'm disappointed since that was the one I was most interested in. Everyone should have gotten their stories back by now. If you haven't that's disturbing. It means that I still have it somewhere. Not good.

I would like to reiterate that this decision was not based on the quality of the submissions. Quite a number of them I think would do well in the magazine market. I recommend Cricket over Highlights since they allow longer word lengths.

Thanks again for everyone's interest. Hopefully when life has calmed down I'll be able to resurrect the project.

Oh This is so Me

Well, this isn't strictly about writing, but it was just so darn funny I had to share.

Last night when I was trying to upload that sad little 5 second clip onto my website, I felt like this:

Clip Here. I don't know how to embed the file, so you'll have to click.

That little 5 second clip last night, took me an hour and a half to make because I didn't know how to use my new little camera. I then had to get it up on YouTube (not as hard) and embed on this site (still not to bad).

And if you were wondering what clip I'm talking about, I already took it down. I've proven my point. When I want to do exciting video for the blog, I now know how.

I have to thank Daphne over at The Longstockings for the great video link. I feel it completely sums up all of us technologically challenged people.

Monday

Yak Party Week 2

We've now entered our second week of celebrating Yak. And I have another book to give away. This contest is going to be for the writers. However, I consider every person who blogs to be a writer, so this is really for everyone. This contest is a little more challenging. Here goes:

Write a 75 word anecdote set in the morning in Easy Reader format. I think everyone should appreciate what Kay had to go through to write this book. All but 10 of your words must come from the Dolce Word List, which are the most common words kids learn. Those remaining optional ten words must be a single syllable. Now your anecdote doesn't have to be for kids, and other than following the wording rule and being set in the morning, it can be in any other format or genre. Just to make sure I was starting a contest that could be done, I wrote a sample piece:

I jump from bed.
My skirt is red
Under the yellow light.

I must eat.
I am beat.
I do not look so right.

I go to work.
I look a dork.
I walk in, but then I stop.

What is so bad?
Why am I sad?
I wish I had worn a top!

This has 54 words only 7 of which are not on the Dolce list. For some reason, it just kept coming to me in rhyme. Yours does not have to.

To enter the contest, use the email link on the sidebar to send me your submission by 11:00 PM CST on Friday. Be sure to title your email YAK CONTEST. I'll post the winner and their winning entry on Saturday.

Good luck and good writing!

Sunday

The Winners are Announced

This evening I did the drawing for the people who will win the first three There's a Yak in My Bed books.

The winners are Brenda Sturgis, Wendy from the Help... I Can't Shut Up blog, and jademetaphor. I'll be contacting each of you to get an address to send the book.
Congratulations!

Last chance for this Yak Drawing

This is your 9 hour reminder. Entries for this first Yak drawing will officially close at 8PM CST. Enter now. I mean it.

Mac vs. PC

I am suffering from catastrophic laptop failure. Not only is this slowing me down when I try to work because I have to keep switching to my desktop, it also means that I have to sit at a desk instead of on a couch. I know. Poor me. But the laptop dying is a bit of a problem. And it's more than just the problem with the screen and top. I can't close it anymore since I knocked it off my desk the day before yesterday. That turned it into the world's smallest desktop, but didn't affect functionality. No, it's had a longstanding problem with files mysteriously disappearing, and this has picked up this last week. I'm having to back up daily and stuff is still coming off the laptop (but not off the backup). I would think it was a virus except that it's a Mac. Really, my computer has never been the same since the great hard drive wipe of June 2006.

But now I need to replace it. Should I get another Mac or go PC? My desktop is PC, and I've become enamored with an HP tablet, but I could go out and buy a Mac from the store tomorrow. It's a tough call. I've been putting off deciding, but I have to choose tomorrow. Another week of not being able to take a computer to work will not be good or fun. This is not about books or writing, but, hey, it needed to be said.

A New Blog

Publisher's Weekly's Kid Folks have joined us bloggers here in the blog-o-sphere. They picked a great and witty bookseller, Allison Morris, to blog for them. It doesn't have quite the same industry news and details that the daily Publisher Weekly bulletins have, but it's a whole lot more fun. She's looking for some book obits for those books you loved but are now out of print. Click here to enjoy this blog for yourself.

Saturday

Yakking about Yak

I would like to thank everyone for making this my most successful drawing ever. Well, okay, it's the first drawing ever, but I still had a great turnout. However, it's not over yet. I'm not drawing until tomorrow night, so there's still time to get your name in. Leave your name and weirdest thing that you could find in your bed in the comments section.

Next week we'll have a contest geared towards writers.

Friday

Just when I think I've got it down

Just when I think I've got this whole publishing thing down, another little kink gets thrown in my pipe. What was it yesterday? Copyright infringement. And whose copyright were we going to possible infringe? Oh, yes. Disney. That gentle giant just known for their leniency when defending their copyright. (I am positively dripping sarcasm right now. It's oozing out of my pores and is starting to coat my computer keys.)

Fortunately the infringement in question is one paragraph in a 250 page book where the character compares, by name, other characters to a certain set of 7 dwarves. You know, Angry, Wretchy, Bumbly, Stuttery, Wrinkly, Bitterly, and Joe. I ran the paragraph in question past Lawyer, and he said that it could be construed as infringement. So to be safe it needed to be changed. And for the ARC it has been although we may try to get permission to use the original paragraph in the final book.

When I told my author that we needed to change, he understandably was upset and proceeded to regale me with countless pop-culture references some of which appeared to infringe on someone's copyright much more than his but didn't have permission notices. And I agree with him that there's some line out there that makes it okay to use pop-culture references that infringe. I just don't know where that line is.

So, I shall ask all of you: when do you think a reference crosses the line? I don't mean give me a legal opinion. This is just an open dialog.

And finally, how do I feel about pop-culture reference? Normally I try to have my authors avoid them. I feel they date a work, and I generally only accept very common, older references. Hence characters can drink Coke or refer to Snow White's dwarves because they are such an intrinsic part of our culture that everyone knows who they are. More obscure things like band names or movie names I tend to leave out. I don't want kids to have to read an annotated version in 20 years in order to understand all the wit in the story.

Thursday

Rewards for Reading Programs

Jen Robinson clued me into the James Patterson Page Turner Awards. Lots of great organizations and individuals receive large monetary awards for encouraging reading. One of the smaller prize winners was the Second Chance reading program here in Austin. It tries to get books to incarcerated teens. What a neat program, and I'd never even heard of it before. There are lots of other really great programs that won something including Kathy Patrick's Beauty and the Book. I was there once during a writer's retreat in Jefferson, TX. Such a crazy place.
I have not been reading a lot of slush lately thanks to the Interns, so I don't have any words of wisdom that I've garnered from my pile. However, I took home a tidy little pile of slush today, so I hope to have more soon. But, never fear. I'm not the only editor out there bemoaning the writing issues we find in slush. Brooklyn Arden, best known as the American editor of the Harry Potters, and generally known as all around excellent editor, has a very instructive post here. I endorse and agree with every one of her points. Take them to heart. She knows what she's talking about.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the heads up on the link.

Wednesday

New Kid on the Block

The newest Blooming Tree book will be coming out on April 1. April Fools seems like the perfect date to introduce the world to a kid who finds a yak in his bed. So, I would like to introduce you to Kay Pluta's There's a Yak in My Bed, our newest independent reader picture book.



Now, what would be a book release party without presents? I've been given 10 books by the boss, and I've decided to have a few contests to give them away. We have 17 days until April 1, so I'm going to have 4 contests. Two are for everyone, one contest is for librarians and booksellers, and 1 is for kids.

I thought I'd start with a drawing for everyone. But, you can't just submit your name. Here's the challenge:
In the book, Ted wakes up one morning to find a yak in his bed. To enter this contest, you have to think of the strangest thing you could wake up and find in bed with you. (And my site is PG-13/R. No X-rated stuff. It's too easy.) This contest will actually be determined by a drawing on Sunday, so you have a couple of days. To enter, use the comment section to post your idea of the strangest thing you could find in bed. If you post anonymously or your profile has no way to contact you, then you'll need to leave your name or email so I can contact you. I'll also post the winners. There are 3 books up for grab this round.

Tuesday

My Authors have been busy.

Okay, Judy just trumped Lila on the book exposure meter. Check her and her book Knowing Joseph out on TV here. I couldn't watch it because my poor little mac doesn't have the right player, but I'm sure it's brilliant.

Way to go Judy.

Out and About

I love seeing my authors out with their books. Here's Lila at the UT Pan Am's Festival of International Books and Arts.

Oh, and what's that in her hand? Wait, yes, it's her book from Blooming Tree Press edited by none other than moi. Look at that product placement. Ah, moments like these make my day.

Do you have a book moment like this? Feel free to share.

To Blog or Not to Blog. There's really no question.

I always encourage my authors to blog. I've started encouraging my authors' characters to blog although to give her credit, Septina has been blogging even longer than me. Blogs are a great way to talk with the kiddie lit community at large, to talk to fans, and to generally have a springboard for discussing the stuff that doesn't make it into the books.

And it turns out that I'm not alone in my thinking. PW did an article on it last week, but I can't find the link now. Search their site. And if you're wanting to learn how to blog, Mother Reader does a great and entertaining job discussing how to Be a B-List Blogger. I'm to scared to try the scorer myself. I'm afraid I'd end up a Z-lister. My blog's self esteem bucket wouldn't be able to take it.

And my internet at home is still down, so I haven't been able to check email for three day. I was so anxious about not having seen it, that I actually got up this morning and threw up. If that isn't internet withdrawl, I don't know what is. And yes, I realized just how sad it sounds.

Thursday

Cut Off From the World

Time Warner is doing "scheduled maintence" to the broadband out here, so I haven't had internet for nearly 24 hours. I haven't seen anyone's blog. I'm at Schlotzsky's enjoing their free wi-fi and scarfing breakfast (although since I've been up 6 hours now and I'm eating a sandwich the term might be off) before I scamper off to the bookstore for the rest of the night. If I have internet when I get home tonight, I'll rejoin all your bright sites then. Otherwise I'll just have to hope for more luck tomorrow.

Salut.

Wednesday

Producing production

I have just finished redoing from scratch, again, the rest of the 2007 prodction schedule for Blooming Tree's books. It's a very full fall for us. We're putting out 9 books in kids this year (not counting the picture book/easy reader that releases this month). Here's the breakdown:
  • Number of Books Releasing by Month
    • July: 2
    • October: 2
    • November: 3
    • December: 2

  • Number of Books by Genre
    • Picture Book: 1
    • Chapter Book: 1 (first in a graphic novel series for this age)
    • Midgrade: 4 (1 is an anthology)
    • YA: 3 (1 is an anthology)

It's going to be a busy next few months. For every book we ideally need to have it read for the printer around 6 months in advance (hence our traditional fall heavy releases). I can already feel the stress starting to collect, pool even.

And of course none of these dates are final. I've built in cushions, but still printers sit on books. Proofs don't return to authors. Someone at BTP has a crisis and proofs don't get made at all. There are so many variables, and so many of them are out of my control. It's very frustrating. It's moments like these I wish that I could just say poof, and the books would magically appear on store shelves.

Got any questions for me about production scheduling? Just stick them in the comments. I'll answer them as I see them.

Tuesday

Follow up to interview

I forgot to mention yesterday that Judy and I are happy to make this interview more interactive. Do you have a specific question for her? Wondering what that first book she wrote was? Post your questions in the comments section, and I'll relay them on. All my authors are warm, friendly folk who are just as curious about you the reader (and fellow authors) as you are about them. We welcome your thoughts and questions.

Good Day Young Sunshine

I haven't read anything in book form recently, so I haven't had any books to tell ya'll about. I'm talking Texan in honor of this book set in my current stomping grounds, Austin. It was nice to read a book with lots of place names, and to not only recognize them, have them be somewhere other than New York. Read on now, y'hear?

Tantalize
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
Yesterday our store got in local author's Cynthia Leitick Smith's book. I checked it out, and last night I read it instead of the fascinating marketing book I had planned on reading instead. It was a tough decision. Before I go much farther, I must warn you that (Twilight and Undead and Unwed aside) I don't generally like vampire novels. However, I did enjoy this one. It reminded me a lot of Sunshine(NOT a kid book) by Robin McKinley, an author I adore. In both books the characters live in a world populated with werecreatures and vampires. And that's about where the similarities end. Smith's main character Quince, named meta-textually after the Texan in Dracula — a nice touch I must say — lives for her family's Italian restaurant. The place is more than just an income stream; it's a link to Quince's dead parents and a bond between her and her guardian, Uncle D. After the book opens with a brief passage where we learn that Quince's psuedo-boyfriend is part werewolf, Quince and Uncle D are struggling to redefine their restaurant in a changing market place. They've decided to go campy and have a vampire theme. Then only 5 weeks before opening, the head cook is murdered in something resembling an animal savaging. Who done it? Quince's werewolf? A human trying to make it look were related? Someone else? I won't tell you anymore so that you can enjoy the suspense of the book itself. Although some of the plot and character developments are obvious (I spotted one of the vamps the moment it entered the page), others came out of nowhere. There were a couple of times, especially near the end, that I was just as shocked as Quince at the revelations. And let me tell you, these days it's pretty darn hard to actually surprise me with a plot twist. Bravo! All in all, I would reccommend reading this book. I give it 4 out of 5 wax seals of approval.

Monday

Interview of the Week 3/5/07

For my first interview, I chose Judy Gregerson, author of Blooming Tree’s debut YA, Bad Girls Club.

What inspired you to write Bad Girls Club?

It’s a mix of things. But the biggest influence was a man I met some years back who told me a story about him and his little brother. When they were about five and three, their mother set the house on fire and locked them inside. Then she left them there to die. I was horrified by the story and it cut into me so deep that I couldn’t get it out of me. For two years it kept calling to me and I really didn’t want to write it. But then I realized that there are kids out there whose mothers are lethal to varying degrees. Actually, a toxic personality of any kind is very damaging to kids and childhood trauma is so prevalent in our society. So, I decided to write the book. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had watched my own mother unravel and go into a mental hospital when I was thirteen. So, I combined my story with the story I’d heard and came up with Bad Girls Club.

In your book Destiny and her sister must face their mother’s mental illness. What kind of research did you undertake to write your book?

I think that my life experience was really enough. I watched my family disintegrate over a period of about five years and I watched my mother become sicker and sicker. I did research on schizophrenia and dissociative disorder. I also did a lot of research on borderline personalities, which I felt was the core of the mom’s personality in Bad Girls Club. But it’s hard to read about these things when you’ve suffered it in your own family. In the end, I had to go with my gut.

I have since talked to a lot of experts on child trauma, abuse, abandonment, parentification, and attachment disorders.

Why did you decide to tackle the delicate subjects of attachment disorders and general mental illness?

More than those issues, I wanted to show what it was like in the mind of a sixteen-year-old who is holding on for dear life and how damaged her soul had become as a result of the family problems. But I also wanted to show her letting go of who she thinks she has to be in the family and find a way to discover her true self. Children who live with mentally ill parents or children who are traumatized and abandoned often act out their parents problems or believe that they are just like their parents. I wanted Destiny to discover that she wasn’t like her mother and she wasn’t what her mother said. I wanted her to find her own soul. Amidst the problems she deals with, that’s pretty hard.

Another thing is this. I don’t know how aware people are of attachment and abandonment issues or what it does to a child. Early on, I had an agent tell me how much he hated my main character because she didn’t stand up and do something. Well, kids in that position can’t just stand up and do something. They do not have the emotional wherewithal to do that. It’s easy to tell a kid to just “stop it”. Stop being depressed. Stop obsessing on their problems. When you don’t have the emotional equipment to “just stop”, you are in a very precarious place, as is Destiny and her sister. It’s like telling a person with a broken leg to just get up and walk.

But, it is possible to find healing and find your true self when you’ve been in circumstances like Destiny. I wanted the reader to see how she did come to the realization that she was walking a slippery slope and had to change her life.

Recently there have been discussions about people writing material simply for its shock value. Many shocking things caused by the mother’s mental illness happen in Bad Girls Club. How do you integrate these difficult scenes into your book without making them seem as though they are there purely to surprise the reader?

A lot of what happens in the book is a natural consequence of where Destiny’s mother is at mentally and emotionally, it could not have happened in any other way. That aside, I didn’t write this to shock. In many cases, I put the horror of parts of the story in the background. There is no visible abuse, just the signs of it.

And let’s face it. Abandonment, abuse, mothers who kill their children – all those things ARE shocking. There’s no way around it. But if you’ve lived it, as I lived it when I was a teen, it seems so normal because it’s all you know. I didn’t realize until I was about thirty that everyone wasn’t as damaged as I was as a teen. Now that’s shocking!

Now for the general questions every author gets asked. What advice do you have for someone trying to write their own YA novel?

Write from your heart and write what’s important to you.

What route did you take to get published?

I’ve published one other book, but this one had a very circuitous route. I had two very nice editors along the way who helped me. One helped me get the first draft together. The other helped me find my voice. They were very generous with their time and comments and I am thankful for having them in my life.

This book wasn’t sent around to a lot of editors. I wasn’t looking for just any editor or any publisher. I wanted the right person for this book, someone who really “got” the story and understood what it was about. I was actually quite shocked that BTP wanted to buy it because they were not looking for edgy YA’s at the time.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a few. Janet Fitch. Kathryn Harrison. Sylvia Plath.

What inspires you to write?

Having something to say.

As a former marketing person for books, what advice do you have for other authors trying to publicize their books?

Oh, wow, that’s really hard. There are so many layers to marketing and publicity. And you have to get the word out on so many levels. I’d say to get the word out to librarians and booksellers. Make yourself available for conferences and school visits.

Do you have any future books that you are working on?

I have a humorous YA that I’ve finished. I haven’t worked on it in a while because I’ve been busy with pre-launch publicity for Bad Girls Club. I also have a few MG’s that I should polish.

Bad Girls Club by Judy Gregerson releases in hardcover on June 15, 2007. ISBN (13): 978-1933831015

Sunday

The Who, What, When, Wheres & Hows of Writing

I've been enjoying the many author interviews that you can find all over the web. Cynthia Leitich Smith always has a bunch, and one of my authors from Summer Shorts even has a great one with Adam Rex at her site here.

I have now been inspired to do the same. Of course having decided to start immediately, it rather limits the pool of authors I can pull from. Luckily I have a whole stable of writers to draw from. Check back tomorrow for the very fist ever "Booking with the Buried Editor." I know it's a little lame, but I haven't come up with a better name yet. I'm open to suggestions.

In case your curious who we'll be chatting with, it's Judy Gregerson whose newest book was edited by none other than the best editor ever. That's right me.

Saturday

Send the Cat a Card

For everyone who hasn't been in a bookstore, or seen a paper, or been on the internet, Suess's cat turned 50 last week. To celebrate, the folks at Seusville are going to donate lots of book. But here's the thing you have to go here and send the big guy a birthday card. They haven't quite hit a million yet. Come on folks. We can do it!

Thanks to Big A little a for the link.

Writer, Read Thine Work

You know how I'm always telling writers that they need to read, read, and read their work some more before they send it out for editors to review? Well, I still think you should, but if you're to scared to do it yourself, I've found the lady for you. She's super busy and only does a limited number, but Cynthea Liu does free critiques. Yes, that's right. Free. And even if you don't want a critique, or if she turns out to be to busy, you can still find lots of writing gems on her site.

Head on over there and have a little look-see. Now. Go. What are you still doing over here. Click now.

The List I want My Books on Some Day

Lists and lists and more lists abound this time of year. Here's another to make your day. The 2007 Children's Booksense Picks have been released. These are the books that independent booksellers have reccommended and enjoy handselling. I aspire to have one of my house's books hit a spot on this list some day. Of all the midgrade/teen books on the list, I've read a grand total of 4: The Mysterious Benedict Society, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (which is incidentally one of my staff recs at the store), Peter and the Starcathers, and Twilight. Of these four, my favorite is definitely Goose Girl.

Thanks to the Not Your Mother's Book Club for the heads up.

Meeting

I enjoy getting to meet face to face with my authors. It's nice to sit down, do contracts, look at potential cover ideas, and discuss the edits. I had a delightful meeting with Tricia today. She's writing a science-fiction trilogy with the first book Emerald Tablet coming out in Fall 2008 from CBAY. We whined (about life); I dined (on Reeses Peanut Butter Cups) and generally had a good old time. It's nice to see people react to what you say and not just read more words on the page. It's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to BEA. I'll get to meet so many folks in the flesh. I plan to drop by the library and introduce myself to Fuse #8, and I'll catch up with Greg who I've never met in person. I'll go see David's agent and anyone else who is around. (Just as an aside, look at the web presence of all of us. Pretty sweet.) And anyone else who's going to BEA that I don't know about let me know. I look forward to meeting you there.


On a completely unrelated topic, does anyone know who illustrates the Time Spies series put out by Mirrorstone Books? I like that style.

Friday

Attention Picture Books Authors — There's Hope for Your Market

Publishers Weekly had an interesting article on the picture book market. It seems that it's slowly reviving but is being geared to a pre-literate market. You can view the article here.

Thursday

Nothing is Ever Final

So, after getting more feedback, I'm trying to decide between 2 front covers. Here they are:



or



What are your opinions. I really would like every person who views this blog to vote on this one. Get your kids to look at it too. The more feedback the better.

Covering up the Old

I spoke of covers yesterday, which seems appropriate since I have the final cover for Book of Nonsense!



Click on the image above if you would like to look at an image big enough that you don't feel like you're going blind.

And once again give me your opinions. I devour them all. And most importantly, if you saw this ARC cover on a table with lots of other free books, would you pick it up?

Coming soon: Covers for It Happened in … 1908 and The Emerald Tablet

I May Have Created a Monster

Actually, my sister creates them.

A long while back I taught my sister how to color her drawings in Photoshop. She had a ridiculously stupid school project, and I was determined that she actually gain a useful skill out of it. I do not consider drawing a board game on poster board to qualify as a useful skill. But I digress. Since then she's been going crazy. Here's her on-line art gallery. *Sniff* I'm just so proud.

You may have noticed my new image. Yes, it's an exclusive My Little Sister™ creation. Jealous, aren't you.

The icon below is also a link to her site.

Most Useful Link of the Day

For those of you who are under contract and soon to be published (and for all of you who will someday be published), I present the Most Useful Link of the Day:

Cynthia Leitich Smith's How to Throw a Book Launch Party Post

Many thanks to Fuse #8 for bringing it to mine (and the world's) attention.

Party on Wayne. Party on Garth.