Monday

Home Sweet Home

I'm glad to be home at last. I must have spent at least 14 hours sleeping yesterday, recovering from the trip and preparing for the trip. Thank goodness for being home.

I did make lots of great contacts with authors, agents, & editors. However, I only know for sure of one with a blog. That would be the editor for the Guide to Literary Agents, a companion book to the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market that I've mentioned before. Although unlike the CWIM which is exclusively children, GLA does all agents. This surprised me since I had always thought it was an adult market-geared publication. But, no, it turns out that it deals with children agents. In fact, if you click on the Children's Writing link, it'll take you to alerts & news specifically concerning children's agents. I suppose that's why there's not a specific alert there about how I am the coolest children's editor ever. I suppose since I'm not an agent, it's understandable. I suppose. Actually, there's a very nice picture on the blog of me and my boss. And yes, I do believe the word "cool" and my name are used in the same sentence. Not in relation to one another, but in the same sentence. It's sweet.

On a more serious note, I would like to talk about agents. I don't mention them much because by and large, I work with unagented authors. However, I like agents. There have been several occasions, especially on the business side (read here contracts) when I would have welcomed the buffer that an agent provides. So, do not hesitate to consider submitting to agents when you are ready to be published. Us small press folk are as willing to work with them as the big guys. But of course, when submitting, remember to be as professional as possible. Research the agent to see what they want to see and what they've published. Blogs and books like the one above are exactly the way to go about doing just that. Then send proper query letters and properly formatted manuscripts. And don't be too daunted by the possibility of rejection. Agents receive just as many if not more manuscripts than an editor, so the possibility is always there. But stay optimistic. And remember, if the agent wants to charge you a reading fee or a flat fee for representing you, than they are probably not a legitimate, accredited AAR sanctioned agency.

Saturday

A Good Day

I like it when conference's go well. I realize that everyone prefers things to go well, but it's very stressful to have a room full of people stare at you with bored, or even worse, blank looks. We discussed the basics of publishing kid books, and then people asked some great questions. Curious to see what we talked about? Have a look at the handout here. And although the conference attendees are allowed to submit don't think you can sneak an unsolicited ms in to me. I know the info is at the end of the handout, but you'll have to resist the urge. It was a small group, and I met everyone by name. If I suddenly get 50 "attendee" manuscripts I'm going to know who's trying to beat the system. If you want to submit directly to me, you have to meet me at a conference just like all these nice people did. I don't have anything booked yet after July, hint, hint, hint.

The main thing not on the handout that we chatted about were the wacky things folks do when submitting. I said nothing that I haven't said on here before, but just as a reminder, always submit in the most professional way possible. Format your manuscript correctly (double spaced, 12 inch standard font, 1 in manuscript) and send it on normal paper. If the agent/editor allows e-submissions, be sure to send them the way they prefer. Some want attachments; some prefer to receive it in the bulk of the email. Like I've said before, always look at the submission guidelines first. Don't send blindly to any publisher or press. Finally, be sure to only send relevant material. No stick figure illustrations or pictures of the grand kids. If you would be embarrassed randomly showing these things at an important business meeting, then they are inappropriate to send in a submission. We are nice and friendly in kid publishing, but we are professionals. We like our authors to act professional as well.

And the desire for professionalism is not limited to me. When we did the agent/editor panel last night, we all agreed that our dream client/author would be a professional with patience and the understanding that they are not the only one we work with. Agents represent lots of authors; editors work on many books. Both of us love our authors and their books, but they can't always be our first priority. Please be understanding when they are not. Be professional when the inevitable disappointments come about. Unless you're trying to get fired, you wouldn't scream or blog bad things about your boss. Extend us the same courtesy.

But the conference has been a blast, and I have made some wonderful contact, and I shall even dare to call them friends. I shall relate any interesting gossip, like the newest trend in romance novels, should I hear any at dinner tonight.

Until then, I leave you with a picture of the ocean. Think peace, calm, and tranquility. I will.

Friday

Conferring with Others

We arrived in Florida safely last night, and now I'm getting ready for the conference. Technically it started this afternoon, but I don't have anywhere to be until dinner and an agent/editor panel afterwards. The panel should be a bit of a trip since I've never actually sat on one of these before, and I'm the only dedicated kid person here. A few of the agents represent YA, and Miriam's here, but since she has an adult division, she does both as well. To tell the truth, I'm a little bummed about being the only children's editor (or agent). I was looking forward to networking with new folks, especially agents. I always hope to learn what interesting, new works agents are representing. At least I'll get to hear about some teen manuscripts.

On the plus side, the sun came out today, and I was naughty and went down to the beach. I have a thousand things to do, like polish my thesis, but I ended up reading Zombie Blonds instead. That book is funny, strange, and weird. All I have to say is that the town is run by blond cheerleaders and football players who are creepy strong and might be zombies. Enough said. Read it when it comes out. Now, I must go change out of my tshirts and jeans and head to the conference. Hungry writers await me. (Hopefully they're hungry for food, not me. I did just read a ton of zombie fiction.)

Wednesday

A Conference Calls

Tomorrow I leave rainy, dreary Austin for not-so sunny Florida where I'll be speaking at the Space Coast Writers' Guild's annual conference. My topic is "Getting a Children's Book Published." Just the very title sends chills and thrills up and down my spine. Too exciting for words, I know. And because I know everyone is dying to know what I said, I will post my powerpoint presentation on Saturday after my presentation. That way, if I run out of handouts, people can get it. Also, that way everyone who is not fortunate enough to go to Cocoa Beach this weekend can take a peek.

Now, as I prepare for my journey, I've been trying to decide what to bring to read. Normally for a 4 day trip where I will have a good chunk of free time, I take between 6-8 books/working manuscripts. However, today I had the great fortune of finally acquiring a thesis advisor. Turns out I might get my MA after all. So, I plan to lock myself in my room for the times when I'm not needed either in a professional or social/networking capacity and then spend that time polishing my thesis and writing the pesky 3000 words missing at the end of the middle. That way I can send off my "masterpiece" next week and let thesis advisor #1 have a look-see. So, I'm only taking 2 readers, Zombie Blonds & The Compound, both Feiwell & Friends books, one manuscript, and one 50 page work in progress I promised to read through and give feedback.

I'm looking forward to this little sabbatical from real life. Florida. The beach. Books. Life doesn't get much better.

Monday

A Store Visit with Libba Bray

As a prelude to her World Domination Tour with Shannon Hale on the west coast, Libba Bray dropped by our little children's section at Bookpeople here in Austin. She did a lovely presentation, read from her book, and did one of the longest signings I've ever seen. Yes, part of this was because she drew a huge crowd, but some of it was due to the fact that Libba was willing to chat with every fan who came up with a book. She has to be one of the most personable and friendly authors I've seen. As a terminally shy person myself, I always admire anyone who can put more than a sentence together when talking to a perfect stranger.

But as great as Libba's large event was, my favorite part of the evening happened earlier during our "Coffee & Tea with Libba." We held a drawing for four lucky people to come chat with Libba before the event. Here's Libba with the winners making the universal "W" sign for winner. Libba is in the center.



This more intimate event was a fascinating question and answer session moderated by our kid's buyer. Since one of the winners also happened to be a writer, there were lots of writing questions asked. What I found most inspiring was Libba's frank discussion about the art of revising. Like many writers, Libba has a more organic, unoutlined method of writing. She finds that she writes best this way but does have to revise more. Her first draft of her latest novel, The Sweet Far Thing, was 540 pages. She received back from her editor a full 12 single-spaced pages of notes and comments. She then went back in 2 months and rewrote 400 of the 540 existing pages. I find this story both daunting and inspiring at once. In 2 months she rewrote 400 pages? She said she pulled 2 all-nighters and several 18 hour days, but still . . . That's impressive. I think if faced by a prospect like that, I might just cry. But it's inspiring to think that this nationally best-selling author still has to do copious rewrites just like the rest of us. She doesn't automatically generate beautiful prose. Ah, there's still hope for the rest of us.

Friday

Winding Down the Week

I thought I would take a break from the Slushies today and instead tell about a book I read at the end of last month. Ladies and Gentlemen, readers of all ages over 11, let me introduce you to Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. Now, the astute ones among you will have remembered that just yesterday I awarded this little literature gem the impossibly long titled Thought Provoking . . . Young Adult Fiction Slushie. And I do find this book to be extremely thought provoking. I heard Neal Shusterman speak while he was in town for the Texas Book Festival. He was explaining how both vehement Right to Lifers and just as hard-line Right to Choicers have both praised his book. Any book that can promote dialog between such disparate groups is worth a read.

What follows in this post is an article I wrote about the book for the cover of Bookpeople’s January Newsletter. Although longer than the average blog post/review, I think it better explains why I like this book so much. So, go to your local (preferably independent) kiddie-lit store and grab a copy. It’s worth the read.

Unwindwith our Top Shelf pick for January

Despite no empirical evidence proving its existence, nearly all people believe in the soul. It’s our central core, our consciousness; the thing that defines who we are. But when do we receive our soul? When does it cease to be a part of our existence? When are we truly alive, and when do we actually die?

The characters in Unwind by Neal Shusterman believe they have found an answer to these questions. They live in a near future that has survived a second American civil war fought exclusively over the issue of abortion. The war is ended not by a clear victory by one side, but by a mutually acceptable compromise. No child may be harmed from the age of conception through the age of thirteen. However at any point between a child’s thirteenth and eighteenth birthday, a legal guardian may choose to “retroactively abort” a child by donating them for organ harvesting, a process known as unwinding. Since nearly one hundred percent of the child is transplanted, the child is still considered to be alive but existing in a divided state. Since unwanted children are in plentiful supply, organ transplantation becomes an important industry in America. Ensuring that Unwinds, or children marked for organ harvesting, receive their procedures is a priority in this world.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are three teens who manage to runaway or escape before they can be unwound. Connor is a problem teen whose parents no longer feel they can manage him. Risa is the unfortunate victim of budget cuts at her state orphanage. Lev, however, is a tithe. His parents belong to one of many religions that believe in sacrificing at least one of their children to unwinding so that they may benefit the world in their divided state. Lev has been raised since birth to expect unwinding soon after his thirteenth birthday. Unlike Connor and Risa, Lev looks forward to his unwinding as the great purpose of his life. He has trouble abandoning his purpose and adjusting his world view.

Like Lev and the other Unwinds, Shusterman forces the readers to question their world views as well. Throughout the novel, Shusterman and his characters ask the difficult questions about life, death, and what makes us who we are. The characters never provide us with a definitive answer. Instead, they debate the issues from all sides illustrating just how complex these subjects really are. Shusterman never reveals his personal opinion on the matter or tries to impose a particular view point on the readers. His willingness to present balanced arguments for both sides of the debate makes it clear that readers should decide these issues for themselves.

In the end, readers are left optimistic about the Unwinds and the world they live in. Connor, Risa, and Lev have been able to make the people of their world rethink their own ideas on life and death. Regardless of a person’s own views on this subject, this is an enjoyable, thought-provoking book for any reader.

Thursday

Thought Provoking yet Tasteful Discussions of Controversial Issues in Young Adult Fiction

The Thought Provoking yet Tasteful Discussions of Controversial Issues in Young Adult Fiction Slushie goes to the teen novel that introduces the reader to a challenging concept, forces them to think about it, but is not graphic or gross in its depiction.


Unwind
Unwind
By Neal Shusterman

In this book Shusterman tackles questions as difficult as the definition of life and death. Without giving his own opinions on the subjects, he has his characters debate life, death, abortion and other topics in a balanced and throrough manner.

Thought Provoking yet Tasteful Discussions of Controversial Issues in Young Adult Fiction Honor Slushies



Bad Girls Club
Bad Girls Club
By Judy Gregerson



Deadline
Deadline
By Chris Crutcher



Two other books that could have won this award are Thirteen Reasons Why and Boy Toy. Alas, I have read neither of them, and so I can't say for sure if they are any good. However, consider them shortlisted for the award.

Wednesday

The Notable for Celebrities Really Producing a Children's Book Slushie

The Not. CRP Children's Book Slushie is awarded to books written by celebrities that are good enough to be published regardless of the fact that the author is famous.
















FrecklefaceFreckleface Strawberry

By Julianne Moore

Freckleface comes to terms with her nickname, her freckles, and her life. This cute book has a message without being preachy. It's decently written and has adorable illustrations. I did enjoy this book.
Not. CRP Children's Book Honor Slushies
A to YThe Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!

By Steve Martin & Roz Chast
Hank Zipper #13

Who Ordered this Baby? Definitely not Me!

By Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

Tuesday

First Slushie Presentation

I know that you're as excited as me and can't wait for the first of the Slushie presentations. But just so you know, here are the selection criteria.
  • A book must have been published in 2007, or I have to think it was published in 2007. I'm not actually double checking.
  • Books must be a single story unless the category specifically calls for anthologies.
  • The book must actually exist. No nominating something with a funny title that isn't real.
Without further delay, I present the first Slushie:

Hugely Unconventional & Hilarious Picture Book Slushie:
This prize goes to a quirky and eccentric picture book with a sense of humor.
Chester
By Melanie Watts
Chester refuses to let Melanie write a nice picture book about a mouse who lives in the country. Instead he insists on make the book about himself. Despite not really having a conventional plot, this is still one of the funniest, strangest picture books I've seen in a long time.


HUH Picture Book Slushie Honors

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

Congratulations to all of our award winners. And like all good awards, I've photoshopped the medal to their covers. Award winners, feel free to display with pride.

Monday

And the Award Goes to . . .

Ah, the award season is upon us. And I don't mean the Golden Globes, Academy Awards, or any other silly low profile affairs like those. I am of course referring to the children's book award season that begins with the announcement of the Newbery and Caldecott and other ALA awards and culminates with the prestigious Bluebonnet award presented at the TLA conference in late March. For those of you who have possibly not lived in Texas (or The Center of the World as we think of it here), you may not be familiar with the Bluebonnet Award. You can familiarize yourself here.

This morning the feeding frenzy began when ALA announced the winner of all of their major awards. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, a book I've never heard of, won the Newberry. White Darkness won the Printz, and in what I'm sure will be a controversial move, ALA awarded the Caldecott for "most distinguished American picture book for children" to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a mid-grade novel. Personally, I feel a picture book award should go to a picture book, but no one asked me.

And, that, I have decided, is the problem. Yet again I am unable to participate in all the non-stop discussions on these books because I haven't read a single one of them. I tried to read Hugo Cabret, but didn't make it past the first set of pictures. The other 2 don't really sound all that interesting to me, so I doubt I'll be reading them. I have read some of the Honor books, but that's not as fun as discussing the actual winners. So if one of the books has disturbing imagery, or controversial plots, or even uses taboo words like booby, I know nothing about it. I'm spending another year in the dark concerning the winners.

But, I'm determined not to miss out on award mania entirely. Since I can't join the talks about the "official" award winners, I just decided to present some awards of my own. So, presenting the first 1st annual 2008 Slushie Awards. (Play suitable theme music here.) From now until I lose interest, I will periodically be presenting a Slushie to a book I think worthy of notice and attention. I will be taking nominations for both book and category ideas. And since no award is complete without a seal, I made one of those too:


So as to not take away from the other award winners' special day, I will not announce the first of the Slushies until tomorrow. You'll just have to wait in hair pulling anticipation until then.

Friday

New Year, New Class

It's a new year, and like all new years, it comes with resolutions. Mine is to start blogging regularly again. It's also to get caught up on all my work. It's also . . . well there are so many others.

But I'm not the only one with new things. I was excited yesterday to get the link for the new class of 2k8 debut authors. It's a cool site with some interesting new books on it. Two of the books came out last week, and I was looking at one of them in the store yesterday. I like the 2k classes and their sites. I think it's a wonderful way to find out about new authors and their works. I realize that it's a marketing tool for the authors, but it still a great resource for me. I'm looking forward to seeing these books as they roll out throughout the year.